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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

American Business Has the Power to Stop the GOP Assault on Democracy – Here’s a Strategy to Make Them Do It.

America is now well on its way to creating an electoral system that functions like Mexico’s during its era of one-party rule.

Democrats: Let’s Face Reality – The Term “People of Color” Doesn’t Describe a Political Coalition That Actually Exists.

The term “People of Color” is now playing a central role in the Democratic discussion of political strategy.

Read the memo.

Democratic Candidates: The Whole Debate about “Critical Race Theory” is a Cynical GOP propaganda trap – Here’s What you Should Say Instead

The latest example of this extremely effective GOP exploitation of language is the current debate over “Critical Race Theory” – a perspective about race that is supposedly being foisted on children in classrooms around the country.

Plausible Strategy for Surge of Immigrants

Democratic officeholders and candidates who plan to run in 2022 and 2024 need to face a simple, brutal fact – many will lose their next elections and will return control of government to the GOP if they do not offer a more plausible strategy for reducing the surge of immigrants at the border

Democrats in 2022 and 2024 will lose elections without a strategy.

Let’s Face It: The Democratic Party is Not a “Big Tent” Political Coalition – But it Desperately Needs to Become One.

Democrats routinely describe the Democratic Party as a “coalition” or even a “big tent coalition.” But in reality Dems know that this is not the case.

The Daily Strategist

October 27, 2021

OH-11 Primary Has Lessons for Dems

At CNN Politics, Eric Bradner has a sound analysis of moderate progressive Shontel Brown’s victory over left progressive Nina Turner in the Democratic primary to represent Ohio’s 11th congressional district. As Bradner explains:

In the heavily Democratic 11th District, which stretches from Cleveland to Akron, establishment-backed Cuyahoga County Democratic chairwoman and county council member Shontel Brown — who was backed by Hillary Clinton, Rep. Jim Clyburn and the Congressional Black Caucus — defeated former state senator Nina Turner, the long-time ally of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Turner remained critical of Clinton after the primary’s conclusion in 2016 and in 2020 once compared voting for Biden to eating half a bowl of human excrement.

Turner would likely have lost to Brown even without the comment, which she made in an interview by The Atlantic about the 2020 election. Political activists of all stripes frequently make such comments, but it’s a big mistake to share them in a major magazine interview.

Bradner notes that “Progressives saw Ohio as a chance to steer the House Democratic caucus further left. Turner — a long-time Sanders ally who became a national figure before any member of the left-wing “Squad” was elected to Congress — would have joined their ranks.” However, “in what could be a preview of how establishment forces will mobilize to protect incumbent Democrats facing primary challenges next year, more moderate Democrats fought back. Out of a crowded field, they rallied behind Brown, a candidate more likely to support Biden and his agenda in Washington.” Also,

And again it was Clyburn — the kingmaker in the 2020 Democratic primary, when his endorsement propelled Biden to a massive victory in the South Carolina primary and a romp three days later, on Super Tuesday — playing a central role.

Clyburn stepped in when the rapper and activist Killer Mike, appearing at a campaign event with Turner, said the No. 3 House Democrat had been “incredibly stupid” to back Biden without securing more concessions. Clyburn endorsed Brown and warned that the left’s “sloganeering” — such as calls to defund the police — is politically damaging.

The Congressional Black Caucus’ political arm endorsed Brown, and Clyburn and other leading Black Democrats campaigned for her on the race’s closing weekend.

Bradner adds that “Jewish voters and pro-Israel groups played important roles down the stretch. The Democratic Majority for Israel super PAC spent heavily against Turner, who has been critical of Israel at times. And Brown’s support from Jewish Democrats in the district proved pivotal — a reality that Brown acknowledged in her victory speech, in which she thanked “my Jewish brothers and sisters” and discussed how a 2018 trip to Israel shaped her view of the US-Israel relationship.”

However, Bradner writes, “It’s hard to distill much about the direction of the Democratic Party on major generational and ideological issues from individual races — particularly low-turnout primaries in off-year special elections like Ohio’s 11th District contest. Further,

Moderate, establishment-aligned figures have now notched a series of important victories over more progressive candidates, dating back to Biden defeating Sanders in the 2020 presidential primary. In Virginia, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe held off challengers to win the primary as he seeks another term. In New York City, centrist Eric Adams won the mayoral primary.

But at the same time, progressives have claimed victories of their own. New York City chose a progressive candidate for comptroller at the same time it picked a moderate for mayor. Buffalo voters ousted their incumbent mayor in favor of India Walton, a self-professed socialist and political newcomer. A progressive challenger, state Rep. Ed Gainey, unseated Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.

What seems clear is that progressives have yet to figure out — especially in high-turnout contests — how to crack up the Biden coalition of working-class voters, Black voters and suburban moderates who are playing an increasingly large role in Democratic primaries.

In other words, everything is as it should be in the big tent party, with a healthy competition between moderate and left Democrats. Moderate progressives have an edge in most Democratic-leaning districts for now. There are a few Democratic congressional districts in the U.S., in which a candidate with Turner’s views could win, but probably not in Ohio. Brown, however, will win and hold the district for Democrats.


Teixeira: Vax Mandates A Political Necessity

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

Time for Vaccine Requirements and/or Passports: It’s a Health, Economic and Political Necessity.

At The Liberal Patriot today. John Halpin explains why this step is past due in the United States and will have woeful consequences if the Biden administration does not step up.

“As TLP has argued since the first days of the Biden administration, there are only two issues that matter for the success of the country and for Democrats in 2022: controlling the pandemic and getting the economy back on track. Everything else is a sideshow and distraction.

Until now, the Biden team has done an admirable job on both fronts. The economy is running full steam ahead and large percentages of Americans are vaccinated.

But all this progress is seriously at risk with the latest delta variant surge and the confusing and contradictory positions of the CDC and health officials on how to confront it. Rather than pushing and promoting the most important goal of near universal vaccination, the CDC has reversed course to recommend masks indoors for the vaccinated—simultaneously undermining their rationale from May for getting the vaccine and diminishing their trustworthiness by not presenting their data and not considering the obvious question of why those who do not want a vaccine would change course or start wearing masks.

Consequently, the country faces yet another culture war fight between the “vaccinated and the unvaccinated” and over the need for masks without getting any closer to doing what is necessary to control the pandemic: near universal vaccination. A lose-lose proposition….
Just as the U.S. economy is going gangbusters, the coronavirus response is producing unnecessary political splits and rising anger and confusion among Americans.

The CDC and Biden should admit their stumbles in issuing the new guidelines, better explain their rationale and fully present all evidence for scrutiny, and pledge to the public full transparency in grappling with the difficult and shifting task of confronting Covid going forward.

Above all, public health officials and leaders need to level with Americans that the only goal that really matters is getting the country to near complete vaccination levels. No one wants to wear masks. No one wants to shut down schools or businesses again. And we have a very effective way to avoid this if everyone gets vaccinated.

Just as people must have driver’s licenses to get on the roads—or present proof of other vaccinations to go to school, to work, or to travel—Covid vaccination must become a requirement for the general welfare of the entire nation. This will require full approval of the vaccines by the FDA followed by clear requirements from employers, insurers, state officials, government agencies, schools, and others that all citizens must show proof of vaccination by the beginning of 2022.”

Read the whole thing at The Liberal Patriot! I also recommend this piece by David Frum at The Atlantic site.

“First Canada overtook the United States in the vaccination race. Now the European Union has done so. Even poor European countries such as Greece, Lithuania, and Poland have surpassed vaccine-resistant U.S. states such as Ohio, Arkansas, and Missouri.

Why is this happening? Facebook exists on the other side of the Atlantic as much as it does on ours. Europeans do not lack for far-right political parties swayed by Russian misinformation. They are not better educated: Most EU countries send fewer of their young people to postsecondary institutions than the United States does. Anybody who has ever visited a European pharmacy has seen that Europeans are at least as susceptible to quack medicine as Americans.

One big difference between the U.S. and the EU is that European governments have been readier than U.S. governments to impose direct consequences on those who refuse vaccines. On July 1, the European Union adopted a digital pass confirming one’s vaccinated status, and individual member states are restricting access to public facilities for those who do not carry the pass. In Italy, for example, after August 6, anyone over the age of 12 who wants to enter a restaurant, gym, swimming pool, or cinema will need to have their green pass scanned at the door.

The EU system turns proof of vaccination into a QR code that EU citizens can store on their phone. The same code works in all EU countries and is available free of charge to EU citizens in both their national language and English.

By contrast, U.S. governments have been very reluctant to go the proof-of-vaccination route. Many Republican-governed states have gone out of their way to protect the right to infect. And even if a state were to try to roll out such a mandate, how would it do so? My CDC-issued proof of vaccination is a piece of cardboard inscribed with a nurse’s handwriting. I can scan it with my phone and instantly email it anywhere on Earth—but the document itself remains the product of Depression-era library-card technology.”

This is unacceptable! We can do better. We must do better.


Political Strategy Notes

Douglas E. Schoen, former advisor to President Clinton and 2020 presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg, puts the infrastrucxture deal in perspective in his article, “Bipartisan infrastructure win shows Democrats must continue working across the aisle” at The Hill: “The Senate’s vote on Wednesday to take up a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill was a big win for bipartisanship, and a big win for President Biden….The 67-to-32 procedural vote, which included 17 Republicans, came just hours after a group of centrist Senators finished negotiating enough details to begin official consideration of the legislation. Though the bill has a ways to go in the Senate and the House, this procedural vote was an encouraging step in the right direction….For years, lawmakers have repeatedly tried unsuccessfully to put together a bipartisan deal on infrastructure.” Schoen credits “President Biden and the group of bipartisan Senators for their efforts, and for showing Americans that cooperation and genuine progress are still possible, even in our deeply polarized political climate….Indeed, Democrats should approach the priorities in their massive $3.5 trillion bill — childcare, education, and clean energy investments — on an issue-by-issue basis in a bipartisan fashion, rather than ramming through one of the largest government expenditures in history on a simple party line vote through the Senate’s budget reconciliation process.”

Schoen continues, “From a practical perspective, proceeding cautiously and incrementally is the only sensical approach to take during such uncertain times — given the specter of inflation and a potential slowdown in the economy (or even a recession) as federal assistance to families is phased out in September. This economic uncertainty is further compounded by the recent growth in COVID-19 cases due to the highly infectious Delta variant….Moreover, Democrats ramming this $3.5 trillion bill through on party lines will have costly political consequences. And in my experience working in the White House, working across party lines leads to both meaningful reform as well as electoral success….After Republicans took back control of the House in the 1994 midterm elections, we worked with Republicans in Congress towards a balanced budget and welfare reform, both of which had bipartisan support. In 1996, President Clinton won his second term by a landslide, and he left office under an economic surplus….However, the Democrats’ failure to be incremental and bipartisan now in their approach to the rest of Biden’s agenda could put the party in the minority and Congress in 2022, and could also make a Republican victory in the 2024 presidential election much more likely.”

At FiveThirtyEight, Geoffrey Skelley shares some new data regarding covid vaccination and political attitudes, which reveal the challenges President Biden faces going forward: “The delta variant is spreading rapidly in part because around 30 percent of Americans remain entirely unvaccinated. About 60 percent of adults are fully vaccinated and another 9 percent are partly vaccinated,1 which puts the country just short of — and behind schedule for — President Biden’s 70 percent goal set for July Fourth….Republicans are more likely than Democrats and independents to say they won’t get a vaccination. Depending on the poll, somewhere around 20 percent to 30 percent of Republicans say they won’t get vaccinated, whereas only about 5 percent of Democrats say the same. Independents who are refusing to get the vaccine range from around 10 percent to 25 percent in surveys….the Public Religion Research Institute recently found that the share of Americans under age 50 who were hesitant or opposed to getting the vaccine fell from slightly more than 50 percent in March to 35 percent in June. Still, just under half of that group of 35 percent remained opposed to getting vaccinated in the June survey…In the latest weekly survey from The Economist/YouGov, slightly less than half of Black and Hispanic adults reported being fully vaccinated, while more than 60 percent of white adults said they were….The Kaiser Family Foundation found in April that significantly more unvaccinated Black and Hispanic adults than white adults didn’t know where or when they could get a vaccine….The Economist/YouGov survey showed that around 80 percent of white Americans with a college degree had been fully vaccinated, compared with about 55 percent of those without a degree.” Skelley also notes that “According to a new ABC News/Ipsos poll, 63 percent of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of COVID-19, but that’s 9 percentage points lower than the share who approved at the end of March.”

In “Other Polling Bites,” Skelley notes that “Morning Consult/Politico found that 58 percent of registered voters supported a congressional commission investigation of the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, which comes as the House select committee looking into the insurrection held its first hearing on Tuesday. Support was down from 66 percent in June, however, as only 34 percent of Republicans and 52 percent of independents backed the congressional investigation, down from 45 percent and 65 percent, respectively.” The fact that the hearings have to compete with the Olympics for public attention at a time when Americans are hungry for some positive news may be reflected in attitudes toward the investigation in the near future. Of course, congress has to proceed with the probe, regardless of polls. What would be helpful at this point would be a survey linking public attitudes toward the two parties to the January 6th assault on the capitol. Democratic 2022 candidates and campaigns need some clues about how memory of the January 6th assault on the capitol plays with potential swing voters, in particular. In any event, the available video of January 6th provides Democrats with a potentially-powerful resource in the 2022  campaign– if they use it effectively to brand the GOP as the party of chaos and a dangerous enemy of democracy.


Voters Want More Bipartisanship – Especially on Infrastructure

At Axios, Hans Nichols shares the content of a memo by Mike Donilon, and advisor to President Biden. An excerpt:

In a Georgetown University Battleground poll:

• Voters see political polarization as the leading challenge for the country. 32% pick polarization in their top two issues, 7pp higher than the next most important issue.
• Despite wide gaps on the importance of many other pressing issues, the Georgetown poll found that voters across party and demographic lines ranked polarization highly.
• An overwhelming majority of respondents said they want a leader who is willing to compromise to get things done (69%).

A CNN poll found that 74% of voters choose “working across the aisle to get things done in Washington, even if it means losing out on some high-priority policies” against “standing firm on their beliefs without compromise, even if it means not much gets done in Washington.”

Voters across the political spectrum want a bipartisan infrastructure deal A July Yahoo/YouGov national poll asked Americans if they support a bipartisan infrastructure deal put together by a group of senators. According to the poll, 53% of Republicans, 51% of Independents, and 64% of Democrats favor the agreement.

This is consistent with their June findings that showed the strong backing of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats for the deal. Similarly, a recent Navigator poll backs this claim. A bipartisan infrastructure agreement elicits broad support among a diverse coalition.

The individual components are even more popular: there is strong, bipartisan support for the inclusion of funding for roads, bridges, ports; for clean water pipes; for the electric grid; and for high-speed Internet service (AP/NORC).

Funding for roads, bridges, and ports
• Republicans: 79%
• Independents: 80%
• Democrats: 87%
• Overall: 83%

Funding for pipes for drinking water
• Republicans: 70%
• Independents: 79%
• Democrats: 85%
• Overall: 79%

Funding for the electric grid
• Republicans: 59%
• Independents: 62%
• Democrats: 73%
• Overall: 66%

Funding for high-speed Internet service
• Republicans: 44%
• Independents: 54%
• Democrats: 78%
• Overall: 62%

A strong 57% of Independent support President Biden’s infrastructure proposal, demonstrating how important it is for these voters to pass a bipartisan deal.

Nichols adds that, “Wednesday’s bipartisan agreement is an important signal to voters that they’re being heard and that their government can work as they think it should – with elected officials from both sides of the aisle coming together to address the concerns that matter most in their lives.”


Political Strategy Notes

No one needs to worry that President Biden might forget to show up in communities where the pivotal working-class constituency lives. In “Biden stays close to home as he plots blue-collar focused presidential travel,” Kevin Liptak writes at CNN Politics: “Want to see President Joe Biden in person? Consider a move to Pennsylvania.…That is where the President visited again Wednesday, his sixth visit to the commonwealth of his birth since taking office six months ago. He toured a Mack Trucks facility in the Lehigh Valley, met with local union members and received a briefing on the company’s new electric dump truck….”It’s a nice area,” Biden observed to one of the facility’s employees as they walked alongside a cab assembly line. “It’s almost heaven. I’m from Scranton.”….Pennsylvania and Ohio will be the site of contested Senate races next year. And those states’ working-class towns and industrial heritage make them well-suited to promote infrastructure, Biden’s current chief agenda item….a pattern has emerged in each of Biden’s trips that underscores his attention toward blue-collar workers. Speaking after visiting a training center for electrical workers in Cincinnati last week, Biden underscored why he has focused in particular on union workers….”If every IBEW person decided they’re going to quit, this country comes to a screeching halt,” he said in a video posted to Instagram….On previous visits to Pennsylvania, Biden could be found touring a flooring company in Chester, speaking at a carpenters training facility in Pittsburgh and celebrating Amtrak’s 50th anniversary at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station….He has engaged in similar activities in neighboring Ohio, which he visited most recently last week, and Michigan, where he took a joy ride in one of Ford’s new electric pickup trucks in May.”

From “Jan. 6 police officers give a master class on the dangers of right-wing extremism” by E. J. Dionne, Jr. at The Washingon Post: “Four law enforcement heroes made abundantly clear at Tuesday’s inaugural hearing of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol why this inquiry is essential and why so many Republicans wanted to keep it from happening….Their dramatic, heartfelt testimony also made an airtight case that right-wing extremism is a clear and present danger to the United States….“What makes the struggle harder and more painful is to know so many of my fellow citizens, including so many of the people I put my life at risk to defend, are downplaying or outright denying what happened,” D.C. police officer Michael Fanone said….A thorough investigation of what happened will necessarily be an inquiry into the right-wing extremism that is bleeding into the mainstream of the Republican Party. The best among the Republicans know how dangerous this is for their party and the country. Unfortunately, they do not currently have the upper hand in the GOP, which is why Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) were named to the committee by a Democratic House speaker, not by their own leadership….And there was nothing subtle about the racism confronted by Dunn, who testified that the rioters repeatedly addressed him with an unprintable racial epithet. “Other Black officers shared with me their own stories of racial abuse on January 6,” he said….What happened on Jan. 6 was monstrous, the product of a dangerous, anti-democratic sickness haunting parts of the American right. This is the sort of event that a free nation must come to terms with, not ignore; investigate, not sweep under the rug; and understand, not dismiss as a one-off display of violence. That’s why this committee’s work is so important.”

“Rather than insisting on “Medicare for All” — Sanders’ trademark universal, government-funded health care plan — or the climate-change-fighting Green New Deal, Our Revolution is focusing on the more modest alternatives endorsed by President Joe Biden,” Bill Weissert of AP notes in “Pro-Sanders Group Rebranding Into ‘Pragmatic Progressives’: The progressive advocacy group Our Revolution is rebranding now that Bernie Sanders is no longer the undisputed leader of the left“….”Those include expanding eligibility for the existing Medicare program and curtailing federal subsidies for fossil fuel companies…..The shift reflects a progressive movement that is at a crossroads. Biden won the Democratic nomination last year by offering more centrist alternatives to much of Sanders’ agenda. Since then, progressive candidates have faced a series of electoral disappointments and are contending with anxiety from moderate Democrats worried that the party’s leftward shift could cost them control of Congress during next year’s midterm elections….“Coming out of Bernie’s 2016 campaign, in some ways the organization was probably more of a bridge organization between the two electoral cycles,” Joseph Geevarghese, Our Revolution’s executive director, said in an interview. “What we’re trying to build is something that is longer term” and “part of the overall ecosystem of the progressive movement.”….“I think we are rooted in a bold, progressive vision, but we’re also pragmatic progressives,” Geevarghese said….“You can see a real change in the trajectory of where the Democratic Party is when it comes to the big investments, the use of government levers to improve people’s livelihoods, the fight against climate change,” said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth Action.”

At The New Yorker, John Cassidy cites “research by economists—including Janet Currie, of Princeton, James Heckman, of the University of Chicago, and Hilary Hoynes, of the University of California, Berkeley—which showed that, over the long term, government interventions targeted at early childhood generate high returns for the individuals concerned and for society at large. The prioritization of real-world results over a priori theorizing marked an important advance in economics, and it is no coincidence that the Biden economic team is heavily populated by empiricists. But, to make the monthly child tax-credit payments a reality, it also took years of political effort, two upset Democratic Senate victories in Georgia, and a President willing to prioritize a costly anti-poverty initiative. For that last one, Biden deserves special credit….With votes on advancing the two big spending measures expected before Congress goes into its summer recess, and new doubts emerging about the prospects for agreement on the infrastructure package, the next couple of weeks could be key. From a macro-political perspective, the justification for the ambitious Biden agenda is that, after four years of Donald Trump, and a second Presidential election in which Trump gained more than forty-six per cent of the vote, it is imperative to demonstrate to the wider public that the game isn’t rigged for the élites, and that the federal government can deliver tangible benefits to working Americans. Only by accomplishing this objective will it be possible to build a new social bargain on which democracy (and non-predatory capitalism) can rest more securely. One may quibble with elements of this strategy. But, after a week in which it was revealed that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff feared that Trump was planning to execute a coup earlier this year, the thought of its failing outright is almost too dire to contemplate. What’s at stake is much more than dollars and cents.”


Some Basic Realities for Democrats on Voting Rights

Watching an intra-Democratic argument on voting rights strategy intensify in Washington, I offered some advice to both sides at New York:

There has been an underlying disagreement within the mostly Democratic coalition favoring voting rights that was nicely captured in this New York Times report on Friday:

“A quiet divide between President Biden and the leaders of the voting rights movement burst into the open on Thursday, as 150 organizations urged him to use his political mettle to push for two expansive federal voting rights bills that would combat a Republican wave of balloting restrictions … In private calls with voting rights groups and civil rights leaders, White House officials and close allies of the president have expressed confidence that it is possible to ‘out-organize voter suppression,’ according to multiple people familiar with the conversations.”

Both sides in this argument are partly wrong. Those who expect Joe Biden to force the For the People Act or the John Lewis Voting Rights Act through the Senate via some major revision in the ability to filibuster are probably expecting the impossible. Yes, perhaps if Biden personally and insistently and abrasively lobbied Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema to abandon her very consistent defense of the filibuster, up to and including encouragement of a primary challenge to her when she is up for reelection in 2024, she might decide her current and very insistent independent-maverick “branding” isn’t going to keep working for her. But Joe Manchin? He would be thrilled to get attacked by a Democratic president or Democratic advocacy groups for insisting that he won’t support voting-rights measures unless at least some Republicans support them. His state is so very red that the threat of a primary challenge to the sole remaining successful West Virginia Democrat is a laugher.

Short of a nuclear attack on West Virginia, it’s hard to identify anything Biden might do to Manchin that wouldn’t run a high risk of backfiring. And he does need Manchin on the reconciliation bills Democrats are using to get around the filibuster to enact Biden’s social and economic agenda. It’s just too bad voting-rights bills don’t qualify for reconciliation.

Yes, it is intensely frustrating that Biden cannot bring himself to come out forthrightly for filibuster reform, but it probably doesn’t matter since it is not happening unless the Democratic Senate Conference gets bigger, making senators like Manchin and Sinema irrelevant on the subject. So at some point voting-rights advocates need to focus on that goal.

At the same time, White House claims that Democrats can “out-organize voter suppression” are partially wrong as well. Yes, restrictive provisions like voter-ID requirements, limits on voting by mail, and even voter-roll purges can be countered and perhaps overcome by intensive efforts to educate and energize the voters Republicans are trying to keep from the polls. But you cannot out-organize a partisan gerrymander, or a law that lets election officials or state legislators overturn the outcome of an election after votes are cast.

Voting-rights advocates will eventually have to play the cards dealt to them by the system as it currently exists. That means refraining from too much anger aimed at Democratic pols who have little choice but to concede defeat on some legislation and concentrate on legislation (i.e., those reconciliation bills with many items vital to the people whose voting rights are also under attack) they can enact with no margin for error in the Senate and little in the House. At the same time, Biden and his staff and Democratic “pragmatists” in Congress should never for a moment be cavalier about the legislative obstacles they face in defending democracy itself. They may have to accept a tactical defeat on voting rights in this Congress. But they should never, ever, give up on making it happen later if not sooner.

 


Insights About Working Class Politics in Florida from a Lefty City Council Candidate

Democrats have had a hell of a tough time getting any traction in Florida in recent years, partly, but not exclusively because of voter suppression and gerrymandering. It would be hard to pick another state where Democrats have underperformed with more adverse consequences. The Governor, Lt. Governor, both U. S. Senators, 16 out of 27 members of congress are Republicans, who also hold 26 out of 40 state senate seats and 76 of 120 state house seats. This despite the fact that “active registered” Democratic voters outnumber Republicans in 2021 in the state by 5,247,592 to 5,171,308, respectively.

Florida has uniquely complicated demographics, including a disproportionately-large percentage of white voters without college degrees, Cuban-American, Puerto Rican-American and African-American voters. Clearly, Democrats are in need of some fresh ideas about how to build a winning coalition for both state-wide and local election campaigns.

At Current Affairs, Nathan J. Robinson interviews Richie Floyd, a schoolteacher and Democratic Socialists of America member and candidate for St. Petersburg’s city council. In the interview Floyd shares some insights about how Democrats can do better in the Sunshine state:

You know, I really believe this state is ripe for working-class politics because the majority of people here are working-class, the overwhelming majority. We’re a service-based economy, mostly like tourism—used to be agriculture, that’s shifted away significantly. In St. Pete and Pinellas County and the Tampa Bay area, we’re trying to attract visitors here to come to our beaches to go fishing. And then you have Orlando, the whole I-4 corridor and center of the state. Orlando is based on tourism as well. And so there’s a lot of working-class people that look like me in this state and they just basically don’t have political representation at this point. The Democratic Party has been incapable of winning at a state level for a long time. They don’t necessarily speak to the issues of working people. They get caught up in a lot of things that the Republicans bait them into.

I think there’s a coalition for that. And we kind of saw it in 2018 with Andrew Gillum‘s campaign. He started out on that path, got a little lost towards the end of the general election. And so just came up short. But I think that really shows that there is something here for working people if they’re organized. And now when it comes to Bernie Sanders and stuff, something you have to know about Florida is the overwhelming majority of Floridians were not born in Florida. We don’t have real connections to this state. And our political institutions are kind of decrepit. There’s no machine politics here. It’s usually people flying in, dropping a bunch of money on mailers and ads without ever making a connection to the community, and then leaving the second that the election is over. And so that’s where our opportunity lies: if we actually get out and organize in our real community. And that’s how we’ve been relatively successful here.

Floyd also emphasizes the link between Florida’s environmental destruction and the screwing of the state’s working class:

Well, the history of Florida is one of environmental degradation and profit put over our natural resources and our working people. The entire time that the state’s existed. And so that’s part of the reason why our politics are able to resonate with people. We talk about the reason why the state is like this, which is the fact that everything that’s gone on over the state’s history has been for land developers and real estate interests to make a profit. And there’ve been bright spots—environmentalists have won victories here. The one I point to the most is in the ‘80s, our estuaries, like Tampa Bay, were just completely in shambles. And we brought back our fish population significantly since then, but we’re turning back towards a situation like we had back then….It can get bleak sometimes, when we’re worried about storms and we’re worried about pollution spills that we’ve had recently, and our red tide, and how expensive housing is. But it doesn’t have to be like this. And I think you catch a lot more flies with honey. You should express why people should be excited to get up and vote for you.

Floyd has avoided leftist buzz terms in his campaigning, and tried to reach voters as a rooted community activist:

The most important thing for us is to actually be rooted in the community and connected to the community. And so as a candidate, what that looks like is I’m a member of my neighborhood association and of the teacher’s union, and I’m active in them. I talk to people around town about a variety of issues and just make myself a known community member so that it’s not anything scary. “That’s just Richie, a tall, goofy middle school teacher.” So that’s the first thing. And then the issues that we talk about, we speak in plain terms. I don’t say the word “proletariat,” like it’s not about “the means of production.” I’m like “I’m here for working families and working people and making sure that the wealth built in the city goes to the people who created it, the people who work and run the city.” And that’s a very left-wing demand, but it’s something that people naturally gravitate to when you say it in plain language.

None of this is to say that the red-baiting that was instrumental in defeating Democratic U. S. House incumbents in Florida last year won’t be used again, nor that it won’t work. True, Floyd is just a city council candidate. But it’s not like the Florida Democratic Party has figured out a better messaging approach that has produced enough actual victories. In any case, Floyd’s point about Democrats focusing their messaging and policies to help Florida’s huge working class is surely a good one.


Teixeira: Shaming Trump Supporters Is Dumb and Won’t Work

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

Hillary Clinton famously likened Trump supporters to “a basket of deplorables”, a gaffe that contributed to her stunning defeat in 2016. But she actually said only *half* of Trump supporters were in a basket of deplorables. Today’s liberal Democrats and activists, in my experience, are not satisfied with this. As far as they’re concerned *all* Trump supporters belong in said basket. They’re all deplorable, every last one of them. Lo, they have sinned and are forever cast out of civilized humanity. That seems to be the general attitude.

This is not, to say the least, a way to win any converts. People know when you look down on them and they react accordingly. They may harbor their doubts about Trump but shaming them for their erstwhile Trump support just gets their back up.

In the Post today, Gary Abernathy, one of those erstwhile Trump supporters, points out just how dumb and counterproductive this self-righteous liberal attitude is:

“When supporters of former president Donald Trump hear media pundits analyze them with the usual collection of belittling observations, they must be tempted to respond, “Hey, we’re right here! We can hear you!”

Yes, they are indeed here, and living among us. And they have every right to be insulted by being accused of believing a “big lie,” and by the implication that they are violent, or traitors, or mindless sheep — racist sheep, of course….

I live in Trump Country. I was a Trump supporter, until he lost me with his actions after the 2020 election. But most Trump voters have stuck with him. With Trump’s encouragement, they sincerely believe the election was stolen. They’re not racists. They’re not traitors. Some of them think anyone who accepts Biden’s win is a traitor. Some of them think I’m traitorous — or at the very least I’ve succumbed to the evil influences of the mainstream media — for accepting Trump’s defeat…..

It’s my unscientific conclusion that about half of Trump’s supporters will go to their graves believing the election was stolen. The other half can be persuaded otherwise, but only by time and reflection, like accepting a death. Shaming will never work….

[S]top calling people liars. The media should return to the non-accusatory style that worked for decades. Instead of writing that election fraud is a lie, or Republicans are “falsely claiming” fraud, go back to the style that worked for decades: “Republicans again claimed the 2020 election was rigged, but no evidence has emerged to support that allegation and courts have dismissed all suits challenging the results.”

Next, abandon the narrative that Trump supporters are insurrectionists, and stop elevating groups such as QAnon and the Proud Boys beyond the fringe elements they are. As shameful as the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol was, only about 800 people were involved — hardly representative of millions of Trump supporters. Despite their suspicions, the vast majority of Trump voters are not interested in invading federal buildings or overthrowing the government. They’re interested in going to work and church and soccer games, taking care of their families and voting in the next election.

There’s no big mystery to effectively communicating with Trump supporters — or for Trump supporters to communicate with everyone else. Treat each other with politeness and courtesy. Respect other opinions even if you disagree. Acknowledge each other’s patriotism and love of country. Don’t assume you understand each other because you’ve read some think-tank analysis. Reach out, be curious and start a dialogue.

Trump supporters aren’t going away, and those who continue to paint them as the lowest forms of life reveal themselves to be more interested in perpetrating stereotypes and nurturing divisions than in achieving what’s needed for our nation to survive — reaching across our political chasm, respecting our differences and finding common ground where we can.”

I agree with all this. It may make you feel good to regard all Trump supporters–perhaps unto the seventh generation–with withering contempt. But it is monumentally ineffective if you care about building a better politics for a better future.

And you should.


Political Strategy Notes

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. applauds the very few Republican leaders who are finally urging the public to get vaccinated – and also has some message points for Democratic candidates and campaigns: “Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that as of July 23, the 20 states with the highest vaccination rates (counting the District of Columbia as a state) all voted for President Biden….A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of CDC data found that as of July 6, the average vaccination rate in counties that voted for Biden was 46.7 percent. In counties that voted for Donald Trump, the vaccination rate was 35 percent….This, sadly, should be no surprise. An Associated Press-NORC poll released Friday found that among Democrats, only 18 percent were “not very” or “not at all” confident in the effectiveness of vaccines; among Republicans, 42 percent expressed such doubts….Three states — Florida, Texas and Missouri — accounted for 40 percent of new covid cases last week….It’s the new political geography of sickness and death….Democratic pollster Guy Molyneux pointed to the unpopularity of the anti-vaccine position generally, and especially among “red state business communities” who fear new lockdowns….“I wouldn’t be surprised if GOP pols are hearing from business leaders: Knock it off with the anti-vax nonsense,” Molyneux said. The National Football League’s tough stand on vaccination is a high-profile example of a business alarmed about the impact of a resurgent virus on its operations….So please, Republican politicians, keep shouting from the rooftops about the imperative of getting vaccinated. But you also need to take another virus seriously. The spread of extremism in your party is deadly — to our health and to our democracy.

At The Cook Political Report, Amy Walter explains why President Biden’s bipartisan outreach may have a very short shelf life: “No matter what happens with the bipartisan infrastructure bill, it’s pretty clear that this is the last chance for any significant and meaningful bipartisan legislation for the foreseeable future. And, that’s not just because control of the Senate is on the line in 2022. Two of the three Republicans most heavily involved in the bipartisan deal-making on infrastructure won’t be in Congress in 2023, while the third could lose a primary. Ohio’s Rob Portman and North Carolina’s Richard Burr are retiring, while Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who has earned former President Trump’s wrath by voting to impeach him, has a serious intra-party challenge. As important, the Republicans running to replace them are more interested in fighting than in fixing, more invested in widening the partisan chasm than in narrowing it. Meanwhile, Democratic Senate candidates in key swing seat Senate races don’t share President Biden’s optimism about GOP cooperation. Many of them have pledged to nix the filibuster, something Biden recently said would “throw the entire Congress into chaos.”….in the Democratic primary for the open Senate seat in Pennsylvania, every major candidate takes a different view than Biden. All have said they would vote to eliminate the parliamentary procedure. Many of the top Democratic candidates in North Carolina and Wisconsin are also committed to ending the procedure. Even if the filibuster stays intact, the fact that Democrats — even those in swing states — are willing to throw out the parliamentary procedure suggests that members of Biden’s party are much more pessimistic than he is about the comity and bipartisanship.,,,President Biden may believe that there’s still a chance for the Senate to work in a bipartisan way. But, there will be fewer members in that body come 2023 that believe that.”

Will the Florida Democratic Party ever get it together? As Matt Dixon writes in “Florida Democrats anxious over stalled Miami congressional races” at Politico, “Two Miami-area congressional races are likely to be some of the nation’s most expensive and competitive midterm contests. But Democrats so far are missing one thing: candidates….Then-Democratic Reps. Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell lost the seats in surprise upsets in 2020. Democrats now see both races as winnable — Hillary Clinton won both districts in 2016 by double digits, and the seats tend to sway between Republican and Democratic control. But some Florida Democrats are blaming the poor recruitment drive on the party, which they say isn’t doing enough to recruit and assist strong candidates — a sign of larger problems in the nation’s biggest swing state….At the same time, Shalala is watching how the state’s redistricting process plays out before deciding whether to run again. The former Clinton administration cabinet official would be the initial favorite in the primary if she enters the race but could leave Democrats scrambling well into the 2022 election cycle if she delays her decision much longer….The unsettled field has left Florida Democrats anxious that two potential opportunities are slipping away from them, especially after Republicans and former President Donald Trump galvanized Miami’s Cuban exile community during the 2020 elections….“Without question it is definitely frustrating,” said Ben Pollara, a Miami-based Democratic consultant. “These are going to be ultra-competitive seats that you will need to raise a lot of money for. I’ve been telling people to get in as soon as you can.”….The growing unease underscores the weak position Democrats are in in Florida as the national party attempts to protect its slim margin in the House. Florida Democrats have struggled this year to recruit A-list candidates for statewide offices like attorney general and even governor, a sign that Democrats see their chances of toppling Republicans dimming….Democrats contend that they have a strong chance of winning back Salazar’s seat, which includes tony Miami Beach. The lines will be redrawn, but the previous two presidential elections show how it raced away from Democrats: President Joe Biden won Salazar’s current district by roughly 3 points in 2020, just four years after Hillary Clinton carried it by almost 20 points.”

Jeet Heer observes in “The Fate of the New Popular Front” at Dissent: “Is Joe Biden the reincarnation of Lyndon B. Johnson or even Franklin D. Roosevelt? Biden will have to rack up many more legislative victories before he can make any such boast, but based on the first few months of his presidency, it is safe to say that Washington is now more amenable to left-wing ideas than at any time since the peak of the Great Society….Many have been taken by surprise by this development. Biden’s political identity has been resolutely centrist for decades. And he was the second-most moderate of the Democrats who vied for the presidential nomination in 2020, to the left only of former Republican Michael Bloomberg. Yet Biden’s centrism has always been tempered by a healthy opportunism. He is a party man, with an uncanny gift for locating himself wherever the median Democratic Party voter is. And thanks to Bernie Sanders’s two bids for the presidential nomination and the rise of a young cohort of openly leftist lawmakers like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the other members of the Squad, the center of gravity of the Democratic Party is well to the left of where it has been for the last half-century….One sign of Biden’s political acumen is the effort he has made to integrate the left into the Democratic Party—something that Hillary Clinton failed to do in her ill-starred 2016 run. White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain has been especially diligent in making sure that the progressive wing is involved in policymaking. Bernie Sanders’s elevation to chair of the Senate Committee on the Budget, an influential perch, ensures a pressure point for keeping alive social democratic proposals even if the White House backslides. In April, Sanders’s advocacy ensured that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer signed on for pushing for cheaper drug prices and a lowering of the Medicare eligibility age, both areas where the White House needs prodding….The dilemma for the left is sometimes presented as a judgement between a Popular Front strategy pursued by Sanders and the Squad—working within the Democratic Party—versus an oppositional left strategy—seeing the Democratic Party establishment as an institutional foe that needs to be delegitimized for progress to occur. The advocates of the Popular Front are willing to praise Joe Biden and mobilize for the party in order to get concessions. For the oppositional left, this transactional alliance is a dead end that will inevitably involve a watering down of radical demands….Between these two poles, there is a spectrum of concern about the left’s place in the Democratic alliance.”


A Progressive Wish List for Biden’s 2nd Term Coming Into View

A report card for progressive Democrats six months into President Biden’s first term would merit  an overall “B.” The Democratic left has done a pretty good job of meeting their primary responsibility, which is to press the case for progressive policy options as much as possible, without forming a circular firing squad leading up to the midterm elections. So far, so good.

They don’t deserve an “A,” because of the tepid response to the GOP campaign to brand Democrats as supporting unpopular policies like “defunding the police,” “open borders” and unbridled socialism. Some of this is the fault of easily-distracted media. But there is considerable room for improvement in the way left Dems push back against such ridiculous stereotypes. A little more message discipline and repetition wouldn’t hurt.

Progressive Democrats are not supposed to provide uncritical support of their party’s leader on all occasions But they need to be there for the big battles, the way they showed up for Georgia’s U.S. senate candidates in the January run-offs. True that Georgia flipped in large part because of the blueing of the suburbs and Trump’s mismanagement of his party’s campaign. But it was the fire lit by energetic Black activism and progressives that helped persuade Georgia’s voters. A repeat perfomance for Warnock is needed in 2022, if Dems are going to secure a working senate majority.

Progressive Democrats should run and win where they can in 2022. But when they lose primaries, support the Democratic nominee wholeheartedly. Unity for all Democratic candidates in November, 2022 is required for winning a functional Democratic majority that can actually govern. Without unity, we don’t really have a viable political party.

Above all, left Dems should think and plan long-term. Three leading progressive Democratic goals, Medicare for All,  filibuster reform and increasing the size of the Supreme Court belong on Biden’s 2nd term wish list (unless he wins enough senate seats next year), even though he has expressed skepticism about these reforms. But one of Biden’s political virtues is that he is open to change – when the circumstances are right. Securing these reforms depends on holding the House majority and a net pick-up of a couple of U.S. senate seats next year. These are not extravagant goals, despite historical patterns, particularly if Biden’s approval ratings stay high.

President Biden is certainly doing his part. His strategy of competent management of the Covid pandemic, a major economic stimulus, plus steady progress in winning incremental reforms to improve the lives of struggling Americans is paying off. As he hits the campaign trail for 2022 Democratic candidates this week, progressive Democrats should see it as part of their cause.