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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

A Democratic Political Strategy for Reaching Working Class Voters That Starts from the Actual “Class Consciousness” of Modern Working Americans.

by Andrew Levison

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RUBI Report Highlights Successful Approaches for Rural Democratic Candidates

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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.

“Peaceful Protest” vs. “Rioting” is a False Choice.

There’s a Militant, Powerful Strategy for Protesting Police Injustice

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Democrats Will Lose Elections in 2022 and 2024 if They do Not Offer a Plausible Strategy for Reducing the Surge of Immigrants at the Border.

Read on…

The Daily Strategist

February 5, 2023

So, Who Reads Political Blogs?

Just to add a little factual background perspective to the interesting fray on the Netroots and progressives underway at TPM Cafe (featuring TDS’s Scott Winship), we recommend The Audience for Political Blogs” New Research on Blog Readership a study published by Joseph Graf at the web pages of The Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet. Among the factoids Graf serves up:

The Regular, daily audience for political blogs is fairly small. We estimate in the millions of readers, not tens of millions.
Nine percent of the survey sample looked at political blogs “almost every day”
Nearly two-thirds, 66 percent, of daily readers of political blogs get most of their national and international news from the internet.
The audience for political blogs is highly concentrated among “dozens of blogs, not thousands.”
One-third of those who read political blogs every day consider themselves “strong liberals.”
The higher traffic political blogs are disproportionately liberal.

Interesting, but no shockers here. The survey had its limitations — respondents in the sample were 7,683 California registered voters who chose to take an online survey, and it didn’t include any insights about developing trends. It would appear that television is still the medium of choice for political information for the time being, given the declining levels of print readership. With the expected merging of television and internet access in millions of homes, it could be a very different picture before too long.
There is mounting evidence that political blogs are finding a more avid audience among opinion leaders and those employed in political work. Henry Copeland reports on recent studies indicating that about 90 percent of “congressional offices” read blogs, and 64 percent of congressional staff readers believe “blogs are more useful than mainstream media for identifying future national political problems and debates.” He notes also that “52% of journalists believe blogs have ‘some to a great deal’ of influence on the way media covers stories.”

Talkin ‘Bout My Generation

by Scott Winship
(Comments on Matt Stoller’s essay on the New Left and the netroots, cross-posted at http://www.tpmcafe.com/blog/swinship/2007/jan/17/talkin_bout_my_generation)
I have a somewhat different take on what to make of the “new movement” centered on the netroots than the older—sorry, wiser—discussants that have responded to Matt thus far. As someone who at age 34 could be part of this movement demographically but doesn’t feel altogether comfortable in it, my take also differs from his. I am on the record elsewhere as believing that the netroots is ideological and ideologically liberal. Like Ed, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Matt agrees with me, given the resistance I’ve received to this argument. So let me instead focus on the questions of where the current movement comes from and where it is going.
First, I agree with Matt that the movement has grown out of the frustrations and anger of those on the left, though I think Matt only gets at part of the explanation. He is right to note that the events dating from the Clinton impeachment – including the perceived theft of the 2000 election, the perceived timidity of the Democratic Congress in 2002, and the outrages of the Bush Administration – are largely behind the rise of the netroots. But there is something else too, something that is implicit (if not explicit) in huge swaths of the Compiled Works of the Liberal Blogosphere.
That “something” – alluded to in Matt’s reference to “Democratic complacency in the Iraq debate in 2002” – is frustration with the incrementalism of the Bill Clinton years and the Clintonite wing of the Party in general. I know that Matt has recently read Todd Gitlin's magnificent The Sixties as part of his research on the New Left, and I am currently working my way through it as well. Early on, in explaining why the children of the Fifties were “lost” to their complacent liberal parents (liberal in the “Cold War liberal consensus” sense) and embraced the confrontational New Left movement of the Sixties, Todd eloquently makes an observation with much relevance for understanding today’s netroots:

In politics, nothing is so unsettling as half a success. After a catastrophe, the next generation rebuilds from scratch. After a heroic victory, they inherit the triumph. But half a success tantalizes and confuses; it dangles before the eyes a glaring discrepancy between promise and performance.

It may be true that the netroots are an older group than is often recognized – my own inclination is to be skeptical until some good data is available, and no, there is no good data yet available – but in reading the most popular writers of the “activist” blogosphere, one is struck by how often they acknowledge that their political experience goes only as far back as the Clinton impeachment. Many of the most prominent netroots activists demonstrate little appreciation for how electorally awful the years between 1966 and 1992 were for Democrats. Consider this the flip-side of Max’s complaint of ahistoricity.
From Lyndon Johnson’s blow-out victory over Barry Goldwater in 1964 through 1965, my boss Stan Greenberg notes in his Two Americas, Johnson was supported by clear majorities of the electorate. But that changed in 1966, as urban rioting and Vietnam took its toll on his agenda:

The Republicans picked up 8 governorships, including Ronald Reagan’s victory in California; doubled their number of state legislators in the South; gained a net of 47 seats in the House; and picked three new senators in the South.

To belabor the point, 1966 precedes the rise of the conservative think tanks and foundations in the early 1970s. It is only two years after Goldwater’s trouncing (so much for those “years in the wilderness” suffered by the right). The political history of the next quarter-century is clear enough: Richard Nixon wins as George Wallace peels off the Democratic South, Nixon successfully woos the Wallace voters in ’72 and destroys the last Democratic nominee to openly run as a liberal, a moderate southern Democrat squeaks out a win over a Republican incumbent who had been successively an unelected vice president and unelected president (and who represented the party of Watergate), the dark years of Reagan, the victory of George H. W. Bush on the strength of Lee Atwater’s culture-war strategy, and finally – finally – a clear Democratic win by a moderate southern governor from Arkansas. All the while, ideology and party grew increasingly aligned, swelling the Republican ranks and reaching an apogee in the 1994 election, when the GOP captured both chambers of Congress.
Clinton, of course, went on to drive liberal activists mad by failing to pass universal health care, favoring trade agreements, signing the welfare reform bill, and declaring the end of the era of big government. Al Gore’s campaign in 2000 was pushed to the left by Bill Bradley’s initially strong primary challenge, and his famously populist acceptance speech made many liberals swoon like Tipper after “The Kiss”. But when he lost – and despite the atrocious U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the various recount scenarios would have yielded different results – much of the left at least took solace in the fact that Clintonism was apparently behind them.
But Clintonism as a term for political timidity came to be blamed for Democrats’ allowing the Bush tax cuts to pass, despite the fact that electoral realities put strong pressure on Democratic senators from red states to vote for the bill. With little credibility on national security after 30 years marked by the public relations genius of the McGovernik left (the forerunners of the Kucinich-worshipping Department of Peacers of 2004) as well as the Third-World romanticism of 1970s liberals (the forerunners of the U.N.-elevating left of ’04), Carter’s weakness around the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Iran hostage crisis, and the death of Soviet Communism under Reagan/Bush, Democrats in Congress were vulnerable to claims by Bush II that they were insufficiently strong on national security, and they buckled to his will. When Republicans re-took the Senate in 2002, “Clintonism” was a convenient scapegoat.
It is this lack of historical appreciation – this lack of understanding of political imperatives – and its attendant lack of patience that unites the New Left of the 1960s with the netroots today. It is the promise and peril of political naïveté—the admirable impulse that led me as a 22-year-old college senior in 1995 to hunger strike for 5 days for what I thought to be an important cause, an impulse the potential destructiveness of which is laid bare in the disclosure that the cause was establishing an Asian-American Studies program immediately rather than waiting for the university bureaucracy to vote on it.
While the New Left eventually over-reached, it did so after achieving extraordinarily important progress in civil rights and civil liberties, and it eventually brought about the end of a war that proved hopelessly unwinnable. Those victories might not have been possible with an “appropriate” historical appreciation. Can the netroots and its fellow-travelers have a similarly positive impact? The answer will depend on whether they are able to read the public mood correctly, whether they correctly judge how—and how quickly—the public can be brought along, and whether their causes are as compelling as the defeat of Jim Crow.
New Democrats—young and old—fear that the New New Left—young and old—will miscalculate in addressing each question, or worse, will not even acknowledge these are legitimate and crucial questions. (How does Matt know, for instance, that the “new movement” is a majority, non-silent or otherwise?) Like other committed Democrats, we hope for their success and will work and fight alongside them on many endeavors, but we will also point out that whatever ’60s activism achieved, it also handed the country to the Republicans for more than a generation. The netroots better be prepared to tell us what we’ll get in return this time around to justify such a result.

Survey on ‘Surge” Recalls MLK Challenge

The 2007 Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday finds a growing portion of Americans opposed to increasing the number of U.S. troops in Iraq. As the first poll of Americans following President Bush’s ‘surge’ address (PDF here) indicates, 66 percent of Americans oppose sending another 20 thousand plus troops to Iraq, while 32 percent are in favor. CNN notes further:

Half the respondents said they “strongly oppose” sending more troops, while 16 percent “moderately oppose.” Only 19 percent “strongly favor” sending additional troops, and 13 percent “moderately favor” the idea…With Democrats controlling Congress, Americans show substantially more support for the Democratic Party on the issue of Iraq. Just more than half — 51 percent — said they have more confidence in the Iraq policies of the Democrats in Congress, while only 34 percent said they have more confidence in Bush’s Iraq policies.

If this rising tide of dissent rings a bell, go back almost 40 years to February 25, 1967, when Dr. King had this to say in his speech “The Casualties of the War in Vietnam”:

It’s time for all people of conscience to call upon America to return to her true home of brotherhood and peaceful pursuits. We cannot remain silent as our nation engages in one of history’s most cruel and senseless wars. America must continue to have, during these days of human travail, a company of creative dissenters. We need them because the thunder of their fearless voices will be the only sound stronger than the blasts of bombs and the clamor of war hysteria.

The entire speech may be read The King Papers Project website.

How ‘Viral Video’ Can Give Dems Edge

For those of us who are a little behind in understanding the use of viral video and other new video tools in politics, Peter Leyden’ Blog at NDN provides a good introduction here. Leyden, director of the New Politics Institute, paints an interesting picture of the unfolding communications technology leading up to the 2008 elections:

Emotionally powerful, visually complex video has finally arrived on the internet – and it’s moving fast. Those in politics will need to hustle to keep up with it.
This urgency is particularly important today, because the forty-year reign of broadcast and cable television thirty-second ads is coming to a close. Among other things, the spread of digital video recorders (DVRs) like TiVo allows an increasing chunk of Americans to skip ads altogether. By the 2008 election roughly one-third of all American households will have DVRs, and the percentage of likely voters with them will be even higher.
Understanding video also requires understanding how people are accessing video. NPI Fellow Tim Chambers tells us that “by the 2008 election, more than 90 percent of the mobile phones used in the U.S. will be internet-enabled…by 2011, 24 million U.S. cellular subscribers and customers will be paying for some form of TV/video content and services on their mobile devices.” At that point mobile video services combined would have more than 3 million more users than the largest cable operator in the U.S. does today.

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to visualize the potential power of such tools for creating buzz for candidates and campaigns with limited budgets. And it can cut both ways. Leyden notes that George Allen’s “macaca moment” was first publicized through “viral video” (wikipedia also has an informative entry on the term here). Leyden introduces the first installment of NPI’s new series “Re-Imagining Video” with former Hollywood producer Julie Bergman Sender’s more in depth piece on the subject “Viral Video in Politics: Case Studies in Creating Compelling Video” Readers can link to the PDF from this summary.

My Bad….

by Scott Winship
Commenter “David” notes an error that I made in my response to Tom Schaller’s roundtable discussion piece from a couple of months back. I claimed that just 2 of 28 Democratic governors led southern states, which was badly wrong. I’ll let David speak for himself:

I’m unclear what states you count as “southern,” but going with the Old Confederacy, I count *five* Democratic governors, in VA, NC, LA, AR and TN. That doesn’t leave you with a majority of governorships outside the South, at least using ordinary math.

For the record, I apparently misread the election map I examined and counted as in the Dem column only the two states where Dem governors were elected in November (rather than adding the sitting governors in the other Southern states). I then subtracted 2 from 28 to get a non-Southern majority of 26. Dumb, dumb mistake — an example of writing up something far too quickly.
David makes some other criticisms in his post that I take issue with, which you can consider for yourself at the link above.

Dems Need Stronger Candidates — Women and Men

Gadflyer Sarah Posner’s post “Why, oh Y?” criticizes the notion that the Dems need more macho candidates, recently addressed in Ryan Lizza’s New York Times piece “The Invasion of the Alpha Male Democrat.” Posner says:

I had a creepy feeling reading Lizza’s piece, in part because I hate that silly macho pissing contest, where the Democrats feel they have to work so hard not to look French or worry about their hair (unless they’re a woman, in which case they should worry very much about it) and drink Bud instead of latte. But also because I know that if success in Democratic politics depends on a macho test, female politicians will always face the eternal tug between flaunting their toughness while constantly tempering it with a prominent display of estrogen.

While Lizza’s article was more reporting on a perceived trend than advocating a candidate recruitment strategy, Posner makes a good point: “Before they go too far down that path, Democrats should avoid overplaying the macho hand.”
Who knows? Some candidates may win votes as a result of their macho vibes. But there is no feasable way to accurately evaluate what portion of a victory margin is due to perceived “manliness.” In some elections, too much macho could be a liability. Either way, it’s guesswork talking, not rigorous poll analysis.
Better Dems should focus on recruiting energetic, articulate and competitive candidates, and last time we checked they came in all genders. We can be fairly confident that Schumer, Van Hollen and Dean, who likely watched MN Senate candidate Amy Klobuchar shred her GOP adversary in Meet the Press and C-SPAN2 debates, get that.
Democrats can be proud of Speaker Pelosi, and that Senator Boxer and other Democratic women in Congress are now taking over the chairs of key Senate and House committees. And newly-elected Dem women are an equally impressive group. However, women are still substantially underrepresented at every level of representative government in the U.S. (See TDM’s Nov. 24 post here for the latest percentages). Correcting this shortfall is the more worthy challenge for the party of the people.

Western Strategy Gains Cred

Sasha Abramsky’s “The Blue-ing of the West” in The Nation makes a compelling case for The Western Strategy as the Dem’s best option for ’08. The mid-terms improved the Dems’ western prospects considerably, as Abramsky explains:

November’s election results vindicated this strategy. Building on gains in 2004, Democrats picked up four Congressional and Senate seats in the interior West, bolstered by one the number of governorships they control in the region and increased their presence in statehouses…In 2000 all eight of the interior Western states had Republican governors; today, with Bill Ritter’s recent win in Colorado–springing from Senator Ken Salazar’s victory in the state in 2004–five of the eight are run by Democrats….Many strategists, who tout more than thirty Electoral College permutations that would allow a Democratic victory based primarily on inroads in the West, believe every Western state but Idaho, Utah and Wyoming could fall to a strong progressive-leaning presidential candidate in 2008.

Further, Abramsky notes:

Such states as Montana are now electing Democratic populists. Moreover, even before November’s election, most of the big cities throughout the region, including Denver, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Boise and Missoula, were already run by Democratic mayors, or by mayors elected in nonpartisan races who openly identify with their state Democratic parties.

Abramsky details the Dems’ considerable advantage on a host of key issues in western states. He discusses promising proposals to create a western regional primary and hold the ’08 convention in Denver, promoting it as a “Rocky Mountain West Convention.”
Abramsky makes a convincing argument that the west is the most fertile region for anchoring a well-rooted Democratic majority. But it will require a substantial investment. As DNC spokeswoman Stacie Paxton explains, “In Western states more people are coming our way, but we need to put in the resources to take it over the top and win in these states.”

Anatomy of Close House Races Revealed

The Congressional Quarterly Staff has a New York Times post, “Fifteen Republicans Squeaked by in 2006, Analysis Shows,” which sheds some interesting light on House races Dems lost by less than three percentage points. The article has short run-downs on each of the races, and on the two House races the Dems won by less than three percent. This should be interesting reading for potential challengers for their seats in ’08, as well as Dem strategists.

Dems’ Mandate: Full Speed Ahead With 100-Hour Agenda

Today begins a new era of Democratic control of congress. Much has been said by various pundits about the wisdom of the Dems embracing a more bipartisan spirit than their predecessors. But Digby gets the nod for most eloquent screeds as he makes the case that Dems were instead elected to, gasp, lead.

The Dems ran on a platform to stop the Republican insanity, not to “work with them” and I think those of us in the Democratic base might have noticed if they did that…The people who voted for the Dems are a little less concerned with that right now than ending the war in Iraq, overseeing the executive branch and restoring the constitution. Restoring civility is out of the Democrats’ hands — the Republicans are free to start behaving decently any time they choose. Meanwhile, somebody has to start thinking about the needs of the American people.

And in an earlier post, Digby hammers the point home:

…these past twelve years alone have been characterized by smears, toxic rhetoric, impeachments, abuse of power, stolen elections, power mad governance, corruption and ineptitude…the country just can’t take another couple of decades of Republican politics and Republican rule. We have to stop it — and it won’t be stopped if Democrats play nice. The Republican undead never learn their lesson. We must defeat them at the ballot box until they get tired of being defeated and change their ways.

And in another, Digby channels a little Hunter Thompson to seal the deal:

…the best thing for the Dems to do is be quite ruthless out of the box. They can do it with a smile on their faces, but they should do it. The Republicans created these prison rules and the Dems will either survive and be respected or they will continue to be the Republicans’ and the media’s prison bitches. I’m encouraged so far. The pundits are already heading for the fainting couch.

In other words, Dems need to be all about doing the peoples’ business, and we can extend the olive branch of bipartisan civility after the good fight is won.