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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

December 2, 2023

A Candidate Template for Dems Seeking Working-Class Votes

From “To Win, House Democrats Need More Matt Cartwrights. Wait, Who? Our new research shows that the Scranton–Wilkes Barre Democrat has the formula that can attract more working-class voters” by Dustin Guastella and Isaac Rabbani at The New Republic’s ‘The Soapbox’:

Cartwright represents Pennsylvania’s 8th (formerly 17th) district, which encompasses the deindustrialized hubs of Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. The district swung for Trump by 10 points in 2016 and four points in 2020. Its median income is about $63,000, below the national median, and only 28 percent of Cartwright’s constituents hold a bachelor’s degree, with a significant share still working in manufacturing.

Beltway conventional wisdom would have us believe that a candidate like Cartwright couldn’t win unless he sounded as much like a Republican as possible. But Cartwright doesn’t sound like a Republican at all. He ran on fighting inflation by investing in local manufacturing and expanding Medicare. He backed ambitious infrastructure proposals, far-reaching spending on education, reforms to reduce drug prices, and public health–based solutions to the opioid crisis. Railing against corporate greed and price gouging has been central to his campaign strategy. And he’s co-sponsored legislation to expand Social Security.

So what’s the secret to Cartwright’s success, and can his winning formula be deployed elsewhere? A new study that we helped author from the Center for Working Class Politics sought to answer these questions. What we found was that, for Democrats to have any hope of winning a lasting majority, they need more Cartwrights.

Guastella and Rabbani, both researchers for the Center for Working-Class Politics, explain the experiment they conducted “To suss out what messages and policy platforms are most successful with working-class voters,” and share some of their conclusions:

First, regardless of their partisan allegiance, working-class voters respond positively to candidates who focus on jobs, including those who run on an expansive policy to provide a federal jobs guarantee. Jobs-focused candidates were particularly effective when they combined this policy platform with anti-elite, populist messaging that calls out the wealthy for rigging the system against working Americans. This combative, economic-populist messaging was particularly effective among key groups that Democrats struggle with most: manual workers, rural voters, and low-engagement voters.

Second, our survey also found that working-class voters respond most favorably to candidates from similar class backgrounds, and least favorably to candidates who come from an elite educational or economic background. In other words, working-class voters want working-class candidates.

Finally, the right-wing messages that we tested did not undermine the appeal of jobs-focused campaigns, economic-populist language, or non-elite, working-class candidates. In fact, our study suggests that running on a progressive jobs policy actually grows more effective in the face of certain opposition messaging. (Voters appear to see through some Republican attempts to pivot from their issues.)

The authors note that “In the 2022 midterms, only 18 percent of swing-seat Dems even mentioned jobs in their TV ads, and Cartwright was among them. His campaign put jobs front and center, emphasizing the need to invest in domestic manufacturing and transport infrastructure. He pitted workers against corporate greed—successfully casting his opponent in the latter role—and touted his record trying to expand Social Security.” Further,

The Democrats need more Matt Cartwrights, for two main reasons. First, Democrats cannot win a Senate majority without consistently winning in states where non–college educated workers are the overwhelming majority. In 2024, for example, Democrats will be defending vulnerable incumbents in West Virginia, Ohio, and Nevada (among others), where these workers make up 76, 69, and 72 percent of adults. Compare those numbers to the national average of 54 percent, and the urgency of reaching non-college workers is suddenly thrown into stark relief.

Second, while it’s true that the majority of Americans live in urban or suburban congressional districts, where levels of liberalism, education, and income are higher, the majority of districts themselves are not so. Only 43 percent of congressional districts have a median household income above the national median. And in 90 percent of districts, a majority of adults do not have a bachelor’s degree; among competitivecongressional districts, that number rises to 92 percent. A strategy that prioritizes high-income and highly educated districts will inevitably make Democrats a minoritarian party.

The case for more Cartwrights, then, is just this: His unique combination of populist messaging and progressive economic policy aimed at working people can win because in electoral terms, much of America resembles his district. Cartwright’s success comes down to his ability to convince blue-collar Democrats to stay in the tent. Democrats need to make a choice going forward: Focus on working-class voters and work toward building a solid majority, or continue to squeak by—and risk government by an ever more dangerous opposition.

We can’t clone Matt Cartwright. But Democratic candidate recruitment teams should take note of the findings Guastella and Rabbani present and try to find and develop candidates with similar backgrounds and skill sets.

The Myth of the Hispanic Anti-Abortion Bloc

A lot of political misperceptions flow for outdated stereotypes. One of these is that Hispanic voters are trending Republican due to the Democratic Party’s support for abortion rights, as I explained at New York.

In all the recent talk about Republican gains among the fast-growing Hispanic and Latino populations in 2020 and 2022, there’s been a prevailing assumption that conservative cultural and religious views among these voters and the alleged progressive radicalism of the Democratic Party on subjects like abortion have played a major part in driving them to the right. While it is perilous to make too many generalizations about people of highly diverse national origins, proximity to immigration, religions, socioeconomic status, regions of the country, and even racial identities, it is pretty clear overall that on this decade’s hottest-button culture-war issue of abortion, Hispanic Americans are fully part of the country’s solid pro-choice majority. If Hispanics are trending to the right, it’s largely for other reasons.

Indeed, the recent direction of Hispanic opinion has unquestionably been toward support for legalized abortion. A major Pew survey in 2007-2008 showed a narrow plurality of Hispanics — 49 percent — agreeing that abortion should be “illegal in all or most cases,” with 47 percent agreeing that it should be “legal in all or most cases,” at a time when, overall, 54 percent of Americans favored legal abortion. The most recent Pew survey on abortion in June of 2022 (just before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade) showed 60 percent of Hispanics favoring legal abortion in all or most cases, right around the overall 61 percent.

To some extent, this trend reflects a particularly strong shift toward pro-choice views among Hispanic Catholics. In 2013, the Public Religion Research Institute found that 54 percent of U.S. Hispanic Catholics opposed legalized abortion. In 2022, PRRI showed the anti-abortion percentage dropping to 37 percent, with 61 percent favoring legalized abortion. Another factor driving pro-choice opinion has been a youth-led rise in the percentage of religiously non-affiliated Hispanics, as Pew explained in 2022:

“As of 2022, 43% of Hispanic adults identify as Catholic, down from 67% in 2010. Even so, Latinos remain about twice as likely as U.S. adults overall to identify as Catholic, and considerably less likely to be Protestant. … The share of Latinos who are religiously unaffiliated is on par with U.S. adults overall.”

At the same time, a relatively high percentage of U.S. Hispanic Protestants — 21 percent of the Hispanic population — are Evangelicals, often Pentecostals (especially recent immigrants from Central America). They provide a hard kernel of anti-abortion opinion; in the 2022 PRRI survey, 54 percent of Hispanic Protestants were opposed to legal abortion. They are not, contrary to the prevailing buzz, increasing as a share of the Hispanic population; the religious “nones” are the high-growth category in this as in other demographic groups.

Overall, U.S. Hispanics are roughly in sync with national opinion on abortion. Growth in Republican Party voting or affiliation is more likely to be attributable to other factors, ranging from the strongly anti-socialist views of Cuban and Venezuelan immigrants in Florida to support for local fossil-fuel-based industries in Texas, to a general sense in some states that Democrats are taking Hispanic voters for granted. Abortion policy would appear to have little to do with it, and shouldn’t provide any particular opportunity for a GOP that is out of step with the pro-choice majority of Americans overall. Indeed, one analysis of the 2022 midterms showed intense pro-choice opinion definitely helped produce better-than-anticipated Democratic results among Hispanics/Latinos in the latest election: “Latinos who chose abortion as their top issue, wrote Equis, while a smaller group, voted in dominant fashion for Democrats, and they turned out beyond predicted rates.”

Don’t be surprised if that trend continues until Republicans change their tune on abortion policy. It’s a loser for the GOP across many categories of voters.


Political Strategy Notes

From “Biden has running room this summer. It could decide the 2024 race,” by Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr.: “The nation is about to witness a bold experiment. It’s a test of whether normal governing — building stuff, spurring economic development and job creation, trying to anticipate future challenges — still plays a significant role in American politics….Informed skeptics, of course, challenge the idea that elections really revolve around how politicians do their work. Political scientists have found that who wins or loses typically depends on long-standing partisan loyalties, group attachments and gut impressions about whether things are going well or badly….Nonetheless, President Biden’s administration is placing a large bet on the idea that voters still care about whether government is succeeding at the basics: constructing roads and bridges; creating well-paying jobs in new green and tech industries; and managing the federal apparatus without excessive drama….To highlight the calmer side of governing seems out of sync with news cycles overwhelmed by Trump’s indictment and the former president’s wild attacks on the Justice Department. But that is part of the point, since Biden’s case is about both substance and style….The investments in infrastructure, green energy and tech, Biden argued at a union-led campaign rally in Philadelphia on Saturday, are promoting shared growth, especially in parts of the country (many of them rural and Republican-leaning) that have experienced decades of economic turmoil….Biden’s team sees the president as having running room after getting past the debt ceiling crisis with minimal concessions to House Republicans. While this is creating problems for Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) with his right wing, and could lead to a new budget showdown this fall, it also means turmoil in Washington is now happening largely on the GOP’s turf.”

“After eight years, Americans have made up their minds about former President Donald Trump,” Nathaniel Rakich writes at FiveThirtyEight. “And it appears that not even a federal indictment is swaying them. According to polls conducted before and after Trump’s indictment on June 8, Trump’s support levels in both the primary and general election don’t appear to have budged, even though a large majority of Americans view the charges as serious. In the Republican primary, he is currently at 53.5 percent support,1 according to FiveThirtyEight’s national polling average. That’s little changed from June 7, the day before the indictment, when he was sitting at 53.8 percent. (The other candidates have all held roughly steady too.)…It’s not that Americans have somehow missed the news. Trump’s indictment has gotten mountains of media coverage. According to a recent YouGov/CBS News poll, 75 percent of American adults had heard or read at least some about the latest indictment. And overall, they don’t see the content of the charges as frivolous: Sixty-nine percent agreed that, yes, it would be a security risk if Trump had nuclear or military documents in his home after leaving office. Another poll, from Ipsos/ABC News, found that 61 percent of American adults — including 38 percent of Republicans — thought the charges were very or somewhat serious. (Compare that to the 52 percent of adults who thought that about Trump’s first indictment, over hush-money payments to a porn star with whom he allegedly had an affair.)….Per Civiqs/Daily Kos, 50 percent of registered voters believed Trump is guilty of crimes that merit jail time, and 42 percent believed he is not….Trump’s position also hasn’t really changed among the overall electorate. In an average of seven polls2 of registered voters taken since the latest indictment, Trump leads Biden in a hypothetical general-election matchup 42.6 percent to 41.4 percent. That’s virtually identical to the average of those seven pollsters’ previous, pre-federal-indictment polls.”

Also at FiveThirtyEight, in “Other Polling Bites,” Rakich notes, “A new Gallup poll has found that Americans have taken a right turn on social issues — or at least, in how they label themselves. Thirty-eight percent of Americans now say they are conservative or very conservative on social issues, while 29 percent say they are liberal or very liberal. In 2022, those numbers were 33 percent and 34 percent, respectively. While independents have gotten a little more conservative over the past year, the shift is primarily being driven by more Republicans identifying as conservative and fewer identifying as moderate….One social issue that that Gallup poll asked about was transgender rights. Fifty-five percent of Americans said that it was morally wrong for people to change their gender, while 43 percent said it was morally acceptable. Americans also said 69 percent to 26 percent that transgender athletes should be allowed to play only on teams that match their birth gender.”

At The Nation, Kate Rader and Carissa Quadron explain “What Running on a Jobs Guarantee Could Mean for Democrats: Candidates hoping to win in 2024 should look to A. Philip Randolph, who knew an economy stuffed with good jobs would gain a political advantage,” and share some of the findings from a new survey launched by the Center for Working Class Politics (CWCP) : “Democrats, regardless of class, overwhelmingly supported the federal jobs guarantee in our survey by a margin of nearly four to one, signaling the popularity of this proposal across the Democratic base. But our results revealed important differences in support for these policies based on the party and class of respondents. First, and most significantly, while both policies were popular across the pool of respondents, the progressive jobs guarantee was most popular among working-class respondents—and not just those who identified as Democrats but also working-class independents and Republicans as well. Importantly, working-class people from either party were more likely to prefer progressive economic policies than their middle- and upper-class counterparts. Working-class independents were also much more likely to support a jobs guarantee than middle-class independents by as much as 20 percentage points. Not only did some Republicans and independents respond favorably to this policy, but the jobs guarantee was also the only economic policy proposal viewed positively by respondents across all parties, which could indicate that it is less likely to generate electoral backlash for a political candidate in a competitive district. In fact, we found that even in the face of Republican opposition messaging, broad support for a jobs guarantee actually increased slightly….A lot has changed since A. Philip Randolph’s push for full employment, but Americans, and particularly working-class Americans, have not stopped craving bold, progressive jobs programs. The issue, however, is that despite serious difficulties engaging working-class voters, progressive jobs policies have not been a priority for today’s Democratic Party. The CWCP’s analysis of hundreds of campaign ads run in competitive districts in the 2022 midterm cycle shows that only 18 percent of Democratic candidates invoked jobs as a key campaign issue….Democrats hoping to win in 2024 should take note: A jobs-focused campaign is not just a winning strategy but also the key to achieving a progressive agenda.”

GOP Extends Abortion Rights Shelf-Life

At The Daily Beast Ursula Perano reports that “Abortion may have bailed Democrats out in the 2022 midterms to an extent. But it may also be the big issue in 2024 if Democrats have their way.” Further,

“Even though abortion was a potent political issue in the midterm elections, Republicans haven’t shied away from offering legislation to tighten access to abortion. There’s a GOP effort to restrict abortion pillsat the national level. And a bill to further limit “taxpayer-funded abortions.” And the national abortion ban that plenty of House Republicans continue to support.”

Democrats say the issue is slated to be a centerpiece of their campaign strategy. They think that, after a year of abortion restrictions going into effect—and a term of House Republicans attempting to legislate on the issue—voters in battleground districts might be ready to sway in Democrats’ favor.

When The Daily Beast interviewed the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA), she was definitive that abortion would be a main driver for Democrats.

“Republican extremism on abortion is going to lose them the House majority in 2024,” she said last week.

“And remember, we we only need five more seats to take back the majority,” DelBene said. “So critical issues like this that are important across the country are going to be critical in many, many races.”

After House Republicans took back the majority in 2022 by only a fraction of the margin predicted by leadership and pollsters, politicos suspected outrage over abortion restrictions was a driving factor. House Democrats say that’s still salient—and that even in states where abortion has remained relatively safe, national attempts to restrict reproductive rights can be an issue.

Issues come and go, explode, then fade. But, what gives abortion rights such an impressive shelf-life is the fact that the Republicans keep fueling the conflict in state politics.

As Perano notes, “For many states over the past year, strict abortion bans have gone into place, sometimes limiting the procedure to as little as six weeks or banning it altogether….Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL) said abortion restrictions in Florida have proven to be a potent issue with residents, and the potential for Republicans to add more restrictions, especially in states like hers, hits hard. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) signed a six-week ban in April that is working its way through the state Supreme Court.”

Abortion rights are still at center stage even in swing states, as Zach Montelaro explains at Politico:

Gov. Glenn Youngkin aims for unified Republican control in a state that hasn’t gone for a GOP presidential candidate since George W. Bush, and Democrats hope to retake enough seats to defend abortion rights in the state.

Both parties are expected to dominate the airwaves over the next five months, with every single legislative seat across the two chambers up for grabs in November. Virginia is one of two states with a split legislature — Democrats have a slim majority in the state Senate while Republicans have a narrow one in the state House — and both parties believe they have a viable path to controlling either chamber….Democrats are hoping to claw back power after surprise Republican wins in 2021, testing the saliency of abortion as a winning message ahead of 2024.

Perano notes, “Democrats signaled that they intend to focus heavily on the issue in the general election. “The DLCC gave Republicans a reality check by running on protecting abortion access and creating a winning blueprint for state Democrats,” a recent strategy memo from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee reads.”

Most Republican candidates are stuck with appeasing the anti-abortion extremism of their evangelical base in the primaries. In general elections, they hope to distract voters with other culture war controversies. The Dobbs decision makes that a tough sell.

How Redistricting Could Help Dems Win House Majority

In “Pumping the Brakes Post-Milligan,” Kyle Kondix makes the case  at Sabato’s Crystal Ball that “The Supreme Court’s Allen v. Milligan decision should give Democrats at least a little help in their quest to re-take the House majority, but much remains uncertain” and writes in his conclusion:

Since the Supreme Court’s aforementioned Wesberry v. Sanders decision, which applied the concept of “one person, one vote” to congressional redistricting, there have been 30, two-year congressional election cycles (every even-numbered year from 1964 through 2022). Based on research I did for my history of recent House elections, 2021’s The Long Red Thread, at least one congressional district (and often more) changed from the previous cycle in 23 of those 30 election cycles. Most of these changes (though not all) were forced by courts. The 2024 cycle will make it 24 of 31 cycles, with potentially several states changing their maps in response to court orders. We bring this up to say that despite the now-familiar rhythm of all the states with at least two districts redrawing to reflect the census at the start of every decade, it’s common for at least some districts to change more often than that.

Beyond the states mentioned above, at least some of which will have new maps next year, Ohio is also likely to have a new map that quite possibly will be better for Republicans than the current one, which the Ohio Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional but which was eventually used anyway in 2022 (just like in North Carolina, the Ohio Supreme Court has since changed in such a way to make it more amenable to GOP redistricting prerogatives going forward). Democrats in New York are trying to force a new map, in part because of changes to that state’s highest court that may make that court more amenable to Democratic redistricting arguments than the previous court, which undid a Democratic gerrymander. The particulars in both states require longer-winded explanations that we’ll save for another time.

And aside from the changes forced by courts, one also wonders if we will eventually see a redistricting technique that at one time was common but really has not been in recent decades: a state legislature enacting an elective, mid-decade remap without prompting by the courts.

The most famous modern example of this is when Texas Republicans redrew their state’s congressional map following the 2002 election. That gerrymander, which is most closely associated with former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R), came after Republicans took full control of Texas state government in 2002. They replaced a court-drawn map that reflected a previous Democratic gerrymander and imposed their own partisan gerrymander, turning a 17-15 deficit in what had become a very Republican state into a 21-11 advantage. Georgia Republicans did something similar later in the decade, though to much less effect; Colorado Republicans tried to but were blocked by state courts — some states do not allow mid-decade redistricting, but others do (there is no federal prohibition on mid-decade redistricting). North Carolina’s looming redraw is somewhat similar to those in Texas and Georgia from the 2000s: The voters changed the political circumstances — Republicans taking control of Texas and Georgia state government in 2002 and 2004, respectively, and Republicans flipping the North Carolina Supreme Court in 2022 — paving the way for the partisan gerrymanders that did (or will) follow.

The redistricting stakes are extremely high at a time when U.S. House majorities are so narrow.Democrats won just a 222-213 majority in 2020, and Republicans won the same 222-213 edge last year. It’s possible that the net impact of mid-decade redistricting — including some of the changes we’ve laid out above — could be decisive in who wins the majority next year. It may also prompt other states to try to go back to the redistricting well without prompting by courts — and if they determine they can based on state law — if they believe that new maps could make a difference in determining majorities.

Political Strategy Notes

From “Who are the working class and how will they vote in 2024?” by Lois M. Collins and Suzanne Bates at Deseret News: “America’s working class are still not particularly wowed by the government and are often just plain frustrated. In the poll, 64% of registered voters who identify as part of the working class say the country is on the wrong track, compared to 27% who say it’s on the right track. And a full 52% say their personal financial situation is getting worse, compared to only 20% who say their situation is improving….What makes someone feel like they’re in the working class instead of the middle class? It’s likely related to a feeling of living on the edge financially, according to Daniel Cox, director of the Survey Center on American Life at American Enterprise Institute….This group has shifted in recent years. While the working class used to be considered solidly in the Democrats’ column, slightly more now say they lean Republican. That was evident in the Deseret News/HarrisX poll, with 40% of working class voters saying the Republican Party best represents their interests and views, compared to 36% who say the Democratic Party is a better fit. Voters who describe themselves as middle class most identified with the Republican Party, at 43% compared to 34% for Democrats, while self-identified upper class voters by far leaned most toward the Democrats, with 56% saying the party best represents their views, compared to 28% saying the same about Republicans….“How people self-identify, and the labels they naturally coalesce around, tells you a lot about their social engagement and the pressures, motivations, and values that drive their voice and their vote,” said Dritan Nesho, CEO of HarrisX, which conducted the poll. “It also defines how politicians speak to them.”….When we polled 2,178 U.S. adults in mid-April, we found 15% identified as “working class,” while another 15% said they’re lower middle class and just 5% categorized themselves as working poor. Some polls lump those together in different configurations — usually the working class and lower middle class, creating a group that includes not quite one-third of Americans. Gallup did that in May 2022 and said about one-third of Americans identify as working class.”

Collins and Bates write further, “Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow at American Enterprise Institute, is a Democrat who has recently been critical of his party over their treatment of the working class. He said Democrats are preoccupied with what he calls “cultural radicalism,” which has alienated some of the working class voters who once made up their base. This shift gathered steam under Trump, who was a top choice among 48% of working class voters — by far the highest number — when asked to select from a list of which politicians best represent their interests and views, in the Deseret News/HarrisX survey…. Teixeira said many people think Republicans and Trump just appeal to white working class voters, but he said he’s seeing a shift among Latino and Black working class voters as well….Their support for Trump isn’t so much about policy, but rather about his willingness to take on the “elites,” Teixeira said, and for voters who feel alienated, that message resonates….“I thought the failure to understand this, and to basically write off all the Trump voters as a bunch of reactionary racists … I thought was a big mistake, analytically, even politically. And I think nothing has really improved too much since then,” he said….For Democrats to recapture this voting group, they need to focus again on an economic message rather than on cultural issues, he said….His colleague at AEI, Karlyn Bowman, a distinguished senior fellow, echoed his thoughts. After reviewing results of the survey, she said she saw an “extraordinary” amount of pessimism among working class voters….“The economy is the No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 issue for most Americans right now, as it is for the working class, too,” she said….Most working class are not college educated, but more than 1 in 4 are, including Aubrey Mitchell, who got a bachelor’s degree in community health education, and urged Josh to earn his general associate’s degree (30% of the working class have completed some college but did not graduate) although college was never his long-term goal. It’s a good fallback, he said, so he’s glad he completed it, even if he doesn’t use it. The vast majority of the working class have high school diplomas or better, at 95%….Most work or are looking for work, though 22% of the survey’s working class have retired.”

In “Can Democrats Win Back the Working Class? Four ways they can at least help stop the bleeding” at Slow Boring,  Jared Abbott and Fred Deveaux write: “Democrats have begun to recognize that they have a working-class problem, but it remains unclear how to solve it. We ran an experiment to find out (you can find the full report “Trump’s Kryptonite” here)….Our results suggest that Democrats can reach working-class voters by running candidates from working-class backgrounds who center working-people in their campaign rhetoric, call out economic elites, focus on the need for more and better jobs, and distance themselves from the Democratic Party establishment….Although most commentaries on the Democrats’ working-class problem have focused on working-class white voters, the last several election cycles suggest that Democrats have a working-class problem tout court. For instance, the progressive data analytics firm Catalist found Trump’s vote share among working-class (non-college) voters of color jumped six percentage points between 2016 and 2020, with both Black and especially Latino voters shifting toward Trump. Similarly, a comprehensive precinct-level analysis of 2020 voting patterns in high-Latino districts found that support for Trump in 2020 surged even in precincts with the highest number of Latino immigrants. These developments all challenge the widely-held notion that the US’s emerging majority-minority population will save the Democratic Party….What’s more, Democrats’ woes with working-class voters extend far beyond the rural and small-town voters many pundits have placed at the center of this story. Indeed, recent analyses indicate that the party faces a “ticking time bomb” with urban working-class voters in key swing states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, where both turnout and Democratic vote shares in 2020 were down relative to 2012….Our analysis of data from the Comparative Congressional Election Survey (CCES) and General Social Survey (GSS) survey shows similar trends. First, working-class disillusionment with the Democrats appears to have set in as early as the 1980s, with the percentage of working-class Americans (measured by occupation) who identified with the party falling from a high of around 65% in the 1970s to south of 40% by 2022. And since we find no comparable trend among middle/upper-class Americans—hose identification with the Democratic Party has fluctuated narrowly between the low and high 40s since the early 1980s—it seems this secular dealignment is a specifically working-class phenomenon….”

“So how can Democrats appeal more effectively to working-class voters?,” Abbott and Deveaux ask. “We asked 1,650 Americans to evaluate pairs of hypothetical Democratic candidates. Each candidate was randomly assigned demographic attributes, such as race, gender, and previous occupation, as well as policy positions and a rhetorical style. After comparing each pair, respondents reported which one they preferred. We limited our analysis to focus only on voters who do not describe themselves as “strong partisans,” and therefore are most likely to change their voting behavior from one year to the next and play a pivotal role in deciding elections….Our results indicate that Democratic candidates can do four things to appeal to working-class voters across the political spectrum.

  1. Run working-class candidates. All else equal, working-class voters prefer candidates from non-elite, working-class occupations (middle school teachers, construction workers, nurses, and warehouse workers) over those from elite, upper-class occupations (corporate executives, lawyers, and doctors).
  1. Focus on messages that champion the working class and critique economic elites. We found that working-class voters prefer candidates who say they will serve the interests of the working class and who place blame for the problems facing working Americans on the shoulders of economic elites. In results we do not show here, we find that this economic populist message is particularly effective among working-class respondents who work in manual jobs, a group that Democrats increasingly struggle to reach.
  1. Run on a jobs-first program. Working-class voters viewed more favorably candidates who highlighted a progressive federal jobs guarantee rather than one of the moderate economic policies we included in the survey (a small tax increase on the rich, a $15 minimum wage, and a jobs training program through small businesses). And this result was not limited to working-class Democrats. Indeed, the only policy we tested that was viewed positively by working-class respondents across the political spectrum was the progressive federal jobs guarantee—though working-class Republicans were slightly more favorable toward candidates who ran on the moderate job training program. Candidates who centered jobs were also favored by a range of other key constituencies from whom Democrats need to maintain or improve support, including African Americans, recent swing voters, low-engagement voters, non-college voters, and rural voters. Unfortunately, however, in our analysis of 2022 Democratic television ads, we found that just 18% even mentioned jobs.
  1. Take a critical stance towards both parties. Candidates who explicitly criticized the Democratic and Republican Parties for being out of touch with working- and middle-class Americans were viewed more favorably across the board compared to candidates who either said nothing or stressed that Democrats have delivered for working- and middle-class Americans (proud Democrat in the graphic below). Importantly, these results are not simply driven by voters who lean Republican, but also Independents and those who lean Democrat.”

Abortion Rights Still a Key Concern in Swing Districts

If you were wondering how the abortion rights issue is playing as a potential game-changer in southern congressional districts, check out “In swing districts, NC’s new abortion law is already having an impact. Here’s how” by Avi Bajpai and Genna Contino at The Charlotte Observer. As they write:

Around Wilmington, the impending passage of a 12-week abortion ban last month energized Democrats and supporters of abortion rights to keep up the pressure on Republicans. That meant over the course of one day calling and emailing the offices of three state lawmakers representing the area, every three minutes between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., as well as helping Planned Parenthood raise nearly $140,000 in one day, according to Jill Hopman, chair of the New Hanover County Democratic Party.

“If I had to pick a silver lining, the response towards mobilization and activism over the past month and a half has been exponential compared to the past,” Hopman said.

Certainly it’s good news for Democrats that the issue still has political traction this long after the Dobbs decision. But that’s no guarantee that it will be a priority for swing voters in the Fall of 2024.

Bajpai and Contino note that things have gotten a bit hot for abortion rights opponents in NC’s swing districts.

“On the receiving end were Republicans like Rep. Ted Davis, a retired attorney in Wilmington who has served in the House for more than a decade. Davis said in the days leading up to the May 16 vote to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto, he received more than 5,000 phone calls, emails, and texts from his district, across the state, and outside of it as well.

Davis said he had never before received such an outpouring of response from constituents, which he said included impassioned messages from people on both sides of the issue who felt strongly about the bill, but also “some of the ugliest comments against me and my family.”

“How the new law is being received by voters will be especially important next year in swing districts where races are decided by thin margins,” argue Contino and Bajpai. Further,

When he vetoed the abortion bill last month, Cooper targeted Davis and three other GOP lawmakers who he said had violated campaign promises to keep the existing 20-week law in place, visiting their Wilmington and Charlotte-area districts to put pressure on the Republicans and try to get even one of them to vote to sustain his veto.

That didn’t happen, and the law is going into effect, but those parts of the state will be important targets for both parties leading up to the 2024 elections.

The law, which reduces the timeframe for when most abortions are allowed from 20 weeks to 12 weeks and goes into effect on July 1, is expected to be a major, campaign-defining issue for Democrats, who have vowed to fight the new restrictions. For Republicans, abortion politics will undoubtedly look different, with some candidates expected to divert attention from the new law and focus on other issues, and others expected to proactively campaign on enacting even stricter laws.

Bajpai and Contino note that “A new poll released Wednesday by Elon University, in partnership with The N&O and The Charlotte Observer, asked 1,268 registered North Carolina voters how they felt about the new law. In it, 45% of voters said they opposed the law, while 23% said they supported it. The remaining 33% said they neither supported nor opposed the new restrictions.” However, “When they heard details about the law, support for it grew to 36%, but opposition held steady at 45%.”

“In the days after Republicans passed the bill and sent it to Cooper’s desk,” Bajpai and Contino write, “the term-limited governor repeatedly called out Wilmington-area lawmakers Davis and Sen. Michael Lee, and Charlotte-area Reps. John Bradford and Tricia Cotham, for supporting their party’s abortion bill.”

Further, “in areas like Wilmington, Democrats have been encouraged by the strong opposition to the law that has surfaced.

Chairman of the New Hanover County Democrats Jill Hopman adds, “I do think Republicans are overplaying their hand, kind of like overturning Roe, as we’ve seen in other states from Wisconsin to Kansas…We’ve had this lawfully since the early ‘70s, and I don’t think people really think about the consequences until they make giant changes like this.”

The attitudes spotlighted by Contino and Bajpai are generally in keeping with a recent opinion polls, nationwide, although moderated in southern states.

Conservative churches, which often oppose abortion rights, still hold a lot of sway in the rural south. In urban and suburban districts in the south, however, polling and election data indicate that abortion rights is still an issue that Democrats can leverage for favorable outcomes.

For Dems, Less is More in Commenting on Trump’s Legal Disasters

From “Dems Have a Trump Indictment Strategy: Shut Your Damn Mouth” by Sam Brodey at The Daily Beast:

It might take a Democratic campaign staffer just a few minutes to write the script for a scorching attack ad based on the federal indictment of Donald Trump and his alleged conduct handling classified documents.

The allegations that Trump swiped top secret materials about military and nuclear capabilities, waved them around to guests at his Mar-a-Lago estate, and stored them in bathrooms might constitute as compelling and concise a case against his re-election as exists.

Yet, it’s possible—even very likely—that such an attack ad will never be made in the context of the 2024 presidential campaign.

It’s something like the ultimate catch-22 for Democrats: Although the facts in the indictment could have a unique potency in the race, they can’t talk about them for fear of risking the integrity of a case that Republicans have attacked as a politically motivated ploy to derail Trump.

….President Joe Biden has consistently declined to comment on the work of Special Counsel Jack Smith, who brought the indictment. Over the weekend, Biden claimed he had not spoken with Attorney General Merrick Garland about it. And his White House has long stated that he had no role in Department of Justice probes both into Trump’s handling of classified documents and his own, which is being led by Special Counsel Robert Hur.

Brodey adds that “there is a consensus developing among some Democrats that they are better served by ignoring the indictment and focusing on Biden’s record.”

“The calculus everyone is making right now is: Shut the fuck up, let the Republicans kill each other, let things play out while we focus on Biden’s accomplishments and economic wins—and let that in itself be the contrast,” said a Democratic strategist, who requested anonymity to candidly describe the mood in their circles….If anything, one Democratic operative said, the party’s top task will be to connect the indictment to a broader framing that has proven politically potent for them: emphasizing what House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries calls the “Team Normal” versus “Team Extreme” divide.

Brodey concludes, “Their entire brand was premised on the idea that they’re ‘tough on crime’ but now they’re running behind a standard-bearer who is indicted for obstruction of justice,” [Democratic strategist Jesse] Ferguson said. “How long before they have to run an ‘I’m not a crook’ ad?”

Trump’s Post-Indictment Rant Declares a Second Insurrection

I try to limit my exposure to Donald Trump’s speeches to the minimum necessary to do my job. But his reaction to his second criminal indictment was important, as I explained at New York:

Amid all the speculation as to how multiple criminal indictments will affect Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign, a crucial evolution in the former president’s rhetoric and strategy has occurred. As he made clear in a rage-soaked speech to adoring followers at his Bedminster golf club following his arraignment in Miami on Tuesday, his comeback bid has a new focus. It’s no longer “backward-looking” toward the imagined 2020 election theft. Now, it’s about Trump’s present (perceived) persecution by Joe Biden and various officials in the U.S. justice system and his plans to throw all of his persecutors into prison. Jim Newell got it right at Slate in predicting that the Bedminster rant was a preview of many campaign speeches to come:

“To turn his (second) indictment from a primary liability into an asset, he has to alter the contours of what the primary is fought on — what should be done about the corrupt FBI? The corrupt DOJ? On which charges should Joe Biden be prosecuted?

“He’s well on his way.”

The former president will probably continue talking about various policy proposals, and he’ll almost certainly keep insulting his Republican rivals for the White House. But the central argument his campaign will make from now on is that all other concerns flow from his challenge to the criminals running the country, who have made him their preeminent target. A Trump victory, and only a Trump victory, can keep “radical left” predators from feasting on the regular citizens the former president is bravely protecting with his very life and liberty. What else can such lines from his Bedminster speech mean?

“If the communists get away with this [Trump’s indictment], it won’t stop with me. They won’t hesitate to ramp up their persecution of Christians, pro-life activists, parents attending school board meetings, and even future Republican candidates … We must end it permanently and we must end it immediately.

“They want to take away my freedom because I will never let them take away your freedoms … They want to silence me because I will never let them silence you … I’m the only one who can save this nation because you know that they aren’t coming after me, they’re coming after you, and I just happen to be standing in their way, and I will never be moving.”

No wonder some of Trump’s most fervent supporters seem to confuse him with Jesus Christ, given his self-presentation as the suffering savior of his nation. But he’s a savior who brings not peace but the sword, as he made especially clear at Bedminster, echoing words he posted at Truth Social the previous day (per The Hill):

“Now that the ‘seal’ is broken, in addition to closing the border & removing all of the ‘criminal’ elements that have illegally invaded our country, making America energy independent & even dominant again, & immediately ending the war between Russia & Ukraine, I will appoint a real special ‘prosecutor’ to go after the most corrupt president in the history of the USA, Joe Biden, the entire Biden crime family, & all others involved with the destruction of our elections, borders, & country itself!

“I will totally obliterate the deep state … and I know exactly who they are.”

How does professed neo-MAGA tough guy Ron DeSantis compete with that? Maybe he won’t even try. Trump’s efforts to make the Republican primary all about himself got an immediate assist from rival Vivek Ramaswamy, who just prior to the Miami indictment challenged all of Trump’s opponents to match his pledge to pardon Trump immediately if any of them win the presidency. But wouldn’t a self-pardon by Trump — much like Napoleon crowning himself emperor in 1804 — be more satisfying to the vengeance-minded, particularly when combined with the promised retribution against Biden’s “Department of Injustice” and the shadowy “communists” and media liars behind them.

At Bedminster, Trump called the occasion of his second indictment “a day that will go down in infamy,” choosing the words FDR famously applied to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. More precisely, it can be called the day Trump’s second attempted insurrection formally began with an unsparing attack on the entire system of justice and all the laws making his supposed persecution possible. As on January 6, 2021, Trump is now regularly treating his grasp on the White House as a life-or-death proposition for democracy, freedom, and American greatness. His rhetoric is both self-pitying and savagely vengeful. And heavily armed “patriots” are undoubtedly hearing the call of destiny once again. In some respects, the threat of MAGA violence has actually grown worse, as Dahlia Lithwick observed after watching the reaction to Trump’s indictment:

“For those who maintain that Donald Trump is an innocent man, subject to an unjust witch hunt at the hands of deep state actors who covered up Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden’s criminal conduct, it’s go time. As Rep. Andy Biggs put it on Twitter the night Trump was indicted: ‘We have now reached a war phase. Eye for an eye.’

“The promise of violence shimmers in the air.”

The Republicans seeking to end Trump’s political career really are bringing knives to a gun fight; they are prepared to fight a campaign, not an ongoing, slow-motion insurrection, particularly when so many of them accept most of Trump’s claims about the deep and incorrigible “evil” of Biden and his party. They certainly can’t expect that Trump will fight them fairly; in the minds of his large band of core supporters, he is literally on a mission from God. Is there any reason to believe that Trump will concede defeat if he loses the upcoming primaries? Not really, especially when you remember that he revoked his concession in Iowa in 2016, deciding to accuse Ted Cruz of “stealing” the caucuses.

It goes without saying that if Trump does win the GOP presidential nomination, his general-election campaign will be unequaled in savagery. Nothing short of a historic Biden landslide (if even that) will dissuade him from another challenge to the results, ending more likely than not in more violence, perhaps this time not confined to Washington, D.C. Speaking to Georgia Republicans, MAGA election-denier Kari Lake was not ambiguous at all:

“I have a message tonight for [U.S. attorney general] Merrick Garland, and Jack Smith, and Joe Biden. And the guys back there in the fake news media, you should listen up as well, this one’s for you.

“If you want to get to President Trump, you’re going to have to go through me, and you’re going to have to go through 75 million Americans just like me.

“And I’m going to tell you, most of us are card-carrying members of the NRA. That’s not a threat — that’s a public service announcement.

“We will not let you lay a finger on President Trump. Frankly, now is the time to cling to our guns and our religion.”

We’ve been forewarned. It’s going to be a very long presidential election; And Democrats are being called on to stop another insurrection.


Political Strategy Notes

In “If Democrats Win Back the House, They Will Have John Roberts to Thank,”New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall writes: “If Democrats take back control of the House in 2024 after having lost it in 2022, analysts may well look back to a Supreme Court decision announced last week, Allen v. Milligan, as crucial to the party’s victory. This is because the Milligan decision will quite possibly result in the replacement of as many as five majority white Republican districts with majority-minority Democratic districts, and that’s for starters….The court’s ruling in Milligan specifically requires Alabama to create a second House district in order to provide an opportunity for a Black candidate to win. The decision is an unexpected affirmation of section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a development that immediately scrambled calculations being made about key House races across the nation….David Wasserman, the senior House analyst for the Cook Political Report, announced on Twitter that “in the wake of the SCOTUS Alabama decision, we’re shifting five House ratings in Democrats’ direction. It’s very likely two formerly Solid R seats will end up in Solid D.”….Milligan, Wasserman continued, “could reverberate across the Deep South leading to the creation of new Black-majority, strongly Democratic seats in multiple states.”….While more districts in other states could be added, depending on the outcome of further litigation, the Cook Report changed the “solid R” ratings of two Alabama and two Louisiana districts to “tossup” and the tossup rating of a Democratic-held seat in North Carolina, to “Lean D.”…If Democrats can gain five seats, it will critically affect the balance of power in Washington.”

Edsall also quotes Harvard Law professor Nicholas Stephanopolis, who says: “First, it means that Section 2 remains fully operative as a bulwark against racial vote dilution; second, it signals to conservative lower courts that they need to rule in favor of plaintiffs on facts like those in Milligan; third, it takes off the table arguments that Section 2 must be narrowly construed to avoid constitutional problems; and fourth, if Section 2 is constitutional, so should be other laws targeting racial disparities….It’s near-certain that Alabama will have a new Black opportunity (and Democratic) district by 2024, and this is also likely in Georgia and Louisiana. There may now be successful Section 2 claims in Texas, too. Milligan further complicates the looming Republican partisan gerrymander in North Carolina. And Milligan weakens Florida’s defense for eliminating a Black opportunity district around Jacksonville, which hinges on race-conscious districting being unconstitutional. Put it all together and at least 2-3, and quite possibly more, congressional districts are likely to change hands because of Milligan.”

Edsall quotes another Harvard professor, Lawrence H. Tribe, who cautioned in an email to Edsall, “First, nobody should believe the hype that this June’s Milligan decision has definitively rescued the Voting Rights Act from the dustbin to which the Roberts Court has been busy relegating it ever since Shelby County v. Holder cut the preclearance heart out of the Act a decade ago on constitutional grounds” Edsall explains, “In practice, Tribe argued, Milligan “left the preclearance provision of Section 5 a dead letter and kept in place the crippling interpretation of Section 2 set forth in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee.” But, Tribe continued, “Allen v. Milligan remains highly significant as an essential reminder that the court doesn’t exist in an isolation booth, unaffected by public reactions to its decisions that venture too far from the mainstream of legal and social thought.”….Roberts and Kavanaugh, in Tribe’s view, chose not to press the case against race-based redistricting in part because of “the controversy unleashed by the court in its shattering abortion ruling in Dobbs last June, coupled with other unrestrained shocks to the system delivered by the court in the landmark cases involving guns and climate change, and aggravated by the ethical stench swirling about the court as a result of improprieties.”….These developments, Tribe continued, “almost certainly had an impact, however subconscious, on the chief justice and on Justice Kavanaugh, who has increasingly sought to distance himself from the hard right.”….”Tribe warned that respite will be brief:

In a court that seems poised in the Harvard University and North Carolina University cases to interpret the Equal Protection Clause as a demand that government be blind to race, there remains a distinct danger that Section 2 will eventually be held flatly unconstitutional, a possibility that the Milligan ruling did not permanently foreclose and that several Justices pointedly underscored.

Even a cynic, Tribe wrote, “would have to concede that the court, and the country, dodged a deadly bullet in Milligan, something I view as worth celebrating. But that the gun remains loaded remains a cause for deep concern.”

If you are wondering how Trump’s legal meltdown is playing out with voters, Domenico Montanaro explains at nor.org: “There is a strange political divergence taking place that’s made possible by American information echo chambers….Republicans, whose main source of information comes from conservative media, are saying they believe Trump. But the opposite is true for the rest of the country, including the group of voters who largely decide elections – independents who only lean toward one party or the other….Swing voters view Trump as toxic, and Republican strategists and pollsters say he’s a main reason why the party has underperformed in the last three election cycles.That electability message hasn’t filtered down to the rest of the party though….”There’s this phenomenon that happens every time Trump is impeached or indicted, and I call it the ‘rally-round-Trump effect,’ where voters sort of share his grievance,” GOP pollster Sarah Longwell told NPR’s Morning Editionon Monday….Longwell is no Trump fan. But she hosts focus groups of Republican voters and is clear-eyed about Trump’s hold on the party. She told Morning Editionthat only two of the 50 voters she’s talked to over several months said another indictment would make them deviate from Trump. Nineteen said it would endear them more to him….In the limited polling since the indictment came out, that has been born out. A CBS/YouGov poll found that double the number of likely Republican primary voters said an indictment would change their view for the better (14%) than for the worse (7%). (Sixty-one percent said it wouldn’t change their view of him.)….The CBS poll found 80% of Republicans said Trump should still be able to be president even if he’s convicted….A minority of Republicans also said they believed it was a national security risk if Trump kept nuclear or military documents, but 80% of everyone else said it was serious. That just so clearly shows the fork in this political road….An ABC/Ipsos poll showed that the percentage of people saying this indictment is serious went up from 52% to 61%, as compared to the charges in New York stemming from hush-money payments Trump made to allegedly cover up affairs he was having….More than 6 in 10 independents said they think the charges were serious compared to slightly more than half after the New York indictment in April. And there was some movement among Republicans, too — 38% described these charges as serious compared to just 21% in April….But, importantly, there was no statistical change in how many thought Trump should or should not be charged. It’s nearly identical after the New York charges — half say he should be charged, a third or slightly more say he should not. And half also think the charges are politically motivated with independents split, which signals a big messaging fight ahead….”The question is, is how many more indictments are going to come,” Longwell asked, “and is it going to be a case where, because of all of Trump’s legal troubles, he’s the only person who ever gets talked about?”