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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Rural Voter

The new book White Rural Rage employs a deeply misleading sensationalism to gain media attention. You should read The Rural Voter by Nicholas Jacobs and Daniel Shea instead.

Read the memo.

There is a sector of working class voters who can be persuaded to vote for Democrats in 2024 – but only if candidates understand how to win their support.

Read the memo.

The recently published book, Rust Belt Union Blues, by Lainey Newman and Theda Skocpol represents a profoundly important contribution to the debate over Democratic strategy.

Read the Memo.

Democrats should stop calling themselves a “coalition.”

They don’t think like a coalition, they don’t act like a coalition and they sure as hell don’t try to assemble a majority like a coalition.

Read the memo.

The American Establishment’s Betrayal of Democracy

The American Establishment’s Betrayal of Democracy The Fundamental but Generally Unacknowledged Cause of the Current Threat to America’s Democratic Institutions.

Read the Memo.

Democrats ignore the central fact about modern immigration – and it’s led them to political disaster.

Democrats ignore the central fact about modern immigration – and it’s led them to political disaster.

Read the memo.


The Daily Strategist

July 14, 2024


There’s much rejoicing on the Right today after Bobby Jindal’s unsurprising win in yesterday’s Louisiana open primary for Governor. I guess I don’t blame them: Jindal’s a welcome poster-boy for alleged GOP ethnic diversity, and his win provides a rare Republican success story on a bleak overall electoral landscape. The reality is that he won with relative ease due to the combo platter of the post-Katrina demographic change in Louisiana, and an opposition that was badly hurt by the late decisions of Kathleen Blanco, John Breaux and Mitch Landreiu to stay out of the race (Landreiu, BTW, won re-election as Lt. Governor by a larger margin than Jindal managed).
But some of the Republican reaction has been a little over-the-top. My favorite is this bit from prominent right-wing blogger Erick Erickson of RedState.org, a native Louisianan who now lives in Georgia:

I cannot really express what this means to me.
It’s like how the exiled English felt when Mary I died and Elizabeth was crowned. It was safe to go home again.

Somehow I don’t think more-Catholic-than-the-Pope Bobby Jindal would be too jazzed about this analogy.

Huckabee Gets Crazy, Gets Support

The conclusion of the Family Research Council’s Value Voters Summit got a lot of ink, not only from venerable conservative Right-watcher Byron York, but from Kate Sheppard of TAPPED (with some help from Sarah Posner), here, and at TNR’s The Stump blog.
The general consensus about the Christian Right panderfest was that the winnner was Mike Huckabee, who won the most applause for his speech, and who also overwhelmingly won the onsite straw poll (even as Romney edged him in the online FRC straw poll that’s been underway since August).
Rudy’s “reaching-out” effort to evangelical conservatives got mixed reviews. York thinks Rudy might have done himself some good, not in terms of nominating-contest support, but in convincing some Christian Right folk not to head for the exits if he’s the Republican nominee.
Fred Thompson–once the Great Right Hope of some Christian conservatives–seemed to lose ground at the event, delivering a languid and empty speech, and not doing that well in the straw poll (scoring 8 percent in the onsite survey, and a bit under 10 percent in the online version).
But while Huckabee gave himself a much-needed boost at the FRC event, it may come at a price: his speech was a masterpiece of extremism. Aside from firmly identifying himself as “from” the Christian Right; echoing demands for constitutional amendments to ban all abortions and gay marriage; thundering about “Islamofascism;” and hurling anathemas at Republican cultural dissenters as violaters of “God’s values;” Huck adopted the bizarre Zell Miller/Tom DeLay argument about the connection between abortion and illegal immigration:

“Sometimes we talk about why we’re importing so many people in our workforce,” the former Arkansas governor said. “It might be for the last 35 years, we have aborted more than a million people who would have been in our workforce had we not had the holocaust of liberalized abortion under a flawed Supreme Court ruling in 1973.”

The abortion-denies-us-cheap-domestic-labor idea will probably get less attention than Huckabee’s use of Holocaust imagery for legalized abortion, though the latter has long been a staple of Christian Right rhetoric. In any event, the more Huckabee articulates his actual views, the more we might hope the honeymoon he’s enjoying with mainstream media types will eventually fade.

Christian Right Panderfest

This report from Byron York on National Review‘s The Corner blog about the ongoing “Values Voter Summit” sponsored by the Christian Right group, the Family Research Council, is interesting and self-explanatory:

The most buzz-making speech of the session so far was from Tom Tancredo’s. Family Research Council insiders expect that to turn into some votes when the straw poll results are tallied, but how many can’t be predicted. What can be predicted is that the members will likely hear a barnburner from Mike Huckabee tomorrow, so if the votes are determined simply by speechmaking polish, Huckabee will be up there. However, one FRC insider told me, speaking of Huckabee, “He came here last year and talked about the environment and obesity. That’s not gonna work this year.”
Nobody was unhappy with Fred Thompson’s speech, but nobody was thrilled with it, either. Thompson “pushed all the right buttons,” the FRC insider told me, but there remains a certain lack of excitement surrounding his presence.
There’s a lot of anticipation about Rudy Giuliani’s appearance here tomorrow. It’s not terribly positive – “I don’t think there’s any danger of him winning the straw poll,” said the FRC insider – but it is palpable. There’s no belief that Giuliani will change many minds, although insiders say he will have a certain level of support. Rather, it’s just that he’s the big cheese at the moment, and people want to see him. Also, his coming here is a either a show of respect for the FRC members or a recognition of their influence – either way, it makes the people gathered here feel good. “He can’t not come,” says the insider.

Since my beloved Georgia Bulldogs aren’t playing tomorrow, I may pop a No-Doz and check out Huckabee’s and Giuliani’s speeches tomorrow, if they are on CSPAN. If they aren’t televised, I doubt I’ll pony up the $9.95 being charged by the American Family Association for streaming video of the panderfest. I’d rather watch Iowa-Purdue for the drama of figuring out who’s going to get a bid to the Poulon Weedeater Bowl or whatever, and let Byron York tell me what happened at the FRC.

Crackers (and Lawyers) for Edwards

One of the more interesting strategic issues in the Democratic presidential contest is John Edwards’ simultaneous effort to cast himself as the most progressive candidate, and as the most electable candidate. And a big part of his electability argument is that he’s the only candidate with southern regional appeal.
I’ve been quite skeptical of this last assertion, given the lack of any objective evidence that Edwards is particularly popular with southern Democrats, much less southern voters generally. But as part of its latest “electability” p.r. drive, the Edwards campaign today released a list of endorsements from my home state of Georgia. And at the elite level at least, it sure looks like Edwards is hanging on to a lot of Peach State supporters who backed him in 2004, when he was running a DLC-ish campaign.
The list includes a lot of center and center-right Democrats who probably wouldn’t fit in real well at an Edwards netroots event. There’s former governor Roy Barnes, former Lt. Governor (and 2006 gubernatorial nominee) Mark Taylor, and former congressman Ben “Cooter” Jones. There’s the Democratic leaders of both chambers of the state legislature. There are a number of other elected officials whom no one would ever describe as lefties.
But the list also includes a host of endorsements from people described as “attorneys,” and that gets to an affinity Edwards enjoys in the South that may be as important as his southern identity. I’m not sure if non-southerners are aware of this, but trial lawyers play an outsized role in the financial and logistical infrastructure of the Democratic Party in the Deep South. In no small part that’s because the labor movement, in both the public and private sectors, is relatively weak in the region, and also because recent Republican victories in the South have significantly eroded business support for Democrats. So trial lawyers are a really big deal down South, and Edwards’ rep as one of the best trial lawyers ever to smile at a jury provides him with an enduring base of support, no matter what he’s saying at any given moment about Iraq or health care.
It’s unclear, of course, whether this elite support for Edwards is communicable to actual voters. In 2004, he lost the Georgia primary to John Kerry despite a pretty robust effort. One of his problems is chronically low levels of support from African-Americans in the South in a field with one African-American and another candidate with unusual appeal to African-Americans.
But he’s certainly giving it the college–or maybe law school–try in the South, and if he survives to compete there, it could get interesting.

Lessons From MA-5

E.J. Dionne has a nice wrap-up of the buzz coming out of Tuesday’s special congressional election in Massachussets, in which Democrat Niki Tsongas won a less-than-overwhelming victory over Republican Jim Ogonowski.
The “surprise issue” of the election, says Dionne, was illegal immigration, with Ogonowski getting some traction from attacks on Tsongas for supporting in-state college tuition rates for the children of illegals. More generally, Ogonowski’s efforts to separate himself from Bush and congressional Republicans by posing as an anti-Washington “outsider” are likely to provide a template for Republican challengers next year.
But in the end, Dionne suggests, the Republican could not distance himself from the profoundly unpopular Iraq War and Bush’s S-CHIP veto, and those two issues gave Tsongas her crucial advantage.

Rattling the Cup For a Good Cause

I have no idea how many of the readers of this site also read The Washington Monthly magazine, or at least read the blog they sponsor, Kevin Drum”s Political Animal. But they are both special to me
During my first interview for a Washington political job back in the late 1980s, I was asked to define myself ideologically, and replied that I was a “Washington Monthly Neo-Liberal.” My interviewer looked at me as though I had just identified myself with the Rosicrusians or something, but the term did mean something. The Monthly was known as a very effective incubator of young journalistic talent (just look at the alumni list represented by their Contributing Editors, whose current output is continuously displayed on the left side of the magazine’s site), and also as the seedbed of an ideas-based reform movement in the Democratic Party that combined cultural liberalism with a healthy disrespect for the totems of the New Deal programmatic legacy, and a particular focus on civic engagement and government reform. If Gary Hart’s seminal 1984 presidential campaign, which came up a couple of states short of winning the Democratic nomination, had any real home, it was The Monthly.
More recently, under the editorship of Paul Glastris, the Monthly has continued its tradition of attracting good young talent, who have produced some truly important in-depth articles on the underpinnings of the politics of the new century (e.g., Nick Confessore’s definitive analysis of the K Street Project). And I’m very proud that I’ve gotten to do some work for the magazine, on subjects ranging from William Jennings Bryan to Ralph Reed.
And in Kevin Drum, the Monthly is sponsoring one of the best, and definitely one of the most intellectually rigorous, progressive bloggers.
Throughout most of its history, like most political magazines, the Monthly has struggled financially, and that’s why Kevin’s encouraging direct contributions to keep Political Animal alive.
Maybe Paul Glastris’ appearance earlier this week on the Colbert Report will get the nickel and dimes flowing, but I encourage everyone to dig under the sofa cushions and pitch in. The Monthly is one of the few Washington institutions that is never arrogant or conventional, and is always underappreciated.

Disliking Mike

So here’s the best evidence yet of the much-discussed possibility that Mike Huckabee could, despite his money problems, emerge as a viable Republican presidential candidate: he’s getting blasted from the Right. The legendary hard-right activist and direct mail wizard Richard Viguerie has issued a fatwah attacking Huckabee as a “wishy-washy Republican”‘ who is unreliable on both economic and cultural issues.
This is interesting in part because Viguerie might have been expected to Like Mike. Viguerie published an article in The Washington Monthly a year ago that advocated a Republican defeat in 2006 as the best possible tonic for the conservative troops that had been ignored in the Bush-DeLay Washington Republican Establishment. As the only presidential candidate (this side of Ron Paul) willing and able to challenge that establishment, Huckabee has some real conservative insurgent street cred. But his sins of omission and commission as Governor of Arkansas–particularly his “compassionate conservative” tendencies–apparently make him unacceptable, to Viguerie at least, as a vehicle for a resurgance of the heartland Right.

New GOP Dynamics in Iowa

Sam Brownback, whose campaign has generally been considered doomed since his poor finish in the Iowa GOP Straw Poll in August, is reportedly dropping out of the race tomorrow, citing money problems.
This is probably good news for fellow-social-conservative Mike Huckabee, and perhaps even for Mitt Romney.
A new Rasmussen poll of Iowa shows Huckabee at 18% of likely Caucus-goers, one point behind Fred Thompson, and seven points behind Romney.
Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani is doing a quick trip to Iowa, which is spurring all sorts of speculation as to whether he’s modifying his earlier decision to write off the Caucuses. The consensus take seems to be that he thinks it would look bad to finish fourth in IA, and could perhaps sneak into second place with a minimal effort.

A Reminder

Every now and then, all of us political types need to be reminded that we’re not exactly experiencing current events in the same way as most Americans.
A couple of weeks ago, I made a big deal out of three posts on John Edwards by Markos Moulitsas that drew a total of 2400 comments.
Well, earlier this week, Ellen Degeneris’ web site posted a note and a video about her now-famous confrontation with a local animal rescue league over the fate of a small dog named Iggy. Virtually overnight, it attracted 14,971 comments, most of them, naturally, taking Ellen’s side in the dispute.
I guess you could say that Ellen really energized her base, eh?