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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Debate over country song is a right-wing trap for Democrats.

The debate over the song “Try That in a Small Town” is an excellent example of a particularly devious right-wing extremist trap – one that the GOP will use against Democrats again and again in 2024. Dems need to understand what the trap is designed to accomplish, how it works and how to defend against it.

Read the Memo.

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

by Andrew Levison

Read the Memo

Progressives need to apologize to Oliver Anthony

He understands working people better than they do, he can talk to them better than they can.

Read the Memo.

Why Don’t Working People Recognize and Appreciate Democratic Programs and Policies

The mythology of “Franklin Roosevelt’s Hundred Days” and the Modern Debate Over “Deliverism.”

Read the Memo.

Innovative Study Offers New Insight into White Working Class Voters.

Innovative Study Provides Startling New Insight About Working Class Voters
By Andrew Levison

Read the memo.

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

October 3, 2023

Minority Surge in South Promises Change

Chris Kromm gives both political strategists and policy wonks something to chew on in his Facing South post “Changing South: Half of K-12 students are ‘minority.’” Kromm reports on the explosive growth of African Americans and Hispanics in the south, noting that 47 percent of the south’s K-12 public school students are now people of color. The implications for immigration, education and tax policy should be huge in upcomming election cycles.

So Who Won the Debate?

Edwards is well ahead in both the Daily Kos and MyDD quickie polls as of midnight, which means at most that liberal blog-readers liked his answers and style. But there won’t be any ‘scientific’ polls asking a representative sample who won, and good debate performance is only one part of a successful campaign anyway.
It’s pretty clear, however, that fairness did not win, according to a statistical analysis conducted by the Dodd campaign. Here’s the time and question tally for the first half of the debate, as reported by Salon:
CLINTON 9:25, 9 questions
OBAMA 8:19, 9 questions
RICHARDSON 7:23, 6 questions
EDWARDS 7:06, 8 questions
BIDEN 4:45, 5 questions
DODD 4:00, 4 questions
GRAVEL 2:59, 5 questions
KUCINICH 2:28, 3 questions
Somehow, the remaining debates have to do a better job of letting all candidates get fair coverage.
UPDATE: The Dodd campaign’s tally, presumably for the entire debate is now up. The tally provided for time only: Obama 16:00; Clinton 14:26; Edwards 11:42; Richardson 10:48; Kucinich 9:02; Dodd 8:28; Biden 7:48; Gravel 5:37.
Perfect equality of “face time” is impossible to achieve in any debate format. But a ten plus minute gap between the top time-user and the last-ranking participant is too much.

GA Dem to Take on Chambliss

Georgia Democrats have their first announced candidate for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Saxby Chambliss, in what promises to be an interesting race. He is Dale Cardwell, a former newsman for WSB-TV, the Atlanta Cox Television affiliate, who has won six Emmys for tough investigative reporting. Cardwell has the kind of bio that should make the DSCC very happy. An excerpt from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution report on Cardwell’s entry:

…Cardwell’s family background is hardcore Democrat. He was born in Kentucky and raised in Alabama, the son of a union man, a coal miner.
His wife Angie, of 21 years, is a hospice nurse. He has two children, 19-year-old Adam and 16-year-old Jessica.
Here’s a tidbit from his official bio: His mother “recalls Dale was born during a particularly brutal winter, and [that she] went as far as wrapping her newborn in blankets and placing him on the opened door of the kitchen oven, in order to ward off the single digit temperatures and biting wind that pounded the mobile home in which they lived.
…Dale learned first hand about harsh economic reality while watching his Dad go on strike and fight for better health care and wages as a member of the United Mine Workers of America, and later when his Dad’s mine closed down in 1976. Pending unemployment sent the family once again to the coal fields of Western Kentucky. Dale attended Ohio County High School in Hartford Kentucky, earned co-captain honors on his football team, and graduated with the distinction of student council class president in 1981.
…Says the new candidate: “If you boil both parties down to the salt, the Republican motto is survival of the fittest. The Democratic motto is do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”
Cardwell says his Southern Baptist upbringing would never let him embrace social Darwinism.
It doesn’t sound like Cardwell will be one of those white Democrats who cringe at any mention of religion. He’s a deacon and substitute Sunday school teacher at Dunwoody Baptist.
His bio also lists his hobbies: restoring classic cars, sports, and singing with his brother in their long-time gospel group. So music at fund-raisers will be no problem.

But it won’t be easy. Cardwell will likely face Democratic Primary opposition from Vernon Jones, a conservative African American suburban county CEO, who voted for Bush in 2004. Georgia is arguably the second-reddest state, after Utah. But Chambliss has a lackluster record, to put it kindly, and has accomplished little more than serving as an errand boy for various fat cats. This race should be a marquee test of Dems’ southern prospects.

Dems Set to Benefit from Health Care Mandate

If there was any doubt that the American people want health insurance guaranteed for all Americans, it should be extinguished by the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corp poll. Asked whether “the government should provide a national health insurance program for all Americans, even if this would require higher taxes,” 64 percent of respondents agreed in the poll. Even more Americans (73 percent) agreed when the guaranteed coverage was limited to children under age 18, according to the poll, which was conducted 5/4-6.
For a progressive critique of America’s current health care system, read “The Health Care Crisis and What to Do About It” by Paul Krugman and Robin Wells in the New York Review of Books. Krugman and Wells discuss the tricky politics of health care reform and make strong case that Democrats should fight for a single-payer system.
These links take you to the Health Care Reform web pages of eight announced candidates:
Joe Biden
Hillary Clinton
Chris Dodd
John Edwards
Mike Gravel
Dennis Kucinich
Barack Obama
Bill Richardson
All of the Dems’ health care packages provide credible alternatives to the GOP field’s defense of the status quo. The plans will be refined in the months ahead and the Democratic nominee should benefit substantially from the growing public clamor for health care reform.

Exposing GOP Candidates’ Bogus Populism

Noam Scheiber’s irresistibly-titled “Pickup Artist: Populist Poseur Fred Thompson” in The New Republic illuminates a cornerstone of GOP strategy — to portray their rich boy candidates as good-ole, aw-shucks working-class guys. Scheiber has some fun describing Thompson getting all gussied up in blue jeans and boots, delivering folksy speeches from the bed of a rented, used pick-up truck, and then explains something Dems need to better understand:

…Thompson is hardly the only Republican to have ridden phony populism to elective office. In 2003, Haley Barbour, perhaps the most accomplished Washington lobbyist of his generation, pig-in-a-poked and dog-won’t-hunted his way to the Mississippi governor’s mansion. (One of Barbour’s signature tricks was to have himself paged at Ole Miss football games.) And, of course, a certain Yale-educated Northeastern Brahmin reinvented himself as a brush-clearing country boy en route to winning the White House in 2000. These days, phony populists win with such regularity that you’ve got to look beyond any particular candidate to find an explanation.

Republicans are very good at this scam, despite the fact that it would be extremely difficult to identify even one of their policies that actually benefits the working-class. Conversely, they are adept at portraying Democratic candidates, whose policies actually help working people, as elitists. Witness now, for example, the GOP’s concerted effort to portray John Edwards, the son of two union organizers and an advocate of genuine populist policies, as an elitist.
Dems need to get wise and mount a relentless assault on the GOP’s bogus populism. Reading Scheiber’s article is a good start.

Party Regulars, Street Join Forces

In These Times has a pair of articles spotlighting the working relationship between the Democratic party and progressive activists. Adam Doster’s “Dancing Into the Majority” provides an encouraging look at how “once alientated” activists are finding creative ways to work with the “party establishment.” Says Doster:

…more and more progressives who refused to support spineless Democrats and instead backed unsuccessful third-party candidates have come to understand the pragmatic necessity of working within the Democratic Party.

Doster focuses on the innovative efforts of groups like the Progressive Democrats of America, Code Pink, the Aurora Project and the Party in the Street, as well as MoveOn, to work in coalition with the Democrats. His article explains the problems and pitfalls the groups have experienced in working with the Democratic Party, as well as the accomplishments. Doster’s piece should be of interest to a broad range of progressive activist groups seeking new paths of cooperative action with the Democratic Party.
While Doster focuses on activist organizations, Connor Kenny’s ITT article “Hello, I’m a Democrat: Meet the netroots activists who have moved online and into political office” shines a light on four of the nation’s most energetic progressive activists: Mario Champion; Chris Bowers; Anna Brosovic; and Jeremy Horton. Notes Kenny:

In coming years, netroots activists will be moving up from local party positions to state and national ones. And, while they are more progressive than the party as a whole, first and foremost they are committed Democrats who want to win, and who are willing to put in the money and the time to make it happen. Though their outsider identity may sometimes cause them to break the door down rather than ask for a key, they want to help.

Taken together, the ITT articles paint a promising picture of the Dems’ future, energized by an infusion of netroots and grasssroots activists, determined not only to win stable Democratic majorities, but to elect diverse candidates of stronger character and heightened commitment.

Wanted: Dem Senate Candidates in Key States

Chris Bowers MyDD article “Spinning Our Wheels On Senate Recruitment” should come as a wake-up call to Dem leaders looking toward ’08. Bowers does a nice job of outlining the Dems bright prospects for picking up Senate seats next year, noting,

…with twenty-one potential Republican targets, only twelve defenses of our own, and a large and still increasing fundraising advantage, Republican defenses are stretched thin from the get-go. Given the national mood and the structural problems Republicans face, if all goes well, this situation should allow us to pickup between four and seven seats next year, thus returning the Senate to its pre-1994 Democratic majority.

However, Bowers makes a disturbing case that we are seriously behind schedule:

…right now this situation does not seem to be translating into many good pickup opportunities. Off hand, the problem seems to center around recruitment problems. In some states, we are failing to get our top recruits. In other states, our top recruits now seem less promising than they did just a couple months ago. Worst of all, in most states, we don’t have any challengers yet….While the situation could be reversed with improvements just two or three major Senate campaigns, the way things have been going so far, further downgrades seem more likely than further upgrades. We need to start getting our best candidates in every state, or else we could waste this historic electoral opportunity.

Bowers then gets down to specific races, with capsule reports on five key races, and he notes some others that merit more attention. Granted there is still 17 months to go, and we can be confident that Chuck Schumer is on the case. But the Democratic party activists in these states would do well to address Bowers’ concerns.

Reframing the Iraq Funding Debate

Apropos of the post below, Salon‘s Glenn Greenwald shreds the myth that Democrats have little choice but to support unrestricted funding for Iraq. As Greenwald explains in his article, challenging Newsweek‘s Jonathan Alter’s defense of Democrats’ support for funding without timelines:

…our Iraq war policy was just determined, in large part if not principally, by a complete myth: that de-funding proposals constitute an abandonment or, more ludicrously still, “endangerment” of the troops.
It is difficult to overstate how irrational this theme is, and yet it is equally difficult to overstate what a decisive role it just played in ensuring the continuation of the war. Polls consistently demonstrate that Americans overwhelmingly favor compelled withdrawal of the troops from Iraq. Other than defunding, they overwhelmingly favor every legislative mechanism for achieving that goal — from a straightforward bill setting a mandatory time deadline to a rescission of the resolution authorizing military force to compulsory benchmarks. Yet polls are equally uniform in showing that a solid majority of Americans oppose de-funding.
Yet, rationally speaking, this makes absolutely no sense. De-funding is nothing more than a legislative instrument for ending the war, and is substantively indistinguishable in every way from the other war-ending legislative means which Americans favor.

In other words. Americans want deadlines and timetables attached to Iraq funding legislation, but many are under the false impression that voting against funding bills that have no limitations will leave our troops vulnerable. Republicans know this, and they exploit this myth effectively, so much so that many liberal Democratic leaders supported unlimited funding legislation. Thus, many of the same elected officials who advocate deadlines and timetables on Iraq funding feel compelled to vote for unrestricted funding legislation when it is offered.
Apparently most Americans don’t want to spend a lot of time studying the fine points of all the Iraq funding proposals. And so the parliamentary chess game goes on, and by the time November ’08 rolls around voters will be inundated with charges and countercharges about who did or didn’t support the troops. But Democrats must not allow this simplistic meme to dominate concerns about Iraq policy on election day. They must make sure that the more resonant message voters take to the polls is that the GOP is the party that supports open-ended occupation of Iraq.
In his latest post at the Rockridge Institute web page, George Lakoff and co-author Glen W. Smith explain the framing psychology behind GOP myth-mongering:

Congress allowed the president to take over its job to decide the strategic mission and to put Congress in the role of merely providing funding. This allowed the president to cast Congress in the role of “refusing to fund the troops,” “endangering the safety of our troops,” “playing chicken with the lives of our troops,” “hamstringing our troops,” and so on. It allowed President Bush to portray Congress as responsible for the safety of our troops, whereas the real responsibility lay with him. By allowing the president to reframe the Constitution and take away their powers, Congress made itself fatally vulnerable. Most of the Democrats wound up adopting the president’s framing of them as responsible for the safety of the troops.

But rather than reacting with expressions of disgust and let it go at that, Lakoff and Smith offer a number of interesting ideas for reframing the issue of Iraq funding, including:

Progressives must point out that it is the president, with an enabling Congress, who commenced a foolhardy adventure with no clear exit strategy or way to “win.” That same president has refused to properly prepare or adequately equip soldiers — and now he is blaming Congress. When Congress passed a supplemental spending bill with reasonable timetables attached, he refused it. The betrayer is the president. Say it over and over: The president has betrayed our troops and the nation.

Lakoff and Smith point out that the current funding authorization is only good through September and that there will be other opportunities for Democrats to act. They even outline a course of action for Democratic activists. Their article should be a keeper for party strategists and activists alike.

Dems Struggling to End Iraq Quagmire

The “hawk” vs. “dove” terms now seem outdated in describing current divisions within the Democratic party, given the overwhelming opposition to Bush’s Iraq policies, not only among Dems, but the nation at large. Very few Dems favor open-ended military occupation of Iraq. What we have now is more in the vein of differences over how to get out.
The bad news for Dems is well-reflected in the Senate vote (80 to 14) to support funding for our continued occupation of Iraq, without deadlines or timetables. The progressive blogosphere is generally livid about the number of Democratic Senators who refused to hang tough and oppose any further funding without timelines, including many prominent liberal Senators. Kos‘s Georgia10 calls it “the Capitulation Bill.” And The Left Coaster Steve Soto has the list of Democrats who voted for it here. Others say they feel “betrayed” by the votes of some of the newly-elected Democratic senators, for whom they had high hopes.
But for Dems who favor deadlines and timetable restrictions on Iraq funding, there is also some good news: Three out of four Democratic Senators running for the Presidency voted against funding without timetables or deadlines — Clinton, Dodd and Obama. Only Biden among Dem presidential candidates, voted for funding without time restrictions. Edwards, a former Senator, has also voiced his strong opposition.
Sure the 80-14 vote count is disappointing for those who wanted to see a little more backbone in the Senate, especially since 60 percent of the American people want timelines on further Iraq war funding, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll, conducted 5/18-23. No doubt, many of the Democrats who voted for the bill would have liked to vote against it, but felt they couldn’t survive the political fallout. It is nonetheless encouraging that the Democratic presidential nominee will almost certainly be a strong opponent of any more blank checks for the Iraq quagmire.

Dem Pres Candidates Fund-Raising Tops GOP — in the South

Tom Baxter, political reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has an eyebrow-lifter for those who see the south as irretrievably red. Baxter’s article compares fund-raising of presidential candidates’ of both parties, and reports:

Democratic presidential candidates collected about 62 percent of the $1.6 million raised from Georgians in the first three months of 2007.
Democrats also led presidential fund-raising in Georgia in the same quarter leading up to the 2000 presidential election — the last race without an incumbent. But back then, their hold on the dollars wasn’t nearly as tight: Democrats led Republicans by just $36,000.
Now Democrats are leading Republicans by $382,000 — a gap more than 10 times greater — according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of first-quarter presidential contributions.

Baxter notes that Barack Obama topped all other candidates of both parties in Georgia, with Romney second and Edwards third. Baxter adds:

One striking facet of the Democrat’s first-quarter resurgence in the South: It isn’t based on just one candidate.
In North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, Democrats held the overall advantage, and Edwards was the top fund-raiser. In Florida and Virginia, Democrats collected the most, with U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) as the overall leader. Democrats also took in more in Kentucky, with Obama in the lead.
Only four states in the region — South Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas — gave more money overall to Republican presidential candidates. And in South Carolina, Edwards was the leading individual candidate.

Natch, the Republican spin doctors quoted in the article pooh-pooh the Democratic Presidential candidates lead as a temporary phenomenon. Going by the numbers, however, it appears that southern Donkeys still have some kick.