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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

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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

September 24, 2023

Make Nice — Not

Post of the day goes to Paul Waldman, whose “Democrats, Don’t Wimp Out” at TomPaine.com does a refreshing number on the “Let’s be nice bipartisans” school of thought about what congressional Democrats should do now. Waldman, a senior fellow at Media Matters for America, puts it this way:

…What Democrats need to do is spend the next two years crushing their opponents like bugs. It’s not about mercy, it’s not about manners, it’s about three fundamental goals: limiting the damage the Bush administration can do, passing whatever legislation they can in the short term to help the American public and laying the foundation for future progressive victories.

For example, with respect to empowering the federal government to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs, Waldman counsels:

…Democrats should wage the fight…Two outcomes are equally likely: Either they won’t be able to pass such a bill in both houses, or they’ll pass a bill and Bush will veto it. Either way, it shows whose side they’re on, and whose side the Republicans are on.

His point is nicely-echoed by American Prospect co-editor Robert Kuttner in his web-exclusive piece “Bye Bye, Bipartisanship“:

Pelosi has said her first actions will include legislation to raise the federal minimum wage and create an effective prescription drug benefit under Medicare. If Bush signs these progressive bills, we can all sing bipartisan Kumbaya. If he vetoes them, Democrats can keep reminding voters which party serves whose interests.

Waldman has an interesting idea for dealing with the GOP’s lapdog media:

…Democrats should say the following to Fox: You want to spread GOP propaganda all day? Be our guest…But don’t expect any Democratic newsmakers to legitimize you with their presence. We’ll go on every other network, be interviewed by every legitimate news organization. But we don’t consider ourselves under any obligation to pretend that buffoons like Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and John Gibson are news professionals who deserve a moment of our time. We’re not going to try to fight you; we’ll just act like you don’t exist.

There’s more, and Waldman concludes:

Democrats need to understand that they are engaged in a war of ideas, one that stretches far beyond any one Congress or presidency….Democrats should wake up every day thinking, “How can we keep Republicans on the run?” Never give them a moment’s rest, never let them advance their agenda, keep them on the defensive so they have to apologize for being the standard-bearers of a discredited ideology and a disgraced president. Do that, and every legislative battle and election to come will be that much more likely to swing in your favor.

Kuttner lays it out with equal clarity:

Forget treacly calls to come together to solve national problems. There are huge, principled differences here. The voters rejected the policies of the governing party and gave Congress a mandate to help regular people for a change.

If Waldman’s and Kuttner’s calls to arms seem draconian, answer one question: If the tables were turned, would the GOP hesitate to consolidate their power and crush the opposition?

Will Dems’ Winning Formula Hold in ’08?

E. J. Dionne, Jr. makes a persuasive case in his column in today’s WaPo that, after all of the spin has been rolled out on all sides, the relevant message of the election is that the Dems’ winning formula was progressives plus angry moderates equals victory. In addition, Senator Lieberman would do well to give some thougthful consideration to Dionne’s take on his win:

Some Republicans say that Sen. Joe Lieberman’s reelection as an independent suggests that rejection of Bush’s Iraq policies was not, to use Rove’s word, the “determining” factor in the election. But exit polls make clear that Lieberman won despite his support for the war, not because of it.
Connecticut voters disapproved of the war by a margin of two to one, and nearly two-thirds favored withdrawing some or all of our troops. Lieberman, who enjoyed residual affection among Connecticut Democrats, managed to carry close to 40 percent of the vote among those who favored troop withdrawals, including a remarkable 29 percent among those who favor withdrawing all our troops.

The botched, misguided Iraq policy was not the only source of moderates’ anger, nationwide. Many polls show an enormous backlash against corruption and scandal in the GOP, while economic concerns fueled voter discontent in the pivotal midwest. The ’06 formula may have to be tweaked for ’08 — but it’s clear Democrats will nonetheless have to provide credible leadership to address these issues.

New Dems Provide Strong Voice for Environment

Mother Earth was one of the winners on November 7, according to Amanda Griscom Little’s Salon article “Green Gains“. Little reports that the League of Conservation Voters re-elected 8 of its 9 supported candidates and defeated 9 of the 13 “dirty dozen” it targeted for defeat. And it gets better, as Little explains:

Jerry McNerney (a Democrat), also has the environment to thank for his stunning victory over House Resources Committee chairman Richard Pombo (a Republican), who for 14 years represented the Golden State’s 11th Congressional District and rose to become one of the most powerful Republicans in Congress. A no-name wind-energy engineer, McNerney made clean energy his signature issue and painted himself a zealous eco-warrior against the backdrop of Pombo’s relentless efforts to drill in sensitive natural areas, butcher the Endangered Species Act and open millions of acres of public lands to development.
…The new Democratic senator-elect from Montana, Jon Tester, beat out Republican environmental foe Conrad Burns with a similarly enthusiastic environmental platform. An organic farmer turned state senator, Tester centered much of his TV advertising on his plans to make Montana a stronghold of the new energy economy. As president of the state Senate, he pushed through a 2005 law requiring utilities in Montana to derive 15 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2015.
This same message also cropped up during the campaign of Missouri’s new Democratic senator-elect, Claire McCaskill, who ousted Republican Jim Talent, an avid proponent of oil extraction in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And it was a theme in the gubernatorial races of Democrat Bill Ritter in Colorado, who beat out his drilling-happy Republican opponent Bob Beauprez, and Democrat Ted Strickland in Ohio, who walloped Republican Ken Blackwell with a campaign that included a promise to spend roughly $250 million on next-gen alternative-energy projects.

In addition, Speaker-in-waiting Nancy Pelosi has named energy independence one of the top action priorities for the incomming House of Representatives. As Cathy Duvall, Sierra Club political director “Voters…gave a green light to a new energy future.”

Sunday Post-Election Articles Speculate on Dem Future

Sunday after the election offers a bountiful harvest of post-election wrap-ups in the major dailies. Some of the better ones include:
In “Liberal groups expect postelection results” LA Times reporters Peter Wallsten and Janet Hook focus on potentially divisive issues facing Dems as the try to consolidate their victory. The LA Times also has American Prospect Editor Michael Tomasky’s “Dems put the ‘big tent’ back together,” arguing that Dems shouldn’t buy into the ‘conservative victory’ view of the election, and instead should build the left-center coalition that has always been the key to their most significant wins.
The New York Times post-election wrap-up “Incoming Democrats Put Populism Before Ideology” by Robin Toner and Kate Zernike probes some of the newly-elected Dems to assess prospects for bipartisanship. Leon Panetta’s “Govern, Don’t Gloat” op-ed argues that now is a good time for some Democratic humility and a genuine spirit of bipartisna cooperatrion. Nonetheless, No good Democrat should miss “2006: The Year of the ‘Macaca’,” Frank Rich’s blistering critique of GOP bigotry and fear-mongering in campaign ’06.
WaPo‘s Jonathan Weisman’s “Democrats Find Lessons In GOP Reign” mulls over the lessons Dems should glean from the failure of Gingrich’s scorched-earth philosophy of congressional leadership. Wapo is also featuring Joe Trippi’s “The Democrats: Is Winning Winning?“, predicting more trouble for the GOP ahead and assessing prospects for Dem ’08 candidates from Bayh to Vilsack.
And speaking of hot prospects, check out the Boston Globe’s Politics Section for a host of articles on Deval Patrick’s historic election as Governor of Massachusetts, rich with lessons for winning strategies. Then relax, take a moment to savor the victories of ’06, because campaign ’08 begins in ernest tommorrow.

Mining Tips From Best ’06 Ads for ’08

Yes, we’re all sick of lame political ads. But now is not the time for good Dems to hibernate, because there’s still a lot of interesting analysis to be digested if we want to learn how to win even bigger in ’08. So take a gander at the Campaign for America’s future web page “Truth in Advertising: 2006 Campaign Ads Reveal Progressive Populism.” There you be able to watch ads deemed most effective for the successful campaigns of Ron Klein, Sherrod Brown; Claire McCaskill; Bob Casey; Amy Klobuchar; Bill Ritter; the Appollo Alliance; The DNC and the DCCC. Bit of a slow load, so go pour a drink, kick back and see how the winners do it.
Then read the PDF analysis by Robert L. Borosage, Eric Lotke and Robert Gerson discussing the framing psychology, spending decisions, issues spin and image-shaping in the aforementioned ad campaigns.

What Does ’06 Turnout Mean for Dems?

The Center for the Study of the American Electorate has posted its preliminary report on the 2006 turnout, and the numbers may hold some clues for Dems looking to ’08. Overall the report concludes that “a modestly increased percentage of Americans turned out” at polls across the nation — 40.4 percent of eligible citizens, compared to 39.7 percent in the ’02 mid terms. This was the highest percentage since 1982 (42.1%).
Turnout increased in 21 states, but decreased in 26 states and the District of Columbia(CA, OR and WA absentee ballots are still being counted). The five highest turnout rates were recorded in MN, SD, MT, UT and ME, the lowest five in MS, LA, DC, NC, and AZ.
The highest Democratic turnout percentage increases over ’02 were recorded in NE (+10.7%); WI (+14.8%); VA (+13.2%); SD (+9.9%); WY (+9.8%); OH (+9.6%); VT (+8.6%) and NH (+8.6%). The highest Democratic turnout declines were in LA (-8.8); IL (-5.1%); AL (-5.0%); MS (-3.8%); GA (-3.5%); NC (-2.7%); and MA (-2.6%).
The most obvious conclusion is that the GOP GOTV operation praised in the MSM didn’t make a dent in the congressional elections. Even if the GOP did have a superior GOTV operation, it couldn’t overcome the rising tide of discontent or the limitations of Republican candidates. Good GOTV can make a difference in a close election, but not enough when a strong trend is surging.
The Democratic turnout decline in southern states lends some credence to the argument that Democratic resources would be more profitably invested in other regions. However, it could also be argued that these figures indicate not enough effort has been invested in developing southern candidates and campaigns.
Lastly, note that two of the top five turnout states, MN and ME allow voter registration on election day. Having picked up six governorships and nine state legislative chambers, Democrats may now be in a position to enact same day registration bills in more states. Note also that only three states have no voting restrictions on convicted felons or even prisoners, and two of them, ME and VT are top five turnout states.

Was Election a Triumph for Dem Conservatives?

Ezra Klein kicks off the soon-to-be-heated discussion about the meaning of the election with a provocative article in the American Prospect, “Spinned Right.” Klein shoots the interpretation of the election results as a triumph of conservative politics full of holes. A sample:

…the conservative election meme is a myth. Hard-right ballot initiatives, from the abortion ban in South Dakota to the gay marriage ban in Arizona, went down to defeat. It’s the first time that’s happened to an anti-gay marriage ballot initiative. Meanwhile, the stem cell initiative in Missouri passed.
More tellingly, every Democrat elected supports raising the minimum wage. They all support stem cell research. Only nine describe themselves as pro-life. And the most conservative Democrats, mainly those running in the South, largely went down to defeat. In Tennessee, Harold Ford, whose campaign focused on his church-going ways and conservative values, lost. Jim Webb is up by a few thousand votes. Meanwhile, unabashed progressives like Sherrod Brown, Ben Cardin, Sheldon Whitehouse, and former socialist Bernie Sanders cruised to victory. As Tom Schaller has noted, the flip-rate in the South was a meager five percent. The real transformations came in the liberal Northeast, where a slew of not-quite-left-enough Republicans were felled by a phalanx of progressive candidates, and the Rust Belt, where economic populists took out a series of traditional conservatives.

New Donkey Ed Kilgore and other Dems take a different view. As Kilgore notes:

But the results do not provide a good argument for Democrats to write off Enemy Territory and focuse on their Blue State geographical base.
15 of the 28 Democratic House gains were in Red States, most of them in Red or Purple Districts.
3 of the 6 new Senators are from Red States.
3 of the 6 gubernatorial pickups for Democrats were in Red States.
About half of the state legislative gains were in Red States.
We are beginning to turn Purple States blue, and Red States purple. I can’t imagine why any Democrat would think of this as bad news, but there is clearly a point of view among Democratic intellectuals that messing around with voters in Red State areas, particularly in the South, represents an exposure to ideological contamination.

This interesting debate is just cranking up, and it will likely go on for a long time. One thing all Dems can all agree on; it’s a hell of a lot more fun to argue with each other after an historic victory.

Tester’s narrow Lead May Give Dems Senate Control

All eyes on Montana, where the Senate race may also be headed for a recount, as Democrat Jon Tester holds on to a 1,700 vote lead as of 10:25 a.m. EST. According to Mary Clare Jalonick’s AP report in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle:

Burns, a three-term incumbent, and Tester, an organic grain farmer from Big Sandy, were separated by only about 1,700 votes and .04 percent with 99 percent of precincts reporting. Tester had 194,914 votes and Burns had 193,179 votes. Libertarian Stan Jones had 10,166 votes.
…Vote tallies were still coming in Wednesday morning, more than 10 hours after polls were scheduled to close – a situation caused by equipment glitches, high turnout and a recount in Yellowstone County because of errors there.
A losing candidate can request a recount at his own expense if the margin is within 1/2 of a percent, which would be a margin off roughly 2,000 votes in the Montana U.S. Senate race.
…Tester told CNN that the campaign did not see any irregularities in the voting so far, noting there is record turnout…”We are making sure that every vote that gets cast gets counted,” Tester said.

Don’t bother checking the Montana Secretary of State’s website for updates, since it lags behind the Associated Press totals.

Webb has Edge in VA Nail-Biter

The probability of a Virginia recount may not be the happiest of prospects, but it looks very good for Jim Webb, according to Tyler Whitley’s report in the from the Richmond Times-Dispatch (updated at 9:18 a.m.):

As of 8:45 this morning, Jim Webb’s lead over Sen. George Allen had grown to more than 8,000 votes, out of more than 2.3 million cast. Only six of 2,411 precincts remained to be counted, according to the State Board of Elections.
All but one of those precincts, in Isle of Wight County, were for absentee ballots. The counties where absentee ballots had yet to be counted were Halifax, Loudoun and two in James City. Absentee ballots also were yet to be counted in Fairfax City.

Hard to see how Allen can goose a victory out of an 8K deficit from those counties. Whitley’s article also includes some inside skinny on exit polls and a good rundown of the race.

Where to Look for Early Clues Tonight

Since most of the competitive races are in the eastern standard time zone, it should be possible to see which way the elections are tilting early in the evening– assuming a strong trend materializes. WaPo‘s Chris Cillizza has a useful resource for those who prefer to get their returns from television in his article, “The Fix’s Election Night Viewers Guide.” While at the Wapo website, also check out Jeffrey H. Birnbaum’s “Early Night for Poll Watchers?” for some good tips. For clarity on how to evaluate exit polls, visit Mark Blumenthal’s “Exit Polls: What You Should Know 2006” at Pollster.com Those who prefer a more pro-active approach should try “Newslink: TV Stations by State,” a good gateway to local TV stations across the nation, many of which offer local webcasts in real time. The best gateway to local newspaper websites can be opened at www.newspapers.com. And chill up some bubbly — with a little luck, a better America begins tonight