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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

What Will Trump Loyalists’ Sensed Powerlessness Mean For Politics?

Donald Trump’s influence on the Republican Party continues to shape America’s politics, even as the Democrats have taken control of the federal government and Congress.

Read the Report

From Democracy Corps

 

5 Practical Strategies for Moderate Candidates

Trump loyalists are not just completely committed to a Fox News’ right-wing political perspective but to an extreme alternative ideology that requires the denial of even patently evident facts

Strategies based on Democracy Corps new study.

Most Profoundly Sinister Provision in the New GOP Voter Suppression Laws

All of the GOP measures are designed to make voting harder and reduce the turnout of minorities and other pro-Democratic groups but one key strategy is quite literally designed to turn American elections into meaningless, completely empty rituals like they are in police state dictatorships like Russia.

Read the Article

Plausible Strategy for Surge of Immigrants

Democratic officeholders and candidates who plan to run in 2022 and 2024 need to face a simple, brutal fact – many will lose their next elections and will return control of government to the GOP if they do not offer a more plausible strategy for reducing the surge of immigrants at the border

Democrats in 2022 and 2024 will lose elections without a strategy.

Strategy for Separating Extremist from Non-extremist White Workers

The grotesque events since the election finally forced a limited section of the Republican coalition to take a stand against the extremists who gained essentially complete domination over the GOP after the election of Donald Trump in 2016.

Prevent the Triumph of GOP Extremism.

The Daily Strategist

June 24, 2021

Teixeira: The Real Reason Why ‘Swing Seats’ Have Declined

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

How Much Has Gerrymandering Contributed to Polarization?

Less than you think. A treasure trove of data has just been released by Cook Political Report on the partisan lean of states and congressional districts, with a lot fantastic maps, tables and other graphics. Among their findings is the following:

“It’s become fashionable to blame gerrymandering for polarization and Congress’s ills. In truth, redistricting is only responsible for a fraction of the decimation of swing seats over the past few decades. The bigger factor? Voters’ self-sorting.

In many minimally altered districts, the electorate has simply become much more homogeneous. For example, the boundaries of West Virginia’s 2nd CD have barely changed since 1997, but its PVI score has shifted from EVEN to R+20 as its voters have moved away from national Democrats. Likewise, Albuquerque’s migration to the left has bumped the PVI score of New Mexico’s 1st CD from R+1 to D+9.

The Cook PVI illustrates how voters’ natural geographical sorting from election to election, much more than redistricting and gerrymandering, has driven the polarization of districts over the last two decades. Our 12 unique sets of PVI scores over the past 25 years give us a powerful tool to isolate and quantify the impacts of sorting and redistricting on the makeup of House districts.

We’ve released new PVI scores in seven odd-numbered years following presidential elections: 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2013, 2017 and 2021. We’ve also recalculated scores in five even-numbered years following redistricting: 2002 (after the 2000 census), 2004 (after mid-decade redistricting in Texas), 2012 (after the 2010 census), 2016 (after new court-ordered maps in Florida, North Carolina and Virginia) and 2020 (after new court-ordered maps in North Carolina and Pennsylvania).

On balance, redistricting wasn’t as much of a factor in the House’s polarization as the most vocal opponents of gerrymandering might think. Of the net 86 “swing seats” that have vanished since 1997, 81 percent of the decline has resulted from areas trending redder or bluer from election to election, while only 19 percent of the decline has resulted from changes to district boundaries.”


Political Strategy Notes

How pro-Democratic or pro-Republican is your congressional district? The Cook Political Report  survey is out with its “Partisan Voting Index” measurements. As David Wasserman and Ally Flinn note, “First introduced in 1997, the Cook PVI measures how each district performs at the presidential level compared to the nation as a whole. We have released new PVI scores following every election and round of redistricting since 1996, each time taking into account the prior two presidential elections. This time, we teamed up with Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections to calculate 2020’s results by district….A Partisan Voter Index score of D+2, for example, means that in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, that district performed an average of two points more Democratic than the nation did as a whole, while an R+4 means the district performed four points more Republican. If a district performed within half a point of the national average in either direction, we assign it a score of EVEN.” Check out how your congressional district leaned by clicking on this link and hovering your mouse over your district.

In his syndicated Washington Post column, E. J. Dionne, Jr. explains why there is growing support for higher taxes on top corporations: “Just how much have corporations shucked off their responsibility for sharing the load? As Steve Rattner, the economic commentator and chartmaker on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” pointed out, corporate taxes accounted for 23 percent of federal revenue in 1966 but just 7 percent in 2019. The previous year, 91 of the Fortune 500 companies paid an effective rate of zero — or less. That wasn’t a typo. Burdening middle-income taxpayers before asking more of corporations would be political and policy malpractice….The downward trend Rattner describes is a product of what Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called a “30-year race to the bottom” as globalization and the proliferation of tax havens made it ever easier for corporations to escape taxes. This is why one of the Biden administration’s most important long-term initiatives is its proposal for a uniform minimum corporate tax across national boundaries….In a speech this month advancing the idea, Yellen spoke of every democracy’s need for “stable tax systems that raise sufficient revenue to invest in essential public goods.”

At FiveThirtyEight, Ryan P. Burge and Perry Bacon, Jr. share some data regarding public opinion about filibuster reform, which indicate that a majority of Americans [53 percent] favor either ditching the filibuster altogether, or reforming filibuster rules: “Opinions were more mixed on getting rid of the filibuster, as some Democrats are proposing,” Burge and Bacon write: “The Daily Kos/Civiqs survey found 39 percent support getting rid of the filibuster, 14 percent want it reformed but not eliminated, 38 percent want to keep the filibuster and 10 percent are unsure.”  Bacon and Burge did not provide the granular detail, but it’s likely some of that 38 percent believe that bipartisanship is still possible, and/or that the filibuster is a bipartisan tool that both parties can use to prevent wafer-thin majorities from enacting unwise policies, and/or that hefty majorities should be required to pass important legislation. Democrats who want filibuster reform apparently have to do more educational outreach to build public support for it.

Not that there is much chance of any reforms being enacted in the forseeable near future, but “Nearly two-thirds of all U.S. adults surveyed in a new poll said that they believed Supreme Court justices should face term limits and leave the court after a certain amount of time on the bench,” John Bowden writes at The Hill. “The Reuters-Ipsos survey conducted between April 15 and April 16 found that just 22 percent of respondents supported lifetime appointments for Supreme Court justices, while 63 percent supported term limits. The remainder of respondents had no opinion or were unsure….While having new faces join the court was important for many Americans, doing it without a vacancy on the court at its current size was not nearly as popular. Just 38 percent said they supported court packing, or expanding the size of the Supreme Court and adding more justices to the bench, while 42 percent opposed such an idea. The remaining 20 percent of respondents were unsure.”


Brian Kemp Is Cynically Using Voter Suppression to Win Back MAGA Support

When an underwhelming primary rival to Brian Kemp announced his candidacy I took a look at the Georgia governor’s comeback strategy and wrote it up at New York.

Until March 25, Georgia governor Brian Kemp was looking pretty finished politically. Very publicly and vociferously blamed by Donald Trump for ratifying Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s certification of Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia on November 20, Kemp was persona non grata in MAGA country. He had already been periodically in Trump’s doghouse over his handling of the pandemic in his state, and before that, over his rejection of the Boss’s instruction that he appoint Representative Doug Collins to an open U.S. Senate seat. But getting in the way of the 45th president’s attempted election coup was the final straw: Trump has been publicly and privately vowing to take down Kemp in next year’s Republican gubernatorial primary, as recently as the RNC donor retreat in Florida last weekend. During his brief campaign appearance in Georgia before the January Senate runoffs that ended in defeat for his party, Trump even called on Collins to challenge Kemp in 2022, which wasn’t exactly a Georgia GOP talking point. Nor was Trump’s later suggestion that Kemp should resign.

Kemp managed to keep his mouth shut in the face of all these provocations, grimly promising to support Trump in 2024 and generally taking his medicine. But his comeback strategy became apparent when he made a big show of signing Georgia’s highly controversial new election law on March 25. It’s unclear whether he deliberately courted the appearance of racist impropriety, though he did sign the bill under a painting of a plantation and barred a Black Democratic legislator from his office during his remarks on the bill. (State Representative Park Cannon was subsequently manhandled by state troopers who wrestled her out of the Georgia Capitol to be arrested on multiple felony counts.)

“[T]he sweeping election law could be one of Kemp’s last hopes to rekindle a bond with Republicans who remain fiercely loyal to Trump and will be a critical force in next year’s GOP primary. The legislation, which Kemp signed into law, could give him an opening to persuade Republicans that he is an outsider, willing to stand up to Democrats, corporate leaders, and sports leagues who have derided the measure as an affront to democracy that is based on false claims and needs to be rewritten.

“’This is an absolute godsend for Brian Kemp,’ said Brian Robinson, a Republican consultant and former top aide to Kemp’s predecessor, Nathan Deal.”

Kemp has eagerly been making the rounds of conservative media outlets to defend the new law, struggling, no doubt, to hide his glee at the liberal criticism it has attracted. The furor is helping him back home where it matters as well, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Greg Bluestein observes:

“In recent weeks, Kemp has been a mainstay on conservative cable TV shows and enjoyed raucous receptions at grassroots meetings across the state, seemingly dissuading better-known Republican rivals such as former U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, whom Trump once recruited to run.”

Morning Consult reports that Kemp’s job-approval rating among Georgia Republicans rose from 59 percent in mid-March to 74 percent in early April. Nonetheless, a well-known Georgia pol close to Trump has now announced a 2022 primary bid against the governor. But his identity could be a blessing in disguise to the incumbent.

Vernon Jones is a Black former state legislator and county CEO who endorsed Trump’s reelection last year and has more recently switched parties. He got a lot of MAGA attention, particularly after his featured role at the GOP National Convention. He has really taken to his new career in Republican politics, speaking at the notorious January 6 “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington and basking in the affection of the Big Man (“When are you announcing? When are you announcing?” Trump said to Jones at Mar-a-Lago last week).

Jones’s announcement made it clear that he’s the former president’s surrogate.

Jones, however, is a risky proposition as Trump’s instrument of vengeance against Kemp. Aside from the fact that he’s a career Democratic politician from a jurisdiction (the Atlanta inner suburb of Dekalb County) that your average rural Republican wouldn’t visit on a bet, he has always had some issues, as Bluestein explains, calling him “a uniquely polarizing figure in state politics”:

“Jones launched his political career in the early 1990s in the Georgia House before winning the first of two terms as DeKalb County’s chief executive officer in 2000. His stint was marked by controversy …

“[H]is angry outbursts and clashes with other local officials dominated headlines, as did more serious allegations …

“[A] wide-ranging special grand jury report released in 2013, after Jones left office, recommended an investigation against Jones and other DeKalb officials into possible bid-rigging and theft when he was chief executive, painting a picture of a culture of corruption that spanned from his office to workers and contractors in the watershed department.”

Worse yet, Jones was accused of rape in 2005. His successful defense was that the intercourse in question was part of a consensual three-way sexual encounter. This is still not a great look for candidates in the Christian-right- dominated Georgia GOP. And speaking of the Christian right, Jones had a problem with a vote in the legislature against a “fetal heartbeat” abortion ban Kemp had championed in 2019. On the eve of his candidacy, Jones executed a straight-out flip-flop on abortion, stating he now believed zygotes should be protected “from the moment of conception.”

You get the sense that Jones will serve as an irritant to Kemp but not a serious threat unless Trump himself forcefully intervenes in the race (and/or if a more formidable Trump-backed candidate, like Collins, who is reportedly mulling a Senate race, jumps in). And even then, Georgia Republicans will remember that Trump had strongly endorsed Kemp during the last gubernatorial primary. MAGA bravos looking for a pound of flesh may instead focus on Raffensperger, who has drawn an actual member of Congress as his 2022 primary opponent, along with the rival he barely defeated in 2018.

If Kemp does escape, he will likely face a rematch with his nemesis, voting-rights activist Stacey Abrams. And in that contest, all the treasure he has stored up in Republican circles by boasting of his commitment to “election integrity” may earn him a backlash from the voters he and his party have sought to bedevil.


The Corporate Tilt Toward Democrats: Promise and Peril

In “Republicans are in a messy divorce with big business. Democrats could benefit: As corporations flee the Republican Party, liberals should welcome them into the Democratic coalition – with conditions,” Andrew Gawthorpe writes at The Guardian:

It is premature to predict a wholesale collapse of the Republican party’s alliance with big business. But the events of recent years present an enormous opportunity for Democrats to make political inroads. In 2020, the counties won by Joe Biden produced a whopping 71% of US GDP, compared with only 29% in the counties which voted for Donald Trump – a gap which is 14 points higher than in 2016. Democrats also increasingly represent the more educated voters who corporate America covets as consumers and employees, and who have fled the Trumpified Republican party.

Democrats also represent the values and competence which American businesses – and the workers who depend on them – need to thrive. Trump’s plutocratic tax cuts and shamelessness in gutting the regulatory state might have provided a sugar rush to many businesses, but his woeful handling of the pandemic and impulsive trade wars harmed them. The paranoid, reality-denying, cultish Republican party of today cannot be trusted to elevate competent figures into key political and policymaking positions. As Trump demonstrated, the costs of having a clown in charge can generally be tolerated while the economy is thundering along in normal times – but they become catastrophic when a serious challenge arises.

Democrats, on the other hand, don’t just represent a steady hand in a crisis. They are also advancing plans for infrastructure, increased R&D spending and a green energy transition which are all necessary to the future competitiveness of the American economy. Such plans involve winners and losers, but overall they represent an enormous investment in the economy which can solidify the party’s appeal to corporations, employees and voters.

Republicans are in a race with the clock. They have plased a big bet that white working-class anger  towards Democrats alone will give them the edge they need to take back majorities in the House and Senate in 2022. Meanwhile, however, Biden is making all of the right moves that can actually benefit working-class voters, win corporate support and improve the Democrats’ image as the “recovery party.”

It won’t be a cakewalk for Dems, as Thomas B. Edsall writes in his New York Times column:

Finally, for Democrats, the leftward shift of business is a mixed blessing.

On the plus side, Democrats gain an ally in pressing a liberal agenda on social and racial issues.

On the downside, the perception of the party as allied with corporate interests may take root and Democratic officials are very likely to face pressure to make concessions to their new allies on fundamental economic policies — bad for the party, in my view, and bad for the country.

But Gawthorpe sees a more optimistic outcome, if Democrats seize the opportunity:

Progressive Democrats are right to be wary of calls for the party to identify itself as pro-business. And it’s absolutely right that Democrats seek to reform capitalism at the same time that they embrace it. But Republican tensions with big business give Democrats exactly what they need to accomplish that – leverage. Faced with the alternative, groups like the Chamber of Commerce have proven more open to Democratic proposals like raising the minimum wage than under previous administrations. Their support makes such policies easier to pass and more likely to be enduring.

Something even more important is at stake. For decades, corporate America has been a key pillar in the Republican coalition. That pillar is starting to crack, providing an opportunity for Democrats to weaken a dangerously extremist party which poses an existential threat to American democracy. As big business flees the wreckage of the Republican party, the best thing to do for the future of the country is welcome it into the Democratic coalition – with conditions.

If Biden keeps his current trajectory in the polls and the economy keeps improving, it will be hard for swing voters to deny that only one party offers a credible vision and policies for steady progress, while the other continues to marinate in anger and resentment.


Political Strategy Notes

From “Democrats to introduce bill to expand Supreme Court from 9 to 13 justices: President Joe Biden announced the formation of a commission last week to study the court’s structure, including the number of justices and their length of service.” by Sahil Kapur at nbcnews.com:  “Congressional Democrats will introduce legislation Thursday to expand the Supreme Court from nine to 13 justices, joining progressive activists pushing to transform the court. The move intensifies a high-stakes ideological fight over the future of the court after President Donald Trump and Republicans appointed three conservative justices in four years, including one who was confirmed days before the 2020 election….The Democratic bill is led by Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee. It is co-sponsored by Reps. Hank Johnson of Georgia and Mondaire Jones of New York….The Supreme Court can be expanded by an act of Congress, but the legislation is highly unlikely to become law in the near future given Democrats’ slim majorities, which include scores of lawmakers who are not on board with the idea. President Joe Biden has said he is “not a fan” of packing the court….”This bill marks a new era where Democrats finally stop conceding the Supreme Court to Republicans,” said Brian Fallon, a former Senate Democratic leadership aide and a co-founder of Demand Justice, who described the court as “broken and in need of reform.”….”Our task now is to build a grassroots movement that puts pressure on every Democrat in Congress to support this legislation because it is the only way to restore balance to the court and protect our democracy,” he said.”

The next time you hear an argument about the wisdom of President Biden’s decision to withdraw the remaining U.S. ground forces from Afghanistan, calmly ask those criticizing his decision, “How many troops are we talking about?,” and see how close they get to the actual number, 2,500 — down from over 100,000 during the Obama Administration. A good follow-up question might be, “Can 2,500 troops really accomplish our primary strategic objectives?” That will spark a wide-ranging discussion of our strategic objectives, prompting critics of Biden’s decision to call for an increase in U.S. ground troops in Afghanistan, a pricey option for a nation that is assuming a couple trillion dollars in expenses we didn’t forsee a year ago. “The simplest explanation of the US goal in Afghanistan is to keep it from again becoming a hotbed for terror groups like al Qaeda. When the US left Iraq, for instance, the power vaccum helped lead to the rise of ISIS there,” Zachary B. Wolf writes at CNN Politics. “But what the US has been trying to accomplish in Afghanistan, and the strategy to do it, has changed with each president.” There are some strong arguments for a continued and increased military forces in Afghanistan, most of them rooted in human rights, particularly for women. But, Biden, a former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has carefully weighed the cost/benefit ratio, after consulting with the top military and economic analysts. The U.S. D.O.D. estimates that the U.S. has spent $778 billion in Afghanistan from Oct. 2001 to Septmeber 2019. The New York Times reported that “the cost of nearly 18 years of war in Afghanistan will amount to more than $2 trillion.” The human toll includes, 2,300 American soldiers killed, and many more wounded. That’s a lot of heartbreak, with few measurable accomplishments. When it comes to military budget cuts, Afghanistan looks like low-hanging fruit.

In his article, “Few Americans Who Identify As Independent Are Actually Independent. That’s Really Bad For Politics,” Geoffrey Skeeley writes at FiveThirtyEight: “The share of Americans who say they’re independent has climbed considerably, according to Gallup’s quarterly party affiliation data. In the late 1980s, roughly one-third of Americans identified as Democratic, Republican or independent. Now, 40 percent or more identify as independent, while the share who identify as Democrats or Republicans has fallen to around 30 percent or lower, as the chart below shows….The problem is that few independents are actually independent. Roughly 3 in 4 independents still lean toward one of the two major political parties, and studies show that these voters aren’t all that different from the voters in the party they lean toward. Independents who lean toward a party also tend to back that party at almost the same rate as openly partisan voters….The abandonment of voters openly identifying with one of the two parties has led to less political engagement, which means Americans are exerting less influence on what the parties look and sound like. That’s a real problem since the parties are still the fundamental building blocks that organize our politics. But with party building left to more stringent partisans, the parties’ bases have largely cultivated candidates who tend to be more ideologically extreme than the voters they seek to represent.” We know that Republicans are stuck in an inflexible commitment to Trumpism. Democrats also have room to strengthen their party’s image and brand, far more flexibility than the GOP — and much to gain by doing so.

“Without a dramatic change in the rules governing the filibuster,” Walter Shapiro writes in “The Case for the Talking Filibuster” at The New Republic. “Democrats have no chance of passing the ambitious voting rights bill known as the “For the People Act” that has already won approval in the House. The same is true for legislation that would enact gun control and raise the minimum wage….The C-SPAN cameras are the biggest X-factor in assessing the strategic merits of a talking filibuster. The first few days of a talking filibuster—especially if you add the drama of an all-night session or two—could attract a sizable audience. And if the Republicans were opposing a voting rights bill, it would be instructive to hear their arguments as fatigue stripped away their masquerade that they are defenders of election integrity….Let’s be honest—there are no guarantees that McConnell can be defeated as long as it takes 60 votes to shut off Senate debate. But the other options open to the Democrats are bleak in a 50–50 Senate. That is true whether the legislation is to protect voting rights, promote gun safety, or provide a $15-an-hour minimum wage. A talking filibuster may not be a panacea. But at least it would require Republicans to put their mouths where their money is.”


Was Trump’s 2020 Election Coup Attempt a Dress Rehearsal?

I stumbled on a piece at the Never-Trump site The Bulwark, and it stunned me enough to write it up at New York.

You may have heard about the 45th president’s reported rant at a Republican donor conference near his Florida home over the weekend. Trump is apparently still furious at Brian Kemp for impeding his election coup, and Mike Pence for failing to steal a second term for him anyway, and at Mitch McConnell for refusing to back his electoral vote challenge and then criticizing him for inciting a riot.

To Republicans who aren’t deep in the fever swamps of MAGA-land, this is just Trump continuing his narcissistic and destructive post-election behavior. Just as he blew up those crucial Georgia Senate runoffs in January because he couldn’t let go of his own lies about the presidential election, he’s blowing up the party at a time when the GOP needs to stay unified in the fight against Biden.

But what if Trump’s attacks on those who “betrayed” him in 2020 aren’t just narcissistic or backward-looking? What if it’s part of a forward-looking plan to rerun 2020 and get it right this time?

That’s the question Jonathan V. Last of The Bulwark appears to have asked himself, and he’s answered it with a hair-raising hypothesis that is as plausible as the assumption that Trump is just throwing temper tantrums. He presents his theory as the likely product of an implicit Republican 2020 “autopsy” that has turned defeat into a near-victory:

“It is likely Republicans will have majorities in the congressional delegations of at least 26 states for the foreseeable future. They have a >50 percent chance of winning the House in 2022 and a pretty good shot at flipping the Senate.

“So the first two preconditions for winning the presidency while losing the election are very much on the table.

“Which leaves just one project: Mustering the political will to move past both the popular vote and the Electoral College.”

If you begin not with the assumption that Trump’s entire effort to steal the election was absurd, but regard it as an audacious plan that wasn’t executed with the necessary precision, then reverse engineering it to fix the broken parts makes sense:

“[T]he key parts of the Republican autopsy have been (1) building the political will to use raw power next time and (2) removing the Republican officials who were not willing to comply last time.

“That’s why Republican state parties have censured nearly every Republican who did not participate in Trump’s attempted coup.”

And the really heady thing for Trump is knowing how easy it was to convince the GOP rank-and-file base that his lies were the gospel truth:

“The Big Lie is actually the biggest insight to come from the Republican autopsy. Republicans and their enablers discovered that if they make false, evidence-free claims often and loudly enough, then the vast majority of their voters will believe them.

“And then, once Republican voters were onboard, they found that the rest of the party elites would either join them or stay silent. Only a handful of Republicans dared to object. And those figures are in the process of being either defeated or coopted.”

So why not play it again with a prepared and united party that won’t hesitate to seize on bogus “voter fraud” claims and either steal electoral votes before they can be certified by the states, or refuse to certify a Democratic victory and throw the election into Congress?

“[E]ven though the success of such a gambit is a longshot given all of the various failure points, since political power is derived from their voters, many Republicans politicians will be incentivized to embrace the challenge anyway, since they will gain power within the party from the voters who have been primed to demand such a fight.”

But it’s not any more implausible than the election coup hypothesis sounded when some of us began predicting it in the spring of 2020. And in retrospect, it was spot-on except for a few crucial mistakes Team Trump made after Election Night.

From Last’s perspective, in ranting about disloyal Republicans Trump isn’t engaged in hindsight or vengeance, but is following an ambitious schedule for success in 2024 by getting rid of potential troublemakers within his party. And here’s the thing: it’s a strategy that doesn’t necessarily depend on Trump running for president again. It’s available to anyone determined to do whatever it takes to reconquer Washington at a time when Republicans look to be a minority of the electorate for the foreseeable future. Trump has prepared the way with a dress rehearsal.

It’s a chilling thought, and one to revisit if Trump’s Republican enemies go down to primary challenges next year.


GOP Plan to Win Working-Class Voters Unveiled

It’s not exactly a hot flash that the GOP hopes to secure a permanent majority of white working-class voters, who are about 45 percent of America’s electorate, and that they have done well with this key constituency since 2016. But for Democratic oppo researchers who like details, Susan Davis has them in her article, “Top Republicans Work To Rebrand GOP As Party Of Working Class” at npr.org. As Davis writes,

A growing number of working-class voters were drawn to Donald Trump’s Republican Party, and now top Republicans are searching for ways to keep those voters in the fold without Trump on the ballot.

“All of the statistics and polling coming out of the 2020 election show that Donald Trump did better with those voters across the board than any Republican has in my lifetime since Ronald Reagan,” Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., told NPR. “And if Republicans want to be successful as a party, win the majority in 2022, win back the White House in 2024, I think we have to learn lessons that Donald Trump taught us and how to appeal to these voters.”

Since 2010, the most significant growth in the Republican coalition has been white voters without a college degree — an imperfect but widely used metric to quantify the working-class voting bloc — along with some marginal growth among similarly educated Black and Hispanic voters. Banks believes the only winning path forward for the GOP is to reimagine itself permanently as the party of working-class America.

Banks is the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a conservative faction in the House long rooted in small government, low taxes and social conservatism, and he recently sent a six-page memo to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., making his case. For Banks, it means tougher immigration laws and cracking down on China, Big Tech and, perhaps most provocatively for the GOP, corporate America.

“For too long, the Republican Party fed into the narrative and the perception that the Republican Party was the party of big business or the party of Wall Street,” Banks said.

Davis shares the entire, 6-page GOP memo from Jim Banks, chairman of the Republican Study Comittee to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. In the memo, entitled “Cementing the GOP as the Working-Class Party.” Davis quotes John Russo, who has contributed to The Democratic Strategist:

“I think the claim that says the Republican Party is the party of the working class is at best, insincere, and more likely, political misdirection and rebranding exercises,” said John Russo, a visiting scholar at the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University and a co-editor of the publication Working-Class Perspectives.

The working-class vote is complicated and too often confused with whiteness when about 40% of the working-class vote is people of color, Russo said. Their support also didn’t cut overwhelmingly toward Republicans in 2020. Biden still won a majority of voters who earn less than $50,000 year, while Trump won a majority of voters who earn over $100,000 a year.

Russo said about one-third of working-class voters are considered persuadable in elections, and it’s never reliable whether cultural or economic forces will drive their vote. “The working class, like all of us, carry multiple identities, race, class, gender, religious, geographic, and people may vote different parts of their identity as situations and moments change in their lives.”

Davis concludes, “The battle for the working class is even more urgent for the two parties because it’s a growing bloc of voters. Since the 2008 financial crisis, Russo said, more middle-class people have slid economically backward and are experiencing what he calls “the fragility of working-class life.”


Teixeira: How Moderate Democrats Can Take Advantage of a Republican Coalition in Crisis

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

Andy Levison at The Democratic Strategist takes a look at the latest Democracy Corps memo on “What Will Trump Loyalists’ Sensed Powerlessness Mean For Politics?“and considers how moderate Democrats can leverage the situation to improve Democratic prospects. Important stuff. As I have frequently noted, the ostentatiously progressive Democrats get the ink but the Democrats’ near-term fate depends much more on how moderate Democrats fare in coming elections.

“While it is almost impossible for many Democrats to seriously imagine that any white Americans could be genuinely afraid of this result, there is no question that it is felt by many white Republicans with complete sincerity. While Democrats envision a progressive future America as being an exciting, culturally and ethnically diverse, multiracial country in which there is general tolerance for diversity, white working class and small town people imagine an elitist society in which they have no place. To understand how this vision can seem entirely plausible, one has only to consider how rarely small town life or manual labor are portrayed positively in TV commercials and other media as part of the golden future that lies ahead. In slick advertisements and magazine spreads “the future” always looks like a world of gleaming office towers, bright young people in bustling urban centers and “country” as a place that people drive to in late model SUVs in order to go rock climbing or mountain biking.

The political implication of this is that moderate Democrats in Red State districts must very sincerely reassure Republicans that they genuinely value and respect the America of small towns, manual labor and the cultural traditions of that world and do not think it all an obsolete relic that should disappear. Moderate Democrats must make clear that the Democratic vision is for mutual tolerance and respect for different kinds of communities and not the ascendency of one group or community over another.

A related fact that emerges from the research is that many Republicans are seriously and deeply disturbed by what seems to them a Democratic indifference and even tolerance for social chaos. This extends across a wide range of social problems – from crime to urban decay to homeless vagabonds, illegal immigrants and failing schools. For Republicans, the common thread in all these problems is a Democratic failure to insist that rules should be followed and law and order firmly upheld.

The most powerful issue in 2020 was the specter of urban riots whose importance the GOP vastly exaggerated until many Republicans were sincerely convinced that it was totally out of control….Democrats must draw a clear line regarding what they view as genuinely unacceptable violations of social order. Among progressives there is tendency to resist endorsing slogans like “law and order” because they can sound like coded appeals to racial prejudice. But carried to an extreme this is profoundly counterproductive. Democratic voters do not actually support rioting of the type in which the Antifa protesters engaged in last year or passively accept street crime and other urban lawlessness. Democrats can be tough on riots and crime and actually win support from African-Americans and Latinos who drifted notably toward the Republicans in significant measure because in 2020 they also fear and reject chaos as much as whites….
Moderate Democrats will also have the opportunity to make inroads into the 30% who are somewhat or strongly opposed to him.

The Democracy Corps report says the following about this group: About 30 percent of Republicans are [either] non-Trump conservatives [or] the ideologically and religiously moderate —with the latter forming half of this bloc that vocally opposes Trump. …they are now much clearer where they differ with Trump and much more willing to express it, even in a room full of Trump loyalists. Trump’s CPAC speech — “that’s what I hate” says one. They called out the “nut jobs” and conspiracy theorists. They don’t understand their fellow Republican’s opposition to masks and health measures. They don’t think the 2nd Amendment is sacred, oppose the display of weapons in Michigan, and want to regulate guns. When others said they appreciated what the Proud Boys did, they called them out as “not patriots.” They seemed open to a much more expansive role for government.

This is encouraging but it should not lead to misperceiving them as fully in agreement with moderates or liberals:

They do share with other Republicans an aversion to BLM and cancel culture; they too are looking for more law and order and seem uncomfortable with whites being on the defensive. They agreed that the elite media ignored the violence in the cities.

What this clearly indicates is that the same tactics that can reassure or partially neutralize the opposition of the Trump loyalists can also present an attractive alternative for these voters….

[M]oderate Democrats must recognize that they have to pre-empt the inevitable Republican distortions of their views by very clearly drawing certain “lines in the sand” about their firm opposition to rioting, crime, and allowing demands for “political correctness” to essentially require that average Americans completely adopt the language and culture of the university or face censure, contempt and condemnation.

A position of this kind will not only resonate with the 30% of non-Trumpist Republicans but will also “lower the temperature” of the Trumpist Republicans themselves and convince them that the elections of 2022 and 2024 are not apocalyptic battles against evil in which the future itself is literally at stake. To the extent that this can be achieved, it will reduce the turnout of low frequency GOP voters and enhance the likelihood of Democratic victories.”

Read all of Levison’s analysis and the original DCorps memo.


Political Strategy Notes

In “Economist: ‘Voter restriction bills will cost Texas billions‘,” at kvue.com, Ashely Goudeau reports “Two Republican-backed bills to make sweeping elections changes could cost Texas billions of dollars and thousands of jobs, according to local economists….Central Texas Economist Ray Perryman, Ph.D., analyzed data, studies and research of state economies correlation to voting access. His team found when voter access is restricted, business and the economy suffer due to the loss of business, jobs and major events and deals….Among other things, Senate Bill 7 and House Bill 6 ban drive-thru voting, limit voting hours and stop elections clerks from proactively sending out mail-in ballot applications to registered voters. Republicans say the bills will enhance voter integrity, but democrats and critics say the bills aim to suppress voters, particularly minority voters….”As of 2025, if a bill like this would come into effect and be in effect for about five years, we’ve found Texas could lose about $14.7 billion in GDP and roughly around 73,000 jobs,” Dr. Perryman said….Dr. Perryman also estimates Texas’ tourism and economic development would take a $16.7 billion hit in the first five years if one of the bills becomes law. And those figures only increase the longer the laws are in effect.”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, “The Supreme Court faces a legitimacy crisis not because progressives are complaining but because of what they are complaining about: a reckless, right-wing, anti-democratic court majority, and a conservative court-packing campaign marked by the disgraceful Republican blockade against President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016 and the unseemly rush to confirm Justice Amy Coney Barrett just before President Donald Trump’s defeat last November….Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Trump were the court-packers. There would be far less talk of court enlargement if McConnell and Trump had not abused their power. Nor would enlargement be on the table if conservative justices had not substituted their own political preferences for Congress’s decisions, notably on voting rights and campaign finance reform, 5-to-4 rulings on which Breyer, rightly, joined the dissenters.”

Adie Tomer explains why “Biden’s infrastructure plan replaces federal cynicism with a sweeping vision” at Brookings: “Put it all together and the Biden proposal offers the most powerful ingredient when it comes to infrastructure reform: It sells a vision. The plan unapologetically calls out our next destination, whether that’s safer streets or cleaner power. It offers sweeping investments to make such a vision real, from replacing aging pipes to delivering rural broadband. And it brings people—especially our workforce—along for the ride….Biden has used the stump the way a forward-looking president should. The administration has delivered a vision to the American people—a promise of a new kind of country. And the country itself is responding, with polling that shows bipartisan support for the plan’s ideas….America was built for these kinds of grand visions. It is starting to feel like another one may soon come to life….Biden’s plan is an enormous bet on America—a bet that trillions of dollars of targeted investment can improve people’s lives, make our industries more globally competitive, and repair our fragile natural world. It’s also a major bet on the power of federal investment. Rather than asking states and cities to do more, as the Trump administration’s plan sought, the proposal recognizes the economic moment and essentially says that it’s time for the federal government to lead.”

Ronald Brownstein writes in The Atlantic: “One asset Democrats have in this struggle is time. However successful Republicans are at tarnishing Biden’s programs at the outset among core GOP voters, Biden has an opportunity to change those perceptions through the actual implementation of his plans. Even during the putative honeymoon period at his presidency’s start, Biden’s approval rating among rural and non-college-educated white voters has remained stuck at only a little over one-third. But the stimulus package has drawn substantial support in polls even from Republican voters, and those numbers could rise even more as families feel the effects of the aid. Likewise, if Democrats can pass Biden’s infrastructure program this summer, that will leave plenty of time before the next two elections to start repairing bridges and roads, and to break ground on new water systems, new wind and solar installations, and new broadband facilities. Even small gains in nonurban areas from such initiatives would fortify Democrats’ position in states near the tipping point of American elections, including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Georgia, Hildreth told me. “I think we are maybe a decade from having a majority in critical rural counties, but we just need to cut margins right now,” he said. “Literally the motto is ‘Lose less.’”


Democrats Have a Clear National Position on Voting Rights. Republicans? Not So Much

Some of the contradictions in Republican talking points on election law and voting rights are becoming clear to me, so I wrote about it at New York:

During the intense controversy raised by Georgia’s new election law, which included a negative reaction from Major League Baseball and a number of corporations, many defenders of the law have played a game of whataboutism. What about voting laws in Colorado, the state to which the MLB’s all-star game has been shifted? What about liberal New York? A lot of these comparisons have been factually challenged, or have zeroed in on one benign feature of the Georgia law while ignoring others. But it does raise a pretty important question: What is the posture nationally of the GOP or the conservative movement on the right to vote and its limits?

Not long ago you might have said that Republicans and conservatives were firmly committed to the view that rules governing voting and elections —even federal elections — were purely within the purview of state and local policy-makers. But that was before Donald Trump spent four years disparaging the decisions made by liberal and conservative jurisdictions on voting procedures whenever they contradicted his often-erratic but always forcefully expressed views. If, for example, voting by mail was as inherently pernicious as Trump said it was, almost daily from the spring through the autumn of 2020, allowing states to permit it was a Bad Thing, right? That simply added to the complaints made by Trump after the 2016 elections that California’s alleged openness to voting by noncitizens cost him a popular vote win over Hillary Clinton, and the widespread Republican whining after 2018 that the same jurisdiction had counted out Republican congressional candidates (whining that somehow subsided when Republicans did better in the exact same districts following the exact same rules in 2020).

And if the prevailing conservative idea is that decision-makers closest to the people should determine voting and election rules, then it’s hard to explain the provisions in the Georgia law (and in pending legislation in Texas) that preempt local government prerogatives decisively.

So what doctrine of voting rights does the GOP favor, other than whatever is necessary to produce Republican election victories? That’s hard to say.

Yes, at the Heritage Foundation you will find experts who more or less think everything other than in-person voting on Election Day should be banned everywhere. And now and then you will get someone like Kevin Williamson who will articulate the provocative old-school conservative case for restricting the franchise to “better” voters, which was pretty much the ostensible case for the poll taxes and literacy tests of the Jim Crow South. Unfortunately, snooty contrarianism isn’t a particularly helpful guide to the development of voting laws, and most Republicans (other than those caught in a gaffe) are unlikely to agree out loud with the Williamson proposition.

Until quite recently, most Republicans agreed that the jurisdictions that had for so many years discriminated against the voting rights of minorities deserved extra federal scrutiny and some additional hoops to jump through before changing their rules. In 2006, George W. Bush signed a 25-year extension of the Voting Rights Act that did just that, after it passed the Senate unanimously and the House with scattered opposition. Then a conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key feature of the VRA, and now it’s almost exclusively Democrats (via the John Lewis Voting Rights Act) who want to restore it. Where are Republicans on that idea? With the states and localities, or just with the states and localities where federal intervention in voting and election practices doesn’t inconvenience Republicans?

Whatever you think of Democratic attitudes toward voting and elections, at least they can answer such questions coherently. They have united to an amazing extent around highly detailed legislation (the House and Senate versions of the For the People Act and the aforementioned John Lewis Act) that generally expands voting rights and sets clear federal standards for procedures in and surrounding federal elections. The Republican response to these proposals has been almost universally negative. But it’s unclear what, if anything, they would propose of their own accord.

If the implicit GOP position on voting and elections is simply that such rules are part of the give and take of partisan politics and that both sides are free to play fast and loose with the facts and get what advantages they can, then I can understand why they are loathe to make it explicit. But in that case, people who care about voting rights one way or the other should simply choose sides and have it out.