washington, dc

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 3, 2023

Kahlenberg: Building a Working-Class Coalition Beyond Identity Politics

An excerpt from “Working-Class Politics. How to Get Beyond the Identity Trap to Bring About Big Social Change” by Richard D. Kahlenberg at The Liberal Patriot:

There’s been a lot of talk about Joe Biden’s promulgation of a “blue-collar blueprint” for America. The commitment is a natural for Amtrak Joe, who placed a bust of Bobby Kennedy, one of the last national Democrats to show strong appeal with working-class white voters as well as with black and Hispanic Americans, in the Oval Office.

But if Biden is serious about advancing a blue-collar agenda, he needs to do more than push a series of concrete ideas to improve the material conditions of working-class Americans—important as those programs are for people. He must also distance himself from the race essentialism on the far left that elevates racial disparities over economic inequality and pushes divisive ideas that alienate many working-class voters of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.

That’s the big takeaway message of a significant new book, No Politics But Class Politics, by University of Pennsylvania political scientist Adolph Reed and University of Illinois literary critic Walter Benn Michaels. Michaels and Reed argue that, “Racism is real and anti-racism is both admirable and necessary, but extant racism isn’t what principally produces our inequality and anti-racism won’t eliminate it.”

Reed, who is black, and Michaels, who is white, are leftists who are far more radical than Biden and most Democrats (or me.) But the series of essays and interviews compiled in their book has an important overall message: the fashionable views of highly-educated whites on how to address racial inequality are backfiring, particularly for poor black people.

Kahlenberg has lots more to say about the ideas in “No Politics But Class Politics,” and you can read it here.

Political Strategy Notes

At Axios, Erica Pandey writes, “Young Americans who grew up in an age of mass shootings feel anxious about the future — and nearly half say they’ve felt unsafe in the last month, according to a new poll from the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics….Why it matters: Those fears are mobilizing young people to vote in near-record numbers, says John Della Volpe, director of polling at the institute….Case in point: The 2022 midterms saw the second-highest turnout among voters under 30 (27%) in at least the last three decades, NPR notes….“It’s a critical voting bloc,” Della Volpe says….And it continues to tilt the scales in favor of Democratic candidates — whom young people overwhelmingly support….Young voters’ influence “enabled the Democrats to win almost every battleground statewide contest and increase their majority in the U.S. Senate,” Brookings Institution analysts write….By the numbers: A stunning 48% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 say they’ve felt unsafe recently, the Harvard poll found (2,069 people; margin of error: ±2.86 points)….21% say they’ve felt unsafe at school. And 40% are concerned about being victims of gun violence or a mass shooting.”…They’re also worried about the state of the economy….The Institute of Politics has tracked striking shifts in young Americans’ views on government over the last decade….In 2013, 35% felt that the government should spend money to reduce poverty. Today, 59% do….29% said the government should act to mitigate climate change — even at the expense of economic growth — in 2013. Today, 50% believe the government should take action….The bottom line: This is a generation that feels besieged, says Della Volpe. And their fear will likely become more and more relevant in politics.”

This should help Biden firm up support from left Democrats. As Julia Mueller reports at The Hill: “Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Sunday said President Biden, who kicked off his reelection campaign last week, could “win in a landslide” in 2024….Sanders, who ran against Biden in the 2020 race, said it’s “no great secret” that he and the president “have strong differences of opinion,” but stressed that he thinks Biden is the clear choice for voters given the current political backdrop….”We live in a nation where you have a major political party, the Republican Party, where many- not all, but many of their leadership doesn’t even believe in democracy, they maintain the myth that Trump won the last election. They’re trying to keep people from voting. They’re trying to deny women the right to control their own bodies,” Sanders said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”…“If you believe in democracy, you want to see more people vote, not fewer people vote, I think the choice is pretty clear. And that choice is Biden,” he said….And if Democrats and the president get stronger on working-class issues and “take on the greed of the insurance companies, drug companies, Wall Street, all the big money interests, and start delivering for working class people,” Sanders said, “I think Biden is going to win in a landslide.” It won’t stop criticism from Biden’s primary opponents. But when the most popular left Democrat  provides a plug like that, some resources can be reallocated to help win a larger share of votes from centrists and moderate voters.

Speaking of taking on the greed of big companies that rip off working-class consumers, in “President Biden Must Appoint More Corporate Skeptics to Federal Courts: Republicans have been blasting right-wing propaganda at the judiciary for 50 years,” Caroline Fredrickson, a senior fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, writes at The American Prospect: “To his credit, President Biden has worked with determination to advance judicial nominees during his presidency. His nominees include 119 Article III judges: one associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, 31 judges on the circuit courts of appeal, and 87 on the district courts. He had another 18 nominees awaiting action as of early April. This record is laudable, especially as Biden has excelled in advancing a diverse group of nominees, with two-thirds being women and two-thirds people of color. Moreover, approximately 53 percent of them worked at public-interest, civil rights, or legal aid organizations, according to an analysis done by Demand Justice, a progressive legal advocacy organization….Unfortunately, President Biden’s otherwise commendable record on nominations has one glaring gap: He has advanced few candidates with a background or even apparent disposition to challenge the anti-regulatory economic agenda and fight corporate consolidation, failing even to advance more than a couple of labor lawyers. The administration is currently in overdrive to nominate and confirm nominees before the next election, so now is the time to address this gap. New appointees would be able to reclaim and elevate the textual and historical commitments of antitrust law, which sought to dismantle oligarchy by looking at how corporate consolidation affects workers, small businesses, innovation, and competition, as well as consumers.”

From “Joe Biden’s 2024 Opening Argument: It’s Me or the Abyss” by John Cassidy at The New Yorker, “Biden’s calling card, the one that identifies himself as a Trump-slayer, and an upholder of normality and sanity, remains his biggest advantage going into 2024. He does have others, though. Inside the Democratic Party, he has proved an adroit coalition builder. Much as he’s an old-school, Irish-American politician and many of his closest political advisers are veteran, white operatives who hail from the moderate wing of the Party, he nevertheless recognized long ago that his party’s center of gravity has shifted, and his Administration has sought to bring on board Democrats who are younger, more diverse, and progressive. This approach is already evident in preparations for the 2024 campaign. On Tuesday, Biden also announced that Julie Chávez Rodríguez, a White House official who is the granddaughter of the labor leader Cesar Chavez, will be his campaign manager, and Quentin Fulks, a thirty-three-year-old Black political strategist, who managed Raphael Warnock’s Senate campaign in Georgia, will serve as principal deputy campaign manager….Though Biden didn’t dwell on the details of his policy record in his launch video, he has some substantial achievements to highlight. Under his leadership, the U.S. economy rebounded more quickly from the coronavirus pandemic than many of its competitors, and the unemployment rate is just 3.5 per cent. In the past year, Congress has enacted historic investments in green energy, electric vehicles, and semiconductor-chip manufacturing. As I pointed out last week, these initiatives are already paying off in announcements to build new factories and create new jobs, many of them in purple and red states….Although his job-approval rating is low, it’s not much different than the ratings that Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan had at this point in their first terms. Also, when pollsters ask people for their opinions about him as a person rather than about his job performance, Biden tends to do better. For example, in a recent YouGov/Economist survey, Biden’s personal favorability rating was forty-seven per cent, five points higher than his job-approval rating.”

No, Biden Need Not Fear An Early State Upset

Now that Joe Biden has officially announced his reelection bid with nuisance-level opposition, there’s some speculation that the changing Democratic primary calendar could post pitfalls for the president. I discussed that theory at New York:

There is zero reason for Joe Biden to worry about the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination, barring some unforeseeable development. Party elites are entirely in his corner. No viable opponents have emerged. And even among rank-and-file Democrats, where Biden’s support has always been a bit mushy, scattered polling shows him far ahead of announced rivals Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (who undoubtedly benefits from positive name ID unassociated with his eccentric recent views) and Marianne Williamson. To put it bluntly, if either of those candidates does become viable as an aspirant for the presidential nomination, the Democratic Party will have become unrecognizable.

That’s not to say, however, that these out-there candidates might not be capable of an embarrassingly strong showing in an isolated contest under very special circumstances. And those circumstances might be early contests in Iowa or New Hampshire, which won’t matter in the final analysis but could get significant media coverage out of sheer force of habit.

Biden himself is barred from competing in Iowa and New Hampshire, which have been the two kickoff states in the presidential nominating process since 1972. That’s because the Democratic National Committee acceded to Biden’s request for a new primary calendar in which South Carolina goes first and Iowa has been ejected from the list of “early states” holding contests prior to March 1. If (and this is still up in the air) Iowa persists with a “first-in-the-nation-caucus,” that will be an unsanctioned event and candidates competing there could lose delegates and even debate access. Whatever happens in Iowa, an unsanctioned primary is all but certain in New Hampshire, where state law requires both parties to hold contests the same day as established by the secretary of State, whose mission is to keep the Granite State first on the primary calendar. But while Biden will stay out of these proscribed contests (it would be a bit absurd for the party’s leader to violate the party’s rules), Kennedy and Williamson, having nothing to lose from sanctions and a lot to gain from a day of headlines, will undoubtedly run hard wherever Biden can’t.

What can Team Biden do to preempt the possibility of an embarrassing early loss to Team WooWoo? In Iowa, with its robust caucus traditions, and where nobody really blames Biden for the state’s loss of status (that became inevitable when the party couldn’t get the votes counted on Caucus Night in 2020), it’s likely caucusgoers pledged either to Biden or to no one will be able to subdue Kennedy or Williamson (and again, Iowa Democrats may just comply with the new calendar, allowing Biden to run there).

New Hampshire’s a bit trickier. Compliance with the new calendar is not an option, and there is some genuine Democratic anger at Biden for dropping the hammer on the Granite State. Still, New Hampshire Democrats don’t want to send an anti-vaxx slate (to cite one possible outcome) to the convention in Chicago, and they’d just as soon not throw their state to the GOP in the general election, either. As nomination-process wizard Josh Putnam notes, New Hampshire Democrats might mount a write-in effort for Biden, but they would be in trouble if it fell short: “If Williamson or Kennedy stand to gain in that scenario, it may not be Biden who loses. It may be New Hampshire that loses even more clout with the national party for 2028.”

Democrats nationally do have a number of months left to persuade the political media to ignore whatever happens in Iowa (if the state goes rogue) and New Hampshire, though there’s no question conservative media will go absolutely wild if Kennedy or Williamson officially wins in an early state, even if Biden’s not on the ballot and no one is campaigning on his behalf. There’s only so much the president’s people can do about how Fox News or the New York Post spin non-news into a big story. Probably the smart thing for them is to threaten local Democrats in any state Biden can’t enter with unending vengeance if they in any way encourage other candidates or lend credence to their empty “wins.”

Pro-Dem Group Releases New ‘Flip and Hold’ List for House Seats

Amee Latour reports at The Hill: “Swing Left, a group that organizes volunteers and donors to support Democrats in some of the most closely watched races, announced its Win Back the House strategy on Tuesday” and notes further that Republicans won the House majority last year by a margin of less than 7,000 well-distributed votes.

Swing Left’s Executive Director Yasmin Radjy has said that “[I]f we raise dollars for candidates to hire their field directors six months earlier, if we get our volunteers knocking on doors a year earlier than we have before, then we think that a lot more is possible.”

Latour notes that “All six of the GOP-held target districts on the group’s list are in blue states California, New York and Oregon.” She reports that the list of targeted district includes,

Democratic-held “hold” targets:

  • IL-17 (Rep. Eric Sorensen)
  • NC-01 (Rep. Don Davis)
  • NM-02 (Rep. Gabe Vasquez)
  • NY-18 (Rep. Pat Ryan)
  • OH-01 (Rep. Greg Landsman)
  • OH-13 (Rep. Emilia Sykes)

Republican-held “flip” targets:

  • OR-05 (Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer)
  • CA-13 (Rep. John Duarte)
  • CA-27 (Rep. Mike Garcia)
  • NY-03 (Rep. George Santos)
  • NY-04 (Rep. Anthony D’Esposito)
  • NY-17 (Rep. Mike Lawler)

Latour reports that “two of the “flip” target districts were among the five closest Republican-won districts in 2022, according to Inside Elections: California’s 13th and New York’s 17th….Each of the six “flip” targets is also on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s (DCCC) list of 31 GOP-held targets released earlier this month. And the six “hold” districts overlap with the DCCC’s list of 29 “Frontline” districts.”

Meanwhile Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. shares some blistering talking points Dems can use to attack the GOP’s House leader’s do-nothing strategy behind his debt-ceiling ‘plan.’ As Dionne notes that former GOP House Speaker John Boehner termed Republican obstructionists as “knuckleheads,” “noisemakers” and the “chaos caucus.” Dionne adds, “In 2011’s debt-ceiling fight, Boehner made a deal. This time, there is little reason to trust that McCarthy, who has made himself a prisoner of his party’s right wing, can negotiate effectively or in good faith.”

Dionne adds that President Biden “is not about to upend a growing economy with steep spending cuts. Nor does he want to glorify the absurd bill McCarthy is hoping to push through the House in the coming week that ties a debt-ceiling increase to outlandish budget cuts that have absolutely no chance of passing the Senate.” Dionne notes that “The cap, after all, was suspended three times when Donald Trump was president without much fuss or fanfare.” Further,

The catch? McCarthy is having trouble uniting his caucus behind anybudget proposal, so the speaker has pushed aside governing in favor of theater. And the production is not even worthy of a high school gym. (I apologize to high school thespians who take their work more seriously.)

It is truly astonishing, as my Post colleagues Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman wrote on Friday, that any Republican operating under labels such as “moderate,” “mainstream” or “problem solver” would vote for a McCarthy proposal that hides its ferocity behind sanitized budgetary gobbledygook….

Dionne concludes, “The Economist magazine recently devoted its cover to the U.S. economy as “a marvel to behold.” Allowing the fractious politics of an unstable House GOP caucus to tank it would be unconscionable.”

For Democrats, it’s time to crank up their two-pronged strategy to win back a House majority: Escalate attacks against McCarthy and his entourage of do-nothing extremists, while getting an early start in the ‘flip and hold’ districts targeted by Swing Left and the DCCC.

Political Strategy Notes

In “The human cost of McCarthy’s debt ceiling demands would be catastrophic” Karen Dolan, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, writes at The Hill: “President Biden said it well when he called House Speaker Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) demands to gut the U.S. safety net or force a federal default “wacko.”….Whatever word for it you use, McCarthy and his caucus are holding American families, the full faith and credit of the United States and the global economy hostage to his demands to slash the programs that most of us rely on….Make no mistake — this isn’t about debt….McCarthy and Republicans in both the House and Senate voted three times under Trump to raise the debt ceiling — and even to suspend it — in order to rack up nearly $8 trillion in debt, including about $2 trillion for tax cuts to the wealthy and big corporations. Although bipartisan spending has contributed to the national debt over the years, on partisan votes it’s actually been Republicans who’ve voted to add more to the national debt than Democrats….President Biden, by contrast, reduced the annual deficit in 2022, and his 10-year budget plan for the next fiscal year would lower the national debt by $3 trillion while more robustly funding the programs so many of us rely upon. This is because, unlike the GOP plan, he includes revenues from fair taxation for the nation’s wealthiest….Biden wants the wealthy to pay their fair share to fund social programs that address ever-deepening inequality — while also reducing deficits and debt. If McCarthy simply voted for that budget, he’d reduce the debt. Instead, Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill refuse to raise the cap unless underfunded programs — for health care, food and housing, education, veteran’s health and Meals on Wheels —  are slashed to make way for even more tax cuts for the already very wealthy.”

Dolan adds, “According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, McCarthy’s “Limit, Save, Grow Act”  demands the following as ransom for the full faith and credit of the United States:

  • Leaving many more veterans, families and elderly people homeless, hungry and unable to access health care or college.
  • Eliminating tens of thousands of teachers and hundreds of thousands of Head Start and child care slots.
  • Increasing interest on credit cards, car payments and mortgages, while preventing any student loan relief.
  • Scaling back tax incentives for green energy and making it easier for oil and gas companies to pollute.
  • Making it easier for rich folks to cheat on their taxes.

This is simply no way to run an economy, serve our people or be a responsible global partner. It’s a formula for the opposite….The package is dead on arrival in the U.S. Senate…The debt ceiling should be abolished. It has no connection to the real economy and it’s of no use except as a weapon to take the government hostage. McCarthy’s faction couldn’t care less about the debt ceiling when it comes to unfunded wars, tax cuts for the wealthiest and ballooning the Pentagon budget. But let it be about doing their job and keeping the rest of us afloat and they go into full fiscal terrorist mode….But if the ceiling can’t be abolished, it must be raised as required by the Constitution — without conditions. McCarthy and his cadre should be pressured to immediately pass a clean new debt limit. Anything else is just “wacko.”

Support for abortion rights has grown in spite of bans and restrictions, poll shows,’ Laura Santhanam writes at pbs.org, and explains, ” Support for abortion rights overall has increased as state legislatures and courtrooms have instituted a growing number of restrictions and bans, according to the latest PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll. Sixty-one percent of U.S. adults say they support abortion rights, marking a 6-percentage point increase since last June….Nearly a year after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, U.S. opinions about that consequential decision remain largely unchanged in this latest poll. A majority of U.S. adults – 59 percent – still say they oppose the justices’ decision, which removed federal protections for many reproductive health care services, while another 40 percent of Americans agree with the nation’s highest court….Those who say they mostly support abortion rights include 84 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of independents. At the same time, 37 percent of Americans overall oppose abortion rights, including 67 percent of Republicans….When asked whether abortion should be allowed up until 24 weeks – around when the fetus can be viable outside the womb and before which almost all abortions are performed – 44 percent of Americans said yes. Such laws, favored by a majority of abortion-rights supporters in this poll, saw a 10-percentage point increase since May….While a majority of Americans – 66 percent – say abortion should be prohibited after the first three months of pregnancy, that attitude has diminished from 84 percent nearly two decades ago….Meanwhile, a growing number of Americans — 34 percent — think abortion should be allowed at least up until the first six months of pregnancy, if not throughout the entire pregnancy. That support has more than doubled since May 2009, when 14 percent of Americans felt that way….At the far ends of the spectrum, two in 10 Americans think abortion should be permitted at any time during pregnancy (especially true among Democrats, Biden voters, adults aged 44 or younger and people who graduated from college), while one in 10 Americans think abortion should never be allowed under any circumstances.”

Kyle Kondik probes a question of concern, “Is Biden’s Approval Rating Too Weak for Him to Win? Just like in 2022, “soft” disapprovers are a key bloc” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and observes: “Remember that in 2022, Democrats held their own despite Biden’s poor approval rating in no small part because they did better with Biden disapprovers than Republicans did with Biden approvers. According to the 2 major exit polls of the 2022 election — the Edison Research survey done for several media entities as well as the NORC at the University of Chicago VoteCast done for the Associated Press and Fox News — Biden’s approval/disapproval split among the midterm electorate was 44% approve/55% disapprove (Edison) or 43% approve/57% disapprove (VoteCast). Democratic House candidates won the Biden approvers 94%-5% (Edison) or 90%-8% (VoteCast), while Republican House candidates won the Biden disapprovers 86%-12% (Edison) or 82%-15% (VoteCast)….Both polls also asked voters whether they strongly or somewhat approved or disapproved of Biden’s job performance, and both found that Democrats narrowly won the 10% (Edison) or 13% (VoteCast) of voters who somewhat disapproved of the president….Unless Biden’s approval improves significantly, rising to around 50% or better by the time of his reelection, the “soft” Biden disapprovers are probably going to decide the election. If they vote against Biden en masse, he is likely doomed, particularly because Biden may have to win the popular vote by a few points in order to win if the current bias toward Republicans in the Electoral College endures. But these cross-pressured voters are also going to consider what the alternative to Biden is. As we noted after Biden’s State of the Union address in early February, Biden is very reliant on the Republican Party nominating a presidential candidate who does not have much appeal to these voters — and the GOP may deliver for Biden on that account.”

Democrats Used to Have Company on Earth Day

It’s sad every Earth Day to see how little Republican support there remains for the commemoration and the cause it represents, as I discussed at New York:

On the first Earth Day, in April 1970, I was a high-school senior at a public school in the conservative suburbs of Atlanta. Classes were canceled, and we had hours of discussions of environmental issues capped by an assembly in which we heard a rousing speech from actor Hal Holbrook. A Republican candidate for governor of Georgia, Jimmy Bentley, had just attacked Earth Day, pointing out that it was being held on Vladimir Lenin’s birthday. But he lost his primary, and the idea that government needed to do something about rampant air and water pollution wasn’t terribly controversial. Richard Nixon’s White House picked up on a large and bipartisan swell of concern for the environment, and by the end of that year, Nixon combined a host of federal anti-pollution programs into a new Environment Protection Agency. He also proposed, and Congress approved by big bipartisan margins, a major overhaul of federal air-pollution standards (later known as the Clean Air Act), followed in 1972 by an equally sweeping water-pollution law (later referred to as the Clean Water Act).

It’s an oversimplification to say Republican support for environmental-protection efforts has gone steadily downhill from that point on. But it is clear we have reached a point when the ancient question of trade-offs between the environment and the economy elicits the kind of wildly disparate reactions from Democrats and Republicans characteristic of culture-war issues — even as growing evidence of climate change makes bipartisan action to prevent or mitigate the damage increasingly urgent. Gallup recently reported that there’s a record partisan gap:

“Though Democrats and Republicans have long come down on different sides when considering the tradeoffs between economic growth and environmental protection, the gap between the parties has never been larger. Seventy-eight percent of Democrats, compared with 20% of Republicans, now believe environmental protection should be given the higher priority.

“From 1984 to 1991, the parties expressed similar views on this matter, but by 1995 a divide became evident, which has since gradually expanded. At least half of Democrats have favored the environment over economic growth in all years of Gallup’s trend except during the economically challenged years of 2010 and 2011. Meanwhile, majorities of Republicans typically prioritized the environment from 1984 through 2000, but Republicans have not returned to that level since falling to 47% in 2001.”

There have been several waves of anti-environmental sentiment roiling the GOP over the years, even as Democratic support for prioritizing the planet has steadily grown. In the 1970s a so-called Sagebrush Rebellion in the West mobilized conservative hostility to federal land-use policies that restricted development and displaced local control. Meanwhile, the rise of the Christian right in the South fed on conservative-Evangelical hostility to environmentalism as “pagan” and contrary to the biblical injunction for humans to exercise dominion over creation. Ronald Reagan, the conservative movement’s first conquerer of the Republican Party, reflected these trends in key appointments of property-rights activists to federal agencies responsible for the environment (notably, James Watt as secretary of the Interior and Anne Gorsuch, Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch’s mother, as EPA administrator).

But despite the Reagan administration’s hard-right turn on the environment, a 1988 Republican assessment of the years from Nixon through Reagan concluded that the public had definitively made environmental protection a permanent part of the landscape for both parties:

“The feverish pitch of Earth Day 1970 passed, but the environmental movement did not go away. Instead, the drive for a cleaner environment became part of our national ethic. Now it is taken for granted, the best possible testimonial that progress is being made. Our nation’s thinking has changed. Endorsing growth without regard to the quality of that growth seems forever behind us.”

It turns out that judgement was a bit premature. In 1995, when Republicans took control of the U.S. House for the first time since the early 1950s, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who had once styled himself as an environmentalist, made reining in environmental enforcement by the Clinton administration a major priority, as the Washington Post reported at the time:

“In his first major speech on the environment, delivered to the National Environmental Policy Institute (NEPI), a group of corporate executives and opinion-makers, Gingrich lashed out at the agency’s enforcement of every major environmental statute from the 1980 Superfund law, which governs the cleanup of toxic waste dumps, to the 1990 Clean Air Act, designed to reduce air pollution nationwide.”

But public support for environmental protection, especially among suburban swing voters, was robust enough that it became one of Bill Clinton’s four key priorities in his counterattack against Gingrich. In the wake of the the 42nd president’s easy reelection in 1996, Time magazine reported on the Clinton team’s “key message”:

“’Balancing the budget in a way that protects our values and defends Medicare, Medicaid, education and the environment.’ So often was this mantra used that the team referred to it as simply M2E2.”

The next big spasm of anti-environmental passion in the GOP accompanied the tea-party movement that tormented Barack Obama’s administration. Even prior to Obama’s election, the fiery hostility of Republicans in energy-producing states to bipartisan plans to cap greenhouse-gas emissions and set up a trading system for allocations made this an increasingly partisan issue. In 2009, former Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin penned an op-ed attacking Obama’s “cap and trade” proposal with the unsubtle headline “Drill, daby, drill.” The proposal subsequently died in the U.S. Senate in 2010 thanks to staunch GOP opposition. Soon thereafter, many Republicans began embracing an old John Birch Society conspiracy theory known as Agenda 21 that alleged a United Nations plot to stamp out capitalism via local land-use regulations on places like strip malls and golf courses.

By the time the GOP was captured by a development-mad real-estate tycoon named Donald Trump, Republican environmentalism was already on the ropes with various strains of climate-change denial becoming party orthodoxy. Trump campaigned in 2016 on a platform that included abolition of the EPA, though he satisfied himself with revoking environmental regulations, withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate-change accords, and putting into place appointees like EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, a former oil lobbyist who was forced from office after a brief but spectacularly scandal-plagued tenure.

Now maximum unapologetic exploitation of fossil fuels and rejection of climate-change actions have entered the MAGA canon along with the preemption of state laws and local ordinances that annoy energy companies and property holders. The Green New Deal proposed by progressive Democrats to address climate change is being treated by GOP opponents as full-on Marxism. And the modest down payment on climate-change investments contained in the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act were opposed by every single House Republican.

As unprecedented storms buffet the country every season of the year and evidence of irreversible climate change grows clearer, we can only long for the bipartisanship that surrounded that first Earth Day 53 years ago. Even Republicans forced by local circumstances to deal with the consequences of climate change (including Florida governor and likely 2024 presidential candidate Ron DeSantis) won’t admit or support doing anything about the obvious causes. Obama once vainly expressed the hope that the conservative extremism of the tea-party movement would abate and “the fever will break.” Instead, it’s gotten worse. And the set of highly polarized issues on which (as Senator Tim Scott puts it) Republicans believe “Joe Biden and the radical left” are planning to “ruin America” most definitely includes the environmental emergencies of the 21st century.


Biden vs. Inflation

From “As Biden officially launches his re-election bid, inflation remains a top worry for voters” by Victor Reklaitis at Marketwatch: ”

President Joe Biden has formally kicked off his re-election campaign, with the move coming even as most Americans don’t approve of his performance, while he talks up the strong job market and his legislative record.

In a video message released on the fourth anniversary of when he declared his candidacy in 2019, Biden said the U.S. remains in a battle for its “soul.” The video heavily features footage from the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection, and Biden declares that the question Americans are facing is “whether in the years ahead we have more freedom or less freedom. More rights or fewer.”

About 54% of Americans don’t approve of Biden’s performance, while 43% do, according to a RealClearPolitics average of job-approval polls….Rising food costs rank as the most pressing financial worry for Americans, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll. Other inflation-related concerns include mortgage or rent payments, healthcare XLV, -1.07% costs and energy NG00, -2.64% bills, the poll found.

Reklaitis also notes, “On the plus side for Biden, the Democratic incumbent has the best chance of winning the 2024 presidential election, according to betting market PredictIt, which puts his odds at around 48%. That’s ahead of former President Donald Trump at about 33%, and Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at 16%….To be sure, betting markets are not that reliable as a predictor, and they got the 2022 midterm elections wrong. They had suggested a red wave, but Democrats kept their grip on the Senate, and the GOP won just a slim majority in the House.

However, “In addition, the commander-in-chief can point to a robust U.S. labor market, with the unemployment rate at 3.5% in March.”

At Forbes, Derek Saul; reports “The most headline-driving economic development under Biden, the U.S. consumer price index surged from 1.4% on an annual basis in January 2021 to 5% in March, reflecting an overall increase of 15%—far more than the 10.9% increase in average wages during the timeframe….Gas prices soared to their highest levels ever last year amid shock from Russia’s invasion from Ukraine, and though the price at the pump has come down dramatically, the $3.66 average cost per gallon last week was 54% higher than the week preceding Biden’s inauguration despite crude oil prices slipping.”

“Nevertheless,” Saul adds, “Biden has latched onto the job market’s resilience as a key economic talking point, declaring last year the labor market was “the strongest it’s been since just after World War 2,” and saying Americans “can tackle inflation from a position of strength….Biden has latched onto the job market’s resilience as a key economic talking point, declaring last year the labor market was “the strongest it’s been since just after World War 2,” and saying Americans “can tackle inflation from a position of strength.”

Yet, “A recession is “not at all inevitable,” Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, told Forbes in a phone interview. The U.S. can avoid a recession “with a little bit of luck and some reasonably good policymaking because the fundamentals of the economy are good.” Zandi also blamed high inflation on supply chain constraints and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which led to a staggering surge in energy prices last year. Inflation is “high everywhere in the planet” and has “little to do with Biden’s policies,” he said.”

Hasan: Dems Should Work on Emotional Appeals

From Salon.com: “When it comes to winning elections, #MSNBC journalist Mehdi Hasan says emotion is a far better motivator than facts. This is why Trump won in 2016 and it’s why many Democrats struggle to connect with voters. “I’ve never met anyone who goes into a voting booth based on having gone through all the policy documents,” Hasan said on “Salon Talks.” Instead, you have to talk to the heart. Watch more of Mehdi Hasan’s full “Salon Talks” episode to hear about his new book “Win Every Argument” and his strategies for fighting misinformation”: https://www.salon.com/tv/video/9fdfll

Political Strategy Notes

Here’s an interesting poll, as reported by Andrew Romano at yahoo news: “With President Biden reportedly set to announce his reelection campaign early next week, more Americans say they feel “exhaustion” over the prospect of a 2024 rematch between Biden and his predecessor, Donald Trump, than any other emotion, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll.….The survey of 1,530 U.S. adults, which was conducted from April 14 to 17, found that 38% chose exhaustion after being shown a list of eight feelings and asked to select all that “come to mind” when considering another Biden vs. Trump campaign….Among registered voters, the number is even higher: 44%….No other sentiment — not fear (29%), sadness (23%), hope (23%), anger (23%), excitement (16%), pride (8%) or gratitude (7%) — cracks the 30% mark among all Americans.” One reason not to take this too seriously is that, if the pollster picked 8 different words, number one would have been something else. Blue words have different meanings for different people. Romano adds, “Fatigue is an understandable response to what could be the first general election for president since 1892 to feature the incumbent and his defeated predecessor competing as the major-party nominees — and the only White House race in U.S. history in which one candidate is facing indictment and possible criminal prosecution for conspiring to overturn his prior loss.” I would agree that “exhaustion” is the best choice of the selected “feelings” to describe the prospect of such a rematch, in my case 100 percent because of Trump, who is the most obnoxious president I can remember. I suspect few would hang the “exhausting” label on Biden, through his detractors would undoubtedly have some choice words of their own. Romano has lots more numbers for those who want to check out the poll.

Say what you will about President Biden. But he may be the ‘greenest’ president we have ever had, at least according to the number of trees his administration is planting across the nation. At The World Economic Forum, Stephen Hall reports that “The US is planting a billion trees to fight climate change,” and writes: “As a solution to global warming, “tree restoration can be a powerful tool for drawing carbon from the atmosphere,” according to ecologist and professor Tom Crowther, from Swiss university ETH Zürich….It’s a potential fix that is already being implemented in earnest by governments and institutions around the world. In July 2022, the Biden administration announced that the US government aims to plant over a billion trees to replace millions of acres of burned and dead woodlands….More than $100 million has been set aside by the US Government for reforestation this year, which is more than three times the investment of previous years, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said in a statement….Over 4 million acres of forest now need to be replanted over the next decade. This equates to 400,000 acres of forest annually, which, if successful, will significantly exceed the 60,000 acres planted last year.” Many would point to Teddy Roosevelt, who started the national parks, FDR’s CCC or President Jimmy Carter’s environmental initiatives. But, for sheer scale, Biden’s tree-planting initiative is unprecedented. Of course, where the trees are planted is really important for quality of life. The hope is that plenty of them are/will be planted where most people actually live, and create more urban parks. Biden also deserves some credit for other environmental policies, even though many progressives would fault him for not moving fast enough to de-carbonize our energy dependence.

In “Here’s the Gutsy, Unprecedented Campaign Biden and the Democrats Need to Run: The party needs a clear hold on power in Washington to deliver big economic boons to the American people. To do that, they need to make a big promise to voters,” Michael Tomasky writes at The New Republic: “A poll released Friday showed that just 47 percent of Democrats want Joe Biden to run for reelection. That’s a grim number. And here’s a grimmer one: Overall, just 26 percent of respondents said he should run again….But Biden is running—with an announcement coming this week, possibly. There’s nothing the Democrats can do about it. And in fact, there’s nothing they should do about it. Yes, he’s 80 years old. But he has a terrific record of accomplishments both domestic and foreign, and there’s no one in the party who would obviously be a better candidate right here and right now….Democrats appreciate that he ran in 2020 and beat Trump and that he’s passed some impressive bills. Under normal circumstances, that would be enough. Incumbents usually run on some version of “stay the course”; we’ve moved things in the right direction, and this is no time to switch. But that won’t be enough this time. The “wrong track” number in this Morning Consult daily poll (69 percent last Monday) has been higher on average for the last year than it was during most of Trump’s presidency. And there could be a recession coming—one rather inconveniently timed from the Democratic point of view. If additional economic headwinds start to blow, that wrong track number is likely to go even higher….So no—the circumstances don’t call for a stay the course campaign.

Tomasky continues, “Biden should do something bigger and bolder. He and the Democratic candidates for Senate and House should run a unified campaign. They should say to America: Elect us—give us the White House, 52 Senate seats, and a House majority—and we’ll reform the filibuster and by Memorial Day 2025, we’ll pass a platter of bills all aimed at helping the middle class and fulfilling the Biden motto that the economy grows from the middle out and the bottom up, not the top down….That’s an interesting campaign. That’s a campaign about the future. It implicitly acknowledges that things aren’t great right now, but it does so obliquely enough that it doesn’t sound like an admission of any kind of failure. It says, “We’ve done some good; now, we want to do better. But you have to give us the run of the place.”….This is key. Swing voters, the 5 or 6 percent who aren’t locked in and have gone from Obama to Trump to Biden and could go back, have a very old and hard-wired habit. Distrustful of both parties, they split their votes. Okay, they reason, I’ll go for Biden, I guess, because I don’t want Trump back in there; but I’ll vote Republican for Senate to keep him honest….This seems, to the swing voter, to make a kind of sense. But in reality, it’s the precise cause of our current dysfunction. Giving this Republican Party any degree of power is a surefire recipe for nothing getting done. Democrats need to explain this to swing voters and get them to break that old habit. You don’t have to love us and everything we stand for, they could say. But give us full power in Washington, and we’ll use it to make your life better….what Democrats have to do is get swing voters to understand a very simple truth: Joe Biden can’t make these things happen alone. He has to have a Democratic House and Senate (and in the latter, he needs a couple extra seats to spare to get filibuster reform done).” Tomasky proposes an 8-point agenda that could win the support of Democrats from Rep Ocasio-Cortez to Sen. Jon Tester —  “A unified, parliamentary-style campaign in which they all run on the same economic agenda is their best shot at holding the Senate, because it gives a rationale for why they need unified power and what they’ll do with it.” Read his article for more details.

Why Biden’s ‘Zig Zag Strategy’ May Work

At The Hill, Keith Naughton probes the efficacy of President Biden’s “zig zag strategy” and observes:

In 1996, President Clinton pursued a reelection strategy of “triangulation” — politically, a made-up term that meant running to the middle in order to win, a tried-and-true strategy that worked for Clinton as it has for many others in American presidential politics.

For President Biden, “triangulation” is not on the table given the highly polarized nature of American politics. His own progressive left base won’t hear of it. Instead, Biden is pursuing a more modest “zigzag” strategy, throwing favors from time to time to the middle and to labor.

Recently the Biden administration approved (rather, failed to oppose) a huge new hydrocarbons project in Alaska. Just weeks later, Biden proposed a set of automotive tailpipe emissions that will severely limit the number of gasoline-powered cars sold starting in 2027. This neat zigzag was perfect for Biden. He gets to take credit with labor for approving a big job-creating project in time for the next election, while giving the environmentalists a big future regulatory win.

But will this strategy work?

Naughton thinks it has done well so far, and notes, “Catering to significant parts of the progressive left — along with a big helping of Republican incompetence — has taken care of any real party primary opposition.”

In terms of public opinion, Naughton writes, “In spite of his occasional apostasy, Biden still scores well with liberals. Biden has an approval rating of 84 percent with Democrats generally, and 82 percent with self-described liberals. He does have some erosion in the ballot test with Trump, scoring 77 percent of Democratic votes (9 percent of Republicans), but 70 percent of liberals (11 percent of conservatives). Seven percent of Democrats said that they would not vote, as opposed to 8 percent of liberals. This erosion does seem like more than a little posturing. It is difficult to see liberals voting for Trump or sitting out 2024 once they get another dose of Trump on the campaign trail.”

However, Naughton adds, “There is bad news and good news for Biden….”

The bad news is the public does not want Biden to run. In last week’s YouGov benchmark, 58 percent of Americans did not want Biden to run again, including 31 percent of Democrats. Trump fares about as bad with 57 percent opposing another Trump run. Independents, however, are somewhat less enthused about a Biden run (65 percent opposed) than a Trump run (59 percent opposed).

Respondents rated Biden’s worst job performance on economic matters. He was underwater at 36 percent approve to 56 percent disapprove on inflation and 42 percent approve to 50 percent disapprove on the economy. This contrasts to his overall approve/disapprove of 47 percent to 49 percent. With economic issues perennially at the top of voter concerns, Biden’s poor ratings are a big structural problem.

The good news for Biden is mostly all the bad news surrounding Trump. Trump remains less popular than Biden with a 45 percent to 51 percent deficit in the YouGov poll. The RealClearPolitics approval average has Trump 17.4 points under water, while Biden’s deficit is 10.3 points.

Looking ahead and drilling down, Naughton adds, “Expect a re-run of the 2020 campaign for Biden, where he just ran as “not Trump.” For Democrats, this strategy seems likely to work. If anything, Trump is getting more chaotic….The good news for Biden is mostly all the bad news surrounding Trump. Trump remains less popular than Biden with a 45 percent to 51 percent deficit in the YouGov poll. The RealClearPolitics approval average has Trump 17.4 points under water, while Biden’s deficit is 10.3 points.”

However, “Respondents rated Biden’s worst job performance on economic matters. He was underwater at 36 percent approve to 56 percent disapprove on inflation and 42 percent approve to 50 percent disapprove on the economy. This contrasts to his overall approve/disapprove of 47 percent to 49 percent. With economic issues perennially at the top of voter concerns, Biden’s poor ratings are a big structural problem.”

On the other hand, “Republicans cannot count on the economy staying bad forever, and they should probably expect a burst of interventions to improve conditions leading up to the election.”

Naughton concludes, “For Biden, keeping his own squabbling party unified, combined with facing Trump, is the recipe for reelection. And so far, that is working.” And it could also help Democrats to hold their own down ballot.