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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Vote Blue! No Matter Who.

VOTE BLUE.

No matter who.

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Vote Blue No Matter Who bumper sticker

Vote Blue!

No Matter Who!

“Vote Blue, No Matter Who” do-it-yourself t-shirts and bumper stickers–just call your local, unionized print shop and ask for an estimate. They can contact editors@thedemocraticstrategist.org for the artwork.

Vote Blue! No Matter Who.

VOTE BLUE!

No Matter Who.

“Vote Blue, No Matter Who” do-it-yourself t-shirts and bumper stickers–just call your local, unionized print shop and ask for an estimate. They can contact editors@thedemocraticstrategist.org for the artwork.

Vote Blue No Matter Who bumper sticker

Vote Blue

No matter who.

“Vote Blue, No Matter Who” do-it-yourself t-shirts and bumper stickers–just call your local, unionized print shop and ask for an estimate. They can contact editors@thedemocraticstrategist.org for the artwork.

RIP GOP book by Stanley Greenberg

R.I.P. G.O.P.

You can find out more about the return to progressive politics from our founder Stanley Greenberg in his new book!

Pre-Order Now.

The Daily Strategist

November 14, 2019

House Democrats Must Decide Scope of Impeachment Proceedings

During this momentous week in Washington, a critical question came up that I discussed at New York:

Now that Nancy Pelosi has set House Democrats firmly and (probably) irreversibly on the road to impeaching Donald Trump, she and they must make the fateful decision about which examples of misconduct to prosecute. As Lawfare observes today, Trump’s behavior “presents what the military calls a target-rich environment.” Should they go wide and include various high crimes and misdemeanors? Or go narrow and stick to the latest and hottest controversy, i.e., the president’s petitioning a foreign government to help his administration smear a political enemy?

Already, people are weighing in:

And from longtime impeachment enthusiast Brian Beutler, this dissent from the idea of single-issue impeachment:

It’s a little hard to determine exactly where Pelosi is. Multiple outlets are reporting that she wants the House to narrowly focus on Trump’s Ukraine gambit. Here’s how Politico has heard it:

“The strategy, described by Democratic lawmakers and aides familiar with the talks, would center on streamlining the consideration of articles of impeachment to focus exclusively on Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden — a push they say included an implicit threat to withhold military aid to the eastern European country….

“’This has clarity and understanding in the eyes of the American people,’ Pelosi told her leadership team, according to a source with knowledge of the meeting.”

But then the very next sentence of Pelosi’s quote undermines the idea of staying narrow: “If we do articles, then we can include other things.”

“Articles” means “articles of impeachment,” presumably the endgame for House Democrats at this point. So perhaps Pelosi wants to begin with hearings focused on Ukraine, see how it goes, and then consider broadening the scope of impeachment articles before taking the final leap. Nobody really knows at this point.

The author also thinks that pursuing Trumpian malfeasance before he became president would create an unhelpful side dispute as to whether actions as a private citizen can be impeachable.

That doesn’t mean the “crisp and clear” approach requires a narrow scope: Lawfare recommends four major areas of inquiry beyond the Ukraine scandal: (1) obstruction of justice (as shown by Mueller and others); (2) use of law-enforcement resources to attack or punish political opponents; (3) obstruction of lawful congressional investigations and oversight; and, my personal favorite, Trump’s habit of lying:

“The 1974 article of impeachment concerning Nixon’s obstruction of justice also noted his lies to the public about the Watergate investigation: Nixon, the Judiciary Committee charged, made ‘false or misleading public statements for the purpose of deceiving the people of the United States into believing that a thorough and complete investigation had been conducted’ on the Watergate matter and that White House and Nixon campaign officials had no involvement in the burglary. Kenneth Starr also suggested an article of impeachment against Clinton for ‘mis[leading] the American people,’ though Congress declined to adopt this article. Trump has rather outdone prior presidents in the lies department. The Washington Post ‘Fact Checker’ database of presidential dissembling as of Aug. 5 had documented 12,019 “false or misleading statements” by Trump since he took office. The Mueller report documents multiple instances in which the president and administration officials speaking on his behalf knowingly lied to the public. His tenure has genuinely posed the question of whether the president has any obligation at all to tell the truth about anything—ever. His presidency is, among other things, advancing the proposition that the idea of “faithful” execution of the law implies no duty of candor at all.”

So even if the House impeachment inquiry in its next, more purposeful phase begins with a narrow focus on the latest Trumpian outrage, you have to figure it will eventually broaden to include some of the lowlights of this president’s low behavior — unless the Ukraine scandal has the kind of yet-to-be-revealed details that will get a majority of the public behind impeachment. Since the odds of the Senate’s actually convicting the president are virtually nil, impeachment might still damage the president’s credibility enough to make his ejection from office by the public very likely.


Teixeira: Can Dems Win GA in 2020?

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

Can the Democratic Nominee Win Georgia in 2020?

It’s certainly possible. Stacey Abrams recently released a lengthy memo on how she thinks this could be accomplished in 2020. It’s worth reading and has a lot of interesting data in it.

Abrams’ summary:

“1. Georgia is competitive up and down the ballot. With a diverse, growing population and rapidly changing electorate, Georgia is not a future opportunity for Democrats; it is a necessity right now.
2. The Abrams strategy provides a blueprint for Democratic victory up and down the ballot in 2020. By expanding the electorate and delivering a clear, values-based message to all voters, Democrats are poised to win Georgia in 2020.
3. Large national and local investments can unleash Georgia’s potential. By investing big and investing early in registration, organizing, and turnout, Democrats can further change Georgia’s electorate and maximize turnout among voters of color and Democratic-leaning white voters.
4. Democrats must reject false choices and apply an evidenced-based approach in Georgia and beyond. We do not lose winnable white voters because we engage communities of color. We do not lose urban votes because we campaign in rural areas.
5. Georgia is every bit as competitive as perennial battleground states. With one of the youngest and the most African American electorate of any competitive state, Georgia has demographic advantages that don’t exist in other states.”

I’m probably not quite as optimistic as Abrams and less convinced it’s as accessible to the Democrats as Michigan, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin (or Arizona for that matter). But I agree with her that the state is definitely worth a serious effort in 2020. Here’s my take on the various challenges involved. (All estimates by demographic group and simulated election outcomes based on States of Change data.)

Trump won Georgia by 5 points in 2016. This was a decline from Romney’s 8-point victory in 2012, making the trend in the state similar to that in Arizona and Texas. Democrats hope to build on this trend and make the state even closer in 2020.

Democrats had a fairly good election in Georgia in 2018, if not quite as good as in a number of other swing states. They lost the House popular vote by slightly less than 5 points but they did flip one GOP-held House seat. The Democrats also flipped a net of 13 state legislative seats from the GOP. But they lost the marquee governor’s race in the state, as Democrat Stacey Abrams fell just 1.4 points of defeating Republican Brian Kemp. This was the best performance by a Democrat in a Georgia governor’s race in this century.

These trends make the Democrats hopeful they can take the state in 2020. But the fact that the state has gotten no closer than 5 points in the last three elections makes the Trump campaign believe they can hold the line. Adding to this confidence, Trump is currently running a negative net approval rating in the state of -2, not great, but still better than in a lot of other 2020 swing states.

Georgia’s large nonwhite population—38 percent of the state’s voters in 2016—is dominated by Blacks. Blacks were 31 percent of the voting electorate, compared to 3 percent for Hispanics and just under 4 percent for Asians/other race. These groups supported Clinton by 76, 17 and 6 points, respectively, Georgia’s white college graduates, 25 percent of voters, strongly supported Trump by 24 points, 59-35 percent. But white non-college voters were even stronger in their support, giving him a lop-sided 63-point margin, 80-17.

States of Change estimates indicate that white non-college eligible voters in 2020 should decline by almost 2 points relative to 2016, while white college graduates should remain roughly stable. Black eligible voters should increase by almost a point, as should Hispanics, while Asians/other race should increase by half a point. These underlying demographic changes are enough to knock almost 2 points off the Democratic candidate’s projected disadvantage in 2020, all 2016 voting patterns remaining the same.

Given the relative closeness of Trump’s victory in 2016 plus the Democrats’ projected bonus from demographic change, Trump will seek to go beyond holding his 2016 levels of support from various demographic groups. Perhaps it’s a bit much to ask to increase his margin among white non-college voters over his already mammoth 63-point advantage. But white college voters were also strong for him and if he increased his margin among them by 10 points that would project to a 6-point victory in 2020.

For the Democratic candidate, the Black vote in Georgia will loom large. If the Democratic candidate could get Black turnout back to 2012 levels that would move the race within one and a half points of victory, all else equal. And if both Black turnout and support matched 2012 levels, that would actually produce a narrow victory. A 10-point pro-Democratic margin shift among white college grads would be similar in effect to the increased Black turnout scenario—narrowing the gap but not quite producing victory—while shaving Trump’s immense white non-college margin by 10 points would, in and of itself, project to a very close Democratic victory.


Dems Should Spotlight How Trump’s Junk Insurance Screws His Supporters

Zeke Faux, Polly Mosendz, and John Tozzi have a Bloomberg Businessweek post, “Health Insurance That Doesn’t Cover the Bills Has Flooded the Market Under Trump: The administration’s moves to weaken the Affordable Care Act have taken hold, and companies are cashing in,” which Democrats can leverage to weaken Trump’s base.

Not that the hardest-core Trump supporters will care that much – they vote their resentments over their interests already. But the revelations of the Bloomberg article are so devastating that it should give pause to whatever remaining voters in his base are concerned about their health security. Noting that Obamacare “bars insurers from capping coverage, canceling it retroactively, or turning away people with preexisting conditions,” the authors write,

But the law includes an exemption for short-term plans that serve as a stopgap for people between jobs. The Trump administration, thwarted in its attempts to overturn the ACA, has widened that loophole by stretching the definition of “short-term” from three months to a year, with the option of renewing for as long as three years.

Fewer than 100,000 people had such plans at the end of last year, according to state insurance regulators, but the Trump administration says that number will jump by 600,000 in 2019 as a result of the changes. Some brokers are taking advantage, selling plans so skimpy that they offer no meaningful coverage. And Health Insurance Innovations is at the center of the market. In interviews, lawsuits, and complaints to regulators, dozens of its customers say they were tricked into buying plans they didn’t realize were substandard until they were stuck with surprise bills. The company denies responsibility for any such incidents, saying it’s a technology platform that helps people find affordable policies through reputable agents.

The authors note the experience of the Diaz family, a Phoenix couple with a moderate income who had one of these ‘junk insurance’ policies, expected to pay a modest deductable, but ended up with an out-of-pocket bill for $244,447.91, following the husband’s heart attack. Faux, Mosendz and Tozzi continue:

The ACA was designed around a fundamental economic bargain: Insurance companies would no longer be allowed to deny coverage to people who were already sick, and policies would have to cover a broad set of benefits, including prescription drugs, maternity care, and hospitalization. In return insurers were guaranteed that consumers would buy coverage or face tax penalties, and that subsidies would be available for people who needed them. The approach spread the financial risk of getting sick and aimed to guarantee that no one with insurance would have to worry about being bankrupted by necessary care. Preserving the bargain was essential, though; too many exceptions, and the edifice would crumble.

When the Republican-controlled Senate failed in 2017 to pass Trump-backed legislation that would have gutted the ACA, the administration instead seized on the loophole allowing consumers to buy certain noncompliant plans. Trump used an executive order to extend the time limit for temporary plans, which he and other Republicans talked up as a potential solution for cash-strapped consumers. Healthy people, they argued, could save money by buying policies that didn’t cover perceived nonessentials. “These plans aren’t for everyone, but they can provide a much more affordable option for millions of the forgotten men and women left out by the current system,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in August 2018.

By then, the ACA system was already wobbling. Aetna Inc. and some other big insurers had been dropping off the state exchanges created for consumers to buy compliant plans, leaving a void that “junk insurers,” as critics tagged them, rushed to fill. A recent study by Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute, showed that ads for such plans often appeared at the top of internet searches for the government-run marketplaces. Health insurance also became the most common product pitched in robocalls—responsible, according to call-blocking service YouMail, for 387 million calls this April alone.

The article goes on to detail how the Phoenix couple, who were inexperienced and unaware of the complexities of health insurance options, took the sales pitch of the insurer in good faith. The couple believed that the plan they bought was comprehensive. But when the bills began arriving, only then did they learn:

The Everest plan didn’t cover preexisting conditions, limited the number of doctor visits, and capped hospital coverage at $1,000 a day. It allowed a maximum of $250 per emergency room visit and $5,000 per surgery, not nearly enough to cover the usual cost of those services. Most benefits didn’t kick in until the $7,500 deductible was met. And the listed maximum total payout of $750,000 was misleading: It didn’t mean the Diazes’ bills would be covered up to that amount after they paid the deductible; it just meant that if Marisia underwent, say, 150 surgeries, she could get $5,000 for each, leaving her to cover millions of dollars in additional bills.

The Diaz family has filed a lawsuit, which could take years to resolve. Meanwhile they have to live with the uncertainty and stress that comes with the very real possibility of bankruptsy, threatening bill  collectors and reductions in their already modest disposable income. They are not alone, as the authors write:

Similar stories aren’t hard to find. Complaints to the Federal Trade Commission obtained by Businessweek via the Freedom of Information Act detail numerous cases of HIIQ customers buying medical insurance they believed was comprehensive, then having their claims rejected or barely paid out. “I feel me really dumb,” wrote one person who’d found out her ADHD medication wasn’t covered. Another customer said she was reminded of the John Grisham novel The Rainmaker, in which an insurance company has a policy of rejecting every claim. Trudy Slawson, a 65-year-old in Great Falls, Mont., who bought an HIIQ-administered plan in 2016, thought she had comprehensive coverage until getting a surprise bill for $60,000 after her husband’s emergency gallbladder removal. The insurer paid only $100. “I believed what they were telling me,” she says.

Some brokers who’ve worked with HIIQ have run into trouble with regulators. The Massachusetts attorney general is investigating HIIQ and at least one brokerage that formerly sold for the company over what she calls misleading tactics. “You sell bad products to people under false terms,” an anonymous reviewer on indeed.com wrote of the brokerage. “You get paid well if you scam enough people.”

HIIQ doesn’t directly employ brokers, but the company says it goes to great lengths to ensure that agents are honest with customers, including by providing training, running background checks, conducting site visits, and staging phone calls from secret shoppers. Those who break the rules can be kicked off the platform. “HIIQ has diligent vetting and effective ongoing compliance monitoring,” Elizabeth Locke, an attorney representing the company, wrote in a letter to Businessweek. Last year, HIIQ settled a 43-state investigation into broker sales practices by agreeing to pay $3 million and monitor salespeople more closely, without admitting wrongdoing.

A recent FTC lawsuit raised further questions about how closely the company has been watching its brokers. Filed in November 2018 in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, the suit sought to shut down a group of boiler rooms run by a flashy 35-year-old named Steven Dorfman. The FTC said he’d swindled tens of thousands of people out of more than $100 million by passing off “sham” insurance policies as comprehensive health insurance, spending the profits on private jet flights, a white Lamborghini Aventador, a black Rolls-Royce Wraith, and a $300,000 wedding in Bal Harbour, Fla. One former customer service manager told the commission that Dorfman’s operation fielded as many as 3,000 complaints a day.

Multiply these examples by thousands, and you begin to get a painful sense of the daily cost of junk insurance all across America. This is the Trump/GOP “alternative” to strenghtening Obamacare, a swindler’s paradise and a nightmare for all working people who make the mistake of buying one of these junk policies.

“On June 14,” the authors note, ” Trump held a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden to announce a new policy that lets employers steer as much as $1,800 in tax-exempt funds to their employees instead of offering them comprehensive health plans.”

Trump, the Republicans and their insurance company contributors have built their phony ‘alternative’ on the dubious proposition that all health care consumers have the time, inclination and ability to analyze  all of the complex, small print provisions that limit coverage, compare it to dozens of other policies, and decide what is best for their family. It’s the myth of the fully-educated health care consumer with oodles of free time made universal. “Why of course, everyone in the glorious free market will fully understand everything in their trust-worthy insurance policies.”

It will continue to get worse as long as Trump is president and Republicans control the senate. The only political remedy for preventing further such disasters on a massive scale is a public option alternative to private insurers. Medicare for anyone who wants it is a credible beginning, a first step toward real health security for every American. Only one political party stands for that, and Democrats now have to make the sale.


Political Strategy Notes

“Younger voters have typically turned out at lower rates than other demographic groups in elections, but they defied expectations in the 2018 midterms, with a 16-point jump in voting by 18- to 29-year-olds compared to the 2014 election, according to census data,” , report Julia Manchester and Rebecca Klar at The Hill. “Overall, 36 percent of voters in that age group cast a ballot last year, compared to 20 percent in 2014. Analysts believe a similar number or higher during a presidential year could make the difference in a race that President Trump won last time around by just a few percentage points in several key battleground states…Democratic presidential contenders have thus ramped up their pitches to young voters through frequent visits to college campuses and an increased presence on social media. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), for example, kicked off a tour of universities at historically black colleges this week.”

“These groups believe this time around it could be different, potentially changing the scope of elections because of the sheer size of the groups being targeted,” Manchester and Klar note. “More than 75 million people are considered millennials, according to Brookings, while around a quarter of the U.S. population is seen as belonging to Gen Z, or roughly 82 million…That makes them a potentially powerful electoral force and a boon to Democrats — should they succeed in winning them over…“Millennials and Gen Z will comprise nearly 40 percent of the electorate next year,” DeWitt said, “which is incredible power to decide who wins elections, both at the local level and at the federal and presidential level as well.”

James Arkin writes at Politico, “To take back the White House, Democrats only need to win back three key Rust Belt states. But if they want to move a president’s agenda through the Senate, they have to flip the Sun Belt…From Arizona to North Carolina to a pair of seats in Georgia, Democrats have to clean up in that stretch of the country to have any chance of taking the chamber…”I think there’s both a Rust Belt and Sun Belt strategy that are not incompatible at all,” said Joe Trippi, a Democratic strategist who has worked on presidential and Senate campaigns. He pointed to the party’s gains among suburban women, in particular, as something that occurred across regions. “There are several places in both the Sun Belt and Rust Belt where they could make the difference…Priorities USA, a top Democratic Super PAC, lists the three Rust Belt states as among their core battlegrounds for 2020, and has Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina among possible expansion states. Guy Cecil, the group’s chairman, pointed to the overlap between expansion states and Senate races at a briefing for reporters Monday and said they would take a “serious look” at potentially investing in these states because of the Senate. He said North Carolina and Arizona should be on “everyone’s target list,” and that there would be “robust conversations” around Georgia.”

Some stats on the “middle class” from Kathleeen Elkins at cnbc.com: “According to a 2018 report from the Pew Research Center, 52% of American adults live in “middle class” households. The median income of that group was $78,442 in 2016…Pew defines the middle class as adults whose annual household income is two-thirds to double the national median. That’s after incomes have been adjusted for household size, since smaller households require less money to support the same lifestyle as larger ones…About one-fifth of American households, 19%, are considered upper class, while 29% are lower class. The median income of upper class households was $187,872 in 2016. For lower income households, it was $25,624…These numbers are in 2016 dollars and scaled to reflect a three-person household…Use Pew’s income calculator to find out which group you are in, compared to other adults in your metro and among American adults overall. It also lets you find out which group you’re in compared with other adults similar to you in education, age, race or ethnicity and marital status” and size of household. “The metro with the highest share is Sheboygan, Wisconsin, where 65% of adults are considered middle class.”

Also at The Hill, Chris Mills Rodrigo reports, “Progressive organization Way to Win plans to invest $50 million to help the Democratic Party in the Sun Belt, the Associated Press reported Sunday…An advance copy of the group’s blueprint obtained by AP details a strategy to help Democrats in Georgia, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Virginia and North Carolina, where the party hopes to make inroads with people of color, women and young people…Way to Win previously spent $22 million during the 2018 midterm season…“2020 is a race to drive up the most new voters possible. Our job is driving forward the new electorate in the South and Southwest.”

It looks like Elizabeth Warren going to  avoid HRC’s mistake of not showing up in white working-class communities in the midwest. As Natasha Dado reports in “Elizabeth Warren protests with striking UAW members at GM Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant” at clickondetroit.com: “Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, protested with General Motors workers Sunday, expressing solidarity with them…Warren participated in a “Solidarity Sunday” protest at the GM Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant. Large crowds packed the Detroit-based plant Sunday and marched alongside Warren…She thanked UAW members for standing up for the rights of workers. “I know this is hard to do without your paycheck. This is the time when we find out who people are. You do well, American workers do well across the country. Lets be clear, unions built America’s middle class,” Warren said.”

In his Wall St. Journal article, “U.S. Voters Support Expanding Medicare but Not Eliminating Private Health Insurance” John McCormick reports: “Two-thirds of registered voters support letting anyone buy into Medicare, similar to an idea that former Vice President Joe Biden and some other Democratic candidates have proposed. Two-thirds say that young adults brought to the U.S. illegally should be allowed to stay, an idea broadly supported by the party’s presidential field. Nearly 60% of registered voters support making tuition free at state colleges and universities…But several other ideas backed by majorities of Democratic voters and some of the party’s 2020 candidates draw significant opposition from the electorate overall, the new poll finds…Some 56% of registered voters oppose a Medicare for All plan that would replace private insurance, as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and some others have proposed, while 57% oppose the idea of immediately canceling student-loan debt for all borrowers. Mr. Sanders also has proposed the latter, while Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren backs it with limits…government-sponsored health care to undocumented immigrants was the least popular among the broader electorate, with 62% rejecting it.”

“Asked about two leading health-care proposals that have divided the Democratic presidential field,” McCormick continues, “the party’s primary voters mostly favored the idea of allowing people under age 65 to buy into Medicare, just like they might buy private insurance. Some 78% supported that idea, while 63% backed Medicare for All, which would replace private insurance with a government plan…Of three proposals to make college more affordable, the most popular in the survey was the idea of income-based repayment, a policy in existing law and backed by former President Barack Obama in which borrowers devote a fixed amount of their income to student-debt repayment, with the unpaid balance forgiven after a certain number of years…Just 15% of registered Democrats in the poll say their economic situation is getting better, while 68% of Republicans feel that way. Half of those in rural areas say they’re gaining economically, compared with just over a third of urban residents.”

E. J. Dionne, Jr. explains why “Why Trump gets away with everything” in his syndicated WaPo column: “Here we have a whistleblower from the intelligence community who, as The Washington Post reported, found a “promise” that President Trump made to a foreign leader “so alarming” that the “official who had worked at the White House went to the inspector general of the intelligence community.”…the White House and Justice Department are stonewalling, thus ripping apart systems of accountability that were put in place to prevent the abuse of the substantial powers we have given our intelligence services. This is part of a larger undertaking by Trump and his minions to block Congress from receiving information or hearing from witnesses, which is part of Congress’ normal and constitutionally sanctioned work of keeping an eye on the executive branch…You might think that Republicans who have made national security their calling card since the Reagan era might finally hit the limits of their cravenness in the face of a whistleblower’s bravery. But the party, our politics and our media system are too broken for the old norms to apply.” American presidents have evaded accountability before, but never to this extent. Perhaps it was inevitable that a president would push the evasion to the limit and play the ‘deny and delay’ card as often as he could get away with it. Consequently, the fate of American democracy now depends on swing voters in a handful of states.


Teixeira: The White Working Class – Why Writing Them Off Is Political Insanity

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

The excellent David Wasserman had some astute comments on Twitter about the white working class and how nuts it is for Democrats to write them off. He is correct in all respects and his data is spot on!

“The bottom line: Dems don’t need to win a higher % of the WWC than in ’16 b/c 1) it’s declining as a % of voters and 2) Dems have made robust gains among college whites.

But Dems *can’t* afford to backslide much further & hope to win MI/PA/WI etc. And avoiding that isn’t simple.

Not about winning the demog. It’s about Dems not getting absolutely annihilated.

Moreover, the notion that voting behavior is polarized to the point that there aren’t any swing/persuadable voters left isn’t based in reality.

Not only did we see above-average swings from ’12 to ’16, Dems wouldn’t have gone +40 in ’18 without converting lots of ’16 R voters.

Much of the analysis I’m seeing on this site assumes there’s no more room for Dems to fall w/ white non-college voters, who are simply a “lost cause.”

In fact, Dems have an awful lot more room to fall w/ them, and that’s especially true in many of the most critical EC states.

Dems’ path to beating Trump absolutely depends on retaining the gains they made in diverse, college-educated burbs – the kinds we saw in 2018 & #NC09.

But even a slight drop among white non-college voters could negate all of it, given the demog’s size & geographic distribution.

Dems’ backslide w/ these voters is the main reason IA (66%) and OH (60%) have already exited stage right off the EC battleground, and why a Dem nominee who performs even worse w/ them could risk losses in ME (66%), NH (61%) or MN (56%).

Here’s why the “let’s win without working-class whites” mentality doesn’t hold water for Dems. That demog comprises 45% of all eligible U.S. voters, but:

61% in Wisconsin
61% in New Hampshire
56% in Michigan
56% in Minnesota
56% in Pennsylvania
47% in North Carolina

Good luck.”


The Case for Court-Packing–Or At Least a Credible Threat

During a week in which there was a lot of talk about the Supreme Court, Jamelle Bouie wrote an interesting column that I decided to build on for a bit of history and strategy at New York.

American history classes often treat FDR’s 1937 “court-packing” scheme — a proposal to expand the size of the Supreme Court by adding as many as six justices — as a classic example of presidential overreach, which led to a widespread backlash even among Democrats and represented a high-water mark for New Deal audacity, subsequently curtailed. It’s not as well remembered that the Lochner-era conservative majority on the Court, in the habit of holding that virtually all economic regulation by Congress violated the due-process clause of the 14th Amendment, was posing an existential threat not only to the New Deal but to democratic governance. It’s also sometimes forgotten that while FDR’s court-packing threats failed to secure congressional support, they did help frighten Justice Owen Roberts into quietly switching sides and ensuring validation of key New Deal legislation by the Supreme Court (the legendary “switch in time that saved nine”).

In other words, the legitimacy and independence of the Court were called into question not by FDR but by his opponents, and he found a way, however indirect and noisy, to restore the balance. As Jamelle Bouie notes in a New York Times column, a future Democratic president may find herself in similar straits:

“Trump’s Supreme Court appointments are mired in controversy. Justice Neil Gorsuch occupies a stolen seat, held open during Obama’s tenure by a blockade conducted for nearly a year by McConnell, who cited a previously nonexistent “tradition” of tabling nominations made in an election year. (In the 20th century alone, the Senate confirmed Supreme Court nominees in five different presidential election years — 1912, 1916, 1932, 1940 and 1988). And of course Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed last September under clouds of suspicion that stemmed from accusations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct to a bevy of ethics complaints.

“Democrats are left in an unenviable position. Should they win a federal ‘trifecta’ — the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives — they’ll still have to deal with a Trump-branded judiciary. It’s entirely possible that a future Democratic agenda would be circumscribed and unraveled by a Supreme Court whose slim conservative majority owes itself to minority government and constitutional hardball.”

You could add to Bouie’s case that the traditional norms of judicial politics have already been shattered. There’s the fact that Donald Trump broke every taboo by explicitly promising conservative Evangelicals a SCOTUS that would abolish a federal constitutional right to choose abortion, and then set up an outsourced and fiercely ideological judicial-selection process that is radically reshaping all federal courts. But he’s fundamentally and critically correct that what’s at stake in the immediate future isn’t just this or that constitutional precedent, but the ability of a popular majority to enact an agenda, at a time when one of the two major parties has committed itself to minority rule. So if Democrats gain power in 2020 or 2024, they could find themselves in the same position as their New Deal predecessors — or perhaps an even more dire situation, since today’s reactionaries are deliberately entrenching their allies throughout the federal judiciary, not just the Supreme Court.

So is it time for Democrats to openly talk about court-packing or something similarly radical-sounding? Bouie thinks so, and seven Democratic presidential candidates (Cory Booker, Steve Bullock, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Wayne Messam, Elizabeth Warren, and Andrew Yang) have told the Washington Post they are “open” to the idea. Only Buttigieg has released a specific proposal (an expansion of the court to 15 members, with five nominated by each party and five more with short-term appointments chosen by SCOTUS consensus). Perhaps the alarming head count of Trump judges, and/or fresh allegations against sitting SCOTUS justices like Brett Kavanaugh, will make judicial appointments and their number and duration a 2020 primary issue among Democrats.

But it’s even more likely that any such talk will provide new fodder for the Trump/GOP message that today’s Democrats are dangerously radical and contemptuous of constitutional norms (not that court-packing is the least bit unconstitutional if it’s done by Congress). At a minimum, conservatives will spend a lot of time telling Christian-right audiences that Democrats are now fighting fire with fire and plan to thwart their own government-by-judiciary schemes aimed at a constitutional counterrevolution. And let’s face it: All the threats to democracy that Bouie and others are warning of will get a lot worse right away if Republicans hang on to the White House and the Senate in 2020. If discussion of judicial reform makes that even infinitesimally more likely, it’s probably a topic that should be placed on a back burner until after the election.

And if things do turn out well for Democrats and they enjoy a governing trifecta in 2021, they could emulate FDR in utilizing court-packing or similar reforms as a way to get the attention of conservatives and perhaps secure their agreement to de-escalate their politicization of the courts. There’s quite a bit of evidence that FDR really wanted to change the pattern of ancient justices hanging on to Court seats forever (their retirement incomes had recently been slashed by Congress, which didn’t help) while awaiting a president of their party to appoint a successor. If moral suasion doesn’t work, term limits for judges could have a much larger and more permanent impact than court-packing schemes (especially if expanded beyond SCOTUS), and just as importantly, it’s a popular idea. A 2018 Ipsos/UVA poll showed 70 percent of Americans — and big majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents — favoring term limits for SCOTUS.

In any event, whether or not they embrace specific reforms, Democratic presidential candidates and the progressives whose votes they are currently seeking need to make the shape of the federal judiciary a big-time campaign issue for 2020 — much as Trump’s conservative Evangelical backers did in 2016.


Political Strategy Notes

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall flags an ominous trend for Democrats: “First: Heading into the 2020 election, President Trump is on track to far surpass President Barack Obama’s record in collecting small donor contributions — those under $200 — lending weight to his claim of populist legitimacy…Second: Democratic candidates and their party committees are making inroads in gathering contributions from the wealthiest of the wealthy, the Forbes 400, a once solid Republican constituency. Democrats are also pulling ahead in contributions from highly educated professionals — doctors, lawyers, tech executives, software engineers, architects, scientists, teachers and so on…These knowledge class donors, deeply hostile to Trump, propelled the fund-raising success of Democratic House candidates in 2018 — $1 billion to the Republicans’ $661 million…While there are advantages for Democrats in gaining support from previously Republican-leaning donors, this success carries costs. In winning over the high-tech industry, the party has acquired a constituency at odds with competing Democratic interest groups, especially organized labor and consumer protection proponents. Picking up rich backers also reinforces the image of a party dominated by elites.”

A chart to ponder from Philip Bump’s “A central 2020 question for Democrats: How critical are working-class white voters?” at The Washington Post:

(Philip Bump/The Washington Post)

Bonnie Chiu reports at Forbes, “The 2018 midterm elections in the U.S. saw an unprecedented number of women of color being elected to office–bringing their total number at the Congress (both House and Senate) to an all-time high, at 47. A new reporthelps us to understand how this was achieved, suggests that this was not an accident and will likely define 2020 elections…2018 marks the watershed moment in political mobilization of women of color in U.S. history. A new report, published by the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Civic Engagement Fund and Groundswell Fund, examines the unprecedented and often ignored role of women of color in the 2018 Midterm elections. The report highlights that the increase of non-white congresswomen correlates with a rising turnout of non-white female voters…“When you look at turnout as a percentage of the citizen voting age population in previous midterms, the numbers for 2006, 2010, 2014 were 39%, 39%, and 35%, respectively. In 2018, the figure was 48%,” says Taeku Lee, Professor of Political Science and Law at the University of California, Berkeley and principal researcher for this report. This represents a 37% increase among women of color voters compared to 2016. This huge uptick has not been found among other groups…The report finds that turnout was fuelled by women of color talking to and encouraging their friends and family to vote. Black women led the way with 84% mobilizing friends and family, followed by 76% of AAPI women, 72% of Native American women, 70% of Latinas, and 66% of white women.”

At Salon.com, Igor Derysh writes, “Republicans are expected to win 65 percent of close presidential races in which they lose the popular vote as a result of the Electoral College and the blue-state concentration of Democrats, according to a new working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research…Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin looked at the probability of “inversions” in presidential elections, where the popular-vote winner loses the electoral vote. These inversions happened in 2000 and 2016 and twice in the 1800s, meaning that the candidate with the most votes has lost 8 percent of the time in the last 200 years…Using statistical models that predicted an inversion in the 2000 and 2016 races, the researchers found that the probability of the popular vote winner losing the electoral vote is about 40 percent in races decided by 1 percent (about 1.3 million votes) and roughly 30 percent in races decided by 2 percent (2.6 million votes) or less…But these probabilities are “not symmetric across political parties,” the researchers say. Over the past 30 to 60 years, this asymmetry has favored Republicans. The statistical models used in the research predict that in the event of an inversion, “the probability that it will be won by a Republican ranges from 69 percent to 93 percent.”

From E. J. Dionne, Jr”s “Striking workers are the ones who saved GM” at The Washington Post: “Unions get knocked for being unconcerned about the health of the companies they organize. The UAW showed how untrue this is. It made sweeping concessions to management to persuade federal officials to undertake the investment of public money — and to keep the companies alive…The bottom line is that the strikers are fighting not only for greater fairness and a larger share of the company’s success but also for work itself. Too late to avert the strike, GM finally put an offer on the table to begin addressing some of these issues. But the rank and file are restive for more, and for good reason. Those of us who supported keeping GM alive a decade ago — and put our wallets where our mouths, pens and votes were — didn’t do so to make it easier for management to outsource jobs or hold down pay and benefits forever. Every Democratic candidate for president should be joining the UAW’s picket lines to drive that point home.”

From Kyle Kondik’s “The Electoral College: Expanding the Map” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball:
Map 1: Crystal Ball Electoral College ratings

Stanley Greenberg writes in his memo, “Sharp anti-Trump reaction consolidates and grows Democratic bloc” at Democracy Corps: “The public push back against President Trump has produced a level of political engagement the country has never seen before, an elevated anti-Trump Democratic Party consolidated to support the Democratic nominee, whether it is Vice President Biden or Senator Elizabeth Warren. They are defeating Trump by 9 and 7 points respectively, with the president stuck at 41 percent, his approval rating. Democrats are poised to push up the 8.6 percent Democratic margin in the 2018 mid-terms – a shattering result if achieved…The percent who say they are “extremely interested” in the election (the percent choosing 10, the top point on a 10-rung ladder) has reached 80 percent, the highest point in the history of our polling. That is what is actually most interesting about the finding. In all prior cycles, interest in politics drops sharply and grows over the election cycle, put political engagement has jumped 10 points since the mid-terms…Virtually, every registered voter now meets our criteria as “likely,” meaning this election will bring inmillions of new voters…With President Trump nationalizing the election around himself, he has gotten the result you would expect. Fully 85 percent of Democrats strongly disapprove of Trump’s performance as president, 20 points higher than the proportion of Republicans who strongly approve of the president. That drives the Democratic vote to 87 percent with the two leading candidates, with just 2 percent voting for Trump. Republicans are not as consolidated, with 11 percent voting Democratic if Biden and 6 percent, if Warren.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard did not meet the criteria for inclusion in the televised September Democratic debate. But she proved once again that she knows how to skewer an opponent, this time with her comment on Trump’s embarrassingly obsequious tweet that his white house is “waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!” Gabbard’s reply: “Trump awaits instructions from his Saudi masters. Having our country act as Saudi Arabia’s bitch is not “America First…”It’s a huge disgrace to hear our commander-in-chief basically put us in a position… where we are servants of the Saudi Kingdom,” she said.”

“It should be easy for Democrats to make sure that whenever Americans hear Trump’s name, “crook” is the first word that comes to mind,” Amanda marcotte writes in “Fighting Trump on corruption is a winning strategy — but Democrats must lean into it” at Salon.com. “But Democrats lack message discipline, so much so that they can’t even decide if this is a real impeachment inquiry or just some vague exercise in impeachment-curiosity. Meanwhile, Trump — with his stupid aptitude for blunt repetition as a rhetorical strategy — has turned “no collusion, no obstruction” into a literal catchphrase, even though there was both collusion and obstruction. Lewandowski spouted that motto like a robot on Tuesday, even though he literally testified to the obstruction under oath…Trump’s popularity is stuck around 42% in most polls, while his disapproval rarely dips below 52%. His only pathway to victory in 2020 lies in confusing voters about his corruption and likely criminality just enough so they momentarily forget how much they dislike him. Democrats can fight back, but only if they’re willing to organize around a strategy to keep Trump’s corruption front and center. So far they have failed. If they don’t catch up soon, there’s a real risk Trump wins another term — and stays away from indictment, prosecution and prison time.”


Josh Hawley No Fit Defender of the Constitution

In the back-and-forth over Kavanaugh and other SCOTUS-related talk this week, I saw the name of a senator weighing in that make the bile rise, so I wrote about it at New York:

Personally, I wasn’t a big fan of the lurch toward impeachment of Brett Kavanaugh that some Democrats made over the weekend. And I’m at least ambivalent about the court-packing schemes that Pete Buttigieg and others have embraced. But in both cases we don’t need any lectures from Republican officeholders about respect for precedents involving the judicial branch — not unless they are willing to admit their party denied President Obama’s SCOTUS nominee Merrick Garland the hearings and confirmation vote he deserved.

And of all the Republicans who need to keep a low profile on this issue, I’d put Missouri’s young semi-theocratic Senator Josh Hawley near the top of my list. Yet here he is telling The Hill he’s terrified for the Constitution:

“’You know, they want to impeach Justice Kavanaugh, they want to pack the Supreme Court, I mean talk about destroying any institution they can’t control. It’s really unbelievable. This is a Democrat party that increasingly is at war with the American constitution,’ Hawley said.”

Last time I looked, both impeachment of judges and Congress’ power to regulate the size of the federal courts were right there in the constitution. I’m sure Hawley, a Yale Law School grad and a very bright boy, knows that. So maybe he is referring to that hazy concept, the spirit of the constitution?

“'[Democrats are] willing to destroy an entire branch of government, the independent judiciary; they want to destroy it why? Because it won’t rule the way they want it too. I mean is there anything more dangerous to constitutional government than that way of thinking.'”

I dunno, senator. I’d say this way of thinking is pretty inimical to constitutional government, too:

“Scripture teaches that political government is mandated by God for his service and is one means by which the enthroned Christ carries out his rule….

“These things together tell us something quite important about what government is for, and what Christians should be trying to do with it and with politics. Government serves Christ’s kingdom rule; this is its purpose. And Christians’ purpose in politics should be to advance the kingdom of God — to make it more real, more tangible, more present.”

That was Hawley in 2012. If that’s too long ago to be considered relevant (I don’t think it is, at all), there’s this reflection on constitutional liberty from a speech he made earlier this year:

“Perhaps the most eloquent contemporary statement of Pelagian freedom appears in an opinion from the United States Supreme Court, in a passage written by former Justice Anthony Kennedy. In 1992, in a case called Casey v. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania, he wrote this: ‘At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.’

“It’s the Pelagian vision. Liberty is the right to choose your own meaning, define your own values, emancipate yourself from God by creating your own self. Indeed, this notion of freedom says you can emancipate yourself not just from God but from society, family, and tradition.”

I’d say treating the idea of individual liberty as the devilish reflection of an ancient heresy professing the perfectibility of human nature is more than a little hostile to the spirit of the constitution.

Perhaps a clue to Hawley’s strange attitude on this subject is that he likes to use the self-identifying label of “constitutional conservative.” This particular code-term, which was briefly in fashion at the height of the Tea Party Movement, is actually pretty radical, as I explained in 2014:

“It basically holds that a governing model of strictly limited (domestic) government that is at the same time devoted to the preservation of ‘traditional culture’ is the only legitimate governing model for this country, now and forever, via the divinely inspired agency of the Founders. That means democratic elections, the will of the majority, the need to take collective action to meet big national challenges, the rights of women and minorities, the empirical data on what works and what doesn’t–all of those considerations and more are so much satanic or ‘foreign’ delusions that can and must be swept aside in the pursuit of a Righteous and Exceptional America.”

That sounds like Josh Hawley, all right, who in 2018 had this to say about his wicked country:

“Excerpts of an audio tape have leaked of Hawley speaking to a conclave of Christian-right activists in December that’s more than a little out there, blaming the scourge of human trafficking on the sexual revolution of the 1960s and ’70s. Sexual freedom leads to sexual slavery, he explained.

“’It ends in the slavery and exploitation of young women. It will destroy our families,’ he said, per the Kansas City Star. ‘You know what I’m talking about, the 1960s, 1970s, it became commonplace in our culture among our cultural elites, Hollywood, and the media, to talk about, to denigrate the biblical truth about husband and wife, man and woman.'”

Yes, that’s the sort of thinking that has made Hawley the poster boy for a sinister sort of post-Trumpian conservatism that tends to pursue authoritarian means to achieving its godly ends.


Assessing 2020 Senate Majority Targets for Dems

Charlie Cook writes in The National Journal, via The Cook Political Report, “while the odds are better that Republicans hold onto, rather than lose, the Senate, there is at least a 30 percent chance the Senate flips.” Noting that “Democrats need a three-seat gain to win a Senate majority if a Democrat wins the White House—four seats if they don’t,” Cook explains “if Trump loses, the GOP chances of retaining control drops to just 55 or 60 percent, or maybe even less.” Further,

…In this new hyper-partisan political climate, with very little ticket-splitting taking place, more people than ever before are voting straight-line Republican or Democrat. The 2016 election was the first in American history in which every single Senate race was won by the same party as that state voted for President. In fact, 88 out of 100 Senators are now from the same party as their state’s most recent presidential victor.

However, Cook asks, “do Democrats really need only three or four seats based on the presidential outcome, or do they need to gross four or five seats in order to net three or four?” The latter scenario makes sense, because:

It’s hard to see how Democratic Sen. Doug Jones wins reelection in a presidential year with presidential-level turnout, even if Republicans nominate their worst possible candidate, former judge Roy Moore. The accusations about Moore and young women were fresh at the time of the December 2017 special election, but it’s old news now and likely to have less saliency.

If Democrats need to win at least four seats, where do they get them? Most would put GOP incumbents Martha McSally in Arizona and Cory Gardner in Colorado at the top of the Democrats’ target. My guess is that both have about a 50-50 chance, at best, particularly if a Democrat is prevailing at the top of the ticket.

My National Journal colleagues Drew Gerber and Kyle Trygstad presented their latest Hotline’s Senate Power Rankings, sequencing the top 10 seats in order of vulnerability. More or less, I agree with their rankings and analysis, but where I most disagree is Maine, where Susan Collins is seeking reelection. Drew and Kyle put Maine behind North Carolina; I would put it ahead in vulnerability.

My view is that Collins’s chances put her just barely behind McSally and Gardner. Yes, Collins was last reelected with a very impressive 67 percent of the vote, normally a sign of great strength even six years later. But, consider first that the 67 percent was in 2014, a fabulous year for Republicans up and down the ballot. Second, Collins did extremely well among groups with whom she is unlikely to do even remotely as well this time, particularly given her support of Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination and vote for President Trump’s tax cuts.

The 2014 exit polls showed that Collins carried 37 percent of the vote among self-described liberals and 39 percent from Democrats. Anybody think she will remotely do that again? What about winning 69 percent of independents and 72 percent of moderates. This is not to predict that she will lose, just that this is likely to be an extremely difficult race and that it has a higher chance of going Democratic than several others.

Cook argues further,

After Arizona, Colorado, and Maine, Democrats are likely to need at least one more, and that would require a fairly substantial wave. Democrats need the suburbs to move in their direction, particularly among college-educated women, as strongly next November as last November. They need to pick up one or both of the Georgia seats—incumbent David Perdue and a seat expected to be vacated by Johnny Isakson, who is stepping down for health reasons—and/or beating Thom Tillis of North Carolina. That means suburban voters outside of Atlanta, Charlotte and the Research Triangle being as angry at Republicans as we saw in so many Southern Congressional races last year.

Or, they could pick up Iowa or an open seat in Kansas, but the latter is likely possible only if controversial former Secretary of State Kris Kobach wins the GOP nomination. Beyond that, beating John Cornyn in Texas and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky seem a bit too far for Democrats to win this time.

Here’s a 2020 Senate Race Ratings map from Sabato’s Crystal Ball, updated August 28th.

 


Teixeira: The Key Demographic in 2020: White Noncollege Women (and How to Reach Them)

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

Good advice from David Axelrod on the centrality of white noncollege women to the 2020 election and how to reach them. I estimate they’ll be 22-23 percent of voters in 2020. It won’t take a very large shift among these voters to fatally undercut Trump’s chances of re-election. And the signs of weakening support for the President among these voters is already there. But to take advantage of this, the Democrats have to play it smart.

“Mr. Trump’s serial assaults on the decency and the decorum upon which civil society depends are enraging — and meant to be. It is only natural to respond to his every provocation with righteous indignation.

My advice to the Democratic nominee next year is: Donʼt play….

Mr. Trump was elected to shake things up and challenge the political establishment. And to many of his core supporters, his incendiary dog whistles, bullhorn attacks and nonstop flouting of “political correctness” remain energizing symbols of authenticity.

But polling and focus groups reflect a growing unease among a small but potentially decisive group of voters who sided with Mr. Trump in 2016 but are increasingly turned off by the unremitting nastiness, the gratuitous squabbles and the endless chaos he sows.

Plenty of attention has been paid to the historic shift in suburban areas Mr. Trump narrowly carried in 2016 but that broke decisively with his party last fall. That revolt was led by college-educated white women, who overwhelmingly turned against Republican candidates.

But what should be of even greater concern to Mr. Trump is the potential erosion among the non-college-educated white women he is counting on as a core constituency. Those women gave Mr. Trump a 27-point margin over Hillary Clinton in 2016. Yet in a recent Fox News poll, Mr. Trump was beating former Vice President Joe Biden by just four points in that group.

If I were sitting in the Trump war room, this number, more than any other, would alarm me. He won the presidency by the slimmest of margins in three battleground states. With little place to grow, even a small erosion of support among these women could prove fatal to Mr. Trump’s chances. While they are inclined to many of his positions, the thing that is driving these voters away is Mr. Trump himself…..

Mr. Trump’s impulse is always to create a binary choice, forcing Americans to retreat to tribe. He wants to define the battle around divisive cultural issues that will hem in his supporters, and it would be seductive for Democrats to chase every tweeted rabbit down the hole. The president would welcome a pitched battle over lines of race, ideology and culture.

But while Mr. Trump’s thermonuclear politics may rally both his base and Democrats who slumbered in 2016, it is the paralyzing disorder and anxiety his bilious behavior creates that is a distressing turnoff to voters at the margins who will make the difference.

To win, the Democrats will have to turn Mr. Trump’s negative energy against him without embodying it themselves.”