washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Rural Voter

The new book White Rural Rage employs a deeply misleading sensationalism to gain media attention. You should read The Rural Voter by Nicholas Jacobs and Daniel Shea instead.

Read the memo.

There is a sector of working class voters who can be persuaded to vote for Democrats in 2024 – but only if candidates understand how to win their support.

Read the memo.

The recently published book, Rust Belt Union Blues, by Lainey Newman and Theda Skocpol represents a profoundly important contribution to the debate over Democratic strategy.

Read the Memo.

Democrats should stop calling themselves a “coalition.”

They don’t think like a coalition, they don’t act like a coalition and they sure as hell don’t try to assemble a majority like a coalition.

Read the memo.

The American Establishment’s Betrayal of Democracy

The American Establishment’s Betrayal of Democracy The Fundamental but Generally Unacknowledged Cause of the Current Threat to America’s Democratic Institutions.

Read the Memo.

Democrats ignore the central fact about modern immigration – and it’s led them to political disaster.

Democrats ignore the central fact about modern immigration – and it’s led them to political disaster.

Read the memo.

 

The Daily Strategist

July 22, 2024

Political Strategy Notes

Here’s a clue from “Most Americans falsely think the U.S. is in recession, poll shows” by Rebecca Picciotto at cnbc.com as to why President Biden can’t get much traction: “More than half of Americans think the United States is in an economic recession, although gross domestic product has been increasing for the past several years….According to a new Guardian/Harris poll, 56% of respondents said they believe the U.S. is in a recession and 58% say that President Joe Biden is responsible for what they see as an economic downturn….A recession is an extended period of economic decline, usually designated when GDP has declined for two or more consecutive fiscal quarters….Under those terms, the U.S. is definitively not in a recession….GDP grew by 1.6% in the first quarter of 2024. Granted, that is a decelerated rate from the 3.3% growth of the fourth quarter of 2023, but it is not recessionary. U.S. GDP growth has been outpacing that of other developed nations….Despite some positive signals that the economy is recovering from the pandemic chaos that disrupted supply chains and sent inflation skyrocketing, consumer attitudes have lagged, often driven by the high costs of daily living caused by stubbornly high inflation.” No doubt the argument about individual financial situations being more influential in poll outcomes than aggregate economic data has some relevance here. All the Biden campaign can do about this is keep plugging away at every opportunity and make some ads showing individual families testifying about how much better off they are today than they were under Trump. Aggregate economic data just doesn’t pack the same punch as real people testifying about their lives.

If you know anyone who believes the Trump campaign’s recent reference to a “unified Reich” was just a stray brain fart of an unruly staffer, not a recurring symptom of the candidate’s sympathy for vicious dictators, refer them to “Trump removes video referencing ‘unified Reich. but his Nazi allusions are long-standing” by Stephen Collimnson at CNN Politics. As Collinson writes, “Donald Trump dabbles in Nazi allusions too often for it to be a coincidence….The latest example is a video posted on the ex-president’s social media account that features a fake headline implying the US could become a “unified Reich” if he wins a second term in November. The video replicates what appears to be World War I-era newspapers. But the term “Reich,” which means a kind of empire, is also synonymous with the later Third Reich of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany. The presumptive GOP nominee’s campaign insisted the sharing of the third-party video on Monday was the work of a staffer and not Trump, who was in court. It was eventually taken down hours later on Tuesday….Trump may not have not been responsible for the post. But campaigns reflect the character of the candidate. And Trump has been flirting with Nazi imagery and giving comfort to far-right extremists for years. He recently accused President Joe Biden of running a “Gestapo” administration. Trump has several times warned immigrants are “poisoning the blood” of the United States, echoing language used by Hitler in his manifesto “Mein Kampf,” which the ex-president claims he hasn’t read. Back in 2017, Trump equivocated about condemning a White supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which marchers chanted “Jews will not replace us.”….Trump also allegedly praised Hitler, according to former White House chief of staff John Kelly, who was quoted by CNN’s Jim Sciutto in his new book “The Return of Great Powers.” Kelly commented: “He said, ‘Well, but Hitler did some good things.’ I said, ‘Well, what?’ And he said, ‘Well, [Hitler] rebuilt the economy.’”….Sciutto also cited Kelly as saying that Trump believed that Hitler’s hold on senior Nazi officers displayed a loyalty he did not enjoy from his senior subordinates….He’s promising the biggest deportation operation in history to expel undocumented migrants. And his echoing of Nazi rhetoric on immigration has the same consequence as Hitler’s — to demonize outsiders supposedly threatening the ‘native’ purity of the homeland….Trump has already tried to avoid leaving power after a democratic election he lost, whipping up his supporters ahead of the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol. And over the weekend, he spitballed about potentially serving more than the two terms to which the Constitution says he can be elected.” Collinson co includes, “Anyone who admires Hitler and his murderous cult would do well to walk through the preserved death camps, gas chambers and mass crematoria in Eastern Europe where Nazis exterminated the continent’s Jews. And those who carelessly peddle Nazi-themed rhetoric should visit the cliffs of Normandy, where Biden is expected next month to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day amid rows of buried US and Allied soldiers who perished as part of the cost of eradicating fascism.”

In his Salon article, “How Trump’s hidden Nazi messages help conceal his open antisemitism: Now that Trump is finally facing legal consequences for his actions he’s amplifying his Hitlerian language,” Chauncey DeVega shares some thoughts on Trump’s Nazi musings: “One of the most important rules for surviving and triumphing over an authoritarian regime is to always take seriously what the dictator says. They are not kidding. This rule most certainly applies to Donald Trump, who has promised that he is going to be a dictator on “day one” if he defeats President Biden in the 2024 election….Trump’s Nazi projections are part of a much larger dynamic where today’s right openly embraces antisemitism, white supremacy, and racism….Dr. Sharon Nazarian, who is a board member of the Anti-Defamation League and a noted expert on global antisemitism, issued the following statement in response to the Trump campaign’s “unified Reich” video:

Words like Reich don’t just accidentally end up in campaign videos. This is a message to antisemites and anti-democratic extremists everywhere about what to expect should Trump return to the White House. Donald Trump knows exactly what he is doing. This is part of a long pattern of behavior where he normalizes antisemitic language and behavior and then later claims that he ‘didn’t know’ or it was ‘fake news’, but the extremists know full well where he stands, and we need acknowledge that these aren’t mistakes, he is telling us exactly what he would do in a second term. Donald Trump no longer should be given the benefit of the doubt. He sees antisemitism as a powerful tool to be used towards his own political goals, and those goals are to reshape American democracy and society in ways that will make the lives of Jews unsafe.

….Trump has repeatedly shared antisemitic images and memes on social media and has met personally with antisemites and white supremacists….Trump has continued to channel Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, with his threats and promises to purify the blood of the nation by getting rid of human “vermin” and other “pollution” as part of final battle and campaign of retribution and revenge when/if he takes power in 2025. These are eliminationist and genocidal threats of violence against those individuals and groups targeted as other or who dare to resist the regime and its attempt to end multiracial pluralistic democracy. Trump has also threatened, on numerous occasions, while president and afterwards, to have his political and personal “enemies” killed.” In his conclusion, DeVega warns, “The water in the pot is boiling more rapidly and too many Americans have gotten far too comfortable in it.”

The ever-optimistic Simon Rosenberg opines at his “Hopium Chronicles”: “Let’s talk the Electoral College today. Here are the results of new Bloomberg/Morning Consult polling of the battleground states, Biden-Trump:

  • AZ 44-49 Biden gains 2 since last poll
  • GA 44-47 Biden gains 3, within margin of error
  • MI 46-45 Biden gains 1
  • NV 46-46 Biden gains 8
  • NC 42-49 Biden gains 2
  • PA 46-48 Trump gains 1, within margin of error
  • WI 46-47 Biden gains 3, within margin of error

These are good polls for us. For Trump to win he needs to win AZ, GA, NV, keep NC, and win one of MI, PA, WI. He lost all these states except NC in 2020. So he has to go get a lot of stuff he didn’t have in 2020. In this poll, and in the three other recent battleground state polls (NYT Likely Voters, Not Registered Voters) he is not ahead, outside of the margin of error, in MI, PA or WI, or any combination of states getting to 270. The map is hard for him, and today, simply and plainly, he is not leading or ahead in the 2024 election. He is not where he wants to be right now….Our path to 270 is much clearer. Assuming we win the single Nebraska Electoral College vote we just need to win MI, PA, WI – all states we won last time, and all states where we have strong Dem governors who won in 2022. There are polls now with Biden ahead in AZ, MI, WI and tied in NV (yes this NV result is embarrassing for the New York Times). All four of these battleground polls have PA within margin of error, and a new poll about to be released in North Carolina has the Biden-Trump race there within margin of error, 43-45 Biden-Trump. This is the third poll taken in NC in recent weeks showing the election a toss up in North Carolina. Also note for those worried about Michigan that there are more polls showing us ahead in there than any other battleground state….My big point here is that not all the data in front of us is pointing in the same direction – thus folks need to be cautious about jumping to conclusions or letting a single influential poll dictate our understandings….The blue wall states – MI, PA, WI – are clearly within margin of error, tied now. We have recent polls showing AZ, GA, NC, NV also within margin of error, tied. Given all this it is simply impossible, wrong and inaccurate to argue that Trump leads or is favored. The election is close and competitive. Our path to 270 is easier. We have enormous financial and organizational advantages now, a better candidate and far, far better arguments. Senate and House polling remains encouraging, and we’ve made meaningful gains in the Congressional Generic. We’ve been winning elections of all kinds across the country since Dobbs and they keep struggling, a dynamic we’ve seen show up in voting in 2024 too…We are not where we want to be, and have a lot of work to do. But in every way imaginable, four months before voting begins, I would much rather be us than them.”


Democrats Must Deal With Trump Fatigue

A 2024 dilemma for Democrats occurred to me this week so I wrote about how to deal with it at New York:

Joe Biden’s campaign is facing a strategic dilemma. Since the president’s job-approval ratings have been consistently low, his path to reelection depends on making 2024 a comparative choice between himself and Donald Trump, his scary, extremist predecessor. That task is becoming more urgent as evidence emerges that a sizable number of voters either don’t remember or misremember the four turbulent years of the Trump administration. But paradoxically, educating voters about the potential consequences of a Biden defeat could annoy and alienate them by pushing Trump fatigue to new heights.

This is clearly a risk Team Biden will have to take to some degree. A host of data shows that a crucial slice of the electorate has relatively sunny memories of the Trump years and a vague understanding of the extremist agenda his allies are putting together for a second term. And worse yet, as Russell Berman explains in The Atlantic, the youngest voters, on whom Democrats are relying for a big 2024 advantage, know little about Trump at all and view him mostly as an entertainer:

“In polling conducted by Blueprint, a Democratic data firm, fewer than half of registered voters under 30 said they had heard some of Trump’s most incendiary quotes, such as when he said there were ‘very fine people on both sides’ demonstrating in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, or when he told members of the Proud Boys, the far-right militia group, to ‘stand back and stand by’ during a 2020 debate. Just 42 percent of respondents were aware that, during his 2016 campaign, Trump called for ‘a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.’

“The youngest voters know Trump more as a ribald commentator than as a political leader. Santiago Mayer, the 22-year-old founder of the Gen Z group Voters of Tomorrow, which has endorsed Biden, told me that his 18-year-old brother and his friends see Trump as more funny than threatening. ‘They don’t know much about Donald Trump’s agenda, and Donald Trump is an entertaining character,’ Mayer said. ‘They are gravitating toward him not because of their political beliefs but out of sheer curiosity.’”

It is urgently important that Democrats find ways to depict this cartoon villain as more villainous than comic. But that will necessarily mean reciting the countless things Trump has said and done that other voters are abundantly tired of hearing about for the umpteenth time. Biden attacking Trump and then Trump hitting back over and over will feed Americans’ universal unhappiness with the 2024 rematch. Pervasive voter discontent inherently favors the challenger against the incumbent in any election.

Perhaps the way for Democrats to thread the needle is to make Trump appear not just scary but also predictably wedded to the worst aspects of his party. That includes hostility to cherished safety-net programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; a deep-seated attachment to the interests of the wealthiest Americans; an unsavory affection for uniformed violence at home and abroad; and a grim, relentless, half-century-long crusade to take away women’s rights, including the right to choose abortion and contraception. The basic idea is to change perceptions of Trump the amusing and irreverent outsider to Trump the salesman for deeply unpopular policies and practices. More subtly, the message to both persuadable undecideds and unenthusiastic Democrats would be that the only way to end the long-playing saga of Trump-dominated politics is to forcefully retire the former president and warn his party that they must move in a different direction. Conversely, putting him back in the White House will perpetuate Trump Fatigue indefinitely.

It’s counterintuitive, to be sure, for the party of a presidential incumbent to implicitly ask voters, Had enough? But in an election Biden can win only by making it about his opponent, he’s lucky that in Trump he faces a challenger who is so eager to become the center of attention.


Meyerson: Is Reversing Biden’s Working-Class Slump Even Possible?

From “Is Reversing Biden’s Working-Class Slump Even Possible? A new survey of key swing states shows how it could be done, but—granting its necessity—it sure sounds difficult” by Harold Meyerson at The American Prospect:

A New York Times/Siena national poll from last month shows Biden’s level of support among non-college voters of all races is down to 39 percent, which is nine percentage points beneath his level of support from those voters in the 2020 election. If he can’t make up that gap or get close to it between now and November, his goose, not to mention civilization’s, is cooked.

One reason why that decline looms so large is that working-class voters constitute a disproportionately large share of the electorate in three must-win swing states: Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. This week, two groups that have long been surveying the Midwest working class—In Union, and the Factory Towns Project of American Family Voices—are releasing a study of those voters, focusing on the issues that can move them back into the Democrats’ column, and even more on the means by which Democrats can and must make their case.

Donald Trump carried Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin over Hillary Clinton in 2016, but lost those states to Biden in 2020. By itself, the shift in union household voting between 2016 and 2020 more than accounted for Biden’s narrow margins of victory in those three states. As the study documents, the swing among working-class voters in Michigan came to approximately 104,000; in Pennsylvania, 137,000; and in Wisconsin, 28,000. Recent polling in those states, however, shows that Biden’s levels of support among working-class voters have subsided to Clinton’s insufficient levels of 2016.

The polls undertaken by the study’s two sponsors make clear that the issues that could bring Biden’s totals up among these voters, not surprisingly, involve progressive populism. Both polling and focus groups made clear that these voters “are very inclined to believe Democrats who tell a story about price gouging and outrageous corporate profits. They are angry that wealthy corporate CEOs and billionaires aren’t paying what they should in taxes and that the top 1 percent (yes, they still use that phrase) are gaming the system.”

The other issue to which these voters responded most positively is the hardy perennial of retirement security and access to affordable health care. They give greater credence to the Democratic record on Social Security and Medicare, and the party’s pledges to defend them, than they do to the Republican position. The study also shows that Democratic support for abortion rights, affordable child care, and even forgiving student loans is widely popular among these working-class voters, and that Democrats should not skimp on defending those positions. But the primary message must center on attacking corporate greed and defending the right to a secure retirement.

Meyerson explains further, “One of the key strategic elements to moving these voters,” the study claims, “is tapping into trusted sources to communicate with them. Simply airing a bunch of TV ads and knocking on doors late in the campaign is not going to break through with these voters—they are too convinced that most people like them are voting Republican and too cynical about politics as it is commonly practiced to be moved much by traditional ads and campaign tactics right before Election Day.” Also,

This assessment echoes that in perhaps the best book that’s come out on the political shift in much of the working class: Lainey Newman and Theda Skocpol’s Rust Belt Union Blues, which was published last year. The book, which I reviewed for the Prospect in January, takes a granular look at the onetime mine and mill towns of Western Pennsylvania. In 1960, those towns (also including the cities of Pittsburgh and Erie) were home to 143 locals of the United Steelworkers; today, only 16 of those locals still exist. In 1960, those locals were not just venues for union meetings. They were also union social halls, where members and their families came to unwind after work, and hold weddings and other family celebrations. The unions were a social center of those towns’ collective life (something the movie The Deer Hunter depicted quite well), creating peer groups and communities enmeshed in the union’s values and, more often than not, its politics.

Today, not only are those union locals long gone, but the only real remaining social centers in most of those towns are gun clubs, most of them affiliated with the National Rifle Association as a way to get discounted guns for their members. Today, the peer groups and communities for most working-class residents of the once-industrial Midwest have become Republican, a transition that the In Union/Factory Towns survey completely corroborates.

So who are “the trusted sources,” as the survey puts it, the neighbors and friends who still retain credibility, who can convey the Democrats’ populist messaging to working-class voters? The study calls on unions to activate their members to be the precinct walkers who can actually talk to working-class voters, but acknowledges that due to unions’ declining numbers, they must be joined by Democratic and other movement activists. In Union has identified 3.3 million voters in those three swing states who have pro-union attitudes; 14 percent of them say they’re undecided in the upcoming presidential and senatorial elections.

But building a community where progressive populist politics is the norm rather than the exception is the work of years, and the study acknowledges that Democrats are flat out of years to do that work. “We aren’t going to transform the landscape and reverse all the problematic trends in six months in terms of working-class voters,” it says, adding, “right now this is a game of inches. But given how close battleground elections are going to be, inches are the difference between winning and losing.”

It was not in the purview of this study to review how the Democrats got themselves into this fix with the American working class. But it’s clear that the Democrats’ decades of indifference to unions’ decline was a primary reason, and in many parts of the country, the disappearance of unions was perhaps the primary reason. Unions have rebounded in the popularity polls and have recently won some important organizing victories (though not at the Mercedes plant in Alabama), but that doesn’t mean they have enough activists in working-class communities to prod their politically undecided neighbors to cast their votes for Joe Biden this fall.

Meyerson concludes, “For that reason, the study chiefly reads as a plea to the rest of us: Do what you can to help our guys out!”


Political Strategy Notes

Icymi, here are some choice nuggets from E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s gem of a column at The Washington Post: “We’re letting Trump distract us from his corrupt, anti-climate agenda.” Dionne writes: “Donald Trump sat down with oil executives and told them that if he wins, he’ll scrap a slew of President Biden’s clean energy and other environmental regulations they don’t like — as long as they raise $1 billion for him. The response? Crickets. Trump’s pay-for-play move was frequently described as “transactional.” The right word is “corrupt….Last weekend, at a rally in Wildwood, N.J., he pledged to halt offshore wind farms. All of them. Right away. “We are going to make sure that that ends on day one,” Trump said. “I’m going to write it out in an executive order.” It was consistent with a remarkable statement he was reported to have made to the energy execs: “I hate wind.”….There could hardly be a clearer contrast between Trump and Biden, or their parties. You might think that the environment, and climate in particular, would be playing a large role in the 2024 debate. Yet for all the good work reporters are doing on these issues, there is a strange, substantive vacuum in this campaign….Citizens are getting plenty of information concerning Trump’s latest polling numbers and, yes, lots of news on his hush money trial. About what he’d do if he wins again: not so much.” Dionne also provides the most believable reason yet written to explain why Trump get away with so much BS: “By violating so many norms simultaneously while throwing out so much chaff in any given week, he dodges accountability. He is the only public figure in memory who dodges one scandal by getting enmeshed in a new one. Before the first scandal sinks in, the second sucks up all the oxygen, and then along comes a third. His $1 billion ask of super-rich oil guys was barely a blip.”

Further, Dionne notes: “Trump’s party has been complicit in helping him obliterate ethical standards. Republicans, from House Speaker Mike Johnson on down, raced to New York to create a carnival of deflection. These advocates of “law and order,” “traditional values” and local control ignored the charges against Trump — rooted in sordid personal conduct joined with public corruption — by attacking the idea that a prosecutor might dare try to bring a former president to justice….The routinization of lying has a dulling effect of its own. It no longer matters that responsible journalists of every political stripe report that Trump lost the election he falsely continues to claim he won. Here again, Republican elites play his game by either hedging on what happened in 2020 (“Well, there really were problems, you know …”) or supporting his lie outright. [Why on earth the relatively few sane Republicans remaining don’t start a new conservative Party remains a mystery. The Whigs had their day, and then it was over. Every political party has a shelf life.] Dionne continues, “The politics of spectacle that Trump excels at is the enemy of a politics of substance. Take that New Jersey rally where he pledged to block offshore wind farms (he also promised to go after electric cars). This didn’t get much attention because of Trump’s praise for “Hollywood’s most famous cannibal,” as a Post headline writer succinctly put it. “The late, great Hannibal Lecter is a wonderful man,” Trump declared. Try arguing that climate change should have been the lead of the story that day….The overwhelming scientific consensus is that global warming is real and poses a grave danger to humanity. Those trying to evade tough measures to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels dismiss technical expertise and invent hidden motives. The climate movement, they say, wants to enhance the power of big government. It hates cars, doesn’t care about people working the oil fields and despises the “American way of life.” Case closed….Trump is thus both a cause and a symptom of the distemper in our national life. On the climate and so many other questions, the nation has about five months to realize that very big things are at stake in November’s choice. If we fail, Hannibal Lecter would be a fitting symbol for what happened to our democracy.”

Shame on you for ignoring the Supreme Court elections that are being held in 33 states this year. Ok, shame on me too. Louis Jacobson explains why they are important at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “As it happens, 2024 is a very big year for such elections. They will be held in 33 states, and in several, ideological control of the court could shift depending on the results. While I am generally looking ahead to November here, one notable state supreme court election is actually coming up next week in Georgia, as former Democratic U.S. Rep. John Barrow is seeking to unseat a justice appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp (R), Andrew Pinson….In 2024, some of the most hotly contested supreme court contests will be held in a pair of big Midwestern states, Michigan and Ohio, where partisan control of the court is at least mathematically at stake. In both states, abortion has been a big issue, with voters approving pro-abortion-rights ballot measures in the past two years….Several other states that have experienced battles over abortion will be home to notable supreme court races this fall, including Arizona, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Kentucky, although it remains to be seen how much of an energizing factor abortion will be for Democrats, either overall or for judicial races specifically….According to Ballotpedia’s indispensable index of state supreme court races, 2024 has 83 state supreme court races on tap (plus 222 races for lower appeals courts, which I will not cover in this article)….Five states (Michigan, Ohio, Montana, North Carolina and Kentucky) have competitive supreme court elections this year with results that could shift the court’s ideological balance, at least to a degree.” Jacobson goes on to provide inside skinny for each off these states and “other contested states.” Yes, there is only so much time in the day and there is too much political stuff out there already to read even more about down-ballot contests. But if you are tired of the insanity of the “big” races, you may find some of these state Supreme Court races refreshing in their quaint focus on issues that actually affect our lives.

If Democrats have any realistic hopes for prevailing in the 2024 elections, we have to take the downer data and analysis seriously and, yknow, maybe try and correct some loser notions and behavior. Somebody has to bring the reality check, and Ruy Teixeira does it well in his Washington Post column, “Young voters aren’t as liberal as you think.” Some excerpts: “The romance between President Biden and young voters, never particularly torrid, remains no better than lukewarm as his administration whipsaws between its support for Israel, its desire to placate young demonstrators and the need to keep a lid on social unrest in an election year….The ongoing demonstrations on campuses are really only the latest complicating factor in an already blurry picture of young voter support for Biden and the Democrats. Young voter discontent has been gathering throughout Biden’s term and might no longer give Democrats the margins they need to hold the White House and the Senate….According to Gallup, 18-to-29-year-olds today (most of whom are considered Gen Z) are plurality, but not majority, Democratic….That plus-8 advantage is the narrowest Democratic tilt among this age group since 2005 and continues a downward trend since 2019, when the Democratic advantage among this age group was 23 points….The next age group for which Gallup makes data available is 30-to-49-year-olds. This age range is larger than desirable but does include the entirety of the millennial generation — except for those 28 and 29 years old. In 2018, when this age group had fewer millennials in it than it does today, Democrats had a 12-point advantage. Now, Republicans are ahead by two percentage points among voters between 30 and 49 years old.” Double Yikes. Teixeira continues, “….Another venerable polling outfit, Pew Research Center, has released data suggesting the Democratic advantage in party ID among 18-to-29-year-olds is much larger, possibly because Pew restricted the sample to registered voters and pushed respondents quite hard on whether they are really “independent.” This further clouds the picture of young voters’ political leanings….The most recent data indicates that only about one-third of those ages 18 to 29 identify as liberal. That liberal share is indeed higher among this age group than other age groups, but obviously it is not the dominant ideology even for this cohort….Among Gallup’s 30-to-49-year-olds — again, this age group now includes the overwhelming majority of millennials — there is even less evidence of liberal domination. They are just 25 percent liberal, 40 percent moderate and 33 percent conservative….On immigration, 48 percent of under-30 voters consider Biden more liberal than they are on the issue, compared with 29 percent who think he’s more conservative than they are. Similarly, 46 percent consider Biden more liberal on the border and 44 percent think he’s more liberal on asylum seekers than they are compared to 30 percent and 25 percent, respectively, who think he’s more conservative….On transgender issues, 48 percent of these under-30 voters (remember, these are essentially Gen Z voters we’re talking about!) consider Biden more liberal than they are on these issues, compared with 28 percent who think the president is more conservative. And by 10 points, voters under age 30 oppose the idea that transgender individuals should be allowed to play on sports teams that do not match their birth gender….On crime, 40 percent of 18-to-29-year-old voters think Biden is more liberal than they are on the issue, compared with 30 percent who think he’s more conservative. By 12 points, they think criminals are not punished harshly enough in this country rather than too harshly.” And perhaps more importantly, “Gallup data finds 62 percent of those under 35 (Gen Z and the younger millennials) describe themselves as “pro-choice” rather than “pro-life” (32 percent). And a staggering 81 percent say abortion should be generally legal during the first three months of pregnancy. But when queried about the second three months of pregnancy, just under half (48 percent) think abortion should be legal in this period. And for the last three months of pregnancy, only one-third support legal abortions.” Now for the kickers: “Big data firm Catalist estimated the Democratic margin among these voters at a stable 22 or 23 points in the last three presidential contests. But polls this year have repeatedly shown Biden only narrowly ahead of former president Donald Trump among this age group — and sometimes losing….For example, the data analytics site Split Ticket maintains an average of demographic cross tabs from public polls. Thus, for 18-to-29-year-olds, Split Ticket found that Biden led Trump by an average of just 12 points in April polls. Interestingly, they also collected data on cross tabs among 18-to-34-year-olds (different polls use different age breaks) and this slightly older age group — which contains more millennials — only averaged a two-point advantage for Biden that month….Similarly, the latest New York Times-Siena poll — ranked No. 1 among all U.S. pollsters by the website FiveThirtyEight — has Biden ahead by just one point among 18-to-29-year-olds and behind by one point among 30-to-44-year-olds. Among likely voters, a smaller subset, Biden is ahead by two points among 18-to-29-year-olds and by an identical margin among 30-to-44-year-olds. But no matter how you screen, this a sharp falloff for Biden from 2020.”


Teixeira: The Working Class-Sized Hole in Democratic Support Widens

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, politics editor of The Liberal Patriot newsletter and co-author with John B. Judis of the new Book “Where Have All the Democrats Gone?,” is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

Toward the beginning of this year, I remarked in a post on “The Coming Working-Class Election”:

Here is a simple truth: how working-class (noncollege) voters move will likely determine the outcome of the 2024 election. They will be the overwhelming majority of eligible voters (around two-thirds) and, even allowing for turnout patterns, only slightly less dominant among actual voters (around three-fifths). Moreover, in all six key swing states—Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin—the working-class share of the electorate, both as eligible voters and as projected 2024 voters, will be higher than the national average.

It follows that significant deterioration in working-class support could put Biden in a very deep hole nationally and key states. Conversely, a burgeoning advantage among working-class voters would likely put Trump in a dominant position.

So, how’s that going now that we’re almost midway through the election year? From the standpoint of the Democrats, not good, not good at all. The just-released New York Times/Philadelphia Inquirer/Siena College poll provides an opportunity to check in on the working class vote in considerable detail. The Times poll provides data across the six key Presidential battleground states—Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin—as well as data for each of these individual states. Here is what I found:

1. Across the battleground, Biden is losing to Trump among working-class voters by 16 points. That compares to Biden’s national working-class deficit of just 4 points in 2020. It’s also slightly worse than Biden’s performance in last October’s Times poll which covered the same states, when he was behind among these voters by 15 points.

2. The October-to-May deterioration among working-class voters is actually a bit worse among likely voters. Biden was behind Trump by 14 points among these voters last October; the gap today is now 18 points. However, in what follows I will confine my analysis to registered voters, since the Times does not provide demographic breakdowns for likely voters within states.

3. The October-to-May deterioration is also worse among nonwhite working-class voters. Biden was ahead among these voters in the battleground states by 16 points last October (note that this compares to the 48 point advantage Biden had nationally in 2020). But his advantage among nonwhite working class voters has fallen to single digits—9 points—in the new data.

4. In Arizona, Biden trails Trump by 9 points among working-class voters. In 2020, when Biden barely won the state by three-tenths of a percentage point, his deficit among these voters was only 4 points.

5. In Georgia, Biden is losing to Trump by a daunting 21 points among working-class voters. That compares to Biden’s modest 6 point gap in 2020 (here I use States of Change data, since Catalist data are not available for the state). Biden won Georgia in 2020 by a slender two-tenths of percentage point.

6. In Michigan, Biden’s working-class deficit against Trump is 24 points. In 2020, that deficit was just 6 points.

7. In Nevada, Biden trails Trump by 21 points among working-class voters. But in 2020, Biden and Trump were tied among these voters! That’s quite a drop. As noted in a followup Times article on their Nevada survey, Nevada is a state where Biden’s stewardship of the economy is viewed especially negatively. Among working class Nevada voters, Trump is deemed better than Biden for handling the economy by 40 points (66 to 26 percent). Interestingly, white and nonwhite working-class voters are basically united in their view of Trump vs. Biden on the economy: white working-class voters prefer Trump by 67-24, while nonwhite working class voters prefer Trump by 63-29.

8. In Pennsylvania, it’s Trump over Biden by 19 points among working-class voters. That’s a sharp drop from Biden’s 9 point deficit among these voters in 2020 (States of Change data). This is a state that Biden won by only a single point last election.

9. In Wisconsin, Biden is behind Trump by 6 points among working-class voters. That doesn’t sound so great but is actually 6 points better than Biden did in 2020, when he lost these voters by 12 points. This is the only state of the six surveyed by the Times where Biden is running better among these voters today than in 2020. And, not coincidentally, it is the only state of the six where Biden is currently leading Trump among registered voters.

This is all pretty baleful for the Democrats. As Timothy Noah has remarked:

For the past 100 years, no Democrat—with one exception—has ever entered the White House without winning a majority of the working-class vote, defined conventionally as those voters who possess a high school degree but no college degree. The exception was Joe Biden in 2020, under highly unusual circumstances (a badly-mismanaged Covid pandemic, an economy going haywire). It’s unlikely in the extreme that Biden can manage that trick a second time. He must win the working-class vote in 2024.

As the Times data (and much other data) show, that objective seems quite far away for Biden at this point. And that’s a problem: you can’t hit the target unless you’re aiming at it. That’s why I think that the Biden campaign’s notorious “polling denialism” might well be viewed as “working class denialism.” The Biden campaign would rather think about this election as “the democracy election” and/or “the abortion rights election”; advocates tell the campaign it should be “the climate election” or “the student loans election” or “the Palestinian rights election” or the “racial justice election.” But in the end, the outcome will be determined by how the working class assesses the choice between Trump and Biden and casts their vote. That fact should not be denied—and the fact should be faced that none of the above issues provides the key for turning the election in Democrats’ favor.

What would? The answer may be quite mundane if challenging to implement, not least because it goes against the grain of the Democrats’ shadow party and their amen corner in the media and academia. A recent memo from the Blueprint strategy notes:

We tested messages that Biden could use to expose Trump’s vulnerabilities, and the ones that voters found most compelling focused on economic fairness and how that should be reflected in public policy—not on Biden and Trump’s respective characters, biographies, and backgrounds….

Blueprint’s latest survey, conducted in partnership with The Liberal Patriot, showed that many of the policies that are most popular with voters can be used to make the case that Biden is the candidate for average Americans while Trump is the candidate who advocates for the interests of the very rich. Among the 40 policies we tested, the most popular ones are those that crack down on corporations, lower the prices of health care and other things, and protect Medicare and Social Security.

Just as the most effective tax and economic policy messages in the poll centered on those topics, none of these stances are particularly sexy or novel; instead, they are positions that are easy to imagine any Democrat supporting over the last decade. Trump has many qualities and vulnerabilities that make him distinct from run-of-the-mill Republicans of the past and present, which are tempting to focus on in paid and earned media. But our polling shows that ahead of November, Biden would be wise to highlight boring-but-popular policy distinctions that he supports in order to drive home the overall contrast between himself and Trump on tax policy and economic fairness.

Would this work? There is no guarantee; Democratic vulnerabilities on issues like immigration, crime, and social disorder would remain. But it does seem better suited to the realities of the coming working-class election than the Biden campaign’s current approach. That approach may resonate better with the Democrats’ shadow party and activist supporters, but not where it counts the most: with the working class.


Senate Democrats Need to Play Error-Free Ball

Figured it was time for another look at the difficult Senate landscape, and did so at New York:

There are still a few Democratic Senate primaries to go, but most are in non-competitive states or in contests where the likely Democratic winner is all but certain. So Angela Alsobrooks’s decisive win in Maryland over Congressman David Trone on May 14 pretty much set in place the Democratic candidate team that will face the daunting task of maintaining control of the Senate in November.

Alsobrooks is bidding to become the third or fourth Black woman ever to serve in the Senate (depending on whether Delaware congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester wins her Senate race as well). Alsobrooks, who is county executive in Prince George’s County, showed her political chops by dispatching the self-financed Trone, beating him soundly in both the D.C. suburbs and in the Baltimore area. The latest poll of Maryland, from The Hill/Emerson, gives Alsobrooks a ten-point lead over her Republican opponent, former governor Larry Hogan. But this is a seat Democrats totally took for granted until Hogan’s surprise announcement in February that he was running for it. And some national Democrats not-so-secretly hoped Trone would beat Alsobrooks so that his vast wealth would take care of Maryland without potentially draining resources needed in other contests. Instead, some money best spent elsewhere may be necessary to croak Hogan’s candidacy, particularly since the Alsobrooks-Trone primary got a bit nasty and left some scars that need healing.

Anxieties over Maryland illustrate the extent to which Democrats cannot afford any mistakes in fighting to maintain control of the Senate. They currently hold a one-seat majority but are defending 23 of the 34 seats at stake in November, including three in states carried twice by Donald Trump. One of those, West Virginia’s, is almost certain to flip to Republican governor Jim Justice (also nominated on May 14) after Joe Manchin’s decision to retire. If Trump wins in November and his yet-to-be-named VP takes away Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote, Democrats could win every competitive Senate race and still lose control. As it is, they need to battle to save red-state incumbents Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Jon Tester of Montana while sweeping tough battleground-state races in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin; or hope that Biden is reelected, giving them a mulligan in one close Senate race. It’s a tall order.

Yes, Democrats currently, and almost incredibly, have modest polling leads in all of the above-mentioned Senate contests. But in some cases (particularly Pennsylvania with Bob Casey Jr. and Wisconsin with Tammy Baldwin), they have well-known incumbents facing little-known Republican challengers with very deep pockets who will inevitably cut into their leads. In an intensely polarized atmosphere with a very close presidential race, Senate Democrats cannot count on much ticket-splitting in their favor. Yes, the Democratic Party will put up spirited challenges against well-financed Republican incumbents in Texas (where Colin Allred is challenging Ted Cruz) and Florida (where Muscarel-Powell is taking on Rick Scott), but the pickings are slim. One stumble anywhere and Chuck Schumer is minority leader, which would be a real problem for a reelected Joe Biden and a big advantage for a President Trump.

So you can expect national Democrats to watch every penny that goes into Senate races in order to avoid wastage, and individual Democratic Senate candidates to keep a healthy distance from the national party, which could have a subtly corrosive effect on coordinated campaigns and straight-ticket discipline. It will be a white-knuckle experience for all concerned.

 


Etelson and Flaccavento: How Dems Can Win Back Rural Voters

The following article, “It’s Not Too Late for Democrats to Win Back Rural Voters” by Erica Etelson and Anthony Flaccavento, is cross-posted from The Nation:

After three decades of increasingly steep losses in rural America, Democrats are finally beginning to grapple with an inconvenient truth: An enduring Democratic majority requires winning back some portion of persuadable rural working-class voters.

Both Republicans’ and Democrats’ neoliberal economic policies have been harmful—in some instances ruinous—to rural communities. The GOP, on the whole, has caused more economic pain—but it has also been the party that has acknowledged rural struggles and put the people who’ve been harmed at the center of their rhetoric. None more so than Donald Trump, who said, in 2016, “Every time you see a closed factory or a wiped out community in Ohio, it was essentially caused by the Clintons.”

Too many Democrats, meanwhile, have sounded either dismissive of or exasperated by rural people. In 2016, Chuck Schumer’s catastrophically cavalier strategy willfully sacrificed blue-collar rural voters in exchange (or so he’d hoped) for high-income suburbanites. As far as the Democratic establishment was concerned, non-college-educated rural voters should quit complaining and simply get a degree—ideally in coding—and join the knowledge economy. Such contempt for a large swath of America has resulted in the ongoing erosion of Democratic supportamong working-class white and non-white voters.

Joe Biden, more than any president in decades, has prioritized rural people with a remarkable set of pro-worker policies and major investments in rural economies and infrastructure. We believe that this record offers a foundation for Democrats at all levels to begin to win back working-class rural voters—while holding on to the party’s multiracial urban and suburban base.

In 2022, the Rural Urban Bridge Initiative (which we cofounded) interviewed 50 Democratic candidates, from 25 states, who ran in rural districts between 2016 and 2020. Though they didn’t all win office, they all significantly overperformed the partisan lean of their district or state.

Our questions to them boiled down to, “What was your secret sauce?” From their answers, we identified several key ingredients: First and foremost, successful candidates were highly attuned to the concerns of their would-be constituents. Instead of running on a cookie-cutter national Democratic platform, they focused on the things voters in their district cared about most—kitchen-table matters like jobs and the economy, alongside ultra-local problems such as lousy roads, underfunded hospitals, and spotty Internet access.

Overperforming candidates also eschewed Beltway political consultants in favor of campaign staffers rooted in the community. This made for authentic campaigns with local flavor. Former Maine state senator Chloe Maxmin, for example, deployed homemade yard signs that were a folksy departure from the typically soulless campaign placards that litter the landscape.

Rural overperformers did something else that’s unpopular within the progressive left but widely appreciated by rural swing voters: They didn’t demonize Trump, no matter how richly he deserved it. And they didn’t try to scare or pressure persuadable voters into seeing the GOP or MAGA as an existential threat to democracy. Such rhetoric is music to the base’s ears but falls flat with key constituencies, most worryingly youth and Latinos.

Guillermo Lopez, a board member of the Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, had this to say about Democrats’ hyping the MAGA threat to democracy: “I actually think that harms the vote.… [The average person who] just puts their nose to the grindstone and goes to work, I don’t think that motivates them. I think it scares them and freezes them.”

We’re with Lopez. Time spent enumerating and labeling Trump’s voluminous misconduct is time that could have been spent connecting with voters on what they care about most. We reserve judgment as to whether sounding the alarm about MAGA fascism appeals to disaffected or undecided urban and suburban voters, but we’re reasonably confident that this message does little to help rural candidates.

The superiority of depolarizing rhetoric is corroborated by a wide body of academic and poll-tested research documented in our full report. At the end of the day, the rural Democrats able to chip away at Republican strongholds were the ones who knew how to meet voters where they already were—not where they wished they were at. This sounds like Politics 101, but it’s a principle all too often cast aside by candidates and campaign consultants who spend too much time tuned in to MSNBC pundits and not enough listening to their own voters.

Democrats running in this cycle should study the 2022 campaigns of Representatives Mary Peltola, who won in solidly red Alaska, and Marie Glusenkamp Perez, who won Washington State’s Third Congressional District, which had been in Republican hands for six terms. Peltola ran on “Fish, Family, Freedom” and in her current reelection campaign calls on Alaskans to say “to hell with politics” and “work together to protect our Alaska way of life.”

Glusenkamp Perez won her 2022 race in large part because of her credibility as co-owner of an auto repair shop and her laser-sharp focus on issues her constituents prioritized, like the “right to repair” farming and other equipment. While some on the left are angry that she doesn’t toe the Democratic party line on every issue, her record shows her to be the kind of left-leaning populist who can win in rural districts. The Democratic Party would be wise to embrace socially moderate, economically and stylistically populist candidates like Glusenkamp Perez and Peltola as part of its coalition.

In the spirit of cross-racial populist solidarity, top-performing rural candidates put work and workers at the center of their policy and rhetoric, proposing a “hand up” rather than a “handout.” For the great majority of rural people, self-reliance—the wherewithal to solve our own problems and meet our own needs—is central to our identity. We don’t know a single farmer, conservative or liberal, who doesn’t feel this way. As Colby College rural political scholars Nick Jacobs and Dan Shea put it, “What rural residents want to hear is this: ‘Make it possible for us to improve our communities ourselves.’”

Rural residents might be disproportionately dependent on some form of government transfer payment, but they don’t like it. Farah Stockman, author of American Made: What Happens to People When Work Disappears, wrote, “Too often, those who champion the working class speak only of social safety nets, not the jobs that anchor a working person’s identity.” The key is in the delivery, ensuring that local communities can adapt and drive these investments rather than trying to implement ill-suited, top-down mandates.

The Biden administration’s aggressive anti-trust actions combined with rule changes favoring workers and organized labor are critical steps in giving non-college-educated working people agency. Its investments in rural infrastructure and manufacturing are essential as well.

Likewise, the Biden campaign’s decision to hire a rural coordinator bodes well. But that coordinator’s efficacy will be orders of magnitude greater if they hire a small army of locally rooted staff who know how to make a national campaign relevant and resonant for rural voters.

While Democrats will not “win” rural America in 2024, they can and must run up the margins with rural voters—a third of whom are considered persuadable—if they are to keep the presidency and control Congress and statehouses. Because it turns out the secret sauce isn’t that complicated: Find out what’s most important to persuadable rural people, and focus on that. That’s the only recipe worth cooking.


Political Strategy Notes

In “Biden’s surprise proposal to debate Trump early, explained,” Andrew Prokop explains at Vox: “Biden’s proposal for a June debate is surprising, since every presidential debate has been in September or October. We don’t know exactly what the campaign is thinking, but there are a few likely considerations.

  1. Biden is trailing in the polls right now, and usually, the trailing candidate wants to shake up the status quo somehow.
  2. Biden’s team wants to frame the election as a choice between him and Trump, rather than just a referendum on his job performance. A debate would clearly do that, putting them side by side and making clear that it really is either him or Trump.
  3. His team may hope that if Biden performs well, he could quiet voters’ concerns about his age and mental fitness.
  4. If a June debate does go poorly for Biden, there will still be ample time for him to recover. And even if Biden flops in September, too, the campaign would continue throughout October, giving time for voters’ attention to shift to other things.

RFK Jr. likely won’t be invited to the first debate: Another big question hanging over this year’s potential debates is whether third-party or independent candidates would be included — most notably, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who neither Biden nor Trump want onstage….CNN announced qualification rules for the June debate that would make it extremely difficult for RFK Jr. to qualify by then….The network said candidates must hit 15 percent in at least four national polls from approved outlets by June 20. That’s the traditional standard used for general election presidential debates. RFK Jr. has been polling at about 10 percent nationally, which is below the threshold but not too far below it….The catch, though, is that CNN also said the candidate must qualify for the ballot in states that added up to 270 electoral votes. According to Politico, RFK Jr. is currently on the ballot in only four states, and though his team’s effort to qualify in others has been going better than expected, it likely wouldn’t happen soon enough for the late June debate.”

Bill Scher writes that “Trump Promised 100% Tariffs on Chinese EVs. Biden Did It. Will It Work?at The Washington Monthly. He explains further, “The big political news today, as was the case yesterday, is Michael Cohen’s testimony in the Donald Trump hush money trial….The big policy news today is Joe Biden slapping stiff tariffs on a wide range of Chinese imports, including a striking 100 percent tariff on electric vehicles (EVs), up from 27.5 percent. You can read the White House announcement here….Is this policy a good idea? Is it crude protectionism in the mold of Trump? Is it honorably standing up for American workers? Will it help or hurt the transition to a clean energy economy? President Biden said, “”American workers can out-work and out-compete anyone as long as the competition is fair, but for too long it hasn’t been fair,” Biden said during a speech in the White House Rose Garden before unions and companies. “We’re not going to let China flood our market,” Trevor Hunnicutt and Steve Holland report at Reuters. They add that “Biden will keep tariffs put in place by his Republican predecessor Donald Trump while ratcheting up others, including a quadrupling of EV duties to over 100% and doubling the duties on semiconductor tariffs to 50%….The new measures affect $18 billion in imported Chinese goods including steel and aluminum, semiconductors, electric vehicles, critical minerals, solar cells and cranes, the White House said. The EV figure, while headline-grabbing, may have more political than practical impact in the U.S., which imports very few Chinese EVs….The United States imported $427 billion in goods from China in 2023 and exported $148 billion to the world’s No. 2 economy, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, a trade gap that has persisted for decades and become an ever more sensitive subject in Washington….Biden has struggled to convince voters of the efficacy of his economic policies despite a backdrop of low unemployment and above-trend economic growth. A Reuters/Ipsos poll last month showed Trump had a 7 percentage-point edge over Biden on the economy.” Jonathan Yerushalmy notes at The Guardian that “experts say that the new tariffs are likely a preventive measure to stop China flooding the US market with its surplus product – and by that measure they’re likely to be effective.”

In related economic news, Chris Marquette writes at Politico that “President Joe Biden’s surrogates will crisscross the country this week talking up the hundreds of billions he’s pumping into projects such as roads, clean energy, drinking water and broadband — an effort designed to draw a sharp contrast with his predecessor’s series of ineffectual “infrastructure weeks.” However, “recent polls — including one published last week by POLITICO and Morning Consult — show the message has been slow to sink in with voters. And a POLITICO analysis of the implementation of Biden’s four landmark infrastructure, climate, technology and pandemic-relief laws found that only 17 percent of the $1.1 trillion in funding that Congress provided has been spent to date, thanks in part to the time it takes to vet, approve and move so much money through myriad federal agencies, state governments and private recipients….Infrastructure Week, which begins Monday, was already an annual industry gathering and Washington lobbying fly-in before Trump’s administration borrowed the name for its unsuccessful attempts to pitch a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan that would have offered little new federal funding. Now, Biden’s White House is embracing the real event — and dispatching stand-ins such as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, senior White House adviser Tom Perez and acting Labor Secretary Julie Su to appearances around the country….According to the new POLITICO-Morning Consult poll, many voters aren’t that familiar with the laws and don’t see the benefits in their lives yet. And, perhaps most ominously for the White House before an election, respondents gave Biden only a 3 percentage-point advantage over Trump when asked who was more responsible for improving America’s infrastructure and creating jobs.”

Political commentators who still argue that Democrats should basically ‘skip the south’ have some ‘splainin’ to do in light of newly released demographic data. At Axios, Alex Fitzpatrick observes “Atlanta, Fort Worth and Raleigh are America’s fastest-growing cities with more than 250,000 residents as of 2023, according to new U.S. Census Bureau data out today….Why it matters: Late-pandemic shifts in where Americans live are still shaking out — with big implications for cities seeing massive growth or rapid decline….By the numbers: Atlanta grew by 2.42% between 2022 and 2023, and now has 510,823 residents….Fort Worth grew by 2.23% with 978,468 residents in 2023, and Raleigh grew by 1.87%, with 482,295 residents….Losers: New Orleans (shrank -1.56%, to 364,136 residents), St. Louis (-1.55%, to 281,754 residents) and Philadelphia (-1.04%, to 1,550,542 residents)….The big picture: Southern cities dominate the list of the fastest-growing big metros, with Florida and Texas alone accounting for eight of the top 20….Between the lines: Some of America’s fastest-growing places are not cities themselves, but their outer suburbs, or “exurbs.”….”Fewer of the fastest-growing places between 2022 and 2023 were inner suburbs than in 2019 … and more were on the far outskirts of metro areas — 30, 40 and even more than 60 miles away from the largest city’s downtown,” according to a Census Bureau analysis….That’s a particularly pronounced phenomenon in the Phoenix metro area, where four exurbs made up a third of the broader area’s population growth in 2023, the Bureau says.” For 2024, Pennsylvania remains the largest swing state in terms of electoral votes – unless Biden pulls off a Florida miracle. But given these numbers, Democrats clearly have to look southward for longer-term strategy in presidential elections.


Will Chicago Protesters Be Thwarted By Another “Virtual Convention?”

As an old Democratic convention hand, I’m fascinated by these archaic events, and am particularly interested in plans to make Chicago ’24 feel like Chicago ’68. I explained at New York why that may not work.

The recent wave of pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses has conjured up many nostalgic images of anti–Vietnam War activism, some (as at Columbia University) self-consciously promoted by protesters whose parents weren’t yet born when those antiwar rallies convulsed the country. The legendary size and influence of the venerable Vietnam War protests is both an aspiration and an inspiration for today’s activists. So it’s not in the least bit surprising that plans are underway for large protests at the 2024 Democratic National Convention in Chicago as a sort of homage to the huge and violently suppressed demonstrations at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and as the climax of months of protests principally aimed at Joe Biden’s support for Israel’s war in Gaza.

Such protests, of course, are extremely unwelcome to the Democratic pols planning the August convention. Aside from disturbing the desired harmony of the quadrennial gathering, which will be counted upon by Team Biden to generate a crucial burst of momentum heading toward November, signs of disorder will play into Republican law-and-order rhetoric, just as they did in 1968. One stratagem convention planners reportedly may use is to reduce the number of targets for demonstrators by holding certain key events virtually, as Democrats did in 2020, Politico reports:

“Trumpeting the success of their Covid-era convention four years ago, some in Biden’s orbit are aggressively pushing to make the 2024 conclave a hybrid production. That would mean in-person speeches from the president, party luminaries and rising stars to draw television attention alongside a mix of pre-recorded testimonials and videos from other parts of the country.

“The goal: drive maximum viewership on television and the internet while minimizing live programming and openings for protest in Chicago’s United Center. This would mean moving party business, such as rules and platform votes, off the floor and denying would-be demonstrators a chance to seize on contentious debates.”

Decentralizing convention events or even moving them out of Chicago would frustrate the hopes of protesters for a dramatic 1968-style confrontation in close proximity to delegates, party officials, and Joe Biden himself. As protest planners have made clear, they want to be within “sight and sound of the DNC” and share in its media coverage. Dispersed and recorded convention events will make that more difficult.

If convention planners do move in this direction, it will undoubtedly spur complaints that Team Biden and other Democratic wire-pullers are suppressing dissent in order to paper over very real internal party differences over U.S. support for Israel’s war in Gaza. Indeed, those complainers might include the progressive mayor of the host city, Brandon Johnson, who has been jockeying with Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker and national law-enforcement and political figures for control over preparations, as Politico notes:

“’If there’s any mayor that understands the value of protest and demonstration, it’s me,’ Johnson told reporters earlier this week at a groundbreaking, dismissing a question about Sen. Dick Durbin’s (D-Ill.) concerns over unrest in the city during the convention. Johnson said, ‘Without protests and real demands of a government, people of color and women do not have a place in society.’”

What these disputes over parade permits and demonstration sites may obscure, however, is the extent to which the old-school convention staging that protesters crave had already become painfully obsolete before the pandemic conditions of 2020 made junking them obligatory. Comparisons to the 1968 Democratic convention should suffice to make it clear how very much has changed since then in ways that make a three-to-four-day live event with debates and deliberations absurd.

In 1968, there was still some doubt eventual nominee Hubert H. Humphrey (who did not enter a single presidential primary) would win the prize when the opening gavel fell, and many delegates and delegations were free to push the party in a different direction. Three other active candidates (including future Democratic nominee George McGovern) had their names placed in nomination. In 2024, every delegate will be either a product of the primaries (all won by Biden other than in American Samoa) or an ex officio delegate from the Democratic Establishment (i.e., membership in the DNC or in major elected office). All but six delegates will likely be pledged to Biden. The rituals of nomination speeches and roll-call votes are entirely empty beyond their value as Biden infomercials, like the entire convention itself.

An emotional high point of the 1968 convention that connected the convention hall with the protests on the street was the intense debate over competing Vietnam planks. When the antiwar plank lost, the New York delegation put on black armbands and sang “We Shall Overcome” as cameras whirred. Nowadays, platform disputes rarely occur, and when they do, they are invariably resolved before the convention, with the presumptive nominee determining the outcome.

And finally, the 1968 Democratic convention was among the last to be given “gavel-to-gavel coverage” by what were then three dominant broadcast television networks. Now, coverage of conventions is widely dispersed among media and mostly very condensed. There’s simply very little news value in prefab “deliberations” that aren’t deliberative at all.

So if the Hamas attacks of October 7, the Israeli invasion of Gaza, and U.S. support for Israel’s conduct of the war had never happened, Democrats would have been fully justified in refusing to go back to a pre-pandemic model of conventions that no longer make any sense. Indeed, some of us publicly hoped that conventions as we knew them would die a natural death once Democrats made the leap to a purely artificial, made-for-TV event that wasn’t held at all in the supposed host city of Milwaukee. Now, thanks to the struggle for and against the right to protest at the DNC, we could, ironically, see young antiwar protesters champion a return to the baby-boomer era of national political conventions, even as Old Joe Biden and his team try to move things along into the present and future.


Eleveld: Biden Campaign Must Engage Low-Attention Voters

Kerry Eleveld has some encouraging words for Democrats in his post, “The more voters know, the more they like Joe Biden at Daily Kos. As Eleveld write:

New York Times political analyst Nate Cohn made an astute observation about a new Siena poll, which showed President Joe Biden trailing Donald Trump in most battleground states….  “If there’s any consolation [for Biden], it’s that the poll is also littered with evidence that folks aren’t super tuned in, and disengaged voters remain Biden’s weakness,” Cohn tweeted.

It’s an insight that will likely define the presidential contest moving forward.

Eleveld gets down to the data:

In the survey, for example, just 29% of registered voters said they are closely following the legal cases against Donald Trump. That means that less than one-third of voters are paying “a lot of attention” to the ongoing trial of a former president who will almost assuredly be the Republican nominee in the 2024 election….Rosenberg cites a recent Ipsos poll for ABC News, where Biden trails Trump among adults, 44% to 46%, but bests him by a point among registered voters, 46% to 45%. And Biden takes a 4-point lead among likely voters, 49% to 45%. A Marist poll for NPR and PBS NewsHour made a similar finding, with Biden running just 2 points ahead of Trump with registered voters, 50% to 48%, but opening up a 5-point lead among likely voters, 51% to 46%….John Della Volpe, director of polling at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics, made the same observation about voters ages 18 to 29 in the Siena battleground poll. Among registered youth voters, Biden trails Trump by 3 points, but among likely youth voters, Biden leads by 7 points—a net turnaround of 10 points in the direction of Biden….The Siena poll also included about 20% of respondents who either didn’t vote in 2020 or who did vote in 2020 but skipped the 2022 midterms….In an interview with Greg Sargent on “The Daily Blast” podcast, Biden pollster Jefrey Pollock said undecided voters make up anywhere from 10% to 15% of the electorate depending on the state, “which is actually rather large.” Those voters are disproportionately young, Black, and Latino….Pollock cited Nevada where, every two years, about 25% of the electorate consists of voters who have never before cast a ballot in an election.

The interpretation:

The ancillary to Cohn’s observation is that Biden performs better among high information, high propensity voters—or likely voters—a point veteran Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg has been making for weeks now. A pattern has begun to emerge where Biden performs increasingly better as polling models move from “adults” to “registered voters” to “likely voters.”….”That’s what makes Nevada so interesting and challenging but also as movable as it is,” Pollock explained. “You’ve got these voters who don’t really pay attention to politics, who are just getting into the political scene.”….They are going to pay attention to the election much later, Pollock said. “You have to force your way into their lives,” he explained, because they are more concerned with their kids’ activities, making sure they have health care, and simply paying their bills….”We have to force them to pay attention to politics. It’s why advertising and campaigns mean so much, particularly in those closing months, because we really do have to find ways to get into those houses,” he said.

Weighed against the preponderance of data indicating Biden has a very substantial lag in the polls to reduce during the next six months, this take may seem unduly optimistic. But, as Eleveld notes in one of his concluding paragraphs, “Biden certainly has the resources and the campaign to help address that information deficit, but whether or not his campaign manages to reach and persuade those voters remains to be seen.”