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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.

Read the Article

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  succinct take on President Biden’s first address to congress, try E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s “Biden’s speech was bipartisan and partisan at the same time,” in which he writes “President Biden on Wednesday night went big, populist, folksy, hopeful, urgent — and bipartisan and partisan at the same time. Addressing a pandemic-reduced gathering of lawmakers at the Capitol, Biden proposed a sweeping program of change that would create four more years of free schooling, expand child care and family leave, and attempt to beat back climate change through large infrastructure investments….He pressed for police reform — to “rebuild trust between law enforcement and the people they serve” and “root out systemic racism” — as well as broad reforms to political and voting rights, big repairs to the immigration system, and new gun-control measures….Biden welcomed the help of Republicans again and again, but he took clear aim at their favored economic doctrines. “My fellow Americans, trickle-down economics has never worked,” he declared. “It’s time to grow the economy from the bottom up and middle-out….And he took a victory lap on progress against covid-19, proclaiming that widespread vaccinations were offering “a dose of hope.”….This address wasn’t exactly the New Deal or the Great Society, but it was equally ambitious. Biden, reassuringly unradical with his plain, avuncular demeanor, is bidding to create a new common sense rooted in political lessons that Democrats have learned the hard way….Calling his American Jobs Plan “a blue-collar blueprint to build America,” he noted that nearly 90 percent of its infrastructure jobs “do not require a college degree” and that “75 percent don’t require an associate’s degree.”….And in a deft bit of political jujitsu, he touted his proposed investments in alternative energy to fight climate change as a form of economic nationalism. “There’s no reason the blades for wind turbines can’t be built in Pittsburgh instead of Beijing. . . . No reason why American workers can’t lead the world in the production of electric vehicles and batteries.”

But Tim Nichols’s “Biden message to China and Russia: America is back, Trump is gone, the free ride is over” at USA Today focused on America’s more assertive role in the world under his administrion: “Joe Biden’s speech to Congress was the first time in four years that people who focus on foreign policy and national security have had to pay attention to a presidential address. There was actually a recognizable foreign policy in it, a statement of principles about democracy and America’s role as a global leader, from a functioning White House that seems to care about engagement with the rest of the world….Unfortunately, one of Biden’s clear themes on foreign affairs was his recognition of the destruction former President Donald Trump left in his wake and the need to restore American credibility. The past four years were good days for the world’s dictators and other miscreants, and Biden on Wednesday night began the job of making a case for restoring America’s alliances, of defending American ideals, and of warning off the various wolves that have circled the democratic camp while the American lanterns were dimmed….While Biden is concerned about China, he is openly angry about Russia and what Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin was allowed to get away with for the past four years. (Trump had only one truly consistent policy in his time in office, and it was to avoid antagonizing Moscow at all costs, a humiliating obsession that was driven by Trump’s obvious and paralyzing personal fear of Putin.)….Biden on Wednesday night began the job of making a case for restoring America’s alliances, of defending American ideals, and of warning off the various wolves that have circled the democratic camp while the American lanterns were dimmed.”

From “James Carville says Democrats ‘don’t have the votes’ to be ‘more liberal’ than Joe Manchin” by John L. Dorman at Business Insider: “The longtime Democratic strategist James Carville knows a thing or two about winning an election. As the chief strategist of former President Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 campaign, he helped the Democratic Party end a 12-year streak of GOP control of the White House….In a recent Vox interview, Carville pushed back against suggestions from some Democrats that the party, no matter the consequences, should be passing its highest-priority legislation since it has control of the House and Senate….Carville spoke of Sen. Joe Manchin, the moderate West Virginian who opposes axing the filibuster and has called for more bipartisan cooperation on President Joe Biden’s proposed infrastructure bill, in arguing that the party currently has a limit for what it wants to pursue….”The Democratic Party can’t be more liberal than Sen. Joe Manchin,” he told Vox. “That’s the fact. We don’t have the votes.” Despite the disappointment of   more progressive Democrats in Manchin, he has recently affirmed his loyalty to the Democratic Party, which is good news for everyone who opposes restoring Mitch McConnell’s one-man veto of all legislation he dislikes.

Democrats Should Use Power Fully While They Have It

There is a lot of neurotic fretting about past and future elections going on in Democratic circles right now. Introspection is fine, but there are limits, as I explained at New York:

Since Joe Biden took office, we’ve seen a striking contrast between the audacious legislative agenda that the new president and his congressional allies are implacably advancing and the anxiety that so many of them (but decidedly not Biden himself) are expressing about their narrow escape from defeat in 2020 and the probable rough electoral sledding ahead. Even as Congress accomplishes things unimaginable in the Obama administration, Democrats keep fretting about the lost opportunities that the expected 2020 landslide could have given them, the traction that many fear Republicans are obtaining with their anti-wokeness crusade, and the baleful history of midterm elections that have shattered the plans of new administrations.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Punchbowl he figures there is a direct connection between the political anxieties of congressional Democrats and their audacious legislative agenda:

“Majorities are not given, they are earned. This is not like 1994 and 2010 …

“[Y]ou had to win 40 seats in 2010 … I think everybody knows the majority is in play. So the reason why it’s different, the majority is in play. In ’94 and 2010, at the beginning of those years, they didn’t believe the majority was at play in the nation. I believe it is, and the Democrats, I think, believe it is too; that’s why they’re going so far left, knowing that they’re gonna lose it.”

So basically, McCarthy is charging that Democrats are shooting for the moon in 2021 because they understand that their governing trifecta is fragile and will likely end in 2022. It’s a hostile, self-serving hypothesis but nonetheless worth considering.

Any governing party implicitly has to balance, if not choose between, the goals of implementing its desired policies and of sustaining its power by positioning itself to win future elections. Ideally, of course, such parties hope their legislative priorities are popular enough to serve as a future campaign platform. Democrats who understand how ambitious their current legislative agenda is are particularly encouraged that it is polling well so far. And as New York’s Jonathan Chait has observed, Biden himself has adopted a presidential style that downplays the audacity of the legislation he is promoting, which helps get it enacted while giving the opposition fewer ripe targets.

But at some point very soon, Democrats may no longer be able to avoid a choice between accomplishments and political sustainability. Even if they are able to keep big policy proposals on issues like climate change, police reform, or housing supply from becoming politically fraught right away, they must take into account how they may play into Republican messaging on “socialism,” “wokeness,” or “class warfare.” Do they hold back on legislative audacity, then, in order to maximize the odds of hanging on to Congress in 2022 and the White House in 2024? Or do they move ahead as quickly and ambitiously as they can and hope for the best? I’d offer four pretty compelling reasons for continuing to shoot for the moon.

Democrats’ power is too fragile to protect, so they may as well use it

Thanks to where 2020 left Democrats in Congress, a screeching halt to their legislative progress is no further away than an unexpected death or the resignation of a single senator, a decision by one senator that “going rogue” is in her or his self-interest, or an adverse ruling by the unelected Senate parliamentarian on the ability of Democrats to move a major item via the budget-reconciliation process (as has already happened on the $15 mimimum wage and will probably happen soon on immigration reform). Enacting as much legislation as possible before any of those setbacks occurs could be critical, justifying any and all political risks.

Similarly, the Democratic margin in the House is so small that it may be impossible to sustain against the overwhelming historical precedent of midterm losses by the party controlling the White House — especially since Republicans will have the upper hand in the decennial redistricting process, which is about to get under way.

If the Democratic trifecta is too weak to rely upon or is doomed anyway, why not get as much done as possible and hope for good luck in 2022 and 2024 and perhaps even better luck down the road?

Partisan polarization has made moderation meaningless

The idea that pulling legislative punches will improve future electoral outcomes may be a vestige of a bygone era of swing-voter hegemony and plausible bipartisanship. It’s not clear exactly who in the electorate will award Democrats for “moderation” in fully pursuing their policy goals. To put it another way, no matter what Biden and congressional Democrats do, McCarthy and the conservative-media machine are going to accuse them of “going so far left.” That was the great lesson of the Obama administration, in which every conciliatory gesture simply gave the GOP incentives to radicalize its demands and ramp up the volume of its protests against alleged Democratic extremism.

It also offers an alternative interpretation of the relative disappointment of Democratic underachievement in 2020. Instead of neurotically looking around to see which “woke” or “socialist” pol gave Republicans the opportunity to shriek about the terrible consequences of Democratic power, as many Democrats are doing now, it may make more sense to recognize that the Donkey Party can do nothing short of surrender that would undermine such messaging. The Republican base is clearly in a state of cultural panic that has little to do with the specter of the Green New Deal or the Iran nuclear pact or anything else Democrats say or do. Sure, Democrats can try to lower the temperature of political conflict as their chill president is doing, but they may as well use their current leverage as not. Joe Manchin will ensure that they don’t go hog wild.

America’s current condition demands, and will reward, bold policies — particularly after the Trump presidency

Intense partisan polarization isn’t the only feature of the contemporary political landscape that makes caution inadvisable for Democrats. Quite obviously, the coronavirus pandemic and its economic and social by-products built a highly conducive atmosphere for the Biden administration’s first bold and theoretically risky venture, the American Rescue Plan. And even if the sense of emergency fades and Biden-esque “normalcy” begins to reign, there could be a significant residual appetite within and beyond the Democratic Party for legislative activism after four years in which the GOP lost its already minimal interest in solving problems through public policy and submitted itself to the chaotic, often pointless rage-based leadership of Donald Trump.

There’s a lot to get done, and, among those who aren’t fantasizing about a vengeful comeback for the 45th president, there’s just one party offering much of anything. Scary as “socialism” seems to many Americans, nihilism is scarier yet.

Some legislative goals are conditions precedent for future political success

As Ron Brownstein has convincingly argued, some form of voting-rights legislation may no longer be optional for Democrats if they want to remain politically viable in the short-term and long-range future:

“If Democrats lose their slim majority in either congressional chamber next year, they will lose their ability to pass voting-rights reform. After that, the party could face a debilitating dynamic: Republicans could use their state-level power to continue limiting ballot access, which would make regaining control of the House or the Senate more difficult for Democrats — and thus prevent them from passing future national voting rules that override the exclusionary state laws.”

Republicans understand that the power to limit ballot access for Democratic constituencies is something they need to exploit to the fullest right now. If Democrats demur from pursuing every avenue to preempt Republican voter suppression via federal legislation on grounds that it’s too “partisan,” the far more cynical GOP will have the last laugh, potentially for a long time. Loyalty to the young and minority voters most endangered by voter suppression should be enough to make voting rights job one in this Congress, even if that means risky tactics like filibuster reform. But it may also be a matter of political survival.

In general, this is no time for Democrats to be afraid of taking risks; like it or not, everything they do right now is risky business. The ancient arguments between progressives and centrists on the best way to appeal to swing voters are largely moot at this moment. They had best make hay while the sun shines.

Skelley and Rakich: Census Threatens Dems’ Edge In Midterms

Geoffrey Skelley and Nathaniel Rakich sort out ” Which States Won — and Lost — Seats in the 2020 Census” at FiveThirtyEight:

On Monday afternoon, the U.S. Census Bureau announced how many seats each state will have in the U.S. House for the next 10 years — a once-in-a-decade process called reapportionment. In total, five states will gain one House seat each starting with the 2022 elections — and Texas even added two. But for every seat these states gained, another state had to lose one — and indeed, seven states lost one congressional district each.

Overall, the gains and losses following the 2020 census largely continue a pattern in recent decades whereby states in the Midwest and Northeast have lost seats because their population growth has stagnated, while states in the South and West have mostly gained seats because their populations have boomed. (There is one exception to this overarching trend: California actually lost ground for the first time in its history.)

Texas is on track to pick up 2 seats as a result of the census, while FL, NC, CO, OR and MT will each gain a seat. California, NY, IL, PA, OH, MI and WV each lost a seat. Worse, “As a result, we can now say with finality that Republicans will control the redrawing of 187 congressional districts (43 percent) — or 2.5 times as many as Democrats (who will redraw 75 districts, or 17 percent).” In adddition,

There are also 167 districts (38 percent) where neither party will enjoy exclusive control over redistricting (either because of independent commissions or split partisan control). And, of course, there are six districts (1 percent) that won’t need to be drawn at all (because they are at-large districts that cover their entire state).

But just because most of the states that are gaining seats are red and most of the states that are losing them are blue does not necessarily mean that reapportionment will help Republicans — in the House, at least.1 That’s because many of the fastest-growing areas of red states are increasingly Democratic, so it matters a lot how the new districts will be drawn.

Skelley and Rakich also note, “The three most populous states to gain seats are Texas, Florida and North Carolina, and in each, Republicans will control the redistricting process. For the first time in decades, they won’t have to seek preclearance from the Justice Department either before implementing their maps thanks to the 2013 Supreme Court decision that struck down part of the Voting Rights Act. That, in turn, could open the door for more extreme gerrymandering in these states, which historically disenfranchised voters of color. “

The share a summary of the emerging political demographics and redistricting process in each affected state, and conclude:

Of course, we’re a long way from knowing the full political ramifications of redistricting, as the 31 other states that didn’t lose or gain a seat and will have more than one representative will also have to redraw their congressional lines. We also don’t know how the 13 states we’ve examined here will draw their maps. But today’s announcement of the reapportionment numbers marks the first step toward knowing what the lay of the land will be ahead of the 2022 election.

All in all, it’s a tough redistricting map ahead for Democrats, which makes Biden’s success even more critical for Democratic prospects in the 2022 midterm elections.

Teixeira: The Negative Payoff to Racial Framing of Policy Issues

The new paper by Micah English and Joshua L. Kalla, Racial Equality Frames and Public Policy Support: Survey Experimental Evidence, has gotten quite a lot of attention and deservedly so. Through a clever survey experiment, they show quite clearly that racial framing detracts from support for progressive policies relative to a class or even a neutral framing. This indicates that Democrats are marketing their policies poorly to the extent that they use racial framing to urge support for essentially race-neutral policies that will disproportionately benefit blacks and Latinos because they are disproportionately poor and disadvantaged. Therefore by increasingly relying on racial framing for progressive policies they are actually hurting the very constituencies (the black and Latino poor) they are so intent on helping.

The conclusion to the paper is worth quoting in full:

“As we have demonstrated, despite leftward shifts in public attitudes towards issues of racial equality, racial framing generally decreases support for progressive policies. 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. Importantly, our results showed that Black Americans were just as swayed by the class frame as they were the race frame. Future research should investigate the causal mechanisms behind this.

As Mendelberg (2001, p. 187) detailed in her examination of racial appeals: “Democrats are correct in perceiving that their best interests lie in shifting the electoral agenda away from race and toward economic issues on which blacks and working class whites can agree. The Democrats can still pursue racially liberal policies while in office, and in fact it is in their interest to do so. By eroding racial inequality they will aid in bridging the racial divide that renders them so electorally vulnerable. But as many African Americans recognize, highlighting these efforts to white voters is likely to erode Democratic support among whites.”

It appears that this still holds true today. Democrats’ use of racial frames in describing their progressive policies may inadvertently make it harder for them to adopt public policies that will advance racial justice.”

Note particularly that the racial frame doesn’t even increase support among blacks for progressive policies. I would also note that it doesn’t matter why support among whites is decreased by a racial framing–that is, whether it’s “racial resentment” or the simple fact that when you’re highlighting how a policy will benefit a particular group, those not in the group will then tend to wonder what’s in it for them. The effect is the same: a racial framing does not work to increase support for progressive policies, it decreases it. Therefore, you shouldn’t do it.

A further note, discussed in the paper, is that the findings, while striking, are hardly a one-off. A wide range of studies and survey evidence has shown the same pattern. (See the graphic below for one of many examples, taken from a recent CAP poll.)

I will close by reiterating a principle I put forward in a recent post.

Just as Democrats should not advocate unpopular policies, they should not advocate popular policies in a way that makes them less popular.

This principle is more relevant than ever, given the current vogue for attaching the word “equity” to virtually everything the Democrats are advocating and frequently seeming to justify race-neutral and popular polices on the grounds that they would promote racial equity. As politics, this makes no sense. You are taking policies that have great appeal to persuadable voters–otherwise they would not be so popular–and framing them as equity policies, which will reduce their appeal to persuadable voters who have non-liberal views on racial issues.

This is a very bad idea. There are far more persuadables who support progressive economic positions but are non-woke on racial issues than there are those that are woke on racial issues but don’t support progressive economic positions. So framing race-neutral, popular Democratic economic programs as equity programs is a very poor tradeoff in support and electoral terms.

What more do you need to know?

Political Strategy Notes

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, “A majority of Trump’s loyalists — the most fervent Republicans, ardent immigration foes, hard cultural conservatives, gun rights zealots, racial backlash voters — will never be available to Biden or the Democrats. But Biden is banking on his ability to use populist economics (relief checks, upward pressure on wages, a “Buy America” campaign to bring home more manufacturing work, confining tax increases to corporations and those earning more than $400,000 annually) to win back Trump voters whose dissatisfactions are primarily economic….Biden’s proposals have thus far won support in the polls from about a third of Republicans and a substantial majority of lower-income Republicans (in the case of the relief act). Their response has allowed Biden to challenge the traditional definitions of bipartisanship — House and Senate Republican votes for his bills — that hamstrung his predecessors. Instead, Biden argues that what he is doing is good for many Republican voters, and that a significant share of them agrees….As a result, Biden has contained hostility to his administration and left Republicans with few easy lines of attack. In polls conducted this month by Reuters/Ipsos, Economist/YouGov and Politico/Morning Consult, Biden’s approval rating averaged 54 percent. But perhaps more revealing, his disapproval rating averaged just under 40 percent. A Post/ABC News Poll released Sunday put approval of Biden at 52 percent, disapproval at 42 percent. In this very polarized era, not being hated is a major political achievement….Because Biden is focused on what pollsters see as less divisive “kitchen table” issues, he has been able, so far, to propose a great deal of spending and take steps progressives have long supported without running afoul of more moderate opinion….Republicans have challenged his broad definition of “infrastructure,” arguing that expanded child care and elder care do not fit into traditional definitions of the word. But, in both cases, Biden has again stressed the job-creating, income-generating aspects of his initiatives. They also happen to be popular with families with all manner of political views, particularly those with two earners working outside the home….Biden’s pandemic-plus-the-economy focus has had downsides, notably in his recent mishandling of caps on refugee admissions. He clearly fears that Republicans are gaining traction on immigration. Despite the political challenges, dealing with it comprehensively remains a far better course than a series of defensive postures. And progressives are looking for more from him on health care and a permanent child tax credit expansion….But the man who addresses the nation on Wednesday clearly knows what his presidency is about. And he can have confidence that his political strategy and the substance of what he is doing are mutually reinforcing.”

At The Cook Political Report, Charlie Cook observes that “Democrats sense a key structural advantage that they hope has them set up for season after season of success: Their party is growing in precisely the sectors of the country that are prospering and best positioned for the future; by contrast, they see the Republican Party strongholds as scared of the future and shrinking in population, economic growth, and influence….Days after the November election, a Brookings study showed that the 2,586 counties that Donald Trump carried represented only 29 percent of gross domestic product, while the 527 counties that Joe Biden won made up the other 71 percent….The Economic Innovation Group, a bipartisan think tank funded by Silicon Valley, found recently that those same Biden counties were home to 83 percent of the new firms started between 2010 and 2018, the longest period of sustained peacetime economic growth in U.S. history, and 73 percent of the employment growth during that period. Its report also found that “from 2010 to 2019, the number of people in counties won by Biden grew by an average of 3.1 percent over the period, while the counties won by President Trump averaged an increase of just 0.6 percent.””

In “Americans From Both Parties Want Weed To Be Legal. Why Doesn’t The Federal Government Agree?” at FiveThirtyEight, Dhrumil Mehta notes “Gallup has asked Americans about whether they support legalizing marijuana since 1969, when only 12 percent of Americans supported the idea. As of their most recent poll last November, that number has ticked up to 68 percent, the highest level of support on record. And perhaps unsurprisingly, the number of states where recreational marijuana is now legal has also steadily increased since the Obama administration announced in 2013 that it wouldn’t block state laws that legalized the drug, provided that marijuana was strongly regulated….Thirteen of the 18 states where marijuana is legal have done it via voter-driven ballot initiatives rather than legislation. That said, legalization is broadly popular even in more Republican-leaning states like Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina and Texas….More than one in three Americans live in states where marijuana is already legal for recreational use, and a sizable majority live in states where marijuana is legal for medical use.”

From  “Other Polling Bites,” also at FiveThirtyEight: “A special election in Texas’s 6th Congressional District will take place on May 1 to fill the seat of Republican representative Ronald Wright, who died from complications of COVID-19 in February. And a poll by Meeting Street Insights for the Washington Free Beacon shows no candidate anywhere close to the 50 percent needed to win outright, which means the race will likely go to a runoff. Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez leads in the poll with 20 percent of the vote, followed by Republican candidate Susan Wright, the widow of the congressman who previously held the seat, who received 17 percent. Two other Republican candidates polled in the double digits: Jake Ellzey, a current state representative, and Brian Harrison, a former Trump administration official, earned 16 percent and 12 percent support, respectively.”

After 2020, Whither the Latino Vote?

One of my favorite analysts, Ron Brownstein, tackled a critical question, and I wrote about it at New York adding some of my own thoughts:

Immediately on Election Night it was obvious Trump and most down-ballot Republicans were doing well in places like South Florida and the Rio Grande Valley, which had a lot to do with Trump’s relatively easy wins in the two large states of Texas and Florida. But as more data drifted in, it became apparent the fiery nativist president who had insulted Mexican, Central and South American immigrants repeatedly, improved on his 2016 performance among Latinos, which in turn was an improvement over Mitt Romney’s share of that vote in 2012.

The rapidly increasing size of the Latino vote has been central to Democratic hopes of a demographically driven semi-permanent majority coalition in the near future, so flagging strength with that group is scary to them. And Trump’s ability to win a decent and growing share of Latino votes cheers Republicans who now figure they can have their race-baiting cake and eat minority votes too. But as Ron Brownstein explains in a characteristically thorough assessment of various theories about the direction of the Latino vote, it’s not exactly clear what to expect next or what if anything either party can do about the trend-lines.

One problem is that there have long been myriad problems in defining and measuring the Latino vote which bedevil any analysis. But the trend lines are pretty clear through 2020:

“If Trump won about one-third of Latino voters nationally (the figure most analysts agree on), that’s roughly the same share won by several previous Republican nominees, including John McCain in 2008, George W. Bush in 2000, George H. W. Bush in 1988, and Ronald Reagan during his two races in the 1980s. (George W. Bush did better than that in 2004.)”

But it’s troubling to Democrats that the immigrant-baiting Trump did as well among Latinos as McCain, who famously favored comprehensive immigration reform, or Reagan, who won by national landslides twice. So an immediate question is whether 2020 was simply a reversion to the mean or if Republicans can do better going forward, particularly if the Latino-unfriendly aspects of Trump’s persona and message are discarded.

Unfortunately, there’s some evidence 2020 Republican Latino gains were partially attributable to, not simply in spite of, Trump. A number of analysts argue that Latino men liked what Brownstein calls “Trump’s swaggering and belligerent persona.” But the Latino gender gap wasn’t particularly large, so others believe Trump’s “law and order” message resonated with the sizable segment of the Latino population who feel little if any solidarity with Black social justice advocates. Trump’s mildly ludicrous attacks on Joe Biden as a “socialist” were not taken humorously by Caribbean and South American immigrants who had experienced leftist dictatorships. And the incumbent almost certainly benefitted from his prioritization of the economy over public health in the COVID-19 pandemic among Latinos highly vulnerable to job losses.

These last 2020 Trump assets (along with simple incumbency) could certainly accrue to Democrats in 2022 and 2024 if the pandemic subsides and the economy continues to boom. But partisan cleavages on “socialism” and “law and order” will not likely go away even if Trump is no longer his party’s leader. Nor will the clear differences on cultural issues like abortion and “religious liberty” that push Latino Evangelicals and Pentecostals, along with traditionalist Catholics, towards the GOP. In general, it’s pretty clear that the Democratic assumption that most Latino voters would steer clear of a Republican Party associated with immigration restrictions was not warranted, particularly in a political environment like that of 2020 in which there were so many urgent competing concerns. And what may be going on, as David Shor has suggested, is that the intensifying climate of partisan polarization is pushing Latino conservatives who used to vote Democratic towards their more natural ideological home.

Almost everybody agrees Republicans have recently done immensely better in Latino voter engagement. Indeed, one reason for Democratic optimism is that the self-imposed restrictions Democrats placed on direct personal contacts with all kinds of voters during the pandemic will give way to a more even playing field in the future. But the regular complaints of Latino activists about inadequate outreach by Democrats to their communities indicate one simple way Republican success can be limited: just by trying more. Perhaps the party as a whole should pay better attention to Bernie Sanders’s strong Latino base during the 2020 Democratic nominating contest, which is often written off as just a byproduct of Bernie-mania among young voters.

The stakes for both parties in getting this right grow more each election, Brownstein’s sources tell him:

“The nonpartisan States of Change project anticipates that Latinos will grow from about one in seven eligible voters today to nearly one in five by the middle of the next decade…. [I]f Democrats can maintain the roughly two-to-one advantage they have traditionally enjoyed among Latinos, most in the party would probably be satisfied. But…it’s a mistake to assume that no Republican could do better than Trump, particularly if they sanded down some of the roughest edges of his approach on immigration.”

It’s as good a time as any to remember that in the end a vote’s a vote, and that major national political parties can win by losing big demographic groups by less than before. Beyond winning and losing, though, Democrats should beware giving Republicans grounds to believe that racism and nativism have no negative electoral consequences. That way lies Trumpism for as far as the eye can see.

Clean Water Leads Environmental Priorities

In the wake of Earth Day, this year’s annual barrage of media coverage about environmental concerns focuses on climate change and energy policy reforms, encouraged by the White House, other political leaders and environmental activists. Addressing climate change and energy policy may well be the most critical priorities facing America and the world. But neither climate change or energy policy are the top environmental concern of Americans, according to recent polling data.

In “Water Pollution Remains Top Environmental Concern in U.S.” Megan Brenan writes at Gallup:

Of six environmental problems facing the U.S., Americans remain most worried about those that affect water quality. Majorities express “a great deal” of worry about the pollution of both drinking water (56%) and rivers, lakes and reservoirs (53%).

Fewer, though still substantial minorities ranging between 40% and 45%, express a great deal of concern about the loss of tropical rain forests, global warming or climate change, air pollution, and the extinction of plant and animal species. Although less than half of Americans register the highest level of worry about these four issues, broad majorities say they worry at least “a fair amount” about each.

“Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted March 1-15, 2021, with a random sample of 1,010 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.” With respect to partisan differences:

Majorities of Democrats, ranging from 51% to 69%, say they are worried a great deal about all six of the environmental threats, while no more than 40% of Republicans say the same. The party groups diverge the most in their concern about global warming, with 68% of Democrats and 14% of Republicans highly concerned.

Additionally, several other partisan views stand out:

  • The pollution of drinking water is tied for the top worry among both Democrats and Republicans.
  • Democrats worry as much about global warming/climate change as about polluted drinking water.
  • Worry about the pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs ties with pollution of drinking water as the top concern for Republicans.

There have been persistent and sizable gaps in degrees of worry expressed by partisans over the past two decades. Since 2001, on average, the percentage of Democrats highly concerned about each of the six environmental threats has been more than 20 percentage points higher than that of Republicans.

Concerns about safe water are well-founded. At consumerreports.org, Emily Holden, Caty Enders, Niko Kommenda, and Vivian Ho, reporters for the Guardian, note that “America’s worst public water systems—those that have accrued more than 15 “violation points” for breaking standards over five years—serve more than 25 million Americans, the research shows….Latinos are disproportionately exposed, according to the Guardian’s review of more than 140,000 public water systems across the U.S. and county-level demographic data.” in 2019, 1,650 of Florida’s public water systems violated the EPA’s water quality standards, while 3,358 of Texas’s public water systems violated the EPA’s water quality standards in the same year, as did 4,010 of Pennsylvania’s public water systems.

Without diminishing the importance of air pollution, energy policy and climate change, Democrats would be wise to make sure that a hefty share of infrastructure projects be directed to cleaning up water pollution and upgrading water facilities where it is most needed — especially in the swing districts and states.

RIP Walter F. Mondale

When Fritz Mondale passed away this week, I eulogized this Democratic leader at New York:

Some career politicians who achieve national fame are known as policy innovators or political insurgents, while others flame out and return to obscurity thanks to bad luck or bad behavior. Walter F. “Fritz” Mondale was another type altogether: a reliable public servant in all of the many jobs he held and a steady steward of the Minnesota liberal political traditions he inherited. He was also, by all accounts, a decent man, and it was characteristic of him that just before his death this week at the age of 93, he sent a grateful email to former staffers, saying “Never has a public servant had a better group of people working at their side! Together we have accomplished so much, and I know you will keep up the good fight.”

Mondale was fated to spend much of his career in the shadow of other leaders. A protégé of Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party legends Hubert Humphrey and Orville Freeman, he was appointed state attorney general by Freeman in 1960 and then four years later occupied Humphrey’s Senate seat when his mentor became Lyndon Johnson’s vice-president. Like Humphrey, Mondale was a rigorous New Deal liberal who was quick to support the labor and civil-rights movements and slow to abandon the Vietnam War. He began and quickly dropped a presidential candidacy in 1974 after Humphrey’s ill health kept him from running; Mondale famously said he didn’t want to spend the next two years living in Holiday Inns. But when eventual Democratic nominee Jimmy Carter needed a northern running mate with close ties to labor, Mondale signed up after securing a pledge from Carter that they would form a true partnership in office.

The wheels soon came off for the coalition Carter and Mondale had put together in 1976, and when Mondale finally ran for the top spot in 1984, the Republican ascendancy that had been delayed by Watergate and Carter’s southern identity fully arrived. The Minnesotan narrowly won the presidential nomination against forward-leaning candidacies by Jesse Jackson and Gary Hart, but eventually won just his own state plus the District of Columbia against the “Morning in America” reelection campaign of Ronald Reagan. The Mondale presidential campaign’s only positive legacy was his pioneering choice of a woman, New York’s Gerald Ferraro, as running mate. Again, All Things Veep was Mondale’s signature.

He returned to public office when Bill Clinton reclaimed the White House, spending over three years as U.S. ambassador to Japan, where he is still remembered for his efforts to scale back the U.S. military presence in Okinawa.

But after he returned to Minnesota to practice law and semi-retire, this paragon of party loyalty had one more bitter cup to drink. He was drafted in 2002 to run for his old Senate seat after Paul Wellstone was killed in a plane accident just 11 days before the general election. A close race turned into a Democratic defeat, after a boisterous Wellstone memorial service that offended some voters. Mondale finally retired from politics.

His and Carter’s longevity (the former president is 96) made them the longest-surviving ex-president and vice-president ever. And the strong personal qualities of both men have allowed their political mistakes to fade over time.

Upon news of Mondale’s death, President Biden released a statement crediting his vice-presidential predecessor with offering him sound counsel when Barack Obama chose him as his 2008 running mate. And in some respects, the old-school liberal tradition Mondale typified is shared by Biden, who served with him in the Senate for eight years (four when Mondale was president of the Senate) more than four decades ago. Ideology aside, both men unfashionably viewed public service as an honorable profession. One lives in the White House, and the other lives on in many fond memories.

Political Strategy Notes

In his New York Times column, Thomas B. Edsall probes the psychology of Trumpism that still rules Republican Party messaging and writes, “In a separate article, “The power of Trump-speak: populist crisis narratives and ontological security,” [Alexandra] Homolar and Ronny Scholz, a project manager at the University of Warwick’s center for applied linguistics, argued that Trump’s “leadership legitimation claims rest significantly upon ‘crisis talk’ that puts his audience in a loss frame with nothing to lose.” These stories serve a twofold purpose, instilling “insecurity among the American public” while simultaneously transforming “their anxiety into confidence that the narrator’s policy agendas are the route back to ‘normality.’”….At the heart of what the authors call “Trump-speak” is a “politics of reassurance, which relies upon a threefold rhetorical strategy: it tells audiences what is wrong with the current state of affairs; it identifies the political agents that are responsible for putting individuals and the country in a state of loss and crisis; and it offers an abstract pathway through which people can restore past greatness by opting for a high-risk outsider candidate”…..Once an audience is under Trump’s spell, Homolar and Scholz write: “Rational arguments or detailed policy proposals pale in comparison with the emotive pull and self-affirmation of an us-versus-them crisis narrative, which creates a cognitive feedback loop between individuals’ ontological insecurity, their preferences for restorative policy, and strongmen candidate options. In short, “Trumpspeak” relies on creating the very ontological insecurity that it promises to eradicate for political gain.”….The authors describe “ontological security” as “having a sense of presence in the world, describing such a person as a ‘real, alive, whole, and, in a temporal sense, a continuous person,’” citing R.D. Laing, the author of “The Divided Self.” Being ontologically secure, they continue, “allows us to ‘encounter all the hazards of life, social, ethical, spiritual, biological’ with a firm sense of both our own and others’ reality and identity. However, ontological security only prevails in the absence of anxiety and danger.”

Looking toward the next step in reducing violence in law enforcement, James D. Walsh writes in “The Most Powerful Weapon for Police Reform Is Back” in New York Magazine “On the heels of Derek Chauvin’s murder conviction, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the Justice Department is launching a “pattern or practice” investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department. Pattern or practice probes are often a precursor to court enforced reform agreements between the DOJ and local law enforcement agencies, which require them to comply with a list of goals before federal oversight can be lifted. A court-appointed monitor, usually a DOJ attorney in its civil rights division, is responsible for overseeing the goals and evaluating the department’s progress. President Joe Biden campaigned on a promise to revive pattern-or-practice investigations – as well as subsequent reform agreements – after the Trump administration suspended the program in 2017….Congress first gave the Justice Department the power to enter reform agreements in the 1994 crime bill drafted by Biden following civic unrest in Los Angeles two years earlier over the LAPD beating of Rodney King. Many police accountability experts say the reform agreements – both consent decrees and settlement agreements – are the most effective way to achieve long-term police reform.”

In terms of new police reform legislation, “Here’s what the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act would do” by Henry J. Gomez of NBC News provides a useful summary of the proposal: “The bill aims to end certain police techniques, including chokeholds and carotid holds, two forms of potentially deadly force. Such practices would be banned at the federal level, and federal funding for local and state police agencies would be conditioned on those agencies outlawing them. The bill also seeks to improve police training and invest in community programs designed to improve policing and promote equitable new policies….Other provisions in the bill would:

  • Ban no-knock warrants in federal drug cases and, as with chokeholds, encourage local and state agencies to comply by tying bans to federal funding. A no-knock warrant led to the fatal shooting of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor by police last year in Louisville, Kentucky.
  • End “qualified immunity,” which protects law enforcement officers from most civil lawsuits.
  • Make it easier to prosecute police officers accused of misconduct by lowering the legal standard from willfulness to recklessness.
  • Prohibit racial, religious and discriminatory profiling by law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal levels and mandate training against such discriminatory profiling.
  • Require local and state police agencies to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of body cameras, require all federal uniformed officers to wear body cameras, and require all marked federal police vehicles to use dashboard cameras.
  • Create a national police misconduct registry to prevent police officers who are fired or pushed out for bad performance from being hired by other agencies.
  • Use federal grants to help communities establish commissions and task forces to study police reforms.
  • Address police militarization by limiting how much military-grade equipment is awarded to state and local law enforcement agencies.
  • Enhance “pattern and practice” investigations of police departments by granting the Justice Department subpoena power and establishing grant programs for state attorneys general to conduct their own probes.”

From “Checking in on Biden’s Approval Rating as Hundred Days’ Mark Nears: Steady on average, but individual pollsters vary greatly” by Kyle Kondik at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Biden’s actual level of popularity matters greatly for the 2022 midterm. If his approval rating eventually turns negative, the Democrats will be hard-pressed to hold their narrow edges in the Senate and especially the House. If Biden’s approval stays positive, Democrats might have a chance to buck the usual midterm penalty that is often inflicted on the presidential party. But the degree to which Biden is popular or unpopular likely matters too. We’ll see if individual pollsters come more into alignment on this as time goes on.” Kondik’s chart:

Dems Providing Leadership for Police Reform

“Nationally, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 (HR1280) was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in February….Among other provisions, the bill works to end racial and religious profiling in law enforcement, bans chokeholds and no-knock warrants at the federal level, limits the transfer of military equipment to local police departments, requires body cameras, calls for more training and allows for more prosecution of officers who violate policies….HR1280 passed the House 220 to 212 on March 3. It has been received in the Senate, but has yet to be debated or voted on….In Wisconsin, State Rep. Jonathan Brostoff, a Milwaukee Democrat, introduced Assembly Bill 186. The legislation calls for an end to “qualified immunity” for police officers. Qualified immunity limits officers liability in civil cases.” — from “George Floyd’s death prompts calls for police reform in America, Wisconsin” by Tom Durian at WTMJ-TV.

“Tennessee lawmakers are considering a new police reform bill that would require law enforcement agencies to create use of force policies. The bill passed the Senate and now moves to the House….Senate Bill 1380 prohibits officers from using a chokehold and issuing no-knock warrants….If the bill is passed agencies must also develop policies on discharging firearms at or from a moving vehicle….A reporting system must also be developed under this proposal.” — from “Tennessee lawmakers consider new police reform bill” by WMC5 -TV.

“In February, Driskell, and the other 26 members of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus introduced over 20 police reform bills for consideration in both the House and Senate. But despite being introduced early on in the legislative session, the bulk of these bills have not only failed to pass — most have yet to even get a hearing. Of the approximately 24 bills, 20 of them have yet to appear on the agenda of committee meetings….Some of these FLBC bills have had success. The Senate unanimously passed the Kaia Rolle Act, which would prohibit arresting kids younger than seven, and it’s currently awaiting House approval. The Senate has advanced a separate bill providing mental illness training for law enforcement through two committee meetings. The Senate has also moved forward with a police reform bill filed by Sen. Jason Pizzo (D-Miami), and similar to one introduced by the FLBC, that would limit police use of chokeholds. Both bills are currently are its last committee stops before reaching the floor….Republican House leaders also worked directly with the FLBC on a police training bill that would set statewide use of force policies and instate a database that would track instances of excessive force, if it became law. It’s currently on its last committee stops before the Senate floor….However, more ambitious or sweeping bills introduced by the FLBC have dimmer prospects. Those bills include legislation prohibiting no-knock search warrants for misdemeanor offenses to requiring every law enforcement agency to use body cameras and restricting law enforcement from acquiring surplus military equipment….Of the 27 members of the FLBC, only one is a Republican.” —  from “Black lawmakers in Florida introduced police reform bills this year. Most have gone unheard” by Giulia Heyward at Politico.

“OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The Washington Legislature on Tuesday approved a measure requiring police to intervene if they see a fellow officer using, or attempting to use, excessive force….On a 31-18 vote, the Senate concurred with changes the made in the House to the bill, which was prompted by the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd and ensuing Black Lives Matter protests last year. The measure now heads to Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature….Under the bill, officers would have to intervene to stop excessive force if they see it being used, or attempted to be used, by another officer and they’re in a position to do so. It would also require police to report wrongdoing by another officer to that officer’s supervisor, including criminal acts or violations of professional standards, and it would forbid retaliation against police who intervene or report wrongdoing….The measure is one of several police reform bills that the Legislature has been moving during this year’s 105-day legislative session, which is scheduled to end Sunday.” — from “Legislature approves duty to intervene police reform bill” by the Associated Press

“Most recently, on April 10th, Maryland’s Democrat-dominated legislature overrode the veto of its Republican governor, Larry Hogan, to pass a police-reform bill. It repeals the state’s Law Enforcement Bill of Rights, which afforded officers extra due-process rights for internal-misconduct investigations. Around 20 states have similar laws (Maryland’s was the first), which often require that officers be informed of complaints and complainants before questioning, that they be punished within 100 days of any alleged misconduct, and that departments pay suspended officers’ salary and attorneys’ fees.” — from  “Police-reform legislation is spreading in America” at The Economist.

DENVER (CBS4) – A new police accountability bill at the State Capitol would remove an exemption in the law for Colorado State Patrol and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. Rep. Leslie Herod, who led the sweeping police reforms last summer, is sponsoring the bill which, she says, is also aimed at clarifying some of the provisions in the original law….“To ensure that officers interpret the law right and act right in the community….On use of force, her new bill spells out de-escalation techniques officers need to employ first, and it says any use of force must be proportional to the threat of imminent harm….On body cameras, she makes it clear, even though they’re not required until 2023, any department now using them now can’t tamper with, hide, or destroy evidence….A separate police accountability bill is in works by two Democrats and two Republicans in the Senate. Herod met with them Monday in an effort to merge the two bills. She says the new bill could include a provision regarding no-knock raids.” — from “More Police Reform In The Works At Colorado State Capitol” by 4CBS Denver.

“The National Conference of State Legislatures tracked bills in 45 states on officer use of force, including bans on chokeholds and refining when it is appropriate for an officer to use deadly force. Dozens of states have demanded reforms to officer training. A handful limited officer immunity and others limited the use of no-knock warrants….Cities like New York, Seattle, Minneapolis and Atlanta have called to increase accountability, crackdown on racial profiling and are testing the use of mental health crisis responders….”Most policing issues are left to the states to reform or to enact the way they see fit. And that’s the way it should be,” he continued. “When you’re talking about policing reform, there’s only so much the federal government can do to affect local policing.”….Nationally, there is no uniform standard for the 800,000 sworn law enforcement officers serving in the country’s 18,000 police agencies….Minimal training requirements and other standards of practice are set at the state level. Some states require over 1,000 hours of basic training and up to two weeks of annual instruction, according to the Institute for Criminal Justice Training Reform. Other states require less than half that amount of time in basic training and as little as six hours of mandatory annual training. That leaves leeway for city councils, mayors, police chiefs and police unions to establish the policies, practices and culture of a given department.” — from “States, cities lead on police reform given federal government’s limited reach” by Leandra Bernstein at ABC13 News.