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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Rural Voter

The new book White Rural Rage employs a deeply misleading sensationalism to gain media attention. You should read The Rural Voter by Nicholas Jacobs and Daniel Shea instead.

Read the memo.

There is a sector of working class voters who can be persuaded to vote for Democrats in 2024 – but only if candidates understand how to win their support.

Read the memo.

The recently published book, Rust Belt Union Blues, by Lainey Newman and Theda Skocpol represents a profoundly important contribution to the debate over Democratic strategy.

Read the Memo.

Democrats should stop calling themselves a “coalition.”

They don’t think like a coalition, they don’t act like a coalition and they sure as hell don’t try to assemble a majority like a coalition.

Read the memo.

The American Establishment’s Betrayal of Democracy

The American Establishment’s Betrayal of Democracy The Fundamental but Generally Unacknowledged Cause of the Current Threat to America’s Democratic Institutions.

Read the Memo.

Democrats ignore the central fact about modern immigration – and it’s led them to political disaster.

Democrats ignore the central fact about modern immigration – and it’s led them to political disaster.

Read the memo.

 

The Daily Strategist

June 25, 2024

Super Tuesday’s Good News for Dems

Outside of President Biden’s sweep of states in which he was on the ballot, probably the best Super Tuesday news for Democrats came from North Carolina, where a deeply-flawed Republican won his party’s nomination for Governor. As Aaron Blake explains at WaPo, “In what may be the nation’s marquee governor’s race, the GOP overwhelmingly nominated Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson. Robinson’s past statements make some of these flawed candidates look like mainstream Republicans. He has:

  • attacked school shooting victims and questioned whether the Las Vegas massacre was real.
  • suggested 9/11 might have been an inside job and that the moon landing might have been faked.
  • repeatedly employed antisemitic tropes.
  • suggested Black Americans should pay reparations rather than receive them.
  • repeatedly derided women in offensive terms — and much, much more.”

If N.C. Democrats can’t hold the Governor’s mansion, they might replace Florida’s Dems as the least effective mega-state party in the U.S.

Texas Dems also have reason to be optimistic, having nominated the mediagenic Colin Allred to take on Ted Cruz, who may be the most vulnerable Republican U. S. Senator of the ballot in November. As Eric Bradner notes at CNN Politics, “But Texas, along with Florida, might represent Democrats’ best chance of going on offense under the 2024 Senate map….Allred, a former NFL player who first won his Dallas-area seat by ousting a Republican incumbent in a hard-fought 2018 race, has focused on health care — including his support for the Affordable Care Act and abortion rights. Allred is also a prolific fundraiser, outraising Cruz $4.8 million to $3.4 million in 2023’s fourth quarter and ending the year with $10.1 million in the bank to Cruz’s $6.2 million.” Allred’s toughest challenge may be navigating the gun safety issue, which is especially difficult in Texas. So far, he has played a competent hand. Having just beaten a much-respected Latino progressive Roland Guttierrez, Allred must also strive to unify his party.

With 12-term congressman Rep. Adam’s Schiff’s primary victory in the U.S. senate race, California Democrats will probably hold the Senate seat vacated by the death of Dianne Feinstein and now held by seat-warmer Laphonza Butler. Republican Steve Garvey, who has equivocated regarding his support for Trump, did finish ahead of Reps. Katie Porter and Barbara Lee, but Schiff’s victory bodes well for Democrats, “in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2-1.” Schiff is also a formidable debater and a hefty majority of those who voted for Porter and Lee will likely cast ballots for Schiff in the Fall. But he has to reach out to Lee and Porter to help heal lingering scars and get the full benefit of their active support.

Trump’s predictable romp in every state but Vermont, which Nikki Haley won, is tempered by the quickening pace of his legal problems. Barring a major economic downturn, widespread discontent of ‘never-trump” Republicans should work to President Biden’s advantage in the months ahead. A statistically-significant share of traditional Republican conservatives will likely vote for President Biden and many others will simply not vote at all. President Biden’s job one in the months ahead is to minimize the percentage of Democratic voters who stay at home or vote for third party candidates. That project merits a dedicated campaign task force. He must also make sure his campaign prepares and broadcasts video clips and ads that demonstrate his energy and lucidity on priority issues — alongside video that shows Trump bragging about his destroying reproductive freedom, and showcasing Trump’s disjointed gaffes. If President Biden can pull this off, it should help down ballot Democratic candidates do well. An eloquent SOTU on Thursday, punctuated with vision and vigor, would be a good start.


Teixeira: Dems’ “What, Me Worry?” Approach to Losing Working Class Voters Invites Disaster

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, politics editor of The Liberal Patriot newsletter and co-author with John B. Judis of the new Book “Where Have All the Democrats Gone?,” is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

The Democrats seem to have a “What, me worry?” take on their ongoing loss of working-class (noncollege) voters. That take has several components: white working-class voters who support Trump/Republicans are racist reactionaries who Democrats can’t reach; nonwhite working-class voters who vote Republican are just voting their ideology and so too are beyond persuasion by Democrats; working-class voters are declining as a share of voters over time (and the college-educated are increasing) so the Democrats’ problems will solve themselves; and trying to reach persuadable working-class voters by moving to the center would alienate left progressives and be a net vote-loser.

None of these views are correct.

1. Claim: white working-class voters who support Trump/Republicans are racist reactionaries who Democrats can’t reach. This assumes white working-class voters who vote Republican or would consider doing are all cut from the same reactionary, super-conservative cloth. Not so; many can reasonably be characterized as persuadable. Consider the 2016 Trump vote.

When analysts sifted through the wreckage of Democratic performance in 2016 trying to understand where all the Trump voting had come from, some key themes emerged. One was geographical. Across county-level studies, it was clear that low educational levels among whites was a very robust predictor of shifts toward Trump. These studies also indicated that counties that swung toward Trump tended to be dependent on low-skill jobs, relatively poor performers on a range of economic measures and had local economies particularly vulnerable to automation and offshoring. Finally, there was strong evidence that Trump-swinging counties tended to be literally “sick” in the sense that their inhabitants had relatively poor physical health and high mortality due to alcoholism, drug abuse, and suicide.

The picture was more complicated when it came to individual level characteristics related to Trump voting, especially Obama-Trump voting. There were a number of correlates with Trump voting. They included some aspects of economic populism—opposition to cutting Social Security and Medicare, suspicion of free trade and trade agreements, taxing the rich—as well as traditional populist attitudes like anti-elitism and mistrust of experts. But the star of the show, so to speak, was a variable labelled “racial resentment” by political scientists, which many studies showed bore a strengthened relationship to Republican presidential voting in 2016.

This variable is a scale created from questions like: “Irish, Italian, Jewish, and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same without any special favors.” The variable is widely and uncritically employed by political scientists to indicate racial animus despite the obvious problem that statements such as these correspond closely to a generic conservative view of avenues to social mobility. And indeed political scientists Riley Carney and Ryan Enos have shown that responses to questions like these change very little if you substitute “Nepalese” or “Lithuanians” for blacks. That implies the questions that make up the scale tap views that are not at all specific to blacks. Carney and Enos term these views “just world belief” which sounds quite a bit different from racial resentment.

But in the aftermath of the Trump election, researchers continued to use the same scale with the same name and the same interpretation with no caveats. The strong relationship of the scale to Trump voting was proof, they argued, that Trump support, including vote-switching from Obama to Trump, was simply a matter of activating underlying racism and xenophobia. Imagine though how these studies might have landed if they had tied Trump support to activating just world belief, which is an eminently reasonable interpretation of their star variable, instead of racial resentment. The lack of even a hint of interest in exploring this alternative interpretation strongly suggests that the researchers’ own political beliefs were playing a strong role in how they chose to pursue and present their studies.

In short, they went looking for racism—and they found it.

Other studies played variations on this theme, adding variables around immigration and even trade to the mix, where negative views were presumed to show “status threat” or some other euphemism for racism and xenophobia. As sociologist Stephen Morgan has noted in a series of papers, this amounts to a labeling exercise where issues that have a clear economic component are stripped of that component and reduced to simple indicators of unenlightened social attitudes. Again, it seems clear that researchers’ priors and political beliefs were heavily influencing both their analytical approach and their interpretation of results.

And there is an even deeper problem with the conventional view. Start with a fact that was glossed over or ignored by most studies: trends in so-called racial resentment went in the “wrong” direction between the 2012 and 2016 election. That is, fewer whites had high levels of racial resentment in 2016 than 2012. This make racial resentment an odd candidate to explain the shift of white voters toward Donald Trump in the 2016 election.

Political scientists Justin Grimmer and William Marble investigated this conundrum intensively by looking directly at whether an indicator like racial resentment really could explain, or account for, the shift of millions of white votes toward Trump. The studies that gave pride of place to racial resentment as an explanation for Trump’s victory did no such accounting; they simply showed a stronger relationship between this variable and Republican voting in 2016 and thought they’d provided a complete explanation.

They had not. When you look at the actual population of voters and how racial resentment was distributed in 2016, as Grimmer and Marble did, it turns out that the racial resentment explanation simply does not fit what really happened in terms of voter shifts. A rigorous accounting of vote shifts toward Trump shows instead that they were primarily among whites, especially low education whites, with moderate views on race and immigration, not whites with high levels of racial resentment. In fact, Trump actually netted fewer votes among whites with high levels of racial resentment than Mitt Romney did in 2012.

So much for the racial resentment explanation of Trump’s victory. Not only is racial resentment a misnamed variable that does not mean what people think it means, it literally cannot account for the actual shifts that occurred in the 2016 election. Clearly a much more complex explanation for Trump’s victory was—or should have been—in order, integrating negative views on immigration, trade and liberal elites with a sense of unfairness rooted in just world belief. That would have helped Democrats understand why voters in Trump-shifting counties, whose ways of life were being torn asunder by economic and social change, were so attracted to Trump’s appeals.

Grimmer and Marble, with Cole Tanigawa-Lau, followed up that initial study with one that included data from the 2020 election. Grimmer summed up their findings this way:

Our findings provide an important correction to a popular narrative about how Trump won office. Hillary Clinton argued that Trump supporters could be placed in a “basket of deplorables.” And election-night pundits and even some academics have claimed that Trump’s victory was the result of appealing to white Americans’ racist and xenophobic attitudes. We show this conventional wisdom is (at best) incomplete. Trump’s supporters were less xenophobic than prior Republican candidates’ [supporters], less sexist, had lower animus to minority groups, and lower levels of racial resentment. Far from deplorables, Trump voters were, on average, more tolerant and understanding than voters for prior Republican candidates…

[The data] point to two important and undeniable facts. First, analyses focused on vote choice alone cannot tell us where candidates receive support. We must know the size of groups and who turns out to vote. And we cannot confuse candidates’ rhetoric with the voters who support them, because voters might support the candidate despite the rhetoric, not because of it.

This sounds more like voters who aren’t being reached by Democrats than voters who can’t be reached by Democrats.

2. Claim: nonwhite working-class voters who vote Republican are just voting their ideology and so are beyond persuasion by Democrats. But it is white college graduates not white working-class or nonwhite voters who are most constrained in their ideology. As Echelon Insights’ Patrick Ruffini has noted, white college graduates exhibit the most ideological consistency in the electorate—just 38 percent are in the middle on an ideological consistency scale, not consistently conservative or liberal. In contrast, 83 percent of black voters, 77 percent of Hispanic voters, 69 percent of Asian voters, and 58 percent of white working-class voters are in the middle group. Notably only 31 percent of white working-class voters are consistently conservative, contrary to the lazy presumptions of most Democrats.

And white college graduates, while more ideologically consistent, are not an adequate fix for Democrats’ working-class problems. It is important not to confuse white college graduates overall with white college Democrats. Most white college graduates are not liberal; this is true only of white college Democrats, who have indeed become much more liberal (and ideologically consistent) over time. But white college graduates as a whole are not particularly liberal. In a survey of more than 6,000 adults that I helped conduct between late March and May of last year with the American Enterprise Institute’s Survey Center on American Life (SCAL) and the nonpartisan research institute NORC at the University of Chicago, 28 percent of these voters identified as liberal. The overwhelming majority said they were moderate (45 percent) or conservative (26 percent).

As for nonwhite working-class voters, it is true that more are voting their ideology. But this is no reason for Democrats to throw up their hands and say, in effect, there’s nothing that we can do. They simply can’t afford to sustain significantly larger losses among these voters without fatally undercutting their coalition. Recent polling data make this brutally obvious.

In the latest New York Times/Siena poll, Biden leads Trump by a mere 17 points among this demographic. This compares to his lead over Trump of 48 points in 2020. And even that lead was a big drop-off from Obama’s 67-point advantage in 2012. The trend line is not good.

Why is this happening? The beginning of wisdom is understanding that the nonwhite working class is not particularly progressive while the Democratic Party has become more so. In the Times poll, these voters overwhelmingly say they are moderate-to-conservative, with less than a quarter identifying as liberal. This has created increased contradictions between the Democratic Party and the nonwhite working-class voters they have relied upon for huge margins to make up for shortfalls elsewhere.

Data from the SCAL/NORC survey exposes these contradictions by allowing the views of moderate-to-conservative nonwhite working-class voters to be examined in detail. My analysis shows many large differences between standard Democratic Party positions and the views of these nonwhite working-class voters. As just one example, consider the issue of “structural racism.”

Is racism “built into our society, including into its policies and institutions,” as held by current Democratic Party orthodoxy, or does racism “come from individuals who hold racist views, not from our society and institutions?” In the SCAL/NORC survey, by 61 to 39 percent, moderate-to-conservative nonwhite working-class voters (70 percent of whom are moderate, not conservative) chose the latter view, that racism comes from individuals, not society. In stark contrast, the comparatively tiny group of nonwhite college graduate liberals favored the structural racism position by 78 to 20 percent. White college graduate liberals were even more lop-sided at 82 to 18 percent. That tells you a lot about who influences the Democratic Party today and who does not.

Thus, the nonwhite working class is not super-liberal. But neither are they super-conservative. As the numbers cited here indicate, they are more mixed in their views and thus subject to persuasion. Thinking nonwhite working-class defections are simply a matter of conservative ideology coming to the fore would be a big mistake, even if many Democrats find it comforting.

3. Claim: since working-class voters are declining as a share of voters over time (and the college-educated are increasing), Democrats’ problems will solve themselves. The trend is correct but the interpretation is not. It is the case today and will be the case going forward that working-class voters will still dominate the electorate. They will be the overwhelming majority of eligible voters (around two-thirds) in 2024 and, even allowing for turnout patterns, only slightly less dominant among actual voters (around three-fifths). Moreover, in all six key swing states—Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin—the working-class share of the electorate, both as eligible voters and as projected 2024 voters, will be higher than the national average.

As I have noted, because we now live in the Upside Down, Democrats reliably win the college-educated but lose the working class. That means that, given the disproportion between the two groups, Democrats need to win the college-educated by way more than they lose the working class to win elections. That is mathematically possible but very challenging—and the worse the working-class deficit gets the more challenging it becomes.

To get a sense of this challenge, consider that in the Times poll previously mentioned, Biden’s deficit among working-class voters was 17 points, 13 points worse than his 4-point deficit in 2020. This is consistent with other polls which generally have Biden’s working-class deficit in the mid-teens. Benchmarking off a 15-point working-class deficit, Biden would have to carry college-educated voters by 33 points in this scenario to replicate his 2020 national showing. That would be quite a jump from his 18-point advantage in that election. Not impossible of course but very, very difficult and shows how much this disproportion could matter in 2024.

Nor will this disproportion go away tomorrow. Estimates from the States of Change project have the working class proportion of eligible voters dropping only slowly from 67 percent today to 62 percent in 2036.

4. Claim: trying to reach persuadable working-class voters by moving to the center would alienate left progressives and be a net vote-loser. The concept that Democrats should shy away from moving to the center because the progressive left will take their toys and go home is ludicrous. This view is backed up what is essentially a threat: if Democrats don’t move in the direction recommended by the progressive left, “their” voters, especially young voters, will fail to be “energized” in 2024, endangering Biden’s re-election and Democratic electoral prospects generally.

But is that really true? Leaving aside the question of whether that would be a responsible use of their power (I don’t think so), do they even have that kind of power? I doubt it. In fact, I think the progressive left is more of a paper tiger, claiming power and influence way above what they actually have.

Start with the fundamental fact that the progressive or intersectional left, for whom issues from ending fossil fuels to open borders to decriminalizing and decolonizing everything (free Palestine!) are inseparably linked moral commitments, is actually a pretty small slice of voters—six percent in the Pew typology (“progressive left”), eight percent in the More in Common typology(“progressive activists”). So we should ask whether and to what extent their commitments are reflected in the views of the voter groups in whose name they claim to speak.

Probably the most important of these is young voters, lately lionized as Democrats’ best hope—but also perhaps their downfall, if not appropriately catered to. And it is true that young voters generally lean more left than older voters. But that does not mean that young voters as a group are flaming left-wingers. Far from it. Indeed, in the Pew typology, the “progressive left” group among those under 30 is only 5 points more (11 percent) than among the population as a whole.

This can be seen on many issues. One such is how to tackle the problem of climate change. The progressive left is in a state of perpetual outrage that the country is not moving faster to get rid of fossil fuels and transition to renewable (e.g., wind and solar) energy, the alleged solution to the problem. This too is supposed to be an issue where the Biden administration is out of sync with younger voters, who therefore will fail to be energized by his re-election bid. Fear of this possibility was presumably why the Biden administration caved to pressure from climate activists and halted permitting on liquified natural gas (LNG) exports, a decision that makes no policy sense and seems likely to alienate working-class voters.

But is it really true that young voters in their tens of millions are demanding moves like this? In the SCAL/NORC survey cited earlier, respondents were asked about their preferences for the country’s energy supply. By 64 percent to 36 percent, Millennial/Gen Z (18-44 year old) voters favored “Use a mix of energy sources including oil, coal and natural gas along with renewable energy sources” over “Phase out the use of oil, coal and natural gas completely, relying instead on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power only.” This does not seem consistent with the mantra of progressive left activists.

Similarly, in a 3,000 voter survey conducted by YouGov for The Liberal Patriot last June, the following choices were offered to voters about energy strategy:

We need a rapid green transition to end the use of fossil fuels and replace them with fully renewable energy sources;

We need an “all-of-the above” strategy that provides abundant and cheap energy from multiple sources including oil and gas to renewables to advanced nuclear power; or

We need to stop the push to replace domestic oil and gas production with unproven green energy projects that raise costs and undercut jobs.

Among the same Millennial/Gen Z (18-44 year old) voters, the progressive left-preferred first position, emphasizing ending the use of fossil fuels and rapidly adopting renewables, is a distinctly minoritarian one, embraced by just 36 percent of these voters. The most popular position is the second, all-of-the above approach that emphasizes energy abundance and the use of fossil fuels and renewables and nuclear, favored by 48 percent of Millennial/Gen Z voters. Another 16 percent flat-out support production of fossil fuels and oppose green energy projects. Together that’s 64 percent of these voters who are not singing from the progressive left hymnbook.

So the progressive left’s claim that failing to embrace their positions is the death-knell for Democrats among younger generation voters is highly suspect. Indeed when progressive left politicians like the ever-reliable and ever-wrong Seattle congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, say things like this…

In reality, tacking to the center may lose a few voters in the progressive hard core—which is small—who choose not to vote or vote for a minor party (they’re unlikely to vote for Trump), but the tradeoff in ability to reach more moderate, especially working class, voters would be well worth it. And potentially crucial in a tight race. That’s why a “What, me worry?” attitude toward the working class and bending over backwards to please the progressive left is a luxury Democrats cannot afford.


Political Strategy Notes

“It’s the paradox of Bidenism,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes in “How paradoxes of class will shape the 2024 election” at The Washington Post: “The president sees himself as the champion of the working class but can’t rely on its support to win reelection. To prevail, he’ll need a mountain of ballots from college-educated voters in metropolitan areas….The flip side is the paradox of the Republican Party, which now depends on White working-class votes, especially in small towns and the countryside. Yet its economic policies remain geared to the interests of high earners and investors, many of whom have fled the party….These twin paradoxes are central to the outcome of the 2024 campaign, though neither is new. Countless studies and polemics have examined the Democrats’ “working-class problem.” The Republicans’ problem has been growing quietly since the 1990s — and then Donald Trump turned a gradual trend into an acute predicament….President Biden seemed to be the ideal Democrat to restore his party’s standing with working-class voters of all races. In conversations over the decades, “Scranton Joe” invariably turned to his frustration with Democrats for failing to understand the “working middle class.”….As he’ll make clear in Thursday’s State of the Union speech, his economic policies have leaned their way, and not just on labor and trade issues. When he talks about his administration’s investments in infrastructure, technology and clean energy, he points out that the many jobs they’re creating — often by leveraging the private sector — are opening “a path to a good career” to all Americans “whether they go to college or not.”….These programs have pushed a lot of money into struggling communities that are at the heart of Trump’s electoral strength. In a study released last month, my colleagues at the Brookings Institution concluded that “economically distressed counties are receiving a larger-than-proportional share of that investment surge relative to their current share of the economy.”….Yet these efforts have yet to produce the working-class resurgence Democrats hoped for. A Quinnipiac poll released Feb. 21, which showed Biden leading Trump 49 percent to 45 percent, pointed to each candidate’s class challenges. Among White registered voters with college degrees, Biden led Trump 60 percent to 34 percent. Those without college degrees gave Trump 58 percent to Biden’s 37 percent….Meanwhile, the survey showed Trump doing better among Latino and Black voters than he did in 2016 or 2020, underscoring the argument made by John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira in their recent book “Where Have All the Democrats Gone?” The authors found that between 2012 and 2022, Democrats lost 25 points off their advantage among the non-White working class voters. Because Biden will need both large margins and high turnout from Black and Latino voters, this could be a big deal….what’s often cast as a class split may be even more a place divide. It’s described dramatically in a new book by Tom Schaller and Paul Waldman, “White Rural Rage.” Political scientist Daniel Schlozman, co-author with Sam Rosenfeld of the forthcoming book “The Hollow Parties,” said in an interview that one of the most important contributors to polarization is the gulf between urban/suburban America and small-town/rural America. Given the workings of the Senate and the electoral college, that gives the GOP outsize influence in elections and government….Biden and his party can’t give up on winning working-class voters for both practical and principled reasons. The president has made clear he intends to keep bending his policymaking in their direction — and that doing so is the only way to heal the nation’s deep divides for the long term….But, in the short run, his strategy for victory will require big margins among better-off voters who might not be turned on by Scranton Joe and his blue-collar loyalties but are horrified by the alternative.”

“The DLCC has so far diverted over $200,000 into the Pennsylvania House Caucus this cycle, a clear testament to the weight they place on holding the majority in the state legislature,” Maryann Pugh writes at mychesco.com. “This tactic forms part of the DLCC’s first wave of investments for the 2024 battleground state campaigns. The campaign purse currently stands at a staggering $750,000 total direct investment into their target states….Holding the Pennsylvania House reigns supreme on the DLCC’s strategic priority list. They aim to prevent the Speaker’s gavel from falling into MAGA Republican hands at any cost. Joanna McClinton, the current seat holder, has the DLCC’s full backing as they rally to ensure her position remains secure….DLCC President Heather Williams underscored the significance of these commitments, stating that 2024 is the year of the states. “2024 is the year of the states and the DLCC has invested over $200k into the Pennsylvania Democratic House Caucus to set the stage for our strategy in 2024. We know the stakes of winning these crucial battleground states are high, with abortion, voting rights, fundamental freedoms, and more on the line.”  said Williams….“Our Democratic candidates need early and strong support to build sustainable winning campaigns – early investments are often what make or break races. That’s why the DLCC is on the ground early, working hand and hand with our caucus and campaign committees across the country so we can win in November and beyond. The DLCC’s goal is to fundamentally shift the balance of power in the states and therefore, the country. These investments get us closer to that goal,” continued….This is the most important year in state legislative campaign history, and we are laser-focused on channeling our resources through November to defeat vulnerable Republicans and secure Democratic power in the states.”

Devon Hasano reports that “Vice President Kamala Harris Outlines Strategy To Protect Voting Rights Nationwide” at Democracy Docket: “Vice President Kamala Harris reiterated the White House’s continued support for voting rights on Tuesday when she hosted a roundtable discussion with leaders and organizers leading the fight on the issue. …In a speech before the closed-press meeting, Harris outlined the White House’s four-part strategy to protect voting rights, describing voting as “a fundamental freedom that unlocks all the other freedoms….The strategy includes:

  1. Instructing federal agencies to do all they can to inform Americans on how to vote and when they are eligible,
  1. Promoting voter participation for students by allowing students to get paid to register voters and be poll workers through federal work study,
  1. Protecting election workers by creating the Elections Threats Taskforce that has held more than 100 events to train officials on protecting election workers and
  1. Fighting voter suppression laws by challenging discriminatory laws in court via the U.S. Department of Justice.

Harris also called for Congress to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — bills that would drastically improve the voting rights landscape nationwide….The vice president closed by announcing “three national days of action” for voting to continue “work that is about uplifting communities, strengthening coalitions, strengthening communities around their power and ability to lead in their own communities.” The days include Juneteenth (June 19), the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act (Aug. 6) and National Voter Registration Day (Sept. 17).”

In “The Downballot: Our big fat Super Tuesday primary preview (transcript), David Nir, political director of Daily Kos, notes, “We as an organization, Daily Kos, have advocated on behalf of legislation that Democrats have introduced in Congress repeatedly that would outlaw partisan gerrymandering. And no one doubts that Congress can do this, at least for congressional redistricting. The power to do so is right there in the Constitution, in the section known as the Elections Clause. The Elections Clause says, “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof.” But hold on, here’s the important part: “[B]ut the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations,” and those regulations include how maps are drawn to elect members of Congress. But every last single Republican in Congress has voted against this bill, which is now called the Freedom to Vote Act. And thanks to the filibuster in the Senate, it remains dead, but it’s not just congressional Republicans….In 2019, the Supreme Court infamously said that federal courts were incapable of adjudicating disputes over partisan gerrymandering. And it was an astonishing statement to make because in the same ruling the Supreme Court said, state courts are able to adjudicate these claims. Are they really saying, is Justice John Roberts saying that state court judges, he’s not the equal of state Supreme Court justices? Really, I don’t believe that for a second. And there’s no doubt that, had Mitch McConnell not engaged in unprecedented obstruction and blocked Merrick Garland’s appointment for the better part of a year, that there would have been five votes to say that “Yes, the federal courts can police gerrymandering.” So here we are, Democrats have done everything they can to make gerrymandering illegal, and Republicans have done everything they can to keep it legal. And Republicans love gerrymandering because they know—they know—that the only way they can cling to power is by ensuring that they can still win elections even if they fail to win the most votes….that leaves Democrats with two choices, either accept the status quo and let Republicans continue to tilt the playing field as far to the right as they can, or fight fire with fire and try to tilt the playing field back toward fairness by using the tools at your disposal.”


Mitch McConnell Gives Up the Power He Can No Longer Command

Congress is narrowly avoiding a government shutdown for the moment, but the bigger news this week is elsewhere, as I explained at New York:

Not even Mitch McConnell is eternal. He has decided to avoid further concerns over his fragile health and his fraught relationship with party boss Donald Trump by stepping down as Republican Senate leader in November. McConnell announced the news in a Wednesday-afternoon speech on the Senate floor.

McConnell has been in that position since 2006, the longest tenure of any Senate leader from either party. But unlike his former House counterpart Kevin McCarthy, McConnell isn’t quitting his job altogether the moment he’s no longer top dog. As he told the Senate, he plans to finish his current term, which runs until the end of 2026, “albeit from a different seat in the chamber.”

The timing makes sense. This hasn’t been a very enjoyable congressional session for McConnell, who cherishes his reputation as a master deal-maker like his Kentucky idol, Henry Clay. His extended effort to put together a bipartisan and bicameral foreign-aid and border-security package failed almost entirely (though it’s possible some of its component parts can yet be resuscitated). He is in the process of negotiating a humiliating endorsement of Trump, whom he denounced in no uncertain terms for the then-president’s misconduct of January 6. In return, the former president has let it be known he’s not sure he could work with McConnell if both are in power in 2025. A coup to take down the man Trump has often called an “old broken-down crow” could have been in the offing just down the road, particularly if the 82-year-old senator’s recent health problems were to recur.

You would have to assume McConnell will have some influence over the identity of his successor. The most likely aspirants for the job are the senators known as the “three Johns”: John Cornyn of Texas, John Thune of South Dakota, and John Barrasso of Wyoming. Cornyn — who on Thursday confirmed he is already campaigning for the job — was McConnell’s whip from 2012 to 2018, until he was term-limited out of that position and replaced by Thune, who has also announced he is considering a campaign to become leader. Barrasso is currently the third-ranking Senate Republican as chairman of the party conference. Cornyn is 72, Barrasso is 71, and Thune is a relatively youthful 63. All of these men have been loyal McConnell sidekicks while maintaining better relations with the party’s MAGA wing than has their chief. All three of the Johns have already endorsed Trump’s presidential candidacy, though Barrasso is viewed as closer to the 45th president.

It’s possible that MAGA senators could offer their own candidate as leader. Rick Scott unsuccessfully challenged McConnell in November 2022 after advocating an extremist policy agenda that annoyed other Republicans significantly. Scott could try again, but he’s likely preoccupied with securing his own reelection this fall. Trump could intervene to promote a loyalist, but even in this MAGA era of the GOP, senators have a puffed-up self-regard that limits too much open subservience to others. By the time Republicans finally choose a McConnell successor, they’ll know whether they have a majority in the chamber, and barring another contested presidential election, they’ll also know whether their party enjoys a governing trifecta that would enormously expand their power.

Mitch McConnell was a powermonger of the highest order. But whatever happens in November, his own powers had become too faint to satisfy himself or his fellow Republicans.


Could Reproductive Freedom Win Florida for Dems in November?

Some excerpts from the transcript of Jon Weiner’s interview of Amy Littlefield, abortion access correspondent for The Nation:

JW: You say Florida is going to be the most important state to watch in the 2024 election. I have a lot of political friends who disagree with that, who say Florida has become a red state. Let’s face it, Trump won the state in 2016 and 2020. The legislature has a Republican super majority. Nevertheless, you think Florida is still a battleground state. Why is that?

AL: I know I’m fighting an uphill battle here, Jon, to convince people that Florida is in play. Okay. And let’s not forget that the Governor Ron DeSantis recently considered a presidential contender is a man who likes to send asylum seekers to Martha’s Vineyard as a fun hobby on the side. But it’s time to start taking Florida seriously. And one of the reasons, Jon, is that Florida has to be important because it is the last bastion of abortion access in the southeast. The South is basically a funnel of states where abortion is banned that are all directing patients into Florida. And I have to say, I’ve got my abortion goggles on. I will admit that that is how I look at everything.

But you know what? Abortion has the power to do things at the ballot box that people assume are impossible. And we have seen that with Michigan, where an abortion rights ballot measure helped Democrats get trifecta control of the state government for the first time in years. We saw that in 2022 in Kentucky, a state that has among the highest percentages of anti-abortion residents in the country where voters rejected an amendment declaring there’s no right to abortion in the state constitution. So, especially in the wake of the Dobbs decision, overturning Roe v. Wade and the collective outrage going on and the momentum behind these ballot initiatives, I think nothing is impossible. And I also think it’ll be fascinating to see, Florida is such a diverse and big state, so representative of the country in so many ways. It’ll be fascinating to see how this plays out there.

JW: Lots to talk about. Florida is one of a dozen states that have abortion rights initiatives on the ballot or in the process of qualifying to get enough signatures. Arizona is one of them. There are a lot of obstacles to getting this initiative before the voters in Florida, but the group organizing it, Floridians Protecting Freedom has already done quite a bit. What have they accomplished so far?

AL: Florida has so many hurdles that have to be cleared in order to get a measure on the ballot, they had to gather and verify almost 900,000 signatures from at least half of the state’s 28 congressional districts. And they blew past even their own expectations. I think on that one, they verified close to a million signatures. And then of course they’ve got the DeSantis administration and anti-abortion state officials, including Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, who have been throwing up whatever obstacles they can scheme up to try to prevent this thing from getting on the ballot. Florida also has the highest threshold for citizen-initiated amendments in the country, which means that in order to pass this amendment, if it makes it onto the ballot, is going to need more than 60% of votes.

JW: Let me just underline that. Majorities do not rule on Florida amendments. It takes a super majority, 60%. This is what Ohio voters turned down, but Florida initiatives don’t become law unless they get more than 60% – 

AL: Which is hard, but not impossible.

JW: Well, that’s what I wanted to ask. What do the polls say about support for abortion rights in Florida?

AL: So, abortion is really popular, Jon. I mean, Lauren Brenzel, who is leading the campaign there in Florida, said that they’re polling so far is consistent with about a decade of research in Florida that shows 70% and upwards of Floridians support access to safe and legal abortion, so-

JW: 70% – let me emphasize that. Not 50%, not 60%, 70% support.

AL: Abortion is popular, and the campaign is banking on it being popular among Republicans, being popular among unaffiliated voters. And we have seen that play out. I mean, I was on the ground reporting for The Nation in Kansas in the wake of the Dobbs decision when everyone was commenting on what a red state Kansas is. I mean, this is the home of George Tiller, the assassinated abortion provider. I mean, we knew the odds there. And yet Kansas surprised everybody except those of us who have been chanting “Abortion is popular,” and driving everyone crazy for years. And Florida does have a history of passing progressive ballot measures. For example, in 2020, making that 60%, they got close to 61% of Floridians voting in favor of a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage. And so, this is not impossible, although as you point out, Ohio tried to do this, abortion opponents in Ohio tried to raise their threshold in order to stop the abortion rights ballot initiative from passing there, and Florida’s already got that threshold. So yes, a steep climb.

JW: When will we hear from the Florida State Supreme Court about whether people in Florida get to vote on abortion rights?

AL: They need to rule by April 1st. So, that is when we will know for sure if this initiative has cleared the Florida Supreme Court and will make it to the ballot in November.


Putting Michigan’s “Uncommitted” Vote in Perspective

There was some planned overreaction to the Michigan Democratic presidential primary on February 27 that I tried to address at New York:

It’s rare that someone winning a primary with around 80 percent of the vote has to be on the defensive. But that’s where Joe Biden is after a smashing victory in Michigan marred by an organized effort to protest his Middle East policies via “uncommitted” votes.

Organizers of anti-Biden protests in Michigan wanted to show that his largely unconditional support for Israel in its war with Hamas might alienate enough voters (especially the state’s large Arab-American population) to cost him the election in November. So they urged a vote for “uncommitted” in the February 27 primary. And they were really smart to set expectations low, as Politico Playbook explained:

From a percentage point of view, the “uncommitted” vote in Democratic presidential primaries in Michigan peaked at 10.7 percent when Barack Obama was running for reelection in 2012. It was only slightly higher this time around: “Uncommitted” took 13 percent of the vote, with 95 percent of the vote tallied. And it has been predictably strong in pockets of strong support for a permanent cease-fire in Gaza and a break in unconditional U.S. support for Israel. “Uncommitted” is winning heavily in Dearborn, where Arab American Muslims are a majority of the population, and it’s doing relatively well in Washtenaw County, where the University of Michigan is located.

Still, Biden trounced “uncommitted” — not to mention actual named opponents Dean Phillips and Marianne Williamson — handily. If you translate the “uncommitted” vote into support for Biden’s general-election opponents (either Donald Trump or the multiple non-major-party candidates likely to appear on the ballot), these results are ominous. That’s exactly what “uncommitted” organizers hoped would be the case in order to influence the administration’s policies toward Israel and Gaza or punish Biden for his recalcitrance.

Biden’s reelection campaign is a vast gamble on the power of comparisons between the incumbent and Trump, even among voters unhappy with Uncle Joe’s record or current trajectory. Losing less than one in every five votes in a Democratic primary may become a data point for the general-election campaign in Michigan, and even a reminder to Team Biden that it cannot take Black, youth, Arab-American, or Muslim-American votes for granted. It sent a message to the president’s campaign, but it’s not quite the crack of doom you may hear suggested by Biden-haters in and beyond both parties.


Political Strategy Notes

In the wake of the Michigan Democratic primary, Nathaniel Rakich addresses a worrisome question in his article, “Could Arab American and Muslim voters cost Biden the 2024 election?” at 538, via abcnews.com: “On Tuesday, President Joe Biden won the Democratic primary in Michiganwith 81 percent of the vote — and yet it was his opponents who claimed victory….At least 100,000 Democrats in the Great Lakes State voted for “uncommitted,” a protest vote driven in large part by dissatisfaction with Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war. Multiple groups had urged voters to reject Biden due to his support for Israel in the conflict, and the “uncommitted” vote was particularly high in heavily Arab American and Muslim cities such as Dearborn (where “uncommitted” actually defeated Biden 56 percent to 40 percent)….The deep discontent among these normally Democratic voting blocs could be a problem for Biden in November, particularly in swing-state Michigan, which has the nation’s highest share of Arab Americans and one of the highest shares of Muslims. The Biden campaign is counting on Arab American and Muslim voters holding their nose and voting for him anyway when they consider the likely alternative: former President Donald Trump, who also supports Israel and has a history of anti-Muslim rhetoric.” However, Rakich adds, “While it’s possible that Arab American and Muslim voters could decide a very close race, Biden could also win reelection without their support….many Arab Americans and Muslims were persuadable voters even before the Israel-Hamas war broke out on Oct. 7, 2023.” However, “For the first time since at least 1996, more Arab Americans also identified as Republicans than as Democrats, 32 percent to 23 percent. Just six months earlier, in April, 40 percent had identified as Democrats and 24 percent had identified as Republicans.” Yet, “most swing states don’t have significant Arab American or Muslim populations; even in Michigan, which has the largest such populations, they each make up less than 3 percent.” In addition, there are likely to be significant numbers of “uncommitted” voters, who will vote for Biden in November, when faced with the alternative of Trump defining Mideast policy and whipping up antipathy towards Muslims and Arab-Americans in the U.S. In any event, a Mideast ceasefire at least partly brokered by President Biden would likely help his campaign – and the sooner the better.

The Biden campaign should be concerned about another foreign policy issue, as reported in “Two years into the war, American support for Ukraine is down” by Monica Potts, also at 538, via abcnews.com. “From the beginning, Americans supported helping Ukraine, but only to a certain extent. Early on, many experts feared a swift Russian victory over the country and a conflict that could spill into the rest of Europe, including the U.S.’s NATO allies. As a result, most Americans, 71 percent, saw Russia as a threat to the country, according to polling from YouGov/The Economist right before the war started. Americans also supported economic sanctions almost immediately imposed by President Joe Biden’s administration and the European Union. Biden also recently announced new sanctions….A plurality of Americans also supported financial aid to Ukraine to help fight off the attack. But even then, 51 percent wanted the U.S.’s role to be “minor,” according to an AP-NORC poll from before the conflict….Forty-five percent of Americans now think the U.S. is spending too much money helping Ukraine, according to an AP-NORC poll from November. Ukraine aid is especially unpopular among Republicans, 59 percent of whom said the U.S. had spent too much. Disapproval may be especially high among supporters of former President Donald Trump: Only about a third of Trump supporters favored ongoing Ukraine funding in an Ipsos/Chicago Council on Global Affairs poll from Sept. 7-18, while 59 percent of anti-Trump Republicans favored it….At the same time, a plurality of Americans, 43 percent, think the West should support Ukraine until Russia withdraws, and 46 percent think the West is not doing enough to support Ukraine, according to a YouGov/EuroTrack poll from Jan. 5 – Feb. 4. Regardless of support for helping the Ukrainian resistance, what can’t hurt and might help President Biden’s re-election is a sustained media campaign, featuring not only TV ads, but also Democratic leaders repeatedly shaming Republicans for giving Putin a free ride on his invasion of Ukraine.

And speaking of free rides, Adrienne Mahsa Varkiani reports on Hunter Biden’s criticism of Republicans for their silence and abdication of responsibility for investigating Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner’s $2 billion deal with the Saudis. As Varkiani writes, “It’s a smart point to bring up, and one that begs repeating as we get closer to November. Shortly after he left the White House, Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of former President Trump, accepted at least $2 billion from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, which is chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. That money went directly to Kushner’s new private equity firm, Affinity Partners. According to the original documents, The New York Times reported, in return for their hefty investment, the Saudis would receive at least a 28 percent stake in Kushner’s firm and be recognized as a “cornerstone” investor….If that wasn’t concerning enough, a later report from The Intercept revealed that the pitch from Affinity Partners focused almost entirely on Kushner’s official roles in the Trump administration and the potential political connections he could offer the Saudi investors in return for their investment. Perhaps none of this is a huge surprise, given that during the Trump years, MBS reportedly bragged about having Kushner “in his pocket.” Hunter Biden is not the best messenger for calling attention to the Kushner-Saudi deal. But Democratic leaders should repeat the points he is making about GOP hypocrisy at every opportunity.

John Halpin makes the case that “Americans Aren’t Paying Close Attention to the 2024 Election” at The Liberal Patriot, and writes: “For the 2024 horse race polls to have any real credibility this far out, you need to have some confidence that most Americans are paying attention to the race otherwise you’re measuring the opinions of the most engaged voters and getting mere inclinations from everyone else….But according to the most recent data from The Economist/YouGov, the opposite is true—most Americans report that they are not paying close attention to the 2024 election at this stage….only 40 percent of American adults overall report that they have been paying a lot of attention to the 2024 election, with 31 percent paying some attention and 28 percent paying only a little or no attention at all. Even among registered voters, only half report paying a lot of attention to the election.” Halpin provides this chart to indicate how different demograpahic groups are following election news:


How to Respond to Concerns About Biden’s Age

Kerry Eleveld shares some thoughts regarding”Here’s how every Democrat should answer questions about Biden’s age” at Daily Kos:

California Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered a messaging masterclass over the weekend on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” beating back questions about whether President Joe Biden, 81, is too old to serve a second term.

Yes, Donald Trump is 77. But Newsom doesn’t waste a moment on that. Instead, he demonstrated how Biden’s age—and the wisdom that comes with it—is the reason he has notched so many important legislative successes as president.

As Eleveld noted in a Biden-Harris HQ tweet:

Q: Do you think it’s responsible for Joe Biden to be at the top of the ticket?

Gov@gavinnewsom:

Responsible? I revere his record. What he’s done in three years is a masterclass. Close to 15 million jobs is eight times more than the last three Republican presidents combined.

As Eleveld notes further,

“The economy is booming, inflation is cooling,” Newsom continued. “We have American manufacturing coming back home—all because of Biden’s wisdom, because of his temperance, his capacity to lead in a bipartisan manner, which is an underrepresented point. And so I have great confidence moving forward. So the answer is: Absolutely—all in, in terms of the next four years.”

Newsom’s delivery was, quite frankly, performance art. All his points were solid, succinct, and informative. But his tone and assuredness inspired confidence not just in how he felt but also in how voters should feel.

Of course, there’s more than one way to combat the age issue. Another is to point out that Biden may be old, but he ain’t crazy—an approach that The Bulwark publisher Sarah Longwell took after Trump suggested he would let Russia do “whatever the hell they want” to America’s NATO allies.

….Newsom’s argument works on several levels, educating the public about Biden’s successes and building pride among Democrats about what Biden has accomplished—not in spite of his age but because of it. Wisdom, temperance, and bipartisan leadership are three perfect qualities to invoke as crucial to Biden’s successes—because Trump has exactly none of them.

Eleveld concludes, “Newsom’s answer, if replicated by a wide swath of younger Biden surrogates, will inspire Democratic participation in November.


Political Strategy Notes

in “Barriers to voting for people with disabilities: An explainer and research roundup” at Journalists’s Resource, Naseem S. Miller reports on an issue that affects millions of voters and their families, but doesn’t get much attention: “A growing body of research shows that voting and health are intertwined. People affected by poor health or disabilities are less likely to cast a ballot than the general population….When previously disenfranchised people, including people with disabilities, vote, policies that benefit everyone and better health outcomes follow, according to County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a program of the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute….About 42.5 million Americans have disabilities, according to 2021 data from the U.S. Census Bureau. ….In the November 2020 election, individuals with disabilities voted at a 7% lower rate than people without disabilities, according to the Disability and Voting Accessibility in the 2020 Elections survey by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and Rutgers University. More than 11% — nearly 2 million people with disabilities — said they faced difficulties voting….Voters with disabilities face a range of barriers, including inaccessible voting places, lack of accessible voting machines, and state laws that restrict voting by mail or criminalize assisting a person in voting, according to the American Civil Liberties Union….When the Government Accountability Office officials visited 167 polling places during the 2016 general election, only 17% were fully accessible for people with disabilities who wanted to vote in person. The most common barriers were steep ramps, lack of signs for accessible paths to the building, gravel parking lots or lack of parking options….In 2023, at least 14 states enacted 17 restrictive voting laws, which will take effect for the 2024 general election, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan law and policy institute at New York University. Most of the laws limit mail-in voting, shorten the window of requesting a mail ballot or ban drop boxes. Even though these laws don’t target people with disabilities, they create additional barriers for them….People who live in institutions like nursing homes, those who are under legal guardianship and people with mental illness are also less likely to vote than the general population, research has shown. In some cases, these people are prohibited from voting by state law.” While there is no convincing data indicating Democrats would get moe votes than Republicans by expanded access for these voters, Democrats might benefit by being more visible champions of reforms to make voting more convenient for them.

Some revealing statistics from “What America’s Relocation Boom Means for Election 2024” by Shawn Donnan at Bloomberg Business: “The population shifts are more pronounced in some battleground states than others, and they don’t uniformly favor Biden. But in aggregate, they offer a reason for optimism for the president’s campaign, even as polls showhim trailing his likely opponent, Donald Trump: A Bloomberg analysis of state population forecasts found swing-state counties that Biden won in 2020 will have on net gained almost twice as many people by election day as those that voted for Trump….Counting people is hard, and state demographers’ population forecasts don’t always agree with Census Bureau estimates, which for some states point to smaller gains….Still, by November’s presidential election, around 30 million Americans — the equivalent of the population of Texas — will have moved to a different state since 2020, even if migration recedes to a pre-pandemic pace…..In Georgia, where Biden beat Trump by fewer than 12,000 votes in 2020, the population will have grown by almost 395,000, according to state forecasts. Most of that growth is in metro Atlanta counties that Biden won handily in 2020. Likewise, in Nevada, Las Vegas home Clark County will have added almost 125,000 people by the time the election is held…..State forecasts show Maricopa County, Arizona, which Biden won narrowly and where 2 million ballots were cast in 2020, will have 337,000 more residents on election day 2024. Biden’s razor-thin 2020 margin there suggests that capitalizing on that growth may not be as easy as in Wisconsin, Georgia or Nevada….The relocation boom is not a tailwind for Biden everywhere. In North Carolina, the growth in red counties appears to have more than offset the rapid growth in the Raleigh-Durham metro area’s blue suburbs, according to state forecasts….Rapidly growing states like Georgia and North Carolina are seeing major changes in the composition of their electorates, while others like Pennsylvania are becoming more urban as they fight to maintain population.”

Bill Scher explains why “It’s Time for Biden to Learn from Reagan and Go All “Morning in America”: The president has a better economic record than Reagan. He should take a page from the Gipper’s extremely optimistic 1984 reelection ad campaign” at The Washington Monthly: “The Biden economy is by nearly every significant measure better than the 1984 Reagan economy: the unemployment rate is lower, earnings are higher, the poverty rate is lower, inflation is lower, and interest rates are lower. Yet public sentiment towards Biden hasn’t caught up to the economic data, the media continues to harp on his age, and Donald Trump is furiously retconning the economic narrative of the last seven years….The public may come to credit Biden with the improved economy, so long as the improvement continues, in time for Election Day. But with counterwinds, Biden can’t assume credit will organically materialize. Because his challenge is steeper than Reagan’s, he should not wait until September to marshal his best arguments….Granted, an inherent risk with bragging about economic data is that it can go south….But a review of the original Morning in America spot reminds us that emotion, not data, made it resonate….A Biden version of Morning in America could sound like this: It’s morning in America. Today, more Americans will go to work than ever in our country’s history….Why not lift directly from the original’s first line? It’s technically accurate as a matter of raw numbers: in every month of 2023, for the first time, over 160 million Americans were employed. But the unemployment rate has been at 4 percent or below for the last two years, which hasn’t happened in over 50 years. Even if the unemployment rate ticks up some, the line will almost surely remain technically true…And we’re building things in America again…As of January 2024, we have 13 million manufacturing workers (about 8 percent of the workforce), the most in 15 years….We’re enjoying the fruits of our labor, living in safer neighborhoods, and taking more vacations….The 2023 murder rate is down 12 percent from the prior year, according to crime data analyst Jeff Asher, and all violent crime (through the third quarter of 2023) is down 8 percent. ….Then, to close the ad, why change a word?….It’s morning again in America, and under the leadership of President Biden, our country is prouder and stronger and better. Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than four short years ago?….Ideally, the Biden campaign would tap people from all walks of life—small business owners, PTA presidents, first responders, community bankers, blue-collar workers, stay-at-home parents, community college students, and retirees—from every state or even every county, to echo similar messages in local media about how the economy has turned around. Such a communications effort would till the soil for a national Morning in America campaign, which would not have to consist of just one ad but several versions tailored to different demographics.”

Democrats have often faulted  evangelical Republican members of congresss for violating the separation of church and state. But Washington Post syndicated columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. reports on a unique challenge Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CONN) has posed to House Speaker Mikie Johnson (R-LA), connecting New Testament teachings to GOP policies. As Dionne, writes, “Because Johnson’s brand of Christianity is decidedly right-wing, he has since faced much criticism and reproof — which is entirely fair for a politician who has chosen to make his religious convictions so central to his public life. But Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), whose progressivism on issues related to economic justice is rooted in her Catholic tradition’s social teaching, has another way of approaching the question….I was not surprised when she recently called me to report that she had been thinking a lot about Johnson’s comment on the Bible explaining his outlook. Her purpose, she said, was not to question Johnson’s commitment to Christianity. On the contrary, DeLauro went out of her way to be respectful to Johnson’s spiritual life….“He is a man of faith, I start from there,” DeLauro said. “And he says his beliefs are rooted in the Bible, and many of us believe that. … The Bible is replete with guidance, of attention to act as a community, to focus in on the poor,” she said. “And the Bible lays out a faith-based policy agenda. It espouses social justice.”….And off she went, citing Exodus’s command not to oppress the poor or the stranger whose cry God will hear; Leviticus on setting aside of a share of the harvest for the poor; the Gospel of Matthew on the need for a living wage; the letter of James on the obligation not to show favoritism for the rich over the needy…..DeLauro wanted to be clear that however much she disagrees with Johnson on a slew of questions, she was not accusing him of anything. Instead, she wants to invite him to a dialogue on what taking the Bible seriously means.”


Teixeira: Fixing the Democrats’ Education Problem

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, politics editor of The Liberal Patriot newsletter and co-author with John B. Judis of the new Book “Where Have All the Democrats Gone?,” is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

For decades, the Democrats were “the party of education,” ringing up double-digit leads in polls asking Americans which major party they trusted most to handle education. During parts of the Clinton and Obama presidencies, that lead topped 30 points. Now, though, the Dems’ edge has shrunk to just a few points, with the occasional poll showing Republicans nosing ahead.

Why are Democrats fumbling the issue of education, which they dominated for so many years? There are multiple reasons: they mishandled the Covid-related school closures, they are letting the culture wars distract from the core mission of schools, and they are downplaying the importance of merit and academic achievement. Before I discuss how the Dems could effect a turnaround, let’s dig deeper into these missteps and unfortunate trends.

The school closures went on way too long. Democrats, far more than Republicans, worked to keep public schools closed during the Covid pandemic—longer than in other advanced countries and far longer than was justified by emerging scientific understanding of the virus and its effects. Pushed by their allies in the teachers unions, Democrats ignored the justified warnings that extended school closures would severely harm student learning and social development, especially for poorer children. The returns are now in, and it is clear that the warnings Democrats ignored were, if anything, too mild.

This was no minor error made by Democratic officials in the fog of pandemic confusion but a profound tragedy for millions of children that could have been avoided or at least substantially mitigated. To add to the shameful episode, parents in many communities around the country who wanted the schools reopened faster were frequently demonized by progressives as heartless, anti-science right-wingers who didn’t care about public health. The wounds from this still fester today.

Privileging politics over pedagogy. The culture wars rage on in the schools. Democrats argue that it is all the fault of the Right, who they say wishes to “ban books,” prevent children from learning about slavery, and subject gay and transgender-identifying children to bullying and worse. Progressive educators and school systems, on the other hand, simply stand for a modern, inclusive education that no decent, unprejudiced person should oppose.

This is disingenuous in the extreme. Over the last decade, and especially after the George Floyd summer of 2020, there has been a concerted effort by many school systems and educators to promote “anti-racist” education that goes way beyond benign pedagogical practices such as teaching about slavery, Jim Crow, the Tulsa Race Massacre, redlining, and so on. Instead, pedagogy itself is to be infused, from top to bottom and in every subject, with concepts drawn from the anti-racist playbook. As noted by sociologist Ilana Redstone, these concepts include the assertion that “[a]n unwillingness to recognize the full force of systemic racism as determining disparities between groups is a denial of the reality of racism today (and evidence of ignorance at best and racism at worst).” An army of diversity, equity, and inclusion consultants have stood at the ready to assist school systems in training their staff and teachers to implement this creed and incorporate it into their curricula.

This is politics, not pedagogy as traditionally and properly understood. It has little to do with what most parents want schools to do: develop their children’s academic skills and knowledge base so they can succeed in the world. Democrats have been hurt by their increasing identification with this ideological project rather than the traditional goals of public education.

Downgrading merit and educational achievement. Consistent with this ongoing politicization of educational practices, there has been a concomitant downgrading of academic merit and standard measures of educational achievement, especially standardized tests. In the name of fairness and “equity,” school systems in Democratic-controlled states and counties have taken steps to de-emphasize such measures as a means of evaluating students and controlling admissions to advanced courses, programs, and elite schools.

It hasn’t quite reached the “all shall have prizes” stage, but the message to aspiring students and parents who see educational achievement as their route to upward mobility and success in life is clear: students can no longer rely on hard work and objectively good academic performance to attain their goals. Other priorities of the school system may take precedence, reducing the payoff from their performance. This does not sit well with most parents, who see it as public schools’ responsibility to encourage and reward their children’s talent and hard work. Democrats have been hurt by their diminishing association with what parents care about the most.

Getting Their Groove Back

In light of all this, is it possible for Democrats to regain their mojo on education during the 2024 election cycle? I think it is, though it will require changing their approach considerably from current practices. And it’s worth doing so. Even if education is not a central issue in the presidential contest, it is sure to loom large in many congressional, gubernatorial, and state legislative races.

Here’s how Democrats can decisively change their current image on education and rebuild their advantage on the issue.

Get ideology, whether from the Left or Right, out of schools. Voters are sick of the culture wars around schools. Overwhelmingly, they just want children to get a good education based on standard academic competencies, not instruction in a politically inflected worldview. Democrats must assure voters that the former is their number-one priority. Just as they oppose attempts from the Right to inject their ideology into schools by restricting critical discussion of American history and society, so they must also oppose efforts by those on the Left to impose their views on curricula and analysis of social issues. Neither is appropriate. The job of schools is to give students the tools to make informed judgments, not tell them what those judgments should be.

[Editor’s note: Read the rest of Ruy’s prescription for the Democrats at Education Next.]