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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

What Will Trump Loyalists’ Sensed Powerlessness Mean For Politics?

Donald Trump’s influence on the Republican Party continues to shape America’s politics, even as the Democrats have taken control of the federal government and Congress.

Read the Report

From Democracy Corps


5 Practical Strategies for Moderate Candidates

Trump loyalists are not just completely committed to a Fox News’ right-wing political perspective but to an extreme alternative ideology that requires the denial of even patently evident facts

Strategies based on Democracy Corps new study.

Most Profoundly Sinister Provision in the New GOP Voter Suppression Laws

All of the GOP measures are designed to make voting harder and reduce the turnout of minorities and other pro-Democratic groups but one key strategy is quite literally designed to turn American elections into meaningless, completely empty rituals like they are in police state dictatorships like Russia.

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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.

Strategy for Separating Extremist from Non-extremist White Workers

The grotesque events since the election finally forced a limited section of the Republican coalition to take a stand against the extremists who gained essentially complete domination over the GOP after the election of Donald Trump in 2016.

Prevent the Triumph of GOP Extremism.

The Daily Strategist

June 24, 2021

Political Strategy Notes

For another take on William A. Galston’s article noted yesterday, read “Why Trump Still Has Millions of Americans in His Grip,” by NYT columnist Thomas B. Edsall, which notes: “In “The Bitter Heartland,” an essay in American Purpose, William Galston, a veteran of the Clinton White House and a senior fellow at Brookings, captures the forces at work in the lives of many of Trump’s most loyal backers: Resentment is one of the most powerful forces in human life. Unleashing it is like splitting the atom; it creates enormous energy, which can lead to more honest discussions and long-delayed redress of grievances. It can also undermine personal relationships — and political regimes. Because its destructive potential is so great, it must be faced….Galston has grasped a genuine phenomenon. But white men are not the only victims of deindustrialization. We are now entering upon an era in which vast swaths of the population are potentially vulnerable to the threat — or promise — of a Fourth Industrial Revolution….This revolution is driven by unprecedented levels of technological innovation as artificial intelligence joins forces with automation and takes aim not only at employment in what remains of the nation’s manufacturing heartland, but also increasingly at the white-collar managerial and professional occupational structure.” Edsall goes on to document the threat of A.I., automation, “foreign-trade-induced job loss and other adverse consequences of technological change” as a politically-disruptive force, and concludes with a couple of pertinent questions: “If fully enacted, could Biden’s $6 trillion-plus package of stimulus, infrastructure and social expenditure represent a preliminary step toward providing the social insurance and redistribution necessary to protect American workers from the threat of technological innovation? Can spending on this scale curb the resentment or heal the anguish over wrenching dislocations of race, culture and class?”

In “The Republican rebrand, exposed: The Republican Party’s “working class” rebrand is a cruel hoax,” Robert Reich writes at Salon: “The Republican Party is trying to rebrand itself as the party of the working class. Rubbish. Republicans can spout off all the catchy slogans about blue jeans and beer they want, but actions speak louder than words. But let’s look at what they’re actually doing….Did they vote for the American Rescue Plan? No. Not a single Republican in Congress voted for stimulus checks and extra unemployment benefits needed by millions of American workers….So what have they voted for? Well, every single one of them voted for Trump’s 2017 tax cut for the wealthy and corporations, of which 83 percent of the benefits go to the richest 1 percent over a decade. They claimed corporations would use the savings from the tax cut to invest in their workers. In reality, corporations used their tax savings to buy back shares of their own stock in order to boost share values. And some corporations then fired large portions of their workforce. Not very pro-worker, if you ask me….What about backing regulations that keep workers safe? Nope. In fact, they didn’t bat an eye when Trump rolled back child labor protections, undid worker safeguards from exposure to cancerous radiation, and gutted measures that shield workers from wage theft….Do they support overtime? No. They allowed Trump to eliminate overtime for 8 million workers, and continue to repeat the corporate lie about “job-killing regulations.”

At FiveThirtyEight, Geoffrey Skelley explains why “Biden isn’t polling well on immigration,” and notes thata new Pew Research Center report suggests immigration could prove challenging for the Biden administration….The trouble for Biden stems from the difficult conditions along the U.S.-Mexico border, where a surge in the number of people crossing into the U.S. has reached a 20-year high. Given this situation, 68 percent of Americans told Pew that the government was doing a very or somewhat bad job of handling the number of asylum seekers at the border. Concerns about unlawful entry into the U.S. have also shot up, with 48 percent of Americans saying that “illegal immigration is a very big problem,” the highest share since 2016….overall support for giving undocumented immigrants a path to legally remain in the U.S. dropped from 75 percent in June 2020 to 69 percent in the new survey. While the drop in support was driven largely by Republicans (support fell from 57 percent last June to 48 percent) and not Democrats (support barely changed, from 89 percent to 86 percent), Democrats did show a slight increase in support for restrictive policies on other questions. For instance, the share of Democrats who said it was important to reduce the number of asylum seekers at the southern border rose from 61 percent in August 2019 to 68 percent in the new poll, and the share who wanted to make it harder for these asylum seekers to gain legal status rose from 32 percent to 39 percent in that same period….Such polling shifts are due in part to the current situation at the border, but they also reflect that public opinion is often thermostatic — that is, the public tends to become less supportive of views associated with the party in power. So we would expect, on some level, a reduction in pro-immigration attitudes because Democrats control the government right now, just as pro-immigration attitudes ticked up while Trump was in office. The question is how much immigration will once again become a driving force for Republicans — or matter for Democrats.”

Writing in Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, Ladan Ahmadi and David Kendall explore  “The Can’t-Miss Way to Expand Obamacare: The next logical step is a universal cost cap, guaranteeing people that they’ll never be socked with unpayable medical bills,” and write: “The solution, then, is a Universal Cost Cap that would put a limit on the out-of-pocket and out-of-paycheck costs for everyone based on their income no matter where they get their insurance. That means whether a person gets insurance through their employer, the exchanges, or Medicare or Medicaid, their deductibles, co-pays, and premiums would be capped as a portion of what they earn. The impact on Americans would be huge. It would be a major expansion, and the benefits would be unprecedented….A 2021 study published in Health Affairs found that low-income families who had ACA exchange plans with full cost caps spent 17 percent less on health-care costs and had a 30 percent less chance of having catastrophic health-care costs that could add up to decades of debt. Can you imagine how working and middle-income families would feel if the amount they paid for health coverage and care was 17 percent less than they had been paying? For a typical person with coverage through her employer, it would amount to a savings of $1,842 a year….Implementing a Universal Cost Cap would permanently end people’s financial vulnerability on health care. It would allow all families to budget their health-care costs for the year. They would have peace of mind over never having to pay more than a set amount that is affordable – no matter what….In addition to solving the cost problem for families, a Universal Cost Cap has a series of attributes that make it easy to explain to voters. It’s big and bold but builds on what we have by improving a now decade-old law that people like, with 53 percent of the public now holding a favorable view of the ACA compared to 34 percent unfavorable.”

Teixeira: Galston’s Explanation Why “They” Do Not Like “Us” and Why It Matters Hits Target

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

The growth of dynamic metropolitan America and the faltering of much of the rest of the country is hugely important to understanding the evolving political terrain of the country. Many on the left prefer to reduce the story to one of xenophobic, racist reaction to a demographically changing country but this is lazy, self-congratulatory thinking.

Bill Galston provides a more sympathetic–and more accurate–interpretation of the heartland revolt in an excellent article in Francis Fukuyama’s new site, American Purpose. Here Galston provides a concise summary of why “they” don’t like “us”.

“They” see “us” as presiding over a long-term decline in their quality of life without lifting a finger to help. Blue-collar wages have stagnated for decades; good jobs for which they are qualified have evaporated. Their suffering went ignored by elites in both political parties until Donald Trump emerged as their champion.

They fear falling even farther. (Behavioral economics tells us that losses sting more than gains please.) They do not understand why this is happening to them and are searching for an explanation, which only conservative populists bother to provide.

They have a sense of displacement in a country they once dominated. Immigrants, minorities, non-Christians, even atheists have taken center stage, forcing them to the margins of American life. The metropolitan areas we dominate—and that dominate the country—embody a way of life increasingly at odds with Americans in small towns and rural areas.

They believe we have rewritten the rules to rig the game against them. We have redefined success so that it is measured by test taking, which leaves them on the outside looking in. We have established a hereditary meritocracy based on our networks, resources, and inside knowledge of the rules. We tell them they should shape up and get with the New Economy, but never say how they are supposed to do that. They believe we have used our power for our own advantage, not to promote a common good that would include them.

They believe our claims to expertise are mostly bogus. Why did elites in both parties allow China to join the World Trade Organization on such favorable terms? Why did they plunge us into endless wars in the Middle East? Why did they cause the Great Recession and botch the recovery? Why have their medical experts changed their minds so often during the pandemic? President Trump was at his best, they say, when he ignored the experts and went his own way.

They believe that we deny their freedom and tell them how to live their lives. Why do we regulate the way they farm, fish, and hunt? Why do we prefer endangered species over their human families, shut down their businesses, and try to close their churches?

They believe we have a powerful desire for moral coercion. We tell them how to behave—and, worse, how to think. When they complain, we accuse them of racism and xenophobia. How, they ask, did standing up for the traditional family become racism? When did transgender bathrooms become a civil right?

They see us using the law to make them act in violation of their deepest beliefs—making the Little Sisters of the Poor cover contraception, forcing public schools to allow entrance to bathrooms based on gender identity. They believe we want to keep them from living in accordance with their faith.

They believe we hold them in contempt. They point to remarks by 2008 and 2016 Democratic presidential nominees as evidence.

Finally, they think we are hypocrites. We claim to support free speech—until someone says something we don’t like. We claim to oppose violence—unless it serves a cause we approve of. We claim to defend the Constitution—except for the Second Amendment. We support tolerance, inclusion, and social justice—except for people like them.”

Galston pointedly remarks that this viewpoint is not entirely wrong, despite how many of “us” reflexively reject it.

“Although our natural inclination is to resent and reject these allegations, we should ask whether there is some merit to them. Donald Trump did not create these sentiments. They will not disappear just because his presidency has ended.”

It is my view that this lesson has not yet been absorbed by metro America’s cosmopolitan left. It is likely “we”–and the country–will pay a heavy price for this failure.

GOP’s Working-Class Branding Project Undermined by Tax Policy Favoring Wealthy

From “Battle over tax hikes muddies the GOP’s post-Trump push to be the party of the working class” by Christina Wilkie at cnbc.com:

WASHINGTON — The looming battle over tax hikes to fund President Joe Biden’s economic recovery bills threatens to undermine the Republican Party’s nascent, post-Trump effort to rebrand itself as the party of the working class.

Over the past decade, the share of Americans with only a high school education who identified as Republicans has risen by more than 10 points, from 34% to 45%, according to NBC News/Wall Street Journal polling.

Many of these voters were initially drawn to the GOP over cultural issues, not financial ones. But Trump injected economic populism into the party platform. In the 2020 election, despite losing the presidency, he won noncollege white men by 42 percentage points, and noncollege white women by 27 points….In the House, Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana , leader of the conservative Republican Study Committee, wrote a memo last month arguing that the only way for the Republican Party to win control of Congress was by “enthusiastically rebranding and reorienting as the Party of the Working Class.”

Wilkie notes that Republicans have joined with Democrats in supporting some legislation that benefits the worlking class, including: massive Covid relief bills, enhanced unemployment benefits; raising the child tax credit; and a tax credit to anyone earning less than the mean hourly wage of $16.50….All these initiatives reflect a party “trying to catch up with the people who are supporting them,” said John Russo, co-editor of the publication Working-Class Perspectives and a visiting scholar at the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University….“Trump turned it upside down, especially when it comes to deficit spending. The GOP is trying to capture the voters he won over and keep them,” he said.

However, Wilkie explains, “Biden’s economic recovery package now threatens to drive a wedge between Republicans and the working-class voters they’re trying to hold onto, by forcing the GOP to choose between protecting corporate tax cuts or creating more blue-collar jobs….The Biden recovery plan is divided into two massive investment bills: the infrastructure-focused American Jobs Plan, and the American Families Plan, which expands education and child-care aid….The combined price tag for the plans is north of $4 trillion, but Biden intends to avoid ballooning the federal deficit in part by raising taxes on corporations and the very rich to pay for the programs. The chief beneficiaries of the plans will be Americans without a college degree and low-income workers.

Yet, “For Republicans, however, the bills’ prospects begin and end at the tax hikes.” Further,

Four years after passing the biggest tax cut in a generation in 2017, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said this week that any increase to the tax rates enshrined in the 2017 law would be a red line for Republicans….Calling the cuts among the most significant domestic accomplishments of Trump’s presidency, the Kentucky Republican said, “We’re not going to revisit the 2017 tax bill.”….He accused Democrats of wanting to “raise the corporate rate to the highest in the world,” despite the fact that Biden proposes raising it only to 28%, which is still 7 points lower than the pre-2017 rate of 35%.

Banks and the Republican Study Committee were equally outraged by the proposed tax increases on the wealthy and corporations…..“Biden and Congressional Democrats’ assault on American jobs and American taxpayers is simply unconscionable,” the committee said in a statement on the proposed tax hikes….the 2017 tax cuts didn’t win over many Americans, a reality reflected in a wide array of polls both during and after the bill’s passage in late 2017. But that’s not surprising, given that multiple analyses of the bill’s impacts have found that the biggest beneficiaries of the changes, by far, were the wealthiest Americans and corporations.

….By contrast, the first part of Biden’s package, the American Jobs Plan, appeals directly to noncollege educated voters: Three of every 4 infrastructure jobs created by the plan will require no more than a high school diploma….Biden has referred to the jobs plan as “a blue-collar blueprint to build America,” and it is widely seen as more likely to become law in a Congress where Democrats hold only razor-thin majorities in both chambers.

The second part of Biden’s agenda, the American Families Plan, faces a narrower path to becoming law, and there are competing estimates of how much it would actually cost to greatly expand public education, child-care subsidies and unemployment benefits. Like the infrastructure bill, this, too, relies on making changes to the 2017 tax bill.

Wilkie notes that “not all Republicans agree with McConnell’s iron-clad refusal to revisit the 2017 tax cuts,” and some are calling for more generous benefits for working-class families. But if historical patterns prevail, Republican leaders will prioritize giving the largest tax cuts to the wealthy, while pressing for deep cuts in spending for programs that benefit the working-class. The question is, how many white working-class voters, who are more than 40 percent of the electorate, buy the GOP re-branding in the 2022 midterm elections.

Linkon and Russo: Beyond Economic Populism

The following article by Sherry Linkon and John Russo of The Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor and co-authors of  Steeltown U.S.A.: Work and Memory in Youngstown and New Working-Class Studies, is cross-posted from Working-Class Perspectives:

Predictably, politicos and commentators spent much of 2020 debating why working-class voters supported Trump and how the Democrats could win them back. Although we’ve occasionally contributed to these conversations, we’re also getting tired of them. They tend to envision “the working class” as if it were one group with a well-defined set of interests, and worse, they treat working-class people as a marketing problem. These habits reflect not only the commentators’ distance from the working class but also, for many, a sense of meritocratic superiority to people they view as deluded, foolish, stupid, or even amoral. If we want to improve the lives of the working class, and especially if we want to heal the divisions of American political and public life, we need to reframe the problem.

That should start by resisting any effort to define the working class in any singular way. Simplistic definitions fuel both stereotyping and resentments. Defining based on occupation or income highlights important differences in economic interests, but it doesn’t address the resentments that even many fully-employed, unionized, economically-comfortable working-class people feel in the U.S. today. To define the working class based on the college degree, as many pollsters do, ignores the complex array of forms, amounts, qualities, and outcomes of education. Focusing on one variable, like education, might be necessary in polling, but it erases the relationships among education and occupation, social status, and cultural patterns. Electricians and plumbers may lack college degrees, but their specialized training yields them secure and well-paid work as well as pride in their blue-collar status. Meanwhile, K-12 teachers often have graduate degrees but earn less than plumbers or electricians. If we link class with unions, a common (if outdated) assumption, then we might also note that teachers may be more likely belong to active unions than many industrial workers these days.

One illustration of the problem of simplistic definitions is the either/or debate about how to appeal to “the working class” as a voting bloc: either promote economic populism or talk about racial justice, either embrace the dignity of work or value the dignity of marginalized people. These options suggest that the working class is either white, blue-collar, and struggling economically or Black and Latinx and focused on racial rather than economic justice. If we reject this false choice and envision a working class that includes all of these people, one that might not respond as a bloc to any one political strategy or message, it can seem like we’re ignoring class altogether. Addressing working-class concerns – economic, practical, but also social and cultural – requires more complex thinking about class, culture, and policy.

It doesn’t help that discussions about working-class voters so often focus on how politicians should talk rather than on what they should do. That’s part of why we appreciated the invitation to contribute to a forum in Social Policy, due out next week,to suggest what the Biden administration could do to help the working class. Simply framing the question in terms of policy rather than politics is a step in the right direction.

We recommended a few fairly obvious actions, starting with getting the coronavirus under control, a concern for everyone but especially for the working class. Even before the pandemic, many working-class people had limited access to good health care, and they were more likely to have underlying medical problems that made them vulnerable to COVID. Contrary to the old blue-collar stereotype, most working-class jobs today are in the service industry, including many of the jobs we now deem “essential” – grocery clerks, nursing assistants, janitors, delivery drivers, postal workers. This has put many workers at risk. Others face economic risks because of lost jobs. To address the needs of the working class, we need to stop the spread of the virus and provide substantial economic relief to ensure that millions of Americans with little or no savings will not lose their homes or go hungry.

To strengthen the economy going forward, the Biden administration should also develop a broader industrial policy that includes infrastructure projects, a buy American program, improved labor laws, improved training opportunities, and a higher minimum wage. All of this will create jobs and improve economic conditions for working people. It can also help address some social problems. Expanded access to health care, improved early childhood and K-12 education, and support for elder and child care could decrease some of the despair that has played out in high rates of drug addition, family violence, and mental health issues for many in the working class.

These are not new ideas, nor are we alone in suggesting them (see, for example, the list from the Economic Policy Institute). But to make a real difference for the working class, Biden and Congress must move beyond talking about these ideas in campaign speeches, as they have done in the past. They need to take significant action.

This will all help, but we need to do more to heal the divisions that leave many in the working class feeling disrespected and aggrieved. That will require a change in attitude from those who so often look down on the working class, smugly certain that they have earned their privileges and are intellectually, culturally, even morally superior to those who are struggling. As philosopher Michael Sandel argues in The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good?, the pandemic makes clear both our mutual dependence and the hollowness of the refrain that “we are all in this together.” We failed to come together, he suggests, because of a combination of unprecedented inequality that separates those who succeeded economically have become ever more disconnected from those who are struggling and a deeply-embedded belief that those on top deserve their success because they have the education needed to compete in the global economy. The winners see themselves as better than the losers, and the losers are all too aware that the winners not only don’t care but actually hold them responsible for their own problems. As a result, neither those on the top nor those on the bottom actually believe that we are all in this together.

Sandel argues that we must reject the toxic mix of professional-class hubris and working-class resentment that has shaped so much of our public life in recent years. That will require more than economic populism. We’ve spent a lot of time this year applauding doctors and nurses but we too often ignore the janitors, medical assistants, teachers’ aides, and food service workers who are less visible and widely underpaid, treated with disdain, seen as less valuable, less smart, less human. Raising their wages is a step in the right direction. Sharing their stories is a good start. Real healing will require a step beyond: to genuine respect.

To serve the interests of the working class, we should learn from the model of Bargaining for the Common Good, an organizing strategy that emphasizes connections between the needs of workers and the needs of communities and in the process builds relationships and collective power. It is time to embrace policies as well as attitudes and relationships that move us all toward a greater sense that we really are in this together.

Political Strategy Notes

In “Biden’s Push For Big Government Solutions Is Popular Now — But It Could Backfire,” Daniel Cox writes at FicewThirtyEight that “there are other possible explanations for why Americans might want more government intervention. Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) have experienced multiple economic traumas, which has left them less well-off than previous generations. Whether measured in terms of homeownership, retirement savings or debt, millennials have accumulated far less wealth on average than baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) when they were the same age. As a result, millennials may be less worried about what the government is taking from them and more interested in what it can do for them. A recent Pew study bears this out. Roughly two-thirds of millennials — and 70 percent of Generation Zers (for this study, those born between 1997 and 2005) — believe government should do more to address societal problems while just under half of baby boomers agree….But if deficit spending and mounting debts no longer arouse ire among conservatives and trepidation among the public, that does not mean it never will. Reducing the deficit is not a high public priority, but a new Quinnipiac poll shows that 48 percent of Americans are worried that the Biden administration wants to spend too much money.”

At The Cook Political Report, Charlie Cook rolls out “The Six Factors That Will Shape 2022,” including a couple of optimistic notes for Dems: “The best argument to be made for Democrats in the House is that since they lost 11 seats last year, their exposure is light, only seven Democrats holding seats in districts that Trump won. One law of politics that can be counted upon is that a party cannot lose a seat they don’t hold….Republicans will have to defend 20 seats, compared to Democrats’ 14. Republicans also have five open seats among their 20, which are usually harder to defend than incumbent seats. Democrats have none….Democrats have four seats up in states with The Cook Political Report Partisan Voting Index of 3 points or less, meaning that the state’s vote margin is within 3 points of the national average. Republicans have five such seats. Of course, with only a single-seat margin, Democrats cannot afford any net loss at all.”

Republicans Will Punish Democrats for Every Reform They Make: But that shouldn’t stop Democrats from embracing big and sweeping changes while they can,” according to Elie Mystal, who writes at The Nation: “Unfortunately, many centrist and moderate Democrats seem paralyzed by the fear of what Republicans will do if they take back the Senate or the White House. They’re afraid to pass sweeping policy or procedural reforms because of how they think Republicans will punish Democratic politicians in the future. It’s hard to even have a debate about big, structural changes to how government functions because too many arguments devolve to “If Democrats do anything, Republicans will be super mean….Republicans are not bluffing when they promise retribution should Democrats use the power they have won. But so what? How is that any worse than what we have now?….Who in their right mind thinks Republicans won’t use all the power they have in, say, 2025 just because Democrats showed restraint in 2021? Republicans never hold their fire because they’re afraid of the Democratic response.”

“Unions communicate with their members about issues and candidates to make sure workers have information when they go to the polls on Election Day. Union members’ voter turnout is significantly higher than the general public’s,” according to a report by The Economic Policy Institute. “A study of union members finds they are 12 percentage points more likely to vote than voters who are not in a union….Other research shows that voter turnout is higher in states with greater levels of unionization….Conversely, turnout is lower in states that have adopted anti-worker “right-to-work” legislation. Right-to-work laws undermine unions’ ability to collect “fair share fees” from workers whose interests they represent. Fair share fees cover the costs of bargaining, contract administration, and grievance processes that unions are required by law to undertake on behalf of all (union and nonunion) members of a collective bargaining unit. Without fair share fees, union power degrades quickly—which is exactly what anti-union employers want. According to research by Columbia University professor Alex Hertel-Fernandez and his colleagues, the passage of right-to-work laws reduced voter turnout by 2% in presidential elections. This is not insignificant considering that in right-to-work states Michigan and Wisconsin, the losing candidate lost by less than 1 percentage point in the 2016 election.”

Teixeira: Voter ID? Fuggedaboutit, That Ship Has Sailed

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

It makes sense to oppose Republicans’ efforts to make voting harder, though the potential efficacy of such efforts tends to be considerably exaggerated. (More potentially consequential are efforts to enhance partisan control over the vote-counting process.) But one thing Democrats and activists should stop worrying about is voter ID requirements. As poll after poll after poll has shown, voter ID requirements are widely popular and viewed as procedurally fair, rather than an onerous and unfair burden.

The latest confirmation of this comes from a UMass Amherst/WCBV poll which found 67 percent of the public favoring requiring all voters to show photo ID to vote, compared to just 25 percent who were opposed. Not only that, the requirement was favored by 62 percent of blacks, 64 percent of Latinos and 80 percent of Asians.

So let’s give up on this one OK? Voters are fine with this and we should be too.

Bacon: Big Racial Divides Hurt GOP, But Limit Dems

In his article, “American Politics Now Has Two Big Racial Divides,” Perry Bacon, Jr. writes at FiveThirtyEight:

There’s been a recent flurry of studies and analyses that take a deeper look at the results of the 2020 election. These examinations don’t contradict our early interpretation of the results from the days and weeks immediately following Election Day: The overwhelming majority of voters backed the candidate from the party that they normally lean toward, though then-President Trump did slightly better with voters of color and slightly worse with white voters than he did in 2016. But the new examinations and other data tell a nuanced story about the role of race in the 2020 contest.

American voters …

  1. Remain deeply polarized based on ethnicity and racial identity;

  2. Were less polarized by racial identity in 2020 compared to 2016; and

  3. Are very polarized by attitudes about racial and cultural issues.

Bacon notes, further that “Despite the news coverage that sometimes implies that non-Hispanic white voters with college degrees are all flocking to the Democrats, about 42 percent of that group backed Trump in 2020, according to the recently released Cooperative Election Study. About 64 percent of Hispanic Americans backed Biden, per CES, which might be hard to remember amid the intense (and accurate) coverage of Trump’s gains among that voting bloc.” Drilling down, Bacon adds:

In many ways, the 2020 election was basically like every recent Americanpresidential election: The Republican candidate won the white vote (54 percent to 44 percent, per CES), and the Democratic candidate won the overwhelming majority of the Black (90 percent to 8 percent), Asian American (66 percent to 31 percent) and Hispanic (64 percent to 33 percent) vote. Like in 2016, there was a huge difference among non-Hispanic white voters by education, as those with at least a four-year college degree favored Biden (55 percent to 42 percent), while those without degrees (63 to 35) favored Trump. (There wasn’t a huge education split among voters of color.)1

Other surveys tell the same general story: Trump won white voters overall by a margin in the double digits and won whites without four-year degrees by even more; Trump lost among whites with at least a four-year college degree, lost by a big margin with Asian American and Latino voters and lost by an enormous margin among African Americans.

So the main reason that Trump nearly won a second term was not his increased support among Latinos, who are only about 10 percent of American voters and are a group he lost by more than 20 points. Trump’s main strength was his huge advantage among non-Hispanic white voters without college degrees, who are about 42 percent of American voters. His second biggest bloc of support was among non-Hispanic white Americans with degrees, who are about 30 percent of all voters. According to the CES, over 80 percent of Trump’s voters were non-Hispanic white voters, with or without a college degree. In contrast, around 70 percent of nonwhite voters supported Biden, and they made up close to 40 percent of his supporters. So it is very much still the case that the Republicans are an overwhelmingly white party and that the Democratic coalition is much more racially diverse.

There are no big surprises in those findings. But Bacon does note that Trump did a litle bit better with non-white voters in 2020, comapred to 2016. Specifically,

Trump did 7 percentage points better among Asian American voters in 2020 compared to 2016, 4 points better among Hispanic voters and 1 point better among both white and Black voters, per the CES. Biden did 4 percentage points worse among Asian American voters and 1 points worse among Hispanic voters compared to Hillary Clinton, while doing 1 point better among Black voters and 3 points stronger among white voters compared to Clinton.

Bacon explores possible some reasons for Trump doing a little better with these voters, but he sees no one reason that overwhelms all others. However, he notes, “It is a huge problem for Republicans that the clear majority of people of color vote against them, since that’s a big and growing bloc of the electorate. It is unlikely those broad dynamics will change.”

Political Strategy Notes

NYT columnist Thomas B. Edsall has an important article, “Should Biden Emphasize Race or Class or Both or None of the Above?,” which merits the interest of Democratic political strategists, who are concerned about ‘message frames.’ Edsall writes, “Should the Democratic Party focus on race or class when trying to build support for new initiatives and — perhaps equally important — when seeking to achieve a durable Election Day majority?…The publication on April 26 of a scholarly paper, “Racial Equality Frames and Public Policy Support,” has stirred up a hornet’s nest among Democratic strategists and analysts. The authors, Micah English and Joshua L. Kalla, who are both political scientists at Yale, warned proponents of liberal legislative proposals that Despite increasing awareness of racial inequities and a greater use of progressive race framing by Democratic elites, linking public policies to race is detrimental for support of those policies….The English-Kalla paper infuriated critics who are involved in the Race-Class Narrative Project. The founder of the project, Ian Haney López, a law professor at Berkeley and one of the chairmen of the AFL-CIO’s Advisory Council on Racial and Economic Justice, vigorously disputes the English-Kalla thesis. In his view, “Powerful elites exploit social divisions, so no matter what our race, color or ethnicity, our best future requires building cross-racial solidarity….In an email, López wrote me that the English and Kalla study seems to confirm a conclusion common among Democratic strategists since at least 1970: Democrats can maximize support among whites, without losing too much enthusiasm from voters of color, by running silent on racial justice while emphasizing class issues of concern to all racial groups. Since at least 2017, this conclusion is demonstrably wrong.”

Edsall goes on to share the perspective of a host of other researchers, including: “A late February survey of 1,551 likely voters by Vox and Data for Progress produced similar results. Half the sample was asked whether it would support or oppose zoning for multiple-family housing based on the argument that It’s a matter of racial justice. Single-family zoning requirements lock in America’s system of racial segregation, blocking Black Americans from pursuing economic opportunity and the American dream of homeownership….The other half of the sample read that supporters of multiple-family zoning say that this will drive economic growth as more people will be able to move to high opportunity regions with good jobs and will allow more Americans the opportunity to get affordable housing on their own, making it easier to start families….The voters to whom the racial justice message was given were split, 44 in support, 43 in opposition, while those who were given the economic growth argument supported multiple-family zoning 47-36….After being exposed to the economic growth message, Democrats were supportive 63-25, but less so after the racial justice message, 56-28. Republicans were opposed after hearing either message, but less so in the case of economic growth, 35-50, compared to racial justice 31-60.”

Edsall adds, “López founded the Race-Class Narrative Project along with Anat Shenker-Osorio, a California-based communications consultant, and Heather McGhee, a former president of Demos, a liberal think tank and author of the recent book, “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together.”….I asked López about the English-Kalla paper. He was forthright in his emailed reply: As my work and that of others demonstrates, the most potent political message today is one that foregrounds combating intentional divide-and-conquer racial politics by building a multiracial coalition among all racial groups. This frame performs more strongly than a class-only frame as well as a racial justice frame. It is also the sole liberal frame that consistently beats Republican dog whistling….Unless Democrats explicitly address race, Shenker-Osorio wrote, millions of whites, flooded with Republican messages demonizing minorities, will continue to be primed to view government as taking from “hard working people” (coded as white) and handing it to “undeserving people” (coded as Black and brown). If we do not contend with this basic fact — and today’s unrelenting race baiting from the right — then Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” will simply continue to haunt us. In other words, if the left chooses to say nothing about race, the race conversation doesn’t simply end. The only thing voters hear about the topic are the lies the right peddles to keep us from joining together to demand true progressive solutions….The race and class message did substantially better than the class alone message among both base Democratic voters and persuadable voters.”

Edsall notes, further, “Celinda Lake, the Democratic pollster who conducted much of the research for the Race-Class Narrative Project, was outspoken in her criticism of the English-Kalla paper, writing in an email: “There are huge flaws in their study and therefore in their conclusions. No candidate would run on what they put forward as the ‘race’ message.”…When I asked Kalla about these criticisms, he countered: The messages that we tested did come from the real world of politics. Our messages came from actual politicians. As we note in the paper: “To improve the external validity of these findings, we adapted the frames from real-world political sources.”….Elizabeth Suhay, a political scientist at American University, captured the complexity of the debate….Suhay’s caveat: Broad public approval is not the only thing politicians care about. From a strategic perspective, they must also be responsive to activists, interest groups, and donors. Given the intense focus on racial justice among some of the most active Democrats — including but not exclusively African Americans — Biden needs to not only deliver on this issue but also to tell people about it. Suhay went on: They face intense demands from Democratic activists for both policy and symbolic actions that address racial inequity; however, these actions do threaten to turn off many whites, especially those without a college degree. Biden, Suhay argues, “seems to have no choice but to find some middle road: focusing communication on how his policies benefit most Americans while also, more infrequently but unmistakably, making clear his commitment to racial equality” and, she added, “he seems to be walking the tightrope well.”

Why the 2022 Midterms Are a Toss-Up

At The Cook Political Report Charlie Cook explains why “The Midterm Elections Are a Jump Ball“:

With the Senate 50-50 and the current House split 218 to 212, with five vacant seats we’re headed toward another compelling cycle.

Republicans have more exposure in the Senate, as they’re defending 20 seats, against just 14 for Democrats. Republicans are also trying to hold onto five open seats, versus Democrats’ none.

Yet history is on Republicans’ side. In the House, the party holding the presidency has had a net loss of seats in 37 (95 percent) out of 39 midterm elections. The two exceptions were 1934, Franklin Roosevelt’s first midterm election when voters were not yet finished punishing Herbert Hoover’s party, and 2002, when George W. Bush still had an unusually high 63 percent Gallup job-approval rating 14 months after the Sept. 11 attacks.

In the 26 midterms since the direct election of senators began in 1914, the president’s party has lost seats in 19 (73 percent), remained even in one (Bill Clinton’s second midterm), and gained in six midterms, most recently 2018, when President Trump’s GOP picked up seats.


How President Biden is faring on Election Day in 565 days is the great unknown. But at this stage, he’s at 53 percent approval in both the RealClearPolitics and FiveThirtyEight polling averages, and 54 percent in Gallup. Biden is doing better than Trump was at this point in his presidency, roughly on par with Clinton, and slightly below Bush 43, and Obama.

In addition,

While most voters cast ballots straight down party lines, the economic picture will be important. Right now, the forecasts are for very strong growth through next year but if some of the warnings about Biden’s spending initiatives overheating the economy come to pass and result in a round of inflation, it is pretty safe to assume that this would tank Democratic hopes to retain their majorities….While there are some struggles between the progressive and establishment wings of the Democratic Party, the potential for strife between the Trump acolytes and legacy Republicans looks potentially graver. Most critically, will the GOP nominate “exotic” nominees in critical races, which hurt its chances of winning.

Cook concludes:

Given that the current Democratic Senate majority was basically determined by their narrowest win in the last election—Sen. Raphael Warnock’s 55,354-vote victory in the Jan. 5 special runoff election in Georgia—and the House by a total of 31,751 votes in a handful of districts around the country, just about any factor could be determinative. Anyone who professes certainty at this stage is just blowing (or inhaling) smoke.

As usual, hold your bets to the closing weeks of the midterm elections.

Republicans Can’t Get a Clear Focus on Biden

Waiting for Joe Biden’s speech to a joint session of Congress to begin this week, I observed at New York that Republicans were struggling to define him consistently, which felt like a familiar problem for them:

When Bill Clinton was at the pre-Lewinsky peak of his powers, he drove Republicans nuts. They alternated between accusing him of “stealing our issues” with his triangulating pitches on welfare reform and crime and the size of government, and of being “liberal, liberal, liberal!” — a sort of boomer love child of George McGovern and Janis Joplin in a deceptive deep-fried southern packaging. Eventually the opportunity to depict him as a lying sexual predator solved the conservative dilemma, though you could argue he never stopped throwing them off-balance.

Republicans are similarly having problems getting a clear focus on Joe Biden, as the Los Angeles Times’ Noah Bierman observes:

“Alex Conant, a Republican consultant who has advised Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, [says] that his party’s two main messages about Biden are at odds with each other, blunting their impact. ‘The thing you hear Republicans say most is that he’s too old for the job, which isn’t consistent with saying he’s doing too much,’ Conant said. ‘You can’t effectively argue that he’s incompetent and that he’s too effective.'”

This dual framing of Biden was evident during the 2020 campaign, when Trump called him “Sleepy Joe” and with his usual lack of subtlety suggested his opponent was senile, even as he assailed Biden’s party of radical socialist aims. The 45th president and his surrogates squared the circle by treating Biden as the half-there puppet of the real powers, particularly the “communist” Kamala Harris.

But now, 100 days into the Biden-Harris administration, even though the new president has kept an unusually low profile, there are no signs of Harris or anyone else manipulating him. Indeed, so far his White House has been remarkably free of the factionalism that often undermines clear presidential leadership. With Clinton as president you had a White House staff famously divided (ironically, given the later reputations of the First Lady and the veep) into progressive “Rodhams” and centrist “Gores” who jockeyed for position and placed their varying stamps on administration policies. George W. Bush’s presidency was also marked by competing power centers (e.g., his terrifying vice-president and the “Boy Genius” Karl Rove); to a lesser extent, so was Obama’s. As for Donald Trump, hardly a week passed without someone — particularly his rotating cast of chiefs-of-staff — being described by “insiders” as the real power behind the throne or perhaps as the wild man’s lion-tamer.

Trump, of course, created some of the same problems for Democrats that Clinton — and now Biden — posed for Republicans. Was he the “toddler president” who ran a hollowed-out administration with no real core of convictions or goals? Or was he a putative Il Duce craftily planning an authoritarian takeover of the country? Up until the day he left office there was evidence for both descriptions. Indeed, the coda of his presidency, the January 6 Capitol riot, was variously regarded as a fascist coup attempt and a clown show.

Trump’s successor will have an opportunity in his first address to a joint session of Congress to add to the impression that he is quietly but firmly in charge of the executive branch, and has imposed order on his fractious party as he unveils yet another massive proposal. Kamala Harris will be sitting (and often standing and applauding) behind him, likely looking more like an adoring protégée than any sort of puppet-master. But if he stumbles at all, or looks tired, or says things that supposedly centrist Democrats like him don’t believe, the knees of many elephants will jerk and out will come the mockery of the old man who is a reassuring front for the Marxists actually running the country.

Such confusion if it continues will be of great service to Biden, much like the current Republican tendency to focus on irrelevant culture-war themes while a mostly united Democratic Party enacts legislative initiatives of a magnitude we haven’t seen since Ronald Reagan’s first year in office. For all their political gifts, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — who, lest we forget, both had a much more firmly Democratic Senate and House the first two years of their presidencies — couldn’t come close to the mastery of Congress Biden has exhibited up until now. As Republicans watch Biden’s speech, they should soberly realize that before long it may not matter that much if they bust up the Democratic trifecta in 2022. The damage to GOP policies and priorities wrought by “Uncle Joe” and his “senile socialist regime” could be too large to reverse by then. While Republicans fret about Trump and rage about “cancel culture,” Biden is eating their lunch.