washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Democratic Strategists Are Asking the Wrong Question About the White Working Class

If you were a Democratic political strategist with a multi-million dollar budget for opinion research about the white working class, which question would you want to investigate?

Read the Memo.

Democrats: Let’s Face Reality – The Term “People of Color” Doesn’t Describe a Political Coalition That Actually Exists.

The term “People of Color” is now playing a central role in the Democratic discussion of political strategy.

Read the memo.

Democratic Candidates: The Whole Debate about “Critical Race Theory” is a Cynical GOP propaganda trap – Here’s What you Should Say Instead

The latest example of this extremely effective GOP exploitation of language is the current debate over “Critical Race Theory” – a perspective about race that is supposedly being foisted on children in classrooms around the country.

Plausible Strategy for Surge of Immigrants

Democratic officeholders and candidates who plan to run in 2022 and 2024 need to face a simple, brutal fact – many will lose their next elections and will return control of government to the GOP if they do not offer a more plausible strategy for reducing the surge of immigrants at the border

Democrats in 2022 and 2024 will lose elections without a strategy.

Let’s Face It: The Democratic Party is Not a “Big Tent” Political Coalition – But it Desperately Needs to Become One.

Democrats routinely describe the Democratic Party as a “coalition” or even a “big tent coalition.” But in reality Dems know that this is not the case.

American Business Has the Power to Stop the GOP Assault on Democracy – Here’s a Strategy to Make Them Do It.

America is now well on its way to creating an electoral system that functions like Mexico’s during its era of one-party rule.

The Daily Strategist

December 7, 2021

Another Sign of Republican Extremism on Abortion from Missouri

Not too long after Todd Akin’s death, it’s clear the example he set for the disaster of abortion extremism hasn’t taught Missouri Republicans much, as I explained at New York:

With the U.S. Supreme Court quite possibly on the brink of abolishing federal reproductive rights and returning abortion policy to the states, it’s alarming to note that the anti-abortion movement is becoming even more radical about what it intends to do with that power if it gets it. Most notably, the once-standard exceptions for victims of rape and incest are disappearing from the state abortion bans that would leap to life if SCOTUS permits them to. Both the Texas and Mississippi laws before the Court this term have no rape or incest exceptions.

Supporters of these bans, particularly if they are candidates or elected officials, don’t usually like to talk about them; when they do, they certainly don’t like to talk about forcing a victim of rape or incest to carry a pregnancy to term. But in what is perhaps a sign of the times, Missouri Senate candidate Mark McCloskey — better known as the lawyer who pointed a rifle at Black Lives Matter demonstrators passing his mansion last summer — went out of his way to position himself as an abortion extremist by talking about banning abortion for a teenage victim of incestuous rape, as the Kansas City Star reports:

“He made the comments in response to an audience member’s question at a forum in Osage Beach. ‘There’s a lot of candidates that say they’re pro-life, but really they’re not completely pro-life,’ the woman in the audience said, according to a video of the event posted on Facebook. ‘There’s a lot of, ‘Well in this case, it would be allowed.’”

“McCloskey, a St. Louis personal-injury attorney, responded that he doesn’t ‘believe in any exceptions.’ ‘We were down in Poplar Bluff a couple of months ago, and somebody asked me that question, “So you would force a 13-year-old who’s raped by a family member to keep that baby?’” he said. “And I said, ‘Yes, and more than that, I’ve got that client.’ I’ve got a client who was raped by an uncle when she was 13 years old, had the child; she finished high school, finished college, and got a master’s degree.”

McCloskey seems to be very firm in his belief that teenagers should be forced to carry pregnancies to term in all cases, making this unusual analogy in the same appearance:

“He said it had bothered him ‘as long ago as when I was in grade school’ that some death-penalty opponents also support abortion rights. His comments received applause from the audience. ‘The justice of the Supreme Court in the most heinous crimes don’t have the right to decide who should live and die,’ he said. ‘But every 13-year-old girl on the street should be able to decide the fate of the life of their child?’”

Clearly, McCloskey thinks male Republican lawmakers should have that power. But he barely stands out among his rivals for the Republican Senate nomination. Disgraced former governor Eric Greitens calls himself “100 percent pro-life” and boasts that he forced the legislature into a special session on abortion. Missouri attorney general Eric Schmitt has been defending his state’s own extreme abortion law (which also has no rape or incest exceptions) in court. Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler is a favorite of the hard-line anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, and Congressman Billy Long is another “100 percent pro-life” Republican who has specialized in fighting publicly funded abortions. Nary a “moderate” in the bunch.

It’s all a bit amazing since Missouri provided one of the most graphic illustrations of the political perils of anti-abortion extremism in 2012, when Senate candidate Todd Akin blew up his candidacy while defending his own position against rape exceptions for abortion bans. Akin famously tried to argue that any woman who had experienced “legitimate rape” wouldn’t get pregnant, implying those who did must somehow have asked to be raped. But even he didn’t blithely go for the crazy-train trifecta of commandeering the bodies of 13-year-olds raped by their own family members. But Mark McCloskey did.

A Call for Activism to Pass the ‘Build Back Better’ Agenda and Elect More Democrats

In “Build Back Better Act is historic. Daily Kos has set up a historic campaign to pass it,” Paul Hogarth calls for for energized citizen activism to pass the Democratic infrastructure and social spending legislation and elect more Democrats in the midterms. As Hogarth writes:

President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda may be the largest and most substantive social legislation since the New Deal and Great Society.

Passing it will make transformative investments in jobs, the care economy (including child care and pre-K, the child tax credit, home care, and more), combating climate change, delivering relief for millions of immigrants, and much more. That’s why Daily Kos has put all of our resources to help make it pass.

Since March, Daily Kos has generated 1.81 million constituent lettersto House and Senate Democrats, over half a million petition signatures, and more than 35,000 constituent phone calls — all in support of a big, bold, and green measure that can reshape our country.

Throughout it all, we have focused on the issues and how this legislation will benefit millions of people. And it’s why we need you to keep contacting your members of Congress.

After it passes, the Build Back Better Act will aggressively fight climate change, cut child poverty, expand health care access, offer education opportunities, build affordable housing, provide for our child and elder care workers and help immigrants who work hard every day.

In a perfect world, Congress would pass each of these priorities in about 10 different bills that we could separately celebrate each passage. But because the Senate filibuster requires an impossible hurdle of 60 votes on anything, we had to stuff as much of the policy agenda into one budget reconciliation bill that can bypass Republican obstruction and become law.

Hogarth adds that “we refused to let the Build Back Better Act be defined by a dollar amount: what the bill accomplishes is what matters….What mattered most was what would be in the bill on a substantive policy level that helps people.”

Hogarth concludes, “We will fight hard to the bitter end to keep it as big, bold, and green as possible to deliver for the American people. And whatever we don’t get into the bill, we will fight to elect more Democrats in 2022—and repeal the filibuster in the Senate.”

The Right’s Embrace of Violent Revolution Is Becoming Routine

After reading about another of Marjorie Taylor Greene’s outrages, I wrote about what it really meant at New York:

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene is occasionally useful for her habit of coming right out and saying things her extremist colleagues think and imply but don’t usually articulate. That happened this week during an interview MTG gave to a right-wing media outlet, as the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake reported:

“During an appearance on conservative outlet Real America’s Voice, Greene repeated a frequent GOP talking point that the real focus of congressional investigators should be violence at Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. But while doing so, she essentially suggested the Capitol riot comported with our Founding Fathers’ vision.

“The racial-justice protest violence ‘was an attack on innocent American people, whereas January 6th was just a riot at the Capitol,’ she said. ‘And if you think about what our Declaration of Independence says, it says to overthrow tyrants.'”

This is not a tossed-off comment or anything new for Greene, as the Post reported soon after the Capitol riot:

“References to the year 1776 and the American Revolution have grown substantially among the far right as Trump supporters and conspiracy theorists have hinted at the possibility of a revolution in the wake of Trump’s election loss, which they view, falsely, as illegitimate. Trump allies and surrogates, including first-term Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), referred to Jan. 6 as Republicans’ ‘1776 moment.'”

This is actually a sentiment that goes a bit deeper than its “my violence GOOOOD, your violence BAAAAAD” wrapping. In January and this week, MTG was almost certainly alluding to the time-honored right-wing extremist doctrine that whenever “patriots” decide the government is controlled by “tyrants,” they are entitled to pick up shooting irons and start trying to kill soldiers and cops and anyone else complicit in that tyranny. That is, after all, what the Founders did in 1776, right?

Indeed they did, but they did not purport to serve as leaders in the very government they were overthrowing and certainly didn’t intend to create some permanent right of violent revolution against the republic they created. To put it another way, you can choose to be a revolutionary or you can choose to be a member of Congress, but you can’t be both. Once you have deemed the government a tyranny (which MTG constantly does in conflating the “Democrat Party” with communism), you pretty much need to take to the hills and stop giving interviews in and around the U.S. Capitol. That’s particularly true when the “tyranny” in question is the result of a democratic election that every available nonpartisan institution has confirmed as fair.

The treatment of right-wing insurrectionism, actual or potential, as the work of patriots as blessed by the Founders is hardly original to Greene. It is intrinsic to the Second Amendment absolutism that is dangerously popular among conservatives these days. The doctrine holds that the ultimate purpose of the right to bear arms is to ensure a citizenry that is willing and able to “resist tyranny,” with the meaning of “tyranny,” of course, left up to those choosing violence to battle it. And it was also implicit in the tea-party-era movement known as “constitutional conservatism,” which argued that conservative policy prescriptions ranging from free-market capitalism to states’ rights to fetal personhood were eternally embedded in the Constitution in conjunction with the Declaration of Independence by the Founders, who themselves had divine sanction for their work. Thus any contrary policies imposed via democratic representative government were inherently illegitimate and warranted resistance. In unbalanced minds, that resistance would definitely justify terrorism.

The same anti-democratic creed is alive and well in MAGA circles, including the intellectuals of the Claremont Institute who serve as shock troops in the wider world, much as MTG does in Washington. “In March, one of Claremont’s senior fellows published an essay proclaiming the need for a counterrevolution against the American majority who didn’t vote for Trump,” Laura Field reports at The New Republic. “In late May, the think tank produced a podcast that gamed out how a future president might convert herself or himself into a new Caesar.”

Even absent any exotic constitutional theories, the idea that nothing must stand in the way of the correct people (i.e., Donald Trump) holding power is at the very heart of the Big Lie that inspired (and, some would say, incited) the Capitol riot. Unfortunately, MAGA folk seem determined to claim a permanent right to power, which in every important respect is a direct and permanent threat to democracy.

Political Strategy Notes

In their post, “Democrats Worry A Lot About Policies That Win Elections. That’s Short-Sighted,” Lee Drutman and Meredith Conroy write at FiveThirtyEight: Democratic leaders, activists and strategists spend a lot of time discussing — and arguing about — policy under the assumption that the policies the party prioritizes affect whether they will win the next election. It’s been a big part of President Biden’s governing strategy so far, and one need look no further than Democrats blaming talk of defunding the police for losses in the House in 2020 or, conversely, citing health care in the 2018 midterm elections as the reason they did so well to understand the role they think policy plays in their electoral success….But the research on whether choosing the right policy actually helps parties win elections is far less clear. How Democrats talk in 2021 and 2022 and what they prioritize may — or may not — help them win the 2022 midterm elections, but it will shape the policy and political landscape for the future in potentially profound ways. And that, perhaps, is what Democrats should be more worried about….In political science, there’s a large body of research that examines how policy shapes politics. The broad takeaway is that policy matters — a lot — but not in the ways that political pundits often think it does. Rather than helping parties win the next election, research suggests that major policies remake the political landscape in ways that reverberate far into the future — including changing expectations of government and creating new voter constituencies. This, in turn, can shape future elections.”

Drutman and Conroy add “Of course, the shorter-term risk is that any new government program yields an immediate backlash. It’s far easier for opponents to play up the costs and demonize the program when no voters have come to rely on the benefits. Moreover, since many social spending programs are likely to benefit communities of color, Republican opposition is likely to play on racial tropes, as it did with the ACA and other social programs before that.” Further, “The potential electoral risk is why some Democrats and Democratic strategists want the party to focus more on bread-and-butter issues, like economic policy. The concern is that if Democrats make race and racial justice too much of their agenda, they risk alienating voters, especially white voters without a college degree, who are geographically important. But what this misses is that Republican messaging is going to focus on contentious conflicts over race and identity regardless of what Democrats do. So if the Biden administration and Democratic Party leaders think they can duck having these conversations, they are mistaken, especially given that a few outlets exercise a stranglehold over the media ecosystem on the political right. Moreover, spending on expanded social programs might actually help Democrats win over some of these voters in the long run, especially since they tend to be lower-income and are also more likely to be women, who would benefit most directly from free child care.” In their conclusion, however, the authors note that, “even policies that eventually poll well take time to become popular because voters must experience them and actually value them. Partisanship is also sticky and slow to change. Most voters evaluate policy and programs through partisan media and judge programs by whether the programs are Democratic programs or Republican programs. But on the margins — and especially over time — policies shape both identities and party coalitions.”

“If this were a poker game, it could be said that this year, with such a grand set of plans, they bet the house on a pair of 3’s,” Charlie Cook writes at the Cook Political Report. “Pushing a Franklin D. Roosevelt- or Lyndon B. Johnson-sized agenda—without the massive House and Senate majorities those two presidents’ parties enjoyed—is more than just a misreading….It is also hard to believe that FDR or LBJ would remain stymied as long as Biden has by a faction of their own party, holding legislative hostage one of the two signature spending packages that actually had a chance of being enacted as written. The AJA hard-infrastructure package, focused on concrete, steel, bricks, mortar, electric grid, and broadband, had (note past tense) a real chance of passing largely intact, and potentially with at least some support (at least initially) from a few Republicans. Now, no matter what its size and configuration, Democrats would be lucky to get more than a handful of GOP House and Senate votes, at best….It is a decent bet that the winning party next year will not be the party that the election is about….On the other hand, if this election is about Trump and a Republican Party seemingly obsessed by fighting culture wars—clashing with Democrats over symbols and engaging in proxy fights, appealing to a shrinking core constituency—Democrats can win….Midterms are about the president and party that is in power, not one that is no longer in charge. But these might be the only arrows in the Democratic quiver.”

Talking Points Memo Editor Josh Marshall puts it all into a clarifying perspective: “Democrats appear to be limping their way toward passing a slimmed down version of the President’s agenda. I don’t think we should be overly distressed that the final number is around $2 trillion as opposed to $3.5 trillion. You never get everything you want. And we can’t run from the reality that Democrats control Congress by the most tenuous of margins – in fact, no margin at all in the Senate. But Democrats should be asking themselves why it is that over the last three to four months the President’s public approval has fallen roughly ten points. In a highly partisan and polarized age that is simply a massive drop….As I and many others have argued, the clearest explanation is the summer resurgence of COVID. Or more specifically, the whipsaw realization that COVID wasn’t done….Combined with that you have various economic knock on effects – high prices for a number of important consumer items, at least the appearance (the reality is less clear) of a lagging job market, and all manner of shipping delays and shortages of all manner of things people want to buy….But most of the public doesn’t have a clear sense of what those things even are. And to the extent they do, they’re not what most people are focused on. They’re mostly focused on COVID and getting out of the hole we collectively fell into almost two years ago. Popularity isn’t the same as saliency….The only way forward is to pass the bill. Give Democrats something to be enthused about, show everyone else the President is able to get things done and then get about selling what’s in the bill and working and being seen to work nonstop on bringing the Pandemic to heel.”

Study: Democrats Can Win by Emphasizing Working Class Issues

From Democracy Corps:

A sweeping nationwide study of working class voters shows Democrats can gain at the ballot box by emphasizing popular economic policies that help families thrive and make big corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes.

The interim findings, released at a critical juncture in the Build Back Better legislative debate, result from a cross-racial project of Democracy Corps, Equis Labs, and HIT Strategies, supported by funding from the American Federation of Teachers.

The research points to an effective strategy for President Biden and Democrats to corral voter support and raise enthusiasm and turnout ahead of pivotal midterm elections that could shape the future of the country for decades to come.

Black, Hispanic, Asian American and Pacific Islander voters prioritize, above all, policies that make their families materially better off and tip the balance of power to working people and away from the biggest corporations who call the shots. They are united behind labor protections starting with federal contractors paying $15 an hour; expanding Medicare and maintaining insurance subsidies that lower premiums; the child tax credit; and infrastructure jobs. They prioritize corporations finally paying their fair share of taxes.

“To be successful Democrats need to focus on making families’ lives better through the eyes of the multi-racial working class,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “The study shows by creating good jobs and economic mobility we can demonstrate that a better life and a vibrant democracy is both achievable and a bulwark against right-wing authoritarians threatening to tear our country apart.

“This study comes at a crucial moment for Congress and I hope lawmakers take these insights seriously and use them to champion the working class who are sick and tired of being sick and tired and increasingly think their country and its institutions have failed them.”

The group conducted a battleground web survey with all registered voters, concentrating on the white working class (those without a four-year college degree). EquisLabs conducted an online survey with Hispanic registered voters in eleven states, with Texas and Florida heavily represented. HIT Strategies conducted an online survey with Black registered voters in ten battleground states and a mixed-mode survey with Asian and Pacific Islanders in Orange County, CA. The surveys were completed in late July and August.

While racial equity is a top tier issue for Blacks and immigration reform is crucial for key segments of the Hispanic community, they share a desire for working people to have tangible relief and more power at a time when the top one percent has tightened its grip on the nation’s economic levers. “At a time where Black voters are growing impatient with what they perceive as a lack of progress on their top issue priorities, Build Back Better addresses many of their economic concerns with an emphasis on equity that President Biden and Democrats promised during the 2020 election,” said Terrance Woodbury, CEO and founding partner at HIT Strategies.

Stephanie Valencia, Co-Founder of Equis Research and Equis Labs, a polling and innovation hub focused on studying and reaching Latino voters, stated, “What keeps a majority of Latinos on the Democratic side is that they believe Democrats care more about people like them while Republicans favor the rich and big corporations. The danger for Democrats is when that feeling of ‘cares about us’ doesn’t translate into action of ‘delivers for us.’ Whether it is on the economy or immigration, Dems are then open to the attack that they’re taking our votes for granted. To bounce back from the shift we saw in 2020, Democrats are going to need to become the party of action again and deliver results for Latinos that they can feel in their everyday lives.”

“Nationwide, Asian-American and Pacific Islander voters saw a 71 percent increase in turnout in 2020 in part to repudiate the Trump agenda but also to stand for much-needed action on economic and COVID-19 recovery. At this time, AAPI voters in key swing districts in Orange County feel that Democrats aren’t doing enough to address their key issues, and we could see a decline in turnout in 2022. That could be the margin in some of the closest races around the country,” said Roshni Nedungadi, COO and founding partner of HIT Strategies.

One of the most important findings was the discovery that the Democrats’ diverse base and persuadable working class voters have similar priorities for government. A key driver is the popularity of the new expanded Child Tax Credit that is very important to parents and white working class voters under 50 years of age.

Communities remain worried about crime and support messages that favor funding and respecting the police, while also ensuring abusive officers will be held accountable for their actions.

These shared priorities come from recognizing the Democrats’ base is overwhelmingly working class. Fully 70 percent of Black voters in HIT’s battleground survey did not have a four-year degree; even more, 75 percent in EquisLabs’ battleground states. Two-thirds of millennials/Gen Z, 69 percent of unmarried women and 57 percent of white unmarried women also lack a four-year degree.

Stanley Greenberg, founder of Democracy Corps with James Carville, said, “I guess, it’s the working class, stupid! They need to be seen. They need to hear we want change. We need to deliver the transformative change before the Congress and level the playing field.”

Download the key findings slides here →

Download the Democracy Corps white working class slides here →

Download the EquisLabs Hispanic working class slides here →

Download the HIT Strategies African American working class slides here →

Download the HIT Strategies AAPI working class slides here →

Limitations of the ‘Popularism’ Debate

At The Washington Monthly David Atkins explains why “Arguing About Popularism Is a Dead End. Fix American Democracy Instead: Why governing by polls cannot save the Democrats or the country” :

The hottest conversation in influential liberal punditry these days is about “popularism.” The basic idea is that Democrats should use survey data to find out what ideas and policies are most popular, then promote those ideas and policies while forcefully marginalizing unpopular ones. Adherents of this strategy believe that, because of the structural disadvantages Democrats face in gerrymandered legislatures, the Senate, and the Electoral College, it is necessary for the party to minimize messages that offend the largely rural and exurban white working-class voters who are overrepresented by these structures, as well as voters of color who bend more conservative.

Popularism says, in short, that Democrats should sideline activists pushing for more radical social change and prioritize the average voter in a Montana general election for Senate.

There are many reasons why this approach, currently in vogue in powerful liberal circles and even in the White House, is likely misguided. First, quantitative policy surveys are a terrible methodology to gauge what really motivates voters. Second, Republicans seem to have no trouble winning elections—even occasionally in blue areas—despite pushing for a host of deeply unpopular policies. Third, it’s impossible and unwise to tell unelected activists that they have to stop pushing for social changes unpopular with the broader electorate, much less the median rural, conservative, older white voter. Fourth, it’s not at all clear that if Democrats were to de-emphasize, say, police reform or climate change or antiracism that it would bring back any low-trust voters lost to Trumpism or Q-adjacent conspiracy theories. Finally, it’s likely that any potential voters won over by minimizing liberal priorities would crush the mobilization of progressives and younger voters who already feel desperate and marginalized by a climate-ravaged future and exorbitant housing, health care, and education costs.

But the real problem of our politics doesn’t come from the activists, or the legislators, or the strategists. It comes from the broken and anti-majoritarian structures of American democracy. Both the popularists and the anti-popularists are trapped in a cage bounded by an unrepresentative Senate, a gerrymandered House, and an increasingly unstable Electoral College. Both sides are fighting one another when they should be focused on how to escape the cage entirely.

Among Atkins’ strategic alternatives, “It may be time, then, to consider even more radical approaches to the problem. Blue counties already account for 70 percent of U.S. GDP, and that figure is growing. Might there be ways to leverage corporate and economic power to ensure that the areas on which the American economy depends receive the equal per capita representation they deserve? If it is impossible to alter the composition of the states in the Senate, might it be worth figuring out mechanisms to encourage more liberal voters to move to small red states?…Radical, wacky, and desperate as these ideas might seem, they are probably more productive conversations than endlessly arguing over the strategic value of popularism.”

Teixeira: ‘It’s the Working-Class, Stupid’

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

Forward to the Working Class, Comrades!

I believe I’ve made this point before.

But it is good to see it underscored by a big data dump and analysis from Democracy Crops, Equis Strategies and HIT Strategies. I’m not crazy about all the data presented here and not sure the approach they recommend to the working class will be quite as efficacious as they think. But at least they asking the right question and have answers that are at least somewhat plausible.

“Policies that make families materially better off and tip balance of power to working people are the pathway to electoral success.

A sweeping nationwide study of working class voters shows Democrats can gain at the ballot box by emphasizing popular economic policies that help families thrive and make big corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes….

One of the most important findings was the discovery that the Democrats’ diverse base and persuadable working class voters have similar priorities for government. A key driver is the popularity of the new expanded Child Tax Credit that is very important to parents and white working class voters under 50 years of age.

Communities remain worried about crime and support messages that favor funding and respecting the police, while also ensuring abusive officers will be held accountable for their actions.

These shared priorities come from recognizing the Democrats’ base is overwhelmingly working class. Fully 70 percent of Black voters in HIT’s battleground survey did not have a four-year degree; even more, 75 percent in EquisLabs’ battleground states. Two-thirds of millennials/Gen Z, 69 percent of unmarried women and 57 percent of white unmarried women also lack a four-year degree.

Stanley Greenberg, founder of Democracy Corps with James Carville, said, “I guess, it’s the working class, stupid! “

May I recommend here my recent piece on The Power of the Working Class Vote? Reading it in conjunction with these new data may be enlightening.

“Nationally and in every state the working class vote is far larger than the college-educated vote. Because of this, if education polarization increases in the manner it has recently, with the college-educated moving toward the Democrats while the working class becomes more Republican, equal-sized shifts favor the GOP. For example, looking first at the national distribution, since the working class share of voters is 70 percent larger than the college-educated share (63 percent noncollege/37 percent college, according to 2020 Catalist data), if a one point increase in Democratic support among college voters is counter-balanced by a one point shift in support against the Democrats among the working class, the net effect would be to reduce the Democratic margin in the popular vote by half a point. If there were 5 point shifts for and against the Democrats in these two education groups, the Democratic margin would shrink by 2.5 points; if 10 point shifts for and against, the result would be a 5 point shrinkage.

This is the national situation. But the power of the working class vote is just as strong in most swing states. According to AP/VORC VoteCast data (Catalist data not yet available on the state level), the working class/college disproportion is even higher than the national average in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. This is perhaps as one might expect.

But consider a state like Arizona. We are used to thinking of it in terms of its increasing race-ethnic diversity, which is helping drive political change in the state. But that trend obscures another fact: it’s still a heavily working class state, significantly above the national average. That means that shifts among working class voters in Arizona are potentially even more powerful than those described for the nation as a whole.”

Political Strategy Notes

Stephen Collinson reports at CNN Politics that “Joe Biden is tantalizingly close to fulfilling what supporters see as the historic promise of his presidency in the coming days, at a critical moment for his social policy transformation at home and his hopes of reclaiming US leadership overseas….After weeks of feuding between moderate and progressive Democrats and his agenda’s several brushes with extinction, the President’s double play of social spending and a bipartisan infrastructure program may finally come to fruition this week. Democrats hope to agree on a framework on a trimmed down package of social, health care and education programs in order to lift a House progressive blockade on a vote on the bipartisan bill fixing roads, bridges and railroads….”I think we’re pretty much there now,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” on Sunday. A Democratic source told CNN’s Manu Raju the goal is now for the House to have a vote on the infrastructure package on Wednesday or Thursday and send it to Biden’s desk. The exact content of the final social spending bill is not yet known, since negotiations on paring back a more ambitious program to win moderate votes have been taking place behind closed doors. But Democrats still appear to be determined to provide free pre-kindergarten education, an extension of Medicare, home care for seniors and more affordable child care.”

At The Hill, however, Lexi Lonas reports that “Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Saturday that the expansion of Medicare to include dental, hearing and vision coverage is staying in the human infrastructure bill despite doubts from President Biden….Biden said Thursday during a CNN town hall that it would be a “reach” for the spending bill to include the Medicare expansion due to opposition from moderate Democrats Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Krysten Sinema (Ariz.)….“The expansion of Medicare to cover dental, hearing and vision is one of the most popular and important provisions in the entire reconciliation bill,” Sanders tweeted on Saturday….“It’s what the American people want. It’s not coming out,” he added….Biden said Thursday during a CNN town hall that it would be a “reach” for the spending bill to include the Medicare expansion due to opposition from moderate Democrats Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Krysten Sinema (Ariz.).” The Kaiser Family Fund reported in September that “Results from a recent KFF poll indicate that 90% of the public says expanding Medicare to include dental, hearing, vision is a “top” or “important” priority for Congress.”

As for lowering prescription drug costs, “Democrats have been at an impasse for weeks as a small handful of House and Senate centrists continue to push back on the planned sweeping system for negotiating drug prices, ” Jennifer Scholtes, Marianne Levine and Alcie Miranda write at Politico. “Now lawmakers acknowledge they will end up with a far narrower drug pricing bill, if they can secure one at al l….Fallback plans include negotiating a smaller set of drugs under Medicare Part B, which covers drugs people usually wouldn’t self-administer, like vaccines and IV fluids. Lawmakers are considering leaving out drugs covered under Medicare Part D, which covers other prescriptions. They are also mulling negotiation only for the cost of drugs with expired patents and setting prices based on a U.S. standard, rather than an international baseline….Other options for scaling back the plan include applying the lower prices in Medicare and not private insurance plans, or phasing in the changes more slowly to give corporations time to adjust.” The KFF poll reports that 83 percent of respondents favor “Allowing the gov’t to negotiate with drug companies to get a lower price on Rx drugs that would apply to both Medicare and private insurance (Oct. 2021).”

Geoffrey Skelley addresses a question of increasing concern “Could Manchin Actually Leave The Democratic Party?” at FiveThirtyEight, and writes, “Sen. Joe Manchin told reporters Wednesday that suggestions he would leave the Democratic Party were “bullshit” with a “capital B.” He’d previously told Democratic leaders that he’d consider becoming an independent if they felt it would help them explain to the public why the party was having such a hard time coming to an agreement on its social spending plans, but he denied that he’d made threats about leaving the party.” In an extensive study, political scientist Antoine Yoshinaka “found party-switchers performed 4 to 9 percentage points worse in their next general election than non-switchers between 1952 and 2010.” Skelley adds, “Yet while one can make a fairly convincing electoral case for why Manchin should consider switching parties, it’s most likely he’ll stay where he is considering the enormous amount of leverage he has. He essentially can veto any proposal he disagrees with while also working within his party to adjust legislation to better reflect what he wants. And because Democrats have full control of government, he’s more likely to get laws passed that are agreeable to him….if Manchin were part of a 51-member Republican caucus, he would wield a similar amount of veto power. But outside of that, it’s unlikely he would be as influential as he is right now….And he’d also be unlikely to influence the trajectory of GOP legislation in the way he does as a longstanding member of the Democratic caucus.”

“Red Dog” Democrats Shouldn’t Expect Big Policy Concessions

While mulling some recent material from The Bulwark, I thought I’d explain something to the converted “Never Trumpers” the outlet represents, and did so at New York:

For a while now I’ve had a guilty-pleasure reading habit: The Bulwark, that semi-official outlet of Never Trumpers who view themselves as having definitively broken with the GOP thanks to their former party’s thralldom to Donald J. Trump. I share its contributors’ belief that they (the tribe usefully described by Miller as Red Dog Democrats) represent not just a self-promoting claque of elite scribblers but a real if marginal faction of the Democratic Party, having burned a lot of bridges on their way out of the GOP. Their views appear to parallel those of a significant number of suburban Republicans and independents who voted Democratic in 2018 and 2020. And given the very close balance between voters of the two parties, as reflected most recently in 2020, Democrats really can’t afford to contemptuously reject any potential adherents, however alien or even repugnant they might find their backgrounds.

So it’s understandable when Bulwark co-founder Charlie Sykes expresses frustration that Democrats refuse to consider their pleas for policy concessions on grounds of holding old grudges:

“The spending. The wokeness. The repeal of the Hyde Amendment. I could go on …

“These are difficult times for folks on the center-right, who’ve tried to join Democrats in a loose alliance to protect the Republic from Trumpism …

“Litmus tests are applied: it’s not enough to be pro-democracy, NTers are also expected to embrace the elements of the progressive agenda — from free community college, to abortion, rent moratoriums, police funding, transgenderism, CRT, social spending, and the candidacy of Greta Thunberg for sainthood.”

Sykes fears it’s all very personal, and warns, “If you cancel moderates/conservatives for their past sins, you don’t have a coalition.”

Here’s the thing, though: It’s not really about the Red Dogs. Yes, I’m sure it’s been tough for them to watch Democrats largely come together around a legislative program that’s significantly more progressive than the one advanced by the Obama administration. But Democrats have been coalescing around the basics of the Build Back Better agenda for some time now. That the famously moderate Joe Biden now embraces it is a sign of how the party has slowly evolved, not some sort of betrayal or surrender to the left. And anyone who paid close attention to the 2020 presidential primaries should have understood that there is less distance between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders than between Joe Biden and the Joe Biden of the 1990s.

Part of what has happened is simply a resolution of internal conflicts among Democrats that left them defensive and at times incoherent. A classic example is one that Sykes mentioned: abortion policy. For years, Democrats claimed to value reproductive rights even as they accepted significant limitations on them: e.g., the Hyde Amendment, which made abortion services, unlike any other medical services, ineligible for any sort of federal support. That amendment, along with acceptance of some largely symbolic restrictions on rare late-term abortions, and the whole “safe, legal, and rare” messaging introduced by Bill Clinton, represented concessions to a significant bloc of Democratic voters and Democratic pols who did not recognize reproductive rights at all.

That has changed over time. Anti-abortion Democratic politicians are a rare and shrinking breed, and there are now significantly fewer anti-abortion Democratic voters than there are pro-choice Republicans. Most Democrats, including Joe Biden, have made the leap into a more coherent and unified position. They aren’t going to turn back the clock to satisfy ex-Republicans, but they aren’t insisting on a “litmus test” just to annoy or exclude them, either. The same could be said for other policy tenets once beloved by a significant number of Democrats — from fiscal hawkishness to armed interventionism to an openness to “entitlement reform” — that remain attractive to the newest proto-Democrats. As for the idea that Democrats are some sort of rigid ideological cult: Come on, seriously? Look at what’s going on with the attempted enactment of the Build Back Better reconciliation bill. If this is an intolerant and exclusive political party, I’d hate to see a loosey-goosey one try to function. It may just be that the issues Red Dogs fret about may lie outside the still relatively loose bounds of party unity.

This doesn’t mean Red Dogs should despair, but it may mean another painful reevaluation of priorities, recognizing that most have already had to sacrifice a lot of old allegiances and even the habitual language used to make sense of the political world. In many respects, the Never Trumpers resemble their spiritual (and in some cases biological) predecessors, the neo-conservatives. These were people who broke with the Democratic Party out of a conviction that Democratic views on national security made continued party loyalty impossible. But most of them retained many views that horrified their new Republican allies until they accepted the inevitable role of a factional minority and grew to accommodate or even share the policy positions and ideological language of the GOP, which was increasingly dominated by conservatives with their own ideological-consistency demands.

Most Red Dogs have no illusions about the party they’ve left and understand their constituencies are too small to form a third force or demand concessions from a position of strength. Most, I suppose, will get used to the strange and sometimes lurid landscape of the Donkey Party. Others will embrace the posture of the gadfly, the people of no party or coalition. But it’s really not personal. It’s just politics.


Brownstein: Midterms Will Likely Turn on How Voters Perceive the ‘Here and Now’ – a Year from Now

Some sobering insights from Ronald Brownstein’s latest article in The Atlantic:

Democrats must “recognize that the potential upside of [their economic] bills [is] limited for next year, regardless of how virtuous they are in the policy,” says Simon Rosenberg, the president of NDN, a Democratic research and advocacy group. “Joe Biden was elected to do one thing, which was to defeat COVID. And when he was defeating it, his numbers went way up, and when COVID started defeating him, his numbers went way down. The key to him getting his numbers going back up is he has to defeat COVID and get credit for it. This has to be the central governing and political priority for the Biden administration.”

Sarah Longwell, the founder of the Republican Accountability Project, an organization of Republicans critical of former President Donald Trump, likewise says that in recent focus groups she’s conducted in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, few voters were following the legislative maneuvering over the Democrats’ huge agenda. “The thing that people care about right now is getting COVID under control, and all of the attending economic consequences relating to COVID,” Longwell told me. Not all analysts agree that the Democrats’ legislative agenda is unlikely to affect the midterms. Many campaign aides and operatives at the Democratic House and Senate campaign committees are eagerly anticipating that if the party reaches agreement on its big economic proposals, candidates next year can run on the trinity of creating jobs (through the infrastructure bill), bolstering families (mostly by extending the Child Tax Credit) and reducing health-care costs (through increasing federal subsidies under the Affordable Care Act and authorizing Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices). They are especially keen to highlight the lockstep Republican opposition to all of those measures.

The Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, who was one of Biden’s lead polling advisers during the 2020 campaign, told me that many voters will view passing legislation that helps stabilize family budgets as an integral part of an effective COVID response. “I don’t think it’s a dichotomy,” she said. “We have got to deliver something to working- and middle-class families.” The emergence of the Delta variant, Lake said, surprised and dismayed many Americans who thought the country was on a steady path to recovery—one focus-group participant called it “a kick in the gut”—and now they worry that more unpleasant surprises will threaten their family’s health and finances. “For women in particular, we have to deliver something to their family, to their kitchen tables,” she said.

Brownstein adds that “the clearest rule might be that midterm elections turn less on assessments of legislation that may eventually affect people’s lives than on verdicts about the country’s condition in the here and now….An old political adage holds that presidential elections are always about the future; midterms seem to be more about today. As Bolger put it to me, voters “step outside and feel how the weather is, and if I feel uncomfortable with it, I take it out on the incumbent party.”