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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The culturally traditional but non-extremist working class voters

The culturally traditional but non-extremist working class voters: who they are, how they think and what
Democrats Must Understand to regain their support.

Read the Memo.

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 culturally traditional but non-extremist working class voters: who they are, how they think and what Democrats Must Understand to regain their support.

As the 2022 and 2024 elections approach Democrats have responded to their declining working class support by proposing variations on one or another of two strategies that they have advocated ever since the 1970’s.

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.

The culturally traditional but non-extremist working class voters: who they are, how they think and what Democrats Must Understand to regain their support.

By Andrew Levison

Read the Memo.

The Daily Strategist

June 25, 2022

Why Everybody’s Talking About MAGA

Noting a shift in some of the rhetoric we are hearing from both parties, I tried to explain it at New York:

Earlier this week, I got an unusual communication from a member of the White House press corps who wondered if I had inspired Joe Biden’s use of the term ultra-MAGA for Rick Scott’s wildly right-wing 2022 agenda for Republicans. I owned up to contriving the term in an effort to describe Scott’s combination of Trumpian rhetoric with Goldwater-era policy extremism. But I had no idea if Biden or someone in his circle read my piece and decided to borrow the neologism or (more likely) came up with it independently for parallel reasons.

Biden hasn’t just hit Scott with “ultra-MAGA”; in the same speech, he also referred to Trump himself as “the great MAGA king.” And Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has taken to railing against “MAGA Republicans” as well.

So Democratic leaders are now saying “MAGA” (Make America Great Again) where they would have once used “right wing” or “ultraconservative” or even “wingnut.” This appeared to be a strategic decision, not just a verbal tic or a tossed-off insult. And indeed, on Friday, the Washington Post reported that the rhetorical shift is the result of a six-month research project led by Biden adviser Anita Dunn and the Center for American Progress Action Fund:

“The polling and focus group research by Hart Research and the Global Strategy Group found that “MAGA” was already viewed negatively by voters — more negatively than other phrases like ‘Trump Republicans.’

“In battleground areas, more than twice as many voters said they would be less likely to vote for someone called a ‘MAGA Republican’ than would be more likely. The research also found that the description tapped into the broad agreement among voters that the Republican Party had become more extreme and power-hungry in recent years.”

Despite the potential liabilities, usage of “MAGA” and its variants has been spreading in Republican ranks as well — and the trend began even before Trump decided he liked Biden’s insult and started posting MAGA King memes on Truth Social. For example, Steve Bannon referred to Pennsylvania Senate candidate Kathy Barnette’s rivalry with the Trump-endorsed Mehmet Oz as “MAGA vs. ULTRA-MAGA.” The former Trump adviser was using “ULTRA-MAGA” as a compliment; in his eyes, Barnette is deeply devoted to The Cause, while the TV doctor is most palpably devoted to self-promotion.

So why is this happening now? And is the greater embrace of the term on both the right and the left just a coincidence? I don’t think so.

Democrats really need to make the 2022 midterm elections comparative rather than the usual referendum on the current occupant of the White House, who is held responsible for whatever unhappiness afflicts the electorate, which is reflected in Biden’s chronically low job-approval ratings. They also need to find a way to motivate elements of the Democratic base to vote in November, which isn’t easy because (a) Democratic constituencies (particularly young people) rarely vote in proportional numbers in non-presidential elections without extreme provocation, and (b) many base voters are “unenthusiastic” about voting thanks to disappointment over the limited accomplishments Biden and his congressional allies have chalked up since taking control of Washington.

The tried-and-true bogeyman who could help make 2022 comparative because he continues to meddle in politics and threaten a comeback is, of course, Trump. The specter of his return could be especially scary to young voters, whose unusually high 2018 turnout was attributable to their loathing for the 45th president. So it behooves Democrats to remind voters as often as possible that the Republican candidates who are on the ballot this November are surrogates for the Great Orange Tyrant. And invoking the red-hat symbolism of MAGA is an efficient way to do that. “Ultra-MAGA” suggests there are Republicans who are Trumpier than Trump, like Scott. The whole GOP, we can expect Biden to regularly suggest between now and November, is crazier than a sack of rats and getting crazier by the minute. That’s more important than the price of gasoline at any given moment.

For similar reasons, in intra-Republican politics, the MAGA brand is legal tender among the majority of GOP voters who turn to Mar-a-Lago for direction the way that flowers turn toward the sun. Wearing the red hat or referring to themselves as “MAGA warriors” is a way for Republican politicians to show a particular attachment to Trump. And ultra-MAGA is essential for candidates like Barnette who follow the Trump agenda slavishly but don’t have the Boss’s actual endorsement for whatever reason. It’s also a handy way for ambitious right-wing politicians to suggest there is a cause that will survive Trump’s own career and will indeed flourish under their own leadership. MAGA works a lot better as a symbol of Trumpism Without Trump than such debatable and obscure terms as national conservatism or conservative populism. When he goes after Mickey Mouse with a claw hammer, Ron DeSantis is definitely ultra-MAGA, especially compared to such damaged goods as Mike Pence, who is merely MAGA or even ex-MAGA.

So get used to it. Until we get a better fix on how to describe the ideology of the followers of Donald Trump, both they and their political opponents are likely to keep relying on the MAGA brand, which now means more than the nostalgia for the white patriarchy of yore that Team Trump probably had in mind when it came up with the slogan to begin with. If Trump runs for president in 2024, he’ll have to decide whether his slogan will be “Make America Great Again, Again” (as he has already redubbed his super-PAC) or something else. But for now, everybody pretty much knows it means one person’s dream and another’s nightmare.


Following the Money in Midterm Senate Races

One way to monitor trends in midterm election campaigns is to ‘follow the money.’ For a good update on where the two parties perceive their best opportunities and biggest liabilities in senate races, read Adam Wollner’s “Here’s where the battle for Senate control will be won – or lost” at CNN Politics. As Wollner reports:

In the battle for the evenly divided Senate, the major Democratic and Republican committees and groups have now all announced their first round of advertising reservations for the general election. Where party leaders and strategists decide to commit a major chunk of their campaign budgets provides the clearest look yet at which races are the most important to determining Senate control.

Here is how much money each group initially plans to spend on ads by state:

*National Republican Senatorial Committee: Georgia ($9.5 million); Wisconsin ($9 million); New Hampshire ($9 million); Arizona ($8 million); Pennsylvania ($8 million); North Carolina ($6.5 million); Nevada ($3 million)

*Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee: Nevada ($8.4 million); Arizona ($7.5 million); Georgia ($7 million); New Hampshire ($4 million); Pennsylvania ($3 million); Wisconsin ($3 million)

*Senate Leadership Fund (Republican super PAC): Georgia ($37.1 million); North Carolina ($27.6 million); Pennsylvania ($24.6 million); Wisconsin ($15.2 million); Nevada ($15.1 million); Arizona ($14.4 million); Alaska ($7.4 million)

*Senate Majority PAC (Democratic super PAC): Pennsylvania ($26 million); Georgia ($24.7 million); Arizona ($22.3 million); Nevada ($21 million); Wisconsin ($12.6 million)

Let’s break down that one-third of a billion dollars (!) in ad spending a bit.

There are five states that appear on the list for all four groups: Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Those are all states Joe Biden carried in the 2020 presidential election – and by some of his narrowest margins.

Democratic incumbents are running in Arizona (Sen. Mark Kelly), Georgia (Sen. Raphael Warnock) and Nevada (Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto). Pennsylvania, where Sen. Pat Toomey is retiring, and Wisconsin, where Sen. Ron Johnson is running for reelection, are the only two Republican-held seats the Democratic groups have on their initial target list.

Sure, spending priorities will change as more polls come in over the next six months. At the moment, however, this campaign investment snapshot provides a peek at what party strategists see as their best candidates and weakest incumbents. As Wollner concludes, “given that Republicans need only a net gain of one seat to flip the chamber, and that the states listed here have also been key battlegrounds in recent elections, these are the races that will be at the core of the fight for the Senate majority.”


Political Strategy Notes

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall quotes Harvard political scientist Ryan Enos on the political fallout of the anticipated overturning of Roe v. Wade: “At first blush, the overturning of Roe certainly seems like it could be a mobilizing event: it involves a medical procedure that is extremely common and has been experienced by a large portion of women in the United States and could materially affect the lives of millions of people. In some states, it will be the rare instance of the state taking away a right that people have previously enjoyed. To my knowledge, this has not happened since Southern states moved to strip voting rights after the end of Reconstruction….Your typical voter has only a vague notion of the ideological composition of the court, let alone how it got that way. While the Republican hijacking of the court to push an ideological agenda seems like a grave injustice to many of us, understanding why this is an injustice takes a level of engagement with politics that most voters simply don’t have….A more likely way for Roe to matter is that the most active Democrats, those who donate money and volunteer, will be animated for the midterm. Democrats were so animated by Donald Trump that they brought an energy to the election in 2020 that was impossible for them to sustain. While this might return in 2024 if Trump is on the ballot, it was not going to be there in 2022 without a catalyzing force — overturning Roe might be that force.”

At The Daily Beast, Sam Brodey notes, “In the absence of tangible results, Democrats are attempting to turn the conversation to the hardline actions Republicans would take on abortion if they control Congress….Republican leaders and campaign organizations have largely been reluctant to amplify their anti-abortion views in the last week, Democrats believe they have more than enough material to work with in persuading voters that the GOP would embrace extreme measures….One Democratic aide said that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s remark that a national abortion ban would be “possible” under a GOP majority was “a gift for us.”…The party’s nominee for Senate in Ohio, Rep. Tim Ryan, ran Facebook ads saying that his “extremist opponent”—J.D. Vance—“supports the end of Roe.” Vance has gone so far as to state he does not believe there should be abortion access even in cases of rape or incest….A Roe rollback “gives us the opportunity to show the stakes of holding the House in a way we’ve struggled to do so far this cycle,” said one swing-district campaign aide….Regardless of how Democratic voters and donors respond to that pitch, the biggest fundraising shift brought about by the Roe news could be an unprecedented level of focus, and dollars, to often overlooked state-level races.”

“To suggest that the collapse of Roe could effectively inspire the sort of movement-building for the broader left that it has for the right is to misunderstand at once the class politics of abortion and the role it’s played within both parties, Natalie Shure writes in “The End of Roe v. Wade Won’t Motivate Democrats” in The New Republic. “As much as we might wish otherwise, the most plausible impact the end of Roe v. Wade will have on electoral politics is little to none at all….In short, the anti-abortion movement is class war disguised as culture war, and reproductive justice must entail not just the right to abortion but resource redistribution and funding of the sorts of universal programs that the far right has used issues like abortion to block. (Compare a comprehensive reproductive justice demand to the pro-choice movement’s political strategy, which in no small part amounts to giving money to corporate Democrats.)….Once you reframe abortion as a top-down class war, it’s easy to see why the fall of Roe won’t amp people up the way some expect it to. While higher-class women understandably see Roe as a powerful guarantor of their personhood and equal status with men, poorer women have already lacked Roe’s protections for a long time—and it’s unclear whether an oppressed population already long under political siege and less likely to vote will be thrust toward an epiphany by a SCOTUS ruling. In polls, the people who report caring most about abortion relative to other issues are young, progressive, educated, concentrated in cities, and of higher income—already one of the Democratic Party’s strongest bases. The moderate suburban voters some analysis predicted could be brought into the Democratic fold have largely already entered, in 2018 and 2020—and even if they disapprove of overturning Roe, polls suggest they may not care quite enough to prioritize it over other issues.”

From “The Truth About Inflation: Saudi Arabia and Russia fueled inflation, but Biden’s relief plan probably didn’t, and there are hopeful signs even with high prices likely to continue into 2023” by Robert Shapiro at The Washington Monthly: “While consumer prices rose 8.2 percent from April 2021 to April 2022, prices for energy commodities (mainly oil, natural gas, and coal) jumped 45 percent, fuel oil prices soared 81 percent, and gasoline prices increased 44 percent. Unsurprisingly, inflation is much higher for goods that need lots of energy to produce and transport, so prices have jumped 17.3 percent for cars and trucks, 9.4 percent for food, and 12.1 percent for large appliances. But services need much less energy, and over the past year, prices increased only 1.2 percent for doctors’ services, 1.7 percent for prescription drugs, and 2.1 percent for college tuition….The current inflation is not only about energy. Many economists emphasize the strong demand from the 2021 boom colliding with global supply chain problems in China and at American ports. The pandemic shook up the economy, and those effects have contributed to inflation….The bad news is that energy markets expect Russia and the Saudis to keep oil prices high well into 2023. Those oil prices will keep inflation relatively high in the energy-dependent goods that everyone uses every day, here and in much of the world—including European countries that provided much less pandemic-related relief. And fortunately, the recent jump in oil prices is likely a one-time event that may dog us for another year or so.” If Shapiro is right, Democrats shouldn’t waste too much time trying to fix inflation or justify Biden’s economic policies. Time is short anyway. Better to instensify Democratic attacks on their Republican opponents, who have coddled Russia and Saudi Arabia, as well as price gouging corporations. A good mantra for Democratic midterm candidates going forward: “Don’t defend, attack fiercely and frequently.”


A National Abortion Ban Could Arrive As Soon As 2025

If the leaked Alito draft in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization turns out to be the actual majority opinion, the threat to abortion rights won’t simply be in red states. If and when they are in the position to do so, Republicans can be expected to pursue a national abortion ban by federal statute, as I explained at New York:

Democrats tried and failed this week to codify the abortion rights the Supreme Court is apparently on the brink of abandoning. Republicans could later try to turn the tables and codify national abortion restrictions. It won’t be immediate: If Republicans take control of the House and the Senate in the 2022 midterms, President Biden’s veto pen will prevent them from acting on abortion through the end of his term in January 2025.

But what happens then? The path is treacherous for those hoping to preserve reproductive rights in at least some parts of the United States. It’s entirely possible that Republicans will emerge from the 2024 election with control of the White House and both chambers of Congress. And under those circumstances, the GOP will be under intense pressure from its base to enact federal laws that outlaw abortion even in “blue” states. Mitch McConnell even acknowledged on Sunday that once Roe is overturned a national abortion ban is “possible.”

Republicans are very likely to flip the House in 2022, and that means it’s likely to stay flipped in 2024. As Cook Political Report recently noted, the last time control of the House flipped in consecutive elections was 1954. Meanwhile, the Senate landscape in 2024 is truly horrible for Democrats. They’ll be defending 23 Senate seats, including six in states Trump carried in 2016 or 2020. Republicans, on the other hand, will only be defending ten Senate seats, all in states Trump carried twice.

So the 2024 presidential election will likely be the ball game when it comes to power in Washington. And while both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama came back from midterm “shellackings” to win reelection, it’s hardly a solid betting proposition for Joe Biden (or whoever the Democratic nominee is if he decides to retire).

Even if Donald Trump or some other Republican is inaugurated in January 2025, and the party controls Congress, the size of the GOP Senate majority could limit their options for curtailing reproductive rights at the federal level. Republicans would have to get really lucky to emerge from the 2024 election with a 60-vote Senate supermajority. But Republicans could plausibly gain a Senate majority so comfortable that abolishing the filibuster would be more feasible than it is for Democrats today.

Today Republicans passionately defend the filibuster whenever Democrats complain that it’s arcane and obstructionist. So in this 2025 scenario, could they actually flip and nuke it themselves? Absolutely. Mitch McConnell’s term as Senate Republican leader runs through 2027, and he’s shown time and again that he is shameless when it comes to the pursuit and exercise of power. And if he’s retired by then, his successor will likely be even more ideologically attuned to the GOP’s activist base, which is intensely opposed to legalized abortion.

To be sure, giving up the filibuster would be difficult for a party that has relied heavily on anti-majoritarian mechanisms to thwart the popular will on so many occasions. But it was a Republican Senate that nuked the filibuster for Supreme Court confirmations in 2017, and the drive to reverse Roe v. Wade — now apparently at its omega point — was the single most powerful reason that happened. If Republicans find themselves with an opportunity to sweep away blue-state “abortion sanctuaries,” the pressure to end what many GOP activists call an “American Holocaust” would be hard to overestimate. Don’t let talk about Republicans caring more about tax cuts or destroying environmental or labor regulations than about “divisive” cultural issues fool you. The anti-abortion movement, which supplies much of the party’s grassroots energy and small-dollar contributions, has held a mortgage on the soul of the GOP for many years; it’s perfectly capable of calling it in.

Perhaps the most difficult question for Republicans on the brink of enacting federal abortion restrictions would be where to draw the line. In the past they have promoted a national ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, based on the specious theory that this is the point at which a fetus can feel pain. If the Supreme Court opens the door to any restrictions lawmakers choose to impose, there’s no reason to think that they will continue to advocate for a standard under which most abortions would remain legal. But do they move to 15 weeks? Six weeks? A total abortion ban? And do they recognize exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest, or situations where the health of the mother is at risk? There are no obvious answers to any of these questions, other than to observe that those who think of zygotes as babies will not be satisfied by half-measures.

Senate action on abortion could also be beside the point before too long. By 2025, the anti-abortion movement may have moved on to what will almost certainly be its ultimate goal: convincing the Supreme Court to recognize a constitutional “right to life” for the “unborn” that no state and no Congress could violate.

In other words, all of today’s Republican rhetoric about “letting the states” or “letting the people” decide abortion policy isn’t going to last very long. And those blue-state residents who are consoling themselves with the thought that only red-state governments will force every pregnancy to term may not be safe for long.

 


A Path for Dems to Leverage Abortion Opinion for the Midterms

Harold Meyerson explains “How Democrats Can Now Defeat Anti-Choice Republicans” at The American Prospect:

Yesterday, The New York Times posted both a map and a table showing the polling on how each of the 50 states comes down on the question of abortion. That table offers a guide to how Democrats can actualize various states’ sentiments to elect more pro-choice Democrats in November.

Consider Florida, where 56 percent of residents want to keep abortion, in the Times’ phrase, “mostly legal,” while just 38 percent want it to be “mostly illegal.” Republican Gov. (and presidential wannabe) Ron DeSantis recently signed a law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, and anti-choice zealots in the legislature will likely now want a new law making it illegal after six weeks or just plain altogether. If he wants the party’s presidential nod in 2024, DeSantis should probably go along with them; if he wants to be re-elected this November, he should try to duck the issue altogether. The Democrats running against him should do all they can to highlight his anti-choice stance, and if there’s still time to put an initiative on the ballot, they should force the question by letting voters decide abortion’s post-Roe legality—a question DeSantis won’t be able to duck without the kind of contortions that would in themselves weaken his prospects.

In the swing states of Wisconsin, Arizona, and Pennsylvania—in all three of which both senatorial and gubernatorial seats are up for grabs—the supporters of abortion outnumber its opponents by 13 percentage points. In Michigan, where Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will face a right-wing Republican challenger, abortion supporters outnumber opponents by 16 percentage points. In largely libertarian Nevada, where the incumbent Democratic senator and governor both face what have been thought to be strong Republican challenges, abortion backers outnumber its opponents by a whopping 32 percentage point margin.

If the pro-choice Democrats can’t figure out a way to win those elections, shame on them.

The pro-choice sentiment of the majority of Americans can play a role in numerous House contests as well. In California, where pro-choicers outnumber anti-choicers by 20 percentage points, the legislature is now planning to place a referendum on the November ballot that would enshrine the right to an abortion in the state’s constitution. The debate around that referendum puts the three anti-choice Republican House members from the outskirts of the L.A. metropolitan area in even more serious peril of being unseated than they already are, and it could do the same to some of the Republicans now representing inland California as well. (By the way, the law that legalized abortions in California, without putting that right into the state’s constitution, was signed in 1967 by the state’s Republican governor—Ronald Reagan—before his party succumbed to fundamentalist Christianity.)

Speaking of which, the Times map of the individual states’ views on abortion illustrates that the opposition is centered not in heavily Catholic states, such as Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and New Mexico, all of which strongly support abortion rights, but in the fundamentalist Protestant evangelical belt that runs from West Virginia to Mississippi and Arkansas. Historically, evangelicals had no particular position on abortion until the 1970s, when they began to see it as a feminist cause célèbre. Which is one reason why the Republican opposition to abortion can be quantified as less of a “pro-life” concern and much more as a rage against uppity women.

At The Cook Political Report, however, Amy Walter warns that the way the abortion issue’s ‘salience’ interacts with Democratic voter ‘enthusiasm’ 6 months from now is in question:

Can abortion dislodge the economy as a top issue this fall?

That, of course, is the million-dollar question.

Historically, according to 20 years of Gallup polling, about 25 percent of Americans see the issue of abortion as critical to their vote choice, another 25 percent think it’s “not a major issue,” while the other 50 percent see it as “one of many important factors” determining their vote choice.

One place to look for the impact of big changes to abortion law would be a state like Texas, which put into place legislation that bans abortion after 6 weeks. But, a Texas Lyceum survey from March found that just 5 percent of Texans believe that abortion is “the most important issue facing the state of Texas” compared to 20 percent who see border/immigration as a top issue and 26 percent who identified inflation, the economy and/or rising gas and energy costs as their top concern.

Of course, Texas is a much redder state than Georgia or Arizona or Wisconsin (where key Senate and gubernatorial contests are taking place). And, the impact of this laws takes on new significance if Roe is indeed overturned.

But, what about a blue state, like Virginia. In the 2021 gubernatorial contest, Democrat Terry McAuliffe spent more than $2 million on ads like this one accusing his GOP opponent, Glenn Youngkin of wanting to ban abortion and defund Planned Parenthood. Even so, that was less than half the amount that the McAuliffe campaign on ads trying to link Youngkin with Donald Trump. This suggests that the abortion issue, even in a state as blue as this one, wasn’t moving the needle for the voters the McAuliffe campaign was targeting. Exit polls in that race found that Youngkin did better among the 54 percent of Virginia voters who fall in the middle of the spectrum on the issue of abortion.  Youngkin took 37 percent of the vote among those who want abortion to be “legal in most cases,” while McAuliffe took just 12 percent of the vote among those who want abortion to be “illegal in most cases.”

Bottom Line: We are in the very early stages of what could be the first major change to abortion laws in 50 years. As such, we need to watch the above benchmarks like salience and enthusiasm about the issue very closely. And, given that these battles will take place at the state level, we’ll also need to get more state by state data to make any projections on the impact it could have on individual statewide races.

Democrats have to seize the opportunity to motivate pro-choice voters and urge them to help turn out eligible voters in their families and friendship circles. But President Biden and Democratic leaders must also take every possible opportunity to take action against inflation and also to blame price gouging companies and the Republicans they fund for rising prices at the gas pump and supermarket.


Teixeira: The Complicated Views of Young Voters

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

I think it’s fair to say that neither party and most pundits do not have a particularly nuanced or accurate view of young voters’ inclinations. John Halpin has the data at The Liberal Patriot:

“All Americans would like their political leaders to listen to them and take their views into serious consideration when making policy decisions. This is the democratic way. Unfortunately for America’s young people, political elites today grossly misunderstand and distort their views in ways that undermine young people’s impact on the decisions of government and the direction of politics.

The stereotypes of young people run wide and deep. According to left-wing activists, young people primarily care about issues like student debt, climate change, and racial justice and will only support parties or leaders who take maximalist positions on these issues. In turn, this reductive conception of young people suits right-wing activists just fine, making it easier for them to decry the supposed radicalism of young people and tar their politics as hopelessly out of touch with more mainstream Americans.

But looking at the great new Harvard Youth Poll conducted with more than 2000 Americans ages 18-29, it turns out that much of this conventional and ideologically convenient wisdom is untrue. Young people are far more diverse in their political views than generally acknowledged, and the issues that tend to unify young people across educational lines—things like health care and fighting poverty—are not the same ones that the nation’s political elites are fighting about all the time. Most importantly, young people face serious economic challenges that contribute to an overwhelming sense of fear about the future, rising mental health challenges, and political disengagement.

Consider these findings:

Young people are not overwhelmingly liberal or Democratic—most are moderates and many are Independents with big divides by education level……”

Read the whole thing at The Liberal Patriot!


Political Strategy Notes

At Slow Boring, Matthew Yglesias reviews the history of factional disputes in the Democratic party over the last couple of decades and offers some tips for rectifying current internal conflicts, including: “…there’s no cheat code that lets you do politics in a way that is detached from the contours of public opinion, including the reality that self-identified conservatives outnumber self-identified liberals by a large margin, so to win, Democrats need to secure large margins among self-identified moderates….The implications of that for positioning on specific issues vary, but it makes a big difference in terms of the overall approach. Running around and promising “sweeping,” “bold,” “structural” change is probably a bad idea compared to “common-sense reforms.”….reflecting how Martin Luther King, Bayard Rustin, and other Civil Rights Movement leaders thought about the questions facing America after the successes of the early 1960s….involves exhorting people to find unity in common economic uplift rather than emphasizing elite-level diversity or the need to center the racial angle in every controversy.”….Americans in Iowa and Ohio and Florida were ready to vote twice for Barack Obama based on a message of unity. And while I think his administration had serious failings, I think these were mostly failures of technical policy analysis (especially about the deficit/stimulus balance) rather than basic political judgment.”

To get and share some simple clarity to the debate about the threat to Roe v. Wade, read “Do Republicans want to throw doctors who break abortion laws in jail? Their plans say yes” by Jon Greenberg at Politifact. As Greenberg writes, “Over a dozen Republican-controlled states have passed abortion laws that permit jail sentences for doctors….45 Republicans in the U.S. Senate sponsored or co-sponsered the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, that would impose a prison sentence of up to five years.” Greenberg notes further, “The day after the leak of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion reversing Roe v. Wade, the National Republican Senatorial Committee sent lawmakers and candidates suggested talking points on abortion….The May 3 guidance advised Republicans to show compassion for pregnant women, criticize Democratic positions, and emphasize “the facts” about Republican policies….One of those facts was: “Republicans DO NOT want to throw doctors and women in jail. Mothers should be held harmless under the law.” Say it plain, Dems. This is pure horeshite. “In Florida,” Greenberg notes, “Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill on April 14 that, with some exceptions, bans abortions after 15 weeks. Doctors that violate the law are guilty of a third degree felony. That carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.” In OK, a physician can get 10 years. In TX, it’s 5 to life, 10 to 99 in AL. The NRSC memo shows Republicans fear these facts, and Dems would be guilty of malpractice not to share them loudly and often.

Kyle Kondik, Larry Schack and Mick McWilliams explain “How Abortion Might Motivate or Persuade Voters in the Midterms” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “In a forthcoming analysis of voters based on their 2022 voting intentions, we found that “Preventing women from losing access to safe and legal abortion services” emerges as one of the stronger issues for motivating Democratic base and swing voters to get to the polls in 2022 and potentially persuading Republican-leaning voters near the Democratic vs. Republican dividing line to shift their voting intentions to the other side from their present leanings. However, the data also suggest that abortion is more powerful in motivating Democrats than persuading Republican swing voters. Still, these voters present as open to maintaining a woman’s right to choose on abortion and the idea that America should be doing more to ensure this, not less. There are also other salient issues/messages for these voters besides abortion, which we’ll explore more in-depth in that forthcoming piece….Looking forward, it’s very much unclear what will happen with abortion in the 2022 election. For starters, we do not even know if the U.S. Supreme Court’s eventual opinion in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization will be the same as the one that Politico reported on earlier this week. We also know that, abortion aside, this looks like a Republican-leaning political environment, both based on history and the president’s weak approval ratings….But our analysis does suggest that 1. The public, broadly speaking, is more supportive of abortion rights and more concerned about women’s access to abortion services than not and 2. There are voters who may be animated by Roe vs. Wade being overturned, which could give Democrats a desperately-needed shot in the arm this November given their many other political problems this year. Whether abortion would trump the concerns that persuadable voters have on other issues — such as inflation and broader economic concerns, where the Democrats appear very vulnerable — remains to be seen, but we may find out if and when the Supreme Court releases their potentially explosive actual opinion on abortion.”

At FivThirtyEight, Geoffrey Skelley takres a look at “The 10 Governorships Most Likely To Flip Parties In 2022,” and writes: “As it turns out, the two most likely seats to flip may be Maryland and Massachusetts, where popular Republican governors are leaving office, and the GOP could end up nominating candidates who struggle to appeal in those deep-blue states. Meanwhile, primary battles in Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin could also hurt GOP efforts to capture Democratic-held governorships. After all, while gubernatorial races have become more nationalized, voters still show a greater tendency to break from their baseline partisan preferences in these races than in contests for Congress, meaning a poor nominee can still cause the seemingly favored party to stumble….That said, even though Republicans have two of the toughest seats to defend this cycle, they also have their own juicy target in Kansas, the reddest state Democrats control. Moreover, Democrats hold more highly competitive seats, which could easily flip. Based on early race ratings data from Inside Elections, Sabato’s Crystal Ball and The Cook Political Report, we’ve identified 10 states that are especially competitive, six of which Democrats currently control. This list could certainly change, but at this point, the GOP is playing on friendlier turf….”


Brownstein: ‘New American Majority’ Report Presents Tough Calls for Dems

In “The voter turnout gap may be even bigger than we think” at CNN Politics, Ronald Brownstein writes that, according to a new study, “while people of color will continue their steady growth to become nearly 2 in every 5 eligible voters by 2030, the gap in voter turnout between minorities and Whites, as well as between younger and older generations, is even wider than commonly understood.” In addition,

“The data say we have a big problem, bigger than we thought,” says Tom Lopach, president and CEO of the Voter Participation Center and the Center for Voter Information, the two liberal-leaning non-profit groups that released the report last week. The groups focus on increasing participation among what they call the “New American Majority” – unmarried women, voters younger than 35 and people of color, all constituencies that mostly vote Democratic (even though Republicans have made recent gains among some of them).

The study’s conclusions could inflame the already smoldering debate among Democrats over where the party should place its greatest electoral emphasis. While the study’s sponsors say it shows the need for greater efforts to energize younger and non-White adults now voting at lower rates, it could also encourage the rising chorus of centrist party voices who say Democrats must emphasize positions more popular with moderate and even right-leaning adults who are more reliable voters. That pool of potential supporters includes some Hispanics but is centered on the non-college-educated White voters whose generation-long shift toward the GOP became a stampede in the Donald Trump era.

The study also points to a more civic, less partisan, challenge: a widening gap between an increasingly diverse population, especially among younger generations, and electoral results disproportionately shaped by the preferences of White voters, particularly older White voters. That could be a formula for growing social tension, political polarization and doubts about the legitimacy of governmental decisions.

Brownstein adds that “The study places turnout among Black and Latino voters at a much lower level not only than the official Census Bureau numbers, which many experts think are inflated, but also than the estimates by Catalist, a leading Democratic voter-targeting firm.” Further,

The report projects that people of color will grow from 28% of eligible voters in 2010 and 34% in 2020 to just over 38% by 2030. Adding in all the groups the organization defines as the “New American Majority” – all people of color, White unmarried women and White voters under 35 – raises the total from 57% of eligible voters in 2010 to 63% in 2030….By 2030, it estimates, these groups will compose at least two-thirds or more of the eligible population in three Sun Belt states that now lean at least slightly toward Republicans: Florida, Georgia and Texas. The report ranks Florida and Texas, as well as Arizona, another Sun Belt battleground that still leans slightly Republican, among the states where the three groups will increase their share of the population fastest.

Looking at turnout rates, Brownstein continues, “The Census Bureau, for instance, estimated that the share of Whites who turned out in 2020 (just over 70%) was about 9 percentage points higher than the share of African Americans (61%) and about 18 points higher than the share of Latinos (52%). Catalist, the Democratic targeting firm, put the gaps somewhat wider, at 11 points between Whites and Blacks and 24 points between Whites and Latinos.” Worse, for Dems,

But the new study found a much more forbidding chasm. For 2020 it placed the White turnout gap at 25 points with Blacks and at nearly 35 points with Latinos. (The report concludes that only a little over half of eligible Blacks and two-fifths of Latinos voted.) What’s more, the study concluded that the turnout gap between Whites and all voters of color was at least 14 points in every state and even higher in many states where Democrats and progressive groups have spent heavily on grassroots organizing and/or voter turnout efforts – including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania – than in states where neither side invests much money, including Alabama and South Carolina. In the 2016 election, the new study likewise concludes, turnout among Blacks and Hispanics was much lower than either the Census Bureau or Catalist had found, while White turnout was slightly higher than either had estimated.

Looking back over the past three presidential elections, the report concluded the turnout gap between Whites and all non-Whites has actually expanded – more than doubling, in fact, over that period. The reason is that even though the share of all minorities casting ballots slightly increased from 2012 to 2020, White turnout has increased much more, according to the study’s estimates.

Brownstein notes, “many of the Sun Belt states where the demographic change is advancing most quickly are also among those where the Republicans now holding statewide power are erecting the most obstacles to voting, including Arizona, Florida, Georgia and Texas.”

“For all these reasons,” Brownstein explains, “while the groups sponsoring the study believe its findings argue for increased efforts to turn out younger and non-White voters, the results could also encourage the Democratic operatives and analysts who are arguing the party can’t rely on such mobilization. Since 2020 that loose circle – which includes Democratic voices such as David Shor, Ruy Teixeira, Bill Galston and Elaine Kamarck – has argued that the party must instead focus on winning back more working-class voters, especially Whites but also increasingly Latinos, by moving toward the center, particularly on cultural issues such as crime and immigration.”

All of the available data indicate that Democrats can’t afford much more leakage by any constituency in our evenly polarized electorate. There are trade-offs to be navigated with every policy choice, and the challenge for Dems is to hold on as much as possible to their supporters while targeting swing sub-groups with precision campaigning. Check out Andrew Levison’s recent strategy report on how Dems can win “culturally traditional but non-extremist working class voters” for one such approach.


Political Strategy Notes

If you were wondering “What Would Striking Down Roe v. Wade Mean For The Midterms?,” FiveThirtyEight has an excellent panel discussion for that. Some insights from the panelists: “nrakich (Nathaniel Rakich, senior elections analyst): Yeah, this is example No. 48,329 of why state-level politics are important — maybe more important than federal politics.”….”geoffrey.skelley (Geoffrey Skelley, elections analyst): Republicans are also in a better position to push laws that ban abortions — if they haven’t already. Currently, Republicans have full control of the government in 22 states, while Democrats only have “trifectas” in 14 states. The other 13 states have divided governments (including Alaska), but some of those states are pretty Republican and could fall under full GOP control in 2022 or 2023, such as Kansas, Kentucky and Louisiana.”….”alex (Alex Samuels, politics reporter): Exactly. Scrapping the filibuster will definitely become a pressing topic once again. While Congress does technically have the ability to codify the legal principles outlined in Roe, doing so would require Democrats in the Senate to get rid of the 60-vote threshold needed to pass legislation….as we’ve written time and time again, certain senators have long been opposed to doing that….But even if nuking the filibuster were realistically on the table and Democrats could codify Roe into law, there’s really nothing precluding Republicans from then reversing that if they take back control of the House and Senate later this year, right? As we already know, the midterm environment is likely to favor Republicans this year, too.”….”ameliatd: Well, and there’s always the possibility that the Supreme Court would overrule a federal law that protects abortion rights. Dare I say it, I ultimately think this isn’t going to be something that Democratic politicians feel a lot of pressure around until abortion rights are actually gone in half the country and people start to see what that means.”….”nrakich: I don’t know. The only scenario where I could see Democrats passing a pro-abortion bill is if, in 2023, they somehow hold the House and pick up seats in the Senate. If they win, say, 52 seats, the votes could be there to abolish the filibuster. But Democrats holding the House and picking up seats in the Senate is a pretty unlikely scenario….On the flip side, I think the soonest Republicans could enact a national abortion ban would be 2025: They’d have to flip not only the Senate and House but also the presidency.”

The panel discussion coninues: “geoffrey.skelley:…If the GOP ends up with a large Senate majority after the 2024 election, they might be more inclined to get rid of the filibuster than a narrow Democratic majority currently is — especially if Democrats are blocking some major Republican goals in 2025.”….sarah: Americans have a complicated relationship to abortion in that they support a number of different restrictions, some of which are out of step with Roe. But at the same time, most Americans do not want Roe overturned….This poll from NBC News was conducted earlier this year, but it found that voters, including independents, not only supported Roe but also weren’t in favor of candidates who wanted to overturn Roe….If the court were to overturn Roe this term, then doesn’t this have the potential to shake up the midterms in ways that we can’t really anticipate now?”….ameliatd: There’s a myth that Americans are personally conflicted about abortion. But that’s not really true. The vast majority of Americans think abortion should be legal in at least some circumstances — we’re talking 85-90 percent. So completely banning abortion would be highly unpopular. Public opinion on abortion sometimes looks muddy because people don’t like talking and thinking about abortion, and because they especially don’t like to deal with it as a political issue. But I suspect that when confronted with the reality of a post-Roe country, that could change. Will it happen in time for the midterms, though? I’m not sure.”….sarah: That’s a good point, Amelia. This ABC News/Washington Post pollwas conducted before Alito’s draft opinion was leaked, but I think it’s striking how unaware many people were when it came to the abortion landscape in their state. It found that in the 22 states that have passed abortion restrictions since 2020, only 30 percent of residents were aware of the restrictions. Forty-four percent said they weren’t aware, and 26 percent said they were unsure.”

Also: “alex: I’m torn on the effects this will have on the midterms. On the one hand, some polling suggests that protecting abortion rights is a priority for Democrats in particular….According to a December poll from the Associated Press/NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 13 percent of Democrats named abortion or reproductive rights as one of the issues they wanted Congress to address in 2022. And that’s a marked increase from two other times the poll asked the question: Less than 1 percent of Democrats called it a priority in 2021, and only 3 percent did in 2020….That said, it’s not immediately clear to me whether gutting Roe would hurt Republicans in the midterms. Gallup found in March, for instance, that Americans do not consider abortion to be a critical problem facing the nation.”….”geoffrey.skelley: What’s tricky about this is that the people who are most in favor of abortion rights are college-educated, and while those people have backed Democrats in recent elections, they are far from a majority of the electorate. For abortion to make a big difference in the election, you’d need to see other groups of voters shifting back toward Democrats on this issue. And I’m skeptical abortion is going to supplant the economy and inflationas the top issues Americans are worried about — not when Biden’s approval rating will likely still be in the low 40s and there’s little sign that inflation is going to fully stabilize before the election.”….nrakich: Yeah, Geoffrey, I’m not sure it will change many people’s actual votes; if you support abortion rights, you’re probably already voting Democratic. It could, however, increase Democratic enthusiasm to turn out in a year when Republicans might otherwise have an enthusiasm advantage….According to a CNN/SSRS poll from January, 35 percent of Americans said they would be “angry” if the Supreme Court overturned Roe. And that group was disproportionately Democratic: 51 percent of Democrats said they would be angry (significantly more than the 29 percent of Republicans who said they would be “happy”). And, to put it simply, angry people vote.”….”alex: This is somewhat speculative, but it is possible that overturning Roe could energize younger progressives and women. I know both groups already lean Democratic, but maybe Democrats could use this to motivate groups that have soured somewhat on Biden since he became president?”

Democrats should be forgiven if they are a bit unnerved by Tuesday’s primary results in Ohio. Not on the Democratic side – Tim Ryan’s convincing win means that Dems will have a strong contender for a pick-up of retiring Republican Rob Portman’s seat in the U.S. Senate. But on the Republican side, J.D. Vance’s victory demonstrated the power of Trump’s endorsement and an infusion of big donor cash. As Jacob Rubashkin notes at FiveThirtyEight, “Vance didn’t lead in a single poll until Trump endorsed him. He was struggling to raise money or defend against attacks about his past anti-Trump comments, and the super PAC giving him air cover was running low on funds and sounding the alarm in a major way….One guy who has to be pretty happy tonight is Peter Thiel, the billionaire Silicon Valley entrepreneur who bankrolled Vance’s run in Ohio to the tune of $13.5 million….Thiel is making some big plays in politics lately, and he has another candidate, Blake Masters, in the Arizona Senate primary. Trump hasn’t endorsed in that primary yet, but he recently made a virtual appearance at a Masters event. Tonight’s big win by Vance could work in Masters’s favor, but that primary isn’t until August.” However, Rubashkin adds, “The Tim Ryan campaign was ready for J.D. Vance’s win tonight. They just dropped a pre-produced video in which Ryan, seated in a diner, goes after Vance as a “celebrity, CNN analyst, and a big hit at Washington cocktail parties.” I wonder how many other potential opponents they cut ads about.” However, Trump’s influence could be a bit overstated, as Geoffrey Skelley notes: “It’s not that his endorsement can move mountains, but in a crowded race with voters uncertain of where to go, Trump’s backing can make a significant difference….It was a crowded race with a handful of tenable Republican candidates, and the former president picked one, and that was enough to get him over the line.”


We Don’t Know For Sure What the Supreme Court Is Doing On Abortion Rights

Amidst all the understandable uproar over the leaked Alito opinion in the Dobbs case, I offered a small note of caution at New York:

The stunning leak of a draft majority Supreme Court opinion from Justice Samuel Alito entirely reversing Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey has suddenly confronted Americans with the immediate prospect of life without constitutionally protected reproductive rights. Yes, many observers predicted that would be the outcome of this case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, particularly after the Court’s oral arguments last December. It’s also what Donald Trump, who appointed three of the justices in the purported majority, promised would happen back in 2016. And it’s the goal the anti-abortion movement and its wholly owned subsidiary, the Republican Party, have been working toward for decades. But it’s still shocking that normally tradition-bound and precedent-venerating justices are taking this fateful step despite widespread public opposition, at a time when a backlash could roil politics in unpredictable ways.

Or are they, for sure?

The Supreme Court said in a statement released the morning after the leak, “Although the document described in yesterday’s reports is authentic, it does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case.” The draft is dated February 10, 2022, when it was circulated to other justices for comment. It is also far from polished; there are redundancies in the text, just as there are in “first drafts” of a lot of important documents. It was presumably prepared because Alito was chosen to write an opinion reflecting the will of at least five justices, as expressed in a conference just after oral arguments. But we do not actually know if the final decision will be substantially the same as this draft, or might differ in significant respects — just as we do not know at this point who leaked it to Politico and with what intent.

What we do know is that post-conference changes in the position of justices once draft opinions start circulating do happen, if not that often. And in fact, one of the most famous shifts in the Court happened on this very issue 30 years ago. Planned Parenthood v. Casey was widely expected to produce a reversal of Roe and then it didn’t, as I explained recently:

“As Justice John Paul Stevens (a Ford appointee and Roe defender) later revealed in his 2019 memoir, a preliminary-draft opinion circulated by [Chief Justice William] Rehnquist that overturned Roe got five votes. But during the long period of time before the decision was formulated and announced, Reagan appointee [Justice Anthony] Kennedy flipped, succumbing to a plea from [Justices Sandra Day] O’Connor and [David] Souter to help them find a solution that would make state restrictions like Pennsylvania’s constitutionally acceptable without the disruptive counterrevolution that reversing Roe would represent. This development surprised the suddenly displaced anti-Roe majority, and then the country.”

According to Stevens, Rehnquist’s draft was circulated on May 27, 1992. The ultimate 5-4 decision maintaining the essential holding of Roe with a new standard designed to accommodate more state restrictions on abortions was announced on June 29, 1992. It appears that Rehnquist’s majority evaporated right under his nose.

Although we have no particular reason to imagine this kind of switch might have happened in Dobbs, we do know from abundant reporting and from his conduct during oral arguments that Chief Justice John Roberts seemed uneasy with overturning Roe and Casey in one fell swoop, clearly preferring to uphold Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban without opening the door to any and all abortion bans. Just a week ago, the Wall Street Journal speculated that Roberts wanted to flip one of the other conservatives to a more limited ruling:

“Chief Justice John Roberts tried during the oral argument to find a middle way. He appeared to want to sustain the Mississippi law on grounds that it doesn’t violate Casey’s test of whether there is an ‘undue burden’ on the ability to obtain an abortion. If he pulls another Justice to his side, he could write the plurality opinion that controls in a 6-3 decision. If he can’t, then Justice Thomas would assign the opinion and the vote could be 5-4. Our guess is that Justice Alito would then get the assignment.”

That appears to be exactly the course of events that produced the Alito draft. But what we don’t know is whether Roberts has continued his efforts towards a “middle way” during the nearly three months since then, and if so whether they have borne fruit. And for that matter, we also don’t know if any of the four justices originally on Team Alito have issues with the scope and breadth of his draft opinion.

It can be argued that the difference between what Alito wrote and what Roberts wants is a distinction without a difference. Both men want ultimately to abolish reproductive rights, and differ only over the pace of the constitutional counter-revolution that would be required. And indeed, it’s not clear how any “middle way” would work. How do you get rid of the constitutional protection of pre-viability abortions without allowing the states to enact more ruthless ban’s than Mississippi’s? I surely don’t know, but would observe that nobody anticipated Casey’s “undue burden” standard until it was announced. Justices and their clerks can be quite innovative when they are putting together coalitions on the Court.

The fate of reproductive rights certainly looks bad right now, but we’ve been here before. So it would be prudent not to be overly confident of what the Court will ultimately do in Dobbs, exactly how it will affect people in need of abortion services, and what the political fallout will be. There’s a slim chance that the right’s long crusade to abolish Roe entirely will be frustrated at the 11th hour once again — in which case, the fury among pro-choice Americans over the Alito draft will be matched in intensity by the outrage of the anti-abortion minority.