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The Daily Strategist

April 20, 2021

Voting By Mail Isn’t the Only Issue in the Voting Rights Battle

Trying to follow the action in various Republican efforts to restrict the franchise, I offered an observation at New York that differs a bit from the conventional wisdom:

The Republican-controlled Georgia state senate voted on March 8 to kill the no-excuse voting by mail that a previous Republican-controlled legislature put on the books way back in 2005. But something interesting happened along the way: This change has been opposed by several top Republicans in the state, and Governor Brian Kemp is not onboard either. Maybe these hard-boiled Georgia Republicans understand that the bipartisan belief that liberalized voting by mail cost Trump their state and ultimately the White House is far from clearly supported by the evidence.

Recently that Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz conducted a regression analysis that convinced him Joe Biden would have won without significantly higher levels of voting by mail. Last week, a new Stanford University study reached the same conclusion:

“The results of our paper do not offer a clear recommendation for the policy debate around vote-by-mail, but they do suggest that both sides of the debate are relying on flawed logic. Vote-by-mail is an important policy that voters seem to like using, and it may be a particularly important tool during the pandemic. Despite all that, and despite the extraordinary circumstances of the 2020 election, vote-by-mail’s effect on turnout and on partisan outcomes is very muted, just as research prior to the pandemic would have suggested.”

The participants in the Stanford study agreed that expanded voting by mail might boost turnout by one or 2 percent in midterm elections, but probably little or not at all in presidential elections, when a higher percentage of marginal voters are likely to vote in any event. Increased voter interest and engagement drove the turnout spikes of 2018 and 2020, not changes in voting procedures, they argue. As pre-2020 elections clearly showed, Republican voters are as likely as Democratic voters to take advantage of “convenience voting” (so long as their lord and master at Mar-a-Lago doesn’t tell them they shouldn’t).

So what’s the point of a GOP crackdown on liberalized mail ballots? And for that matter, should defending liberalized voting by mail be the main focus of Democrats at a time when Republicans are assaulting voting rights generally?

It’s a pertinent question in GOP-controlled places like Georgia, where, in addition to an end to no-excuse absentee voting, cutbacks in weekend in-person early voting, new voter-ID requirements, elimination of automatic voter registration, and mandatory voter purges are all in play, with less Republican opposition. In Iowa, Republican governor Kim Reynolds just signed partisan legislation that reduces early in-person voting days and even cuts Election Day voting hours.

Yes, the principle that all kinds of voting should be encouraged as a matter of basic democratic rights — as reflected in H.R. 1, the For the People Act, which recently passed the U.S. House — is worth defending. But when push comes to shove, perhaps the overemphasis on voting by mail on both sides of the voting wars doesn’t make a lot of sense. Being denied any path to the ballot box is surely the most urgently objectionable development to stop. People can adjust to changing incentives and disincentives to one form of voting or another, as so many did at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. But being excluded from the franchise altogether is not something that can be overcome easily.


Dems Address Decline in Support by Voters of Color

In his New York Times column, Thomas B. Edsall explores the reasons why “Democrats Are Anxious About 2022 — and 2024,” and writes, “In the wake of the 2020 election, Democratic strategists are worried — very worried — about the future of the Hispanic vote. One in 10 Latinos who supported Hillary Clinton in 2016 switched to Donald Trump in 2020.” Edsall notes further,

Public Opinion Strategies, which conducts surveys for NBC News/Wall Street Journal, provided me with data on presidential voting from 2012 to 2020 that show significant Republican gains among the roughly 30 percent of Black and Hispanic voters who self-identify as conservative.

From 2012 to 2020, Black conservatives shifted from voting 88-7 for the Democratic candidate to 76-17. Black conservative allegiance to the Democratic Party fell by less, from 75 percent Democratic, 9 percent Republican to 71 percent Democratic, 16 percent Republican.

The changes in voting and partisan allegiance, however, were significantly larger for self-identified Hispanic conservatives. Their presidential vote went from 49-39 Democratic in 2012 to 67-27 Republican in 2020. Their partisan allegiance over the same period went from 50-37 Democratic to 59-22 Republican.

It’s not only Latino voters, as Edsall explains:

The 2020 expansion of Republican voting among Hispanics and Asian-Americans — and to a lesser extent among African-Americans — deeply concerns the politicians and strategists seeking to maintain Democratic control of the House and Senate in 2022, not the mention the White House in 2024.

The defection of Hispanic voters, together with an approximately 3 point drop in Black support for Joe Biden compared with Hillary Clinton, threatens a pillar of Democratic competitive strength, especially among Black men: sustained high margins of victory among minority voters whose share of the population is enlarging steadily.

Edsall goes on to probe what political opinion data shows regarding racial self-identification and differences by age among voters of color and he writes, “The increased level of support for the Republican Party among minority voters has raised the possibility that the cultural agenda pressed by another expanding and influential Democratic constituency — well-educated, young activists with strongly progressive views — is at loggerheads with the socially conservative beliefs of many older minority voters — although liberal economic policies remain popular with both cohorts. This social and cultural mismatch, according to some observers, is driving a number of minority voters into the opposition party.”

Although even a modest decline of support for Democrats among these voters is cause for concern, the overwhelming majority of voters of color supported Biden and Democratic candidates for senate and congress in 2020 and 2021. If Biden’s covid relief package leads to a solid recovery, Democrats will have reason to hope for an uptick in their support in 2022 and 2024. If the Biden administration is able to secure significant reductions in their unemployment rates, Democrats could do even better.


Teixeira: The Empirical Case Against Cultural Leftism in the Democratic Party

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

The Empirical Case Against Cultural Leftism in the Democratic Party.

It’s a strong case and I summarize it in my latest post for The Liberal Patriot, which draws on David Shor’s recent interview in New York Magazine.

“The good news is that the Democrats control all three branches of the federal government and appear competent enough to successfully contain the covid pandemic and unified enough to do the legislative necessary to get the economy running on all cylinders, possibly moving into outright boom territory. That’ll be great for the country and should be good for the Democrats as the party presiding over the country’s turnaround.

The bad news is that the Democrats still face a daunting situation, even if these developments pan out. Despite running against an historically unpopular President embroiled in twin health and economic crises, Biden’s victory was much narrower than expected, accompanied by a reduced majority in the House, poor Senate results that were only redeemed by the Georgia runoffs and losses in state legislative elections when Democrats desperately needed gains to protect themselves in the redistricting process.

Moreover, with control of both the House and the Senate are on a razor’s edge, they will shortly confront the administration’s first midterm elections which are typically very tough for the incumbent President’s party. Even with the goodwill generated be a successful first two years, 2022 will be a daunting challenge.

This underscores the necessity of understanding how the Democrats fell short in 2020 and what can be done to maximize Democratic votes in the future. They simply can’t afford underperformance if they hope to hold power and continue to move the country in a progressive direction.

With data from voter files starting to come in and precinct returns having been ever more elaborately analyzed, the contours of Democratic underperformance and its probable causes are starting to emerge. The findings make clear that Democratic chances are undercut by cultural leftism but can be at least partially remedied by moving to the center on cultural issues and emphasizing economic issues that have broad appeal across working class constituencies.”

Read the rest at The Liberal Patriot! Democrats ignore Shor’s findings at their peril.


Political Strategy Notes

At nbcnews.com, Ben Kamisar reports, “Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a crucial swing-vote in the Senate Democrats’ slim majority, said Sunday that he won’t bend in his support for the filibuster, a Senate rule that forces most legislation to require bipartisan support to pass….But he added that he would be open to Democrats passing more important legislation like voting reforms by a party-line vote — if senators are given ample space for bipartisan negotiation first.” Mancin added that “he was “willing to look at” ideas to make the filibuster “a little bit more painful,” like requiring lawmakers to take to the floor for marathon speeches if they wanted to use the procedure.” That would surely reduce the frequency of filibusters overall. Equally intriguing, Mancin suggested the possibility of expanding the reconciliation process to include voting rights: “There’s no need for us to go to reconciliation until the other process has failed. That means the normal process of a committee, a hearing, amendments,” he said when asked about whether reconciliation could be used to pass voting reforms in the future.”

In “Joe Manchin opens the door to filibuster reform” at Vox, Cameron Peters adds, “Obviously, Manchin’s comments Sunday aren’t a definite commitment to do something about the filibuster — but they’re still extremely good news for Democrats, who appear as if they will soon face a string of futile fights to win over 10 Republican votes for priorities like voting rights and a minimum wage increase….Specifically, Manchin’s change in tone, though slight, comes as Senate Democrats prepare for a fight over a voting rights package recently passed by the House of Representatives, and as high-profile party leaders begin to get behind ditching the filibuster….On Meet the Press Sunday, Manchin indicated some willingness to consider that first option, in addition to a talking filibuster, telling Todd he might be open “to a reconciliation” style approach for passing bills if Democrats are met with repeated refusals from Manchin’s “Republican friends” to work together.”

‘Blue Tuesday’ notes further at Daily Kos: “Shifting a 60-vote threshold to a talking filibuster is essentially ending the filibuster in all but name only. It means debate will have to end. And as we know, Republicans have no real interest in putting in any effort — Ron Johnson forced Senate clerks to read the American Rescue Plan on Thursday night and didn’t even stay for most of it, while Ted Cruz, as you’ll recall, literally ran away to Mexico to avoid helping his constituents in Texas when the state’s energy grid was disabled amid a massive and unexpected winter storm….It wasn’t a slip-up, either: Manchin said something similar on Fox News Sunday….“Maybe it needs to be more painful,”  @Sen_JoeManchin says of the filibuster. “It should be painful to use it,” he adds to Chris Wallace, while also re-upping his strong support for keeping it in place.”….If Manchin is willing to budge on this, Kyrsten Sinema — who got just pilloried for the way she voted “no” on the minimum wage on Friday — must not be far behind….Simply put, if Democrats don’t kill the filibuster, it’ll kill their chances to be a national political party. Gerrymandering and voter suppression will kill them in swing states and come 2030, Republicans will control those states with such an iron fist, they’ll go ahead and eliminate any nascent Democratic movement with more redistricting and voter suppression.”

Meanwhile, Donald Judd and Devan Cole report that “Biden signs executive order expanding voting access” at CNN Politics: “President Joe Biden signed an executive order Sunday expanding voting access in what the White House calls “an initial step” in its efforts to “protect the right to vote and ensure all eligible citizens can freely participate in the electoral process.”….The move comes as Republicans in statehouses around the country work to advance voter suppression legislation, including a bill in Georgia that voting rights groups say targets Black voters. Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, have pushed measures in recent days to increase voting rights, including HR1 — a sweeping ethics and election package that contains provisions expanding early and mail-in voting, restoring voting rights to former felons, and easing voter registration for eligible Americans….Sunday’s order directs the heads of all federal agencies to submit proposals for their respective agencies to promote voter registration and participation within 200 days, while assisting states in voter registration under the National Voter Registration Act. In addition, the order instructs the General Services Administration to modernize the federal government’s Vote.gov portal….The executive order also expands voter access and registration efforts for communities often overlooked in outreach, including the disabled, military serving overseas and the incarcerated.”


When Will This Hyper-Partisan Era End?

Millions are wondering “How Much Longer Can This Era Of Political Gridlock Last?,” and FiveThirtyEight’s Lee Drutman takes a stab at providing a believable answer. Drutman provides some data-driven analysis and some cool charts and concludes in effect, that it looks like it could be a long time. Or as Drutman puts it more compellingly in one paragraph, after noting the thin margins Dems now have in both the Senate and House,

That means more divided government is probably imminent, and the electoral pattern we’ve become all too familiar with — a pendulum swinging back and forth between unified control of government and divided government — is doomed to repeat, with increasingly dangerous consequences for our democracy.

No doubt, many already came to that conclusion. But Drutman adds,

“This current period of partisan stalemate stands out in a few respects when we consider America’s long history with partisan conflict. For starters, the period we find ourselves in now is unique in that the national partisan balance of power is extremelyclose (with control of national government up for grabs in almost every cycle), even as most states and most voters are either solidly Democratic or Republican. What’s more, the national outcome often hinges on just a few swing states and districts. This period is also unique in the extent to which America is divided.”

There are other reasons to be skeptical about history-rooted analysis of the current political moment. Trump’s unique lunacy, McConnell’s shameless propensity for putting his personal power before what is good for America, the number of politicians of one party denying the results of certified elections and the homicidal attack on congress are all without historical parellel in U.S. history.

However, if you had to bet the ranch on political gridlock ending fairly soon or not, Drutman’s analysis lends credibility to the latter scenario.

So don’t hold your breath waiting for a warrior to emerge from the smoke, put on the blue face-paint, mount the noble steed and lead the masses to a landslide, filibuster-proof Democratic victory. Not gonna happen any time soon — although four years can be a hell of a long time in U.S. politics, especially in the wake of an exhausting plague.

But, is it really so unrealistic to hope that some kind of militant centrist comes along, articulates an inspiring vision of bipartisanship with a credible mix of progressive policies to win broad support from the war-weary rank and file of both parties and breaks the stalemate? It would be long-overdue.


Despite the Criticism, Biden’s Doing Well

After reading a few days worth of carping about Joe Biden’s performance, I decided enough’s enough and responded at New York:

Joe Biden has been president of the United States for 43 days. He inherited power from a predecessor who was trying to overturn the 2020 election results via insurrection just two weeks before Inaugural Day, and whose appointees refused the kind of routine transition cooperation other administrations took for granted. His party has a four-vote margin of control in the House, and only controls the Senate via the vice presidential tie-breaking vote (along with a power-sharing arrangement with Republicans). Democratic control of the Senate was not assured until the wee hours of January 6 when the results of the Georgia runoff were clear. Biden took office in the midst of a COVID-19 winter surge, a national crisis over vaccine distribution, and flagging economic indicators.

Biden named all his major appointees well before taking office, and as recommended by every expert, pushed for early confirmation of his national security team, which he quickly secured. After some preliminary discussions with Republicans that demonstrated no real possibility of GOP support for anything like the emergency $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief and stimulus package he had promised, and noting the votes weren’t there in the Senate for significant filibuster reform, Biden took the only avenue open to him. He instructed his congressional allies to pursue the budget reconciliation vehicle to enact his COVID package, with the goal of enacting it by mid-March, when federal supplemental unemployment insurance would run out. Going the reconciliation route meant exposing the package to scrutiny by the Senate parliamentarian, It also virtually guaranteed total opposition from congressional Republicans, which in turn meant Senate Democratic unanimity would be essential.

The House passed the massive and complex reconciliation bill on February 27, right on schedule, with just two Democratic defections, around the same time as the Senate parliamentarian, to no one’s great surprise, deemed a $15 minimum wage provision (already opposed by two Senate Democrats) out of bounds for reconciliation. The Senate is moving ahead with a modified reconciliation bill, and the confirmation of Biden’s Cabinet is chugging ahead slowly but steadily. Like every recent president, he’s had to withdraw at least one nominee – in his case Neera Tanden for the Office of Management and Budget, though the administration’s pick for deputy OMB director is winning bipartisan praise and may be substituted smoothly for Tanden.

Add in his efforts to goose vaccine distribution — which has more than doubled since he took office — and any fair assessment of Biden’s first 43 days should be very positive. But the man is currently being beset by criticism from multiple directions. Republicans, of course, have united in denouncing Biden’s refusal to surrender his agenda in order to secure bipartisan “unity” as a sign that he’s indeed the radical socialist – or perhaps the stooge of radical socialists – that Donald Trump always said he was. Progressives are incensed by what happened on the minimum wage, though it was very predictable. And media critics are treating his confirmation record as a rolling disaster rather than a mild annoyance, given the context of a federal executive branch that was all but running itself for much of the last four years.

To be clear, I found fault with Biden’s presidential candidacy early and often. I didn’t vote for him in California’s 2020 primary. I worried a lot about Biden’s fetish for bipartisanship. I support a $15 minimum wage, and as a former Senate employee, have minimal respect for the upper chamber’s self-important traditions. But c’mon: what, specifically, is the alternative path he could have pursued the last 43 days? Republican criticism is not worthy of any serious attention: the GOP is playing the same old tapes it recorded in 2009 when Barack Obama (and his sidekick Biden) spent far too much time chasing Republican senators around Washington in search of compromises they never intended to make. While they are entitled to oppose Biden’s agenda, they are not entitled to kill it.

Progressive criticism of Biden feels formulaic. Years and years of investment in the rhetoric of the eternal “fight” and the belief that outrage shapes outcomes in politics and government have led to the habit of seeing anything other than total subscription to the left’s views as a sell-out. Yes, Kamala Harris could theoretically overrule the Senate parliamentarian on the minimum wage issue, but to what end? So long as Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema oppose the $15 minimum wage, any Harris power play could easily be countered by a successful Republican amendment to strike the language in question, and perhaps other items as well. And if the idea is to play chicken with dissident Democrats over the fate of the entire reconciliation bill, is a $15 minimum wage really worth risking a $1.9 trillion package absolutely stuffed with subsidies for struggling low-income Americans? Are Fight for 15 hardliners perhaps conflating ends and means here?

Media carping about Biden’s legislative record so far is frankly just ridiculous. Presumably writing about the obscure and complicated details of reconciliation bills is hard and unexciting work that readers may find uninteresting, while treating Tanden’s travails as an existential crisis for the Biden administration provides drama, but isn’t at all true. The reality is that Biden’s Cabinet nominees are rolling through the Senate with strong confirmation votes (all but one received at least 64 votes), despite a steadily more partisan atmosphere for confirmations in recent presidencies. The COVID-19 bill is actually getting through Congress at a breakneck pace despite its unprecedented size and complexity. Trump’s first reconciliation bill (which was principally aimed at repealing Obamacare) didn’t pass the House until May 4, 2017, and never got through the Senate. Yes, Obama got a stimulus bill through Congress in February 2009, but it was less than half the size, much simpler, and more to the point, there were 59 Senate Democrats in office when it passed, which meant he didn’t even have to use reconciliation.

There’s really no exact precedent for Biden’s situation, particularly given the atmosphere of partisanship in Washington and the whole country right now, and the narrow window he and his party possess – in terms of political capital and time – to get important things done. He should not be judged on any one legislative provision or any one Cabinet nomination. So far the wins far outweigh the losses and omissions. Give the 46th president a break.


Political Strategy Notes

“House Democrats have passed HR 1, their signature anti-corruption and voting rights reform bill, for the second time in two years, ” Ella Nilsen reports at Vox. But even though their party now holds the majority in the Senate, the bill has a tough road ahead of it….If Mitch McConnell is not willing to provide 10 Republicans to support this landmark reform, I think Democrats are going to step back and reevaluate the situation,” Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), the author of HR 1, told Vox in a recent interview. “There’s all manner of ways you could redesign the filibuster so [the bill] would have a path forward.”….One path that’s being discussed is partially amending Senate filibuster rules to allow democracy reform legislation like HR 1 to advance on a simple majority vote and therefore potentially be able to pass on a party-line vote. That would be different from fully blowing up the filibuster, but it still could get pushback from Senate institutionalists even in the Democratic Party like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), a staunch advocate of keeping the filibuster in place….Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), the chair of the Senate Rules Committee, which will mark up the bill and move it forward, said she wants to bring the bill to the floor and see what the support for it is before she moves on to potential filibuster reform. “We’ll go to the floor; that’s when we see where we are,” Klobuchar told Vox in an interview, saying her committee will look to see, “is there filibuster reform that could be done generally or specifically?”

Nilsen continues, “Democrats are hoping the 2020 election gives them an argument for this bill. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Americans in many states were given more options and flexibility to vote through the mail or with in-person early voting. The results were a record 158.4 million ballots cast; 2020 presidential election turnout was about 7 percentage points higher than in 2016, according to Pew Research Center…..HR 1, among other initiatives, would cement many of those temporary expansions. Nilsen provides a point by point summary of the provisions of H.R. 1, and notes that ” recent polling from the progressive firm Data for Progress showed the bill more broadly is popular across parties and supported by a majority of Democratic, independent, and Republican voters. The poll found that 67 percent of national likely voters supported HR 1, including 56 percent of Republicans, 68 percent of independents, and 77 percent of Democrats.”

In his article, “Joe Manchin Backed Filibuster Reform a Decade Ago. What Changed?,” in The American Prospect, David Moore ruminates on the West Virginia senator’s position on filibuster reform: “I will not vote to bust the filibuster under any condition, on anything that you can think of,” Manchin told the Washington Post. “If you can’t sit down and work with your colleagues on the other side and find a pathway forward, then you shouldn’t be in the Senate.” It seems fair to ask, what is the incentive for Republicans to negotiate in a bipartisan spirit if the filibuster is kept in its current form? Don’t they need a carrot and stick also? Moore notes that “Manchin voted in January 2011 in favor of several Senate rules changes that had the effect of reducing the filibuster’s power. While the reforms that Manchin supported then did not completely eliminate the ability for senators to filibuster, they are similar to several possible rule changes that could allow Democrats to hold majority votes on bills this year, even without “abolishing” the filibuster.”

Ronald Brownstein’s article, “Democrats’ Only Chance to Stop the GOP Assault on Voting Rights: If the party doesn’t pass new protections, it could lose the House, Senate, and White House within the next four years” in The Atlantic paints a scary picture of American politics if these popular election reforms don’t pass. Brownstein notes that “Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, the principal sponsor of H.R. 1’s Senate analogue, has been urging his colleagues to consider ending the filibuster for these bills alone, even if they are unwilling to end it for all legislation. But so far, at least two Democrats remain resistant to curtailing the filibuster in any way: Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.” It appears that their choice is between a blank check for Republicans with no two-party check and balance on the one hand, or fair play for the party that got the most votes in 2020 by a healthy margin on the other. The extraordinary popularity of HR 1 and it’s senate version ought to tip the balance in favor of doing what is good for America, not just what strengthens Trump’s party.


Trump’s GOP Has No Agenda Other Than Purges and Voter Suppression

After watching Donald Trump’s wildly applauded address to this year’s CPAC conference, I wrote an assessment at New York:

In his rapturously received 88-minute address to the 2021 CPAC conference on Sunday, former president Donald Trump didn’t give his listeners what so many of them wanted: a pledge to run for president again in 2024 (though he teased the crowd with his obvious availability). But he vented his outsized spleen fully, and left no doubt that the future of Trumpism will be its past, revived and vindicated.

Much of the speech was rehashed from the brag sessions of the 2020 campaign, treating his administration as one long parade of unprecedented triumphs on every single front. Accordingly, Joe Biden’s extremely brief presidency was condemned as the worst in history already thanks to the 46th president’s reversal of the policies of the 45th (especially on immigration policy), which were one long parade of unprecedented triumphs on every single front. Viewers were left with the distinct impression that a near-utopian future for the country would be as simple as the replacement of Biden with — well, if not Trump — then someone with exactly the same policies and sterling leadership qualities.

The one exception was his bloody-shirt demands for “election integrity” legislation in every state, which included a universal revocation of no-excuse absentee balloting (and all in-person early voting, since he called for a “single election day”) and universal voter ID requirements. It’s an audacious proposal, considering that 13 states (including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin) carried by Biden already have voter ID requirements, and fully 34 (including 12 states carried by Trump) had no-excuse voting by mail before the COVID-19 pandemic and the marginal liberalization of deadlines and procedures that Trump blames for his defeat.

Apparently Trump’s “landslide” victory required tighter voting rules than the country has had for many years. It’s unlikely a return to the spirit of the days of poll taxes and literacy tests is going to pass muster with federal and state courts (Trump, of course, blasted the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court that included three of his nominees, for lacking the “courage” to overturn Biden’s victory). But Republican subscription to this terrible assault on voting rights is another way that GOP elected officials can bend the knee to Trump.

Other than voter suppression, the future of Trumpism as outlined by its founder seemed to revolve around vengeance against RINOs, the ancient conservative epithet that now seems to be defined strictly by a lack of loyalty to Donald Trump. To feral roars from the crowd, he named every single congressional Republican who voted for his impeachment or conviction, suggesting that all must go before the GOP would be able to match the communist-bent Democrats in viciousness and self-discipline.

It appears, then, that Trump has determined to ensure that Republicans go into 2022 and 2024 as a political force dedicated to the restoration of his legacy with or without his personal leadership. For the most part, the dominant ideological movement in the party and the hallowed conservative movement is his. Indeed, one of the more unmistakeable phenomena of CPAC 2021 is the extent to which Republican activists now treat the conservative and MAGA movements as identical. And if he chooses to keep control of both movements, who can challenge him? The obvious successor to Trumpism is ever more Trumpism, and the obvious successor to Trump is still Trump.


Biden’s Statement on Union Election for Amazon’s AL Workers

Many presidential candidates and Democratic presidents have often made statements supporting labor unions. But no president has spoken out so compellingly in support of a fair union election, as has President Biden. Some excerpts from his unprecedented video statement supporting a fair union election for Amazon workers in Alabama:

Biden’s statement should be understood as a promise that any attempt to violate worker rights in the Amazon employee’s union election, and perhaps other union elections, will be held accountable by law – a profound departure from the practice of the previous administration.

According to CBS News:

Thousands of workers at an Amazon warehouse outside of Birmingham are voting on whether to form the company’s first labor union in the U.S. Amazon is pushing employees to vote no.

In an unprecedented video message, the president urged management to back off and let workers decide.

“The choice to join a union is up to the workers, full stop,” Mr. Biden said in the two-minute video.

Many Democrats are pro-union, but as CBS News’ Nancy Cordes reports, what made Mr. Biden’s video so surprising was that he did it to draw attention to the union fight.

Singling out the state by name, Mr. Biden told Americans, “Workers in Alabama and all across America are voting on whether to organize a union in their workplace.”

The Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama employs about 6,000 employees who are voting on whether to unionize — a bitter battle playing out at a time when the company is hiring thousands of workers every month.

“Amazon doesn’t treat their employees like people. We’re treated like we’re robots,” said warehouse employee Jennifer Bates.

Workers like Bates are constantly getting texts from Amazon, warning that union dues could leave them with less money than they already have….Anti-union flyers are even posted inside warehouse bathroom stalls.

“There should be no intimidation, no coercion, no threats, no anti-union propaganda,” the president said in his address….As he said in November 2020, days after winning the election, “I made it clear to the corporate leaders — I said, ‘I want you to know I’m a union guy.'”

Amazon’s resistance to unions is hard to accept in light of it’s prosperity during the pandemic. In 2020, the company enjoyed  “38 per cent more sales and a profit increase of no less than 84 per cent.”

Union leaders cheered Biden’s statement. “For the workers at the warehouse in Alabama, there is no question that President Biden was speaking to them,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. “The importance of the video is that it’s telling workers that no matter how much your employer is trying to intimidate you, no matter how powerful your employer may be, the President of the United States has your back.”


Teixeira: Can Biden’s Economic Strategy End Reaganomics?

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

Could Biden Be the New Reagan?

Obama said he wanted to do this too, in the sense of supplanting the Reagan economic paradigm by a new paradigm that would do to Reaganomics what Reaganomics did to the New Deal. He didn’t get there. Could Biden? Richard North Patterson thinks so and explains how/why in an excellent article on The Bulwark. I agree it’s a live possibility and one that progressives should exert all their efforts to supporting. If we get there, so many, many other things become possible.

“On Tuesday, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell warned lawmakers that “the economic recovery remains uneven and far from complete, and the path ahead is highly uncertain”—while minimizing the risks of inflation. Moreover, our unemployment statistics ignore people who have stopped looking for work, as many Americans rendered jobless by the pandemic have; if they are included in the total, the unemployment rate rises to a dispiriting 10 percent or higher.

Given all this, Biden refuses to cut his plan. To circumvent GOP opposition, he is using the budget reconciliation process which requires a mere majority in the Senate—meaning every Democrat plus Vice President Kamala Harris…..

Most likely, Biden will sign his proposal into law by mid-March—a major legislative victory which sets the template for his presidency.
But this is a mere down payment on his ultimate ambition: supplanting Reagan’s paradigm with his own.

His team envisions spending up to $3 trillion on a program which, as spokeswoman Jen Psaki described it, “will make historic investments in infrastructure—in the auto industry, in transit, in the power sector—creating millions of good union jobs [while] addressing the climate crisis head on.” His goal evokes the New Deal: creating a more resilient and inclusive economy through federal intervention financed by higher taxes on the wealthy.

Such a sweeping agenda will alienate Republicans and unnerve moderate Democrats. But, among other things, it is aimed at a problem which upended bipartisan support for free trade, and provoked Trump’s ill-considered tariff wars: the loss of American jobs through globalization—including to China.

In a penetrating article for the New York Times, Noam Scheiber describes its genesis: Biden’s desire to create stable jobs which would not require blue-collar workers to relocate their families or undertake extensive retraining. One focus is government investment in electric vehicles whose components could be manufactured in America—providing employment, addressing the climate crisis, and strengthening green energy innovation.

Such “industrial policy”—government intervention to fortify selected industries—has long been debated by economists and derided by conservatives. One effort during the Obama years, the failed solar panel company Solyndra, became a notorious example of federal fecklessness.

But, Scheiber notes, recent studies of governmental support for Chinese industries suggests enduring successes. If our archrival can strengthen its domestic manufacturers at our expense, the argument goes, why can’t we?

Between 2001 and 2007, Scheiber writes, America lost 3 million manufacturing jobs—most likely the result of our free trade policies toward China. Some prominent Republicans—Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio, and Mitt Romney—have become particularly vocal about China’s predatory practices and economic sway. Even Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, for years a dedicated free trader, acknowledges the need to protect American workers from the downside of globalism.

This may create some space for bipartisan agreement. The potential for job creation underwritten by government is considerable: making electric parts; building or upgrading manufacturing facilities; creating and installing chargers. Economic nationalism is no longer brain-dead protectionism, but a potential strategy for spreading prosperity.

Certainly, it’s past time to rebuild our infrastructure, strengthen our broadband capacity, and protect our energy grid from calamity. To do otherwise means abandoning a first world economy.

No doubt Biden won’t get all he wants; likely he will have to advance his goals through piecemeal legislation, or through the budget reconciliation process, which carries other risks. But in challenging times, average Americans are far more concerned with their families and their futures than the nostrums of limited government.”