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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Popular “Moderates versus the Left” narrative about Democrats’ struggle to regain the support of working class voters is the “Night of the Living Dead” of American political commentary.

No matter how many times it is buried by the weight of events it keeps on coming back.

To Regain the Support of “Culturally Traditional but Not Extremist” Working Class Voters Democrats Need to Understand the Compelling Political Narrative That Leads Them to Vote for the GOP.

Read the Memo

The culturally traditional but non-extremist working class voters: who they are, how they think and what Democrats Must Understand to regain their support.

As the 2022 and 2024 elections approach Democrats have responded to their declining working class support by proposing variations on one or another of two strategies that they have advocated ever since the 1970’s.

The Popular “Moderates versus the Left” narrative about Democrats’ struggle to regain the support of working class voters is the “Night of the Living Dead” of American political commentary.

No matter how many times it is buried by the weight of events it keeps on coming back.

The culturally traditional but non-extremist working class voters: who they are, how they think and what Democrats Must Understand to regain their support.

By Andrew Levison

Read the Report.

The Daily Strategist

August 17, 2022

Political Strategy Notes

Politico’s media critic Jack Shafer shares some insights about the January 6th hearings that will begin tonight in his article, “The Democrats Plan a Full Media Blowout Over Jan. 6.” Shafer writes, “When you turn on your television Thursday night to watch the kick-off of the January 6 congressional hearings, you won’t get the usual over-lit, droning Capitol Hill proceedings to which you’ve become accustomed. Instead, the committee intends to mount a grand media event, to pinch a phrase from scholars Daniel Dayan and Elihu Katz, a publicity extravaganza orchestrated like a product launch or political campaign to engage, dazzle and obsess the minds of the masses….This is not to say the hearings will be without substance. To the contrary, everything we’ve been told so far about the committee’s findings indicates they will bring real proof of a conspiracy to subvert the election of Joe Biden and stage a coup to reinstall Donald Trump as president. Talk about the greatest political story ever told! But while ingesting the substance of the hearings, which promise to be nourishing, don’t overlook the platter on which it has been served. The committee has assigned James Goldston, former president of ABC News and veteran of Nightline, to present a slickly produced work of political entertainment, featuring live testimony as well as prerecorded segments, that will permanently cast the events of January 6 as an attempted coup. According to the New York Times, Goldston’s mandate is to fashion the hearing into six succinct episodes. Sort of like a bingeable Netflix series….Even without the show-making skills of someone of Goldston’s caliber, a congressional hearing like the January 6 committee’s would qualify for the rubric, and it would be as worthy of our attention as previously televised proceedings from Congress — Kefauver’s organized crime hearings, Army-McCarthy, Iran-Contra, Benghazi and the doomed-before-the-final-vote impeachments of Bill Clinton and Donald Trump (twice)….NBC, ABC, CBS, and the cable news networks have joined forces with Goldston to preempt their scheduled programming for the January 6 show, according to Axios’ Mike Allen, who broke the story of Goldston’s involvement. The timing of the hearings, just as summer rerun season starts, and the committee’s decision to present them as a “show,” couldn’t be more perfect from the television industry’s viewpoint. TV adores content that costs them almost nothing to air and attracts large audiences, media scholar Michael Socolow tells me, pointing to Trump rallies from the 2016 campaign….Even Rupert Murdoch intends to broadcast them, albeit on his less-watched Fox Business Network channel….Nobody should doubt the inherent newsworthiness of the January 6 hearings. Attempted coups matter. Nobody should seek to invalidate the hearings as a sophisticated media pageant before they convene. But the January 6 hearings deserve our advance scrutiny for the new ground they appear to be breaking. ”

At The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein asks, “Is This the End of the George Floyd Moment?: The Los Angeles and San Francisco election results add pressure on Democrats to balance criminal-justice reform with public safety.” Brownstein observes: “Since the massive nationwide protests that erupted in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd, the debate over crime and public safety in the Democratic Party has been dominated by urgent calls for reforming police departments and confronting entrenched racial inequities in the criminal-justice system. History might record yesterday’s elections in San Francisco and Los Angeles as the end of that moment….The decisive recall of progressive District Attorney Chesa Boudin in San Francisco, and the strong showing of the billionaire former Republican developer Rick Caruso against Democratic Representative Karen Bass in the Los Angeles mayoral primary, likely will pressure Democrats at all levels of government to rebalance their message on criminal justice going forward. The results in California—combined with the former police officer Eric Adams’s victory in the New York mayoral race last fall—send a signal to Democrats that, even in some of their most reliable strongholds, voters are demanding a shift toward policies to combat crime and restore public order….“What you are really seeing is the Democratic base in cities is asserting its fundamental moderate values of prioritizing safety,” says Mitchell Moss, a professor of urban policy and planning at New York University….The rising public demand for safety doesn’t mean Democrats are about to abandon the cause of criminal-justice reform and return to the “tough on crime” ethos of the 1990s. But it might prompt more leaders in the party to pull back from policies that appear to prioritize reform over public safety—the perception that doomed Boudin and also has triggered an ongoing recall effortagainst Los Angeles County’s progressive district attorney, George Gascón.”

Brownstein continues, “It was a brief moment and an excessive swing,” Will Marshall, the president of the Progressive Policy Institute, a centrist Democratic think tank, says of the push to reduce incarceration and reimagine, or even defund, policing. After Floyd’s murder by the Minneapolis police, Marshall says, “we had this progressive reaction, and a lot of utopian thinking crept in. But the problem was to view a strong response to crime and public disorder through the narrow lens of racial politics. That missed something big, which is that low-income and minority communities are on the front lines of crime—they are the No. 1 victims. They don’t want police beating up on their sons, but they also don’t want to be ignored.” Polls in Los Angeles have shown high levels of concern about crime and disorder across racial lines.” However, brown stein notes, “Yesterday’s results do not represent a decisive lurch toward the right for these cities. In Los Angeles, Caruso was about five percentage points ahead of Bass as of this morning. But Bass remained close enough that many local observers believe she will remain highly competitive in November’s runoff, when the electorate will be larger and likely younger and more racially diverse. Also yesterday, Alex Villanueva, the scandal-plagued L.A. County sheriff who has become a hero to conservatives by blaming crime on “woke” liberal policies, was forced into a runoff that he might struggle to win after attracting only about one-third of the vote in the early returns. And young leftist challengers denouncing the police department and city efforts to clear homeless encampments mounted strong primary races against several centrist Democrats on the L.A. City Council, including Gil Cedillo and Mitch O’Farrell, with the latter likely headed to a runoff….Still, the results in the marquee contests—the San Francisco D.A. recall and the L.A. mayoral race—show how much discontent over crime and homelessness has shaken the political landscape in what are ordinarily two of America’s most liberal cities….Even if Caruso falls short in November, it would be a mistake for Democrats to ignore the message of his strong performance, combined with Adams’s victory last year and the backlash against Boudin and Gascón. All are reminders that, as Marshall puts it, most Americans believe “public order is the primary responsibility of government.” After yesterday’s primary results, it’s clearer than ever that in order to confront the criminal-justice system’s undeniable racial inequities, reformers must convince voters that they are equally committed to confronting threats to public safety.”

What are the prospects for gun safety reforms at the state level? Nicole Narea reports that “Red states aren’t following Florida’s lead on gun control” at Vox, and writes: “Republicans typically respond to mass shootings by loosening gun laws, not tightening them. But after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the state became a model for how Republicans could implement gun control….Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature passed a law, later signed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott, that raised the age to buy long guns, including AR-15-style rifles, from 18 to 21; required a three-day waiting period between when a firearm is purchased and when the buyer can get access to that gun; allowed trained school staff to carry guns; and put $400 million toward mental health services and school security. It also created an extreme risk law, or “red flag law,” that can bar individuals who are believed to pose a danger to themselves or others from possessing firearms — a measure that has gotten increasing attention in the wake of the recent streak of mass shootings as a policy solution that could draw bipartisan support nationally and in other states….The Florida law is a guidepost for ongoing negotiations over gun policy in the US Senate, led by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and John Cornyn (R-TX)….“The template for Florida is the right one,” Murphy told CNN on Sunday. “Sen. Scott, then-Gov. Scott, passed that law in Florida because it was the right thing to do, but also because Republicans saw it as good politics. We have to make the case for Republicans that right now this is good politics.”….Florida’s red flag law has been identified as a potential model for other red states. But at the moment, it doesn’t seem as though there is a critical mass of Republicans who are interested in enacting red flag laws in states that don’t already have them. That’s true even in Texas and Oklahoma, where Republican lawmakers haven’t budged in the wake of the Uvalde and Tulsa shootings.” However, “Today, said Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, “Republicans have momentum, and I think that there’s just not a lot of interest in spending political capital on a gun safety bill, despite the fact that there are lots of reasons for it.” Democratic candidates in some congressional and state legislative districts may be able to get leverage from red state parents, who are fed-up with Republican candidates who cower at the NRA’s every whim.

Primary Shows California Democrats Mostly Need to Get Out the Vote

Having read some insta-reactions to the June 7 California primary that treated it as some sort of massive validation of right-wing law-and-order politics, I pushed back at New York:

The big headlines from yesterday’s California primary were unsurprisingly driven by high-profile contests in the state’s two most prominent cities — San Francisco and Los Angeles. And the results, with the recall of the highly conspicuous progressive district attorney Chesa Boudin in San Francisco and strong showing by ex-Republican developer Rick Caruso in the L.A. mayoral race, lent themselves to a law-and-order narrative — with an undertone of panic among progressives that the GOP wave expected to convulse the nation in November might extend even into deep-blue California.

Democrats don’t need to panic just yet; turnout in the primary was too low to sustain any excited interpretations. We won’t know the final numbers for a good while in a state that’s careful to count every vote (California allows mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day to count if received within seven days and has generous procedures for “curing” faulty ballots). But with ballots received now at 19 percent of registered voters, the Golden State could challenge the record-low primary turnout of 25 percent in 2014. While low primary turnout is normally a danger sign for Democrats (and may be this year as well), it could just reflect a year when there were no red-hot statewide contests — a dampening effect compounded by the sense that California’s top-two primary system makes the first contest a dry run with few real winners and losers.

The idea that the primary showed a state convulsed with reactionary tough-on-crime sentiment is an overreaction to what actually happened on June 7. Boudin was happily tossed over the side by much of San Francisco’s Democratic political establishment — who regarded him as an embarrassing and not terribly competent outlier, not a national symbol of criminal-justice reform (as some have treated him). And while Caruso’s emergence as a freshly minted Democrat running a viable race for mayor of L.A. was startling, it took a ten-to-one spending advantage over Karen Bass to make the general election. His best shot at winning may have passed in this low-turnout primary; Bass should be favored to win in November.

In addition, there were statewide races that didn’t confirm the “law-and-order spring” hypothesis. Appointed incumbent attorney general Rob Bonta should have been a prime target for tough-on-crime agitation. As The Appeal noted: “Bonta’s record on criminal justice reform, and his ties to groups doing the frontline work to transform prisons and policing, are stronger than either [Xavier] Becerra or [Kamala] Harris,” his two predecessors. (The former is Joe Biden’s Health and Human Services secretary; the latter is his vice-president.) As a novice statewide candidate, Bonta could have been especially vulnerable, but in a primary against four opponents, he has received almost 55 percent of counted votes — a higher percentage than U.S. senator Alex Padilla and a bit below that of Governor Gavin Newsom. Bonta’s most conspicuous tough-on-crime opponent, Sacramento district attorney Anne Marie Schubert (running as an independent after ditching her Republican affiliation as impolitic), tried hard to tie Bonta to Boudin and his L.A. counterpart, George Gascón. Schubert was endorsed by several major law-enforcement organizations and a majority of her fellow county prosecutors, but she finished a poor fourth and is currently running 47 points behind Bonta — who will face one of two not terribly impressive actual Republicans in November.

In general, the overall California returns belie the idea that it was some sort of conservative-backlash election. The top-performing statewide Republican candidate, Lanhee Chen (known nationally as chief policy adviser to Mitt Romney in his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns), made the general-election contest for state controller. But he did well mostly because he faced four viable Democrats and, at present, is only winning 37 percent of the vote. Chen has distanced himself from his national party and is running on a claim that California needs a non-Democrat in this position to avoid fiscal recklessness by the dominant party. He remains a long shot, at best, to break the GOP’s 16-year losing streak in California statewide elections.

At the congressional level, there’s no sign of an anti-Democratic wave so far. Candidates from both parties expected to make the general election have done so. Probably the weakest performances by incumbents were posted by Republicans David Valadao and Young Kim, who are both struggling a bit to put away challengers running to their right.

It’s a long way until November, and there are many dynamics that will shape the outcome — from inflation rates to gun-violence incidents, the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion rights, and efforts by Donald Trump to steal the spotlight. But California Democrats weathered Republican midterm waves in 2010 and 2014 quite well. And while California voters are expressing concerns about crime and (more prominently) homelessness and housing policy that may hurt some Democratic incumbents, talk of a law-and-order tsunami in the Golden State is premature. Like their colleagues everywhere, California Democrats should most urgently focus on getting their voters to the polls.



Why Dems Should Coordinate Political and Legal Strategies

There are no major surprises resulting from Tuesday’s primaries so far, so let’s take a look at strategic considerations for Democrats regarding the current U.S. Supreme Court. At The Boston Review, a couple of constitutional law scholars, Joseph Fishkin and William E. Forbath, co-authors of The Anti-Oligarchy Constitution, share their observations in “Make Progressive Politics Constitutional Again: We must reject the legal liberalism that attempts to cordon off constitutional questions from democratic politics.” As Fishkin and Forbath write,

The Democrats are, for now, about two Senate votes shy of enacting a series of major reforms, from addressing climate change to protecting voting rights and making real progress in the fight to rein in the outsized political and economic power of the rich. But even assuming that the Democrats manage to enact such measures—overcoming our system’s many antidemocratic veto points, such as the Senate itself—the toughest challenge is still to come. The looming risk is that all such reforms may be unraveled by our archconservative Supreme Court. The Court has made the Constitution a weapon for selectively striking down legislation the justices disfavor. They are highly likely to wield it against laws that aim to repair economic or political inequality.

The Court can do this with near-total impunity today because many Americans accept the idea that the Supreme Court is the only institution with any role in saying what the Constitution means. Congress and other elected leaders, at best, can fill in the few blanks that the courts have left open. Rather than contesting the Court’s power to make highly questionable judgments about the meaning of the Constitution, most liberals today defend the Court’s authority. Their top complaint about the current Court is that it doesn’t have sufficient respect for its own precedents, which today’s majority is fast overturning as it lurches further right.

Noting that “liberals have contributed to conservatives’ success by imagining constitutional law as an autonomous domain, separate from politics,” The authors add,

There is no future for the liberal idea (never adopted by conservatives) of a sharp separation between constitutional arguments in court and political arguments outside the courts. The border between the two is too thin and porous. Arguments move across it both ways, with profound effects. Declarations by courts shape the terms of public debate and move the horizons of political possibility; arguments in politics shape arguments in court. We are all responsible for participating in debates about the meaning of the Constitution, and we ought to recognize the power of this shared commitment. In the long run, it can help us build a more egalitarian and democratic society than some of our elites, on and off the Court, would accept.

….We see at least three key battles. First, it is time for progressives to reclaim the First Amendment, contesting the way it has been weaponized as a tool to thwart egalitarian legislation in campaign finance and labor law. Second, we must reforge the link between racial justice and political economy, widening the constitutional lens through which we see questions of race beyond antidiscrimination law and voting rights, to include substantive issues of mass incarceration, health care, public investment, job creation, and wealth inequality. Third, we must bring political economy back into view in areas where liberals retreated from politics and ceded power to economists, such as in antitrust, monetary policy, and corporate law.

To challenge the constitutional claims of hostile courts, progressives must first persuade our fellow Americans that certain progressive ideas are deeply rooted in American traditions of constitutional argument. In pursuing these ideas, we are not transgressing constitutional boundaries but rebuilding the economic and political foundations of U.S. democracy.

Among the reforms Fishkin and Forbath suggest, “Lawmakers can also alter the political economy of running for office—and improve the prospects of candidates and movements with poor and working-class constituencies—by making it less expensive to run a campaign.” They note, further,

When law students learn about the New Deal and its defense of the industrial union today, they focus on the expansion of national power through the Commerce Clause. That was part of the story. But at the time, the era’s leading scholar of the Supreme Court, Edward Corwin, saw things quite differently. He saw a constitutional “revolution” taking place—not about the commerce power, but about the constitutional meaning of freedom. Safeguarding workers’ collective freedoms against private employers’ coercion—and guaranteeing “the economic security of the common man” through social insurance—were now “affirmative” governmental obligations….Unsurprisingly, for decades the remnants of this vision have been squarely in the crosshairs of conservative politicians and judges. Starting with the counterrevolution of the late 1940s, the “right to work” movement has waged an ongoing campaign of legislation and litigation funded and supported by corporate executives and employers’ associations, as well as by wealthy anti-union ideological activists, to destroy the New Deal vision of labor as a source of countervailing social and political power against oligarchy.

….As today’s liberal justices stare down a far bolder and more sweeping antilabor intervention, insights about labor as a countervailing power are nowhere to be found. For lawyers focused on the action inside the Court, making such arguments in the face of conservative majorities might seem pointless. But this concern misses the role constitutional arguments play in public debate. They not only shape litigation but also send signals to the political branches and the people about what cases like Janus are really about—not speech, but constitutional political economy. Rebuilding a powerful progressive movement with a central place for organized labor requires forging a new understanding of the constitutional necessity of countervailing power—an understanding that will have to begin life outside the courts, but ultimately will reverberate both inside and out.

Looking to the future, they suggest:

There is a path forward. Democrats committed to labor law reform have gained power within the party. Not since Harry Truman vetoed Taft-Hartley in 1947 (a veto later overridden by the conservative Dixiecrat/Republican coalition) has the White House spoken about workers’ right to organize the way President Biden speaks about it. Although Democrats do not yet have the votes in the Senate, the House recently passed a sweeping labor law reform bill, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act), which aims to repeal crucial elements of Taft–Hartley and boost efforts to organize unions. Among other things, the PRO Act would expand the definition of work to ensure that organized workers in today’s fragmented workplace—from fast food franchise workers to “contracted” Uber and Lyft drivers, to home health care workers—can bargain with the companies who benefit from their work. The PRO Act would repeal some of the most crippling restrictions on the rights to strike and boycott, such as the ban on so-called secondary actions, which blocks workers who have some organized economic clout from aiding workers who don’t. As the House Education and Labor Committee puts it, the Act would enable “unions to exercise these basic First Amendment rights.” It is very encouraging that this view—that the Taft-Hartley prohibitions violate basic constitutional rights—is once more gaining strength in Congress.

Enacting transformative labor law reform will involve fierce and protracted battles, not only in the Senate, but in courts (where challenges are inevitable), in workplaces, and in the public sphere. Getting there will require both Democratic majorities committed to such change and considerable labor organizing and action on the ground. As in the 1930s, workers will need to exercise their rights to organize, strike, and act in solidarity in contexts where this is now illegal, in the face of judicial injunctions, fines, and jail time….Progressives will need more than the old liberal response that Congress has broad power under the Commerce Power to regulate the national economy, and that Congress has exercised that power to promote labor peace. Both in court and outside of it, and in legislative bodies from city councils up to Congress, progressives should work to show their fellow citizens that rebuilding labor is a constitutional necessity.

Fishkin and Forbath also address current legal concerns regarding racial justice and disproportionate corporate power to manipulate the economy, and conclude, “We must disperse political and economic power widely enough to ensure that economic opportunity is broadly shared and racially inclusive. These are not merely constitutionally permissible goals; they are constitutional necessities. Legislators and citizens who hope to reverse the present slide into oligarchy need to recover these arguments and deploy them to help rebuild the democratic foundations of our republic.”

Teixeira: Umm…About That Supposed Left Wing Great Replacement Theory

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

Predictably, some on the right have sought to characterize the left as having their own equally noxious Great Replacement Theory and, as evidence, many have cited, well, me and my esteemed co-author John Judis.

This is baloney of course and both Judis and I were pleased to see Joan Walsh defend our honor in The Nation:

“There is, in fact, a great replacement theory, they now argue—and it’s been peddled by Democrats. They’re claiming it emerged largely from a book by two friends of mine: The Emerging Democratic Majority, written by Ruy Teixeira and John B. Judis roughly 20 years ago.

“As Republicans flip from “We don’t believe in a great replacement theory” to “Hey, it’s real, but Democrats invented it!”—they routinely cite Judis and Teixeira….

Teixeira and Judis never promoted the notion that immigration, legal or illegal, was going to transform the Democratic Party. The growth of “ideopolises” was a bigger deal. If you can’t grab the book off one of your bookshelves, try this excerpt from The New York Times. And see if you recognize the book Ann Coulter and others are slurring.

The other reason I knew these lying liars are lying is that Judis and Teixeira aren’t ideologues. Their book didn’t advocate policy; it described trends.”

In addition, Ryan Mills at National Review had a good article about the controversy where he allowed me to defend our honor directly:

“In 2002, Ruy Teixeira co-authored the book, The Emerging Democratic Majority, which posited that the changing electoral landscape — the changing voting behavior of women, professionals, and younger people, along with racial and ethnic demographic patterns — was poised to benefit Democrats. Teixeira told National Review that he and his co-author, John Judis, were merely pointing out clear demographic trends “That’s different from arguing that Democrats should consciously engineer and accelerate this shift,” he said. “We said not one word about that.”…

Teixeira said he doesn’t believe it’s fair to say that Democrats are intentionally engineering demographic changes to their political benefit. He called the great replacement theory “a pretty far right-wing constellation of ideas coming out of Europe.” But he said left-wing cheerleading of white decline has “certainly gone too far.”

Teixeira said that in their book, he and Judis were always talking about the “potential” for a Democratic majority. “I emphasize potential,” he said, “because we talked in the book about how it was necessary for these opportunities to be handled intelligently, for the Democrats to adopt a variety of what we called progressive centrism. And above all else, and we talked about this and everyone immediately forgot it, that you need to have a certain share of more conservative, white working-class voters still on board with your party, or the political arithmetic just doesn’t work.”

Teixeira has said a “dangerous misinterpretation” of his book helped elect Donald Trump.

Some conservatives have argued that Democratic crowing about declining white power and the weaponization of demographic change have alienated working-class whites. Teixeira said it also encouraged Democrats to act like they don’t need those voters.

“It encourages the lazy, counterproductive, and basically mathematically illiterate approach to the electorate where these idiots think that they can get by without paying attention to what more conservative or non-college white voters think,” Teixeira said.”

Both articles are worth a read and provide a solid rebuttal to attempts to recruit our book as a sort of lefty Great Replacement handbook.

Political Strategy Notes

In ‘know your adversary’ news, Matthew Sheffield reports in his Flux article that, “For decades, Republican consultants spent big to promote leftist candidates, now they’ve started creating fake ones: Instead of trying to build a majority, the American right has decided to divide and conquer.” Sheffield documents the sleazy history of GOP fronting fake and unelectable Democratic candidates, and writes, “It’s not currently known how large the GOP effort to put forward sham candidates in 2020 was, but the evidence from Florida and other states suggests that it is becoming an increasingly common tactic. A fourth ringer “independent” candidate, Leroy Sanchez, who ran in Florida’s House District 42 has been connected with the Senate candidate ring through a Republican lobbyist named Macy Harper. Sanchez, who is the brother of a top Florida Republican donor, received just under 7,500 votes for his non-candidacy, far greater than the 1,160 margin that enabled the GOP candidate in the race to win.” It appears Republican operatives are particularly interested in fronting g pro-weed candidates to siphon votes away from Democrats. As Sheffield writes, “Minnesota Republicans also tried the fake candidate tactic in 2020, according to Adam Weeks, a man who ran on the Legal Marijuana Now Party line. Shortly before he died in the September before the election, Weeks left a voicemail for a friend which said that he had been recruited to siphon away votes from Angie Craig, the Democratic candidate in the state’s 2nd U.S. House district. Despite his death, Weeks remained on the ballot and received nearly 25,000 votes. That was not enough to block Craig, but it made the race significantly closer than it would have been….Weeks was far from the only person apparently recruited by Minnesota Republicans to run on a pro-weed candidacy. In May of last year, Kevin Ne Se Shores, a blind and disabled veteran who ran in 2020 as a candidate on the Grassroots Legalize Cannabis Party line in the state’s 7th U.S. House district, said that he had been recruited to run by Kip Christianson, an employee of the Republican National Committee at the time. Shores said that Christianson paid his $300 filing fee, in addition to helping him get into the pot party’s primary election.” But in light of Republicans’ increasing reliance on fake candidates and their long history of trying to manipulate Black Americans and other progressive voters, electoral reforms are necessary.”

However, Charlie Cook explains why “Even in a Great Year, Republicans’ Winnable Seats Are Limited,” and observes at The Cook Political Report that “after three consecutive cycles of very aggressive, even audacious gerrymandering by both parties, the number of competitive districts is much smaller, arguably reducing the volatility….Another reason is that Democrats lost a dozen House seats in 2020. Just as the ‘A’ seat on an airliner is always a window seat, a party cannot lose a seat they don’t have….In modern times, big wave elections have tended to come from a party well behind in seats. Republicans’ House gain of 54 seats in 1994 was from a starting point of just 174 seats; their 64-seat pickup in 2010 was from 178 seats. When Democrats gained 42 seats from Republicans in 2018, they started with just 194 seats. Allocating the currently vacant seats into the column they had come from (and will likely return), Democrats hold 222 seats and Republicans 213, well above the GOP levels going into 1994 and 2010 and Democrats in 2006….Most current estimates of likely GOP House gains range from as low as a dozen seats (seven more than necessary for the barest majority) to about three dozen. The current outlook from David Wasserman, The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter’s expert on the House, is a Republican gain of between 20 and 35 seats….Then again, caution may be in order in applying historic patterns from a period before partisan polarization became as extreme as it is today, with defections among partisans quite rare and pure independents exceedingly fickle and prone to buyer’s remorse.”

Li Zhou reports on the “House Democrats’ sweeping gun control package” at Vox, and notes: “Although lawmakers are currently on recess, the House Judiciary Committee returned Thursday for an urgent session focused on multiple bills intended to address the age limit for purchasing guns, the sale of large-capacity magazines, and firearm storage. During the markup, committee members approved the package, setting it up for a floor vote as soon as next week….This legislation — which will inevitably be blocked in the Senate — is an acknowledgment of the importance of this issue, and a way for Democrats to show voters that they are trying to take action in the wake of recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, Uvalde, Texas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma….As part of this week’s meeting, Democrats considered eight bills, which they’ve dubbed the Protect Our Kids Package. This legislation is in addition to votes the House will take on a federal red-flag law sponsored by Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA), which enables law enforcement to confiscate weapons from an individual who’s seen as a threat to themselves or others, as well as a markup it will conduct on an assault weapons ban. House Democrats also previously voted on two bills that would strengthen background checks for guns….The House actions are occurring in parallel with bipartisan talks in the Senate that are expected to result in a much narrower bill, if any at all. Earlier this week, Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) met via Zoom to continue discussions about a possible deal that’s likely to center on “red flag laws” or background checks.” Many Democrats worry, based on previous experience, that the Republicans are running another ‘Lucy holding the football’ scam. But running out the clock may not work this time, since mass shootings are increasing alarmingly. No matter what happens with the senate negotiations, good on House Dems for at least setting a high standard.

In her article, “These Data Nerds Think They’ve Found the Climate Silver Bullet: Nonvoting Environmentalists: The Environmental Voter Project wants to turn infrequent voters who care about the environment into a force that can swing elections” at The New Republic, Lisa Featherstone writes, “Voters don’t care enough about climate, according to conventional wisdom. The best way to address climate change is for Democrats to win elections by talking about other subjects, consultants say. The problem with this political advice is that Democratic politicians, acting on the insight that voters don’t care, get into office and then don’t set a high priority on climate policy—because they want to be reelected….Put this way, it sounds like we have an almost unsolvable problem on our hands, one that could lead us to believe that representative democracy was incompatible with human survival. Conversations with liberals and progressives these days, especially those engaged in climate issues, are unfailingly gloomy. The right seems to be on a winning streak; relatedly, we’re all doomed. But what if there was a way out of this existential cul-de-sac?…The data nerds and activists behind the Environmental Voter Project, or EVP, think there is. They’ve got extensive research and proven results to support this crazy bit of optimism, and they’re using it to try to sway the midterms, a looming political event that most liberals are hailing with unqualified despair….The big surprise of EVP’s research is that far more nonvoters list climate as their top priority. And what that means, Stinnett says, is that turning nonvoting environmentalists (and “drop off” voters, those who have voted in presidential years but not otherwise) into voters could swing elections….Lots of environmentalists don’t need their minds changed. They need a behavioral change.” These people don’t need to be told to care about the environment. They need to be organized into voting….This year, EVP argues that “drop off” environmental voters alone could easily swing the midterms in Arizona, North Carolina, Nevada, and New Hampshire; the number of drop-off voters in each of those states far surpasses the margins of victory in the 2018 midterms and, in Pennsylvania, in the 2020 presidential race.” Read Featherstone’s article for more insights into how Dems can mine this vein.

Gen Z Could Be Crucial For Abortion Rights

Public opinion on abortion hasn’t really changed much since the 1970s. But that could be about to change as I explained at New York:

There are some “culture war” issues, notably involving LGBTQ+ rights, in which public opinion shows really sharp generational divisions. To put it bluntly, homophobia appears largely to be a geriatric illness, born of inadequate experience with real live LGBTQ+ people and rigid views of acceptable conduct. Even among conservative Evangelical youth, hostility toward marriage equality has ebbed.

But until recently, there have been few persistent generational divisions on abortion rights. As Gallup noted in 2010, older and younger generations steadily converged in their views on legal access to abortion in the early years of this century. And the millennial generation has confounded expectations that it would lead a liberalizing trend on abortion like it has on same-sex marriage, as Daniel Cox explains at FiveThirtyEight:

“Over the past decade, one of the most confounding trends in public opinion has been why millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) who are less religiousmore educated and more liberal than previous generations — are not stronger supporters of abortion rights. Polls have generally shown that millennials express considerable ambivalence about abortion, views that do not distinguish them from the broader public.

Millennials’ attitudes on abortion rights stand in stark relief to the way they tend to approach other issues of sex and sexuality. For instance, they were among the strongest proponents of legalizing same-sex marriage at the height of debate in the mid-2000s, and they have generally liberal views on contraception, sex education and premarital sex. Abortion has always been the exception.”

As the steadily increasing fragility of abortion rights has raised the issue’s visibility in recent years, Generation Z (those born in or after 1997) looks likely to break the mold and lead a backlash to the impending revocation of a constitutional right to abortion by the U.S. Supreme Court. A new Pew survey released in May showed that 74 percent of adults ages 18 to 29 believe abortion should generally be legal, and that includes 30 percent who say it should be legal in all cases without exception. That’s a 12-point jump from the percentage of adults ages 30 to 49 taking the “generally legal” position and the difference between a solid majority and a supermajority.

This generational trend could solidify the anti-abortion movement’s isolation as an ideological group that is only dominant among white Evangelicals (who oppose legal abortion by a 74-24 margin, according to the same Pew survey). Pew shows Catholics now favoring legal abortion by a 56-42 margin (in sharp contrast to the largely monolithic official position of the Catholic Church in opposing legal abortion). Non-Evangelical white Protestants favor legal abortion by a 60-38 margin, and Black Protestants take the same position by a 66-28 margin. And among the religiously unaffiliated (an increasingly large group in both the millennial and Gen-Z cohorts), support for legal abortion soars to 84 percent.

According to Cox, there is an emerging gender gap in the overall ideological positioning of Gen Z that is less apparent in older generations:

“An analysis of Gallup surveys over the past decade conducted by the American Enterprise Institute’s Survey Center on American Life, which I lead, found a critical shift in political identity among young women. In 2021, we found that 44 percent of 18- to 29-year-old women identified as liberal, whereas only 30 percent of 18- to 29-year-old women identified as such a decade earlier. Among men in this age group, the share who identified as liberal was essentially unchanged during the same time period.”

In any event, the national divide over abortion isn’t as immutable as it has often seemed.  If the Supreme Court is indeed going to relegate abortion policy to the political realm to be fought out state by state in hand-to-hand legislative and electoral combat, there are some grounds for optimism about what might happen down the road.

Dems Should Prep for Intimidation at Polls

In her Politico article, “‘It’s going to be an army’: Tapes reveal GOP plan to contest elections: Placing operatives as poll workers and building a “hotline” to friendly attorneys are among the strategies to be deployed in Michigan and other swing states,” Heidi Przbyla reports on Republican plans for confrontations at the polls and for influencing midterm election results. As Przbyla writes:

“Video recordings of Republican Party operatives meeting with grassroots activists provide an inside look at a multi-pronged strategy to target and potentially overturn votes in Democratic precincts: Install trained recruits as regular poll workers and put them in direct contact with party attorneys.

The plan, as outlined by a Republican National Committee staffer in Michigan, includes utilizing rules designed to provide political balance among poll workers to install party-trained volunteers prepared to challenge voters at Democratic-majority polling places, developing a website to connect those workers to local lawyers and establishing a network of party-friendly district attorneys who could intervene to block vote counts at certain precincts.

“Being a poll worker, you just have so many more rights and things you can do to stop something than [as] a poll challenger,” said Matthew Seifried, the RNC’s election integrity director for Michigan, stressing the importance of obtaining official designations as poll workers in a meeting with GOP activists in Wayne County last Nov. 6. It is one of a series of recordings of GOP meetings between summer of 2021 and May of this year obtained by POLITICO.

Backing up those front-line workers, “it’s going to be an army,” Seifried promised at an Oct. 5 training session. “We’re going to have more lawyers than we’ve ever recruited, because let’s be honest, that’s where it’s going to be fought, right?”

Przbyla adds that “election watchdog groups and legal experts say many of these recruits are answering the RNC’s call because they falsely believe fraud was committed in the 2020 election, so installing them as the supposedly unbiased officials who oversee voting at the precinct level could create chaos in such heavily Democratic precincts.”

Przbyla notes further, “Democratic National Committee spokesperson Ammar Moussa said the DNC “trains poll watchers to help every eligible voter cast a ballot,” but neither the DNC nor the state party trains poll workers. The DNC did help recruit poll workers in 2020 due to a drop-off in older workers amid the pandemic; but he says it is not currently doing so and has never trained poll workers to contest votes.

One of the most chilling revelations of Przbyla’s article: ““Come election day you create massive failure of certification” in Democratic precincts, Penniman said. “The real hope is that you can throw the choosing of electors to state legislatures.”

Also, “Of all former President Donald Trump’s battleground-state allies, Republican operatives in the state of Michigan came the closest to throwing the 2020 election — and the nation — into a constitutional crisis. So many volunteer challengers overwhelmed Detroit’s TCF Center, where votes were being counted, that police intervened because Covid safety protocols had been breached.” The plan also includes directions for “How to challenge a voter,” with detailed instructions.

Przbyla’s article focused on Michigan. But it’s likely that similar plans are being made in other battleground states and districts.

Some things Dems or progressives can do to prepare for Republican challenges:

  1. Amp up early voting. Encourage more voters to bank their ballots as early as possible.

  2. Expand and enhance legal teams to confront Republican legal scams and intimidation at the polls.

  3. Run ads to make sure the public knows who is threatening violence at the polls.

  4. Mobilize cell phone squads to make videos of intimidation.

  5. Get some union members, who will not be intimidated by goons, to staff the polls.

Political Strategy Notes

E. J. Dionne, Jr. warns “If young voters sit out 2022, Democrats will be in a world of hurt” at The Washington Post: “President Biden and the Democrats would do well to spend a lot of time over the coming weeks talking with young Americans. It’s a matter of survival. If younger voters remain as turned off as they are now, Democrats will get clobbered in November.Generational differences don’t always play a major role in politics, but they do now. Democrats are unusually dependent on support among the young, and if youth turnout in 2022 regresses to levels closer to those in the 2014 midterms, a lot of Democratic incumbents will be looking for new jobs….The facts are plain. In five key swing states in 2020, Biden needed young voters to prevail. According to exit polls, Biden won voters under 30 years old by 31 points in Arizona, 27 points in Pennsylvania, 24 points in Michigan, 23 points in Wisconsin and 13 points in Georgia….According to Census Bureau figures, only 19.9 percent of voters 18- to 29-years old cast ballots in the 2014 midterms, which produced a GOP sweep. But, inspired in part by the anti-Trump movement, under-30 turnout soared to 35.6 percent in 2018, helping Democrats win control of the House. Turnout was also up substantially among 30- to-44-year-olds….[Democratic pollster Molly] Murphy said, “the glaring reality of what is at stake” if the Republicans win may prove to be the Democrats’ strongest card, especially if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade. The “idea that Republicans are very extreme,” McElwee said, is widely held among the younger voters Democrats need to bring to the polls….No doubt some older Democratic officeholders will wax impatient with the impatience of the young. After all, Biden and his party have had to deal with a wall of Republican obstruction, the president has made a big dent in judicial appointments, and he has pursued broadly progressive regulatory policies….But with their party facing a potential catastrophe this fall, Democrats don’t have the luxury of lecturing their younger supporters on the need for patience. They will either turn them out, or they’ll lose.”

Speaking of young voters, Daniel Cox writes in his FiveThirtyeight article, “There’s A New Age Gap On Abortion Rights” that “A new report from the Pew Research Center found that support for abortion rights is considerably higher among young Americans. Roughly three-quarters of 18- to 29-year-olds say abortion should generally be legal, including 30 percent who say it should be legal in all cases. Meanwhile, Americans 65 and older expressed much more tepid support — only 54 percent said abortion should be legal without exception (14 percent) or with some exceptions (40 percent)….This might not sound all that surprising since younger adults often see issuesdifferently from older adults, but this age gap on attitudes about abortion contradicts past polling on this issue. According to the General Social Survey,1young Americans’ views on obtaining an abortion have not been appreciably different from the public’s overall for much of the past 40-plus years. That changed fairly recently, though. On the question of whether someone should be able to get an abortion for any reason, 64 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds agreed in 2021, a 20-percentage-point increase from a decade earlier….In fact, over the past decade, one of the most confounding trends in public opinion has been why millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996)2 — who are less religious, more educated and more liberal than previous generations — are not stronger supporters of abortion rights. Polls have generally shown that millennialsexpress considerable ambivalence about abortion, views that do not distinguish them from the broader public.”

Cox continues, “Now, though, we’re left to solve another riddle: Why do Generation Z adults (born between 1997 and 2004) not share millennials’ more conservative perspectives on abortion? There are a few possible explanations worth considering…..Perhaps the simplest is that Gen Z adults, particularly women, are more liberal than previous generations when they were young adults — including millennials. While younger adults are typically more liberal than older ones, Gen Z women especially tend to be progressive. An analysis of Gallup surveys over the past decade conducted by the American Enterprise Institute’s Survey Center on American Life, which I lead, found a critical shift in political identity among young women. In 2021, we found that 44 percent of 18- to 29-year-old women identified as liberal, whereas only 30 percent of 18- to 29-year-old women identified as such a decade earlier. Among men in this age group, the share who identified as liberal was essentially unchanged during the same time period….a crucial difference between Gen Z and millennials on abortion rights may have to do with shifting perceptions of access. Millennials came of age at a time when abortion was perceived as generally available and subject to comparatively few restrictions. In a 2011 survey, a majority (55 percent) of millennials said it was not at all or not too difficult to get an abortion, a significantly higher share compared with other age groups’ responses. After a decade of state-level restrictions, though, and well-publicized efforts to reduce abortion access, views have changed significantly….Of course, research has long shown that younger Americans are generally less engaged in politics and spend less time talking about political issues than older Americans. But abortion may be an issue they care about more. According to results from Pew’s March survey, younger Americans spend as much time as Americans overall thinking about abortion, and for young women, the share is even higher. If the Supreme Court does overturn Roe v. Wade, which established the constitutional right to abortion in 1973, it is not difficult to believe that the large majority of Gen Zers who support abortion rights will see such a move as an infringement on rights once afforded to them. And if the past few years have shown us anything, it is that anxiety is a powerful political motivator.”

From “The Outlook for the 2022 Senate Elections: A State-by-State Analysis: What a predictive model tells us about the last decade of results, as well as 2022” by Alan I. Abramowitz at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Given the uncertainty of the overall results of the 2022 Senate elections, I decided to conduct a seat-by-seat analysis of all 174 Senate races since 2012 to see what factors have influenced the results of these contests. I then applied the findings from these earlier elections to the 35 contests taking place this year in order to predict their outcomes. The results of this seat-by-seat analysis were consistent with the national forecast from the generic ballot model. With neither party holding a clear advantage, control of the Senate will likely come down to a half dozen or so competitive contests in which the strengths and weaknesses of individual candidates could be crucial….Based on the results of my analysis of Senate contests between 2012 and 2020 in Table 2, I calculated the model’s expected results of all 35 Senate contests taking place this year. The results are displayed in Table 5….Based on the accuracy of the predictions for elections between 2012 and 2020, we can have a high degree of confidence in the outcomes of races in which the predicted margin is greater than 10 points but less confidence if the predicted margin is less than 10 points.”

Much As They Enjoyed It, Democrats Not to Blame for Trump’s Georgia Defeats

Was kind of amused at the latest blame game being directed to Democrats after the May 24 Georgia primary, so I wrote about it at New York:

Donald Trump isn’t known for owning up to his mistakes. So it’s natural that in the wake of the setbacks his 2022 Republican-primary endorsement program experienced in Georgia on May 24, the once-and-would-be-future president is looking for excuses. The most tempting to him surely involves blaming his candidates — particularly the feckless gubernatorial aspirant David Perdue and the even more feckless secretary of State challenger Jody Hice, who lost to Trump enemies Brian Kemp and Brad Raffensperger, respectively. But then that would reflect poorly on Trump’s own judgment in hand-picking them to begin with, wouldn’t it?

The website for Trump’s official statements has only one allusion to the Georgia fiasco: an “ICYMI” link to a deranged bit of MAGA conspiracy-mongering basically claiming that only fraud can explain a Trump defeat this severe. But at his Wyoming rally over the weekend, Trump “denounced crossover voting in Georgia, where all voters can choose which primary they want to vote in, by Democrats who opposed Perdue and Hice,” noted the Washington Post. Trump might have been engaging in a little preemptive spinning as well, since the candidate he is trying to purge in Wyoming, Congresswoman Liz Cheney, is openly seeking to pull Democrats and independents into her August 16 primary.

The 45th president isn’t the only one attracting attention to the participation of Democrats in the Georgia Republican primary; it received some serious buzz among election analysts with no particular stake in the outcome. In mid-May, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution estimated that about 7 percent of early voters in the GOP primary were Democratic primary voters in 2020. And after the voting was done, the Associated Press suggested around 9 percent of 2022 Republican-primary early voters in Georgia were 2020 Democrats. So is Trump right? Did those rascally socialist Democrats sneak over into the GOP primary to smite candidates endorsed by the Greatest President Ever?

Maybe and maybe not. First things first: There is absolutely nothing illegal or even mildly inappropriate about Georgia voters choosing to participate in either party’s primaries as they wish. Georgia is one of 15 “open primary” states with no party registration. Voters show up at the polls and are offered either a D or R primary ballot. And while there may be some truth in Trump’s self-centered assumption that crossover voters were seeking to thwart his will, there’s no way to distinguish them from strategic voters seeking to choose the weakest general-election candidate or simply from voters who changed their actual party affiliation for one reason or another (clearly the heavy ad spending on the Republican side could have drawn in previously Democratic voters in the absence of competitive Democratic primaries in the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races). I personally know Democratic voters in Georgia who routinely vote in Republican primaries because they live in deep-red jurisdictions where all the local contests are resolved in the GOP primary (the same was true in reverse for the many decades in which Democratic primaries were tantamount to general elections in states like Georgia).

The other thing to keep in mind is the folly of trying to attribute close election victories to one of many potential causes. The AP story on crossover voting in Georgia noted that the margin by which Raffensperger avoided a potentially dangerous runoff contest was smaller than the estimated number of Democratic voters participating in the GOP primary. Does that mean Democrats decided the outcome? Perhaps, but only if you assume (a) that nearly all of them voted for Raffensperger and (b) that he might not have won a runoff anyway.

The bigger issue in Georgia for Trump at the moment isn’t figuring out why his candidates lost but whether his anger at the primary outcome will lead him to sabotage the GOP ticket in November. His chief Peach State vanquisher, Kemp, is reportedly reaching out to the camp of the ex-president in order to arrange a truce to keep the GOP more or less united going into a tough general election in which Kemp will face a rematch with Democratic voting-rights champion Stacey Abrams, and Trump’s guy Herschel Walker will confront incumbent senator Raphael Warnock. It’s unclear what will happen, as the Journal-Constitution notes:

“Two people close to Trump say the chances of reconciliation were worsened when former Vice President Mike Pence headlined a pre-primary rally for Kemp, furthering a split between the two former running-mates. Others remain hopeful they can at least minimize Trump’s potential harm in a race where even slight changes in voting patterns could have a significant effect on the results.”

Trump has several months to pout and whine before putting on the party harness and avoiding a replay of his destructive role in the 2021 runoffs in Georgia that gave control of the U.S. Senate to Democrats. But if he remains in a fantasyland in which even a 2022 Republican primary in a state controlled by his party was “rigged” against him, he may never make his way back to a presidential ticket.

Greenberg: After Ukraine, Voters Want Climate Solutions

The following article, “After Ukraine, Voters Want Climate Solutions: New polling shows a bolstered desire for a rapid transition to green energy” by Stanley B. Greenberg, is cross-posted from The American Prospect:

The Russian invasion of a democratic Ukraine, the disruption of Russian oil and natural gas, and an unimaginable spike in gasoline prices have disrupted both global and domestic energy politics. They have done so in completely surprising but understandable and reassuring ways.

Predictably, Russia is reviled in ways we have not seen since the hottest days of the Cold War. In polling, the proportion of respondents viewing Russia negatively reached 72 percent, including 63 percent who were very negative. That was also matched by the polarized and symmetric embrace of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In June, a plurality of 36 percent had warm feelings toward it, though a fifth was not sure. Not now. A 2-to-1 majority feels warmly about NATO. And people also feel significantly warmer about allies like France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

But the war has also brought a series of dramatic and surprising shifts in public thinking about energy and climate change, according to surveys I conducted in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States for the Climate Policy and Strategy project.

More from Stanley B. Greenberg

After the global COP26 conference in Scotland, the public debate moved to whether China and India were on the program of getting to net-zero carbon emissions, and how one dealt with the high cost of transitioning to renewable energy. Some conservatives in Britain, Germany, and the United States raised those issues. And in our January survey in Germany, the new government elected on a climate agenda was getting the most support for helping consumers with their energy bill when the country’s carbon tax came into force, by removing the climate surcharge and shifting the cost onto the federal government.

But now in the United States, the spike in gas prices has led people to believe fossil fuels are the most expensive option. Every day they stare at figures approaching $5.00 and $6.00 a gallon, the highest price ever at the pump, it deepens the consciousness of this cost equation. A majority in my April survey now believe the cost of the transition will not be unacceptably high.

When we asked which concept is “more fundamental,” the “climate crisis” or “energy crisis,” a majority of 52 percent said the former. Only 41 percent chose the “energy crisis.” A third answered with intense agreement that the climate crisis is fundamental, compared to only a quarter on the energy crisis.

Click here to read more of this article.