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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Seniors Against Trump

Who Are the Key Voters Turning Against Trump?

They’re senior voters, and they could be Joe Biden’s secret weapon.

By Ruy Teixeira in The New York Times
Read the Article.

Stan Greenberg in The American Prospect

The Tea Party’s Last Stand

The legions that swept over the Republican Party in 2010 aren’t ascendant today—and they’ve scared a lot of other Republicans away.

BY STANLEY B. GREENBERG

Read the Article.

Democrats – Get Ready for the Inevitable Republican Counterattack

It’s coming, and we should be prepared.
By Andrew Levison

Read the Strategy Memo.

Seniors Against Trump

Key Voters Turning Against Trump?

They’re senior voters, and they could be Joe Biden’s secret weapon.

By Ruy Teixeira in The New York Times
Read the Article.

Stan Greenberg in The American Prospect

Tea Party’s Last Stand

The legions that swept over the Republican Party in 2010 aren’t ascendant today—and they’ve scared a lot of other Republicans away.

BY STANLEY B. GREENBERG

Read the Article.

The Daily Strategist

August 4, 2020

Cotton Wrong About Precedents To “Send In the Troops”

Because it was such a red-hot topic this last week, I did a little research and learned that Tom Cotton unsurprisingly had his history wrong, so I shared it at New York:

In a highly controversial (so much so that its publication produced anguished protests from Times staffers) New York Times op-ed on Wednesday, Arkansas senator Tom Cotton called on President Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act and send U.S. military units into an undefined number of cities to suppress the “nihilist criminals” and “left-wing radicals infiltrating protest marches.” Cotton has been egging Trump on in this direction for a while now. He may have inspired the president’s threats to “send in the troops,” which Trump did in a June 1 conference call with governors (one participant called Trump’s manner “unhinged”) and then publicly in his Rose Garden remarks that evening, just prior to his infamous stroll to St. John’s Episcopal Church.

It’s a dangerous idea generally, as such revered military veterans as Trump’s own former secretary of defense James Mattis noted yesterday in decrying the politicization of the armed forces it would represent. Given the president’s reckless and divisive character, his taste for militarism, and his desperate need for base-inspiring action, telling him he has the power to take over city streets across the country and crush his enemies while showing up Democrats is like handing a pyromaniac a flame-thrower.

Cotton knows this, but his own reputation for the harshest sort of law-and-order politics is well earned. You wouldn’t expect a man who fought criminal-justice reform tooth and nail in the Senate and said America had an “underincarceration problem” to have much sympathy for protests aimed at addressing police misconduct toward minorities. In an effort to get a grip on what makes Cotton feel so threatening to progressives alert to whiffs of authoritarianism, I once described him as having the “mien and the worldview of a grim and unforgiving lawgiver right out of the Book of Deuteronomy or Calvin’s Geneva.” Likewise Molly Ball wrote that Cotton possessed a “harsh, unyielding, judgmental political philosophy, one that makes little allowance for compassion or human weakness.” Like Trump, he has no patience for “losers,” which disposes him to the use of maximum repressive force to defend privilege and property rights.

The only modern precedents involving a president invoking the Insurrection Act against the wishes of state authorities were Eisenhower’s dispatch of troops to insure the integration of Little Rock schools in 1957, Kennedy’s similar use of U.S. military assets to integrate the University of Mississippi in 1962 and stop racist violence in Alabama in 1963, and Johnson’s deployment of troops to protect the Selma-to-Montgomery marchers in 1965.

Cotton notes these cases but does not acknowledge that what justified all of them was a situation where state and local authorities were in open and explicit defiance of federal court orders aimed at vindicating constitutionally protected rights. These presidents did not “send in the troops” simply to maintain order, or because they deemed local law-and-order measures ineffectual, but because in a very real sense these places were in a state of rebellion led by governors like Orval Faubus, Ross Barnett, and George Wallace (all of whom not-so-secretly welcomed armed federal intervention so as to posture as defenders of Jim Crow).

Are any of the Democratic governors disdained by Trump and Cotton raising flags of rebellion on a pro-looter or pro-rioting platform? Are there any antifa state governments? I don’t think so. Federal military interventions without state and local consent would simply represent a political use of the U.S. Armed Forces to substitute an angry president’s notion of “law and order” for those of the officials elected to make such decisions. Trump does have the power to do so under the Insurrection Act. But the dire consequences of doing so is why sober supporters of constitutional order ranging from Mattis to conservative law professor John Yoo to Trump’s own secretary of defense, Mark Esper, oppose it. The president should listen to them rather than the avid, skull-cracking moralist from Arkansas before playing commander-in-chief in the streets of America.


Teixeira: Reconsidering Biden’s Young Voter Problem

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

It is fair to say that Joe Biden has not captured the imagination of young voters. He lost badly to Sanders among these voters in the primaries and, now that he is the presumptive nominee, still does not seem to arouse much enthusiasm.

But lack of enthusiasm does not mean they won’t vote for him. 538 analysis of 90 national polls in the last few months shows Biden with a 24 point lead among 18-29 year old voters. That’s close to what I’m seeing in the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape survey (6,000 respondents a week). The 538 article notes that that margin is actually a little higher than what Clinton received among that group in the 2016 election, according to the Cooperative Congressional Election Survey (CCES) data. The current margin is actually a little smaller than Clinton’s when compared to the States of Change data. But in neither case is the difference between Biden’s current performance among young voters and Clinton’s support in 2016 more than a few points.

As I have been stressing the key difference between now and 2016 has very little to do with younger voters and everything to do with older voters. When enjoying a 20 point shift relative to Clinton among voters 65 and over, losing a point or two (or gaining it) among young voters just doesn’t matter that much. Holding that senior support on the other hand very much does. And that is what Democrats should be worrying about.

I will have more to say about this in coming days.


Political Strategy Notes – Conservatives Turn on Trump Edition

Every day brings news of more Republicans getting fed up with Trump’s polarizing insanity and his  ‘Reign of Rage.’ In “Bush administration alums form pro-Biden super PAC,” Tal Axelrod reports at The Hill: “Former officials from the George W. Bush administration have formed a super PAC to support former Vice President Joe Biden’s White House campaign…The super PAC, dubbed 43 Alumni For Biden, referring to the 43rd president, was formed Monday, according to a Tuesday filing with the Federal Election Commission…Karen Kirksey, a former Treasury Department official from the Bush administration, is listed as the group’s treasurer and custodian of records.”

At Newsweek, Jason Lemon reports, “Senator John Thune, the Senate Majority Whip, has come out against deploying military troops to quell unrest in cities across the country, backing similar remarks made by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, which were at odds with President Donald Trump’s previous warnings….”I think that these tasks ought to be relegated as much as possible to the state and local authorities, the law enforcement and police,” Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, told reporters on Wednesday. The senator noted that “the goal always is to de-escalate, not escalate.”…The GOP lawmaker added that he believes “the Defense Department by and large ought to stay out of the political fray. They’ve got a job to do and we count on them heavily to do it.”

A few other GOP senators added their comments. As reported by Marianne Levine, Andrew Desiderio and Burgess Everett at Politico: “There is a fundamental — a constitutional — right to protest, and I’m against clearing out a peaceful protest for a photo op that treats the Word of God as a political prop,” added Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who also decried rioting and looting. “Every public servant in America should be lowering the temperature.”…And Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said it was “definitely not” right for peaceful protesters, who were gathered around Lafayette Park in front of the White House, to be sprayed with tear gas. And he criticized the president for walking to St. John’s Episcopal Church right before the 7 p.m. curfew, because “everyone knew there were going to be protesters in that area.”

Then there’s Massachusetts Republican Governor Charlie Baker, who has a few choice words about Trump’s failed ‘leadership’ of recent weeks, as reported by Paul LeBlanc in “Massachusetts GOP governor rips Trump’s ‘bitterness, combativeness and self-interest‘” at CNN politics: “Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday excoriated President Donald Trump’s “bitterness, combativeness and self-interest” as nationwide protests have intensified over the death of George Floyd..The Republican governor made the comments at a press conference when asked about Trump’s video teleconference call, in which the President urged state leaders to aggressively target violent protesters. The call came after nearly a week of protests across the country that at times have turned violent over the death of Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man who died at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis…”I heard what the President said today about dominating and fighting. I know I should be surprised when I hear incendiary words like this from him, but I’m not,” Baker told reporters. “At so many times during these past several weeks when the country needed compassion and leadership the most, it was simply nowhere to be found.”…Instead, he continued, “we got bitterness, combativeness and self-interest. That’s not what we need in Boston, it’s not what we need right now in Massachusetts and it’s definitely not what we need across this great country of ours either.”

From The Guardian: “Former defense secretary James Mattis has broken his silence on the Trump administration, fiercely criticizing the president’s handling of the recent mass protests over George Floyd’s death….In statement published by the Atlantic, Mattis accuses the president of dividing the country and ordering the military to violate the constitutional rights of Americans….“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us,” Mattis writes. “We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.” ..Mattis, who resigned as defense secretary in 2018 in protest over Trump’s widely criticized decision to withdraw US forces from Syria, goes on to accuse the president of having violated the rights of Americans for a photo op in Washington DC this week….“When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution,”the statement says. “Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.””

Conservative columnist George Will also weighed in, as Eric Black reports at MinnPost: “A long-time famous columnist with a large vocabulary lost his you-know-what with the latest – what’s the word, antics? lies? degradations? or depredations? or both, or all of the above? — committed by the current occupant of the Oval Office and the famous columnist wrote these three paragraphs which some (not me) might view as intemperate: “The president’s provocations — his coarsening of public discourse that lowers the threshold for acting out by people as mentally crippled as he — do not excuse the violent few. They must be punished. He must be removed. …This unraveling presidency began with the Crybaby-in-Chief banging his spoon on his highchair tray to protest a photograph — a photograph — showing that his inauguration crowd the day before had been smaller than the one four years previous…This weak person’s idea of a strong person, this chest-pounding advertisement of his own gnawing insecurities, this low-rent Lear raging on his Twitter-heath has proven that the phrase malignant buffoon is not an oxymoron.” Black continues, “Which squishy liberal said this about Donald John Trump? I won’t drag it out any longer. It was columnist George F. Will of the Washington Post, a long-time leader of American conservatism who still sets the standard for conservative thought and argumentation among those who haven’t traded in their lifelong principles for Trumpian lies, insults and other expostulations.”

Another passage from Will’s much-quoted article: “The nation’s downward spiral into acrimony and sporadic anarchy has had many causes much larger than the small man who is the great exacerbator of them. Most of the causes predate his presidency, and most will survive its January terminus. The measures necessary for restoration of national equilibrium are many and will be protracted far beyond his removal. One such measure must be the removal of those in Congress who, unlike the sycophantic mediocrities who cosset him in the White House, will not disappear “magically,” as Eric Trump said the coronavirus would. Voters must dispatch his congressional enablers, especially the senators who still gambol around his ankles with a canine hunger for petting…In life’s unforgiving arithmetic, we are the sum of our choices. Congressional Republicans have made theirs for more than 1,200 days. We cannot know all the measures necessary to restore the nation’s domestic health and international standing, but we know the first step: Senate Republicans must be routed, as condign punishment for their Vichyite collaboration, leaving the Republican remnant to wonder: Was it sensible to sacrifice dignity, such as it ever was, and to shed principles, if convictions so easily jettisoned could be dignified as principles, for . . . what?”

Former four-star Marine General John Allen joins the fray in his article, “A Moment of National Shame and Peril—and Hope: We may be witnessing the beginning of the end of American democracy, but there is still a way to stop the descent” at Foreign Policy (paywalled). As Ken Meyer reports at Mediaite, “Retired Marine Corps General John Allen, the U.S. envoy to the global coalition against ISIS who currently serves as president of the Brookings Institution, said President Donald Trump’s threats to wield the U.S. military against the American people could be a harbinger for the end of democracy in America…In an opinion piece for Foreign Policy magazine, Allen condemned Trump for his lack of leadership since the death of George Floyd sparked social unrest throughout the nation. The former envoy blasted Trump for his conduct earlier in the week, saying “to even the casual observer, Monday was awful for the United States and its democracy.”…“The slide of the United States into illiberalism may well have begun on June 1, 2020,” said Allen. “Remember the date. It may well signal the beginning of the end of the American experiment.”

Meyer continues, “The op-ed goes on to criticize the Trump administration for their focus on rioters and looters when “the truth is that they are minuscule in numbers. The vast majority of the people protesting in the streets are justifiably furious at the murder of George Floyd, but they’re even angrier over pervasive injustice, mass incarceration, frequent false arrests, and an institutionalized devaluation of black lives and property.”…Finally, Allen condemned the use of force against D.C. protesters who “had done nothing to warrant such an attack.”…“It wasn’t enough that peaceful protesters had just been deprived of their first-amendment rights — this photo-op sought to legitimize that abuse with a layer of religion,” Allen wrote. “Donald Trump isn’t religious, has no need of religion, and doesn’t care about the devout, except insofar as they serve his political needs. We know why he did all this on Monday. He even said so while holding the Bible and standing in front of the church. It was about MAGA—’making America great again.’”


Texas Democrats Show Why Virtual Conventions Are the Wave of the Future

In the last few tumultuous days, when I was under a stay-at-home order, I did some reporting by phone, as noted at New York:

As Democrats openly — and Republicans more covertly — consider holding virtual national conventions in August, the general assumption has been that it would be a diminished event that no one would voluntarily hold.

This week, Texas Democrats are holding their own virtual convention that they believe may show that less is more: that the virtual format can enable them to prepare their party more effectively for November than a live event, and create a template for the party conventions of the post-pandemic future.

The convention will be made available via two digital channels: one devoted to the sometimes boring but essential party business that is conducted at annual conventions, and the other to the speeches, messaging, and entertainment that make party conventions an effective “infomercial.” The latter channel will get a lot of attention as the locus for speeches throughout the week by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, vice-presidential prospects Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, and former presidential candidates from Texas Julián Castro and Beto O’Rourke. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is slated to speak next Saturday, June 6.

This public-facing channel will also provide a convenient outlet for fundraising appeals and party outreach efforts. But the other channel, a sort of digital home for the nearly 12,000 official convention delegates, will focus not only on “convention business,” but on general election preparations, in a less expensive and more transparent version of what live conventions normally do in hotel or civic center conference rooms.

One particularly important chore the virtual convention will actually make easier is pre-general election volunteer training. As the state party’s Voter Expansion director Luke Warford explained to me, Texas’s voter-unfriendly laws on registration efforts have a highly restrictive training requirement for volunteer “deputy registrars.” It’s actually easier to do the training virtually, and the infrastructure being built for the convention is conducive to that sort of labor-intensive but crucial chore. Already Democrats are close to meeting their goal of a thousand participants in their convention-based training to become state-recognized deputy registrars.

That’s a big deal in a year when harvesting demographic trends to change the shape of the electorate is the ball game for Texas Democrats, and could tilt the national landscape if and when it becomes seriously competitive (the state has more electoral votes than Michigan and Pennsylvania combined).

While the Texas Democrats’ virtual convention is a bit of an experiment that the DNC and other state parties are watching closely, it’s likely to become a success by normal standards. As Texas Democratic Party communications director Abhi Rahman told me, the event has already been paid for and will command six-figure viewership, if not more. There’s no real reason to go back to an in-person event in the future.

Texas Republicans, as it happens, are still planning an entirely in-person state convention for Houston on July 16 to 18, reflecting the national GOP’s commitment to set a “reopening” example by ignoring public-health injunctions against large gatherings. There is a lot of risk associated with this approach, which could produce either a sparsely attended, low-excitement convention or worse yet, a super-spreader event illustrating why big crowded conventions full of sweaty cheering partisans are just a terrible idea.

Risks aside, Republicans in the Lone Star State are also passing up on some of the efficiencies they could achieve by going virtual in order to show how little they are interested in accommodating themselves to the present, not to mention the future.

As Democrat Warford noted, they’re planning an event that “is right from a public safety perspective, but that also makes sense from a strategic point of view.”

I am a bit nonobjective on this subject, having argued for years now that the national political convention as we know it needs to go away. If it can be established this year that the essential business of such gatherings can be done virtually at less cost, with far less risk to public safety, and with all sorts of additional advantages in general election preparation, then there may be no rational argument for going back to a model that hasn’t made sense for years.


Teixeira: Should or Should We Not Be Worried About Backlash?

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

As protests around the George Floyd killing continue around the country, punctuated in some cities by considerable looting, property damage and arson, the question arises whether the left should be concerned about a backlash to this violence that could benefit the right.

One response is to point out that the overwhelming majority of demonstrators are peaceful and that the proper response is therefore to ignore the violence and simply talk about the issues that sparked the protests. This seems like wishful thinking. Voters all over the country are by now very, very aware of what is going on beyond peaceful protests and many are likely to be quite disturbed by it. Their concerns will not be assuaged by assertions that the protests are, by and large, peaceful. It’s the part that isn’t that worries them.

Another response is to say that the current situation is quite different from, say, 1968 where backlash was effectively used by Richard Nixon to gain the Presidency. These differences include:

1. Trump isn’t nearly as smart as Nixon and doesn’t seem interested in reaching beyond his die-hard base to moderate voters who might be sensitive to the street violence. Tear-gassing demonstrators in Lafayette Park so he could walk across the park to, bizarrely, hold a bible and have a photo-op in front of St John’s church is a good example of his non-optimizing tactics.

2. Trump is the incumbent and therefore is presiding over the current chaos. This makes it more difficult for him to portray and a “change” candidate who can make things right.

3. The likelihood of a strong third party candidate this year is small, so Trump will not be able to position himself as the candidate in the middle as Nixon did in 1969.

These are all reasonable points. But they do not persuade me that the danger of backlash does not exist at all and therefore need not be considered. Chaos and violence in the streets is generally not good for the left and the cause of racial equality. It’s certainly possible that this won’t matter much this year, given Trump’s bone-headed actions and unpopularity. But it might and that should have us all nervous and taking evasive action. Princeton political scientist Omar Wasow explains in an interview on the New Yorker website:

“I would say that nonviolent protests can be very effective if they are able to get media attention, and that there is a very strong relationship between media coverage and public concern about whatever issues those protesters are raising. But there is a conditional effect of violence, and what that means, in practice, is that groups that are the object of state violence are able to get particularly sympathetic press—and a large amount of media coverage. But that is a very hard strategy to maintain, and what we often see is that, when protesters engage in violence, often in a very understandable response to state repression, that tends to work against their cause and interests, and mobilizes or becomes fodder for the opposition to grow its coalition.

What we observe in the nineteen-sixties is that there was a nontrivial number of white moderates who were open to policies that advanced racial equality, and were also very concerned about order. The needle that civil-rights activists were trying to thread was: How do you advance racial equality, and capture the attention of often indifferent or hostile white moderates outside of the South, and at the same time grow a coalition of allies?….

When we observed a wave of violent protests in the mid- to late sixties, those white moderates who supported the Democratic Party after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 defected to the Republican Party in 1968. So, when the state was employing violence and protesters were the targets of that violence, the strategy worked well, and when protesters engaged in violence—whether or not the state was—those voters moved to the law-and-order coalition….

When we observed a wave of violent protests in the mid- to late sixties, those white moderates who supported the Democratic Party after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 defected to the Republican Party in 1968. So, when the state was employing violence and protesters were the targets of that violence, the strategy worked well, and when protesters engaged in violence—whether or not the state was—those voters moved to the law-and-order coalition….

I think there is a lot of evidence that nonviolent tactics can be effective. You saw this on the first day in Minneapolis, where the police showed up with an excess of force, and you had these images of children running away and police dressed like stormtroopers. There are a set of narrative scripts in the public mind, and I think we interpret the news through those preëxisting narratives. And so a nonviolent protest where we see state excesses is a very powerful and sympathetic narrative for the cause of fighting police violence. And as soon as the tactics shift to more aggressive violent resistance—and, to be clear, as best I can tell, police were shooting rubber bullets and there was tear gas. It seemed like an excessive police response, and so in reaction protesters escalated as well. That has an unfortunate side effect of muddying the story. Instead of talking about the history of police killings in Minneapolis, we are talking about a store going up in flames, and the focus in reporting tends to shift from a justice frame to a crime frame. And that is an unfortunate thing for a protest movement. It ends up undermining the interests of the advocates….

What’s often hard for people to see is that there are these white moderates who are part of the Democratic coalition as long as they perceive there to be order, but when they perceive there to be too much disorder they shift to the party that has owned the issue of order, which is the Republican Party. For some people, the idea that there are these swing Democratic-minded voters is hard to grasp, but there is pretty strong evidence that in 2016, and in 1968, that was an important and influential niche of voters.”

A reasonable question is who these movable white moderates might be in the current context. One nomination would be whites over 65. As has been widely noted, Biden has greatly benefited from the movement of seniors, around 24 percent of 2016 voters, away from Trump and into the Democratic camp. Based on States of Change and Nationscape data, this movement has been a massive shift from 2016 of 21 margin points. The great majority of this group is white, comprising 20 percent of all voters, and they have had a similarly sized shift toward the Democrats since 2016.

As a point of comparison, consider young (under 30) black voters where Biden has been underperforming relative to Clinton–by about 15 margin points according to the same data. But this group is only around 2 percent of voters.

What this means concretely is that the shift toward Biden among white seniors has added 4 margin points to his current lead. But underperformance among young black voters has only subtracted 3/10 of a percentage point from that lead. This political arithmetic needs to be considered carefully when assessing the possible effects of backlash and the historical lessons highlighted by Wasow.


Teixeira: Can’t Anyone Here Play This Game (Except Barack)?

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

I continue to be amazed at the inability of many Democratic politicians and progressive activists to put forward a balanced view of the protests and chaos sweeping the country. Protests against racism and police brutality–good! Violence, looting and burning buildings–bad! Working together for real policy and political change–good! Trump’s divisive actions and rhetoric–bad! If you don’t say ’em all and really mean ’em, you’re not credible which hurts the very cause you’re trying to support.

But Obama hits all the right notes:

“First, the waves of protests across the country represent a genuine and legitimate frustration over a decades-long failure to reform police practices and the broader criminal justice system in the United States. The overwhelming majority of participants have been peaceful, courageous, responsible, and inspiring. They deserve our respect and support, not condemnation — something that police in cities like Camden and Flint have commendably understood.

On the other hand, the small minority of folks who’ve resorted to violence in various forms, whether out of genuine anger or mere opportunism, are putting innocent people at risk, compounding the destruction of neighborhoods that are often already short on services and investment and detracting from the larger cause. I saw an elderly black woman being interviewed today in tears because the only grocery store in her neighborhood had been trashed. If history is any guide, that store may take years to come back. So let’s not excuse violence, or rationalize it, or participate in it. If we want our criminal justice system, and American society at large, to operate on a higher ethical code, then we have to model that code ourselves.

Second, I’ve heard some suggest that the recurrent problem of racial bias in our criminal justice system proves that only protests and direct action can bring about change, and that voting and participation in electoral politics is a waste of time. I couldn’t disagree more. The point of protest is to raise public awareness, to put a spotlight on injustice, and to make the powers that be uncomfortable; in fact, throughout American history, it’s often only been in response to protests and civil disobedience that the political system has even paid attention to marginalized communities. But eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices — and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands…..

[T]he bottom line is this: if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform.”


Teixeira: On What Planet Does It Make Sense Not to Condemn Looting?

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

On What Planet Does It Make Sense Not to Condemn Looting?

Not this one. Disappointingly, Democrats, including presumptive nominee Joe Biden, have had great difficulty with this. It should not be hard to condemn policy brutality, racism and looting at the same time. Not to do so makes no moral sense. Think of the working class people who actually live in these trashed neighborhoods. From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

“People living in the working-class neighborhood around the epicenter of Wednesday night’s protests, police clashes and riots encountered a changed neighborhood when they ventured outside the next morning.

They saw the stores they relied on for groceries and supplies smashed and burned. They saw fires that had smoldered for hours. Onlookers clogged the streets to take pictures and help clean up the mess. Some loaded up carts with merchandise from Target, Dollar Tree and Cub Foods, which appeared devoid of workers after the Wednesday night crowds broke in.

“It’s very sudden to see how the neighborhood just changed in a period of three, four hours,” said Elizabeth Lopez, holding her 2-year-old daughter outside her home off Lake Street.

“It was a neighborhood that was building new buildings and everything, and then suddenly they were all on fire,” she said. “I don’t understand how peaceful protesting became like a nightmare for this neighborhood.”

Mohamed Abdi saw the chaos unfold from his apartment in the shopping center with Target and Cub Foods that was hit the hardest by the vandalism.

“I’m not safe, you’re not safe,” Abdi said. “I don’t know when the area will be safe again.”

Now that Cub Foods and Target are damaged, he doesn’t know where he’ll get his groceries. He vowed to keep an eye on the entrance to his apartment building for the rest of the day to try to ward off rioters.

“It’s very sad for everybody, for the residential people, the people who work in the area,” he added.”

And it certainly makes no political sense. Yesterday I posted about the strong position Biden has taken in the swing states that will decide the 2020 election. But there are lots of ways this strong position can be undermined. Not condemning looting is one of them. Josh Kraushaar explains, using some of my recently published research with John Halpin:

“Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin, two senior fellows at the liberal Center for American Progress think tank, wrote one of the most trenchant political analyses in recent months. Using data from the in-depth Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape surveys designed to capture a nuanced portrait of the American electorate, the two scholars found that there’s a significant cohort of Trump-Biden voters emerging in this year’s election, a persuadable constituency large enough to tip the election.

While the notion of swing voters may sound alien in these partisan times, the analysis showed that nearly one-tenth of Trump voters from the last election are poised to switch sides. They’re a demographically diverse mix: Just one-third make up the popular Trumpian stereotype of working-class white voters, while one-third are white college graduates, and the remainder are nonwhite.

But the most important finding was the ideological makeup of these potential Trump defectors. They identified as economically progressive—supporting higher taxes for the wealthy, a higher minimum wage, and mandated paid family leave—but held markedly conservative positions on a wide array of social and cultural issues.

A whopping 78 percent of these swing voters felt that government should promote family values in society. Nearly two-thirds oppose efforts to ban all guns. And by huge margins, they are opposed to racial reparations and believe there are only two genders. Put simply, this isn’t a politically correct bunch.

It’s worth recalling this data in the wake of the riots and violence in Minneapolis this week, which occurred after a wrenching videotaped incident of police brutality against an unarmed African-American man, George Floyd. The episode brings to the political forefront a polarizing brew of issues surrounding civil rights and law enforcement.

Polls already show most Americans support the arrest of the offending officer, who was charged Friday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. While the issue has yet to be polled, I’d also expect most Americans would reject the notion that violence is the answer to injustice, and would recoil at the havoc across the country this week.

So I was surprised to see Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for president, fail to make even a pro forma exhortation against rioting in his heartfelt speech Friday when he called for police reforms and racial reconciliation…..

On my “Against the Grain” podcast this week, I asked Kamala Harris’s former presidential campaign spokesman Ian Sams whether Democrats risked facing a backlash for not condemning the riots. He disagreed. “The riots are obviously unfortunate, but are an outward manifestation of desperate anger that the system is failing large communities of people…..Sams approvingly cited the feedback from a Minneapolis business owner that he saw on television who said he was glad his business burned down. “He said ‘Let it burn’ because this is a point that needed to be made.”

You gotta be kidding me. This is absolutely bonkers. Are these Democrats trying to lose? An honorable exception is Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms who said:

“What I see happening on the streets of Atlanta is not Atlanta. This is not a protest. This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. This is chaos,”

Bottoms for Veep? Get a grip here people. I’ll close with this vignette:

“In north Minneapolis, James Clark was among the dozens who stood by as firefighters extinguished what was left of the Fade Factory, a small barbershop on W. Broadway that was fully engulfed. He is the father of Jamar Clark, the black man shot and killed during an encounter with police in 2015, whose death sparked weeks of protest and encampments outside the Fourth Precinct.

“It’s not solving anything, it’s not doing any good. It’s just putting all these different communities in a bad position. They can’t get food or prescription jobs,” he said. “It don’t make no sense.”

Amen. And Democrats shouldn’t be afraid to say so.


Lawyers Challenged to Defend Working-Class Consumers

The following article by consumer lawyer Marc Dann, a  former Attorney General of the State of Ohio, is cross-posted from Working-Class Perspectives:

Three months into the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 40 million Americans have lost their jobs. 4.2 million homeowners have placed their mortgages in forbearance. Hundreds of thousands more are in default and have not yet worked out agreements with lenders to fend off foreclosure. Rent, credit card, student loan, and other bills are clogging the mailboxes of working-class families.

While many working-class people feel helpless in the face of all this, socially conscious lawyers can provide a meaningful line of defense, protecting working-class consumers and homeowners and making an honest living in the process.

Both consumers and lawyers missed a similar opportunity during the 2008 recession, when the vast majority of defendants in foreclosure, collection, and eviction cases went without legal representation and many lawyers were unemployed or underemployed. Not only did individual consumers miss the chance to bring consumer protection claims against predatory lenders, they and the lawyers who might have helped them missed the opportunity to reshape the conduct of those bad actors.


Political Strategy Notes

Democrats can be proud that their party includes one of the most inspiring and credible visionaries in congress, Rep. John Lewis, whose statement about the protests – and the rioting and looting – in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor provides a lodestar for other Democratic candidates: “To the rioters here in Atlanta and across the country: I see you, and I hear you,” he wrote. “I know your pain, your rage, your sense of despair and hopelessness. Justice has, indeed, been denied for far too long. Rioting, looting, and burning is not the way. Organize. Demonstrate. Sit-in. Stand-up. Vote. Be constructive, not destructive. History has proven time and again that non-violent, peaceful protest is the way to achieve the justice and equality that we all deserve.”  Tia Mitchell of the Atlanta Journal Constitution notes further that Lewis said on MSNBC, “We must continue to teach the way of peace, the way of love, the philosophy and the discipline of non-violence…And never, ever give up on any of our brothers and sisters. We’re one people; we’re one family.”

Democratic candidates who like the idea of winning should also read Josh Kraushaar’s article, “Democrats risk backlash if they don’t condemn rioting” at The National Journal. Kraushaar notes that “It’s worth recalling this data in the wake of the riots and violence in Minneapolis this week, which occurred after a wrenching videotaped incident of police brutality against an unarmed African-American man, George Floyd. The episode brings to the political forefront a polarizing brew of issues surrounding civil rights and law enforcement…Polls already show most Americans support the arrest of the offending officer, who was charged Friday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.” But Kraushaar believes more Democratic candidates should emulate the strong statement of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: “One of the few Democrats to loudly denounce the violence was Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who spoke with moral clarity as riots descended on her city Friday night. “What I see happening on the streets of Atlanta is not Atlanta. This is not a protest. This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. This is chaos,” she said. The mayor, who is also on Biden’s list of potential running mates, was one of the few Democratic voices to speak unequivocally against the riots.” Ruy Teixeira added on his Facebook page, “I Hope the Biden Campaign Is Taking a Very, Very Close Look at Bottoms for Vice-President.”

Kraushaar explains that “Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin, two senior fellows at the liberal Center for American Progress think tank, wrote one of the most trenchant political analyses in recent months. Using data from the in-depth Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape surveys designed to capture a nuanced portrait of the American electorate, the two scholars found that there’s a significant cohort of Donald Trump-Joe Biden voters emerging in this year’s election, a persuadable constituency large enough to tip the election…While the notion of swing voters may sound alien in these partisan times, the analysis showed that nearly one-tenth of Trump voters from the last election are poised to switch sides. They’re a demographically diverse mix: Just one-third make up the popular Trumpian stereotype of working-class white voters, while one-third are white college graduates, and the remainder are nonwhite…But the most important finding was the ideological makeup of these potential Trump defectors. They identified as economically progressive—supporting higher taxes for the wealthy, a higher minimum wage, and mandated paid family leave—but held markedly conservative positions on a wide array of social and cultural issues…A whopping 78 percent of these swing voters feel that government should promote family values in society. Nearly two-thirds oppose efforts to ban all guns. And by huge margins, they oppose racial reparations and believe there are only two genders. Put simply, this isn’t a politically correct bunch.”

Regarding “The Voters Who Don’t Like Trump Or Biden,” Geoffrey Skelley notes at FiveThirtyEight that “in 2020, Trump may have lost his edge among the “haters” — that is, the voters who hold an unfavorable view of both presidential candidates. Two recent national surveys found that former Vice President Joe Biden has a big lead over Trump among those who have unfavorable views of them both. An April survey from NBC News/Wall Street Journal put Biden ahead of Trump 60 percent to 10 percent, and an early May survey from Morning Consult gave Biden a lead of 46 percent to 14 percent…However, there are a couple of things to keep in mind when talking about the “hater” vote. First, this voting bloc is probably not as big as it was in 2016. According to the RealClearPolitics average of favorability polls, the two nominees aren’t as disliked this time around…the net favorability (the favorable rating minus the unfavorable rating) for both Trump and Biden is around 10 points higher than the figures for Trump and Clinton in November 2016.”

Some notes from Chris Brennan’s “Another loss from coronavirus: The rituals of election day” at The Philadelphia Inquirer: “More than 77% of the usual polling places in Philadelphia have been closed. More voters in the city have requested mail ballots than did across the whole state for the primary in 2016. Almost two million Pennsylvanians have requested to vote by mail…And after several election cycles that saw an increase in political activism due to the national political scene, this primary really holds only one competitive statewide race, the Democratic battle for the relatively low-profile post of auditor general…Philadelphia elections officials expect more than half the votes to be cast by mail. But it’s hard to know how many of the 220,000 or so voters who have requested ballots will actually return them on time for the election-night deadline, instead of voting in person or not at all. In the past, about one out of five voters who requested an absentee ballot ended up not using it…Who ends up voting by mail, and how the pandemic might reshape the electorate, is also impossible to predict. Voters in low-income neighborhoods requested mail ballots at lower rates than even past turnout would suggest, and the voters requesting mail ballots are also older than the overall electorate. Voters over 60 years old have requested 36% of the city’s mail ballots while making up 27% of the active voters on the rolls. Voters under 30, meanwhile, make up about 16% of ballot requests but 21% of active voters.”

A very well-done pro-Biden ad:

Lauren Egan reports at nbcnews.com: “As health experts warn that the country could still be grappling with the coronavirus pandemic this fall, lawsuits aiming to expand access to mail-in ballots in key battleground states could help determine the outcome of the presidential race…Nonpartisan groups, such as the Campaign Legal Center, as well as a handful of Democratic organizations, including Priorities USA, are backing lawsuits in more than a dozen states in an effort to eliminate administrative hurdles that could make vote-by-mail difficult or even inaccessible to voters.“…A large percentage of people are going to vote by mail, maybe even a large majority,” said Paul Smith, vice president of litigation and strategy at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan organization that works to support access to voting and is currently litigating cases related to the coronavirus and vote-by-mail in Minnesota, Texas and New Jersey.”

Egan adds, “Most battleground states offer no-excuse absentee voting, meaning that any registered voter can vote by mail without needing a reason to do so. But all of these states have regulations — such as requiring a witness signature or requiring the ballot to be received by Election Day — that voting rights experts and activists say are onerous and could lead to mass disenfranchisement this fall…In North Carolina, for example, Democratic legal groups filed a lawsuit arguing that the state should provide prepaid postage for all ballots, eliminate the requirement for two witnesses to sign a mail-in ballot, extend the deadline for when a mail ballot must be received, and allow for voters to fix any signature discrepancies before the state can reject a ballot…In Florida, Democratic organizations filed a lawsuit seeking to suspend ballot-return deadlines and laws limiting who is allowed to collect vote by mail ballots and deliver them to local election offices…Similar lawsuits have been filed in Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all of which will be critical in deciding the race between President Donald Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden…The North Carolina and Arizona suits could also affect tight Senate races in those states that could determine which party controls that body after Election Day.”

From a profile of Jessica Post, “the high energy leader of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which is fighting to flip statehouses in November” at scoopsquare24.com: “Post leads the Democratic party’s national strategy for electing far more Democrats into every state legislature across the country. As she points out- “The impact of state legislatures is enormous. State legislatures actually control and govern most of your day to day life- the quality of the schools that your kids might go to, the quality of roads, mass transit, the economic opportunities in your area, voting rights, the districts that you might vote in- all of those are determined by state legislatures…Today, she is optimistically enacting her DLCC strategy to flip eight to ten state legislative chambers from red to blue in the November 2020 election. Since 2016, the Democrats have flipped more than 430 legislative seats from red to blue, and were successful in reclaiming the majority in 10 legislative chambers. “We only have to win four seats to flip the state legislature from red to blue in Michigan and in Texas we realized we only need to flip nine seats for the Texas state house to go from red to blue,” she says excitedly.”


Teixeira: Biden Bolshevism Watch (2)

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

Is it that the left just can’t take “yes” for an answer?

One has to wonder given the continued lack of enthusiasm for Biden in certain quarters. This is strange given that the left presumably stands for, well, left policies. And Biden’s got ’em by the bushel, as Matt Yglesias lays out in an excellent, detailed article on Vox.

1. A big minimum wage increase
2. Free college for most
3. Enhancing the Affordable Care Act
4. Dramatic transformation of federal housing policy
5. A huge financial boost to schools with low-income students
6. A labor-friendly climate agenda
7. Major commitments on union organizing
8. Back to the future on immigration

As Yglesias points out, this adds up to a lot. And how far Biden gets with it if elected will have less to do with any lack of ambition and more to do with the Congress he has to work with. The logical course, therefore is to back Biden to the hilt, work hard to deliver him the Congress he’ll need and be prepared to put pressure on him to stick with the commitments he has already made.

Or is it really the case that the left can’t take “yes” for answer? Between now and November, we’ll find out.

“Biden is a mainstream Democrat, and as the Democratic Party has grown broadly more progressive in recent years, he is now running on arguably the most progressive policy platform of any Democratic nominee in history.

It’s a detailed and aggressive agenda that includes doubling the minimum wage and tripling funding for schools with low-income students. He is proposing the most sweeping overhaul of immigration policy in a generation, the biggest pro-union push in three generations, and the most ambitious environmental agenda of all time.

If Democrats take back the Senate in the fall, Biden could make his agenda happen. A primary is about airing disagreements, but legislating is about building consensus. The Democratic Party largely agrees on a suite of big policy changes that would improve the lives of millions of Americans in meaningful ways. Biden has detailed, considered plans to put much of this agenda in place. But getting these plans done will be driven much more by the outcome of the congressional elections than his questioned ambition.”