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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

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VOTE BLUE.

No matter who.

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Vote Blue No Matter Who bumper sticker

Vote Blue!

No Matter Who!

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

Vote Blue! No Matter Who.

VOTE BLUE!

No Matter Who.

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

Vote Blue No Matter Who bumper sticker

Vote Blue

No matter who.

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

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

November 14, 2019

Teixeira: Enough with the Robots – They’re Not the Problem

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

The allegation that robots are going to put huge chunks of the workforce on the unemployment line got a workout at the latest Democratic debate. As Paul Krugman noted, the Democratic candidates mostly gave terrible answers because they buy into this story about our economic trajectory–an assumption that is not remotely justified.

“[CNN moderator Erin] Burnett declared that a recent study shows that “about a quarter of U.S. jobs could be lost to automation in just the next 10 years.” What the study actually says is less alarming: It finds that a quarter of U.S. jobs will face “high exposure to automation over the next several decades.”

But if you think even that sounds bad, ask yourself the following question: When, in modern history, has something like that statement not been true?

After all, in the late 1940s America had about seven million farmers and around 12 million production workers in manufacturing. Machinery could and did take over much of the work those Americans were doing — and people at the time wondered where the new jobs would come from. If you think that concerns about automation are somehow new, bear in mind that Kurt Vonnegut’s novel “Player Piano,” envisioning a dystopian future in which machines have taken away all the jobs, was published in … 1952.

Yet the generation that followed was a golden age for American workers, who saw dramatic increases in their income, with many entering a rapidly growing middle class.

You might say that this time is different, because the pace of technological change is so much faster. But that’s not what the data say. On the contrary, worker productivity — which is how we measure the extent to which workers are being replaced by machines — has lately been growing much more slowly than in the past; it rose less than half as much from 2007 to 2018 as it did over the previous 11 years.” (See chart below)

So whose game are we playing when we buy into this robots-will-take-all-our-jobs hysteria? Krugman has an answer and I believe he is correct.

“So what’s with the fixation on automation? It may be inevitable that many tech guys like Yang believe that what they and their friends are doing is epochal, unprecedented and changes everything, even if history begs to differ. But more broadly, as I’ve argued in the past, for a significant part of the political and media establishment, robot-talk — i.e., technological determinism — is in effect a diversionary tactic.

That is, blaming robots for our problems is both an easy way to sound trendy and forward-looking (hence Biden talking about the fourth industrial revolution) and an excuse for not supporting policies that would address the real causes of weak growth and soaring inequality.

So harping on the dangers of automation, while it may sound tough-minded, is in practice a sort of escapist fantasy for centrists who don’t want to confront truly hard questions.”

Amen. What Democrats should be talking about instead of promoting scare stories about robots is something quite different–an actual program for promoting faster economic growth, which we are not getting and which we desperately need. Matt Yglesias:

“The simple fact of the matter is that productivity growth has been slow in recent years, in both the United States and other advanced countries. If the pace of automation were speeding up, you’d expect to see the opposite — output per hour worked would soar in response to the deployment of all the new technology.

And not only has growth productivity been slow, it keeps turning out to be slower than previous forecasts had expected — forcing the Congressional Budget Office to continually reduce its forecasts.

Seen through this lens, the striking thing about automation in the contemporary United States is how little of it there is…..

The result is slow growth in the overall economy which contributes to slower growth in wages and incomes. But though candidates certainly touched on points that are related to these issues, nobody directly mentioned the growth slowdown, much less propose solutions to it…..

35 years later, we know that the post-Reagan high-inequality era has not, in fact, generated sustainably faster growth than what we saw before. The economy has become more unequal, but growth has slowed. And it’s that slowdown in growth that makes the runup in inequality so unforgivable. If the rising tide was genuinely lifting all boats, people probably wouldn’t care so much about what the top one percent is up to. But the promised growth never arrived, and people are legitimately mad about it.

The lack of growth is a huge problem and it deserves serious solutions — including many of the kinds of specific things Democrats discussed relating to anti-trust law, labor unions, and investing in children — but to start you need to acknowledge the problem exists. And that means not dazzling people with fake stories of a robot revolution.”

Indeed, this robots obsession is a loser. Let’s start talking about what’s really important.


Political Strategy Notes

At FiveThirtyEight, Dhrumil Mehta reports that “There have only been four polls so far since Trump announced he would withdraw troops from Syria, and while all four showed that mainly Americans oppose the withdrawal, there was a stark partisan split — Republican voters aren’t broadly opposed to Trump’s decision…However, we don’t want to read too much into Republican support for Trump’s decision to remove troops from Syria. And that’s because many Americans are still getting up to speed on the situation. Remember, in that YouGov/CBS News poll, a plurality of Americans said they didn’t know enough to say whether they supported removing troops from the region. And according to that Morning Consult/Politico poll, 40 percent of registered voters had heard either “nothing at all” or “not much” about the Turkish offensive (including 45 percent of Republicans, and 34 percent of Democrats). A third of voters also said they have heard little or nothing about the U.S. troop pullout. And that USA Today/Ipsos poll also found that 42 percent of Americans — including 45 percent of Republicans — had either not heard about the U.S. decision to withdraw troops or knew little about it.”

At The New Yorker, Eliza Grizwold spotlights on a new project, “Teaching Democrats to Speak Evangelical,” which includes “a training session for Democratic members of Congress on how to speak to evangelicals” lead by Rev. Doug Pagitt: Noting that, “In 2016, eighty-one per cent of white evangelicals voted for Trump; last year, in the midterm elections, seventy-five per cent of white evangelicals voted Republican,” Griswold writes that “Pagitt thinks that, among the Democratic Presidential candidates, for example, Elizabeth Warren is doing a good job of integrating faith seamlessly into her message, beginning sentences with phrases like “As a Sunday-school teacher . . .” and by singing the hymns from her conservative childhood church in a defense of same-sex marriage. Bernie Sanders seems to avoid speaking of religion—his own, Judaism, or that of others—at all costs. Cory Booker often speaks about God in generalizations that can feel bland. Some candidates seem willing to openly antagonize religious voters; last week, at a town-hall discussion on L.G.B.T.Q. issues, Beto O’Rourke said that he would revoke the tax-exempt status of religious institutions that oppose same-sex marriage—the first time a major Presidential candidate has stated such a position.”

Regarding the Democratic presidential candidates Ohio debate, In “Other Polling bites,” Mehta notes that “A FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll, which asked respondents to rate each candidates’ debate performance on a four-point scale, found that Sen. Elizabeth Warren was ranked highest by those who watched the debate. But South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg saw the largest increase in the share of voters who were considering voting for him before and after the debate — an increase of 4.5 percentage points.

In 2017, Virginia voters flipped 15 seats in the state legislture from red-to-blue. Right now, however, Democrats are only two seats and two weeks away from flipping each chamber of the Virginia state legislature, the narrowest margin in years. But the GOP’s sugar daddies are flooding the coffers of Republican candidates with money to stop Democrats. If Democrats pick up those two seats in the Virginia state senate and assembly, it will be the firrst time in 28 years that they have held majorities of both houses of the state legislature and the governorship, setting the stage for a new era of progressive reforms that will benefit all Virginians. Democrats who want to make a significant difference need not wait until 2020; A contribution to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee can help make a powerful difference in just two weeks. Dems are so close to turning Virginia solid blue, and it can happen with a little help from Democratic rank and file everywhere.

In light of the dust-up between 2016 Democratic presidential nomineee Hillary Clinton and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, it should be noted that Gabbard has denied that she will run as an Independent, if she fails to get the Democratic presidential nomination for 2020. But it wouldn’t be a bad idea for major media to query Gabbard — and every other Democratic presidential candidate in each debate, or at least debates before major primaries/caucuses, about their intentions to support the Democratic presidential nominee in 2020. Voters have a right to know how strong each candidate’s commitment to their party really is, and, more importantly, how candidate intentions square with preventing outside influence in our elections.

Charlie Cook has a sobering revelation for those who think they can win over voters who still support Trump: “Expecting Trump’s approval ratings to finally plunge is like waiting for preshrunk jeans to shrink. He had little in the way of a honeymoon period, and his approval ratings have fluctuated little, the whole while running pretty consistently below those of his predecessors. Thus, his numbers don’t have as much room to drop, as when bad news hit previous presidents. The voters who have already stuck with Trump through endless negative stories and developments since he took office are not likely to abandon him now. Those with the capacity for outrage were outraged long ago. “The Fifth Avenue people” will stick with him…The basic job-approval rating has proven to be the best single indicator of a sitting president’s political health. The narrow trading range for Trump’s approval rating since taking office shows little malleability” and “few voters are ambivalent, conflicted, or even open to having their minds changed with new information. He has a rock-solid floor beneath him but an equally strong, albeit low ceiling above him. Those expecting that floor to lower or that ceiling to rise are risking surprise, disappointment, or both.”

So how does it look for Democrats winning Ohio’s electoral votes next year? Kyle Kondik writes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball that “In late July, a Quinnipiac poll of Ohio found Trump’s approval rating with non-college whites was 53% approve, 42% disapprove; the pollster Civiqs, which is associated with the liberal website Daily Kos, pegs Trump’s approval with this group in Ohio at 58%/40%. If Trump’s actual electoral showing among non-college whites in Ohio next year were to mirror these approval ratings — a margin markedly lower than the 30-point gap he enjoyed in his favor in 2020 — the state would be back in play. However, if Trump replicates his 2016 showing with this group, only loses a little bit of backing, or actually improves his performance (as seems possible given the overall trajectory of this group of voters), the state probably isn’t winnable for the Democrats…So if the question is can the Democratic presidential nominee win Ohio in 2020, the answer is yes, depending on Trump’s standing with non-college whites (and other factors).”

In his post, “Beyond those dumb debates: To win, Democrats must reframe the discussion about America’s future” at Salon, Paul Rosenberg raises a frequently-overlooked concern about the way moderate Democratic presidential candidates are framing the health care reform discussion: Rosenberg writes that, in Ohio last week, “the debate’s moderators “kicked off a lengthy health care discussion rooted deeply in the Republican framing about how much we’ll have to raise taxes to pay for Medicare for All.” Nowhere was it ever even hinted that Medicare for All was the original vision underlying Medicare, introduced by Harry Truman in November 1945. When Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar attack it, they are repeating GOP attacks first launched more than 70 years ago. Despite decades of blather about the “liberal media,” this is just one example of how Republican-friendly framing has dominated political discourse in the media for generations. And part of what’s at stake in the 2020 Democratic primary is the fight to bring that to an end.” That’s not to say that Democratic candidates need not explain how Medicare for All would be funded; They do need to be more specific about taxes, and also especially about how long it would take to implement the proposal. But Biden, Klobuchar and Buttigieg all know that the Sanders plan would also mean huge overall cost savings to consumers from eliminating premiums, out-of-pocket outlays, advertising, duplication of administrative costs, price gouging etc. Polls do show that ‘Medicare for All’ is a very tough sell at the moment, and that ‘Medicare for All Who Want It’ is much more popular. But Dems should be a little more wary of simplistic parroting of Republican talking points.

If you are among those who wince when a non-Latino political candidate tries to show off his/her Spanish-speaking skills, take note of Denise-Marie Ordway’s article, “White Democrats less likely to support presidential candidates who court Latino voters, experimental research suggests” at Journalist Resource, which notes that “prior research has shown that targeted outreach to Latinos — using the Spanish language or explicitly directing certain messages to Latinos and their families — benefits political candidates. It results in higher Latino voter turnout as well as increased support for candidates who court Latinos, who, according to the Pew Research Center, will be the largest racial or ethnic minority group in the electorate in 2020…A record 32 million Latinos will be eligible to vote in the next presidential election, show projections that Pew reported early this week.”


A Reelected Trump Would Be Really Out of Control

If you think things in the White House can’t get much worse, think again, as I argued at New York this week:

Check out this column from David Graham, who used this week’s bizarre press conference from acting White House chief of staff Mike Mulvaney to make a more general point about Team Donald Trump:

“Who knows what acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney had in mind when he stepped to a lectern in the White House briefing room Thursday? (Not Trump’s legal team, apparently.) Whatever his goal, Mulvaney delivered a succinct credo for both the Trump administration and the Trump 2020 campaign.

“’I have news for everybody: Get over it,’ Mulvaney said …

“’There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy,’ Mulvaney chided reporters. ‘That is going to happen. Elections have consequences, and the foreign policy is going to change from the Obama administration to the Trump administration.'”

As Graham notes, all the furor over the immediate impact of Mulvaney’s comments — which admitted a quid pro quo in Trump and his representatives’ communications with Ukrainian officials — may have obscured the fact that this is generally the White House’s attitude about everything strange or illegal or reckless this president does.

“Mulvaney’s comments weren’t just more revealing than he intended about the specifics of the Ukraine scandal. They also distilled the guiding mantra of the Trump administration. Others have tried to coin their own phrases (one senior administration official tried to make ‘We’re America, bitch’ happen, and failed), but the real Trump doctrine is ‘Get over it.’

“The administration is forcing foreign governments into quid pro quos in order to assist Trump’s political prospects? Get over it.

“It’s using the power of the presidency to financially benefit the president and his company? Get over it.

“It obstructed justice and has announced its intention to do so again? Get over it.

“It circumvented Congress’s power of the purse to begin construction of a border wall? Get over it.

“It separated children from families at the border, locking them in inhumane conditions? Get over it.

“The president is evading Senate confirmation by naming “acting” officials to top posts? Get over it.

“Russia hacked the 2016 election? Get over it.”

The prevailing message, in case you have missed it, is that having won the presidency in 2016 (by the skin of his teeth and enormous luck, of course, whether or not you believe Russia had something to do with it) everything he wants to do is mandated, and any resistance is an effort to overturn the election results — i.e., a “coup.” This would most obviously include an impeachment effort, which is designed to end Trump’s imperial reign before his full term has ended. The very unlikelihood of Trump’s initial election makes it, in his mind and that of many of his supporters, even more of a wondrous thing that should dispel all criticism of the stable genius who accomplished it — and explains all objections to his conduct as sour grapes.

That there are constitutional limits on presidential powers doesn’t enter into the equation — that’s a technical detail of interest only to his armies of lawyers who daily do battle with “activist judges” who also haven’t accepted the Historic Victory of 2016. That the Democrats who control one branch of Congress, and the media who aren’t part of his personal echo chamber, have their own constitutionally sanctioned role to play, doesn’t enter into Trumpian calculations at all. From that perspective, of course impeachment is “unconstitutional,” despite the clear language of the Constitution providing for it.

You get the sense that if, despite it all, Trump is reelected next year, the four ensuing years would take this administration down a long dark path of vindictive and even more reckless behavior. And why not? If the initial “mandate” from the electorate is regarded as virtually unlimited, a reconfirmation of his presidency after he has fully displayed his contempt for any curbs on his power and his corrupt cronyism must surely make him a colossus bestride a supine nation that has acknowledged his greatness. I don’t know if during the 2020 campaign Democrats can find a way to articulate this “you ain’t seen nothing yet” concern, or convince Americans that a vote for Trump is a vote for a much wilder and megalomanic president than they have previously seen. But if the 45th president survives both impeachment and 2020, and is in a position to enjoy fully the “consequences” of not one but two elections, the norms he might then break are beyond imagining. And Trump critics would simply have to “get over it.”


Political Strategy Notes

Charlie Cook explains “Why Impeachment Remains a Dangerous Road for Dems” at The Cook Political Report: “Let’s also put aside the reality that given the hyper-partisan and tribal nature of American politics today, the chances of securing 67 votes to convict and remove Trump from office are precisely zero. It isn’t clear that there will be three Republican votes to convict, forget the 17 more GOP senators needed. There is no tolerance for dissent in the Republican Party today; just ask former Sens. Bob Corker and Jeff Flake and former Rep. Mark Sanford. The Republican members who are not afraid of Trump himself are still terrified of his supporters…When Democrats are trying to win a presidential election on Nov. 3—that’s 390 days from now, while early voting begins less than a year from now and candidate filing deadlines begin in less than two months—is this trip necessary? The distraction of impeachment politics erodes the abilities of the Democratic presidential candidates to get their messages across, to bond with voters in a meaningful way. For Democrats, if there is any chance of this distracting from or undercutting the messaging of their candidates, can they really justify this?…Democrats should just sit back and enjoy watching Republicans in competitive and potentially competitive House districts and Senate races simmer with a president at the top of their ticket doing everything he possibly can to drive away swing voters.”

Just when you thought Trump had surely maxed out on jaw-dropping hipocrisy and arrogant disrespect of the nation’s laws, the “White House announces President Trump will host next year’s G7 summit at his Miami golf resort,” Igor Derysh reports at Salon. “Next year’s G7 summit will be held at President Trump’s National Doral Miami golf club, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney revealed Thursday at a press briefing…The move poses Trump in direct odds with the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits presidents from profiting off of foreign governments. Nonetheless, Mulvaney claimed that Trump would not personally profit from the massive international event “in any way, shape or form…Mulvaney’s announcement came as Trump has continued to push a debunked conspiracy theory that former Vice President Joe Biden’s family profited off his vice presidency…And Doral has been struggled since Trump’s presidential run. Profits at the resort have fallen by 69 percent over the last three years. “They are severely underperforming,” a consultant hired by Trump told officials last year in an attempt to lower the property’s tax bill.”

Speaking of arrogance, check out “The man who rigged America’s election maps: How Tom Hofeller shifted the balance of power by taking gerrymandering to the extreme” by Alvin Chang, who writes at Vox, “For most of his life, few people knew Thomas Hofeller’s name…But for decades, Hofeller was the Republican Party’s most influential mapmaker. When it came time to redraw districts, Hofeller not only knew how to churn the data and work with the software — but he also knew exactly how this power could be used…In 1991, Hofeller said, “I define redistricting as the only legalized form of vote-stealing left in the United States today.”…Then a decade later, he said, “Redistricting is like an election in reverse. It’s a great event. Usually the voters get to pick the politicians. In redistricting, the politicians get to pick the voters.”

Among the many moving tributes to Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, The Nation’s John Nichols observesThere are progressive members of Congress who cast good votes in favor of economic and social and racial justice and peace and the planet, and who understand this to be the purpose of their service. Then there are members of Congress who see those good votes as the starting point for a service that embraces struggles and engages with movements outside the Capitol…House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform chairman Elijah Cummings, who died Thursday morning at age 68, was one of those activist members. He is being honored for his able work on the congressional committee that is charged with holding the powerful to account. But it should be remembered, as well, that he spent an extraordinary amount of time on picket lines and at rallies, at worksites and in union halls with workers who have had few congressional allies so diligent and determined as the Baltimore Democrat.” Cummings also had a gift for inspiring soundbites, which Democratic candidates could emulate to good effect, as Nichols shares: “Those at the highest levels of the government must stop invoking fear, using racist language and encouraging reprehensible behavior. It only creates more division among us, and severely limits our ability to work together for the common good,” Cummings declared in an August 7 speech at the National Press Club.”

Amid the growing chorus of criticism of Trump’s policies by military leaders, you would be hard-pressed to find a more searing indictment than the comments of  retired Admiral William McRaven, architect of the bin Laden raid, quoted here by CNN’s Paul LeBlanc: “If you want to destroy an organization, any organization, you destroy it from within, you destroy it from without and then what you do is you convince everybody that you’re doing the right thing,” McRaven told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead…So when you take a look at what the President has done, he’s undermined the intelligence community, the law enforcement community, the Department of Justice, the State Department. He has called the press the enemy of the American people…”He’s obviously left our allies the Kurds on the battlefield,” McRaven said while outlining a scathing op-ed he wrote for The New York Times. “We feel like we’ve betrayed them. He’s undermined our NATO allies, he’s taken us out of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Iran nuclear agreement) and the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal) and really the international community has lost faith in America. And then throughout the course of all of this, he’s convinced us he’s doing it for all the right reasons, and I think that is really what is troubling……if this president doesn’t demonstrate the leadership that America needs, both domestically and abroad, then it is time for a new person in the Oval Office — Republican, Democrat or independent — the sooner, the better,” he wrote. “The fate of our Republic depends upon it.”

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall warns that “Trump Is Winning the Online War: The technical superiority and sophistication of the president’s digital campaign is a hidden advantage of incumbency.” As Edsall writes, “For all his negative poll numbers and impeachment-related liabilities, President Trump has a decisive advantage on one key election battleground: the digital campaign. Under the management of Brad Parscale, the Trump re-election machine has devoted millions more than any individual Democrat to increasingly sophisticated microtargeting techniques…In addition, Trump and Parscale are likely to deploy every available tool to suppress turnout for the Democratic nominee via carefully targeted messages to those who dissent from one or more planks of the Democratic platform.” Edsall notes that currently, “Trump’s $15.9 million is more than the $15.5 million spent by the top three Democratic candidates combined.”

Edsall continues “Republican and conservative groups understand that “digital content is the point, not the window dressing,” Lindsay Holst, director of digital strategy in the Obama White House, told Vanity Fair. “We’re lacking the necessary volume of emotional messaging that appeals to people as human beings, not as data points…Peter Hamby, the author of the Vanity Fair article Holst appeared in, wrote that the right in 2016 was “flooding Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter with memes, junk news, misleading statistics, and links designed to inflame voter sentiment around hot-button cultural issues like race, immigration, and identity. But Democrats, always on message, were sticking to paid advertising.”…“It was becoming clear that one side had weaponized the internet, and one side hadn’t,” Curtis Hougland, the founder of MainStreetOne, a liberal Democratic messaging firm, told Hamby. “Democrats want to focus on facts and figures. The other side plays into fears and taps into emotions, and they show it to you. It’s all about emotional resonance…Democrats have a shot at creating a digital infrastructure equal or equivalent to the one Republicans have built. But even if they manage that, will it have the emotional suppleness it needs to move voters?”

Harold Meyerson gives Democratic moderates a blistering critique in his article, “The Fierce Urgency of Less” at The American Prospect: “What underlies these theories of political change are empirically baseless assumptions of a Biden-esque variety—specifically, that more moderate proposals can win Republican support, as they did during Biden’s early years (the 1970s) in Congress. As anyone who’s been at least dimly conscious since the mid-1990s should be able to attest, that world, with that kind of Republican, has vanished tone and tint. Considering that the Affordable Care Act passed without a single Republican in either house voting for it, does Buttigieg really think he can win Republican votes for his own “Medicare for All Who Want It”?…If you don’t mobilize voters for ambitious change and use the bully pulpit to build support for major reforms, you can’t even get incremental fixes…At bottom, though, the aversions of Mayor Pete and Mayor Mike to the ambitious plans of Sanders and Warren aren’t strategic; they’re ideological and self-interested…So when the three B’s of Fighting for Less—Biden, Bloomberg, and Buttigieg—tell us to demand less, they are laying the groundwork for winning nothing. ”

Moody’s Analytics electoral model predctions of a Trump victory in 2020, based solely on economic indicators, is getting lots of buzz, and 2020 may prove to be the ultimate test of the ‘economics determines political destiny’ theory. Forget for a minute that Trump’s presidency is probing the limits of voter outrage nearly every day. There is still an overriding problem with using the Moody’s data, as Chris Cillizza explains at CNN Politics: “The biggest one, obviously, is the economy remaining, generally speaking, on its current course. “The top of the business cycle is a difficult place from which to forecast, and the economic outlook is filled with substantially more uncertainty than usual,” reads the Moody report on the models. “Under a moderate recession scenario, in which U.S. real GDP declines cumulatively by more than 2% over the next year, the average of our three models would point to a Democratic victory…The other major variable that could change the outlook projected by Moody’s is turnout. All of the scenarios above are dependent on average turnout for the non-incumbent’s party. If Democratic turnout soared — and the 2018 election suggests that very well could be the case — things would change drastically.”


How Do You Define Trump’s Impeachable Offenses When He Won’t Stop Committing Them?

The Democratic strategy for impeachment of Donald Trump is obviously a big deal right now. I explored one aspect of the issue at New York:

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi publicly announced an impeachment inquiry on September 24, she made it clear that the trigger for her decision, and her primary focus, was the president’s efforts to coerce Ukraine into a damaging investigation of Joe and Hunter Biden. As part of that focus, she put the principal investigation into the hands of Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff instead of the traditional impeachment forum of the Judiciary Committee. But at the same time, she did not foreclose the possibility of additional articles of impeachment; even before her public announcement, she asked the chairs of all the committees investigating Trump to prepare to “send Nadler their best cases for impeachment,” as my colleague Gabriel Debenedetti reported. The idea was that the Judiciary would draft the formal article or articles of impeachment, even if the charge the House chose to pursue was a simple matter of a Ukraine quid pro quo aimed at Joe Biden.

At that time, understandably, the many House Democrats (and their even more numerous progressive allies in the opinion biz) who had been fruitlessly agitating for the impeachment of Trump before the Ukraine story came out were upset about the idea of a narrow impeachment inquiry. What about the Mueller Report? What about the obstruction of justice evidence Mueller invited Congress to use in an impeachment proceeding? Would a narrow focus on Ukraine implicitly exonerate Trump on matters not related to that incident, or encourage him to do bad things in the future? And given the extremely high odds that the Senate would refuse to remove Trump from office on narrow or multiple articles, should Democrats throw everything they have at Trump to damage his 2020 reelection prospects?

But Trump himself is now complicating the strategic calculation, just as he did by beginning his campaign to get Ukraine to destroy Biden even as Democrats were still debating what to do with Mueller’s report flowing from Trump’s behavior toward Russia. The man just won’t stop committing impeachable offenses. And worse yet, his most egregious impeachable offenses are aimed at frustrating the Ukraine investigation, and Schiff is among many Democrats pointing this out, as the Washington Post reported last week:

“The impeachment inquiry is having a hard time getting central players to even talk, and on Tuesday, the White House said it wouldn’t cooperate with the impeachment inquiry in any way.

“Democrats are saying all this amounts to obstruction and are hinting strongly at what the House can do to get around this: impeach Trump for blocking the investigation.

“’The failure to produce this witness [diplomat Gordon Sondland], the failure to produce these documents, we consider yet additionally strong evidence of obstruction of the constitutional functions of Congress, a coequal branch of government,’ said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), who has become the face of the investigation, on Tuesday.”

Obstructing a congressional investigation of the Executive branch, particularly if it involves potentially impeachable offenses, is a well-acknowledged impeachable offense in itself, as my colleague Jonathan Chait observed in making “obstruction of Congress” a whole category in his menu of “high crimes and misdemeanors” Trump has committed:

“The Executive branch and Congress are co-equal, each intended to guard against usurpation of authority by the other. Trump has refused to acknowledge any legitimate oversight function of Congress, insisting that because Congress has political motivations, it is disqualified from it. His actions and rationale strike at the Constitution’s design of using the political ambitions of the elected branches to check one another.”

This is hardly a novel concept. One of the three articles of impeachment the House Judiciary Committee approved in 1974, which triggered Richard Nixon’s resignation, involved similar but arguably less comprehensive efforts by the Tricky One to obstruct Congress:

“[Nixon] failed without lawful cause or excuse to produce papers and things as directed by duly authorized subpoenas issued by the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives on April 11, 1974, May 15, 1974, May 30, 1974, and June 24, 1974, and willfully disobeyed such subpoenas. The subpoenaed papers and things were deemed necessary by the Committee in order to resolve by direct evidence fundamental, factual questions relating to Presidential direction, knowledge or approval of actions demonstrated by other evidence to be substantial grounds for impeachment of the President. In refusing to produce these papers and things Richard M. Nixon, substituting his judgment as to what materials were necessary for the inquiry, interposed the powers of the Presidency against the lawful subpoenas of the House of Representatives, thereby assuming to himself functions and judgments necessary to the exercise of the sole power of impeachment vested by the Constitution in the House of Representatives.”

Nixon, moreover, didn’t try to incite violence against his congressional tormentors as Trump has repeatedly done.

You could certainly make the case that an article of impeachment involving “obstruction of Congress” with respect to the Ukraine scandal is a natural sidebar to an article on the scandal itself, in that it strengthens public perceptions that far worse presidential behavior probably occurred but cannot be documented. But there are bigger questions about public perceptions. Yes, it’s clear under the Constitution and any reasonable interpretation of the Founders’ intent that “high crimes and misdemeanors” do not require violation of criminal statutes. Indeed, the kind of misconduct that cannot be addressed by the criminal-justice system is precisely the sort of thing the Founders had in mind in providing for impeachment. But does the public understand that, and if so, does it accept it? The Ukraine scandal clearly involves conduct most people would consider criminal (particularly if it’s explained as a violation of campaign-finance laws, including those aimed at preventing foreigners from being involved in U.S. elections). Obstructing Congress? Maybe not so much, particularly since Congress’s job approval ratings are significantly worse than Trump’s (21 percent, according to the latest RealClearPolitics polling average).

While what to do with Trump’s obstruction of Congress is one question House Democrats must face before pursuing a Ukraine-only impeachment strategy, it’s not the only one. Other examples of impeachable conduct keep popping up, as the Washington Post observed over the weekend:

“Within a one-day span, The Washington Post reported that  Trump sought to enlist then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in the fall of 2017 to stop the prosecution of a Turkish Iranian gold trader represented by Rudolph W. Giuliani. The former New York mayor is Trump’s personal attorney.

“The Financial Times reported that Michael Pillsbury, one of Trump’s China advisers, said he had received potentially negative information on Hunter Biden during a visit to Beijing.”

What do you do when the target of (to use the criminal-justice analogy) a prosecution won’t stop doing crimes for long enough to pin down an indictment?

“’We’re basically getting like three new impeachable offenses a day, so it suggests that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg on what’s happening,’ said Daniel Pfeiffer, a former Obama strategist who hosts ‘Pod Save America’ and who has been pushing Democrats to expand their probes.”

Toss in the unacted-upon Mueller findings, and whatever fresh hell may come up from past, present, and future Trumpian misconduct, and you can see that when the deal finally goes down, House Democrats will have a tough decision to make, whatever Pelosi originally intended.


Teixeira: Why ‘Medicare for All (Who Want it)’ Is a Winner for Dems

There Really Shouldn’t Be Much Debate About This Anymore: The Correct Position on Medicare for All is Medicare for All (Who Want It)

This really isn’t a hard one. Or shouldn’t be. The evidence continues to pile up that Medicare for All in the Sanders-Warren sense is just not viable politically–while a Medicare option for anybody what wants it is wildly popular. The latest CBS News poll finds that a 66-30 majority would like to see a Medicare-type health insurance plan available to all Americans. But among that two-thirds who want to see Medicare availability for all, it’s 2:1 against having all private insurance replaced by the Medicare-type plan. That leaves the hardcore Medicare for All/the hell with private insurance crowd down to a little over 20 percent.

No wonder Warren was taking so much incoming from other Democrats at the latest debate on her support for Medicare for All and her unspecified methods of paying for it (for more on the cost issue, see Ron Brownstein’s latest Atlantic column). This is from other Democrats! The Republicans will make mincemeat out of her.

I’ll give the last word on this to the excellent David Leonhardt:

“The No. 1 reason to question her version of Medicare for All — in which private health insurance would be eliminated — is its political viability. It would be an enormous disruption to the health care system, and history shows that health care disruptions are very hard to pass and usually unpopular at first. Polls show that her plan is already unpopular, and it would be a bigger disruption than Obamacare or Bill Clinton’s failed plan.

Given all that, she needs to engage with the political realities — with how she would overcome people’s resistance to giving up their health insurance for a larger new program that, yes, would require a tax increase.

I think Warren has run an excellent campaign on the whole, and I think she has the most thoughtful agenda for addressing the stagnating living standards of most Americans. I’m surprised that she has chosen to focus so much of her candidacy on the most aggressive version of Medicare for All. But she has. Now it’s time for her to tell voters how she will deal with the politics of passing it.

In my view, her best answer involves finding a way to signal her openness to a transition, in which people who want to keep their private insurance can do so (and taxes don’t yet need to rise) while Medicare initially expands voluntarily. That idea is hugely popular.”

So that’s what she should do. We’ll see if she does it.


October Debate Takeaways

Absent any data just yet, the best morning-after reports on Tuesday’s presidential debate in Ohio can do is share impressions. Here’s mine.

The 12 Democratic presidential candidates on stage provided an impressively diverse, attractive and articulate field, once again a great ‘look’ for their party, in stark comparison to the GOP leadership. I kept thinking that any Democratic president could craft a damn good cabinet out of this group.

None of them set the debate ablaze last night. But there were no dumpster fires either, no gaffe’s or major blunders. The overall level of civility was good. Everyone was respectful this time. I hope Trump-fatigued voters compare, subconciously at least, these Democrats to Trump’s sour spirit, incessant whining and growing desperation.

Front-runners Warren and Biden had solid performances. Both showed they can handle the heat without bristling. They made their cases well enough, with an edge to Warren, who radiates a sense of earned confidence — she always does her homework. Biden handled the Ukrainegate questions adequately, which may be all he can do in the short time allotted in that debate format. Sen. Sanders, who is running a close third in many polls, appeared healthy, energetic and focused.

Warren and Sanders still have to make the sale on Medicare for All. Warren kept insisting that her plan  would provide lower overall costs to consumers, when she was asked about whether or not it would be financed by higher taxes on the middle class. I don’t doubt that she is right. But a little more clarity, explaining the lowered “costs” to consumers, in light of insurance premiums and out of pocket expenses wouldn’t hurt.

The same goes for the timetable for securing Medicare for All. No telling how many voters think Warren and Sanders are advocating a sudden end for the private health insurance industry and the jobs of its millions of  employees, when in reality, they are advocating a more gradual transition. It’s hard to do this in sound bites, but she and Sanders have to figure out a way to make it more clear than has thus far been the case.

More than any of the others, however,  Klobuchar helped herself, and she may get a small bump in the polls. Her “The difference between a plan and a pipe dream” zinger targeting Warren was the sharpest cut of the evening. But Klobuchar was also lucid and compelling in her other remarks. If Biden sinks, it’s not hard to envision her winning a healthy portion of his centrist/moderate supporters.

Buttigieg and Harris also performed well. Both are adept at criticizing opponents and analyzing policies. But I wish Harris would roll out an overall vision statement, instead of just phrases hinting at it here and there. Ditto for Julian Castro. Really, all of the candidates could do better in terms of sharing an inclusive vision for America, and particularly the Rust Belt, where the 2020 outcome will likely be decided.

Tulsi Gabbard and Beto O’Rourke came across as serious, thoughtful and likeable candidates. A little seasoning could make them both formidable in future campaigns. Steyer was surprisingly tough on curbing corporate power, but it’s hard to see what he adds to the field that isn’t already there. Yang provided some interesting insights about automation, prompting a good discussion that added some weight to the debate. But getting more polling traction in such a large field is a tough challenge for all of the second-tier candidates.

Sharp and alert, Cory Booker may have scored some points with his positive appeal for civility and Democratic unity. He looks increasingly like a front-runner for the veep slot on the Democratic ticket.

Of course an upset win in Iowa or New Hampshire by any of the candidates would more than offset fading impressions from these debates.

The Democratic presidential candidate field is expected to narrow for the November debate, as the requirements get tougher. For now, Democrats can be proud of the choices their party offered in Ohio last night.


Lessons from a Near Upset in a Deep Red District

Democrat Dan McCready, a Marine Corps veteran who nearly won NC-9 a few weeks ago, has a highly instructive op-ed in The New York Times. As McCready wites:

In a special election on Sept. 10, my campaign came an inch short of flipping a deep red congressional seat in North Carolina. We lost, but we showed how Democrats can win nationwide in 2020.

On paper, a Democrat never should have been competitive in my district — it hadn’t elected one since John F. Kennedy was president. Over time, the Ninth District had been gerrymandered to include Charlotte’s prosperous, Republican-leaning suburbs, its conservative exurbs, and rural counties left behind by Washington’s trade deals.

In 2016, our district’s voters supported President Trump by almost 12 points — yet last month we came within two points of winning. In the Charlotte suburbs, we outperformed President Trump’s margin by more than 16 points.

MaCready, who also lost by just 907 votes in last years midterm elections, in “the largest case of election fraud in recent American history, targeting minority voters and tampering with their absentee ballots,” ran again as a result of a ‘re-do’ vote called  by election officials.

“My team knew our job would be harder than in 2018,” McCready explains. “Many Democrats were less likely to go to the polls in an off-year special election.” However, “Despite coming up short, we did better than many expected…” Some lessons from his experience he believes Democrats can use:

First, we grounded our campaign in values. We Democrats can sometimes get stuck in policy jargon and cede the language of values, where voters really make decisions, to Republicans. In our campaign, we flipped this around.

I built trust with voters by talking about what motivated me to serve. I was a 35-year-old father of four who had never held elected office, but I felt a calling to serve because I thought politicians needed to bring our country together, not tear it apart. During the campaign, I explained to voters that I had felt a similar calling after Sept. 11, 2001, which led me to join the Marine Corps. When I led a platoon of 65 Marines in Iraq, we never cared about your background, skin color or political party.

I likewise emphasized my business experience. When I built a solar energy company, I collaborated with Republicans and Democrats to put 700 people to work. That’s the kind of leadership, I said, that was missing in Washington.

I also wasn’t afraid to share how my faith led me to run, and then helped me press on through challenging times as we battled the election fraud.

So while I talked about policy, I anchored my candidacy in the things that connect us all. In the end, voters told me they trusted me because they got the real me. It’s a great lesson. We all have our own stories to tell. Lead with the heart, and the rest will follow.

In terms of issues, McCready notes,

Second, when it came to policy, I met voters where they were. We focused not on the daily drama in Washington, but on people’s everyday struggles. Voters told me that instead of more partisan fighting, they needed help to afford medication and doctors’ visits. I promised to work across party lines in Congress to lower health care and prescription drug costs. Voters welcomed my proposal to stand up to big drug companies, fix Obamacare and expand Medicaid.

To be sure, some activists wished I favored a stronger government hand in my health care proposal. But once they got to know me, they poured their hearts into our race because they knew my values and saw that we had the same goal of affordable and quality health care for every American. This taught me how important it is to avoid policy purity tests and focus on the goals we all share.

This approach also insulated me from some of my opponents’ appalling tactics. Republican groups spent over $6 million lying about my character. They told voters I supported infanticide. They tried to scare voters with racist dog whistles. President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence even came down on the eve of the election to throw fuel on the fire.

But because we took the time to build a foundation of values and common-sense policy ideas, most persuadable voters found those attacks unbelievable.

McCready’s third point is that “running in a district like mine doesn’t mean a candidate has to sacrifice the Democratic base to win the middle. In fact, the trust we built early on, which we strengthened over countless coffee chats and town halls, set our base on fire. We didn’t always agree on policy specifics, but we trusted one another, and we became like family.”

He notes that “Our volunteers knocked on 200,000 doors in the largest congressional field effort people in North Carolina can remember. Suburban women of all backgrounds led the charge, motivated not just by our message of unity but also by my opponents’ and the president’s attacks on our democratic norms and values.”

Fourthly, McCready writes, “we didn’t give up on rural America, and Democrats elsewhere shouldn’t either.” Further,

In the rural areas of our district, politicians had left everyone behind — white, African-American and Native American voters alike. Political engagement was low as voters were fed up with broken promises by Washington politicians on both sides of the aisle. White and socially conservative Native American voters were moving Republican, while many African-American and Native American voters who voted Democrat were unlikely to choose to vote in an off-year election, especially one without local races on the ballot.

Still, in the rural areas, we exceeded Democrats’ 2016 performance, both last month and in the November 2018 midterm election. And we did that by showing up. Rural African-American communities mobilized because we worked hard to engage with local leaders and hear and speak to these voters’ needs, spending time in churches and small towns where many candidates rarely bothered to go. We gave them a reason to turn out. And look what happened: We rooted out election fraud that had festered for years and gave voters back their voice.

“If Democrats lead with our values, meet voters where they are and show up everywhere, we can do amazing things,” McCready concludes. “If Democrats nationwide replicate our 10-point gain next year, we will pick up 35 seats in the House and five seats in the Senate, and win every presidential battleground state. Bringing our country together depends on it.”


Metzgar: Dems Should Run on Winning Bold Economic Reforms, Not ‘Building on Progress’

The following article by Jack Metzgar, author of Striking Steel: Solidarity Remembered, professor emeritus of Humanities at Roosevelt University in Chicago and former president of the Working-Class Studies Association, is cross-posted from Working-Class Perspectives:

In 2015, Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg advised Hillary Clinton to run on a promise to “level the playing field” and “rewrite the rules of the economy.”  She didn’t take his advice. Instead, she told voters she would “build on the progress” of the Obama administration and “create ladders of opportunity.”

Professors like me, who get to speak in full paragraphs all the time, can easily dismiss campaign slogans as superficial and manipulative.  But they are organizing principles that can align basic vision with both policy proposals and organizing strategies.  These two slogans still reflect two possible organizing principles for the Democratic Party in 2019-20.  Biden wants to build on Obama’s progress, and Sanders and Warren aim to rewrite the rules of the economy, boldly addressing our runaway inequality of income and wealth.  Like Greenberg four years ago, I believe that candidates who articulate a broad left-populist approach will be more electable in 2020.   And as we face a future filled with peril, they are the only leaders who can govern in a way that could repair our toxic race and class dynamics.

Greenberg skewers the “build on the progress” trope by showing how many people didn’t see any progress during Obama’s eight years, both in the economic data and in what people told him in surveys and focus groups.  He thinks this slogan actually moved some people to vote for Trump, who in 2016 seemed to many to be the one offering some hope and change.  Greenberg predicts that Trump will hang himself on the same trope next year, if he isn’t impeached and removed from office before then.

But I think it’s the second part of Clinton’s 2016 message that reflects the real problem: there’s an important difference between aspiring to “ladders of opportunity” versus “leveling the playing field.”  The first emphasizes equality of opportunity, while the second is about equality of condition.  Equality of opportunity aims to give everybody an equal chance to climb a ladder to get one of the limited number of spots on a playing field that is severely titled by race, gender, and class.  Equality of condition is about getting everybody on a level playing field, not necessarily in equally desirable spots but with some substantial narrowing of the best and worst spots and with the worst spots being adequate for a decent and meaningful life.

To get anything close to equality of opportunity, we would have to vote to take away the huge opportunity advantages currently enjoyed by most of the professional middle class.  This is a large group of people and they vote a lot, so no politician will either promise to or do what’s necessary, no matter how much they talk about equality of opportunity in the abstract.

To get close to equality of condition, on the other hand, requires rewriting the rules of the economy by fairly taxing the rich and then greatly expanding social wages – i.e., reducing everybody’s monthly expenses by using tax revenue to subsidize health care, housing, child care, mass transportation, and education.  To finance the expansion of social wages to scale, it’s helpful that a relatively small group of people now have most of our money.  They vote with dollars as well as ballots, but there aren’t very many of them, and as both Sanders and Warren have shown, we can get an enormous amount of money from the outrageously rich while leaving them still very rich.

While equal opportunity is the primary solution and goal for historically marginalized and discriminated-against groups like African-Americans and women, it’s no solution at all for class inequality – and especially not for the top-heavy kind we now have in the U.S.  Having an equal chance to get one of the limited number of spots at the top would still leave most people struggling with poor to mediocre incomes and working conditions.  What’s more, there is no way to achieve equal opportunity unless everybody starts out with some level of equality of condition.

Let’s take jobs, for example.  The equal-opportunity solution is for individuals to get a good education (even if they have to go into $100,000 of debt to get it) so they can then get one of those good professional or managerial jobs in the “knowledge economy.”  Problem is there are not enough of those good jobs for this to work for many people.  Professional and managerial positions, not all of which would count as “good jobs,” represent about two-fifths of all jobs, and the incomes and conditions of the other three-fifths are mostly insufficient and declining in real terms.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest projection, that is not going to change in the future.  In fact, if anything, it’s going to get worse. Of the top 20 occupations estimated to have the largest job growth in the next ten years, the six lowest-paid jobs – five of them with median wages below the poverty level for a family of four – account for the majority of the new jobs.  Fourteen of the top 20 occupations make less than the national median wage of $47,000, and those 14 will account for more than three-fourths of job growth.  Nine of those occupations have medians of less than $30,000 and would thus benefit from a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour.  Those nine occupations account for nearly 60% of all the jobs produced by the top 20.  They include food preparation and serving; personal care aides; home health aides; waiters and waitresses; janitors and cleaners; restaurant cooks; laborers and material movers; nursing assistants; and landscaping workers.  These are the primary jobs of the future.  They do not require college educations.  They are not part of the knowledge economy, except that they are the people who feed, clean, beautify, and care for knowledge workers when we’re not working.

No matter how much equal opportunity we achieve, somebody has to do these jobs.  These people are doing work that needs to be done.  It would be great if we could equalize educational opportunity for their children, but they need higher incomes now, unions to represent them now, and social wages that can dramatically reduce their household expenses now.

Most of the rest of the workforce also needs those things, if not as urgently and dramatically as low-wage workers, and what’s more, they know it.  As a Vox headline reported earlier this year, “taxing the rich is very popular; it’s Republicans who have the radical position.”  And while the concept of social wages is not yet part of our public discourse, individual elements of it are also popular.  Majorities may not be for totally eliminating private health insurance in four years, as Sanders and Warren propose,  but very large majorities support various forms of expanded public health insurance like “Optional Medicare-for-all” and “Medicaid buy-in.” Likewise, “two-thirds of Americans favor raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.”  Even larger majorities support paid family leave, greatly expanded government spending on child care and early learning, and large increases in infrastructure spending, though a somewhat smaller majority support the Green New Deal.

On these and some related issues, public opinion is what the mainstream media calls “far left,” and the public is unified on these issues across race and class.  Even the white working class, the mainstay of the current Republican Party, basically agrees with the black working class and the Hispanic working class on these social-wage issues, as do majorities of college-educated folks of all races.  Democrats who run on these issues will beat Trump or any other Republican, and they will be positioned to govern us out of our current morass.  Democrats need to make a big promise and then organize like hell to achieve it.  Building on “progress” that most people haven’t seen for 30 or 40 years won’t do it. It’s time to level the playing field and rewrite the rules of the economy.


Political Strategy Notes

From “Democrats Need a Hard-Nosed Strategy to Counter the GOP” by Jessica Tarlov, head of research at Bustle Digital Group and a Fox News contributor, at RealClear Politics: “The saying goes: “Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line.” One only has to look at how Republicans have stood by President Trump as he degrades our intelligence community and immigrants while raising up dictators to see evidence of this.” Tarlov cites five steps for Democrats in order to “evolve”: Step 1: Do not play into the right-wing narrative; Step 2: Appreciate battle-tested leaders; Step 3: Defend Obamacare; Step 4: Find an animating issue, and; Step 5: Listen to minorities. Tarlov concludes, “These are just a few ways that can help us get a little bit closer to having the same hard-nosed GOP mentality that puts preserving and accumulating power above all else…We will never become as heartless as they are. It isn’t in our DNA and it certainly isn’t in our policy platform. But game recognizes game and we must rehab our strategy.”

Ian Reifowitz has a reality check for Democratic candidates in his post, We’ll cut your taxes and guarantee your health care. How’s that for a Democratic campaign pitch? at Daily Kos: to “Campaigns are about a lot of things. But a winning presidential campaign must make clear how it will improve the lives of large numbers of Americans. A campaign has to lay out lots of policies, yes, on lots of different topics. But a winning presidential campaign must center on a simple, digestible policy statement, a concrete proposal for change that also connects to a broader theme unifying everything the candidate plans to do…I understand that for some of us progressives, talking about tax rates doesn’t feel as immediate, or perhaps as inspiring, as talking about some other issues. But making our tax code more progressive is one of the most direct ways elected officials can combat economic inequality. For most Americans, cutting their taxes and guaranteeing their health insurance coverage are real, tangible things that the federal government can do for them and their families simply by enacting new legislation. That’s why those issues need to be at the center of any campaign for national office. Furthermore, economic inequality is not just about dollars and cents, it’s about life and death…Democrats are the party that fights for all Americans—white, black, brown, and everything else—to make this country fairer, more just, safer, and more prosperous for everyone. The Republicans, on the other hand, are the party that favors those at the very top—while driving a wedge between the rest of us. That’s a winning message that will not only defeat Donald Trump (or his replacement, if his congressional allies actually develop the courage to put country first), but defeat Republicans up and down the ballot.”

Ian Milhiser explains “How a Jim Crow law still shapes Mississippi’s elections: It makes it all but impossible for a Democrat to win in November” at Vox: “For statewide positions other than US senator, Mississippi uses a system similar to the electoral college. It’s not enough for a candidate to simply win the statewide popular vote. Rather, they must win both a majority of the popular vote and win a majority of the state’s 122 state house districts. If no candidate clears both of these hurdles, the state house chooses the winner from the top two candidates…Republicans currently control almost 60 percent of the state’s house of representatives. And state house districts are gerrymandered in a way that would make it very difficult for [Democratic candidate for Governor Jim] Hood to win a majority of those districts…Indeed, a lawsuit challenging this system suggests that Hood may need to win at least 55 percent of the vote in order to prevail in the gubernatorial election…Jim Hood is Democrats’ best chance in two decades of winning Mississippi’s gubernatorial race. But that’s not likely to be enough, thanks to an electoral system contrived by racist delegates more than a century ago.”

Ana Ceballos reports that “Florida Democrats focus on voter registration as most critical need for 2020” at The Orlando Weekly: “If Florida Democrats could sum up the state party’s early 2020 strategy in three words, they would be registration, registration, registration. During the party’s convention this weekend in Orlando, leaders stressed they have fixed past errors in their voter-registration strategy and are busy building a more Democratic-friendly electorate more than a year from Election Day…Since launching a registration program in June, more than 49,000 new Democratic voters have been registered, according to data the party provided to The News Service of Florida. In that same period, 48,000 voters registered as Republicans and 63,570 registered with no-party affiliation…More than $3 million has been invested by the Democratic Party to try to register 200,000 new voters before the general election, when Republican President Donald Trump will be at the top of the ticket. Most of the money so far has gone toward putting more community organizers on college campuses and in swing districts across the state. “If we focus on the swing districts, not only do we win the presidency, but we pick up quite a few (congressional) seats as well,” Peñalosa told reporters on Saturday.”

Justin Buchler, Associate Professor of Political Science, Case Western Reserve University, writes at The Conversation and Salon: “Election polls often fail to heed the lessons that have been hard-won by decades of survey research. Pollsters build their surveys around the idea that voters begin with firm beliefs, evaluate candidates on the basis of those beliefs and will explain their reasoning when prompted. In reality, voters often just respond to party signals, and can rarely explain their reasoning to pollsters…While there have been many changes in the American electorate over the last half-century, political scientists have replicated the core findings in The American Voter, including two updates. In studies of political behavior, party identification is nearly always the 800-pound gorilla in the room…Voters rarely admit that party is why they vote the way they do, after all.” Yet, “Research shows that party has more predictive power than anything else.”

“GOP candidates for president can expect to be victorious in 65 percent of future presidential elections and University of Texas at Austin researchers analyzed why “inversions” — where the popular vote winner loses the overall election — has happened twice since 2000,” Benjamin Fearnow notes in his article, “Electoral College Overhelmingly Favors Republicans, Abolishing Enture System Only Remedy: Study” at Newsweek. “The study authors found that the Electoral College’s winner-take-all approach favors Republicans and has pushed them to victories in 2000 and 2016…The researchers concluded that inversions will occur more and more in 2020 and beyond unless a policy change completely dissolves, rather than reforms, the Electoral College…The study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research last month found that one-third of presidential candidates who win the popular by less than 2 percentage points can still lose the Electoral College votes. In races decided by fewer than one percentage point, there’s a 45 percent chance the popular vote winner still manages to lose the Electoral College…”Feasible policy changes—including awarding each state’s Electoral College ballots proportionally between parties rather than awarding all to the state winner—could substantially reduce inversion probabilities, though not in close elections,” the study authors proposed.”

“Well I would say that about six of the current Democratic candidates now have a very robust comprehensive rural platform. I’ve been quite heartened to see that. It’s more attention paid to that space than I’ve ever witnessed in my just shy of 40 years. And that’s no doubt for political calculations. But I think also because there are some progressive candidates who deeply understand their sort of baseline tactics which is to go at wealth inequality and economic injustice, [which] tracks very perfectly with the ways in which family farms and rural people have been on the losing end of policy for many decades.” – from Sarah Smarsh, author of “Heartland, A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth,” quoted by Robin Young at wbur.com.

In their introduction to Dissent’s Fall, 2019 Special Section, “Rural America Reimagined,” Max Fraser and Garett Dash Nelson opine, “Rural voters have turned away from left politics in part because of divisive and fraudulent temptations from the right, but also in part because they frequently have not had any compelling reasons to stand by the left. From the embrace of neoliberalism in the 1990s to the belief in an urban-centered electoral “demographic destiny” in the 2010s, the Democratic Party, an unreliable ally of the left in any case, has too often acted in complicity with the very same forces that are hollowing out rural America. Popular movements, on the other hand, have largely neglected to organize in rural communities, whether because of the very real challenges associated with doing so or the common perception that the costs are too high and the payoffs too limited. The result has been the partisan stalemate that defines our current electoral landscape—and suffocates any current hope for a more transformative politics, at a time when rising social inequality and runaway climate change demand one more than ever.”

Also in Dissent, Carla Murphy writes in “Why We Need a Working-Class Media” that “The evidence of media’s disinterest in actual working-class realities comes as a steady drip. It adds up to a narrative of a disenfranchised, neutered working class, trotted out for affluent readers interested in poverty or angry populist stories. For too long, we’ve settled for being written about but not for…In sum, up and down the class ladder, all skinfolk ain’t kinfolk. Saturday Night Live, in the tense weeks before November 2016, featured Tom Hanks as a stereotypical Southern red neck, the only white contestant, on Black Jeopardy. The skit captures a lonely, almost shunned idea: that there’s more crawl space between same-class racial groups than is popularly imagined or broadcast. I crave a news media that explores that territory. Such an evolution won’t come from existing institutions, however. The weaponization of identity and foreignness in this presidential election cycle is already making past dog whistles seem quaint. Yet newsrooms, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center analysis, are 77 percent white. After two decades of consolidation, downsizing, and buyouts, they also tend to be middle-class and up. At worst, they are out of touch; at best, short-handed and unprepared.”