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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


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The Daily Strategist

January 19, 2021

Trump Delusions Keep Republicans From a Post-Mortem They Need

After watching another week of Trump denials that he lost the 2020 elections, I looked at some of the less obvious consequences at New York:

The weirdest thing about the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election is that those in the winning party are engaged in all sorts of retrospective looks at what went wrong, while those in the the losing party are bellowing triumphantly that they actually won “by a landslide,” as Donald Trump and his campaign keep asserting. (On Monday, the Electoral College confirmed this is definitely not true.)

Yes, some of this funhouse-mirror reaction is attributable to high expectations for Joe Biden and his party that they did not meet — particularly the Senate results that have left control of that chamber to a pair of January 5 runoffs in a state Biden won by the narrowest of margins. But still, Democrats won the big prize, while also hanging onto control of the House (albeit by a reduced margin) and keeping a federal government trifecta on the table at least until Georgia votes.

So perhaps it’s not so unusual that the perpetually self-doubting Donkey Party isn’t celebrating all that wildly, and besides, there’s nothing wrong with winners in close contests seeing room for improvement and debating how to do better. But that Republicans are engaging in little or none of this introspection — much less the postmortem that you might expect from a party that lost the presidential election by over 7 million votes — is purely attributable to Trump’s insistence that the election was stolen from him.

After all, why would the GOP need an “autopsy report” or an effort to expand its reach if its only problem is getting an honest count? The only remedial effort necessary to overcome that obstacle is a massive effort to restrict the franchise, which is exactly what the Trumpified party appears to be determined to carry out, ironically under the rubric of “election reform.”

Without the delusional claim of a stolen election, Republicans could be usefully asking themselves why they’ve lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections. With demographic trends not being friendly to their cause, something more promising than only losing the Black vote by 75 points and the Latino vote by 33 points and the under-30 vote by 24 points might be in order. Republicans cannot go forever without a coherent foreign policy or health-care policy, or without anything to say on climate change or economic inequality other than attacks on the patriotism of those raising alarms. As the Washington Post’s Paul Waldman has asked: “How many more election wins can [the GOP] squeeze out of White grievance and voter suppression?”

Building a real as opposed to an imaginary majority is hard and serious work. The real victim of Trump’s bizarre “election theft” narrative of 2020 is the party that buys it.

It’s On in GA

In her article, “Georgia Senate Runoffs: More Voters Turn Out For First Day Of Early Voting Than For General Election” Jemima McEvoy writes at Forbes:

Nearly 169,000 Georgians cast ballots on Monday, the first day of early voting in the state’s Senate runoff elections—a massive number that surpasses even that of the general election’s early voting kickoff and demonstrates the wave of enthusiasm for a pair of races that will determine the makeup of the Senate.

According to data cited by voting rights activist Stacey Abrams, who has been leading the Democratic party’s efforts to rally support in Georgia, 168,293 state residents voted on Monday, which is nearly 30,000 more than the number of votes cast on the first day of day of early voting in the November general election (140,000)….Over the weekend, Abrams told CNN that the Democratic party is confident in its ability to win the two runoff elections, having already seen massive interest in absentee ballots and a surge in enthusiasm from voters whose demographics signal enthusiasm for Democratic candidates.

However, McEvoy adds, “Taking into account the 314,000 Georgians who have already cast their ballots by mail, this means over 480,000 of the state’s 10.6 million residents have voted in the Senate runoffs to date….Overall, the general election had still enticed 24% more voters by this point for a total of 633,990 votes due to the whopping 484,000 ballots sent by mail….there is no way to tell which party has cast more early votes.”

McEvoy notes that “1.2 million. That’s the number of Georgians who have requested absentee ballots for the Senate runoffs, according to Abrams….“Of that 1.2 million, 85,000 are from voters who did not vote in the general election and they are disproportionately between the ages of 18 and 29 and disproportionately people of color,” said Abrams, adding: “Democrats are prepared to win this election because this is the first runoff where we have the level of investment and engagement that it takes to win.” Further,

An average of polls on the Georgia runoffs compiled by data-focused news site FiveThirtyEight put the parties nearly neck-and-neck in both races. Ossoff leads Purdue by 1 point, while Warnock has a slightly larger lead of 1.6 over Loeffler, though pollsters warn against putting too much stock in these limited measures of public opinion. President Trump’s loss in the state, flipping Georgia blue for the first time since 1992, has also added a new level of intensity to the runoffs, with both sides wondering whether the general election represented a rejection of the Republican party—or of Trump. Continuing to insist voter fraud led to a rigged election, Trump and his allies have been walking a potentially damaging line, recently attempting to leverage his fanbase in the state to gain institutional support for his attempts to overturn the election’s results. Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn advised the GOP to focus on the general election over the Senate runoffs, while Trump appeared to threaten his own support for the Republican candidates on Monday, warning on Twitter that if Georgia’s Republican governor doesn’t help him remedy the election’s results it will be a “bad day” for Loeffler and Purdue. It “could have been easy, but now we have to do it the hard way,” wrote Trump.

The edge that the Democratic candidates get from Georgia GOP divisions could be offset by an energetic turnout of conservative evangelicals. But at least it appears that voter enthusiasm among Georgia Democrats and party unity is solidly on track. No doubt Mitch McConnell is calling in all his credits with contributors and his political connections. But, while there were deep suspicions regarding the integrity of the vote count in the 2018 Governor’s race in Georgia, the state’s Republican leaders know that the Biden Administration DOJ and other law enforcement agencies will not be giving any free rides for any ballot-counting or voter suppression violations in the January 5th runoff.

Teixeira: What Do You Mean “We,” Progressive Activists?

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

Progressive activists often seem unaware of how far some of their core assumptions and inclinations are from average Americans, including among disadvantaged groups like blacks and Hispanics in whose name they often presume to speak. This can be seen in the new release from the More in Common group, who term their new series their American Fabric series, following on from their Hidden Tribes series.

The new study, as their did previous ones, divides the American population into groups using on an underlying factor analysis of core beliefs. One of their groups–literally termed “progressive activists”–is 8 percent of the population and is described as: “deeply concerned with issues concerning equity, fairness, and America’s direction today. They tend to be more secular, cosmopolitan, and highly engaged with social media.”

They don’t provide a detailed demographic breakdown of this or other groups (which is a mistake in my opinion) but a previous study provided more detail on the progressive activist group as they compare to overall averages.

–More than twice as likely to list politics as a hobby – 73% V. 35%
– Three times more likely to say that people’s outcomes are the result of “luck and circumstance” – 75% V. 25%
– Less likely to believe the world is becoming a “more and more dangerous place” – 19% V. 38%
– More than twice as likely to say that they never pray – 50% V. 19%
– Almost three times more likely to be “ashamed to be an American” – 69% V. 24%
– More likely to say they are proud of their political ideology – 63% V. 46%
– Eleven percent more likely to be white – 80% V. 69%
– Seven percent more likely to be between ages 18 and 29 – 28% V. 21%
– Twice as likely to have completed college – 59% V. 29%

Hmm. Sounds like a pretty familiar type right? The new report shows, among other things, how far progressive activists’ attitude toward their own country departs from not just from that of average Americans but from average black and Hispanic Americans as well. Black and Hispanic Americans are highly likely to be proud to be Americans and highly likely to say they would still choose to live in America if they could choose to live anywhere in the world. On both questions, progressive activists are far, far less likely to express these sentiments (see charts below).

I think these differences are not just large but significant. They underscore the extent to which cosmopolitan, highly educated, overwhelmingly white progressives have detached themselves from the rest of the country. No wonder the average voter doesn’t want to hang around with them.

Political Strategy Notes

In his New York Times column, “The Resentment That Never Sleeps,” Thomas B. Edsall probes the insights of top scholars regarding status anxiety, and then he shares some cogent observations Democrats should ponder in developing election strategies, including: “Millions of voters, including the core group of Trump supporters — whites without college degrees — face bleak futures, pushed further down the ladder by meritocratic competition that rewards what they don’t have: higher education and high scores on standardized tests. Jockeying for place in a merciless meritocracy feeds into the status wars that are presently poisoning the country, even as exacerbated levels of competition are, theoretically, an indispensable component of contemporary geopolitical and economic reality….Voters in the bottom half of the income distribution face a level of hypercompetition that has, in turn, served to elevate politicized status anxiety in a world where social and economic mobility has, for many, ground to a halt: 90 percent of the age cohort born in the 1940s looked forward to a better standard of living than their parents’, compared with 50 percent for those born since 1980. Even worse, those in the lower status ranks suffer the most lethal consequences of the current pandemic….These forces in their totality suggest that Joe Biden faces the toughest challenge of his career in attempting to fulfill his pledge to the electorate: “We can restore the defining American promise, that no matter where you start in life, there’s nothing you can’t achieve. And, in doing so, we can restore the soul of our nation.”….Trump has capitalized on the failures of this American promise. Now we have to hope that Biden can deliver.”

At Daily Kos, SemDem argues that “When it comes to Georgia, Democrats can and must exploit the simmering civil war within the GOP , and notes how the contest resembles a tag team match: “Democrats, meanwhile, are in the unique position of playing smarter politics than Republicans by running Warnock and Ossoff as a team, which plays to the strengths of each candidate. They are holding joint events and framing campaigns around what they could accomplish together for Georgia, as well as the U.S., if they are both sent to Washington. Pairing the longtime pastor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Ebenezer Baptist Church with a young, progressive Jewish activist also helps represent the diversity of the Democratic party….Republicans are trying the team strategy too, but in their case it’s highlighting the party’s problems and the candidates’ flaws more than anything else. Both Loeffler and Perdue are not only obscenely wealthy, but they are the two of the most corrupt people currently serving in the Senate. Both downplayed the virus and used their positions to quietly move their money so they’d benefit from the crisis.” SemDem adds, “We need all hands on deck, so please pledge to do just one thing to help each Senate candidate win. Fortunately, with all eyes on Georgia, there are myriad ways to help,” and provides links for volunteering and making donations.

At The Cook Political Report, Charlie Cook notes, “There is no question that the polling industry is going through a challenging time thanks to caller ID. It is not uncommon for a pollster to make 20 calls in order to complete a single interview. Until now, the saving grace for pollsters was that the kind of people who didn’t consent to being interviewed did not have materially different attitudes toward politics as those who did choose to participate in polls. Considerable research is now going on to determine if that is still the case….As more research comes out, my bet is that many will see that the polls pretty much nailed the 51.3 percent Biden national share of the vote. In fact, the final RealClearPolitics average was a tenth of a point off, giving Biden a 51.2 percent share. Of the major polls released in the last five days before the election, Quinnipiac put Biden at 50 percent, while NBC News/Wall Street Journal and Fox News had him at 52 percent. Those taken a bit earlier tended to show Biden with a larger lead, indicating some closure in the last two weeks.”

House Democratic Majority Will Be Skinny in January

With so much attention being focused on the U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia in January, I thought it would be helpful at New York to remind people that the Democratic advantage in the House is getting a bit iffy, too:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi already had her hands full dealing with a significantly reduced Democratic majority in her chamber wrought by voters who flipped nine net districts from blue to red in November (Republicans also flipped a Libertarian district). With one race (New York’s 22nd District rematch between Democratic incumbent Anthony Brindisi and his predecessor, Republican Claudia Tenney) still uncalled, Democrats currently hold 222 seats. They need 218 seats for the barest possible majority. Now President-elect Joe Biden has compounded Pelosi’s numbers problem by naming two House Democrats for administration positions: Cedric Richmond of Louisiana (Biden’s transition-team chief), who will head up the White House Office of Public Engagement, and Marcia Fudge of Ohio, who will be nominated to serve as secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Both these members of Congress represent heavily Democratic districts, so Richmond and Fudge will be replaced by fellow Democrats. But first they have to resign (Richmond right after Biden takes office in January, Fudge if and when she is confirmed by the Senate), and the governors of their states will choose a date for a special election to fill the vacancies. In the meantime, Pelosi’s majority in the 117th Congress will be down to two or three (depending on what happens in New York). That will give any three or four House Democrats who are inclined to be rebellious some serious leverage over their caucus, and could potentially give House Republicans under Kevin McCarthy more influence than they’ve had since they lost their own majority in 2018.

A Closing Pitch for Democrats in the GA Senate Runoffs

It would be hard to overstate the stakes in Georgia’s Jan. 5th runoff elections, which could elect two Democratic senators for a 50-50 tie in the U.S. Senate and make Vice President Kamala Harris the deciding vote. Current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is the invisible face on the ballot, and whether or not he will continue to serve as obstructionist in chief is an overriding issue that will be decided on January 5th.

Thus far, the two Democratic candidates have emphasized the Covid-19 insider trading profiteering of  their Republican opponents, both of whom provide an irresistible target, with their shameless personal enrichment in stock trading, following their confidential briefings as incumbents. Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Ossoff and Warnock are right to raise hell about it. Otherwise they would be guilty of political malpractice.

Corruption is an issue that can flip even conservative voters who have high ethical standards and are paying attention. So there is reason to hope that educating voters about the extent of Covid-19 profiteering by GOP Sens. Perdue and Loeffler after downplaying the threat of the virus, will have a beneficial impact for Democrats.

Yet, both Democratic Senate candidates, Warnock and Ossoff, received fewer votes than Biden/Harris got at the top of the ticket. Ossoff received nearly 100,000 fewer votes than did Biden. Warnock received about 857,000 fewer than Biden/Harris, but there were 20 candidates on the ballot in his race. In the runoff, it is likely that Ossoff and Warnock will receive close to the same number of votes on January 5th.

No doubt some of the 100,000 vote gap can be attributed to deliberate ticket-splitting, a misguided belief that divided government is always a good thing. But some of it is the result of apathy about the Senate races, and another share of it comes from undecided voters, who just didn’t have a strong enough opinion to vote for a senate candidate of either party.

Many of these gap voters just wanted to get rid of Trump. It seems reasonable that some of them would be open to appeals rooted in the argument that it makes little sense to vote for Biden, then cripple his effectiveness by allowing Mitch McConnell to continue to exercize his veto over hundreds of bills passed by the House of Representatives, many of which are now languishing on McConnell’s desk.

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. put it well in a recent column:

What is at stake: whether President-elect Joe Biden will have a chance to end the scourge of the covid-19 pandemic, get the economy moving again, and enact some bread-and-butter programs to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure and shore up our health-care system.

And voters must understand that as long as Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is the Senate majority leader and the base of the Republican Party is dominated by the far right — including “Stop the Steal” Trumpists — a divided government is not a recipe for compromise. Instead, it’s a ticket to obstruction and the very sort of partisan brawling that moderate voters can’t stand.

The belief that divided government guarantees moderate outcomes might once have been true when there was a solid moderate bloc in the Republican Party. But it should now be clear that it’s a destructive myth.

By all means, Ossoff, Warnock and Democrats should keep their Republican opponents’ pandemic profiteering front and center. But their campaigns should also appeal to gap voters to help the presidential candidate they voted for have at least a chance to enact needed legislation, including measures that can help end the pandemic and provide urgently needed economic relief.

Trump To Become “Shadow President?”

As Republicans seek to show their fealty to Donald Trump in the expectation he will soon be gone, they are mortgaging their immediate futures to him, as I observed at New York:

The MAGA rank and file whose main sources of information are limited to Donald Trump, his allies, and hyperpartisan pro-Trump media may truly believe the lies he is telling about what happened in the 2020 election. But the big scandal is that pro-Trump elites who assuredly know better are buying into the misinformation campaign as well. It’s not easy to identify a universal motivation for their complicity in duplicity. It could be a mixture of loyalty and cowardice, or sheer partisanship, or ideological consanguinity.

But no matter what their motives are, they will all soon have a common problem: how to treat the 45th president when he finally does move out of the White House, having failed to talk state legislators, military leaders, or the populace into stealing a second term for him.

Mulling Trump’s prospective status in an interview with Peter Nicholas, South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham (who once said of Trump, “I think he’s a kook. I think he’s crazy. I think he’s unfit for office”) uttered words that may have been prophetic while carefully stipulating that Trump hasn’t lost just yet:

“He has a lot of sway over the Republican Party. If he objects to anything Biden [does], it would be hard to get Republicans on board. If he blessed some kind of deal, it would be easier to get something done. In many ways, he’ll be a shadow president.”

The notion of a “shadow” opposition leader, common in parliamentary systems, has never had any place in the United States, where defeated presidents (or presidential candidates) have no office to fall back upon and no formal status. On January 21, Trump will be a private citizen, albeit one with a Secret Service detail. If the idea spreads in Republican circles that Trump deserves quasi-official status as the victim of a “stolen election,” it could make him the most powerful ex-president since Theodore Roosevelt (or maybe more powerful, since Teddy had to cede party leadership to a designated successor).

Those Republicans who have privately hoped to rid themselves of Trump by jollying him along in his postelection misconduct really need to rethink their strategy. The only thing worse for them than a 2024 Trump comeback effort is a scenario in which he never goes away at all.

Political Strategy Notes

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. has a messaging tip for Democrats: “President Trump’s success in politicizing mask-wearing has been destructive to human life. By encouraging his followers to ignore the advice of scientists, Trump has made the pandemic worse. None of this means that repeating “Listen to the science” as a quasi-religious mantra will undo the damage he’s done….It won’t work because it’s a sentiment that appeals only to the already converted. It feeds the war against expertise that has become a favorite propaganda tool for the political right. And without intending to, it reinforces the deadly and false dichotomies that Trump has ginned up to avoid accountability….The last things we need are arguments that pit science against the economy, science against democracy, science against individual rights, science against religion, or science against the intuitions of citizens. Such juxtapositions helped create the mess we’re in….But we need to understand that the election we just had points to a country far more divided on how to grapple with the pandemic than many of us would like….The Edison exit poll put an interesting question to voters about their priorities concerning the pandemic, asking which of two approaches was “more important.” The result: Fifty-two percent said “containing the coronavirus now, even if it hurts the economy,” while 42 percent said “rebuilding the economy now, even if it hurts efforts to contain the coronavirus.” Biden won about four-fifths of the first group; Trump won more than three-quarters of the second.” Dionne argues that Demoicrats and progressives “should begin by highlighting the economy every chance they get — by fighting for economic relief now and additional help and stimulus after Biden is inaugurated; by rolling out longer-term programs to assist those whose lives have been most disrupted by the pandemic, including the young; and by proposing a GI Bill and pay-and-benefit increases for those whose work we have finally discovered is “essential.”….Ending the pandemic and reviving the economy must always be mentioned in the same breath as part of the same fight.”

In “GOP holds big money advantage in Georgia Senate runoff races,” Sarah D. Wire and David Lauter write at The L. A. Times: “With spending in Georgia’s twin Senate runoffs rocketing toward record levels, Republicans appear to be gaining a significant advantage on the state’s airwaves as heavy spending by outside groups finances a flood of mostly negative ads….The Republican edge marks a sharp reversal from the general election, in which Democrats largely outspent their opponents in key races nationwide….Much of the Republican advantage comes from a set of campaign committees tied to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that are raising and spending huge sums on the two races….Combining ads that have aired so far and those that have been booked for later, the Republican side is currently on track to have a $118 million-to-$76 million advantage in the Perdue-Ossoff race and a $126 million-to-$81 million edge in the Loeffler-Warnock contest….McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund and three affiliated groups, American Crossroads, PeachTree PAC and One Nation, have spent or reserved nearly $140 million in advertising already, or about 35% of the total….a flood of Republican money has poured in. The Senate Leadership Fund raised $104.2 million nationwide between Oct. 15 and Nov. 23, bringing its 2020 cycle haul to $384.8 million, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. It spent $112.6 million in the final stretch of the regular campaign and had $60.8 million left in the bank.” Those who want to help correct the imbalance should check out this article.

For the best update on the GA runoffs, check out “What The Polls Say About Georgia’s Senate Runoffs” by Geoffrey Skelley and Nathaniel Rakich at FiveThirty Eight. As Skelley and Rakich note, “We don’t have a ton of polls of these runoffs yet, but FiveThirtyEight is rolling out its polling averages for both of the contests today to help everyone keep tabs on where things stand. (Note that these are not forecasts like the ones we published for the White House, Senate and House before the November election; they do not account for non-polling factors such as the state’s base partisanship, demographics or candidate quality. They are simply a fancy snapshot of what the polling says right now.)….And based on the initial wave of polls conducted since the Nov. 3 general election, both runoff races look very close. In the regularly scheduled Senate race, Republican Sen. David Perdue is roughly tied with Democrat Jon Ossoff, while in the special election, Democrat Raphael Warnock holds a narrow lead over Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler (who was appointed in January 2020 to fill a vacancy, which is why she’s up for election)….less than a week after the general election, GOP pollster Remington Research went into the field and found Perdue ahead by 4 points in the regularly scheduled contest and Loeffler and Warnock locked in a virtual tie in the special election. Then in mid-November, Insider Advantage/Fox5 Atlanta found both sets of candidates running neck and neck. Two late-November polls were somewhat more bullish for Democrats. RMG Research/PoliticalIQ foundboth races to be very tight but with Ossoff and Warnock leading by 1 and 2 points, respectively, while a SurveyUSA/WXIA-TV poll gave Ossoff a 2-point edge over Perdue and Warnock a 7-point lead over Loeffler. Lastly, Republican pollster Trafalgar Group just released an early-December pollthat showed Ossoff and Perdue separated by less than 1 point, but Loeffler ahead by about 5 points….Of course, some may wonder if it’s worth putting much stock in these runoff surveys after polls across the country underestimated President Trump’s support in November. But remember the polls in Georgia actually did pretty well: Biden led by 1.2 points in FiveThirtyEight’s final Georgia polling average, and he wound up winning the state by about 0.3 points, meaning the polls were only off by about a point. So we don’t think you should dismiss these runoff polls just yet.”

It’s about time somebody said it plain, and Charles Pierce rises to the occasion in his article, “The Republican Party Is Now a Seditious Organization: These authoritarian yahoos believe that the Supreme Court will ride to their rescue and disenfranchise millions of people whom they don’t believe should be allowed to vote anyway” at Esquire: “Nothing secedes like secession….Late Wednesday afternoon, in as clear a demonstration as there ever has been of the authoritarian rot at the heart of the Republican Party, 17 other states, all governed primarily by Republicans, filed an amicus brief in support of the ludicrous lawsuit being brought by Ken Paxton, the indicted Republican attorney general of Texas, that seeks to overturn the results of the presidential election by disenfranchising millions of voters in Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia, and Pennsylvania….The 17 accomplices to this braindead seditious conspiracy are Missouri, Arkansas, South Dakota, Florida (Shocker!), Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina (now two-for-two in attempts to subvert the republic over a presidential election), Utah, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Alabama. None of these benighted places has any more standing to subvert the elections in, say, Michigan, than Texas or the Elks Club of Bugtussle have. But they’re willing to sign onto the closest thing we’ve had to secession in 150 years because the Republican Party has created a couple of generations of leaders who simply can’t think of any other way to do politics than to scorch the earth, win or lose. Zero-sum democracy is untenable….They all believe that the Supreme Court will ride to their rescue and disenfranchise millions of people whom they don’t believe should be allowed to vote anyway. The Republican Party is now a seditious, subversive organization, a Fifth Column of organized authoritarian yahoos. Where’s Joe McCarthy when you need him?”

Ari Berman: Why Dems Have a Good Chance to Win GA Runoffs

At Mother Jones, Ari Berman explains why “Runoff Elections in Georgia Are Disasters for Democrats. Here’s Why This Time Is Different. Organizing against voter suppression and high turnout in November are giving Democrats hope“:

Democrats have believed for some time that a rapidly diversifying electorate would allow them to be competitive in Georgia, but repeated voter suppression efforts had kept that electorate from fully forming. Now, two years of determined organizing against voter suppression created the conditions for Joe Biden to carry the state by just under 12,000 votes, making him the first Democratic presidential candidate in 28 years to win Georgia.

“There were still long lines, there were still problems with absentee balloting,” says Lauren Groh-Wargo, CEO of the voting rights group Fair Fight Action and Abrams’ campaign manager in 2018. “But the collective work on litigation, advocacy, voter education, voter suppression mitigation that we and so many allies did really ensured that there was a multi-ethnic, multi-racial coalition that could come out to support Joe Biden.”

Berman notes, further:

The electorate in 2020 was the one Abrams envisioned in 2018. People of color made up nearly 40 percent of all voters, and Biden won roughly 70 percent of their votes. He improved on [Democratic candidate for governor Stacy] Abrams’ margin in eight counties in metro Atlanta, building a remarkably diverse coalition of new voters, young voters, people of color, and moderate white suburbanites. According to an analysis by the Democratic data firm Target Smart, Asian American turnout increased by 91 percent from 2016 to 2020, Latino turnout by 72 percent, and Black turnout by 20 percent, while white turnout grew by just 16 percent.

Between 2016 and 2020, 1 million new voters were registered through Georgia’s system of automatic voter registration at motor vehicle offices and registration drives by grassroots groups. Two-thirds of them were people of color. Amazingly, the number of eligible but unregistered Georgians fell from 22 percent in 2016 to just 2 percent in 2020.

“In addition to high-profile organizing work by Abrams and her allies,” Berman writes, “many restrictive voting rules that led to disenfranchisement in 2018 were also reformed through litigation and advocacy.” For example:

In 2020, it was harder for election officials to throw out mail ballots for mismatched signatures, and voters had a chance to fix problems with their ballots after Election Day. In 2018, Black and Latino voters were more likely than white voters to have their mail ballots rejected, and young voters were more likely than older voters. The overall rejection rate for mail ballots fell from 3.4 percent in 2018 to just .2 percent in November.

Counties in metro Atlanta processed absentee ballots more quickly and made their designs less confusing. When the secretary of state removed 300,000 voters who he claimed had died or moved from the rolls in December 2019, Fair Fight sued and reinstated 22,000 voters who were still eligible to vote. A law mandating that early voting locations be in government buildings was repealed, allowing the Atlanta Hawks’ arena to become a massive polling place in downtown Atlanta.

Berman notes that “groups like Fair Fight contacted 1 million voters a week urging them to make a plan to vote early, either in person or by mail. “When I would go to the polls, I would hear, ‘We’re not going to let them steal this one,’” says [Black Voters matter Founder Latosha] Brown. “That’s why I think you had so many people vote early.” Eighty percent of Georgians voted early, leading to many fewer problems on Election Day. It was by no means perfect—there were 11-hour lines on the first day of early voting in Atlanta—but people stood in line to make sure their votes were counted.”

Looking toward January 5th, “A million mail-in ballots have been requested for the runoff, an impressive number considering that 1.3 million people voted by mail in November. “I don’t think we’ll approach the numbers for the general, but I do think we’ll exceed turnout rates for any runoff we’ve seen in recent Georgia history,” [New Georgia Project Director Nse] Ufot says.”

Perhaps the biggest threat to Democratic hopes for the January 5th run-off is the closing of polling places in large counties like Cobb, ostensibly because of inadequate trained staff for the polls. That’s why the Georgia activists are emphasizing early voting by mail, which is on track to set a runoff record.

Teixeira: The Democrats’ Big Problem Is Now Obvious

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

It’s culture. Put very simply, the culture that dominates the party makes it very difficult for the party to reach–or perhaps even to understand that it must reach–the voters it needs to succeed politically. Begin with this piece by Sheri Berman on party “representation gaps”.

“A disconnect exists between the preferences of voters and the stances of the Democratic Party on social and cultural issues, while an equivalent chasm exists for Republicans on economic matters. Both are facing what political scientists call a “representation gap.”

A majority of voters, including many Republicans, support Democratic, even progressive, positions on economic issues including tax policy, healthcare, education, the minimum wage and more. But on crucial non-economic issues, voters are moderate, and the Democratic Party’s stances—in particular those of its progressive activists regarding illegal immigration and border security, police reform, “political correctness,” gender identity, sexual harassment and affirmative action—are unpopular, even among many Democratic voters.”

Berman details four possible responses by parties to such representation gaps: avoidance, intransigence, concession and persuasion. She recommends persuasion:

“Here, the party attempts to close the representation gap by trying to move voters closer to its policies. Changing people’s preferences requires openly grappling with the unpopularity of particular policies, and engaging with those who disagree, rather than disparaging or ignoring them.

Successful engagement means avoiding language and behavior that can be easily misunderstood or trigger fears in voters, and can be exploited by opponents. Progressive activists erred by ignoring this, with some describing themselves as “socialists,” embracing the slogan “defund the police,” and failing to denounce looting and violence that accompanied some protests—behavior that scared some voters away from the Democratic Party. Above all, the persuasion strategy requires patience since shifting voters’ preferences and priorities takes time.

One disadvantage of the persuasion strategy is obvious: It is the most difficult. But its advantages are great. It is the only strategy that reconciles idealism with realism, joining a commitment to currently unpopular but prized policies with a recognition that realizing such policies first requires winning elections.”

And winning elections–enough of the right type of elections–is very difficult for Democrats in the actually-existing electoral system of the United States (not the dream system frequently invoked by progressives). Derek Thompson in the Atlantic:

“As Democrats like to point out, they have won the national popular vote seven times in the past eight presidential elections, along with a majority of ballots cast nationwide in six of the past eight Senate elections. But national vote tallies don’t count for anything under our constitutional rules. Liberals can (and do) complain about this all day, but saying “If the Constitution didn’t exist, Capitol Hill would be mostly Democrats” is like saying “If the weak nuclear force didn’t exist, the galaxy would be mostly photons.” Neat, but so what?…

“We have an election system that makes it basically impossible for Democrats’ current coalition to ever wield legislative power,” the polling analyst David Shor told Politico….If Democrats don’t find a way to broaden their coalition into less populous states with smaller metro areas, it may be impossible to pass liberal laws for the next generation.”

This is above all a cultural problem.

“Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times published an analysis of California ballot measures that found that “the state’s two major population centers have grown more and more different” from the rest of the state. Residents of Los Angeles and the Bay Area were at least 30 percentage points more likely than other Californians to support various propositions, such as reinstating affirmative action and allowing parolees to vote….

This phenomenon is not specific to California; it is evident across the country. America’s richest and most progressive cities—from San Francisco to New York and Washington, D.C.—have filled with young, unmarried, “extremely online” graduates of elite colleges, who have collectively birthed a novel philosophy you could call “Instagram socialism.” Instagram socialists are highly educated, but not necessarily high-earning, urbanites who shop like capitalists and post like Marxists and frequently do so in adjacent tabs. Many of their causes are virtuous, such as universal health care and higher pay for low-income service workers. But given the dynamics of online communication, which prizes extremity, Instagram socialism usually functions as a crowd-sourcing exercise to brand widely appealing ideas in their most emotional and viral—and, therefore, most radical—fashion. Thus, major police reform (a popular idea) is branded “Abolish the Police” (an unpopular idea); a welcoming disposition toward immigrants (a popular idea) is blurred with calls for open borders (an unpopular idea); and universal health care (a popular idea) is folded into socialism (an unpopular idea)….

The urban-online core of the Democratic Party is arguably its most fecund source of new ideas, but it has evolved to become a kind of third party whose ideology and tone are not a good fit for the typical swing voter toggling between the two major parties. The “culture problem” of liberals’ urban dominance also has important implications for the media. As national politics has polarized according to youth, education, and density, the news industry has become particularly young, educated, and densely packed into a handful of cities. Thus people who work in national journalism (like me, a resident of Washington, D.C.) tend to have a set of strongly held views about the world that are artifacts of their zip code. America’s most progressive metros are becoming politically unusual at the same time that national journalists are less capable of seeing how unusual they have become.”

In other words, party activists are increasingly ill-equipped to successfully reach out to the rest of the country that doesn’t share their views–or indeed to even realize how far they need to reach to do so.
Thompson concludes:

“In the past 100 years, Democrats have transformed from a largely rural party to a coalition of density and diplomas—a political handshake between the cities and highly educated suburbs. To win not only the presidency but also legislative majorities, Democrats will have to turn back the clock and refamiliarize themselves with Americans who live outside denser zip codes where Democrats currently dominate. They will have to rediscover the right balance between their progressive urban core and the moderate exurban frontier—between metro and retro.”

In some ways it is very easy to explain how this unfortunate state of affairs arose: it is all about the increasing domination of college-educated whites in Democratic politics. This has several strands to it:

1. There are simply more of them in the party’s support base, due to their rise in numbers and significant shift into the Democratic party. Their weight in the Democratic coalition is now much larger than it was 30 years ago.
2. They are heavily over-represented in the donor base of the party.
3. They are heavily over-represented in media that cover the activities of the party and give it publicity.
4. They literally run the party on a day to day basis, providing the professionals who staff the infrastructure and run for office.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that the culture of this demographic group increasingly dominates the party. But that it is understandable does not make it desirable. The party cannot achieve the success it desires without competing more successfully in rural, small town and less densely-populated parts of the country, which have disproportionate political influence and where noncollege whites are especially numerous. And it cannot compete successfully in these areas without moving out of its current cultural comfort zone. Indeed, we are now getting to the point where even Democrats’ hold on noncollege nonwhites may be threatened by the cultural dominance of educated whites.

I’ll give the final word to data scientist David Shor: “The big-picture problem is that the Democratic Party is increasingly reflecting the cultural values and political preferences of educated white people…Culturally, working-class nonwhite people have more in common with working-class white people.”

That’s it in a nutshell. A serious course correction is in order.