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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

American Business Has the Power to Stop the GOP Assault on Democracy – Here’s a Strategy to Make Them Do It.

America is now well on its way to creating an electoral system that functions like Mexico’s during its era of one-party rule.

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.

Democratic Candidates: The Whole Debate about “Critical Race Theory” is a Cynical GOP propaganda trap – Here’s What you Should Say Instead

The latest example of this extremely effective GOP exploitation of language is the current debate over “Critical Race Theory” – a perspective about race that is supposedly being foisted on children in classrooms around the country.

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.

Let’s Face It: The Democratic Party is Not a “Big Tent” Political Coalition – But it Desperately Needs to Become One.

Democrats routinely describe the Democratic Party as a “coalition” or even a “big tent coalition.” But in reality Dems know that this is not the case.

The Daily Strategist

September 24, 2021

Don’t Dismiss the Power of Inflation Politics

All the talk of renewed inflation brought back some terrible memories for me, and I wrote about them at New York:

When I was a freshman college debater at Emory University in the fall of 1970, the national debate topic was not Vietnam, but the desirability of wage and price controls. Little did we know that just months ahead a Republican president would impose a wage-price freeze, long the anti-inflationary prescription of the left wing of the Democratic Party. But the surprise known in financial circles as the “Nixon shock,” nearly a half-century ago (on August 15, 1971) showed how pervasive the fear of inflation — running at just over 5 percent in 1970 — had become.

That’s ancient history now, even to those of us who remember the double-digit inflation of the late 1970s, and the particularly horrid scourge of “stagflation” (high inflation and unemployment simultaneously). Inflation seems to have been tamed by wise monetary policies. The periodic warnings from 21st-century conservatives that low interest rates and federal budget deficits would create inflation didn’t much bother me. It was like hearing an old priest chant a forgotten litany in a lost language — just one among many ritualistic arguments for the tight credit and reactionary social policies these people favored instinctively as a sort of class self-defense posture.

Like Tim Noah, I suspect there may be a generational lapse in understanding the politics of inflation:

“I don’t care to be condescended to by a bunch of Gen Xers and Millennials about my ’70s-bred fear of inflation. It feels too much like the condescension we Boomers directed toward Depression babies whenever they warned us that we were playing with fire in deregulating the financial markets. Poor dears, we thought, traumatized for life by the 1929 crash and one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.

“The Depression babies turned out to be right, of course.”

Noah makes it clear he’s not arguing inflation per se is bad for the economy. It is, however, bad for progressive politics, and not just because “stagflation” probably killed the Carter presidency and ushered in the Reagan era far more than the Iranian hostage crisis or other better-remembered Democratic foibles. The deflationary economic strategies of the 1980s weren’t called “austerity,” but rather a corrective for undisciplined policies that fed wage and price spirals which in turned hammered the value of savings, the living standards of those on fixed incomes, and the political case for federal domestic spending.

Most lethally for progressivism, the conservative supply-side tax-cutting when combined with inflationary fears can create enormous pressure for public disinvestment and the shredding of safety nets (which is why reactionaries happily labeled the intended result “starving the beast”). We are still living with some of the long-term consequences of anti-inflationary backlash. As Noah points out, California’s Proposition 13 ballot initiative in 1978 and similar “tax revolts” were a by-product of price spirals that boosted tax assessments on property and income alike.

But sometimes lost in an examination of the right’s exploitation of inflation fears is the abiding fact that the left has no clear prescription for dealing with it, either, other than by denying its existence or significance (sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly). Ironically, that was made most evident by the supposedly illiberal Richard Nixon’s surprising use of the great liberal instrument for taming inflation.

The veteran ex-conservative economic and political analyst Bruce Bartlett has penned an exceptional explainer on the background and consequences of the “Nixon shock,” particularly its international dimensions, and the role played by Treasury Secretary John Connally, who like his boss and ally Nixon was more focused on short-term politics than on long-term economic realities. What’s clear is that Nixon was convinced a recession induced by the Eisenhower administration and its Federal Reserve Board appointees designed to kill inflationary pressures also killed his 1960 presidential candidacy. As prices spiked in 1970, he was terrified the same thing could happen in 1972.

Nixon had inherited (and temporarily extended) an income-tax surcharge from LBJ that was designed to pay for the skyrocketing costs of the Vietnam War, but its effects were limited. So with his signature televised bombshell reveal (the one he deployed a month earlier to announce his trip to China), amid great secrecy, Nixon rolled out a combo platter of initiatives to fight inflation and international economic instability. They included a suspension of fixed currency exchange rates and the convertibility of the dollar to gold (to head off a raid on gold supplies triggered by a British demand for a major conversion); an import surcharge (to prevent a worsening of the trade balance); and most significantly for most Americans, a 90-day freeze on wages and prices to be followed by an indefinite period of controls by federal panels.

As political theater, Nixon’s speech announcing a “new economic policy” was, well, Nixonian. He began with dessert: an assortment of tax breaks and job-creation incentives balanced by mostly unspecified spending cuts; only then did he mention the wage-price freeze. After promising to “break the vicious circle of spiraling prices and costs,” Nixon moved on to his international proposals, which he downplayed as “very technical,” while assuring viewers that “if you are among the overwhelming majority of Americans who buy American-made products in America, your dollar will be worth just as much tomorrow as it is today.”

Nixon’s wage and price controls were initially very popular (as polls had told the White House they would be) and did indeed hold down inflation through the reelection year of 1972, when Nixon won his famous landslide reelection over poor George McGovern, in part by goosing federal appropriations to create a mini-boom. By then the administration had moved on to a more discretionary system for regulating wage and price increases, which generated rumors of employers currying favor with generous donations to CREEP (the Committee to Reelect the President), the notoriously corrupt operation heavily complicit in the Watergate scandals that brought down the Nixon presidency. Between the suppressed and eventually unleashed inflationary pressures and the oil-price shock Nixon’s international economic policies helped create, the country paid a very high economic price for the brief respite from inflation the wage-price freeze earned him. He sowed the wind with even greater inflation, and his successors Gerald Ford (whose feckless “Whip Inflation Now” campaign was widely mocked) and Jimmy Carter reaped the whirlwind.

Before you dismiss these events from 50 years ago as irrelevant, consider how much Nixon’s short-sighted approach sounds like something President Donald Trump might have done if inflation had became a political problem during his tenure (or in, God help us, a future term). Indeed, any president mulling Nixon’s choice of recession-inducing fiscal or monetary policies might be tempted to resort to the easy-to-understand, if dangerous, strategy of wage and price controls in which the pain is mostly back-loaded, particularly in or near an election year. Old folks remember how it preceded Nixon’s landslide 1972 win, followed by a decade of economic pain and multiple decades of political misery for progressives.


Meyerson: 2022 Will Be About Democratic Accomplishments vs. GOP Culture War

Harold Meyerson writes at The American Prospect:

It’s only the midpoint of 2021, but the outlines of both parties’ 2022 campaigns are already clear. Consequently, it’s also clear that the two parties’ electoral pitches will deal with entirely separate universes.

The Democrats will campaign on the real benefits they’ve delivered to the American public, more particularly the American working class (assuming, of course, that Sens. Manchin, Sinema, and their ilk don’t deep-six the entire Democratic program). Those benefits will include their largely successful effort to diminish the pandemic, their funding for infrastructure, the establishment of an expanded Child Tax Credit and affordable child care, universal pre-K, tuition-free community college, paid family and medical leave; the expansion of Medicare to include dental, vision, and hearing care; more affordable housing; and numerous advances in clean energy. It will also include some of the executive orders that Joe Biden issued last Friday, including a ban on the noncompete agreements currently imposed on tens of millions of workers, and a “right to repair” rule that will enable Americans or their mechanics to fix their own cars or tractors instead of having to take them back to the manufacturer whose proprietary software has blocked anyone else’s attempts to fix the damn things.

All to be funded by Medicare savings derived from negotiating down drug prices, by higher taxes on the wealthiest one percent, and higher taxes on corporations.

In short, a lot of very real and very helpful stuff. As Biden himself once observed, “a big fucking deal.”

Republicans will not address any of these issues with substantial alternatives, Meyerson believes.

Instead, Republicans will run on culture war issues, attacking critical race theory, defunding the police, the influx of immigrants, the threat posed by minorities voting (which will be dog-whistled under the heading of voter fraud)—in short, the threat that Democrats presumably pose to white people. Which, they have to hope, will persuade a sufficient number of those white people to disregard the Medicare expansions, Child Tax Credit, and other actual benefits with which Democrats, and Democrats alone, have provided them.

Put another way, “Democrats will run against Republicans because they opposed all those benefits. And Republicans will run against Democrats for supporting all those culture war threats, a number of which, like defunding the police, the vast majority of Democrats don’t actually support.”

In addition to the effectiveness of each party’s messaging, Meyerson believes the outcome will be determined by “who will vote,” and it will come down to Republican voter suppression versus Democratic turnout mobilization. “On this issue alone, they’ll directly engage.”


Teixeira: Social Democratic Moment, Working Class Optional?

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

EJ Dionne argues in the Post that social democracy is back. I am not so sure. His basic argument is that neoliberal economics has been discredited by the pandemic crisis and the consequent need for large scale government activism. Combined with other recent failures of the neoliberal paradigm the result is:

“a resurgence of social democracy’s core idea: that market economies can thrive only when governments underwrite them with strong systems of social insurance, new paths to opportunity for those cast aside by capitalism’s “creative destruction,” and updated rules to advance social goods that include family life, education, public health — and the planet itself.”

He goes on to cite the relative unity of the Democrats around social democratic-ish legislation and the words of German Social Democratic finance minister Olaf Scholz about progressives’ “common political project”.

Leaving aside how seriously one should take the pronouncements of Scholz, whose party has been on a steadily declining trajectory, I would describe all this as necessary but not sufficient conditions for a truly social democratic moment. This includes the discrediting of neoliberal economics. The difficult task here is *replacing* neoliberal economics with a different economic model and that will take considerable effort and time.

For example, even with generous assumptions about what Democrats are actually able to pass in the current Congress, it is safe to say that even that will not achieve the transformation of the American political economy that is necessary to provide a good life for American citizens across region, race and class. That is a longer-term project that will require more reforms, more successful elections and broader majorities than the Democrats currently command.

To put a finer point on it, if the Democrats lose control of Congress in 2022, their ability to accomplish big or even medium size things after that date drops toward zero. This is not a recipe for a transformative period in American society; transformations need some time and a period of true political dominance to succeed.

This brings up something Dionne does not mention at all–working class support. I find it implausible that Democrats can retain and exert power long enough for such a “social democratic moment” when their working class support is so shaky. The 2020 election is just the latest evidence of that shaky support. And that election was, in turn, consistent with a deep trend that has greatly undermined the center-left.

As I have previously noted, a realignment to the left has seemed to be in the offing even since the Great Recession and it hasn’t happened. That potential realignment has been in stall mode.

This is because the stalled realignment has been driven by the shift of working class voters out of left parties and the increasing reliance of such parties on highly-educated voters. That has created the stall situation where the left, even when it wins elections, is continually undermined by the bleeding of working class voters. The result is unstable governance that has fallen far short of realignment.

The proximate reason for the bleeding has been laid out in rich descriptive detail in a various papers by Thomas Piketty and his colleagues, available on the World Inequality Database website. They finger the emergence of a new “sociocultural” axis of political conflict that has been embraced by right and left parties alike and that has drawn working class voters out of the left and into right and right populist parties

Those working class defections have crippled the left for many years now. I am not convinced that, even with effects of the pandemic, we are now in a fundamentally different situation. That will take an accommodation of the left to working class values that reduces sociocultural conflict and brings enough working class voters back to the left that a dominant electoral coalition can actually be sustained.
Then and only then are we likely to see a true social democratic moment.


Political Strategy Notes

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes that “Unprecedented, redistributive government spending across the wealthy countries prevented the pandemic downturn from becoming another Great Depression. At the same time, the seething social resentments that right-wing populists brought to the fore forced even the complacent to recognize the dislocations and injustices bred by rising inequality over the last half-century….This shift toward interventionism has been reinforced by a climate crisis whose dangers are increasingly obvious to large majorities across the democratic world….All this has led to a resurgence of social democracy’s core idea: that market economies can thrive only when governments underwrite them with strong systems of social insurance, new paths to opportunity for those cast aside by capitalism’s “creative destruction,” and updated rules to advance social goods that include family life, education, public health — and the planet itself….This explains why there is more unity among Democrats than skeptics expected around Biden’s big investment program. Its emphasis on shared social needs reflects how broad the new consensus is. It encompasses pro-capitalist moderates such as Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) no less than democratic socialists such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).”

From postfun.com: There are more people in the red areas than the grey, which may help explain political ad buys.

In an article orginally published in The National Journal, Charlie Cook writes at the Cook Political Report: “One Washington Post column cited a recent Navigator survey conducted for a group of liberal labor groups and individuals involved in Democratic politics and policy. Three in five registered voters in its national sample said they believe that the country is in crisis—72 percent of Republicans, 60 percent of independents, and 53 percent of Democrats. When respondents were given a list of 14 different possibilities and asked which ones they considered a major crisis, the top issue was violent crime, with 54 percent. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans said so, as did 52 percent of independents and Democrats. This was 3 points higher than the coronavirus pandemic and well above a whole host of Democratic priorities, including China, climate change, voting, joblessness, and infrastructure, as well as “cancel culture.”….As Biden tries to navigate rising crime, he and his team are clearly mindful of how toxic his party’s most extreme voices are to swing voters. Despite his efforts to create a lot of distance from that movement, there is a certain guilt by association that’s amplified very effectively by his GOP and conservative critics….Many Democrats—including Biden at his press conference on crime last month—point to their efforts to enact tougher gun laws. But voters are savvy enough to know that new regulations on guns aren’t likely to get through Congress. Until then, they want to know: What happens? What else can you do to keep me safe? Democrats’ majority may depend on their answer.”

At Politco, Steven Shepard notes: “A new, highly anticipated report from the leading association of pollsters confirms just how wrong the 2020 election polls were. But nine months after that closer-than-expected contest, the people asking why are still looking for answers….National surveys of the 2020 presidential contest were the least accurate in 40 years, while the state polls were the worst in at least two decades, according to the new, comprehensive report from the American Association for Public Opinion Research….The most likely — if far from certain — culprit for off-kilter polling results is that key groups of people don’t answer polls in the first place….Comparing the final election results to the poll numbers for each candidate, Trump’s support was understated by a whopping 3.3 points on average, while Biden’s was overstated by a point — turning what looked like a solid Biden lead into a closer, if still decisive, race….It wasn’t just a Trump effect, either. The polls of Senate and governor’s races were off by an even greater margin: 6 points on average….Without definitive answers about the causes of the 2020 miss, however, pollsters aren’t sure they’ll be able to get it right in 2022, 2024 or beyond.”


Scher: White House Strategy to Work Around State Voter Suppression Laws Has Merit, But Could Also Hurt Dems in Midterm Elections

Bill Scher writes at Real Clear Politics:

Last week Vice President Kamala Harris announced that, to counter the spate of restrictive voting measures which have been enacted in several Republican-controlled states, the Democratic National Committee would spend $25 million on “tools and technology to register voters, to educate voters, to turn out voters, to protect voters.”

In  remarks at Howard University, Harris said, “People say, ‘What’s the strategy?’” to which she answered, “We are going to assemble the largest voter protection team we have ever had sure to ensure that all Americans can vote and have your vote counted in a fair and transparent process.”

Few Democrats would argue against the mobilization of the largest ‘voter protection team’ ever, given the all-out GOP voter suppression campaign, which has produced dozens of vote-smothering laws in state legislatures across the U.S. However, many Democrats strongly believe a successful strategy must include putting more muscle in the campaign to pass voting rights reforms at the national level. As Scher writes,

Strikingly, Harris did not mention as part of the strategy enactment of the For the People Act, the voting rights legislation Democrats passed in the House but cannot get around the filibuster in the Senate. After Harris’ Howard speech and a West Wing meeting with President Biden, voting rights advocates were not soothed. “There is no substitute for federal legislative action,” said Michael Waldman of the Brennan Center for Justice. Several demanded Biden use his bully pulpit more aggressively. Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said, “I told the president: We will not be able to litigate our way out of this threat to black citizenship. We must have the president use his voice.”

Democratic members of Congress are also pressuring Biden to not only push for the voting rights bill, but also a weakening of the filibuster in order to pass the bill. In an interview with Politico, House Majority Whip James Clyburn said Biden should “pick up the phone and tell [Sen.] Joe Manchin, ‘Hey, we should do a carve-out’’” of the filibuster, which means forbidding the tactic when legislation is on the Senate floor related to constitutional rights.

Scher notes, “according to reporting by The Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein, the Biden administration doesn’t have the same sense of impending doom. “Although White House officials consider the laws offensive from a civil-rights perspective,” he wrote, “they do not think most of those laws will advantage Republicans in the 2022 and 2024 elections as much as many liberal activists fear….Brownstein interviewed one anonymous White House official, who noted Biden’s ability to navigate the voting laws in 2020.  “Show us what the rules are and we will figure out a way to educate our voters and make sure they understand how they can vote and we will get them out to vote,” said this Biden aide.”

Scher write further in support of the ‘work-around’ strategy, “Democrats can and have overcome Republican-backed restrictive voting laws. In particular, academic research shows that strict laws requiring ID to vote have outright backfired on Republicans by firing up the Democratic base…The Republican intent behind restrictive election laws may be nefarious, but the impact to date has been negligible.”

However, Scher concludes, “If Democrats are to make history and keep their congressional majorities, their ranks cannot be demoralized. It’s time for the Biden administration to talk straight to the Democratic base.”

Dems have no choice, but to plan and fund an exensive ‘work-around’ strategy. But major Democratic constituencies are also demanding a more energetic full-court Biden Administration press on key senators for national voting rights reforms, along with a voting rights ‘carve-out’ for filibuster reform needed to enact both bills. Such a double-pronged strategy could shore up Democratic unity, leading up to 2022.


Political Strategy Notes

Hugo Lowell reports at The Guardian: “Top Democrats in the House are spearheading a new effort to convince the Senate to carve out a historic exception to the filibuster that would allow them to push through their marquee voting rights and election reform legislation over unanimous Republican opposition….The sweeping measure to expand voting rights known as S1 fell victim to a Republican filibuster last month after the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, and his leadership team unified the conference to sink the bill in a party-line vote….Now, furious at Republicans for weaponizing the filibuster against Joe Biden’s legislative agenda, the House majority whip, James Clyburn, is pushing Senate Democrats to end its use for constitutional measures, according to sources familiar with the matter…Ending the use of the filibuster for constitutional measures – and lowering the threshold to pass legislation to a simple majority in the 50-50 Senate – is significant as it would almost certainly pave the way for Democrats to expand voting across the US….Democrats open to making the change have previously indicated that their argument that the minority party should not have the power to repeatedly block legislation with widespread support resonates with the wider American public….“The people did not give Democrats the House, Senate and White House to compromise with insurrectionists,” the Democratic congresswoman Ayanna Pressley wrote on Twitter after Republicans blocked S1, illustrating the sentiment. “Abolish the filibuster so we can do the people’s work.””

From Simone Pathe’s “The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2022” at CNN Politcs: “The fight for control of the evenly divided Senate will be the most dramatic showdown of 2022, and based on the candidates who have jumped in so far — and those who are expected to — there are a few changes to this month’s ranking of the Senate seats most likely to flip partisan control….Pennsylvania — an open-seat race in a state that President Joe Biden carried in 2020 — remains the most likely to flip. But four other states have moved around slightly….Two other Biden states are trading places, with New Hampshire leapfrogging above Nevada. It’s true that Biden carried the Granite State by a wider margin, but the potential GOP candidate options there are enough to move it above the Silver State for now. Of course, that could change if two big name Republicans in New Hampshire pass on the race….Two Trump states are also switching spots. Florida is now above Ohio in terms of likelihood of flipping. Democrats have done better recently at the presidential level in Florida than they have in Ohio, and that’s all the more relevant now that Democratic Rep. Val Demings is running against Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Democrats already had a candidate in Ohio — Rep. Tim Ryan — but the increasingly red state is tougher terrain for the party. However, this is fluid — it’s still possible that the messy GOP primary in the Buckeye State will be just the opening Democrats need.” Pathe provides a detailed run-down for each of the states.

In his New York Times Column, “Lean in to it. Lean into the Culture War,” Thomas B. Edsall writes, “Should responsibility for the rampant polarization that characterizes American politics today be laid at the feet of liberals or conservatives? I posed that question to my friend Bill Galston, a senior fellow at Brookings and a columnist at The Wall Street Journal….He emailed me his reply:

It is fair to say that the proponents of cultural change have been mostly on offense since Brown v. the Board of Education, while the defenders of the status quo have been on defense.

Once the conflict enters the political arena, though, other factors come into play, Galston argues:

Intensity makes a huge difference, and on many of the cultural issues, including guns and immigration, the right is more intense than the left.

Galston put it like this:

When being “right” on a cultural controversy becomes a threshold issue for an intense minority, it can drive the party much farther to the left or right than its median voter.

Along with intensity, another driving force in escalating polarization, in Galston’s view, is elite behavior:

Newt Gingrich believed that the brand of politics Bob Michel practiced had contributed to House Republicans’ 40-year sojourn in the political desert. Gingrich decided to change this, starting with Republicans’ vocabulary and tactics. This proved effective, but at the cost of rising incivility and declining cooperation between the political parties. Once the use of terms such as “corruption,” “disgrace” and “traitor” becomes routine in Congress, the intense personal antipathy these words express is bound to trickle down to rank-and-file party identifiers.

The race and gender issues that have come to play such a central role in American politics are rooted in the enormous changes in society from the 1950s to the 1970s, Galston wrote:

The United States in the early 1950s resembled the country as it had been for decades. By the early 1970s, everything had changed, stunning Americans who had grown up in what seemed to them to be a stable, traditional society and setting the stage for a conservative reaction. Half a century after the Scopes trial, evangelical Protestantism re-entered the public square and soon became an important build-block of the coalition that brought Ronald Reagan to power.

Edsall also quotes Yale political science professor Jacob Hacker: “It strains credulity to argue that Democrats have been pushing culture-war issues more than Republicans. It’s mostly Republican elites who have accentuated these issues to attract more and more working-class white voters even as they pursue a plutocratic economic agenda that’s unpopular among those voters. Certainly, Biden has not focused much on cultural issues since entering office — his key agenda items are all bread-and-butter economic policies. Meanwhile, we have Republicans making critical race theory and transgender sports into big political issues (neither of which, so far as I can tell, hardly mattered to voters at all before they were elevated by right-wing media and the G.O.P.).” Edsall adds, “There is substantial evidence in support of Hacker’s argument that Republican politicians and strategists have led the charge in raising hot-button issues….If right-wing manipulation of cultural and racial issues does end up backfiring, that will defy the long history of the Republican Party’s successful deployment of divisive wedge issues — from Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan to George H.W. Bush to Newt Gingrich to George W. Bush to Donald Trump. Republicans have repeatedly demonstrated that the half-life of these radioactive topics is longer than expected, and Democrats, if they want to protect their fragile majority, must be doubly careful not to hand their adversaries ever more powerful weapons.”


Trump Aides Spin Revisionist Tale of Election Night 2020

When I read the Election Night excerpt of a major new book on Trump, I nearly fell out of my chair, and wrote a challenge to it at New York:

Donald J. Trump’s victory claim in the wee hours of November 4, 2020, was a pretty big moment in American political history. It launched a challenge of the election results that hasn’t ended even eight months later, and shows signs of becoming a “bloody shirt” that could dominate Republican rhetoric for years to come.

So like many political observers, I read the Election Night account given by Trump White House insiders to Washington Post reporters Carol D. Leonnig and Philip Rucker for their book I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year with interest, and then with astonishment. To hear these sources tell it, everyone in the White House other than a possibly inebriated Rudy Giuliani was tensely awaiting the full returns — understanding they would take days or weeks to come in — when Trump shocked everyone by taking Giuliani’s advice and saying he had already won, and would go all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary to stop the voting he claimed was still underway. According to this account, Trump’s speechwriters had prepared remarks cautioning patience in assessing the results, but instead the 45th president, smarting from the “betrayal” he experienced when Fox News called Arizona for Joe Biden, tossed it away and began the “stop the steal” crusade that culminated in an attempted coup the following January and convinced many millions of Republican voters they had indeed been robbed.

This tale of a sudden lurch into Election Night madness is as implausible as Trump’s attempt to preemptively declare victory that same night was unsurprising — and horrifying.

Since the spring of 2020, I and many other journalists had been predicting that Trump’s near-hourly attacks on voting by mail were intended to produce exactly this sort of scenario: The in-person votes first counted would tilt red, enabling him and his supporters to claim victory and then challenge the validity of the blue-leaning mail ballots that would be counted later. There was even a name for this scenario, the “Red Mirage,” based on which votes would be tabulated and reported first. It produced widespread discussion in early September. But Trump’s apparent plans were clear much earlier.

So is it really likely that the thought of doing exactly that only occurred to Trump just before he walked out to inform the nation of his thoughts? That’s what Trump’s insiders clearly want us to believe via the Post reporters’ book:

“After a while, Rudy Giuliani started to cause a commotion. He was telling other guests that he had come up with a strategy for Trump and was trying to get into the president’s private quarters to tell him about it. Some people thought Giuliani may have been drinking too much and suggested to Stepien that he go talk to the former New York mayor. Stepien, Meadows and Jason Miller took Giuliani down to a room just off the Map Room to hear him out … Giuliani’s grand plan was to just say Trump won, state after state, based on nothing. Stepien, Miller and Meadows thought his argument was both incoherent and irresponsible.

“’We can’t do that,’ Meadows said, raising his voice. ‘We can’t.’”

Hmmm. Rudy has this brilliant idea that the chattering classes had been discussing for months and months and Trump’s staffers were shocked to hear of it, off the top of Giuliani’s possibly fogged head?

Now, it’s possible that Trump and his advisers were hesitating in implementing a victory-claim plan because there was a better chance that anyone expected he could win without skulduggery. But was the claim spontaneous?

It seems more likely that Trump’s staff is doing a little retroactive gaslighting and ass-covering to cleanse themselves of responsibility for the nightmare that later ensued. It’s absolutely true that Trump himself bears responsibility for the attempted election coup, whenever it was that the election-victory-claim scheme began to become strategy. It’s why he was ultimately impeached a second time. But it did not come as a bolt from the blue; it wasn’t just a coincidence that what we all thought Trump might do he just happened to do, on a whim. And if, as one should fear, Trump’s refusal to accept defeat becomes permanent for his supporters, everyone in on the plot should accept their share of the blame.


Brazile: Biden, Progressives & Dems Should ‘Mobilize Like MLK’ to Save Democracy

From Donna Brazile’s “Ramp it up: It’s time for Biden and all of us to mobilize like MLK to save voting rights. Many Republicans wear flag pins and call themselves patriots. But if they support voter suppression, they are stabbing American democracy in the heart” at USA Today:

The nonpartisan Voting Rights Lab found that states have enacted at least 35 laws restricting access to voting this year, affecting mail-in voting, in-person voting, voter ID, voter registration and other voting practices. Nearly all the support for these laws comes from Republicans.

Most alarming is the effort by Republicans in some states to allow legislatures, their appointees, or other state officialsto overturn election results by claiming fraud and declaring the loser of a race the winner. If this succeeds, our elections will be as meaningless as those in North Korea, Russia, China and Iran. Election outcomes will be decided by those in power, not the people.

“It’s no longer just about who gets to vote or making it easier for eligible voters to vote. It’s about who gets to count the vote, who gets to count whether or not your vote counted at all,” Biden said Tuesday in Philadelphia. “It’s about moving from independent election administrators who worked for the people, to polarized state legislatures and partisan actors who work for political parties. To me, this is simple, this is election subversion. It’s the most dangerous threat to voting … in our history.

Brazile, former interim DNC Chair and Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign manager, adds, “Following the example of Dr. King, everyone who believes in voting rights needs to mobilize for nonviolent marches and demonstrations around the country to make it clear that Republican voter suppression, which President Biden has correctly likened to racist Jim Crow laws, is intolerable.”

Further, Brazile writes, the “only hope is if Democrats can convince Manchin and Sinema to create a “carve-out” to allow voting rights bills to pass with a simple majority in the Senate. President Biden should join with fellow Democrats to urge Manchin and Sinema to agree to this needed exemption in order to prevent Republicans from rigging future elections in their favor.”

Good suggestions all. It would also help if progressives in WV and AZ redoubled their campaigns to persuade Mancin and Sinema of the critical importance of filibuster reform for the survival of American democracy.


Teixeira: The Problem With The “Biden Boom” Strategy

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

My latest at The Liberal Patriot!

“The Democrats have a plan for 2022. It’s called the Biden boom. Into that boom will be folded Democratic policy successes like the vaccine rollout, the American Rescue Plan and, possibly, a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a budget reconciliation bill providing substantial new investments in education, child care and clean energy.

This is not a crazy strategy. The Biden boom does seem to be happening….And yet…we see no evidence of any surge in the Democrats’ direction. Biden’s approval rating has been steady, but only middling good. The generic Congressional ballot has been favorable for the Democrats, but not by the kind of margin that would inspire confidence in their prospects. So we’re not as yet seeing the kind of voter movement in reaction to the Biden boom that could suggest Democrats can both overcome the traditional penalty incumbent parties typically pay in their first midterm election plus the additional thumb on the scales that Republicans will have from redistricting….

This suggests Democrats’ successes in the economic and health areas, as recounted above, will likely not be enough to tilt the playing field decisively in their favor. To do that, they will need to overcome suspicions of the party that have to do with other, more culturally-inflected concerns. This, in turn, will require the party to take some stances that the ascendant left in the party will likely oppose for ideological reasons.

Nowhere is this clearer than on the issue of crime….”

Read the whole thing at The Liberal Patriot!


Political Strategy Notes

Geoffrey Skelley explains “Why The Gender Gap May Have Shrunk In The 2020 Election” at FiveThirtyEight: “It’s harder to pinpoint exactly why the gender gap shrunk from 2016 to 2020, but Pew’s numbers point to a couple of possible explanations, particularly the influence that educational attainment has on vote choice. Consider Biden’s improvement among college-educated men. He won 58 percent of this group, a giant leap from Clinton’s 49 percent in 2016. And his performance among college-educated men marked a 10-point advantage over how he did among men overall. Conversely for Trump, his gains among women were largely concentrated among those without a four-year college degree. His support among that group grew from 43 percent in 2016 to 50 percent in 2020. Taken together, this reflects the recent trend of Americans with higher education levels shifting toward the Democrats, and less-well-educated Americans moving toward the GOP….This shift was especially notable among white voters,2 as educational attainment has tended to be a larger cleavage for them than for other racial or ethnic groups. Biden won 54 percent of white men with a college degree, up from Clinton’s 47 percent in 2016, while white women without a four-year degree moved in the other direction, as Trump’s support grew to 64 percent, up from 56 percent in 2016….Yet, educational attainment isn’t the whole story, as white men without a college degree also shifted significantly toward Biden in 2020. Although Trump still won that group by a huge margin, Biden won 31 percent of them compared with Clinton’s 23 percent — an improvement that may have been foreshadowed by Biden’s performance in the presidential primary, in which he did notably better than Clinton in many parts of the country with higher shares of white voters without a college degree.”

“Congressional Democrats confront an unusual problem in trying to pass large investments in the nation’s economy, its environment and its social well-being,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes in his Washington Post column. “Just about everything they want to do is popular, yet when you add everything up, it costs a politically eye-popping pot of money….Think of it as an especially challenging version of the Goldilocks problem: What’s not too small, not too big, but just right?….If the final bill is too small, popular priorities fall by the wayside. Do you cut climate spending or the duration of the child tax credit or health-care expansions? Or housing or home care for the aged, or early-childhood education? Trimming any of these would create legitimate howls of protest not only from progressives but also from more middle-of-the-road advocates of the programs involved..But doing everything that Democrats would like to do could mean doubling or tripling the overall spending number that more cautious Democrats might find comfortable. The range runs from the $2 trillion that Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) has mentioned to Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) proposed $5 trillion to $6 trillion, with President Biden weighing in initially around $4.5 trillion. (Yes, he does have a knack for finding his party’s center ground.)”

At The Hill, Amy Parnes and Abigail Goldberg-Zelizer report that “Biden’s midterm strategies start to come into focus” and note, “President Biden has visited a string of swing districts and states in the last month, underscoring his determination to help his party in next year’s midterm races….On Wednesday, Biden traveled to Crystal Lake, Ill., where he has sought to sell his infrastructure plan. The district, which supported former President Trump in 2020, is represented by Rep. Lauren Underwood (D), who has been at the center of attacks from the National Republican Congressional Committee….Biden in late June stopped in La Crosse, Wis., where Democratic congressman Ron Kind is also a perennial GOP target….Democrats say Biden wants to show he can be of service to vulnerable Democrats in the months leading up to the high-stakes midterm contests where they’re in jeopardy of losing their control of the House and Senate….And some strategists argue Biden can be a help just about wherever he goes…..“There is no place in America that he is not at least a net positive for Democrats,” said Democratic strategist Joel Payne, who added that Biden’s “brand right now is to be a bridge to disaffected Republicans and independents….Biden’s travel schedule also often looks like it has been drawn up with his own possible reelection bid in mind for 2024. There have been plenty of trips to the swing statesof Michigan and Wisconsin as well as Georgia, a state Biden took from Republicans last year. Next week, the president will go to another swing states — Pennsylvania — where he will speak about voting rights.”

Adam Gopnik mulls over “Biden’s Invisible Ideology” and writes at The New Yorker: “Biden, by contrast, insisted that the way to win was not to play. In the face of the new politics of spectacle, he kept true to old-school coalition politics. He understood that the Black Church mattered more in Democratic primaries than any amount of Twitter snark, and, by keeping a low profile on social media, showed that social-media politics was a mirage. Throughout the dark, dystopian post-election months of Trump’s tantrum—which led to the insurrection on January 6th—many Democrats deplored Biden’s seeming passivity, his reluctance to call a coup a coup and a would-be dictator a would-be dictator. Instead, he and his team were remarkably (to many, it seemed, exasperatingly) focussed on counting the votes, trusting the process, and staffing the government….It looked at the time dangerously passive; it turned out to be patiently wise, for Biden and his team, widely attacked as pusillanimous centrists with no particular convictions, are in fact ideologues. Their ideology is largely invisible but no less ideological for refusing to present itself out in the open. It is the belief, animating Biden’s whole career, that there is a surprisingly large area of agreement in American life and that, by appealing to that area of agreement, electoral victory and progress can be found. (As a recent Populace survey stated, Biden and Trump voters hold “collective illusions” about each other, and “what is often mistaken for breadth of political disagreement is actually narrow — if extremely intense — disagreement on a limited number of partisan issues.”) Biden’s ideology is, in fact, the old ideology of pragmatic progressive pluralism—the ideology of F.D.R. and L.B.J. Beneath the strut and show and hysteria of politics, there is often a remarkably resilient consensus in the country. Outside the white Deep South, there was a broad consensus against segregation in 1964; outside the most paranoid registers of Wall Street, there was a similar consensus for social guarantees in 1934. Right now, post-pandemic, polls show a robust consensus for a public option to the Affordable Care Act, modernized infrastructure, even for tax hikes on the very rich and big corporations. The more you devote yourself to theatrical gestures and public spectacle, the less likely you are to succeed at making these improvements—and turning Trumpism around. Successful pluralist politicians reach out to the other side, not in a meek show of bipartisanship, but in order to steal their voters.”