washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Vote Blue! No Matter Who.

VOTE BLUE.

No matter who.

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

Vote Blue No Matter Who bumper sticker

Vote Blue!

No Matter Who!

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

Vote Blue! No Matter Who.

VOTE BLUE!

No Matter Who.

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

Vote Blue No Matter Who bumper sticker

Vote Blue

No matter who.

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

RIP GOP book by Stanley Greenberg

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

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

Pre-Order Now.

The Daily Strategist

January 22, 2020

Teixeira: Some Things That Biden Is Getting Right

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

I thought Biden had a solid debate, which should help him, as did Klobuchar, which may help her in Iowa, her make-or-break state.

538 released some pre-debate polling and Biden already looked–at least on the national level–to be in very good shape. He had the highest favorability rating of the candidates on stage and had a strong lead on the candidate likely primary voters were at least considering voting for. Likely primary voters also said, by a lopsided 64-36 margin, that they preferred a candidate who had a good chance of beating Trump over a candidate who agree with them on the issues (see graphic below). And Biden had a strong lead over the other candidates on who would be most likely to beat Trump if he or she were the nominee (see graphic below).

Today also saw the release of a lengthy Politico profile by Ryan Lizza on Biden’s advisers. The piece provides useful information on some of the things Biden seems to be getting right about this campaign.

“A year ago, Biden’s retro campaign, with its retro staff and retro view of who Democratic voters are, was predicted to have a swift demise. It didn’t happen. And it if it succeeds in the coming months, Biden and his team will have challenged everything people thought they knew about the Democratic Party in the age of Trump….

Two dominant storylines had emerged from the 2018 midterm elections. In several safe districts, mostly in in urban areas, a number of younger, more left-wing candidates had defeated incumbent Democrats in primaries and then retained the seats for the party in the general election. The most notable example was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the then 28-year-old former Bernie Sanders campaign volunteer who defeated Joe Crowley, a 20-year incumbent twice her age, in a New York City primary. AOC beat Crowley by 4,100 votes. She now has almost 6 million Twitter followers.

At the same time in 2018, in a number of Republican-held swing districts, moderate Democrats defeated liberal primary opponents and went on to flip the seat for Democrats. Perhaps the best example was Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer from Northern Virginia who first beat a progressive challenger in the primary, then defeated Dave Brat, one of the most conservative House Republicans and a Tea Party celebrity.

Both AOC and Spanberger represented a major political disruption, but in the media, and especially on Twitter, which is not used by 78 percent of Americans, AOC came to define the purported direction of the Democratic Party. The issues of the AOC left soon defined the early months of the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination as candidates outbid each other with calls to abolish ICE, decriminalize the border, embrace the most robust version of the Green New Deal and, most of all, support “Medicare for All.”…

Biden had campaigned around the country in 2018. Spanberger was one of his major primary endorsements that year. Not only could he not AOC-ify himself, he was convinced he didn’t need to.

He had what now seems like a profound insight. “Everyone is misreading the electorate,” he told his guest. “I campaigned in swing places, and the candidates who are winning are people who can get the middle.”…

Biden and his longtime advisers, see the moment as calling for a new kind of triangulation, one that co-opts much of the left’s modern agenda, but sands down its most electorally unpopular edges—decriminalizing the border, banning private health insurance, eliminating all college debt—which they see as key to winning over those Democrats who defected or didn’t vote in 2016…..

The campaign developed a three-pronged message: that the election was about the “soul of the nation”; that the threatened middle class was the “backbone of the nation”; and that what was most needed was to “unify the nation.” Only Biden could restore the nation’s soul, repair its backbone, and unify it.

Donilon and Biden loved it. The only problem? A lot of other Biden advisers hated it. It seemed corny and tone-deaf. “Biden was totally in on it at the outset of this campaign and no one else was—no one,” said the adviser. “They said that’s not where people’s heads are at, because obviously there’s a big debate swirling on the left.”

Ignoring the noisy activist left and its megaphone on social media was perhaps the most consequential decision Biden made at the start of the campaign.”

That last sentence tells you a lot about what Biden has gotten right in this campaign. And about how, while he is endlessly derided by many pundits, activists and, yes, people on Twitter, he’s actually got some serious political smarts that some of other candidates seem to lack.


Political Strategy Notes – Trump Impeachment Edition

“Everything I do during this, I’m coordinating with the White House counsel,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell assured Sean Hannity on Fox News. “There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this.” Then there is “Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who exchanged a reputation for moderation for a reputation for Trumpist sycophancy, was even crisper. “This thing will come to the Senate, and it will die quickly, and I will do everything I can to make it die quickly,” he said.” Given these stated positions of two of the top Republican senators, who could blame Speaker Nancy Pelosi for not allowing them the opportunity to trivialize the hard work of the House Intelligence and Judicial committees and make a mockery of the U.S. Constitution. As Ezra Klein writes at Vox, “Impeachment’s most important role is preventive, not retributive. It is to make sure that neither Trump nor any future president tries to abuse their power to amass more power in this way again. But if Senate Republicans abdicate their constitutional duty and, as Graham promised, do everything they can to make this die quickly, they’ll be unleashing Trump and his successors to abuse the power of the presidency even more flagrantly in the future.”

From “Six pages of loony ranting, and journalists still won’t question Trump’s mental state” by Dan Froomkin at Salon: “The livid, unhinged six-page rant full of lies, hyperbole, wild accusations and self-pity that Donald Trump put on White House letterhead on the eve of his impeachment — “for the purpose of history,” he said — was an extraordinary gift to news organizations that have hesitated until now to address Trump’s mental state…To everyone but the willfully blind, it was effectively a confession of the president’s unfitness for office — a view straight into the mind of a mad king unable to grasp basic facts, control his emotions or acknowledge any restraints on his behavior.” Froomkin calls out some reporters for sugar-coating descriptions of Trump’s screed, but also credits some others: ” Former Republican strategist Rick Wilson said on MSNBC that the letter was “six pages of pure crazy, weapons-grade nuts.” CNN political analyst Gloria Borger said: “I think if I’m a senator, a Republican senator, and I’m looking at this and this landed in my lap like a grenade today, I would wonder about the president’s fitness for office.”

In “Trump goes after late Rep. John Dingell: ‘Maybe he’s looking up’ instead of down” at The Hill, Justine Coleman reports on Trump’s insulting, in a Michigan speech no less, the memory of the longest-serving member of congress in U.S. history, Rep. John Dingell, Jr. (D-MI), who died in February and was succeeded by his wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell, who responded, “Mr. President, let’s set politics aside. My husband earned all his accolades after a lifetime of service. I’m preparing for the first holiday season without the man I love. You brought me down in a way you can never imagine and your hurtful words just made my healing much harder.” Not the smartest of moves in one of the most important swing states, which Trump barely won in 2016. Dingell and his father, John Dingell, Sr., represented Michigan in Congress for a combined total of 82 years. Dingell was instrumental in passing historic legislation, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Medicare Act, the Clean Water Act of 1972, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the Clean Air Act of 1990, and the Affordable Care Act.

“But the letter only underscored Trump’s determination to lie and bully his way to reelection,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes in The Washington Post. “Republican claims that this is purely a partisan process must be challenged at their core. It is partisan only because Republican politicians lack the guts to acknowledge the obvious: A president who presses a foreign power to smear a domestic political opponent is engaged in despotism. Period…So when the issue comes before the Senate, Democrats cannot back down from their leader Charles E. Schumer’s demand that witnesses be called in a real trial. Those Republican senators who have claimed independence from Trump — particularly those up for reelection — must be forced to go on record, repeatedly if necessary…There is no middle ground. Either senators support a full accounting of the facts, or they are covering up for Trump.”

Another question that arises from the impeachment vote in the House of Representatives that should be directed to presidential candidates Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the only House member who voted “present,” as well as former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the first opportunity: “Rep. Gabbard/Mayor Bloomberg, will you or won’t you promise to support the Democratic presidential nominee?” Let no self-respecting reporter allow either one of them to wiggle out of a straight answer. Neither Gabbard nor Bloomberg made the cut for the December televised debate. Voters need to know the sincerity of the party commitment of all candidates who profess to be Democrats, especially those two.

At Politico, Kyle Chesney, Sarah Ferris and John Bresnahan discuss what is known so far about  Democratic impeachment strategy going forward: “Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to commit Wednesday to delivering articles of impeachment to the Senate, citing concerns about an unfair trial on removing President Donald Trump from office. Senior Democratic aides said the House was “very unlikely” to take the steps necessary to send the articles to the Senate until at least early January, a delay of at least two weeks and perhaps longer…“So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us,” Pelosi told reporters at a news conference just moments after the House charged Trump with abuse of power and obstructing congressional investigations. “That would’ve been our intention, but we’ll see what happens over there.”…Pelosi’s comments, which echo suggestions raised by other Democrats throughout the day, inject new uncertainty into the impeachment timetable and send the House and Senate lurching toward a potential institutional crisis…Though the House adopted two articles of impeachment charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of congressional investigations, it must pass a second resolution formally naming impeachment managers to present the case in the Senate. That second vehicle triggers the official transmission of articles to the Senate…By delaying passage of that resolution, Pelosi and top Democrats retain control of the articles and hope to put pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to adopt trial procedures they consider bipartisan.”

At Talking Points Memo, editor Josh Marshall provides one of the best assessments of Trump’s impeachment thus far: “Ordinary venal corruption can be impeachable. Some serious crimes that are not tied to a President’s official duties might be impeachable. But the crimes Trump is accused of – and of which he is clearly guilty – are definitional examples of the kind of wrongdoing impeachment was designed to combat…If we step back from signature phrases like “high crimes and misdemeanors” and look at the document in its totality, foreign subversion is a central, paramount concern in erecting a robust presidential power. The president is the only person who can never have had a foreign allegiance. He or she is specifically prohibited from accepting any thing of value or any power or title from a foreign power. The impetus to creating the constitution was the perceived need to create a more robust central government with a more powerful executive. The other signature, structural element of the document is the fear that this empowered executive will use these powers to perpetuate their own power and break free of the republican system of government on behalf of which and for which they hold these powers. Both of these central fears about presidential power are directly implicated in Trump’s criminal behavior.”

FiveThirtyEight’s Perry Bacon, Jr. reviews the shaping of public attitudes toward impeachment, and notes, “Support for impeachment increased substantially soon after the Ukraine scandal started dominating headlines, in late September and early October. During that time, the broad details of the scandal became widely known, and several prominent moderate Democrats and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi came out in favor of starting the impeachment process. By mid-October, most Democrats and more than 40 percent of independents were backing impeachment. And public opinion hasn’t really moved much since then, even during the sometimes-riveting hearings conducted by the House Intelligence Committee in November…What does this tell us? I think there’s a case to be made that what moved Democratic voters and perhaps some Democratic-leaning independents to back impeachment was as much Pelosi and other Democratic elites embracing it as the underlying evidence (Pelosi initially opposed impeachment after the Mueller probe ended but before the Ukraine story broke).”

Democrats who believe that the minimalist 2-count approach to impeachment that passed the House yesterday was inadequate may find David Corn’s review of Trump’s impeachment-worthy deeds in Mother Jones of interest. Corn writes that “Trump entered office as virtually an advertisement for impeachment. His disregard for the law and his profound lack of integrity already formed a prominent part of his permanent record.  He had run a fraudulent business(for which he would later be fined $25 million). He and three of his children (Eric, Donald Jr., and Ivanka) had overseen a fraudulent foundation (for which they would later be sanctioned). He was widely known to be a cheat who didn’t pay his bills. He was shown to be a nonstop liar. There had been plenty of stories and lawsuits focused on Trump and the Trump Organization’s shady business practices. He had worked with mobsters (and lied about it). He had hired and still hero-worshiped Roy Cohn, a ruthless, by-whatever-means lawyer who represented organized crime figures. That in itself was a huge tell…He had broken his promise to release his tax returns, failing to comply with this most basic requirement of transparency for a politician. And the instant he stepped into the Oval Office, Trump began violating the Constitution by running afoul of the emoluments clause, which prohibits a commander in chief from accepting payments from foreign governments. His hotels and businesses routinely pocketed revenue from overseas governments and officials…And he invited a foreign adversary to intervene in the 2016 contest when he called on Russian operatives to hack Hillary Clinton. (Trump also welcomed, denied, and aided and abettedMoscow’s covert attack on the election that was waged in part to help Trump win.)…The warning signs continued after he became president. Cronyism and nepotism ran rampant in the White House and throughout his administration. Trump exploited the presidency to hype his own businesses. His kids used his presidency to cash in. Cabinet members became involved in assorted scandals. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, was given a plum White House job, though he couldn’t obtain a security clearance. (Trump eventually had to order that Kushner be granted a clearance.) Trump’s companies pushed to expand their overseas operations (despite his promise that they would not). Trump trampled ethics rules. If there had been an algorithm that predicted impeachments, Trump would have rung the bell.” Despite Trump’s incessant whining about impeachment, the record shows he got off pretty easy.


Why Dems Have Become More Progressive on Racial Justice

If you were wondering “Why The Democrats Have Shifted Left Over The Last 30 Years,” Maddie Sachs explores some answers at FiveThirtyEight:

To answer this, we looked at data from the General Social Survey1 that tracks public opinion on the role of government in a variety of different policy areas between 1986 and 2018…First, the data shows that Democrats have indeed become more liberal over time, particularly on questions related to race and immigration. For instance, the share of Democrats who think the government has a special obligation to help improve black people’s standard of living due to past discrimination increased by over 20 percentage points between 1986 and 2018, while the share who think the number of immigrants to the U.S. should increase rose from 10 percent in 2004 to 35 percent in 2018.

…on the question of whether the government has a special obligation to help black people as a result of past discrimination, we saw a distinct gap in opinion when breaking down respondents by race. Far more black Democrats were in favor. White Democrats, on the other hand, have historically been less liberal on this question. The majority of the movement we saw in recent years was among white Democrats, who got closer to black Democrats on issues of race, as well as liberal Democrats, who broke away from conservative and moderate Democrats.

…Andrew Engelhardt, a postdoctoral research associate at Brown University, found in a forthcoming paper that while Democrats’ movement on race in the 1990s was largely driven by more socially conservative Democrats leaving the party, the Democrats surveyed in the 2000s were updating their opinions to become increasingly liberal.

Put another way, the Democratic Party is the only national political community that increasingly prioritizes racial justice and honors diversity. Sachs notes further that “this trend has held up in other research as well. Dan Hopkins, a FiveThirtyEight contributor and professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania who studies racial politics and political behavior, interviewed the same group of 500 Americans multiple times from 2007 to 2018 and found that racial prejudice has decreased among white Americans, particularly among white Democrats.”

As for why this trend has accelerated in recent years, Sachs writes, “On the one hand, the fact that race and immigration played such a central role in the 2016 election was certainly a contributing factor. A 2018 study by Peter Enns at Cornell University found that rather than voters choosing a candidate who matched their views on controversies like the Black Lives Matter movement, they actually changed their own views to match those of their preferred candidates.”

In addition, “there is evidence that Trump is continuing to drive some of this — although, perhaps not in the way one might expect. There isn’t evidence, for instance, that his rhetoric has contributed to an uptick in racist and sexist attitudes among white voters; instead, as FiveThirtyEight contributor Matt Grossmann has written, “the evidence shows that liberal-leaning voters moved away from [Trump’s] views faster than conservatives moved toward them.”

This is all good news for the Democratic Party. However, Sachs warns “But although the Democratic Party has moved to the left in recent years, a continued leftward trend is not inevitable…while the share of liberals in the Democratic Party is certainly growing, 53 percent of Democrats still identify as moderate or conservative, according to data from Pew.” Yet, “it’s hard to imagine Democrats making a dramatic departure on issues of discrimination and immigration, so if Democratic Party elites continue to direct voters’ attention toward these issues, Democratic voters may move even more to the left.”

MLK once said that “we have to be together before we can learn how to live together.” Ironically, only a landslide defeat of the GOP in 2020 can force them to reassess their racial isolation, and begin to rebuild as a party of reasoned conservatism, instead of racial phobias.


Teixeira: Don’t Sleep on the 2020 State Legislative Races!

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

By all means, let’s defeat Trump in 2020. And keep the House and make progress in the Senate. But let us not forget how very, very important the state legislative races will be this time around. 2018 was just a start, albeit a good one. Can you say “redistricting”? I think you can!

The Post had a nice long article on Democratic state legislative plans for 2020. The graphic below is worth the cost of admission all by itself.

“By the time President Barack Obama left office in 2017, Republicans were in the majority in two-thirds of state legislative chambers and held 33 of the nation’s governorships….

Over the past three years, Democrats have flipped about 435 state legislative seats, including winning control of chambers in New York, Connecticut, Colorado, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Washington and Maine, in addition to the victories this year in Virginia. Democrats also picked up nine governorships. But Republicans still have majority control in 29 state legislatures, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

DLCC leaders say their top targets next year will be flipping both chambers of legislatures in Arizona, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, while also winning control of House chambers in Iowa, Texas and Michigan and the Senate chamber in Minnesota. The organization also plans to work closely with groups that plan to heavily contest races in other states.”


Political Strategy Notes

Despite all of the yammering about impeachment, “in terms of whether the party can keep its House majority after 2020, impeachment may not be the most important vote the Democrats cast this month, or even this week,” Ronald Brownstein writes at The Atlantic. “Policy choices—namely, legislation to reduce prescription-drug pricing approved yesterday, and the revised free-trade deal that’s due for a vote next week—will likely have greater effects on the battle for control of Congress next fall, many Democratic strategists believe…Of all the measures House Democrats have passed this year, party strategists generally believe vulnerable incumbents are most likely to emphasize a handful in their reelection campaigns: In suburban and small-town seats alike, it’ll be the omnibus political-reform bill, and in suburban areas primarily, the expanded gun-control measures…But they expect their candidates, across almost all districts, to highlight the prescription-drug legislation more than any other…“The ability to tie health-care prescription-drug costs to your cost of living will be a cornerstone to winning in 2020, not only to the presidential, but to every race up and down the ticket,” said Dan Sena, the former executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the caucus’s election arm.”

“It’s still an open question how strong Trump will be next year in the 31 Democratic-held House districts that he carried in 2016,” Brownstein continues. “Even back then, Trump reached 50 percent of the vote in only 13 of those districts. In the suburban areas on that list especially, he may have lost some ground, despite the booming economies around America’s cities. A national Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday found that an unprecedented one-fifth of voters who approve of Trump’s handling of the economy nonetheless say they disapprove of his overall job performance, according to detailed results provided to me by the pollsters…Some on the left continue to believe the prescription-drug bill doesn’t go far enough, and others remain dissatisfied about reaching a trade agreement with Trump at all. But it’s clear those accomplishments are helping Democrats from marginal seats feel more comfortable going along with the caucus on impeachment. Indeed, reaching a deal with Trump on trade in particular, however paradoxical it seems, may have been the crucial final step toward building a Democratic majority next week for the vote that will brand him as only the third president ever impeached by the House.”

In “What if Democrats Have Already Won Back Enough White Working-Class Voters to Win in 2020?,” Joshua Holland argues at The Nation that “Since the 1980s, Democratic candidates have proven that they can win elections while losing whites without a college degree by a significant margin.” Holland notes that “Obama won 36 percent of their votes in 2012” and “in 2020, the candidate will likely need to win a smaller share of white people without a degree, because that group has long been declining as a share of both the electorate and the broader population. According to Gallup, their share of the population has declined by three percentage points since 2014. And a study released by the Center for American Progress in October projects that next year their share of the electorate will be 2.3 points lower than it was in 2016…According to a data set that combines survey and voter registration data with election results, Clinton lost non-college-educated whites by a 28-point margin in 2016, significantly worse than Obama’s 10-point deficit in 2008 or his 21-point gap in 2012.”

Holland adds “Meanwhile, Trump’s approval rates have cratered among all voters in all of the battleground states. Between Trump’s swearing in and the middle of last month, his net approval numbers (approval rate minus disapproval rate) fell by 23 points in Wisconsin, 21 points in New Hampshire, 21 points in Michigan, 18 points in Minnesota, and 19 points in Pennsylvania, according to Morning Consult’s polling. While those numbers aren’t broken down by race and educational attainment, those are the states where non-college-educated whites make up a majority of the electorate, according to David Wasserman’s data. (Trump’s net approval has also declined by 19 points in Ohio, 21 points in North Carolina, and 24 points in Florida.)” He concludes, “Given the paper-thin margins by which Trump won, Democrats probably don’t need to win the 36 percent of whites without a college degree that Obama got in 2012 to put together a winning coalition. With Trump firing up the Dems’ natural base, a shift of just a couple of points among this group could be decisive. And there’s every reason to believe that kind of movement is already baked in as we head into 2020.” Holland’s analysis seems reasonable enough for predicting that Dems will win the White House by a modest margin, barring any major screw-ups. But to win majority control of the U.S. Senate and a healthier share of state legislatures and governorships, Dems will likely need at least a little more support from white working-class voters than they received in 2016, which is certainly doable.

So, does the Labour party’s meltdown in the U.K. bode ill for Democrats in the U.S.? E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, “Yes, there are lessons for U.S. politics in the landslide victory of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party and the historic collapse of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. But watch out for precooked conclusions based on ideological predispositions, and pay attention to the ways in which Britain’s situation is very different from our own.” Dionne adds that Corbyn’s “resounding defeat — Labour will have the fewest parliamentary seats since 1935 — does not mean that the candidacies of Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) or Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are automatically doomed. Corbyn is well to the left of both and had problems of his own (including his deeply flawed response to an outbreak of anti-Semitism in his party). But the Labour leader’s showing is a cautionary tale. It’s hard to argue now, as some on the left once did, that Corbynism represents the wave of the future…Whether Johnson lives up to his promises or not, it’s worth remembering that in seeking working-class votes, he moved his party to the left on economics by promising more spending on health services and infrastructure. There may be a lesson here for the hyper-ideological conservatives in the United States.”

At CNN Politics, Harry Enten, however, finds another useful lesson from the U.K. election: “You’re going to hear about a lot of supposed lessons that can be applied to the 2020 US elections from the 2019 United Kingdom elections…I think the clearest lesson is staring us right in the face: The polls are still pretty good as we head into the 2020 presidential election in the US…Take a look at the average of polls for the four parties that have earned at least 10 seats each in the House of Commons (the UK Parliament’s lower House). The average of the final UK polls had the Conservatives winning 43% of the vote, Labour 33%, the Liberal Democrats 12% and the Scottish Nationals 4%…The actual result was Conservatives taking 43.6%, Labour 32.2%, the Liberal Democrats 11.6% and the Scottish Nationals 3.9%. In other words, each of these parties got within 1 point of its final polled vote share…The US’s own polls have likewise been fairly accurate during the Trump era. The average House, Senate and governor’s polls were about a point more accurate in 2018 than they had been in similar elections over the prior 20 years. The same was generally true for House special election polling in the 2017-2018 cycle and the three governor elections of 2019 (Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi).”

FiveThirtyEight’s Dhrumil Mehta warns that “The Democratic Presidential Candidates Are Becoming Less Popular,” and explains that “even though Biden, Sanders, Warren and Buttigieg are nowhere near as unpopular as Trump, their net favorability ratings have trended downward recently. This isn’t totally surprising, though, as my colleague Geoffrey Skelley noted a few weeks ago: Many presidential candidates’ net favorability ratings have been negative or close to zero since at least 2008, a sign, perhaps, of the polarized times we live in.” However, ” despite one or two recent good polls for Trump, Trump remains really unpopular — far more than any of the leading Democratic presidential candidates.”

Now for the bad news, from Mehta’s “Other Polling Bites“: “Morning Consult collected surveys of nearly 375,000 adults and found that Fox News is the most-watched cable news outlet in the U.S. in more than two-thirds of the country’s congressional districts (respondents were asked whether they watched CNN, Fox News or MSNBC). On average, 33 percent of adults say they watch the network at least once a week, followed by 28 percent who say they watch CNN and 20 percent who watch MSNBC.”

At Slate, Dahlia Lithwick explains why “Two Small Articles of Impeachment Are Pathetic but Necessary: Democrats have taken one lesson from Mueller—don’t give Republicans too much to lie about.” Lithwick writes, “I think that the narrow nature of the impeachment charges speaks to the disinformation effort Democrats rightly expected to have to counter and their hope not to engage in a fight about multiple realities across multiple issues over a lengthy time period. In other words, my guess is that in the wake of the White House efforts to distort and confuse the outcome of the Mueller report by lying about it (efforts that were largely successful; it’s still referred to, falsely, as a “hoax” by the GOP), Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler, and Nancy Pelosi made the reasonable decision to engage as little as possible with Republican lying. It is not simply that the impeachment managers have to sell a clean, coherent story, both to the public and in the Senate trial; it’s also that they need to avoid as many entanglements with fantasies and distractions as possible. Going narrow helps with that.” A good point about the distractions. But Dems and progressives can still run ads and give interviews sliming Trump and McConnell for their arrogant hypocrisy and shameful abuse of the Constitution and the rule of law.


Teixeira: Biden, Sanders, Warren and White Noncollege Voters

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

The latest Quinnipiac national poll shows Biden with a comfortable lead over Sanders and Warren, consistent with other recent polling. But what really caught my eye was the white noncollege breakdown on these three candidates. As shown below, Biden and Sanders draw equally from white noncollege voters (24 percent support each) while Warren gets only a pathetic 9 percent. This is the kind of thing that really worries me when I think about her as a general election candidate.


Teixeira: Economic Dynamism = Democrats

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

Economic Dynamism = Democrats

Yes, there is a magic formula for generating Democrats. It’s called economic dynamism. And the formula for generating Republicans, particularly Trumpian ones, is exactly the reverse: economic stagnation and decline.

Ron Brownstein picks up on a just-released report by Brookings and the /Information Technology and Innovation Foundation on innovation jobs and economic growth. “Just 20 large metropolitan areas now account for a clear majority of the nation’s jobs in the 13 high-productivity industries that the authors identify as the nation’s most innovative.”

Brownstein connects this development to recent political trends:

“Correlating the study’s findings with the results of the 2016 presidential election captures the enormity of that shift. In the 5% of metropolitan areas that have attracted the largest number of these cutting edge jobs — a list of 20 communities that includes New York, Boston, Washington, Atlanta, Dallas, Phoenix, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Seattle — Hillary Clinton won 59% of the vote and routed Trump by 11.5 million ballots, according to calculations provided by Brookings. Just those 20 thriving metropolitan areas provided her over 28 million votes — more than two-fifths of her total.

In the next 5% of metro areas that have attracted the most of these high-innovation jobs — a group that includes Pittsburgh, Orlando, Charlotte, Nashville, Austin and Portland — Clinton beat Trump by about eight percentage points, or roughly 1.2 million votes. In all, these two groups of thriving urban areas — the 40 communities that comprise the 10 percent of American metros that have generated the most of these highly-innovative jobs — provided Clinton over 36 million votes, fully 55% of her total.

In the metros that ranked between the 10th and 25th percentile for the number of these high-innovation jobs, Trump squeezed out a narrower advantage of about 200,000 votes, or half a percentage point. He beat Clinton soundly by 3.4 million votes in the remaining 75% of metro areas with the smallest numbers of these coveted jobs. Trump also won comfortably in the smaller communities that are not included in the nation’s roughly 400 metropolitan areas.

These stark findings reinforce the results of other studies over the past few years that show Democrats growing stronger in the places generating the most economic growth and Republicans solidifying their hold on the places displaying less dynamism. Brookings had found that although Clinton won fewer than a sixth of the nation’s counties in 2016, her counties generate almost two-thirds of the nation’s GDP.

Another recent Brookings study found that the average Congressional district held by Democrats now generates 50% more economic output than the typical district held by Republicans. Productivity per worker and the median income is now also substantially higher in the Democratic than the Republican districts.”

So there you have it. Want more Democrats? Figure out how to spread economic dynamism beyond the large metro areas where it is currently thriving. If not, Democrats will win some elections but they will not achieve the governing majorities they really need to move the country forward.


About That GOP “Coup” Claim

If, like me, you’ve been watching as much of the House Judiciary Committee deliberations on impeachment as you can stand, you have endlessly and interminably and redundantly heard Republicans argue that Democrats are engaged in a “coup” to overturn Trump’s election. This is how I responded at New York:

The House Judiciary Committee’s ranking member, Republican Doug Collins of Georgia, nicely articulated the central impeachment conspiracy theory Trump defenders are reinforcing during his opening statement prior to the testimony of constitutional experts on December 4, per the New York Post:

“’This is not an impeachment. This is just a simple railroad job. And today’s is a waste of time …

“’Do you know where this started? It started with tears in Brooklyn, in November 2016, when an election was lost …

“’Why? Because the chairman said it just a second ago. We’re scared of the elections that we’ll lose again,’ Collins said, referring to Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the panel. ‘So we got to do this now.’”

There you have it: Democrats are simultaneously trying to overturn the 2016 election and nullify the 2020 election. Never mind that it’s Trump and his allies who endlessly fulminate against nonexistent voter fraud, claiming (with zero evidence) that he was robbed of a popular-vote win in 2016 by “millions of illegal votes,” or that Democrats won the House in 2018 through illegal “ballot harvesting” (the entirely legal and ethical practice of delivering signed and sealed mail ballots to election authorities). Forget about the chronic Republican efforts to dig potholes on the path to voting places and thwart anything like majority rule. It’s the Democrats who cannot be trusted to accept adverse election results.

Ben Shapiro’s latest column is a much fuller exposition of this claim, under the headline: “Will Democrats Accept the Results of the 2020 Elections?”

It begins with this extraordinary reconstruction of reality:

“Democrats blamed Clinton’s election loss on Russian interference, on voter suppression, on anything but Clinton’s campaign performance.”

Having almost surely read (and written) more left-of-center 2016 election analysis than Shapiro, I laughed aloud at this assertion. I’d say that, by and large, Democrats blamed Clinton’s election loss on the following causes far more than Russian interference: (1) the Comey letter; (2) media emphasis generally on the Clinton emails; (3) the Electoral College system; (4) Clinton campaign mistakes in messaging and mechanics, and especially the failure to see disaster brewing in Michigan and Wisconsin; (5) voter complacency in anticipation of an easy Clinton win; (6) voter reluctance to elect a woman as president; (7) Jill Stein; (8) Bernie Bros; (9) inadequate efforts to turn out minority voters; (10) unprincipled Trump-loathing Republicans who voted for him anyway.

Yes, some Democrats did properly note that Republican secretaries of State and campaign operatives spent a good part of the 2016 cycle, like they spend every cycle, trying to hold voting opportunities for those people (you know, the ones who want to vote themselves welfare benefits and get new Obama Phones) to a minimum. But neither Russian interference nor voter suppression was even mentioned in the elaborate postmortems of reasons most often cited by Clinton supporters and media types conducted by Nate Silver and Molly Ball. The notion that overseas election interference was an idée fixe leading from “tears in Brooklyn” to impeachment is just a crock.

Shapiro makes similar leaps across facts and logic in shifting to the future:

“Now in the run-up to 2020, Democrats are already suggesting that if President Trump wins, the election will have been illegitimate. This time, they’re pointing to Trump’s supposed attempt to gather information from the Ukrainian government on potential 2020 rival Joe Biden in return for release of much-needed military aid. In fact, Democrats state that if Trump is not impeached, the 2020 results will inevitably be deemed improper.”

Actually, House Democrats have consistently made the point that it’s the president’s attempt to secure foreign-government interference that is an impeachable offense, not any likelihood that it did or could have succeeded. And the point about the cost of letting him get away with it is that it might embolden him to do worse things, not that the 2020 election will “inevitably” be deemed improper. No one that I have heard — other than Republicans — is talking about a Democratic challenge to the legitimacy of Trump’s reelection, barring something unforeseen. There’s certainly nothing remotely as alarming as the president’s perpetual “jokes” about not leaving office if he loses or when his second term ends — a possibility for which his and his allies’ attacks on the integrity of the 2016 and 2018 elections have built a foundation among the MAGA folk. The notion of a preemptive partisan coup to keep voters from eagerly reelecting Trump, of course, makes no sense given Republican control of the U.S. Senate compounded by the supermajority requirement for removal of a president.

I’m going to be charitable and recognize there is naturally going to be confusion when efforts to tamper with elections are the basis for an impeachment effort that occurs not long before another election featuring the same president. Impeachment is not, as Shapiro calls it, an effort by Democrats to “run an end around with the electoral process.” It is and has been, since the Constitution was ratified, a part of the system in which elections are another part. Democrats can regard Donald J. Trump’s presidency as “illegitimate” for all sorts of reasons, ranging from his unprecedented mendacity to his megalomania to his contempt for the rule of law to the undisguised joy he takes in dividing people into warring tribes by appealing to his supporters’ most atavistic — and, I might add, irreligious — instincts. And yes, many Democrats think presidents elected by popular minorities — like Trump and George W. Bush in his first term — lack moral authority. But nobody’s talking about disregarding and nullifying elections, unless it’s those “this is a republic, not a democracy” conservatives who believe their mandate to rule came from God or nature, not from the people.

All this “coup” talk may just reflect the Rovian principle Team Trump has adopted of accusing its accusers of harboring one’s own vulnerabilities and dark thoughts.


Political Strategy Notes

Right-wing media is at full-bore today, blasting Trump’s pending impeachment with a host of increasingly hysterical messages du jour, none of which is likely to convince many swing voters. But Republicans are struggling to make anything resembling a credible legal case against impeachment, and Caroline Kelly explains why in her article, “More than 500 legal scholars sign letter saying Trump committed ‘impeachable conduct‘” at CNN Politics: “More than 500 legal scholars signed on to a letter published Friday accusing President Donald Trump of having “engaged in impeachable conduct” in his dealings in Ukraine…”There is overwhelming evidence that President Trump betrayed his oath of office by seeking to use presidential power to pressure a foreign government to help him distort an American election, for his personal and political benefit, at the direct expense of national security interests as determined by Congress,” they wrote. “His conduct is precisely the type of threat to our democracy that the Founders feared when they included the remedy of impeachment in the Constitution.”..The letter comes after four other legal scholars testified at the first House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing Wednesday, with three of them making the case for impeaching Trump…They pointed to treason and bribery as the two potential charges prompting impeachment “because they include conduct undertaken not in the ‘faithful execution’ of public office that the Constitution requires, but instead for personal gain (bribery) or to benefit a foreign enemy (treason)…Corrupting elections subverts the process by which the Constitution makes the president democratically accountable,” the scholars wrote. “Put simply, if a President cheats in his effort at re-election, trusting the democratic process to serve as a check through that election is no remedy at all. That is what impeachment is for.”

In “How Nancy Pelosi Is Dictating the Democrats’ Impeachment Strategy,” John Cassidy writes at The New Yorker: “She could have scheduled the announcement of an agreement on the trade deal for tomorrow or next week. But, by holding it right after the unveiling of articles of impeachment, she demonstrated that, even as she and her colleagues are trying to drive Trump out of office, they are also focussing on bread-and-butter matters, such as lowering the cost of prescription drugs, guaranteeing paid leave for federal workers, and enshrining labor protections in trade agreements. Her message is that, in order to make progress in these areas, House Democrats are even willing to coöperate with a President whom they are impeaching…Pelosi has insisted on keeping the impeachment inquiry narrowly focussed on Ukraine, probably because she thinks returning to the Russia investigation would play poorly in swing districts. With the support of Adam Schiff, the head of the House Intelligence Committee, she has got her way…If Pelosi had believed that there was a realistic chance of removing Trump from office, she might have endorsed a broader and lengthier impeachment process.”

Regarding Pelosi’s fast-paced impeachment strategy, Andrew Prokop notes at Vox, “Due to the supermajority requirement for removal, at least 20 Republicans would have to break ranks to oust Trump. They knew that was never remotely likely and that, as a result, the impeachment quest would ultimately end in failure…Impeachment supporters will cry foul here. They will say that only if impeachment was done differently — perhaps with more months of hearings, perhaps by exploring topics other than Ukraine, perhaps with more effective Democratic leadership — it could have succeeded…Perhaps. But the way things have played out so far is quite close to what Pelosi would have predicted. Voters’ opinions about Trump have remained remarkably entrenched, as they have for the past two years. And congressional Republicans haven’t abandoned him, which means he’s here to stay…The impeachment investigation wasn’t a sham — far from it. It surfaced new information and helped nail down the facts of an apparent abuse of power by the president of the United States. It will likely result in a historic reprimand of Trump’s conduct as he becomes the third president ever to be impeached. But those who had greater expectations will probably end up disappointed.”

At The Atlantic, however, Elaine Godfrey explains why “The Activist Left Feels Betrayed by the House Impeachment Process“: “But as the House moves closer to approving two articles of impeachment against him—both concerning the president’s interactions with Ukraine—progressive activists and organizers have felt deflated instead. They had been advocating for Democrats to levy a much broader set of charges to paint a thorough portrait of the president’s wrongdoing, not the discrete list the House Judiciary Committee revealed on Tuesday. Making matters worse, they told me, House Democratic leaders’ near-simultaneous announcement of their support for Trump’s new trade deal diluted the significance of the moment, giving Trump and the Republicans a key win on a day that should have been focused entirely on Democrats’ denunciation of the president…Their grievances not only reflect the ideological fissures within today’s Democratic Party, but they may also foreshadow arguments to come next year as Democrats attempt to hang onto their House majority and win back the Senate and the White House. The disagreement over scope and timing is yet another sign that Democrats aren’t even close to a consensus on which strategy is best for beating Republicans in 2020…“They are catering to scared members of their caucus who think they won [in 2018] by [toeing] a middle ground, when they actually won due to anti-Trump outrage,” argued Adam Green, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a political-action committee.”

Most Democrats would say at this point, thanks, but they don’t need another presidential candidate. Nonetheless, it’s fun when a well-known Republican, David Gergen co-authors, with James Pitch an article at CNN Opinion entitled, “If Nancy Pelosi ran for president, she’d beat Trump.” As Gergen, who served in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan Administrations (Clinton’s also), and Pitch argue that Pelosi “is enjoying not only a last laugh but also a major comeback—mostly because she has been more successful than any other Democrat at outmaneuvering and often outfoxing President Trump…With the nation’s attention riveted on her as she has guided the impeachment inquiry, she has been at her absolute best—keeping an ideologically diverse and at times unruly caucus largely satisfied while not allowing impeachment fervor to overcome her governing or judgment…But what Pelosi has done outside the realm of impeachment also deserves acknowledgment. Under her leadership, the Democrat-controlled House has passed a number of significant bills—ones that would protect voting rights, take needed action on climate change, address gun violence and help achieve equality for LGBTQ Americans…Meanwhile, with the trade deal—the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement—Democrats appear to have gotten most of what they wanted, and Pelosi has given her moderates something to sell back home (and she may offer another victory for Democrats with the prescription drug bill this week)…By moving so quickly with impeachment, she’s making it clear that a President should be held accountable and that elections must be transparent and fair, while also guaranteeing that in the runup to next November, Democrats have time to focus on key issues, such as health care costs. (Please see a shocking story in The Washington Post showing that the percentage of Americans who cannot afford medical care has doubled in the past three decades.) Americans may remain unsure who should be the next President. But it’s clear Democrats already have their best possible choice for Speaker of the House.”

At npr.org, Julie Rovner addresses the question, “Which Health Care Strategy Has The Edge Among Democrats And Swing Voters?,” and writes, “The latest Tracking Poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation in late November found 24% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents said they want to hear the candidates discuss health care. That’s twice the total for the next top issue, climate change, and four times the total for immigration, the No. 3 issue…On the one hand, Democrats and Democratic-leaning respondents in the KFF poll say when it comes to health care, the candidate they trust most is Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (who has been pushing a Medicare for All plan since at least 1993)…Yet those same people say they prefer a public option (of the sort supported by former Vice President Joe Biden) to Sanders’ Medicare for All plan…That voter preference for the public option strategy was borne out in a separate Quinnipiac poll released last week, in which 36% of respondents say Medicare for All is a good idea while 52% say it is a bad idea. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll from September found similar results: 67% of respondents said they would support allowing people younger than 65 to “buy their health coverage through the Medicare program,” while only 41% favored “adopting Medicare for All, a single-payer health care system in which private health insurance would be eliminated…The key to becoming the Democratic presidential nominee, of course, is threading the political needle in a way that keeps the enthusiasm of the Democrats’ Medicare for All base, while not scaring away voters in swing areas who fear such major changes.”

Jennifer Bendery’s “Georgia Democrats Haven’t Won A Senate Seat In 19 Years. Two Women Say They Can.” at HuffPo offers some insight into Democratic chances for picking up Republican David Perdue’s Senate in the Peach State. Noting that “national groups like the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and EMILY’s List are still watching to see if it’s worth investing in a real fight in Georgia, where Democrats have teetered on the edge of winning a statewide election for years but fallen just short every time,” Bendery cites “a mix of factors give the party an edge: the state’s rapidly changing demographics around Atlanta, where the population is diversifying and threatening the GOP’s grip on power; the “Stacey Abrams phenomenon,” as Tomlinson put it, meaning Democratic voters are still fired up after she nearly won last year’s governor’s race; and the fact that both Senate seats are open in 2020 and neither will be held by a longtime Republican anymore.” However, ““Georgia has been like the Lucy’s football of American politics,” said Jeffrey Lazarus, a political science professor at Georgia State University. “Time and time and time again, Democrats have been getting 46, 47, 49%, going back to 2000 in Senate races and governor’s race.,,Demographically, it does look like any year now it could be the time when a Democrat wins.”

Thomas B. Edsall’s NYT opinion article “Trump Has a Gift for Tearing Us Apart: There are a lot of different ways to build walls” provides an indepth, data-rich analysis of his divide and conquer strategy. Edsall focuses on what several major studies indicate about public attitudes toward immigration and Trump’s unprecedented ability to excite irrational fears of immigrants. Edsall explains, “Donald Trump has done everything within his power to activate racial and ethnic animosity in this country. His main targets are immigrants, who are often greeted with rank hatred. But it’s a mistake to think that Trump started all this, even as he’s taking full advantage of the opportunities animosity has unleashed. He’s riding a wave…Trump’s genius in 2016 lay in his willingness — indeed, his eagerness — to openly and aggressively unleash the forces of racial and ethnic hostility that Republican elites had quietly capitalized upon for decades. Trump will be a formidable candidate next year because he is prepared to look under the rocks of the American belief system and see the snakes and vermin that have camped there in the dark.”

For the best one-graph summary of the last couple of political weeks, I’d go with Esquire’s Charles Pierce, who explains: “Nothing was more tiresome in this week’s House Judiciary Committee slanging than the baseless charge by the Republican minority that the impeachment inquiry is taking up so much of the House’s attention that the Republican minority doesn’t have the time to pretend to care about the nation’s crumbling infrastructure or the cost of prescription drugs. This was all my bollocks, of course. As Speaker Nancy Pelosi pointed out, while chasing the president*’s connections to the Ukrainian shakedown, the House has passed some 400 bills, many of them on a bipartisan basis, and the majority of them have died in the Senate because Mitch McConnell has been too busy putting unqualified Christopaths on the federal bench, and because McConnell just decided one day to be a megalomaniac with his thumb on history’s scale.”


Falling Between Two Stools on Impeachmemt?

As the Kabuki Theater of impeachment rolls along in the U.S. House, there are legitimate fears about how it will all play out for Democrats, as I explained this week at New York:

 It’s important to internalize a couple of basic facts about the big picture with respect to the impeachment process: (1) Trump is not going to be removed from office by the Senate, and (2) whatever impact impeachment has on future presidents or on historical judgments of this Congress — both factors often cited by Democrats favoring impeachment — we won’t know it for a good while. So the only thing relevant to analyze is the effect that this process and its trajectory may have on the 2020 elections.

We just don’t know at this point how the voting public will adjudge the impeachment inquiry, the House impeachment, or the Senate acquittal. Public support for impeachment spiked a bit just before and just after the formal process was initiated, but it has stabilized amid evidence that it’s not very popular in the Rust Belt battleground states where Trump pulled his upset in 2016. Attitudes toward impeachment, not surprisingly, are beginning to pretty closely match attitudes toward Trump and his reelection bid. So the best early evidence is that the impact of impeachment may be on the margins of the election, where enthusiasm and turnout patterns are legitimately important and not just the subject of spin.

That should concern Democrats. The decision by Nancy Pelosi to quickly enact narrow articles of impeachment before the 2020 election year formally begins may well indicate that she views it as a distraction at best and as a potential problem for Democrats at worst. These attitudes should be unsurprising given her steady resistance to going down that road until the Ukraine scandal broke and the Democratic rank and file shifted massively into the pro-impeachment camp. As I noted when the articles were announced, pro-impeachment Democrats — including those who favored taking this step before the Ukraine scandal appeared and Pelosi climbed aboard — may soon feel cheated out of a deep, broad investigation that would accompany the 2020 campaign:

“It’s certainly not hard to suspect that Pelosi is really just cutting losses by focusing on one incident of Trump’s misgovernment and racing to impeach him by year’s end so that House Democrats can move on to their previously scheduled election-year agenda. And the impression that she’s ready to ‘move on’ is certainly reinforced by the fact that she is holding another presser today to announce support for the administration’s renegotiated U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.”

At the same time, though, impeachment has gone far enough to unite Republicans behind Trump and give them the relentless talking point they have already agreed upon and will repeat like a meditative chant at any moment Republican partisans need a fresh burst of energy: Impeachment is a coup designed to rob American voters of their right to elect — or reelect — the president of their choice. A variation on this theme that we will briefly hear before the Senate trial concludes is that panic-stricken Democrats know the only way they can keep Trump from a second term is to secure his removal from office. But he and the GOP will thwart these traitors, and the preordained acquittal will be celebrated as total exoneration wherever MAGA folk gather.

So in one party, you will have excited, triumphant fans of the president, who once again eluded and outsmarted his elitist enemies, snake-dancing to the polls to secure another four years for their hero. In the other, you will have some people who want to forget about impeachment altogether and talk about health care whenever the party’s presidential candidates aren’t bickering about it, plus some people who are in a state of simmering resentment that their congressional leaders just went through the motions and didn’t expose Trump’s broader crimes and misdemeanors.

This isn’t an equation that works out very well for Democrats in 2020. Yes, of course, they can still beat Trump, and unless his job-approval rating finally rises, they probably will if their presidential nominee is decent and competent and acceptable to all party factions. But it may well be that Pelosi’s effort to thread the needle on impeachment will instead show her to have fallen between two stools, disappointing Democrats yet giving Republicans the hate-rage jet fuel on which they thrive.