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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

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

by Andrew Levison

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“Less Than College” Workers Are Not a Social Class. Democrats Need to Understand Who Persuadable Workers Really Are.

Read the Memo.

Democrats Can Win Non-MAGA Working Class GOP Voters. The First Step is Understanding What They Really Think.

Read the Memo.

The Non-Extremist Wing of the Working Class Needs a National Political Alliance That Champions its Distinct Values

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

June 5, 2023

Political Strategy Notes

Mike Lillis reports that “Democrats unanimously back debt ceiling discharge petition” at The Hill. Lillie explains that “Every House Democrat has endorsed the discharge petition to force a vote on legislation to hike the debt ceiling and prevent a default, party leaders announced Wednesday….The signatures of the last final holdouts — Reps. Jared Golden (D-Maine) and Ed Case (D-Hawaii) — puts the total number at 213, meaning Democratic leaders still need to find five Republicans if the petition is to be successful….That’s a heavy lift, since it would require GOP lawmakers to buck the wishes of Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is in tense negotiations with the White House over a debt-ceiling package and is opposed to a vote on the “clean” debt-limit hike preferred by Democrats….The procedural gambit is a long-shot: Only two discharge petitions have been successful in the last two decades. Still, Democratic leaders are hoping their party’s unanimity on the document will pressure moderate Republicans to sign on, particularly if the talks between President Biden and McCarthy don’t yield fruit and the threat of default is imminent….“We’re five signatures away,” said Rep. Pete Aguilar (Calif.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. “So for our Republican colleagues who give interviews and go back home and talk about how they want to work together, and talk about how they’re not extreme like Marjorie Taylor Greene, and how she doesn’t speak for them — this is their opportunity.” Long shot or not, the discharge petition vote is important for two reasons: It puts 100 percent of Democrats solidly on record for a solution, in  stark contrast to the Republicans;  it also underscores the fact that just five Republican congress members could end the crisis and protect America’s credibility – if they so choose.

Luke Goldstein has an eye-opener article, “How Washington Bargained Away Rural America” at The American Prospect. Among his observations: “Liberal Democrats may be hesitant about lavishing subsidies on powerful corporations, but their main priority is to make sure poor people can afford food. Conservative Republicans have often fulminated against so-called welfare queens, but they want to keep farm interests happy. And so a corrupt bargain is struck every half-decade, where neither side does much to really challenge the other’s prized possession. The bundling of rural and urban interests ensures the farm bill’s passage, but it comes at a steep cost: a status quo bill full of endless logrolling and backroom deals, which stacks the deck against family farmers….This leaves only a narrow window for progress. A reform movement, composed of independent farmers and ranchers, environmental advocates, and anti-monopolists from both parties, may be more organized than it’s been since the 1980s farm crisis. But it will square up against the might of Big Ag, which spends more on lobbying in Washington than the defense industry. Ag lobbyists are so enmeshed in congressional dealings that in 2014 one of the largest trade groups, the North American Meat Association, held a barbecue with House Agriculture Committee lawmakers inside the very hearing room where the lobbyists’ clients testified the next day.” As with needed reforms across the board, our highly-polarized, angry politics makes bipartisan legislation a fading hope. Meanwhile Democrats have plenty of room for doing more to support family farms, which have been all but deserted by Big Ag’s lapdog Republicans. That’s a strategy worth exploring.

If you were wondering about the shelf-life of abortion politics with respect to he 2024 elections, consider Natalie Jackson’s observations, quoted here from “The Red Ripple Excerpts: Five Takeaways from 2022” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “The mixed outcome from the election mostly supported the idea that the combination of salience and competitive races meant that abortion mattered in some places more than the others,” she wrote, highlighting Michigan, where Democrats did well as voters approved a constitutional amendment in support of abortion rights as a prime example of a competitive state where abortion was a highly salient issue.”….As legislatures and health officials across the country struggle to adjust to the new post-Roe normal—in which there is no federal guidance, and state-level laws, exceptions, and conditions vary tremendously—it is likely that reproductive rights and restrictions will remain a significant part of electoral politics. The 2022 midterms did not show that the issue was a substantial determinant of the national mood, but it did show that it can matter for close contests, and it can produce some surprising results when on the ballot in the form of a referendum in Republican-led states….The public opinion landscape is still shifting, however. Late 2022 survey results showed that even most Republicans were against the harshest restrictions, including not allowing abortions in cases of incest and rape (70 percent of Republicans and 89 percent of Democrats oppose), and about two-thirds of Republicans (and more than eight in ten Americans overall) oppose allowing private citizens to sue those who seek abortions or criminalizing seeking an abortion. And, tracking data shows that Republicans went from about 20 percent saying abortion should be illegal in all cases to just 11 percent holding that view in the aftermath of the Dobbs decision….Looking toward 2024, reproductive rights are likely to play a similar role as they did in 2022. In the shadow of a presidential election that might include former president Donald Trump, there is little reason to think reproductive rights will be the top issue on Americans’ minds. But there is every reason to think the fluctuating state laws and associated court cases will keep the issue on the map as one that matters in some areas and for some competitive elections.”

The integrity and nonpartisan credibility of the U.S. Supreme Court ought to be higher priorities in all races for the U.S. Senate. and among all voters Yet, Devan Cole reports that the “Supreme Court approval rating declines amid controversy over ethics and transparency: Marquette poll” at CNN Politics. As Cole writes: “Americans’ approval of the Supreme Court has fallen since the start of the year, according to a new poll released Wednesday, with 41% of the country saying it approves of the nine justices amid a barrage of media reports and watchdog complaints concerning ethics and transparency at the nation’s highest court….The Marquette Law School poll provides fresh insight into how the public is reacting to a court that has become engulfed in controversy that, for the most part, is unrelated to its decisions in high-profile, politically fraught cases that typically shape the nation’s view of the court….Conducted between May 8 and May 18, the survey is the first to be completed by the school since ProPublica published an explosive report in early April about years of lavish trips and gifts Justice Clarence Thomas accepted from a GOP megadonor, the first in a series of stories concerning the conservative jurist’s lack of transparency on his financial disclosure forms….Since 2020, Marquette finds, approval of the court has frequently “oscillated” between surveys, but with declining high points in each cycle. The results of the new poll – which found that 59% of US adults disapproved of the court – are similar to those found in a July 2022 iteration of the survey taken days after the court overturned Roe v. Wade, but represent a downtick from more recent versions of the poll. In January, the same poll found that 47% of American approved of the court, while 53% disapproved….Democrats and Republicans were deeply divided in their view of the court, according to the new poll, which found that the court had a 24% approval rating among Democrats and a 60% approval rating among Republicans.” Every day the case for expanding the Supreme Court as soon as possible grows stronger.

When Feelings About Personal Finances Are More Negative Than Economic Stats

Lydia Saad reports that “Americans Remain Discouraged About Personal Finances” at Gallup, and writes,

“Americans remain guarded about their personal finances, with the majority (55%) saying their financial situation is “only fair” or “poor” rather than “excellent” or “good” (45%). More also report that their financial situation is worsening (50%) than improving (37%).

Consumers’ perspectives on their finances are nearly identical to what Gallup found a year ago but contrast with 2021, when Americans were generally upbeat about their financial circumstances and momentum.”

One indication of what’s weighing on consumers comes from an open-ended question in the new survey that asks respondents to name the most important financial problem facing their family. Inflation tops the list at 35%, the highest percentage naming inflation as their biggest financial problem since Gallup first asked the question two decades ago. Although inflation has eased over the past year, it remains higher than Americans were accustomed to before the pandemic, and prices for goods like food and gasoline remain elevated.

The survey was conducted April 3-25, before the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that inflation was 4.9% in April — the first time it has been below 5% in two years.

Nobody knows when or if public attitudes about personal finances will line up with economic indicators. But how voters feel about their economic status is more important for elections than the latest economic indicators. And the trend line is not good, as Saad notes:

An index summarizing the two financial assessment questions shows that consumers’ overall attitudes about their finances are essentially tied for the most negative they’ve been since Gallup began tracking these metrics annually in 2004. The index represents the average of Americans’ net positive evaluations of their current financial situations (the percentage rating them excellent/good minus the percentage only fair/poor) and their net positive outlook for their finances (the percentage saying their finances are getting better minus the percentage saying they are getting worse).

Today’s -12 score is the lowest since 2008 and 2009, when the financial index was at its numerical low point of -13 in the trend. Thereafter, the index gradually climbed to a high of +21 in 2019 before tumbling to -9 at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020….The index spiked to +18 in April 2021 — a hopeful period for consumers during the vaccine rollout and as the economy was getting back to normal — nearly matching the 2019 high. But it fell to -10 in 2022 amid high and worsening inflation and is essentially the same this year.

As usual, there are sharp differences in how adults of different household income levels view their financial situation. The financial index score is positive (+28) among those in the top third of households by income (currently those earning $100,000 or more annually), while it is modestly negative, at -22, among middle-income earners ($40,000-$99,999) and more deeply negative, at -43, among the lowest income tier (less than $40,000).

All income groups’ financial confidence was shaken in 2020, improved in 2021, and dropped again in 2022. However, over the past year, financial confidence has fallen further among middle-income Americans to the lowest Gallup has recorded for that group in the two-decade trend, while it has been steady among upper- and lower-income earners.

Despite evaluating their personal finances as subpar, most adults still report they have enough money to live comfortably; however, the 64% doing so this year is among the smallest proportions Gallup has recorded in two decades of tracking….Lower- and middle-income Americans’ comfort with their financial means is at new lows in 2023, while upper-income Americans’ sentiment is closer to the long-term average for that group.

It’s hard to get poll averages for feelings about personal finances since the questions vary from poll to poll, more than approval rates. Saad concludes, “Although inflation is down sharply from a year ago, it remains high relative to what Americans have been accustomed to in recent decades. Given that, inflation continues to be both a top-of-mind financial concern as well as a likely driver of continued pessimism and uncertainty among Americans about their own finances.”

If the Gallup poll flips the personal finances ratings to about 55 percent “good” and 45 percent “fair” by October of next year, that could help give Dems some needed momentum for the 2024 elections.

Political Strategy Notes

“The NAACP issued a formal travel advisory for Florida on Saturday in response to what the organization described as Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “aggressive attempts to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools” Eliza Chasan writes at cbshews.com. “The civil rights organization is the latest to caution travelers against visiting Florida; the League of United Latin American Citizens and LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Florida previously issued travel advisories…..”Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, the state of Florida has become hostile to Black Americans and in direct conflict with the democratic ideals that our union was founded upon,” NAACP President & CEO Derrick Johnson said. “He should know that democracy will prevail because its defenders are prepared to stand up and fight. We’re not backing down, and we encourage our allies to join us in the battle for the soul of our nation.”….The advisory comes just days before DeSantis is expected to launch his presidential campaign….The DeSantis administration in January blocked the introduction of an Advanced Placement course for high school students that focuses on African American studies….”Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals,” the NAACP travel notice states. “Before traveling to Florida, please understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color.”….Tourism is a massive industry in Florida. Around 137.6 million people visited the state in 2022, according to tourism agency Visit Florida. Visitors contributed $101.9 billion to the state’s economy and supported more than 1.7 million jobs in 2021.” In addition, Chasan writes, “The League of United Latin American Citizens [LULAC] advisory cited strict Florida laws dealing with immigrants. Organization president Domingo Garcia called the new immigration laws “hostile and dangerous,” saying they presented a clear and present danger to Latinos….”Florida is a dangerous, hostile environment for law-abiding Americans and immigrants,” Garcia said.”  Although neither LULAC or the NAACP expressly called for a boycott of Florida, as the largest organizations representing Hispanic and African Americans, respectively, it is likely that Florida will experience a significant decline in tourist revenues, which translates into lost jobs for Florida – in addition to the estimated 2,000 jobs  Florida is losing as a result of the Republican Governor’s war on Disney. All of which gives Democrats a potentially-powerful new talking point regarding the destructive effects of Republican leadership in the ‘Sunshine State.’

Not to pile on poor Gov. DeSantis, but at Newsweek, Thomas Kika reports “The conflict has, by the reckoning of many, gone poorly for the governor, with Disney outmaneuvering him legally and filing a lawsuit against the state government, alleging that it has been politically targeted for exercising its First Amendment rights. On Thursday, Disney canceled its plans to build a new $1 billion office complex in Lake Nona, Florida, citing “new leadership and changing business conditions.” The project would have brought around 2,000 new jobs to the state….With the economic impact of DeSantis’s war with Disney continuing to grow, Florida’s Republican senators in Washington, D.C., have spoken out, urging caution for the governor moving forward. Senator Rick Scott, who previously held the governorship from 2011 to 2019, noted in an interview how vital Disney is to the state’s economy, according to The Hill….”This is the biggest or second-biggest employer in the state,” Scott said. “Half the tourism that comes to our state comes to visit Disney. It’s a reason people come to our state. After they come there, people move there. So I think cooler heads need to prevail. My view is we have to do everything to help our businesses grow.”….Senator Marco Rubio, meanwhile had similar comments on the situation during an interview with Fox News last month….”I think where it gets problematic in the eyes of some people is when you start creating the idea—and I’m not saying we’re there yet as a state—but the idea that somehow if you run crossways with us politically, whoever’s in charge, then you may wind up in the crosshairs of the legislature for political purposes to make a statement at you,” Rubio said….”If it starts to be perceived that any corporate entity that’s operating directly or indirectly in furtherance of a political agenda that the powers that be don’t agree with, therefore we’re going to use the power of government to target you, you get concerned,” Rubio added.” When two Republican U.S. Senators scold their fellow Republican state governor/presidential candidate for his foolish anti-business policies, just after Democrats recapture the Mayorship of Florida’s largest city, it begins to look like the pivot point state Democrats have been seeking.

There is lots more to report about the DeSantis mess in Florida. In his article, “Biden bets DeSantis’ ‘Florida blueprint’ will help him flip the Sunshine State and win reelection” Edward-Isaac Dovere writes at CNN Politics: “Biden advisers believe they can hold up what the GOP governor calls his “Florida blueprint” as a warning to the country about what would happen if DeSantis or any other Republican wins the White House in 2024 – a human embodiment, essentially, of Biden’s argument that “MAGA extremism” goes beyond Donald Trump….And along the way, they believe the Florida governor’s record may give them a chance at the state’s 30 electoral votes….The Biden campaign has quietly started putting campaign cash and efforts into Florida – and will decide in the coming months whether to put more – as it gauges the president’s chances of reversing the reddening of a state he lost by a wider-than-expected margin in 2020….A dozen top Biden and Democratic officials, several of whom asked not speak by name in order to discuss internal plans, told CNN they’re raring to dig in on DeSantis’ championing of abortion restrictions, his ongoing fight with Disney stemming from the company’s opposition to what critics have called the “Don’t Say Gay” law, his lifting of concealed weapons permitting, his crackdown on unlawful immigration and his consistent railing over “woke” politics….Shevrin Jones, a Florida state senator and member of the Biden campaign’s advisory board of elected officials, said he’s eager to tell the country the story of what he’s seen under DeSantis’ leadership. “Freedom is not free in Florida. Businesses are not free in Florida. People are not free in Florida. No one is free in Florida. And it’s evidence of the policies that have gone forth,” the Democrat said….On a national level, Jones said, “if you want to see that again, elect Ron DeSantis.”….As DeSantis has traveled the country in the run-up to his planned campaign launch this week, Democrats have been road-testing attack lines. A mobile billboard about his onetime support for Medicare and Social Security privatization trailed the governor on his trip to Iowa in March.”

Of course, Trump also has some kindling to add to the DeSantis dumpster fire: “On the same day he was indicted by the Manhattan district attorney, Trump attacked DeSantis for signing what he called the “worst insurance scam in the entire country, with the highest rates in the entire country. That’s Florida,” Dovere writes. Naturally, “The Biden orbit has been privately cheering on every stage of the ongoing Trump-DeSantis grudge match, eager to see them cut each other down.”….The Biden campaign has started to spend. Cable and online ads in Florida were part of a multistate purchase shortly after the campaign kick-off. And the DNC leaned into Biden’s volunteer network to have what it says were over 130,000 contacts with voters ahead of last week’s Jacksonville runoff that saw Donna Deegan become just the second Democrat elected mayor in the past 30 years….A person close to the Biden campaign said that Deegan’s win was encouraging because she “ran a campaign on a platform that is a lot like the one Biden ran to build his coalition – a focus on kitchen table issues, unity over division and culture wars” and that the city going Democratic after turning out strongly for DeSantis last November “sends a strong signal to folks who count Democrats out of Florida.”….Biden aides are also hoping the president will benefit in Florida not just from the contrast with Republicans, but from his own agenda: the reduction in prescription drug costs and an insulin price cap to appeal to the state’s senior population; the climate change mitigation to appeal to young people in a state that has seen significant storms; and infrastructure investments that have poured into Florida from the federal legislation….Meanwhile, abortion rights supporters in Florida are working to put a measure on the ballot to allow abortions up until a fetus is deemed viable and have begun to collect the nearly 900,000 signatures needed by next February. There are other hurdles the effort would need to clear, but as in other states, many involved believe this will be a huge turnout booster for Democratic voters – especially in the wake of DeSantis signing a bill banning most abortions after six weeks.”

Teixeira: Where Is the Electoral Payoff to Progressivism?

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

There is a strong case that Democrats would benefit from moving to the center on a wide variety of cultural and “green” issues. Why don’t they? Surely this would help them with moderate, persuadable voters who are uncomfortable with Democrats’ recent embrace of uncompromisingly left stances in these areas.

The default response to this idea is that, while you might rope in some moderate swing voters with this strategy, you would lose significant support among Democratic base voters through such compromises and wind up a net loser. Despite its wide currency within the Democratic Party, particularly on the party’s left, there is remarkably little evidence for this assertion. The following details the many weak points in the case, so dear to the hearts of the party’s progressives.

Where is the turnout dividend?

The theory here is that, given a move to the center, progressives and the groups they claim to represent will simply fail to show up at the polls, canceling out any gains among swing voters. Conversely, the more Democrats reject that strategy and embrace the progressive program and world view, the higher turnout will be among Democratic base groups relative to the opposition.

To say the least, this does not appear to be happening. As Democrats have steadily moved to the left on cultural and green issues, relative turnout performance among base groups has actually been quite poor. Take 2022. Turnout fell across the board relative to 2018, according to recently-released Census data, but it fell more among Democratic base groups. While overall turnout declined a little over 3 points, it fell 10 points among black voters, almost 7 points among young (18-29 year old) voters and 5 points among Hispanic voters.

Or take the 2020 election. On the heels of the George Floyd summer and the Democrats’ ostentatious embrace of progressives’ racial and social justice priorities, one might have thought—progressives certainly thought—that Democrats would benefit greatly from high base group turnout. And it was indeed a high turnout election. The problem: everyone’s turnout went up, including among groups Democrats would have preferred stayed home. The net result of higher turnout did not significantly boost Democratic fortunes; if anything Republicans may have a benefitted a bit more from the higher levels of turnout. This helps explain why Biden’s 2020 victory was so much narrower than anticipated and why the election saw Democrats lose ground in the House and in state legislatures.

Black turnout was particularly unimpressive in that election. As noted in a New York Times analysis of the 2020 Georgia vote:

Joe Biden put Georgia in the Democratic column for the first time since 1992 by making huge gains among affluent, college-educated and older voters in the suburbs around Atlanta, according to an Upshot analysis of the results by precinct. The Black share of the electorate fell to its lowest level since 2006, based on an Upshot analysis of newly published turnout data from the Georgia secretary of state. In an election marked by a big rise in turnout, Black turnout increased, too, but less than that of some other groups….

The Black share of the electorate appears to have also dropped in North Carolina—another state where voters are asked their race on their voter registration form—based on initial data from counties representing about 10 percent of the state’s electorate. And there was no evidence of a turnout surge in Detroit or Milwaukee—along with an increase in Philadelphia that was smaller than in the state as a whole—where Democrats had hoped to reverse disappointing Black turnout from four years ago.

None of this fits very well with the alleged electoral benefits of progressivism nor with the presumed electoral liabilities of moving to the center.

Where is the support dividend?

But it’s more serious than the evident lack of a turnout dividend. If the progressive electoral case makes any sense at all, it should manifest itself by increased support for Democrats among key groups as the party moves to the left. After all, progressives reason, the currently-existing Republicans are only a hairs-breadth away, if that, from being fascists, so waving the progressive flag high should bring more of the disadvantaged and “marginalized” to the Democratic banner. Instead, the exact reverse has happened.

This is particularly obvious with Hispanics. In the 2020 election, Hispanics, after four years of Trump, gave him substantially more support than they did in 2016. According to Catalist, in 2020 Latinos had an amazingly large 16-point margin shift toward Trump. Among Latinos, Cubans did have the largest shifts toward Trump (26 points), but those of Mexican origin also had a 12-point shift and even Puerto Ricans moved toward Trump by 18 points.

Latino shifts toward Trump were widely dispersed geographically. Hispanic shifts toward Trump were not confined to Florida (28 points) and Texas (18 points) but also included states like Wisconsin (20 points), Nevada (18 points), Pennsylvania (12 points), Arizona (10 points) and Georgia (8 points).

But it’s not just Hispanics. Looking at 2022, it is clear that as the Democratic Party has moved to the left over the last four years, they have done worse among their base voters generally. They’ve lost a good chunk of their support among nonwhite voters overall and among young voters. Since 2018, Democratic support is down 18 margin points among young voters, 20 points among nonwhites, and 23 points among nonwhite working-class (noncollege) voters. The latter voters are overwhelmingly moderate to conservative in orientation and they seem distinctly unimpressed with Democrats’ fervent allegiance to progressive rhetoric and priorities.

Instead, the changing ideological orientation of the Democrats has simply made it easier for non-liberal nonwhites—especially conservatives and especially among the working class—to vote their ideology instead of a default loyalty to the Democratic Party. So much for the support dividend promised by progressives!

As the 2024 election looms, there are signs that the “missing support dividend” may continue to be missing. As Nate Cohn remarked, discussing a recent ABC/Washington Post poll particularly bad for Biden:

Even excluding ABC/Post polling altogether (in clear violation of the “toss it in the average” rule), Mr. Biden still has a mere 49-37 lead over Mr. Trump among Hispanic voters and just a 70-18 lead among Black voters. In each case, Mr. Biden is far behind usual Democratic benchmarks, and it comes on the heels of a midterm election featuring unusually low Black turnout.

If the lesson from the ABC/Post poll is that Mr. Biden is vulnerable and weak among usually reliable Democratic constituencies, then perhaps the takeaway from [the] poll isn’t necessarily a misleading one.

If Republicans are so terrible, why aren’t Democrats crushing them?

Of course, none of this means that Democrats can’t or won’t win elections. The Republicans, after all, are a party with glaring and very major weaknesses not unrelated to the continuing influence of Donald Trump on the party. In fact, these weaknesses are so serious and have damaged the Republican brand so severely that it raises the question as to why Democrats can’t beat them decisively. Instead, Democrats are hemorrhaging votes among some of their most loyal constituencies and limping to razor-thin victories (or losses) against their weakened foe, who remains at rough parity with the Democrats.

This gets to the heart of the problem with progressives’ strategy. Democrats have moved to the left in accordance with progressives’ wishes, which was supposed to align the party more closely with voters’ preferences and set up a heightened contrast with the “semi-fascist” MAGA Republicans and their dark plans for America. That should have generated a big electoral payoff but it has not.

Progressives have answers for this failure of course. The favorite one is that the Democrats have not become progressive enough. They simply need to press the accelerator on their leftward transformation and the votes will flow. This is not a falsifiable proposition since any move to the left can always be deemed not far enough and hence an explanation for any given electoral loss. Conveniently, true progressivism—like true socialism—can never fail since it has never been tried.

A secondary argument is that progressives’ real priorities and real values—which are actually quite popular, progressives assure us—are not getting through to voters because of mis- and disinformation emanating from the right. If not for that, voters would be responding enthusiastically and the progressive electoral payoff would appear. A simpler explanation, since any political program is always attacked by its opponents, is that the program itself is not that convincing to voters. If it was, it could stand up to political attack.

A more plausible explanation for the lack of a progressive electoral payoff is that the whole progressive electoral theory is just wrong. It’s not the case that moderating Democrats’ approach results in more losses among base group voters than gains among persuadable voters. On the contrary, it is strenuous progressivism that results in losses among base group voters and certainly does little good among persuadable voters outside the Democratic base. The whole tradeoff posited by progressives to justify their approach and disparage a moderate alternative does not exist.

It’s time for Democrats to face up to the fact that the concerns of many of “their” voters do not track with the issues that motivate progressives. These voters would be more likely to turn out for a Democratic Party associated with safe streetsa healthy economy, and a sensible, non-divisive approach to social issues. That will necessitate doing some—perhaps many—things that progressives won’t like. But as Democrats look toward 2024, with its daunting presidential election and even more daunting Senate map, they would do well to ignore the predictable denunciations by progressives of any move to the center and instead head straight for the common-sense heart of the American electorate. That’s where the real electoral payoff lies.

Catalist Data Shows ’22 Bumps for Dems Among ‘Gen Z’, Women and White Working Class

In “That Gen Z midterm boost for Democrats might be real: A new analysis from the Democratic data firm Catalist helps explain how Democrats staved off disaster in 2022,” Steven Shepard writes:

Democrats avoided an electoral wipeout in the 2022 midterms. One way they did so was by reassembling a history-defying coalition of young voters who turned out at rates more commonly seen in presidential elections, according to a new study of voter-file data.

The Democratic data firm Catalist found that these voters bested 2018 turnout levels in states with the most competitive races for governor or Senate — and they overwhelmingly favored Democratic candidates, even if the overall political environment swung to the right.

Like other studies of the 2022 electorate — which mostly rely on surveys of voters on or around Election Day — the Catalist report finds that Democrats increased their support among women voters over 2020. Abortion is cited as a key factor in that shift: Polls and registration data show that Democratic women were more motivated to vote after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision.

The Catalist report does offer some warning signs for the party, particularly a drop in turnout among Black voters. But it mostly suggests that close, high-turnout elections continue to be the norm since Donald Trump’s election in 2016. Both sides are highly activated to participate in both presidential elections and years in between. That means we could be headed to another year of record or near-record voter turnout in 2024, even if both candidates wind up being unpopular.

High turnout was especially evident in the most competitive races, Catalist found. Democrats’ defiance of a so-called “red wave” came because Democrats managed to win the lion’s share of competitive races for Senate, governor and House.

….But Catalist’s findings are a bit counterintuitive. They found that Democratic candidates in competitive races won 40 percent of white voters without a college degree, up from 36 percent in 2020. By contrast, Democrats’ share of white college graduates in those contests dipped from 53 percent in 2020 to 51 percent in 2022.

To find out “How did they do it, and what does it mean for 2024 — and beyond,” read on here.

Political Strategy Notes

From Ronald Brownstein’s “The demographic makeup of the country’s voters continues to shift. That creates headwinds for Republicans” at CNN Politics: “Demographic change continued to chip away at the cornerstone of the Republican electoral coalition in 2022, a new analysis of Census data has found….White voters without a four-year college degree, the indispensable core of the modern GOP coalition, declined in 2022 as a share of both actual and eligible voters, according to a study of Census results by Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political scientist who specializes in electoral turnout….McDonald’s finding, provided exclusively to CNN, shows that the 2022 election continued the long-term trend dating back at least to the 1970s of a sustained fall in the share of the votes cast by working-class White voters who once constituted the brawny backbone of the Democratic coalition, but have since become the absolute foundation of Republican campaign fortunes….As non-college Whites have receded in the electorate over that long arc, non-White adults and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Whites with at least a four-year college degree, have steadily increased their influence. “This is a trend that is baked into the demographic change of the country, so [it] is likely going to accelerate over the next ten years,” says McDonald, author of the recent book “From Pandemic to Insurrection: Voting in the 2020 Presidential Election.”….these non-college voters remain a larger share of the electorate in many of the key states that will likely decide the 2024 presidential race (particularly Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) and control of the Senate (including seats Democrats are defending in Montana, Ohio and West Virginia.)….But even across those states, these voters are shrinking as a share of the electorate. And McDonald’s analysis of the 2022 results shows that the non-college White share of the total vote is highly likely to decline again in 2024, while the combined share of non-Whites and Whites with a college degree, groups much more favorable to Democrats, is virtually certain to increase….Especially ominous for Republicans is that the share of the vote cast by these blue-collar Whites declined slightly in 2022 even though turnout among those voters was relatively strong, while minority turnout fell sharply, according to McDonald’s analysis. The reason for those seemingly incongruous trends is that even solid turnout among the non-college Whites could not offset the fact that they are continuing to shrink in the total pool of eligible voters, as American society grows better-educated and more racially diverse.”

Brownstein notes further, “Ruy Teixeira, a long-time Democratic electoral analyst who has become a staunch critic of his party, argues exactly that kind of shift in voting preferences could offset the change in the electorate’s composition – and create a real threat for Biden. Even though Biden is aggressively highlighting his efforts to create blue-collar jobs through “manufacturing and infrastructure projects that are starting to get off the ground,” Teixiera recently wrote, a “sharp swing against the incumbent administration by White working-class voters seems like a very real possibility.”….Teixeira, now a nonresident senior fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, also maintains Democrats face the risk Republicans can extend the unexpected gains Trump registered in 2020 with non-White voters without a college degree, especially Hispanics….As Teixeira has forcefully argued in recent years, such demographic change doesn’t ensure doom for Republicans or success for Democrats. Among other things, that change is unevenly distributed around the country, and the small state bias of both the Electoral College and the two-senators-per-state rule magnifies the influence of sparsely populated interior states where these shifts have been felt much more lightly….Yet, even so, the long-term change in the electorate’s composition, along with the Democrats’ growing strength among white-collar suburban voters, largely explains why the party has won the popular vote in seven of the past eight presidential elections – something no party has done since the formation of the modern party system in 1828….And even though Whites without a college degree exceed their share of the national vote in the key Rust Belt battlegrounds of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, their share of the vote is shrinking along the same trajectory of about 2-3 points every four years in those states too, according to analysis by Frey. Meanwhile, in the Sun Belt battlegrounds of Georgia, Arizona and Nevada, more rapid growth in the minority population means that blue-collar Whites will likely comprise a smaller portion of the eligible voter pool than they do nationally….Trump, with the exception of his beachhead among blue-collar minorities, has now largely locked the GOP into a position of needing to squeeze bigger margins out of shrinking groups, particularly non-college Whites. It’s entirely possible that Trump or another Republican nominee can meet that test well enough to win back the White House in 2024, especially given the persistent public disenchantment with Biden’s performance. But McDonald’s 2022 data shows why relying on a coalition tilted so heavily toward those non-college Whites becomes just a little tougher for the GOP in each presidential race.”

Democratic moderates and centrists are much encouraged by the results of Tuesday’s elections, especially the results in the mayoral races in Jacksonville, FL (11th largest city in the U.S.) and Colorado Springs, CO (38th largest U.S. city). In Jax, voters elected Democrat Donna Deegan, who defeated former Republican state Rep. Daniel Davis, who was endorsed by Republican Presidential candidate Gov. Ron DeSantis. Jax was the largest city that had a Republican Mayor. Deegan campaigned as a moderate Democrat, who stressed the need for transparency in government. In Colorado Springs, Yemi Mobolade, who is not affiliated with any party, defeated Republican Wayne Williams in a run-off by about 15 percentage points, becoming the city’s first elected Black mayor and the first Colorado Springs mayor who isn’t a registered Republican in more than four decades. Mobolade ran as a “Business-friendly moderate.” In Philadelphia (6th largest U.S. city), former City Council Member Cherelle Parker won the Democratic nomination. She “had the support of the city’s Black establishment and a number of influential unions,” and beat a progressive favorite, Helen Gym. Parker will likely be Philly’s first Black female Mayor. The victories of Deegan, Mobolade and Parker are sort of a moderate/centrist answer to the recent wins of progressives Brandon Johnson in Chicago, Michelle Wu in Boston and Karen Bass in Los Angeles. But what they all have in common is that they are strongly opposed to Republicans. For news regarding other Tuesday elections, check out “7 takeaways from Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Florida elections” at CNN Politics, “Republicans keep having bad elections” at The Washington Post and “Winners, losers and lessons from Tuesday’s elections” at nbcnews.com.

Unfortunately, Tuesday’s political news also included the override of North Carolina’s Democratic Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of the Republican abortion restriction bill. The question now is whether or not NC Democrats can use the Republican override as a cudgel to help defeat NC GOP candidates next year. As Stephen Wolf reports in “Blame GOP gerrymandering for North Carolina’s new abortion restrictions” at Daily Kos: “North Carolina Republicans successfully overrode Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of their new abortion restrictions on Tuesday, but they were only able to do so for two reasons, neither of them good: partisan gerrymandering and an inexplicable recent party switch by a previously pro-choice lawmaker….That new law will ban most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy and also add significant other restrictions on abortions even before then, tightening the state’s previous 20-week limit and undermining its status as an oasis in a region with severe restraints on abortion access. But perpetually swingy North Carolina didn’t get here by accident….North Carolina’s legislative districts have been gerrymandered to favor Republicans to varying degrees ever since the GOP swept into power in the 2010 midterms. Because the governor lacks veto power over redistricting, the courts have been the only bulwark against Republican gerrymandering, leading to an endless cycle of litigation as the GOP’s maps would get struck down, replaced, and challenged once again….While gerrymandering was also crucial in the state House, it wasn’t enough by itself, since Republicans came one seat short in November when they won a 71-49 majority. But last month, Democratic state Rep. Tricia Cotham unexpectedly switched her allegiance to the Republican Party, despite having won a solidly blue open seat in the Charlotte suburbs last year….Going forward, gerrymandering will play a key role in insulating Republicans from any popular backlash for passing unpopular laws, including their new abortion ban. Cotham herself could be just such an example if she seeks reelection because, while her current district supported Biden 61-38 in 2020, Republicans could make it considerably redder. That would still leave her vulnerable in a general election but would also provide her with a path to victory that no longer exists in her current district….With GOP legislative dominance likely to grow ever more entrenched, the most plausible way forward for progressives in North Carolina will be for Democrats to regain control of the state Supreme Court. The soonest Democrats could flip the court, however, would likely be in 2028, which would require winning next year’s election for governor and several court races between 2024 and 2028.”

Pence is Running on the GOP’s Worst Ideas

In the restless search among Republicans for a way to avoid more undiluted Trumpism, rival candidates are choosing some pretty bad messages, as I noted at New York:

Naturally former vice-president Mike Pence wants to rebrand himself in his 2024 presidential campaign. He’s known to the world as the cringingly obsequious Trump sidekick who refused to give the Boss the unconstitutional boost he needed to stop Joe Biden’s confirmation as president-elect on January 6, 2021. In MAGA land, he will never, ever be forgiven for this “betrayal” of Donald Trump. In seeking a new identity, Pence is unsurprisingly returning to his pre-Trump image as a methodical movement-conservative warhorse with a particular connection to the Christian right (albeit one whose political career all but self-immolated thanks to his clumsy handling of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in Indiana).

In campaigning as the man who can return the GOP and the country to pre-Trump conservatism, Pence is obviously scratching a deep itch among Republican elites who want to imagine that the 45th presidency was just a nightmare that produced a lot of madness and some nice tax cuts. There’s a big problem, though. Practically everything the former veep wants the GOP to stand for is deeply unpopular, as this summary of the Pence message from the New York Times illustrates:

“Mr. Pence is working to carve out space in the Republican primary field by appealing to evangelicals, adopting a hard-line position in support of a federal abortion ban, promoting free trade and pushing back against Republican efforts to police big business on ideological grounds. He faces significant challenges, trails far behind in the polls and has made no effort to channel the populist energies overtaking the Republican Party.”

Imposing a strict national abortion ban is very unpopular outside (and to some extent inside) the Republican base, as Trump has repeatedly acknowledgedFree trade is a creed as outmoded as the free coinage of silver and is anathema in much of the heartland areas Republicans rely on. “Populist” conservative efforts to mess with corporate policies are irresponsible and hard to maintain, yet they help insulate Republicans from their ancient image as Wall Street toadies. But Pence’s unpopularity contest doesn’t end there:

“Unlike almost every major Republican running for president, Mr. Pence still defends former President George W. Bush’s decisions to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, though he acknowledged in the interview that the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ intelligence that Mr. Bush used to justify the Iraqi invasion was wrong.”

And for dessert:

“Mr. Pence says Social Security and Medicare must be trimmed back as part of any serious plan to deal with the national debt …

“Mr. Pence said he would ‘explain to people’ how the ‘debt crisis’ would affect their children and grandchildren. He says his plan to cut benefits won’t apply to Social Security and Medicare payments for people in retirement today or who will retire in the next 25 years. But he will pitch ideas to cut spending for people under 40.”

Social Security and Medicare cuts are nearly as unpopular among Republican voters as they are among Democratic and independent voters, which is very unpopular indeed. And Republican politicians (most notably and recently George W. Bush and Paul Ryan) have forever sought to “explain to people” why it’s somehow fair to literally grandfather in the retirement benefits of old folks while screwing over their children and grandchildren with half a loaf or less. It hasn’t worked.

The axiom Pence is running on is simple: There was nothing wrong with old-school Reagan-Bush Republicanism until the Bad Man came along (with Pence’s sycophantic help, by the way) to wreck everything with his demagogic heresies. Unfortunately for this hypothesis, there was a lot wrong with where Republicans were heading going into 2016, beginning with the simple fact that the non-college-educated white voters on which the GOP had begun to depend didn’t like free trade, slavery to big business, “entitlement reform,” or “forever wars” and warmed to a presidential candidate who pledged to overturn the party Establishment that promoted these shibboleths as though they came down from Mount Sinai on stone tablets. If Pence succeeds in making himself known as the would-be president who wants to get rid of half of Trump’s more popular positions, his own popularity (his favorable-unfavorable ratio according to the FiveThirtyEight polling averages is 36-53) is likely to fade even more as voters begin to understand him.

‘Durham Report’ a 6-Million Dollar Nothingburger

From “John Durham has to know his final report is a mess” by Hayes Brown at MSNBC.com:

The Department of Justice on Monday finally released the long-awaited final report from special counsel John Durham, who, almost four years ago, was tapped to review the FBI’s decision to open a counterintelligence investigation into Donald Trump’s presidential 2016 campaign. For much of that time, Trump supporters were positive that the bombshells Durham would drop would validate Trump’s characterization of the Russia investigation as the “crime of the century.”

However, over the course of more than 300 pages, the Durham Report doesn’t just fail to live up to Trump supporters’ expectations of a spectacular vindication; it manages to fail on every other level as well. Durham fails to rebut the previous findings from special counsel Robert Mueller or the Department of Justice’s inspector general. He fails to provide suggested changes that the FBI could make moving forward. He fails to acknowledge how much of the winking innuendo the report includes wasn’t proved in court. And, ironically, he fails to realize that his central argument includes a standard for politically charged investigations that Trump would absolutely hate to see put into practice.

The Durham Report doesn’t just fail to live up to Trump supporters’ expectations of a spectacular vindication; it manages to fail on every other level as well.

None of these failures is particularly surprising given the arc of Durham’s investigation. When he began to wrap up in September, it was clear that he would be unable to live up to the right-wing hype. The only two cases that he brought to trial resulted in acquittals; the one guilty plea he obtained was of an FBI attorney for altering an email used to obtain a surveillance warrant for a Trump campaign adviser. But Durham still includes many of the allegations that the juries rejected, a move more likely to muddy the waters than provide clarity.

Read more of Brown’s article and watch a revealing interview about the Durham nothingburger here. Also check out Rachel Maddow’s coverage here.

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.