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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Vote Blue! No Matter Who.

VOTE BLUE.

No matter who.

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Vote Blue No Matter Who bumper sticker

Vote Blue!

No Matter Who!

“Vote Blue, No Matter Who” do-it-yourself t-shirts and bumper stickers–just call your local, unionized print shop and ask for an estimate. They can contact editors@thedemocraticstrategist.org for the artwork.

Vote Blue! No Matter Who.

VOTE BLUE!

No Matter Who.

“Vote Blue, No Matter Who” do-it-yourself t-shirts and bumper stickers–just call your local, unionized print shop and ask for an estimate. They can contact editors@thedemocraticstrategist.org for the artwork.

Vote Blue No Matter Who bumper sticker

Vote Blue

No matter who.

“Vote Blue, No Matter Who” do-it-yourself t-shirts and bumper stickers–just call your local, unionized print shop and ask for an estimate. They can contact editors@thedemocraticstrategist.org for the artwork.

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R.I.P. G.O.P.

You can find out more about the return to progressive politics from our founder Stanley Greenberg in his new book!

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The Daily Strategist

November 14, 2019

Blue and Anti-GOP Waves Roll in PA

From “The blue wave crashed down on Pennsylvania again, as voters from Philly to Delaware County turned left” by Julia Terruso at The Philadelphia Inquirer:

The political forces that shaped last year’s midterm elections showed no signs of abating Tuesday, as voters turned on Republicans and establishment Democrats alike in races from Philadelphia and Scranton to the suburbs of Delaware and Chester Counties.

Outside Pennsylvania, voter unrest with President Donald Trump and the Republican Party he has taken over helped deliver victories for Democrats in Kentucky, where they narrowly took the governorship, and in Virginia, where they seized complete control of the state government for the first time in more than a quarter-century.

This is great news, especially considering Pennsylvania’s strategic importance as a bellweather swing state in the 2020 presidential election. In her deep dive, Terruso explains,

Locally, Democrats will hold all five seats on the Delaware County Council, a Republican stronghold since the Civil War, and also assumed a majority on the legislative body in Chester County. In Bucks County, Democrats captured the Board of Commissioners for the first time since 1983.

And in Philadelphia, a third-party insurgent candidate weakened an already marginalized GOP by securing one of the at-large City Council seats reserved for minority parties — a seat Republicans have held for decades.

“It’s a new day in Delaware County,” said Elaine Schaefer, one of three Democrats elected Tuesday in Delaware County. Democrats had never held a majority on the county council in its history, let alone every seat.

Further, adds Terruso,

The Democratic victories around the country point to surging interest by liberal voters heading into the 2020 presidential election. That could be especially significant in Pennsylvania, which Trump won in 2016 — along with its 20 Electoral College votes — partly due to a dip in Democratic enthusiasm in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

However, a number of third party progressives also rode to victory in the PA local elections, including the new Mayor-Elect of Scranton, Paige Cognetti, who ran on the slogan “Paige Against the Machine.” The Working Families Party, which supports many Democratic Party reforms, won a number of other local races, reported by Terruso.

To some extent, the PA elections reflect a disgust with Republicans, as much as a pro-Democratic trend. One can also read a pro-outsider trend into the mix. But Democrats have good reason to cheer these victories over Republicans, as well.

“In Delaware County,” notes Terruso, “the results for Republicans were catastrophic. All three Republican Council candidates and all four Republicans running for Common Pleas Court judgeships lost there. Incumbent Republican District Attorney Katayoun Copeland was ousted by Democrat Jack Stollsteimer, whose campaign received the support of liberal billionaire George Soros.”

In sum, Terruso writes, “The Pennsylvania suburbs, which will be crucial in the 2020 general election, turned even bluer Tuesday, following big GOP congressional losses in the midterm elections.” No doubt political scientists would welcome some precinct-level analysis to see how various demographic groups voted.


Beshear’s Kentucky Upset, Dems Double Victory in VA Energize Dems

Democrats won the Kentucky governorship and a double victory in Virginia in Tuesdays election, sparking hopes for momentum going into 2020.

In Kentucky, Democrat Andy Beshear beat incumbent Republican Governor Matt Bevin in an upset by a margin of 49.2 percent to 48.8. So far, Gov. Bevin has refused to concede, although Kentucky’s Secretary of State has called it for Beshear, as well as the major broadcast networks. There is no provision for an automatic recount, though Bevin can ask for one, even though recounts rarely reverse official tallies. His smarter advisors may tell him that sour grapes is not a good look for his future, or his party.

Beshear likely got a big bump from voters who had good reason to be concerned about their health security. As Tara Golshan writes at Vox, “At the end of the day, in the eyes of Kentuckians, Bevin remained an extremely unpopular governor. He threatened to cut Medicaid expansion in the state, which would have likely pushed about 400,000 people off their health insurance.” Eric Bradner notes at CNN Politics that Beshear has pledged to “ease Medicaid access, overhaul the state’s education leadership and restore the voting rights of former felons who have done their time.” Bradner adds that Bevin pissed of Kentucky teachers, accusing them of  “being “selfish” and having a “thug mentality” because they objected to Bevin’s plan to slash their pensions.

The White House is equally bitter about Beshear’s victory, since Trump, who won Kentucky by 30 percent in 2016, spent the day before Tuesday’s election promoting Bevin. “If you lose, they’re going to say Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world. This was the greatest. You can’t let that happen to me,” he told Bevin at their rally,” Bradner reports.

Bradner adds that Tuesday’s election provides a “bad sign for the party across the board. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the most powerful Kentuckian in politics and a veteran of tough elections, is on the ballot next year. And while Tuesday’s results don’t necessarily forecast trouble for McConnell, they do likely mean Amy McGrath, a leading Democratic challenger, will likely see a fundraising boon.” Political analyst Ruy Teixeira cautions, however, “I wouldn’t read too much into this for 2020….but, it’s not a good sign for Trump’s effect on the GOP brand.”

“In Virginia, Democrats won majorities in both the House and Senate,” Bradner writes, “giving the party full control of the state’s government and solidifying what had once been a swing state as a stronghold for the party. Their wins open the door for new gun control laws, an increased minimum wage and other progressive measures that Republicans had previously blocked.”

In another CNN article, Bradner and Ryan Nobles report that “The victories put Gov. Ralph Northam and Democrats in the Legislature in position to pursue a progressive agenda — including gun control measures, which majority Republicans had blocked, and a higher minimum wage…With the “trifecta” of the House, Senate and governor’s office, Democrats will also control the redistricting process after the 2020 census, drawing the new maps for congressional and state legislative districts.”


Teixeira: The Blue-ing of Virginia

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

Sabato’s Crystal Ball covers today’s state legislative elections in Virginia.

“In an era of political nationalization that is bleeding down the ballot even to state-level races, the best bet in all three states would be to go with partisanship. And that’s where we’re leaning: Our ratings for the gubernatorial races in Kentucky and Mississippi remain Leans Republican and, while we don’t issue ratings for specific state legislative chambers and races, our sense is that the Democrats are better-positioned than Republicans to win both the Virginia House of Delegates and (especially) the Virginia Senate…..

Virginia, driven by the growth of demographic groups favorable to the Democrats, is moving away from the Republicans. That change is coming specifically in many affluent, highly-educated suburban areas that used to vote Republican but now do not in large part because of a negative reaction to Trump’s candidacy and presidency. This has been enough to offset a Republican trend in the more rural, less diverse, and less populated western part of the state. Virginia’s overall trend toward the Democrats is in some ways decoupling it from its traditional political association with the conservative South and realigning it with the states of the Mid-Atlantic, such as Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey (which has elections of its own next week, as described below). To be clear, Virginia is not as Democratic as those states are, but its direction may be similar…..

Overall, the most important races in Virginia are being contested on turf that is, on paper, favorable to Democrats. Following the House remap, Clinton carried 56 of the state’s 100 districts, and Republicans currently hold seven of those districts. Democrats don’t hold any Trump-won seats. In the Senate, where districts have not been redrawn, Republicans hold four Clinton-won seats, while Democrats don’t hold any Trump-won seats. In fact, none of the 19 Democratic-held Senate seats (out of 40 total) appear flippable for Republicans….”


Teixeira: A Calmer Look at the Latest Battleground Polls

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

How Seriously Should We Take the New York Times/Siena Battleground Polls?

On one level, I think these polls fruitfully remind us that Trump is likely to be quite competitive in most battleground states. As has been widely noted, Biden, the candidate who runs strongest against Trump, has slender registered voter leads in these polls of 3 points or less in the key Rustbelt battlegrounds of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. (Oddly,Biden runs stronger in these polls in Arizona where they give him a 5 point lead.)

They also confirm that, at this point, Biden does run the strongest against Trump in these states and that the differential between Biden’s slim leads and the performance of other candidates like Warren and Sanders, while small, is enough to tip some of these states back in Trump’s direction. The significance of this differential has been cloaked by polling that has shown Biden farther ahead in these states, so that lagging his performance by a few points was not enough to tip the states in Trump’s direction.

That said, I do wonder about some of these results. Again, look at the three Rustbelt battlegrounds of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin: previous polling had Biden ahead of Trump by an average of 11 points in Michigan, 10 points in Pennsylvania and 7 points in Wisconsin. And this is in a national environment where Biden leads Trump by an average of 9 points. So the NYT/Sienna results are pretty different. (Note: the results shown below for MI include the NYT//Siena likely voter result, but this doesn’t really affect the comparison since the LV and RV results barely differed.)

That’s not to say they’re wrong. It could be the previous polls that were wrong. At any rate, if you scrutinize the NYT/Siena methodology document, it’s easy to see ways in which their approach could have introduced error–or corrected it! Impossible to tell.

So the safest thing is to treat this set of polls as a new data point, but not a definitive one. As always, it’s best to treat a single poll’s findings in the context of data and trend from other sources.


Political Strategy Notes

At The Virginian-Pilot, Dave Ress and Marie Albiges set the stage for tommorow’s election in their state: “The battle for control of the Virginia General Assembly will be largely fought in Hampton Roads on Tuesday. And the question of which side wins will have a lot to do with what kind of laws on guns, voting, abortion and consumer protection Virginians will come under — as well as whether the state ratifies the Equal Rights Amendment and allows people to smoke marijuana without risking jail…Some two decades of GOP control of the House of Delegates would end if only two districts change. A switch of only one seat in the state Senate would mean a Democratic-controlled body, thanks to Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax’s tie-breaking vote — and that would mean that Democrats hold the governor’s office and both chambers in the General Assembly for the first time since 1993…Stakes are especially high in those districts that were deemed racially gerrymandered by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year. The new court-ordered maps made several districts, including a handful in Hampton Roads, more competitive — and often Democratic…But that bluer tone is based on previously federal and statewide election results, said Quentin Kidd, a political scientist at Christopher Newport University…“There’s a lot of difference between a 72% presidential turnout and what’s likely to be a 37%-ish off-off year,” he said, adding that low turnout elections tend to see a larger proportion of GOP-inclined voters showing up to at the polls.”

From “Democrats push candidates to fully commit to 2020 nominee” by CBS News/Associated Press: “The Democratic National Committee is increasing pressure on its presidential candidates to commit to campaign actively for the party’s nominee in 2020, going beyond a previous loyalty pledge for White House hopefuls…The push from Chairman Tom Perez is part of a wide-ranging strategy designed to prevent the mistakes that cost Democrats the 2016 presidential election. It comes as the Republican National Committee continues to dwarf the Democratic Party in fundraising, while Democrats face the prospect of a bruising, expensive nominating fight that could last well into election year…Perez is asking all candidates to commit, like Obama, to serve as surrogates, with a focus on battleground states in the weeks after the July 13-16 nominating convention in Milwaukee. And Perez wants each campaign, as candidates drop out, to designate a senior adviser to serve as a liaison to help the national party use the vestiges of individual candidates’ campaigns to build out Democrats’ general election campaign.”

Democratic President Harry Truman had one of the best responses to the GOP’s socialist boogeyman hysteria:

“Florida Democrats are determined not to make the same mistakes as 2016, which could have contributed to President Donald Trump’s victory in the state,” Janelle Irwin Taylor reports in “Florida Democrats outline strategy to take down Donald Trump in Florida” at floridapolitics.com. “The state party has already raised $5.2 million for its campaign to defeat Trump and has assembled a team of 91 employees — the largest team in the nation and equal to both the Trump Florida campaign and Republican Party of Florida staff combined, according to Rizzo…The party hopes to register 200,000 new voters in Florida by July and has already registered 17,000 since June, out-registering Republicans four months in a row for the first time in three years. The state party has grown its volunteer base more than 1,200 percent over its 2015 levels, completing more than 34,000 volunteer shifts this year…The Florida Democratic Party has already spent more than $500,000 on paid media targeting African American and Hispanic voters and 60 percent of its organizers are minority with more than half speaking two or more languages including Spanish, Portuguese and Creole…One of the party’s key targets is reducing voter suppression. To do that, the state party has established a 24-hour voter protection hotline where voters can report troubles registering or voting…In October alone, the Florida Democratic Party registered nearly 5,000 new voters, over 1,600 more voters this year than four years ago…The party is also working to combat disinformation from the Trump campaign. The party’s volunteer base is growing to help meet that need. In the October preceding the 2016 election, Democrats in Florida logged just 109 volunteer shifts. This month, nearly 7,000 volunteer shifts have been filled.”

In his New York Times column, “Democrats Can Still Seize the Center: And they don’t have to give up their principles to do it,” Thomas B. Edsall writes: “In September, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Cook Report released a study of 2,402 adults designed to identify the swing electorate. They found that 16 percent of all voters “are truly persuadable.”…Who are they? “They’re younger, more moderate, and less engaged in national politics. At least a quarter say they didn’t vote in 2016 or 2018.” Their views of Trump are less extreme than those of more partisan voters, with the overwhelming majority saying they “somewhat” approve or disapprove of the president, rather than “strongly” approve or disapprove.” Edsall quotes an anonomous Republican pollster, who notes, ““The Democratic candidate should concentrate on persuasion, because Trump will take care of mobilizing his opponents,” he argued. The pollster pointed out that in the 2017 Virginia governor’s race, “Northern Virginia turnout exploded by 500,000 votes, because people turned out to send a message of opposition to Trump” even though the Democratic candidate for governor, Ralph Northam, “was neither very liberal nor a very inspiring candidate.”

Regarding Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s cost estimates for the Medicare for All program she is proposing, Ronald Brownstein writes at The Atlantic “The biggest question surrounding Elizabeth Warren’s new Medicare for All plan isn’t whether she has produced a plausible pathway to raising $20.5 trillion over the next decade to fund it. Rather, the biggest question is whether $20.5 trillion is actually a plausible estimate of how much her plan would cost…In estimating the plan’s price tag, the Warren campaign used as its baseline a recent Urban Institute study that projected a 10-year federal cost of $34 trillion. The campaign released a 28-page white paper, with copious footnotes and appendixes, explaining how it reached its lower estimate. It was written by Donald Berwick, the former director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under Barack Obama, and Simon Johnson, the former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund…The bottom line is that across all sectors of the medical industry, the Warren campaign assumes that her single-payer plan will squeeze much greater savings relative to the current system than the Urban Institute believes is possible—or, in some cases, even desirable. “We thought we were being pretty aggressive in the assumptions we are making in terms of lowering the cost of the program over time,” Linda Blumberg, a co-author of the Urban Institute study, told me. “They were clearly more aggressive.”

Brownstein concludes “Even with a $20.5 trillion price tag, Warren’s single-payer plan would represent an increase of more than one-third in total federal spending over the next decade. But holding down the cost even to that level would require, as Blumberg said, “heroic” assumptions about how much savings could be squeezed from every corner of the health-care system. Warren’s plan, by her own projections, would require the federal government to raise nearly 90 percent as much new revenue as the total projected receipts from the federal income tax over the next decade. Without those “heroic” savings, she’d need to raise even more—and likely move beyond the targets for tax increases that she’s identified so far.” In the next televised debate, Warren should expect a deluge of harsh zingers from her Democratic opponents, who have a couple of weeks to hone their attack messages. One problem is that, even if she is right, the funding of her Medicare for All plan is complicated to explain in the short time frames allotted, and it’s hard to imagine how she can pull it off in a convincing way. But it’s also possible that her opponents overdo their attacks and end up looking like Republicans.

In their Politico post, “The surprise voting bloc Bernie is banking on to win the nomination,” Laura Barron-Lopez and Holly Otterbein report that “Latino activists say they hear all the time from voters in their community who are high on Sanders, and that’s backed by polling showing him leading or tied among Latinos. Sanders won the highly coveted endorsement of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez…Sanders is tied for first place with Biden in Nevada at 22 percent, according to the latest CNN poll. And even as he’s slipped to third and fourth place in Iowa in some surveys, Sanders is in a three-way tie with Biden and Elizabeth Warren in California, per an October Public Policy Institute of California survey.,,Several surveys have shown Sanders and Biden as the top choices among Latinos. In a Univision survey of Latino primary voters released in September, Sanders and Biden were statistically tied with 20 percent and 22 percent, respectively. Sanders, who has vowed to put a moratorium on deportations, was the No. 1 choice in that survey among Latino Democrats who know someone who is an undocumented immigrant.”

Otterbein and Barron-Lopez continue, “To win, Sanders needs to persuade Latinos who rarely or never vote to come out for him, too…It’s a tall order: In past presidential elections, Democrats have tried but failed to boost turnout among Latinos. Latino voters were touted as a sleeping giant in the lead-up to the 2016 election. But just 47.6 percent of the Latino electorate came to the polls that year, compared to 48 percent in 2012, according to Pew. Turnout overall was just over 61 percent…But next year might be different for Latinos, or so Sanders’ campaign hopes. Latino voter turnout jumped from 27 percent in the 2014 midterms to 40 percent in 2018 — increasing more than any other ethnic group, according to U.S. Census data…Sanders’ star support from prominent Latinas “gives him barrio cred, street cred for this old white Jewish dude who is running for president,” said Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens.”


Red Scare 2019

Something’s happening in the runup to the November 5 offyear elections that could represent a bad sign of Republican intentions for 2020, so I wrote about it at New York:

Often candidates and parties choose to reach out to marginal voters in their base with vein-charring messages essentially suggesting that civilization as we know it is at risk if the Other Party wins a particular election. But we are seeing signs from 2019’s off-year elections that Republicans are really going to town with claims that even mild-mannered, moderate Democrats are actually agents of sinister totalitarian forces.

That this is happening in a state like Kentucky isn’t surprising. It’s a very conservative, energy-producing state, home to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a Republican-controlled legislature. The last five GOP presidential nominees have won the state by a minimum of 15 points (Donald Trump won by 29 points). So anything that promotes maximum partisan and ideological polarization, and high partisan turnout, is good for the GOP there.


Skelley: One Year Out, Dems Face a Narrow Path to a Senate Majority

At FiveThirtyEight, Geoffrey Skelley writes:

“Republicans are favored to hold on to the Senate, as they currently have a 53-to-47 seat edge, which means Democrats must gain a net of four seats for outright control, or three seats and the vice presidency, as the vice president casts the tiebreaking vote. What’s more, the competitive races in the Senate in 2020 will probably be on Republican-leaning turf, which should give the GOP a baseline advantage. However, Democrats’ silver lining is that the GOP has to defend 23 of the 35 seats on the ballot next year, and election forecasters Inside Elections, Sabato’s Crystal Ball and The Cook Political Report currently rate Democrats’ opportunities to pick up seats more favorably than Republicans’. (Though Republicans, of course, can win the Senate by simply hanging on to the seats they have.)

And keep in mind that the presidential race at the top of the ticket may be critical in determining which party wins control because of just how nationalized our elections have become. In the 2016 election, for instance, every state with a Senate race backed the same party for both president and Senate for the first time ever.

Skelley provides a chart showing the current “partisan lean” of every 2020 U.S. Senate race, and notes that “all five GOP senators defending seats in states with a partisan lean of less than R+10 saw their approval ratings worsen in the third quarter of 2019, according to data from Morning Consult. And all but one — Arizona Sen. Martha McSally — has a net negative rating (approval rating minus disapproval rating).”

At this political moment, polls indicate that the most vulnerable Republican Senators include Tillis (NC) and Ernst (IA), in addition to McSally. Skelley rates the Gardner (CO) and Collins (ME) races in toss-up territory. Plus there is an open seat in GA, where Dems may benefit from favorable demographic trends since 2016.

As for Democratic seats, Skelley notes that “in currently competitive contests (that is, those not rated as “safe” for either party), only Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith saw a decline in her net approval, although it remains fairly positive overall (+13).” Doug Jones (MS) has the toughest race, followed by Democratic Sen. Gary Peters (MI). Dems may need a landslide presidential win to regain a majority of the U.S.  Senate.

Absent that landslide, Dems have a pretty narrow path to regaining a Senate majority. Sure it could happen, with some strong candidates. But Dems may profit more from studying how gubernatorial candidates Stacy Abrams and Andrew Gillum nearly won their 2018 statewide races in GA and FL respectively.


Political Strategy Notes

Amelia Thomson-Deveaux explains “Why Democrats Are Moving Quickly With Impeachment: A battle in the courts could spill into primary season” at FiveThirtyEight: “House Democrats are running out of time. With a little over three months to go before the beginning of primary season, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Monday that the House will hold its first formal vote of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump on Thursday, signaling that the investigation, which has taken place almost entirely behind closed doors so far, is about to go public. This is an important step in expediting the proceedings, especially if Democrats are trying to avoid an impeachment process that stretches into an election year. But it’s also a sign that even after a judge ruled that their investigation was legal, Democrats aren’t waiting on the courts to help bolster their inquiry…Democrats seem to think the information they’ve already gathered is damning enough to present to the American people without pressing for further testimony — and we’ll soon see whether the public will find their case convincing.”

“Why would President Trump’s hardcore defenders think the best way to defend a floundering leader is to hurl repulsive dual-loyalty charges at a decorated Army combat veteran who feels an obligation to tell the truth to Congress?,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. asks in his Washington Post column. “The vile assault on Vindman is designed to muddle a factual record highly damaging to the president. But it’s aimed at the Trump niche, roughly a quarter of Americans who will follow Trump’s lead on almost everything. This is a case of polarization and fragmentation reinforcing each other…The standard answer to such questions focuses on political polarization, and there sure is a lot of it going around: left vs. right, urban vs. rural, religious vs. secular, young vs. old, prosperous vs. left-behind, pro-immigrant vs. anti-immigrant…Polarization is deepened because many of these identities reinforce one another these days. To pick just one example underscored by recent studies from the Public Religion Research Institute and the Pew Research Center: Christian conservatives rally to the Republican Party while the secular are overwhelmingly Democrats…But another factor that we talk about far less is feeding the chaos: fragmentation…Taken together, polarization and niche politics make it very hard to forge the consensus required to solve problems and move democracies forward.”

“But is the Trumpist attack on Vindman really so unprecedented?,” Jeet Heer observes at The Nation. “There’s a long, sordid history of the political right hurling mud at soldiers in the service of partisanship. Nor should this surprise us. One of the core convictions of the political right is that they are the embodiment of the true America. If you start from that premise, then anybody who challenges the right, even a decorated soldier, is disloyal. Patriotism, in this view, can never be guaranteed by mere heroic service; it always has to be maintained by ideological fidelity…Trump’s critics are baffled by how Republicans who claim to love our troops can tolerate such cruel disrespect of soldiers and their families. But this misunderstands the nature of right-wing patriotism—or, rather, right-wing nationalism. For the right-wing nationalist, leaders like Trump are the essence of the nation, the living avatar of American identity…A figure like Vindman is useful for providing evidence for impeaching Trump, but the larger battle against Trumpism requires an articulation of a full-bodied patriotism that draws on shared ideals that go beyond individual heroism.”

Clearly it takes extraordinary political leaders to meet that challenge. One of the most inspiring Democrats shows how it is done in this clip:

But how do we get there? At The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein quotes Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “It would be better for Democrats to “begin with where we have agreement,” she said. “Let’s not start with: ‘You have private insurance—forget about it.’” She wants to begin by bolstering the Affordable Care Act, adding a public competitor to private insurance, and restoring provisions in the law that Trump has weakened. “Maybe Medicare for All is a destination,” Pelosi said. “But it’s certainly not a starting point.”

Mother Jones columnist Kevin Drum agrees with the principle. In his post, “What If We Can’t Get Medicare for All?,” Drum writes, “Like most lefties, I would like the United States to adopt true universal health care. This has been my position for, oh, 30 or 40 years. However, I also accept the reality that this will never happen in one grand swoop. That’s why I was—and am—a big supporter of Obamacare, warts and all…So if I were president and had to propose health care reform that actually had some chance of passing, what would it be? I’d go with a two-prong approach: “Lower the Medicare age to 55” and “Add Medicare as a public option to Obamacare.” Drum concedes that “Perhaps Medicare reimbursement rates would have to go up,” but adds, “Employers could keep their current private-sector plans if they wanted to, or they could enroll their employees in Medicare. The federal government would make Medicare available at its cost.” Me, I’d throw in some language that protects homes and retirement assets from medical bill lawsuits.

In their article, “Election 2019 Mega-Preview: Political Conformity Seeks Further Confirmation: Looking ahead to next week’s elections in Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia; House ratings changes,” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman write that “Nationalized politics points to a Democratic edge in next week’s Virginia state legislative elections, and a Republican advantage in the Kentucky and Mississippi gubernatorial races…Yet, there remains uncertainty in all of those key contests as local factors test the durability of larger partisan trends…Unrelated to next week’s action, we have two House rating changes to announce, both benefiting Republicans. The pending CA-25 special election moves from Likely Democratic to Leans Democratic following Rep. Katie Hill’s (D) decision to resign, and Rep. Conor Lamb (D, PA-17) moves from Safe Democratic to Likely Democratic…However, what appears to be a pending court-ordered congressional remap in North Carolina should benefit Democrats.”

Rafael Bernal reports at The Hill that “House Democrats aiming to flip six House seats in Texas in 2020 have commissioned a study meant to help the party increase the Latino vote…In a memo obtained by The Hill, consulting firm Latino Decisions outlined a strategy to pursue Hispanic voters who currently don’t vote, based on five focus groups conducted in Dallas and Houston…Hispanic voters nationwide have historically registered at lower rates than those of other demographic groups, leading to lower participation numbers…In Texas, that trend was partially reversed in the 2018 midterms, when Hispanic participation numbers approached presidential election levels; in some heavily Hispanic counties, participation rose nearly 300 percent over the 2014 midterms…According to Latino Decisions, there are 403,000 Hispanic residents who are able to vote but are not registered in the eight target districts, and 283,000 registered voters who did not vote in 2018…And Latino Decisions found Hispanic voters are responsive to “kitchen table” issues — particularly health care — but are also receptive to messages on President Trump‘s rhetoric, immigration policy and anti-immigrant violence like the August El Paso shooting, where a gunman killed 22 people and injured 24 others.”

Casey Michel has some choice words about Trump’s assertion that ” I don’t care about politics, but I do care about corruption” at The New Republic: “Trump’s affection for chicanery is hardly a recent phenomenon. If one can stomach a re-examination of his pre-presidency days, his latter-day turn as a reality-television charlatan was preceded by a long career as a developer drenched in dirty money. This is a man whose business dealings with the corrupt and the crooked are legion; a man whose entire business model rested in large part upon attracting the stolen, illicit funds washing through, and propping up, America’s luxury real estate market over the previous two decades…Trump’s corrupt practices, predilections, and preferences are far too numerous to tally. But they all point in one clear direction: That any claim he makes to being concerned about kleptocratic cronyism in Ukraine is nothing but a cover for the unprecedented sacrificing of our national interests at the altar of the president’s political fortunes. Trump knows, lives, and breathes corruption, in every sense, and in every facet.”


Here We Go Again: Biden Denied Communion in South Carolina

I wrote about an old problem for pro-choice Catholic Democrats at New York this week:

[A] priest in South Carolina announced that he had denied Communion to Joe Biden on Sunday, according to WPDE:

“The pastor and priest of St. Anthony Catholic Church in Florence refused to give communion this past Sunday to Former Vice President and Presidential Hopeful Joe Biden …

“The church’s pastor, Rev. Robert E. Morey, released the following statement on the matter:

“’Sadly, this past Sunday, I had to refuse Holy Communion to Former Vice President Joe Biden. Holy Communion signifies we are one with God, each other and the Church. Our actions should reflect that. Any public figure who advocates for abortion places himself or herself outside of Church teaching. As a priest, it is my responsibility to minister to those souls entrusted to my care, and I must do so even in the most difficult situations. I will keep Mr. Biden in my prayers.'”

This isn’t a new experience for Biden: In 2008, when he was running for vice-president on a ticket with Barack Obama, the bishop of Scranton, Pennsylvania, where Biden was born, went out of his way to make it known that the then-senator would be banned from taking Communion in his diocese. The subject became a big and noisy deal in 2004 when two Catholic bishops made a similar declaration with respect to Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, just the third Catholic (after Al Smith and John F. Kennedy) to head a national party ticket. There was some talk of denying 2016 Democratic veep candidate Tim Kaine access to Communion over his positions on abortion and same-sex marriage. Most recently, the bishop of Springfield, Illinois, barred Communion for any of the state legislators who supported a pro-choice bill. Even where the hierarchy or individual priests have not made such abrasive statements, pro-choice Catholic pols are often encouraged quietly to stay away from the altar.

The basis of this sort of excommunication is a provision of church law, Canon 915, that those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” Many Catholic leaders are reluctant to single out pro-choice pols for this sanction, given the strong tendency of anti-abortion pols to run afoul of Church teachings on important issues ranging from capital punishment to immigration to climate change.

Biden, of course, has gotten some heat in Democratic circles for long-ago anti-abortion views, and for a more recent position supporting the Hyde Amendment barring use of public funds for abortion services (which he finally reversed in June). His willingness to put up with harassment from the odd bishop or priest will probably make him more credible in feminist circles, though he probably won’t get into a big public fight with his Church, either. His campaign responded to questions about the South Carolina incident by calling it a “private matter.” As Biden surely knows by now, there’s not a lot of privacy on the presidential campaign trail.


Elections Next Month Critical for Public Health in Four States

From “Health care is on the ballot in state elections starting next week: Thousands of lives are at stake in mostly ignored upcoming elections” by Matthew Yglesias at Vox:

…A recent study from four researchers — University of Michigan economist Sarah Miller; University of California, Los Angeles public health scholar Laura Wherry; National Institutes of Health’s Sean Altekruse; and Norman Johnson with the US Census Bureau — estimates that failure to expand Medicaid leads to about 15,600 extra deaths per year just among people ages 55-64.

After the passage of the ACA, Democratic states mostly took the expansion money, adding over 7 million more Americans to insurance rolls in recent years. GOP-run states mostly didn’t, though a handful of GOP governors have accepted expansion funding but done so under waiver systems that let them impose heavy work requirements and other administrative burdens on recipients.

Originally, the ACA stipulated that states that failed to expand Medicaid would lose their existing federal funding, which would have made expansion all but inevitable. But a 6-3 Supreme Court ruling in which the five conservative justices were joined by Elena Kagan struck down that punitive aspect of ACA expansion as unconstitutional.

The decision set off a years-long series of state-by-state battles with very real stakes. Next week several of those fights are coming to a head.

Yglesias notes that November’s governorship elections in Kentucky, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Virginia will determine whether or not hundreds of thousands of low and moderate-income people in those states will have access to life-savng health care. He explains that “Leaders in the four states have rejected or put tough restrictions on extremely generous federal matching funds allocated under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to extend their Medicaid programs to cover families earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.” Democratic victories in those states would mean new hope for thousands of seriously-ill people in thiose states.

“In Kentucky and Louisiana,” Yglesias adds, “Republican candidates want to keep or set new work requirements for Medicaid recipients while Democrats want to lift or prevent them.” In Mississippi Democrats have “a strong candidate in longtime Attorney General Jim Hood, and the (scant) polling has shown a tight race between him and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves…the mere fact that it’s such a long-shot race would send a clear signal about the potency of the Medicaid expansion as an issue.” In Virginia,

Republicans currently hold narrow two-seat advantages in both the state Senate and the House of Delegates, but [Democratic Governor] Northam carried strong majorities in districts for both houses during his 2017 election. That, plus strong fundraising and polling that seems to show Trump has become even less popular in Virginia over time, makes Democrats very optimistic about the ability to flip both chambers despite the cloud of scandal hanging over their statewide elected officials.

The implications of a possible flip in control are wide-ranging, especially that they include control over the redistricting process after the 2020 census, but, of course, extend to health care. A Democratic state legislature would likely lift those restrictions on eligibility and could even join other Democratic-run states in experimenting with larger expansions of government-provided health insurance.

“Virginia could be the perfect example of how Democrats, if they’re disciplined and take the long view, can flip a state legislature that’s been gerrymandered in two cycles,” says Chris Bachman, founder of Virginia Matters and a digital political consultant to several in the class of 2017, as well as some 2019 hopefuls,” Joan Walsh reports at The Nation. Walsh adds that women candidates and activists are leading the Democratic surge in Virginia, which provides “a test case of whether they could undo the damage of 10 years of ignoring state legislative races…Nancy Guy, who’s running for another Virginia Beach delegate seat, put it this way at a Saturday canvass launch: “Virginia has the chance to lead the nation again—to be the first state in the South to flip Democratic in modern times. We can join the 21st Century from the 19th!”

It’s encouraging that, despite all of the noise about impeachment and Trump’s distractions du jour, Democrats have kept a sustained focus on the most pivotal issue for millions of Americans — health security. That’s why next month’s elections could set the stage for a Democratic landslide in 2020.