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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Debate over country song is a right-wing trap for Democrats.

The debate over the song “Try That in a Small Town” is an excellent example of a particularly devious right-wing extremist trap – one that the GOP will use against Democrats again and again in 2024. Dems need to understand what the trap is designed to accomplish, how it works and how to defend against it.

Read the Memo.

A Democratic Political Strategy for Reaching Working Class Voters That Starts from the Actual “Class Consciousness” of Modern Working Americans.

by Andrew Levison

Read the Memo

Progressives need to apologize to Oliver Anthony

He understands working people better than they do, he can talk to them better than they can.

Read the Memo.

Why Don’t Working People Recognize and Appreciate Democratic Programs and Policies

The mythology of “Franklin Roosevelt’s Hundred Days” and the Modern Debate Over “Deliverism.”

Read the Memo.

Innovative Study Offers New Insight into White Working Class Voters.

Innovative Study Provides Startling New Insight About Working Class Voters
By Andrew Levison

Read the memo.

Democrats Will Lose Elections in 2022 and 2024 if They do Not Offer a Plausible Strategy for Reducing the Surge of Immigrants at the Border.

Read on…

The Daily Strategist

September 24, 2023

Dems Pin Hopes on Trump’s Meltdown with Suburban Women

The 2024 Presidential campaign is still in the early stages. But the case for Democrats focusing strategy on winning suburban women keeps mounting, as Julia Manchester writes at The Hill:

Former President Trump increasingly looks like the favorite to win the GOP’s presidential nomination, but that strength masks what many Republicans see as a huge weakness against President Biden: Trump’s problems with suburban women.

All of Trump’s vulnerabilities with the key demographic were on high display during a rowdy town hall last week with CNN, where at one point the former president called moderator Kaitlan Collins a “nasty person.”

Trump also mocked a woman who won a civil lawsuit against him for sexual battery and defamation, and he dodged questions on abortion — a top issue that has increasingly been a strength for Democrats since the Supreme Court, which includes three justices who Trump nominated, overturned Roe v. Wade.

However, “The CNN town hall came just days after a Washington Post-ABC News poll showed Trump leading Biden in a general election, sparking worry among Democrats,” Manchester notes. “According to the survey, Trump leads Biden by 7 points in a hypothetical matchup.” Manchester adds,

….Suburban women voters have also largely turned their backs on Republicans since the former president was elected in 2016. According to CBS News exit polling from 2018, 53 percent of suburban women voters said they voted for Democrats in 2018, up from 47 percent in 2014 and 51 percent in 2016. In 2020, Biden won 54 percent of suburban voters in general, according to the Pew Research Center. And in last year’s midterm elections, suburban voters, including women in this group, helped deliver major victories to Democrats in key states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Georgia, with many of Trump’s endorsed candidates facing defeat.

“Many of those women the first time around they voted for him because he was a Republican, and we know that party is the best predictor of a vote,” Walsh said. “But the lived experience of Donald Trump turned them away from the Republican Party.”

“In the same way that he kept the Republican Party from winning big in the midterm elections this year, then he will make it difficult for the Republican Party in a general election,” she said.

On top of that, many have pointed to how the Supreme Court’s decision last year to overturn Roe v. Wade — the 1973 landmark ruling that federally legalized abortion — swayed women voters in the midterms. According to the Brookings Institution, 47 percent of female voters felt angry about the decision, and 83 percent of those women voted for a Democratic candidate.

Nonetheless, says Manchester, “It’s still unclear and too far out to know what role abortion access will play in 2024. It’s also unclear what role the economy will play in voters’ decision-making because it’s normally a top-of-mind issue. Republicans have continued to hit Biden on this as inflation continues and interest rates rise. The Washington-Post ABC News poll also shows Trump dominating Biden on handling the economy, with 54 percent of Americans saying Trump did a better job of handling the economy than Biden has done in his term so far. Only 36 percent said they preferred Biden’s handling.”

Manchester concludes, “I know Biden’s poll numbers are not great, but at the end of the day, when you’re really looking at whatever we watch in this campaign, if it is Donald Trump, it may not be a vote for Joe Biden, but a vote just to please make it stop with Donald Trump,” Walsh said.”

Manchester didn’t probe the political fallout from the epidemic of mass shootings this year. But suburban women have to be worried about the GOP’s foot-dragging on gun safety reforms, as well as the party’s dependence on NRA contributions.

Political Strategy Notes

In “Democrats have a huge opportunity to win back rural voters,” Christian Paz writes at Vox: “In last year’s midterms, when Democrats narrowly held on to control of the Senate and won crucial elections in battleground states, they did so in part by reversing one of Donald Trump’s biggest 2020 accomplishments: They won more voters from rural and exurban communities than anyone expected….From Arizona and Nevada, across the Midwest, and into North Carolina and Pennsylvania, Democratic Senate and gubernatorial candidates improved on President Joe Biden’s 2020 showing among this swath of the electorate, and persuaded tens of thousands of rural voters who voted for Trump to switch parties….Now, as the 2024 campaign map begins to take shape, Democratic candidates, the state and national parties, and their outside partners will have to make a choice about how seriously to invest in outreach and persuasion operations in these communities. Democrats have long struggled in rural communities, but their decline in support has only accelerated in recent years, cementing the idea for many that the party caters to highly educated and primarily urban voters. That narrative has only entrenched itself since the ’90s, when former President Bill Clinton essentially split rural voters with his Republican opponents in his two presidential campaigns and won over 1,100 rural counties in 1996. Since then, Democratic presidential candidates have endured dramatic losses in rural areas: in 2008, Barack Obama won 455 rural counties; in 2020, Joe Biden won only 194….That crumbling of rural support has led some in the party to write off this section of voters entirely. Biden’s 2020 victory is illustrative of this dynamic: He won the presidency despite winning just 33 percent of rural voters. (Trump won 65 percent, up from the 59 percent he won in 2016.)….But the 2022 midterms reversed that slide.”

“The brightest spots for Democrats came in Michigan and Pennsylvania,” Paz continues, “where Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Gov. Josh Shapiro, respectively, improved on Biden’s performance in rural counties by 10 and 15 percentage points. Candidates like Democratic Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA), and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) improved by more than 6 points — and even candidates who lost, like former Rep. Tim Ryan in Ohio’s Senate race, still improved on Biden’s numbers (winning 4 percent more support from these counties).” Paz shares the following chart:

Some troubling data points from “The End Of Title 42 Could Be A Big Problem For Biden” by Nathaniel Rakich at FiveThirrtyEight: “President Biden’s administration has been bracing itself for Title 42’s expiration by building more facilities for migrants, making it easier for people to apply to come to the U.S. legally rather than risk an illegal border crossing and even sending 1,500 troops to the border. And politically, taking such aggressive action is probably smart: Polling suggests not only that Americans want to keep Title 42 in place, but also that another border crisis could be a political disaster for Biden….According to a May 6-7 poll from Morning Consult, 51 percent of registered voters opposed ending Title 42, and only 37 percent supported ending it. While that’s the only recent poll we have on the subject, its findings were similar to those of a May 2022 poll from Politico/Harvard in which American adults opposed ending the program 55 percent to 45 percent….These numbers aren’t too surprising when you consider that a plurality of Americans thought too many immigrants were coming to the U.S. even before Title 42 expired. According to a February 2023 poll from the Associated Press/NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 44 percent of U.S. adults thought the number of immigrants to the U.S. should be reduced. An additional 34 percent wanted the number of immigrants to remain the same, and only 20 percent thought it should be increased….In an average of six polls taken since April 18,2 only 35 percent of Americans said they approved of Biden’s handling of the issue of immigration, while 57 percent disapproved. That issue-specific net approval rating of -22 percentage points was 13 points worse than Biden’s average overall approval rating in those same polls….According to a Morning Consult poll from March, 47 percent of registered voters also felt that the U.S. immigration system had gotten worse under Biden’s presidency, while only 20 percent thought it had gotten better (24 percent said it had stayed the same).”

Rakich observes in “Other Polling Bites,” also at FiveThirtyEight, that “Americans may finally be coming to understand what the debt ceiling finally means, after more than a decade of high-profile fights over it. A new YouGov survey explained the debt ceiling to half of its sample and then asked them their opinion on raising it, while it just asked the other half about raising it without any context. In both cases, roughly 40 percent said that the debt ceiling should be raised and roughly 40 percent said that it should not. In addition, 52 percent correctly identified the debt ceiling as a limit on the government’s borrowing to finance spending that already has been approved, while only 25 percent incorrectly said it was a limit on government spending. Compare this to a similar YouGov poll from 2013, when 42 percent said raising the debt ceiling would allow the U.S. to pay interest on its debt and for spending that it has already authorized, and 39 percent said it would directly increase government spending and debt.” There may be a bit of a “Boy Who Cried Wolf” trope regarding the public’s tendency to yawn about the debt ceiling fight, which has always seemed to get resolved at the last minute. That doesn’t make it any less of a problem for president Biden. Indeed, it may make it more dangerous. In any case, it’s not a good look for either party, and a permanent fix would serve them both well.

Why Dems Should Calm Down About Biden’s Age, Early Polls

Walter Shapiro has a zinger and insight-rich post, “Democrats, Don’t Panic! Seriously, Don’t”  up at The New Republic’s The Soapbox.

Shapiro argues that “Running protest candidates to act out policy frustrations is a luxury that the Democrats can ill afford at a time when the Republican Party has abandoned conservatism for trumped-up authoritarianism. A nomination fight against an incumbent president is an invitation to general election defeat, as Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush found out.”

“Immigration remains a can’t-win issue for the Democrats,” Shapiro claims. “Every president (with the possible exception of Trump) is blamed for failing to solve insolvable issues. And the crisis at the Mexican border defies workable and humane solutions. No matter how far Biden tacks to the right (and suddenly the buzzword of this administration is “enforcement”), Trump and the Fox News megaphone will demonize the issue and rail against “open borders.” Short of actually building Trump’s phantom wall, there is no plausible way for Biden to avoid being permanently on the defensive on immigration.”

In terms of his image,  Shapiro gets brutal: “Biden will never be a compelling candidate. That was not his persona when he limped through the 2020 Iowa caucuses (fourth-place finish) and the New Hampshire primary (fifth place). As Biden insiders will privately concede, the pandemic helped Biden in the 2020 general election since it gave him an excuse to limit public campaigning. President Biden, to be honest, is boring. Last Friday, he gave his first TV interview since declaring his candidacy in April with a three-minute video. His White House conversation with MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle produced little news and less excitement….The combination of Biden’s workmanlike oratory and the unprecedented ability of Americans to change channels means that this president cannot command a national audience for anything less than a flying saucer landing on the White House lawn.” Further,

“Television ads, no matter how slickly produced, will not create a “morning in America” mood for Biden. A saturation ad blitz this early in the political season would require funds well beyond the current resources of the Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee. And anything less than Michael Bloomberg–level spending will only be seen by hard-core viewers of CNN and MSNBC.” Also,

“Try as he might, Biden cannot defuse the age issue with a clever quip or a poll-tested boast. In his MSNBC interview, Biden argued, “I have acquired a hell of a lot of wisdom and know more than the vast majority of people. And I’m more experienced than anybody that’s ever run for the office.” The problem is that voters are not only judging the Biden of today but also imagining an 86-year-old Biden in the White House in 2028.”

Now for the good news: “But every election is a choice between two candidates, not a quest for a modern-day Pericles. And whether GOP voters choose Trump the Sexual Abuser or another candidate from the right-wing fever swamps, that nominee is going to come with more baggage than a 1930s movie star on a trans-Atlantic crossing.” In addition, says Shapiro,

“Unless the GOP miraculously picks someone like Asa Hutchinson, the former Arkansas governor and ardent anti-Trumper, the Republican nominee will find it impossible to locate the political center even with a guide and a compass. From abortion to book banning, the Republicans are saddled with the politically unpalatable side of almost every emotionally potent issue except immigration. And if the nominee is Ron DeSantis, he may never live down the Peggy Noonan line that he “carries a vibe … that he might unplug your life support to re-charge his cellphone.”

If the Trump resurrection lasts until the Republican convention, negative partisanship will become a powerful force for the Democrats. Biden may be old and boring, but he has not been judged by a civil jury to be a sexual abuser. Biden may be old and boring, but he is not facing indictment in New York or maybe soon in Atlanta. He simply has to ask voters, in Reaganesque fashion, “Do you feel better about Trump today than you did four years ago?” The question, for almost all the voters who handed Biden the 2020 election, will answer itself as they contemplate an unhinged president motivated only by ego and revenge.”

President Biden may not be Mr. Excitement. But given the flaws of most of his opponents, he is beginning to look like Mr. Sane and Stable – which is not such a bad image at the launch of his 2024 campaign.

About Hugh Hewitt’s Biden-LBJ Fable

As an old guy with a pretty good memory of political events, I am alert to misuses of history to make a contemporary point, like the one I tried to expose this week at New York.

The same day that Donald Trump, the GOP’s front-running candidate for president, got assessed millions of dollars for defamation and sexual abuse, a leading conservative media maven, Hugh Hewitt, adjudged Joe Biden as so absolutely doomed that he won’t even make it to the 2024 starting gate. RealClearPolitics relays Hewitt’s tall tale of a prediction:

“Hugh Hewitt on Monday told Special Report host Bret Baier he expects President Joe Biden to exit the presidential race like President Lyndon B. Johnson did in 1968. LBJ announced in March of 1968 that he would not seek another term …

“’Gallup came in at 38 percent approval. So the ABC/Washington Post poll at 36 does not sound like an outlier … I think the American people coming to the recognition he really can’t do this,’ Hewitt said.

“’I’m expecting an LBJ ’68 exit sometime next year,’ Hewitt said.”

What Hewitt was referring to was the surprise announcement by President Lyndon Johnson on March 31, 1968, in conjunction with a bombing halt in Vietnam, that he was withdrawing from the Democratic presidential contest. But the idea that Biden will face anything like the circumstances that led LBJ to that decision is ridiculous, even for a spinmeister like Hewitt.

First, to get one dubious data point out of the way, Hewitt suggests that Biden is currently in the same doldrums as LBJ was in March 1968, when his Gallup rating (the only generally available poll at that time) was 36 percent. Nowadays we have lots of polls, so whereas Biden’s approval is at 38 percent at Gallup and 36 percent at ABC-WaPo, he’s also at 43 percent at IBD/TIPP48 percent at Rasmussen46 percent at Economist/YouGov, and 44 percent at Fox News. So Hewitt is cherry-picking negative polls to make his shaky case.

More to the point, Biden is being backed by the entire Democratic Party and faces only two nuisance opponents in the 2024 primaries. When LBJ withdrew from the 1968 race, he had already grossly underperformed expectations in an actual New Hampshire primary against U.S. senator Eugene McCarthy and trailed McCarthy in polls in the next primary in Wisconsin (which McCarthy would subsequently win 56-35 right after LBJ’s withdrawal). More importantly, Johnson’s poor showing in New Hampshire (along with a failure to reach a deal with antiwar Democrats on Vietnam policy) had drawn the very formidable U.S. senator Robert F. Kennedy (father of one of today’s nuisance candidates) into the race.

But according to those closest to him, LBJ did not withdraw from the 1968 contest because he was sure to lose his party’s nomination; after all, in those days before ubiquitous primaries, LBJ’s designated successor, Hubert Humphrey, won the nomination without entering a single primary. Johnson called it quits after he decided to announce a major peace initiative (the bombing halt was part of it) in Vietnam and did not want it to be perceived as a mere candidate maneuver. Additionally, LBJ, who nearly died of a heart attack over a decade earlier, had a family history of short life spans and did not feel up to another four years in office, unlike Biden. (Johnson actually died just two days after the next presidential term ended, even without the pressures of the Oval Office.)

Yes, Biden is an aging incumbent Democrat with less than ideal popularity, and you never know what pitfalls his presidency might encounter between now and November 2024. But having decided to run for a second term, there’s no particular reason to think he’ll change his mind, and no reason at all to think his party will push him away from its nomination. So Hugh Hewitt needs a different scenario to imagine in his service to the GOP.

Political Strategy Notes

In his New York Times column, “When Their Idea of Liberty Is Your Idea of Death,” Thomas B. Edsall discusses the “partisan battle to claim ownership of the ideal of freedom,” and shares insights Democrats can use in their talking points, but also a couple of warnings for Democrats and President Biden. Edsall writes, ” Isabel V. Sawhill, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, proposed in an email that Biden and the Democratic Party are well positioned to claim the freedom mantle:

I want to suggest two reasons why this focus may not only be warranted but also have great appeal. The first is the battle over abortion rights. The second is the new attitude of Republicans toward the business community.

On abortion, she continued, “I would argue that the ability to choose whether or not to have a child is a fundamental right,” adding her belief that:

Before the Dobbs decision, we had found a workable compromise on this issue: no or limited abortions after fetal viability around 24 weeks. But the kind of six-week limit that is now the law in Florida and Georgia, not to mention the total ban in 14 other states, is an almost complete abrogation of the rights of women.

On the treatment of business, Sawhill wrote: “Republicans have always been the party of corporate America, dedicated to limiting regulation and keeping taxes low. Gov. DeSantis’s attack on Disney and other so-called ‘woke’ companies is beginning to undermine the party’s reputation.”….The bottom line, she concluded, was that “when Democrats talk about freedom, it’s not just rhetoric. There is substance behind the message.”

However, Edsall also quotes William A. Galston, who warns, ““for much of the 20th century, progressives took the lead in both defining freedom and advancing its borders.”….From Teddy Roosevelt’s expansion of “the 19th-century laissez-faire conception of freedom to include the liberties of workers and entrepreneurs to get ahead in the world” to F.D.R.’s redefinition “to include social protection from the ills of want and fear,” to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s appeal to a “civil and political freedom that included all Americans,” Galston maintains that liberals have successfully argued that freedom often can “be advanced only through the vigorous actions of government.”….Liberals began to lose command of freedom in the 1960s, Galston concludes:

What began honorably in the early 1960s as the effort to expand freedom of speech and self-fulfillment was transformed just a decade later into an antinomian conception of freedom as liberation from all restraint. Enthusiasts could no longer distinguish between liberty and license, and so lost touch with the moral concerns of average citizens, especially parents struggling to raise their children in what they saw as a culture increasingly inhospitable to decency and self-restraint.

“As progressives abandoned the discourse of freedom,” Galston writes, “conservatives were more than ready to claim it.”….I asked Galston whether he stood by what he wrote 18 years ago. He replied by email:

Mostly, but some of it is dated. I did not anticipate that a commitment to fairness and equality of results would morph into a culture of intolerance on college campuses and other areas where a critical mass of progressives has been reached.

Regarding the much-cited ABC-Washington Post poll showing President Biden in deep doo-doo, Ed Kilgore has an insightful critique of the poll at New York magazine. Also check out “What the New Poll Favoring Trump Got Wrong and the Pundits Missed” by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and Steven Tian  at Time magazine, who write: “Of course, political professional point out, polls done this far out have little value, and much can and will change in eighteen months by November 2024. In fact, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama are just three recent presidents who rebounded from comparable sagging public polls to ultimately win 18 months later. We acknowledge the polling around 40 percent favorability is nothing for the Biden Administration to gloat over, however, according to the Gallup Poll, it is consistent with almost all the seven prior presidents at this time except for President H.W. Bush following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and President George W. Bush following the 9/11 attack on the U.S. In fact, George H.W. Bush enjoyed a 73% favorability in September 1990 but then went on to lose his reelection to Bill Clinton….In fact, there are piles of contrasting polls. There are some polls where Trump beats Biden – such as the right-leaning Rasmussen polls and Stagwell’s Harris Poll. Trump has consistently dominated across both polls dating back years. But most major opinion polls, on average, Biden leads Trump by 2 percent, including recent polls done by Yahoo News, The Wall Street Journal, Quinnipiac University, and Morning Consult among many others. Even Rupert Murdoch’s right-leaning New York Post grudgingly concedes that “Biden beats Trump big” across early polling….Pollster Cornel Belcher commented “The poll really is trash, and I don’t say that lightly because I’ve had respect for their polling in the past.”

From “Not Biden vs. Trump Again! The Disgruntled Voters Who Could Decide the 2024 Election” by Alan I. Abramowitz at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Most Americans do not want to see a rematch between Joe Biden and Donald Trump in 2024. Both Biden and Trump are viewed unfavorably by a majority of voters. Nevertheless, there is a strong likelihood that Biden and Trump will be the Democratic and Republican candidates in 2024. In that case, a group of voters who currently favor “someone else” in 2024 may decide the outcome of the presidential election. These voters make up close to one-fifth of the electorate according to data from the 2022 ANES Pilot Study….According to the data from the ANES Pilot Study, Joe Biden would appear to have a small advantage over Donald Trump in a two-way contest: 51% of registered voters rated Biden more favorably than Trump while 47% rated Trump more favorably than Biden on a feeling thermometer scale. Among those who preferred “someone else” in 2024, 49% rated Biden more favorably while 44% rated Trump more favorably….A plurality of voters who prefer someone other than Trump or Biden in 2024 identify as conservative and identify with or lean toward the Republican Party. The key factor driving these voters toward Biden appears to be their concern about the events of Jan. 6, 2021 and the former president’s role in inciting the riot at the U.S. Capitol….Given the unpopularity of both Biden and Trump, there would appear to be an opening for a third party or independent candidate in 2024 who would appeal to the substantial minority of voters, 15% in the ANES Pilot Study, who dislike both major-party candidates. In 2020, however, third party and independent candidates won less than 2% of the national popular vote. Whether any strong third party or independent candidates emerge in 2024 and, if so, which major party candidate’s support they cut into, may well decide the outcome of the presidential election.”

Warning: Republicans May Not Mind a Debt Default

In looking at the dynamics of the debt limit standoff in Washington, it occurred to me that some Republicans may view this not as a risky situation but as a win-win proposition, so I wrote a warning at New York:

In any high-stakes conflict in which combatants have taken diametrically opposed positions, avoiding a destructive outcome depends on equivalent risks and rewards. If failure to reach an agreement is an unmitigated disaster for one side and something less than that for the other, the latter is very likely to win any game of chicken.

The comforting conventional wisdom about the rapidly impending debt-limit collision in Congress is that the House Republicans (and their largely passive Senate GOP allies) precipitating the crisis have as much to lose as the White House and Senate Democrats. If there’s any doubt that Kevin McCarthy will ultimately find some way to avoid a debt default, it’s because the wildly reckless House Freedom Caucus, whose members seem to relish a national or global economic calamity, hold his continuation as Speaker in their hands. So from the point of view of Democrats and allegedly responsible Republicans, the game has been to find some face-saving way for McCarthy to do the right thing, as he surely wants to do, without losing his precious gavel.

But what if the assumption that we’re in a mutually assured destruction scenario is not exactly right? What if McCarthy or the Freedom Caucus or some other strategically positioned group of Republicans is convinced that disaster for the economy and the country could produce an electoral victory for the GOP? If so, that would destroy any incentives for compromise: Republicans will either win important concessions from Joe Biden and his Democrats that would gratify potentially rebellious MAGA types or they’ll inherit a damaged country in November 2024 amid the sort of radically diminished expectations that ease the burden of governing.

One danger sign Democrats should note is public-opinion research indicating that Americans are inclined to apportion blame equally for the debt-limit crisis even though they favor the Democratic position on how to avoid calamity, according to a new ABC/Washington Post survey (a flawed but nonetheless influential poll):

“A 58 percent majority of Americans say the debt limit and federal spending should be handled as separate issues, down from 65 percent who said this in February. A much smaller 26 percent of Americans say Congress should only allow the government to pay its debts if Biden agrees to cut spending, the same share as February….

“The poll finds 39 percent of Americans say they would blame Republicans in Congress if the government goes into default, and 36 percent say they would blame President Biden and 16 percent volunteer that they would blame both equally. (That dynamic is similar to the 2011 debt limit showdown, when 42 percent said they would blame congressional Republicans and 36 percent said they would blame President Obama. Lawmakers averted a default that year.)”

The 2011 analogy is important for both parties. As Obama advisor Dan Pfeiffer recalls, the 44th president’s standing going into a reelection year was almost fatally damaged even by a near-miss of a debt default:

“In 2011, [Obama] spent months negotiating with Speaker John Boehner to strike a ‘grand bargain’ that would help solve America’s longstanding fiscal problems. But Mr. Boehner couldn’t deliver his caucus in support of the framework, and the nation hurtled toward default. With only a few days to go, negotiators were able to strike a smaller agreement that satisfied no one, left both sides angry about the result and was damaging for the country. The United States’ credit rating was downgraded for the first time in the nation’s history, and borrowing costs for the government went up.

“Mr. Obama’s approval rating slumped, even dipping below 40 percent in Gallup polling. Our internal polling in the White House showed the president losing re-election handily to a generic Republican.”

Barack Obama managed to claw back much of his popularity and was reelected in 2012, but it was a near thing. Republicans may calculate that an actual debt default, likely followed by a recession, would doom any incumbent president, particularly if voters are inclined to blame that president at least partly for a debt default triggered by the other party.

The abiding truth is that chief executives who preside over a major economic contraction do not often get reelected. This phenomenon dates all the way back to the administration of Martin Van Buren and shortened such recent presidencies as those of Gerald FordJimmy CarterGeorge H.W. Bush, and arguably (though a lot of other things were going on) Donald Trump.

The possibility that at least some Republicans may glimpse a silver lining in a debt default is all the more reason that their buddies on Wall Street (who literally cannot afford to be so sanguine about a market meltdown) should be making it very clear the GOP will never see another campaign contribution if it runs Biden and the U.S. economy right off the road.

Will Trump’s Sexual Assault Verdict Secure His Defeat?

Norman L Eisen and Ryan Goodman explain “Why the Sexual Assault Verdict Is Actually Bad News for Trump Politically” at Slate:

The unanimous jury verdict on Tuesday that has turned Donald Trump from an alleged sexual assaulter into a proven one may create political shock waves if recent history is any guide. As numerous empirical studies have shown, the American public has come to view sexual assault as a form of abusing power that can disqualify a perpetrator from holding public office. Trump may suffer significant political damage from this new majoritarian understanding.

In November 2017, 61 percent of voters—including 56 percent of men and a nontrivial margin of white men (50–43) and white women (55–37)—said President Trump should be impeached and removed from office if he were proven to have engaged in “sexual harassment,” according to a Quinnipiac poll. That overall support—the eye-popping number of 61 percent—was higher than any poll tracking public support for impeachment and removal from office for the scandalous conduct in Trump’s first and second impeachments. (See FiveThirtyEight’s complete collection of surveys for the first and second impeachment.) What’s more, Quinnipiac asked only about sexual harassment, not sexual assault, in the case of Trump. The latter, which is also the core crime in the E. Jean Carroll verdict, would have presumably produced even greater levels of support for removal from office.

The Quinnipiac poll was not alone.

A December 2017 Public Policy Polling survey found that 53 percent of voters thought Trump should resign because of the “allegations” of sexual harassment against him, and another Quinnipiac poll in December 2017 found that 50 percent of voters already thought Trump should resign because he had “been accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault by multiple women.”

These results are no surprise when taken in context of recent social science studies. Rigorous empirical research shows that Americans generally consider sexual assault incompatible with serving in elected office or positions of public trust (see, e.g., Savani and Collignon, 2023Stark and Collignon, 2022Masuoka, Grose & Junn, 2021Craig and Cossette, 2020). A 2020 study in the journal Political Behavior found that “(1) a significant electoral penalty is likely to be assessed against politicians accused of sexual harassment; (2) the size of that penalty (in terms of lost votes and lower favorability) … is concentrated among co-partisans and, to a lesser extent, Independents.” That study, like many others, concerned “accusations” and “allegations” of misbehavior; the results are likely to be even more pronounced in the event of allegations being proveb—especially in a court and especially by a unanimous verdict.

Eisen and Goodman cite several “caveats and qualifications.” and then write that “It is notable, however, that a candidate’s having engaged in sexual assault has in many instances proven fatal to their holding public office.” According to the aforementioned source:

In the most exhaustive accounting of its kind to date, this study shows that a total of at least 138 government officials in both elected and appointed positions, have been publicly reported for sexual harassment, assault, misconduct, or violence against women since the 2016 election. These include all allegations of sex-related misconduct reported in national, state, and local media.

A large majority of these officials – 104 of them, or 75 percent — have left or been ousted from their positions. After this week’s midterm election, 34, at most, will remain in office by January 2019. One elected official’s close race is pending a recount.

So, the question arises, is Trump an exception who can be elected, following a verdict holding him responsible for sexual assault? Time and again, Trump has demonstrated a shocking immunity from public condemnation for behavior that would ruin the careers of most people. But a jury verdict is more of a problem than a host of allegations.

At the very least, however, it’s another dollop of kerosene on the Republican dumpster fire, and with all of Trump’s legal problems still to come, it can get a lot worse.

Florida Dems Look to Place Big Bet on Senate Race

Matt Dixon and Jonathan Allen report “Democratic donors hope to recruit NBA legends Grant Hill and Dwyane Wade to run for Senate in Florida” at nbcnews.com. But their article is about more than these two former NBA stars potential senate candidacies; it’s really an update on Democratic prospects for taking away Republican Rick Scott’s senate seat next year.

As for the idea of running popular “NBA legends” as a shortcut to making Florida a purple state once again, why not? The Florida Democratic Party needs help, and a NBA celebrity candidacy just might help to juice turnout, particularly among black voters. I’ve long believed Democrats could benefit for running more jocks and entertainers. Republicans did alright with Reagan, Sen. George Murphy and Schwartzeneggar. Professional sports brings together voters of all races and athletic stars can help do the same for Democrats running in elections.

Sure, it’s a gimmicky substitute for the hard work of party-building. But consider that famous jocks come with name recognition, a ready-made fan/donor base, charisma and lotsa money. Ditto for big name entertainers. Given the importance of black voters as a pivotal constituency for Democrats, NBA stars like Hill and Wade would also bring significant buzz to a senate candidacy.

African Americans are more than 15 percent of Florida’s population, and nearly a third of the residents of Jacksonville, Florida’s largest city. Concentrated in Florida’s major cities, they can be more cost-effectively mobilized for voter turnout than many other Florida constituencies. It’s not hard to imagine Democratic Hispanic and white stars also boosting voter turnout in Florida.

Dixon and Allen write, ““Grant Hill has great name ID. He would raise a boatload of money and is one of the smartest guys you will ever meet,” said John Morgan, an Orlando-based trial attorney and national Democratic donor, who has spoken directly with Hill about his desire for him to run. “Grant Hill would beat the s— out of Rick Scott.”

“Dwyane Wade is a Florida legend, whose leadership past and present has a lot of folks in our state sending feelers out,” said Ray Paultre, the executive director of the Florida Alliance, a progressive donor group that plays a significant role in Florida Democratic politics. “We have seen former athletes, in both parties, bring something special to the political landscape. He hasn’t been officially approached, but he is on the list of four or five dream candidates to challenge Rick Scott.

Incumbency is always an asset. But it’s not like the Republican Senator Rick Scott is Mr. Popularity. “Everything Rick Scott has done while he was trying to make a name for himself in Washington has made him more vulnerable back in Florida,” DSCC Communications Director David Bergstein said. “His agenda to cut — and to cut programs like Social Security and Medicare — is toxic with the voters that decide a general election in a state like Florida.”

The rest of the article discusses the possible candidacies of five other lesser-known Democratic Floridians from more conventional political backgrounds. Certainly, one of them could emerge as a credible, or even popular candidate. Regardless, Democrats should begin to more actively recruit well-known athletes and entertainers to run for the U.S. Senate and House districts, not just in Florida, but nation-wide.

Political Strategy Notes

According to polling data, many people want to move on from the endless legal fallout of January 6th. That’s both understandable and unavoidable. It’s unavoidable because there has to be accountability for those who violate American democracy — if we want to keep it. No doubt many voters have simply tuned out from the coverage of the legal deliberations and decisions. But that doesn’t mean Democrats shouldn’t occasionally remind voters of the tally of legal consequences leading up to the election. After all it’s a Republican mess, which really speaks to the moral decay of their party. Zachary B. Wolf rolls it out in his post, “How 2020 election accountability could hit a 2024 roadblock” at CNN Politics. As Wolf notes, “I asked CNN’s Marshall Cohen what we know about the universe of people charged and convicted for involvement in January 6. Combining data from the Justice Department and CNN, he offered this:

  • 1,020-plus rioters have been charged (this includes around 339 charged with assaulting police).
  • 590-plus rioters have been convicted.
  • 235-plus have been sentenced to jail or prison.
  • Around 55 have been charged with conspiracy of some kind.”

Of course these numbers will be updated until the last sentence is meted out. Democratic campaigns should keep the running tab and share it briefly from time to time. It’s harder to argue with numbers than long lectures. And it’s harder to argue with multiple jury decisions than high-horse pundit rants.

At the state and local level, Republicans have another gift for Democrats —  GOP campaigns to defund libraries. It works like this, according to “The rising Republican movement to defund public libraries: Libraries bolster democracy. Republicans want to get rid of them” by Fabiola Cineas at Vox: “And as fights over banning books or removing them from shelves continue, libraries could be an increasing target of lawmakers’ displeasure. Experts monitoring Republican efforts to shut down public libraries told Vox that the threat is often the last step in a series of escalations. Usually, lawmakers start with book bans. If the bans aren’t as effective as they’d hope, they escalate to threatening to defund local libraries. The threats tend to occur in states where lawmakers want to restrict health care for trans people, limit drag performances and curb how teachers discuss gender, sexuality, race, and history at school.” The thing is, libraries are popular. Not just with liberals, but even conservatives who value individual initiative love libraries as places where anyone can educate themselves and lift up their prospects. Cineas reviews the Republican war against libraries in Missouri, Iowa, Texas, Louisiana, Indiana, Tennessee, Michigan, Montana and Idaho. But it’s happening all across the country and the list of cities, counties and states facing Republican-lead assaults grows daily. ““Having free access to information is important in a democracy, so it has frightened a lot of people that our state would want to make that more difficult,” said Otter Bowman, the president of the Missouri Library Association and a staffer at the Daniel Boone Regional Library in Columbia, Missouri. “It’s disturbing that the House’s decision to defund our libraries has become this political message. It discounts the needs of library patrons all over the state. It’s a real concern that they took so lightly.”

It turns out the GOP also has a war on voting rights for college kids. As Rotime Adeoye writes in “The GOP Can’t Beat Gen Z, But It Can Stifle Its Vote” at The Daily Beast:  “Republicans in state legislatures are working around the clock to make it harder for students to vote….Earlier this month, Florida politicians rushed a bill through committeethat would stop people from voting by mail if they don’t have a verified Social Security number, a valid state-issued driver’s license, or a FloridaID card. These new rules could deter thousands of college students who attend school in Florida from voting by mail….This February, a bill in the Texas legislature was introduced by a Republican member that would forbid polling locations on college campuses throughout the state. Then in March, Idaho lawmakers used their power to ban voting with student IDs….And in Georgia since 2006, the state has only accepted student IDs from public colleges and universities, meaning students at several historically black universities in the state must use another form of identification….Earlier this month at a Republican retreat, conservative lawyer Cleta Mitchell—who advised former President Donald Trump on his plans to overturn the 2020 election—shared her strategy to suppress the youth vote. Mitchell launched into an extensive diatribe, complete with a 50-slide Powerpoint presentation, telling conference attendees that they needed greater scrutiny of “these college campus locations and polling. They basically put the polling place next to the student dorm,” said Mitchell. “And we need to build strong election integrity task forces in these counties.”….

Adeoye continues, “Take a look at the last midterm election, where exit polling showedstrong youth support for Democrats, typically on issues like climate change, reproductive rights, and gun control. Voters aged 18-24 voted 61 percent for Democrats, while the 25-29 age group voted 65 percent blue….In the wake of the recent state Supreme Court election in his home state, where Republicans lost, even former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker acknowledged the GOP’s disconnect with Gen Z voters in an interview with Fox News. “To me the larger issue here—we’ve seen it particularly in Wisconsin but across the country—is younger voters. In Wisconsin, last fall, we saw about a 40-point margin that younger voters gave to the Democrats running for Senate and governor. We saw similar margins in Pennsylvania,” said Walker….With a presidential election on the horizon, Republicans are hyper-aware of Gen Z’s voting power. Although young voters in past elections have been inconsistent, Gen Z in the last midterm election put Republicans on notice. And since the GOP can’t win young voters on the issues they care about, so voter suppression strategies used for decades to suppress minority voters are now being copied and pasted to suppress Gen Z voting….But this can’t last forever. Republicans are well aware that their archaic policy ideas alone won’t bring in new voters. That’s why they’re scrambling to enforce these oppressive voting laws. They know that this new breed of Americans could boot them out of their cushy seats of power in a heartbeat….And if members of Gen Z continue to exercise their democratic rights with the same zeal they demonstrated in 2020 and 2022, those politicians who support voter suppression laws will soon be kicked to the curb. The future belongs to Gen Z, sooner than later.”

A Cornerstone Issue for Dems

It ought to be obvious by now. But just in case it isn’t, Jeet Heer explains why “Democrats Should Make Abortion a Cornerstone Issue” at The Nation:

Ballot initiatives are the best electoral bellwether for where the abortion fight stands in the United States in the post-Dobbs era. There were ballot initiatives in six states in 2022 and they revealed a remarkable consensus that cut across the usual regional divides: The pro-choice side won not just in blue states like Vermont and California but also in purple states like Michigan—and even in very red states like Montana, Kansas, and Kentucky. In an otherwise polarized country, abortion has become the opposite of a wedge issue. It doesn’t matter if voters are Black or white, women or men, Democrats or Republicans, college-educated or high school dropouts: Overwhelming majorities of most major demographics support a woman’s right to control her own fertility as previously enshrined under Roe v. Wade. When given a chance to vote for it, they will vote for reproductive freedom.

Heer dissects the evolving Republican confusion and splintering on abortion rights, then says that “Democrats, however, face their own divisions on abortion.” Heer adds,

In a wide-ranging survey in New York, Rebecca Traister noted that the party is torn “between a calcified leadership that remains ambivalent about making abortion access truly central to a Democratic rhetorical and policy framework, and frustrated politicians who see the fight for reproductive autonomy as both a moral and strategic linchpin.” The main example of “calcified leadership” is Joe Biden, accurately described by Traister as “a Catholic boy from Scranton, first sworn into the Senate weeks before Roe was decided in 1973, who spent the early decades of his career as an opponent of abortion rights.” Over time, Biden has moved into line with his party’s position on abortion—but only half-heartedly and reluctantly.“Calcified leadership” can also be seen in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where the health problems of the octogenarian Dianne Feinstein have kneecapped Democratic efforts to rebalance the courts.

As opposed to this “calcified leadership,” Traister points to younger politicians like Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer who are pushing to make abortion a cornerstone issue.

Abortion rights may not be the issue of broadest concern for 2024 voters. It could be easily subordinated to economic trends, depending on how the economy performs over the next 18 months, or perhaps even gun violence. But abortion rights will likely remain the issue on which the Democrats have the largest advantage in polls, even in red states, and Democrats should not be shy about making the most out of their edge on the issue.