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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

Teixeira: Why Dems Should Move to ‘Class-Based Affirmative Action’

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, co-founder and politics editor of  The Liberal Patriot, is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

Last Thursday, the Supreme Court struck down race-conscious college admissions. The reaction in Democratic circles has been to denounce the decision in histrionic terms and circle the wagons in defense of race-based affirmative action. A representative sample:

  • “I fear what will happen… Will there be many lawyers who [are black] in the future? Or doctors? Or accountants?”—Catherine Christian, legal analyst, MSNBC
  • “We will return to elite institutions… being the space for a particular population, for predominantly white and Asian students. We will begin to see a kind of segregated higher-education landscape.”—Princeton professor Eddie Glaude Jr.
  • “Can’t wait until [the daughter of an Asian activist supporting the Court decision] reads that you gladly carried the water for white supremacy”— Jemele Hill, Atlantic writer, Twitter
  • “[I]t just makes… a Native American kid, a Black kid feel like you don’t matter…Is it leading to no women in colleges soon? Who knows?”—Whoopi Goldberg, The View
  • “This is a devastating blow for racial justice and equality…We condemn the Supreme Court’s decision to end these affirmative action policies and make it even more difficult for Americans to access higher education. While this decision is a setback… it is not the final word.”—Jaime Harrison, Democratic National Committee chair

But perhaps this is not a hill Democrats should choose to die on. Rather than implicitly or explicitly pledging to resist the law of the land and promote racial preferences by any means necessary, they would be far wiser to use the decision as an opportunity to rebrand the party as the party of America’s working class—the entire working class.

Start with the brutal fact that racial preferences are very, very unpopular. In a typical result, this spring’s Harvard/Stanford/University of Texas SCOTUSPollfound 69 percent of the public agreeing that private colleges and universities should not be able to use race as a factor in admissions, compared to 31 percent who thought these institutions should be able to do so. The same question about public colleges and universities elicited at 74-26 split. Pretty definitive.

In polling from Pew in 2022, just seven percent of the public thought high school grades should not be a factor in college admissions and a mere 14 percent thought standardized test scores should not be a factor. But an overwhelming 74 percent thought that race or ethnicity should not be a factor in college admissions.

This pattern applied to all nonwhite racial groups. Among blacks, 59 percent said race should not be a factor in college admissions compared to 11 percent who said high school grades should not be a factor and 21 percent who said the same about standardized tests. Hispanics (68 percent) and Asians (63 percent) were even more adamant in opposing the use of race in admissions.

Another indicator is how race-based affirmative action has fared in state referenda which is… not well. The most recent example was in the very blue state of California in 2020. Democratic leaders put an initiative on the ballot, Proposition 16, that would have repealed the state’s ban on using affirmative action in school admissions and government contracting and employment decisions. The measure, endorsed by Governor Gavin Newsom, then-senator and vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris, pretty much every other Democratic official in California and a staggering array of elites from business and labor to beloved sports teams, was widely seen as allowing schools to adjust merit-based admission policies to admit more blacks and Hispanics and fewer Asian Americans in order to make black and Hispanic enrollment proportional to their share in the population. But in spite of its prominent endorsements and generous funding—supporters of the measure outspent opponents by 10:1—the measure failed by 57 to 43 percent. Across racial groups, support for Proposition 16 ran 15-25 points behind support for Bidenin the 2020 election. This speaks volumes about the stunning cross-race unpopularity of racial preferences.

Why is this? It’s very simple. Most voters, especially working-class voters, think racial preferences are not fair and fairness is a fundamental part of their world outlook. They actually believe, with Martin Luther King Jr., that people should “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” In a recent University of California Dornsife survey, this classic statement of colorblind equality was posed to respondents: “Our goal as a society should be to treat all people the same without regard to the color of their skin”. This MLK-style statement elicited sky-high (92 percent) agreement from the public, despite the assaults on this idea from Critical Race Theory (CRT) and the likes of Ibram X. Kendi and large sectors of the Democratic left. In a fascinating related finding, the researchers found that most people who claim to have heard about CRT believe CRT includes this colorblind perspective, rather than directly contradicting it. Perhaps they just can’t believe any theory that has anything to do with race would reject this fundamental principle. Guess they didn’t get the memo that it’s no longer cool to believe in this stuff.

Similarly a recent Public Agenda Hidden Common Ground survey found 91 percent agreement with the statement: “All people deserve an equal opportunity to succeed, no matter their race or ethnicity.” This is what people deeply believe in: equal opportunity. In the wake of the Supreme Court decision, Democrats can seize on this strand of the American character and trade a 2:1 or 3:1 unfavorable issue for a 9:1 favorable one. That seems like a pretty good deal.

The way to do this is clear. First, substitute class-based affirmative action for race-based affirmative action. This would boost proportionately more black and Hispanic students than white ones, thereby making up some of whatever losses in black and Hispanic representation might follow from simply eliminating race-based consideration.

But it would also boost some disadvantaged white students and that would be a good thing both substantively and politically. As President Obama memorably put it in 2008: “I think that my daughters should probably be treated by any admissions officer as folks who are pretty advantaged… I think that we should take into account [in admissions] white kids who have been disadvantaged and have grown up in poverty.” In other words, a black kid who grew up in a poor neighborhood in Baltimore and a white kid who grew up in a shattered working class neighborhood in Ohio are both more deserving of a boost than upper middle class kids of whatever race.

That makes sense and would strike most working-class voters as eminently fair. It is especially fair in light of the breathtaking lack of economic diversity at elite schools. Consider that at Harvard there are as many students from the top 1 percent of the income distribution as from the bottom 60 percent and at the University of North Carolina there are 16 times more students from the highest income quintile than from the lowest. Reflecting this pattern, the black, Latino, and Native American students at Harvard are also unrepresentative: 71 percent are from college-educated homes with above median income, a group representing perhaps a fifth of these populations. The working class is conspicuous by its absence.

That’s why it’s important to think of class-based affirmative action as not just a substitute for a race-based system that would accomplish some of the same goals. It would be a step forward in and of itself by pushing back against the incredible class bias of elite education. As David Leonhardt put it in his New York Times column:

Economic diversity matters for its own sake: The dearth of lower-income students at many elite colleges is a sign that educational opportunity has been constrained for Americans of all races. To put it another way, economic factors like household wealth are not valuable merely because they are a potential proxy for race; they are also a telling measure of disadvantage in their own right.

This approach could turn affirmative action from an issue that divides the working class into one that potentially unites it. Given how Democrats have been hemorrhaging working-class voters, this change of focus seems like a highly desirable course of action.

The second thing moving to a class focus could accomplish is encouraging Democrats to concentrate on where the overwhelming majority of kids across races get their college educations, if they do get them: unselective colleges where affirmative action isn’t even an issue. Just six percent of students attend colleges where the admit rate is under 25 percent and only another ten percent attend colleges where the admit rate is between 25 and 50 percent. The majority of black, Hispanic, and white students attend colleges where the admit rate is 75 percent or more.

As education professors Richard Arum and Mitchell L. Stevens put it:

The [Supreme Court] ruling provides America with an opportunity to redirect the conversation from a relatively small number of schools and instead direct urgently needed attention to the vast middle and lower tiers of postsecondary education. Non-selective colleges and universities can be genuine engines of economic mobility, but they do so in the face of significant headwinds.

This is how to get the working class on your side: help everyone, regardless of race, to get ahead. That’s a brand the Democratic Party should lean into, instead of a quixotic quest to preserve racial preferences that voters don’t want and that are now unlawful.

Political Strategy Notes

Adam Edelman reports that “Democrats are already running on abortion rights in battleground states” at nbcnews.com: “In swing states with vulnerable Democratic senators up for re-election in 2024, the party is already hammering likely opponents over abortion rights — even though most of those Republicans haven’t yet decided if they’re running….The early attacks by Democrats on the issue signal that the party is ready to carry on with what, in the year since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, has been a clear winner for the party. And even at this early stage of the cycle, it’s kept a spotlight on the struggles Republicans have endured in determining how to talk to voters about the divisive issue….The strategy could lend a hand to Senate Democrats who face a brutal map in 2024: They must defend 23 seats, compared with 10 for Republicans….The issue will be particularly hard for Republicans to run from in the perennial battleground of Wisconsin, where a deeply unpopularabortion ban will be working its way through through the state court system. The law — enacted in 1849 (only months after Wisconsin was admitted into the union) — bans abortions in almost all cases….“What we see in Wisconsin is also playing out nationally, which is that the GOP has built a machine around stoking up anger about Roe v. Wade but has never been able to do anything about it,” Ben Wikler, the chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, said in an interview. “But now that the dog has caught the car, they have no message and no answers to tens of millions of Americans who don’t think politicians should be jumping between them and their doctor in the moments when they’re making their most intimate and personal decisions.”….polling released last week found that 66% of registered voters said abortion should be legal in all or most cases.”….Democrats in the state haven’t wasted any time bringing the issue to the foreground. Incumbent Sen. Tammy Baldwin has already begun talking up her support for abortion rights. Last month, the Democratic National Committee, as part of a campaign across multiple battlegrounds, put up a huge billboard in Milwaukee and began running digital ads in the state, all focused on Democrats’ support for reproductive rights.”

What’s wrong with Mississippi? It its routinely dismissed in major media as a hopeless cause for Democrats. Yet the state has the highest proportion of African Americans of any state (37.6 percent in the 2020 Census), which leaves casual political observers scratching their heads. Really? Democrats can’t pick up a piddly 15-20 percent from Mississippi white, Hispanic, Asian and Native American voters to win statewide races? Yes, there is deeply-embedded suppression of Black votes. In one study, Mississippi ranks as the 4th hardest state in which to vote (behind TX, GA and MO). For example, “In Mississippi, just under 16% of voting age Black people are disenfranchised because of a felony conviction,” April Simpson reports at The Center for Public Integrity.  But isn’t it time for a full-court Democratic Party/legal press to address this issue? With less than 3 million people statewide, Mississippi has the same number of U.S. Senators (2) as California’s 39 million people. The Mississippi Democratic party has had its difficulties recently. But there is some buzz that Dems might be competitive in at least one statewide race this year. As Adam Ganucheau writes at Mississippi Today, “Every statewide office, legislative seat and district attorney positions is on the ballot in November. And at the top of the ticket, Democrat Brandon Presley [2nd cousin of Elvis] is challenging incumbent Republican Gov. Tate Reeves in a race many political observers have opined will be close.” There is no substitute for the political grunt work of organizing community by community, which would be a good investment for the national Democratic Party and for well-healed Democrats generally. Democrats wring their hands about the U.S. Supreme Court and how hard it is to reform it. But wouldn’t picking up a couple of U.S. Senate seats be a big help in securing any kind of Supreme Court reform?

“There’s more to this fight, though, than a localized political battle,” Pat Garafalo writes in “The Secret to the Democrats’ Future Lies in Western Pennsylvania” at The New Republic’s ‘Soapbox.’ “Philadelphia usually earns the lion’s share of the Keystone State’s national media and political pundit attention—the recent Philly mayoral primary was treated as a proxy battle for the left’s various factions, for example, with progressive favorite Helen Gym’s uninspiring finish treated as proof positive that that wing has overreached. But Pittsburgh and its environs are actually worth paying attention to if you want to understand a viable path for Democrats to build the sort of coalitions they need not just to maintain what they currently have, but to build toward a model that can persuade more than the traditional liberal base. The strategy Democrats employed there, which focuses on centering corporate power while not forgoing what makes Democrats, well, Democrats, has allowed them to challenge political machines, best incumbents and Beltway darlings alike, build new models for local political organizing, and maybe, just maybe, set a standard for other Democrats across the country.” Garafalo spotlights a number of interesting local political races in western PA, including “In the same vein, Representative Sara Innamorato—another Western Pennsylvania official who recently won the Democratic nomination to be Allegheny County Executive—is working to rein in so-called TRAPS, abusive employee debt agreements which force workers to repay often hefty training costs before leaving for a new job. Her legislative work has also focused on reining in corporate power, whether through repealing tax subsidies, reforming antitrust and merger law, or ensuring people can access the resources fix their own homes, instead of selling them off to developers. That theme carried through to her county-level race, where she proved a whole lot of naysayers wrong and shook off a late barrage of attack ads to win, convincingly.” Garafalo concludes, “Marrying local worker solidarity, an unchecked corporate villain, strong local organizing, and an affirmative policy agenda for dealing with it may not sound revelatory, but in a world of endless political noise, super-short news cycles, and an election season that never seems to come to a close, it’s working in Western Pennsylvania—and that might just be good enough for everywhere else too.”

Some notes on voter turnout in 2022, from Madison Fernandez, writing at Politico: “More than 203 million people were active registered voters in 2022. That’s around 85 percent of eligible voters in the country, and a slight uptick from the 2018 midterms. The majority of states reported having a higher active registration rate in 2022 compared to 2018, as well….But getting more people registered doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all voting. Turnout among all Americans eligible to vote dropped around 5 percentage points compared to 2018. Last year, more than 112 million ballots were cast and counted in the 2022 general election, representing a turnout of around 47 percent….California, Indiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Dakota and Tennessee had the largest drop offs, with double-digit dips in turnout between the 2018 and 2022 elections….Only nine states saw increased turnouts compared to 2018: Arizona, Arkansas, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Vermont. That’s a notable change from the 2018 report, when most states saw higher levels of turnout that year compared to the previous midterm election….In-person voting on Election Day rebounded after a pandemic-induced drop in 2020. But a majority of voters are still using other methods of voting, showing that there is significant staying power to the pandemic-era shift….Just under half of voters — 49 percent — cast their ballots on Election Day, up from around 30 percent in the 2020 election. Voting by mail was the second most popular option, with close to one-third of voters doing so. Around 20 percent voted early in-person….In-person voting on Election Day still didn’t hit 2018 rates, when 58 percent of voters cast their ballots that way. Votes by mail saw a 6 percentage point increase from 2018, and early in-person voting remained about the same.”

Yes, Trump Has Lost Some Tools For Overturning Another Election Loss. But Violence Remains.

As someone who wrote intensively about Donald Trump’s attempted election coup in 2020, I’ve been on the alert for a recurrence in 2024. And as I noted at New York, we’re not at all out of the woods yet.

Lest anyone forget: The front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination is a man who has never accepted his 2020 defeat. More importantly, Donald Trump has convinced a sizable majority of GOP voters to accept his unsubstantiated claims that the presidency was “stolen” from him in 2020. It follows, then, that if Trump loses again in November 2024, he is very likely to deny defeat once again. But his options for challenging the legitimacy of the next presidential race are increasingly limited.

Looking back at the attempted election coup that culminated in the violence of January 6, it’s obvious that Trump’s long-range strategy was to allege widespread Democratic voter fraud based on disputing the legitimacy of voting by mail and in-person early voting, while seizing on and publicizing every available rumor of chicanery by Democratic election officials. This gambit arguably started way back in the wake of Trump’s 2016 victory, when he insisted on claiming he had won the national popular vote that he actually lost to Hillary Clinton by 2.8 million votes. It reached a crescendo on Election Night 2020 when Trump claimed victory based on partial returns before mail ballots could be counted.

While Trump has never abandoned his effort to delegitimize non–Election Day voting, he (along with other leading Republicans) is now urging GOP voters to fully take advantage of the voting rules as they exist across the country. And that’s largely what they did in the 2022 midterms; clearly, the partisan “taint” of early voting has worn off. That means there will likely be no basis in 2024 for a “red mirage” phenomenon, in which the Republican candidate will take a momentary lead based on a disproportionate share of the votes that happen to be counted first. If the election is close, Trump would have to wait just like the rest of the country for all the votes to roll in. And unless he reverses course once again, his “stolen election” claims will need a different rationale than the illegitimacy of early voting. What will replace it? That’s unclear.

The three tactics Team Trump pursued in 2020 in an effort to negate Joe Biden’s win probably won’t be available in 2024. Those were (1) the effort to supplant state-certified presidential electors in key states via the unilateral action of Republican-controlled state legislatures, based on an exotic constitutional theory called the “independent state legislatures doctrine;” (2) appeals to Republican election officials in key states to put a thumb on the scales to reverse the outcome (e.g., the infamous Trump phone call to Georgia secretary of State Brad Raffensperger), and (3) the culminating bid on January 6 to stop or reverse Biden’s final certification in Congress, which was the object of the attack on the U.S. Capitol by a Trump-inspired mob.

As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent recently pointed out, all three of these avenues for flipping an election have been at least partially blocked since January 6:

“The Supreme Court’s decision in Moore v. Harper on Tuesday is a major reprieve for American democracy. By rejecting the radical idea that state legislatures have quasi-unlimited power to determine how elections are run, the court made it harder for lawmakers to engage in the shenanigans that Donald Trump encouraged to overturn his 2020 reelection loss …

“Along with the ruling, virtually all election-denying candidates for governor and secretary of state in key swing states lost in the 2022 midterms. [And] Congress reformed the law that governs how presidential electors are counted.”

Aside from the Supreme Court’s rejection of the “independent state legislatures” doctrine, Republicans lost control of legislatures in Michigan and (at least temporarily) Pennsylvania. And beyond the reforms of the Electoral Count Act of 1887 that make it much harder to challenge presidential-election results in Congress, the vice-president who will preside over the tabulation of electoral votes in January of 2025 is Kamala Harris.

So the loopholes Trump tried to exploit in 2020 to give his insurrection some legitimacy just won’t be available in 2024. Sure, the sort of state-by-state guerrilla litigation based on rumors and conspiracy theories that made laughingstocks of Trump’s legal team in 2020 will theoretically still be available. But it’s no more likely to succeed than it did before.

Is Greg Sargent correct, then, in arguing that “our democratic system is fortifying itself on multiple levels, unexpectedly reducing the odds of a rerun of Trump’s efforts in 2024”? Let’s hope so. But it’s also possible that in the absence of legal fig leaves for insurrectionary measures, Team Trump will resort to an overtly revolutionary approach, including summoning a mob to the Capitol, this time not to interfere with Congress’s proceedings but to suppress them altogether.

Without question, a host of institutions, including the Biden administration, the federal courts, responsible Republicans (such as they are), and the U.S. military leadership would stand in the way of a outright insurrectionary bid to reverse a presidential election result and impose an authoritarian regime. It probably won’t happen. But it shouldn’t be ruled out as a strategic option for this lawless man and his devoted following. Trump has, after all, openly and repeatedly described the existing U.S. government as an inherently evil and corrupt “swamp” whose inhabitants in both major parties are hell-bent on the destruction of the country and its values. It’s a bedrock principle among MAGA enthusiasts that they enjoy a right of violent revolution (the entire basis, they claim, for the Second Amendment) against “tyranny” as they define it. And Trump represents a lot of people living in a sort of cultural — and even religious — panic motivated by the demographic and geopolitical decline of the “great” America they imagine.

It’s good that Trump has been hemmed in institutionally since January 6 and may be forced to accept an adverse 2024 result even if he won’t admit he lost. The best way to ensure that happens is for voters to rebuke him by a margin that is simply unmistakable, convincing his GOP co-conspirators once and for all that he and his movement represent a losing proposition. But at the same time, we should take the 45th president’s regular revolutionary mutterings seriously if not literally.

Buttigieg’s Master Class on Democratic Messaging

From “Buttigieg’s master class in how Democrats should message the Republican Party’s implosion” by Kerry Eleveld at Daily Kos:

Democrats have been faced with a unique conundrum as the Republican Party self-immolates: How can they get headlines about all their government good works while the GOP black hole of degeneracy sucks all the air out of the political universe?

It’s a problem. Trump and his mess have been dominating the headlines for more than 8 years. One begins to wonder if frequency of being mentioned in the big media is more important for image creation than the content of what is being said about and by him. But there is an effective response, as Eleveld explains,

This is how: When Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, who is openly gay, was asked for his reaction to a weirdly homoerotic anti-LGBTQ+ adreleased by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign, Buttigieg lampooned it with a straight face, then contrasted the “strangeness” with Democrats’ efforts to improve the lives of working Americans across the country.

“I’m going to leave aside the strangeness of trying to prove your manhood by putting up a video that splices images of you in between oiled-up, shirtless bodybuilders,” Buttigieg said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” “and just get to the bigger issue that is on my mind whenever I see this stuff in the policy space, which is, again: Who are you trying to help, who are you trying to make better off, and what public policy problems to you get up in the morning thinking about how to solve?”

Buttigieg then launched into the Biden administration’s efforts traveling around the country to help communities, particularly in several underserved areas such as Appalachia, rebuild desperately needed infrastructure.

Buttigieg put a bow on the contrast between Democrats and the man-Santis video, saying, “I just don’t understand the mentality of someone who gets up in the morning thinking that he’s going to prove his worth by competing over who can make life hardest for a hard-hit community that is already so vulnerable in America.”

DeSantis could learn a thing or two from someone who actually has a natural talent for campaigning.

Bam! Eleveld adds, “But DeSantis aside, Buttigieg just gave a masterclass on how Team Biden and Democrats should consistently be messaging the wealth of depravity Republicans are dialing up on a daily basis. Donald Trump’s indictments and the GOP rush to defend him; House Republicans’ obsession with fringe hobby horse investigations; the right-wing Supreme Court’s attack on personal freedoms, bodily autonomy, and equity—pick your flavor. They are all ripe for contrast despite the fact that Biden has effectively issued a gag order about discussing Trump’s indictments.”

Here’s the video Eleveld posts with the story, showing how Buttigieg rolled out the take-down:


Teixeira and Moore: Candidate Quality Delivered PA for Dems in 2022

Some insights from “Oz, Fetterman, and the Future of Pennsylvania Politics: Candidate Quality Matters. A Lot” by Nate Moore and Ruy Teixeira at The Liberal Patriot:

This post is based on a new report breaking down the data from the 2022 Pennsylvania Senate race. The full report can be read here.

The most impressive Democratic over-performance of the 2022 midterms came in the perennial presidential battleground of Pennsylvania. In a state rarely decided by more than a couple points in either direction, John Fetterman’s five-point win over Mehmet Oz shattered even the most optimistic of Democratic projections. In the other marquee statewide race, Josh Shapiro beat state Sen. Doug Mastriano for the governor’s seat by an astounding 15 points. As Democrats rejoiced, Pennsylvania Republicans were left wondering what had gone wrong.

Teixeira and Moore argue that “Advertising, in particular, helped carry Fetterman to his eventual five-point victory. Pennsylvania contains six primary media markets: Erie, Harrisburg, Johnstown-Altoona, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Scranton–Wilkes-Barre. Candidates devote the vast majority of spending to these media markets, rather than waste valuable dollars on the few counties in largely out-of-state markets. This dichotomy creates a natural, if imperfect, testing ground on the efficacy of political advertising.”


….While nearly the entire state shifted left, the county-level variations convincingly correlate to media markets. The six counties that dodged most television advertising shifted leftward by 3.4 points. The remaining 61 counties shifted left by an average of 6.4 points. On average, the more voters learned of the two candidates, the more likely they were to vote for Fetterman.

Mercer County offers an interesting case study….Mercer is part of the Youngstown media market, one of Pennsylvania’s smaller media markets. Mercer’s four neighboring counties—Butler, Craw-ford, Lawrence, and Venango—are split between the Erie and Pittsburgh media markets and shifted 8.1 points toward Fetterman. Mercer, however, spared from incessant advertising, shifted to Fetterman by only four points. The five aforementioned counties are demographically quite similar—suggesting advertising produced dramatically different Senate results.

Issue advertising also plays an important electoral role. Rising violent crime, for example, should have been a home-run issue for the Pennsylvania GOP. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh both recorded historically high homicide numbers in 2022. Overall, violent crime, and particularly armed robberies, spiked compared to previous years. With progressive District Attorney Larry Krasner at the helm in Philadelphia, the conservative attack ads could have written themselves. But the Oz campaign failed to capitalize on this.

….In the closing stretch of the campaign, however, as the total number of ads increased, the share of public-safety airings cratered to a measly 27 percent. Meanwhile, the total share for pro-Democratic issues skyrocketed to 48 percent in October. Voters saw nearly two abortion, gun control, or health care ads for every one public-safety ad. The Fetterman campaign had a pure volume advantage as well. Between Labor Day and Election Day, 63,868 Senate ads aired in Pennsylvania. Of those, 37,055 were from Fetterman—a 10,242 ad advantage for the Democrat.

Moore and Teixeira note that “Fetterman’s greatest success—or, perhaps more accurately, Oz’s greatest shortcoming—came in Pennsylvania’s rural counties…..vote totals declined across the state compared to the 2020 presidential election. But across the four county groups—urban, suburban, small metro, and nonmetro—Fetterman was far closer to matching Biden’s raw vote totals than Oz was to matching Trump’s. Across the 30 counties classified as rural (nonmetro), Fetterman received 26,606 fewer votes than Biden did. Oz, on the other hand, saw a 136,005 vote decrease from Trump. The 12.5-point gap between Fetterman’s share of Biden’s rural vote and Oz’s share of Trump’s rural vote is the largest of any of the four county types.” In addition,

The average rural county moved toward Fetterman by 7.1 points relative to Biden’s performance, compared to an average of 6.1 points toward Fetterman in suburbs of large metro areas, 4.6 points in small metro areas, and just 3.7 points in urban areas. Intriguingly, rural counties, where Fetterman’s margin improvement was the largest, also have the heaviest concentrations of white working-class voters. These counties average 77 percent white working-class adults, 17 percent white college graduates, and only 6 percent non-white adults. A good example is rural and conservative Warren County, in the northwest corner of Pennsylvania, which is 79 percent white working-class voters and swung 10 points toward Fetterman.

One fascinating question is how much of Fetterman’s relative rural success was owed to persuading Republicans rather than simply mobilizing Biden supporters. Fox News/Associated Press (AP)/NORC VoteCast data offer a good place to start: 9 percent of self-identified Republicans voted for Fetterman, compared to 3 percent of self-identified Democrats supporting Oz. But VoteCast offers little information about the type of Republican who voted for Fetterman.

To approximate the number of Obama-Trump voters in each county, we use net Republican voter registration gain from 2008 to 2021 as a share of total registered voters. Republicans increased their share of registered voters in all 30 rural counties, but the net gain ranged from 2 percent to almost 14 percent. Counties with a larger increase in Republican voters are likely home to more Obama–Trump voters. Fetterman’s campaign rhetoric and style were explicitly designed to win over these once-Democratic counties that have shifted right rapidly over the past 15 years….

Moore and Teixeira note that “The Fetterman campaign did better in counties with larger increases in GOP voter registration—and by extension, counties with many Obama–Trump voters.” They cite “convincing evidence that Pennsylvania Democrats’ rural over-performance in 2022 is at least in part owed to Obama–Trump voters voting blue once again. Many national Democrats have written off these voters, but the 2022 Senate race proves a chunk of rural white working-class voters will indeed support a Democratic with the right aesthetic and messaging.”

Regarding “Fetterman’s Minority Struggles,” the authors write:

The Oz-Fetterman story is incomplete without a look at minority voting patterns. According to VoteCast data, in 2020, Biden carried Pennsylvania’s black voters 94 percent to 5 percent (an 89-point advantage), but Fetterman won black voters by just 87 percent to 10 percent (a 77-point advantage) in 2022—a 12-point swing against Democrats. Among Hispanic voters, Biden beat Trump 65 percent to 35 percent (a 30-point advantage), while Fetterman carried the group just 55 percent to 41 percent (a 14-point advantage)—a dramatic 16-point swing toward Republicans. As a whole, non-white voters shifted 14 points to the right between 2020 and 2022, driven by an enormous 21-point swing toward the GOP among non-white working-class (noncollege) voters. Fetterman’s victory derived primarily from a strong performance among white voters.

Turnout presented problems for Fetterman as well. Low minority turnout, especially black turnout, has long been a hurdle for Democratic candidates in midterm years. In the post-Obama era, few candidates have energized the core Democratic base of black voters anywhere close to 2008 or 2012 levels. But even accounting for expected differential turnout, Pennsylvania’s minority turnout was especially low in 2022—a warning sign for Democratic candidates in future cycles.

Turnout was even poorer in Philadelphia’s majority-Latino wards. Latinos, who comprise 16 percent of the city as a whole, are primarily concentrated in working-class northeastern neighborhoods. In the four wards with the largest share of Hispanic voters, turnout averaged an abysmal 49.4 percent of 2020 totals. A turnout drop of more than 50 percent is shocking, especially as statewide turnout remained so high and hundreds of millions of dollars poured into the Philadelphia media market. If Pennsylvania Democrats continue to ignore Latinos’ concerns, they risk a repeat of 2022’s rightward swing in 2024.

“Biden’s disapproval rating among 2022 midterm voters was 60 percent. Just 14 percent of voters strongly approved of his job performance, while 45 percent strongly disapproved,” Moore and Teixeira note. “But Fetterman was able to overcome this imbalance with an exceedingly strong performance among the “meh” voters—those who somewhat approve or disapprove. Fetterman carried the “somewhat approve” crowd by a whopping 92-point margin. More impressively, he won those who “somewhat disapprove” by 28 points—61 percent to Oz’s 33 percent. Soft disapproval of Biden was not a particularly salient factor in Senate vote choice. Plenty of Pennsylvanians disliked Biden but still voted blue up and down the ballot in 2022.”

In tbeir conclusion, Teixeira and Moore write, “Cynicism abounds amid record polarization, but the 2022 midterms in Pennsylvania reinforced that candidate quality matters. The GOP’s nomination of Oz and Mastriano—when matched against a pair of surprisingly strong Democrats in Fetterman and Shapiro—proved electorally disastrous.”

Political Strategy Notes

So, what will be the political fallout of the Supreme Court ruling that killed President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan? Monica Potts explores the possibilities at FiveThirtyEight and writes: “The ruling could have big implications for the 2024 election. Now, borrowers will have to start repaying student loans at the end of the summer without any relief. It’s possible that the people who had looked forward to student loan forgiveness will blame the court for the decision. But it’s also possible that the court’s decision will backfire on Biden. Family budgets, already squeezed by persistent inflation, are likely to be even more so when payments resume, and some voters may see it as a broken promise — one that many Democrats really wanted Biden to fulfill….There’s a big divide among Americans about whether student loan forgiveness is a good thing at all, with very strong opinions on either side of the aisle. Biden and others have argued that the size of student debt — more than $1.75 trillion held by roughly 45 million Americans — is holding back the economy, contributes to generational inequality by heavily burdening young people, and hurts the 20 percent of student borrowers who ultimately default anyway….During his 2020 campaign, Biden had promised student loan relief, and a majority (64 percent) of Americans think student loan debt is a very or somewhat serious problem, including 56 percent of Biden voters and 51 percent of Democrats who think it’s a very serious problem. Some form of student loan relief was an issue during the 2020 Democratic primary season, and Biden’s proposal was popular with the Democratic base. Black voters strongly supported it, by 79 percent, and so did Hispanic voters, at 54 percent; among all adults in those demographics, support was 77 and 52 percent, respectively. College graduates favored it by 65 to 35, according to a Marquette University Law School poll. So did those with advanced degrees, by 64 percent, and, perhaps surprisingly, those with less than a high school education by 80 to 20. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a USA Today/Ipsos survey from April found that 83 percent of student loan debt-holders viewed Biden’s plan favorably….

Potts continues, “Student loan forgiveness was also especially popular with young people. Majorities of adults under 45 thought the Department of Education should have the authority to forgive student loan debt: 59 percent of adults under 30 and 54 percent of adults aged 30 to 44, according to a survey from The Economist/YouGov taken in May. The poll from Marquette University Law School found the exact same percentages for registered voters in those age groups viewed Biden’s plan favorably, and so did all adults under 60….Will Biden voters be disappointed in his administration if he can’t find a way to move the plan forward? It’s possible they will blame the Supreme Court, which has seen its popularity take a beating after a series of decisions that push against majority public sentiment. Fifty-eight percent of Americans disapprove of the Supreme Court, and only 28 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents view the court favorably. There’s a good chance that Democratic voters will blame the Supreme Court more than Biden for striking down his plan….But the economic costs of the plan’s failure may weigh more on Biden as he seeks reelection. A Penn Wharton analysis has found that Biden’s plan, two-thirds of which would benefit low- and middle-income borrowers, could cost as much as $1 trillion. However, there’s also a cost to resuming student-loan payments, as the administration is now obligated to do, in the form of reduced economic activity, which could be a drag on an already shaky economy. A Civic Science poll from June 13 to 14 found that a majority, 58 percent, of student loan debt-holders were at least somewhat concerned about being able to make payments….What happens to the economy may matter more than the success or failure of any given Biden proposal, and voters are already inclined to disapprove of Biden’shandling of the economy. If student loan burdens make people feel even worseabout their finances, that could spell bad news for his reelection campaign.” There’s always the possibility that supporters and opponents of the student loan forgiveness plan will cancel each other out on Election Day, or that it will be old news as new headlines about different issues dominate the news 15 months from now.

Did President Biden blunder in saying “I think if we start the process of trying to expand the court, we’re going to politicize it, maybe forever in a way that is not healthy”? Biden made the comment in an interview with MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace before the Court nuked his student loan forgiveness initiative. No one in politics has more experience with the Supreme Court confirmation process than Biden, a former chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. But why toss away a potential bargaining chip?  Victor Reklaitis notes that “In October 2020, Biden promised to establish a bipartisan commission to study reforms for the federal judiciary, including expanding the Supreme Court. The commission issued a report in December 2021 but didn’t offer a recommendation on the issue of expanding the court.” Down the road Biden could have used the threat of court expansion to get some leverage for other kinds of Supreme Court reform, including ethics, term limits, transparency measures, confirmation procedure etc.  Court expansion is a moot issue until Democrats have a working majority of both houses of congress, which may not happen for a long time. But in such a closely divided congress it could also happen pretty fast. Biden’s comment may have pleased some moderate Democrats and a lot of Republicans, but progressives and liberals who believe that the Republicans have packed the Court already have good reason to complain. As Jordan Rubin notes at msnbc.com, “Nicolle pressed Biden on whether he’s worried the court might do too much harm given the majority is so young and so conservative. Biden agreed but he raised the concern about politicizing the court in a way that can’t be undone. Of course, that ship sailed long ago.” Liberals also  argue that it’s a defeatist precedent to let Mitch McConnell get away with his betrayal of the bipartisan agreement on process in the way he stiffed Merrick Garland and greased the skids for Gorsuch. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Republicans play hardball on Supreme Court nominations, while Democrats play patty-cake and whine about it. Of course, there is always the possibility that President Biden could change his mind, as Supreme Court rulings become increasingly destructive.

Amy Walter addresses a question of interest, “Can Bidenomics Turn Gloomy Views on the Economy Around?” at The Cook Political Report. Noting that “voter opinions of the economy have become less predictive of the election outcome,” Walter observes, “Back in 2012, the campaign of Republican nominee Mitt Romney argued that the country’s pessimism about the state of the economy and their distrust of Barack Obama’s handling of it would ultimately doom the incumbent. In the end, Obama won rather handily, thanks in large part to his campaign’s ability to recast the debate from one about the state of the economy into one about who is best qualified to understand the struggles of average Americans….In 2018, the party in the White House lost control of the House, despite a robust economy. Why? Many voters who appreciated the job President Trump was doing on the economy were turned off by his polarizing style and behavior….In 2020, the pandemic-induced economic slow-down was a significant factor in Trump’s loss. But, just as important was the antipathy to Trump himself….By 2022, record inflation didn’t doom Democrats in the midterms. In fact, among the plurality of voters who rated the economy as “not so good,” 62% still voted for the incumbent party. Why? Voters’ concerns about the extremism exhibited by many of the Republican candidates proved to be more salient than their worries about the high rate of inflation….A recent Quinnipiac poll found that just 41% of Americans approve of the job Biden is doing on the economy. Yet, in a head-to-head matchup against Trump, Biden is at 48%. In other words, many of those who disapprove of the job he’s doing on the economy are voting for him anyway….Others argue that traditional measurements of voter opinion on the economy are ineffective. “Asking people about the economy is no longer a reliable measure of the state of the economy,” one Democratic strategist told me. “I don’t even think consumer confidence works anymore. Only behavior works as an indicator.”….Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg makes this point as well, and argues that the party needs to do a better job telling the story of the economy’s success under Biden.”

Political Strategy Notes

President Biden might not seem like a revolutionary,’ E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes in his Washington Post column,  “but he is presiding over a fundamental change in the nation’s approach to economics. Not only is he proposing a major break from the “trickle-down” policies of Ronald Reagan, as Biden highlighted in a speech in Chicago on Wednesday. He is also departing from many orthodoxies that shaped the presidencies of Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama….The shift also has to do with who Biden is, his long-standing alarm over the Democratic Party’s alienation from working- and middle-class voters and an unease with the Reagan-era economic consensus that hovered over Democratic administrations….As a political matter, Biden wants to show that his signature policies on technology, climate action and infrastructure are working. On Wednesday, he stressed they are producing well-paying jobs for those who have been on the short end of economic growth: Americans without college degrees and those living in places with “hollowed out” economies…. A recent Treasury Department report touted “a striking surge in construction spending for manufacturing facilities,” which has doubled since the end of 2021….Government is no longer shying away from pushing investment toward specific goals and industries. Spending on public works is back in fashion. New free-trade treaties are no longer at the heart of the nation’s international strategy. Challenging monopolies and providing support for unionization efforts are higher priorities…..Can Bidenomics become an international template for the center-left as Reaganomics was for the center-right in the 1980s?….But Biden is selling his program hard because he knows its first test will be political. The standing of Reaganomics was secured only after Reagan’s reelection. The same will be true of the word Biden first resisted and now holds high.”

At FiveThirtyEight, Monica Potts sheds some light on public opinion about ‘affirmative action’ in the wake of the U. S. Supreme Court ruling, which “just ended affirmative action in higher education as we know it.” Was Pitts explains, “A poll designed to capture public opinion on major Supreme Court decisions this term found that strong majorities of Americans agree that public (74 percent) and private (69 percent) colleges and universities should not be able to use race as a factor in college admissions. Questions that remind respondents of the goal of affirmative action — to increase the numbers of Black, Hispanic and other underrepresented students on elite campuses — tend to generate more support. But people also don’t think minority groups should be given “special preferences.”….Individual programs have been struck down over the years, by voter referendum in Michigan in 2006….as we’ve written before, how Americans view affirmative action depends a lot on how they’re asked about it. By one measure, affirmative action is more popular among white Americans than it used to be: According to Gallup, only 44 percent of white Americans favored affirmative action (broadly speaking, not specific to college admissions), for members of racial minority groups in 2001. Twenty years later, 57 percent of white Americans in the Gallup survey said they favored it. Hispanic adults saw a slightly greater increase, from 64 to 79 percent. Yet for Black Americans, the number began at 69 percent, increased over the years, and then settled back at 69 percent in 2021….But a Pew Research Center Survey conducted in the spring found that affirmative action is not popular today, particularly among white respondents, people without college degrees and Republicans. Overall, half of Americans disapproved of colleges and universities using race and ethnicity as factors to increase racial and ethnic diversity, while one-third approved. (The remaining 16 percent said they were not sure.) But three-quarters (74 percent) of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents disapproved, while a little over half (54 percent) of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents approved. Almost half of Black respondents supported it, the highest of any racial or ethnic group. College graduates are virtually evenly split on whether they approve or disapprove, while those without college degrees disapprove by a nearly two-to-one ratio.”

Potts continues, “Two recent polls found that majorities of Americans want affirmative action programs to continue. But one of those polls, conducted by YouGov/CBS, also asked whether respondents thought race should be considered as part of college admissions, and got a resoundingly different answer: only 30 percent said yes, and 70 percent said no….Some people may oppose affirmative action because they prefer a color-blind reading of the constitution, and think any consideration of race makes the process inherently problematic. A New Public Agenda/USA Today/Ipsos Hidden Common Ground poll, fielded in February and March 2023, found that majorities of Americans prefer institutions to equally distribute resources to all communities rather than make additional investments in Black, Latino, Asian and Native American communities to close gaps. Sixty-three percent of respondents said racism makes it more difficult for people of color to succeed in the U.S., but more Americans said individuals should play a role in overcoming racism than said institutions like the government and schools should. The study found that Americans are split on whether efforts to combat racism would affect white people, with 44 percent saying those efforts make life more difficult and 45 percent saying they do not, with the remainder saying they did not know….Some Americans also don’t believe that systemic racism is a problem in American life. In another Pew survey from 2021, 77 percent of Republicans thought that little or nothing needed to be done to ensure equal rights for all Americans. Other surveys have found Republicans skeptical of systemic racism, which suggests some do not believe the justification for affirmative action is a problem in need of addressing. Some Americans also believe affirmative action programs are harmful to white people….But there are also a sizable number of Americans who don’t hold firm views on affirmative action, as evidenced by the policy’s struggles at the ballot. A 2020 referendum that would have restored race-conscious affirmative action in public universities in California, one of the most liberal and diverse states in the nation, failed when 57 percent of statewide voters opposed it. According to a New York Times analysis, the vote passed 51 to 49 in Los Angeles County, among the state’s more Democratic areas, suggesting that it’s not a voting issue for many voters and that support is slim.”

In “Electoral College Ratings: Expect Another Highly Competitive Election: Small edge to Democrats but neither side over 270 to start” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Kyle Kondik writes “Democrats start closer to the magic number of 270 electoral votes in our initial Electoral College ratings than Republicans. But with few truly competitive states and a relatively high floor for both parties, our best guess is yet another close and competitive presidential election next year….We are starting 260 electoral votes worth of states as at least leaning Democratic, and 235 as at least leaning Republican. The four Toss-ups are Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin — the three closest states in 2020 — along with Nevada, which has voted Democratic in each of the last four presidential elections but by closer margins each time (it is one of the few states where Joe Biden did worse than Hillary Clinton, albeit by less than a tenth of a percentage point). That is just 43 Toss-up electoral votes at the outset. Remember that because of a likely GOP advantage in the way an Electoral College tie would be broken in the U.S. House, a 269-269 tie or another scenario where no candidate won 270 electoral votes would very likely lead to a Republican president. So Democrats must get to 270 electoral votes while 269 would likely suffice for Republicans, and there are plausible tie scenarios in the Electoral College….We have previously noted that only seven states were decided by less than three points in 2020: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. This represents the real battlefield: Particularly if the race is a Biden vs. Trump redux, we would be surprised if any other state flipped from 2020 outside of this group….Even then, we’re not even sure that all of these seven states are truly in doubt. After all, we’re starting three of the seven in the Leans category (Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania)….This all underscores the reality that despite the nation being locked in a highly competitive era of presidential elections, the lion’s share of the individual states are not competitive at all.”

Teixeira: Why Dems Should Rely on Persuasion, Not Youth Vote

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, co-founder and politics editor of  The Liberal Patriot, is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

Nothing makes the Democratic heart beat faster than a sense that the demographic wind is at their back. They love the idea that they can safely disregard all that messy persuasion stuff to focus on rising demographics and mobilize, mobilize, mobilize.

The current demographic darling is the youth vote, which did indeed perform well for the Democrats in 2022. But much commentary has gone beyond that simple, true observation to portray the youth vote as a tsunami about to overwhelm the Republican Party. To understand why that’s an over-reading of the evidence and what a more balanced perspective on the youth vote should be, here are five things to keep in mind.

1. Age and generation are two different things. Sometimes when commentators speak of the youth vote they seem to be speaking of an age group, typically 18-29. And sometimes they are speaking in generational terms, which are defined by birth years. This now typically includes both the Millennial generation (born 1981-1996) and Gen Z (born 1997-2012). So these “young” voters were 18-41 in 2022.

Since generational ages are not stable, this can lead to confusion. For example, in the Catalist data, the Millennial/Gen Z share of voters went up from 23 to 26 percent of voters between 2018 and 2022, while the vote share of 18-29 year olds went down from 12 to 10 percent and the 30-44 year old share went down from 21 to 20 percent. Huh? But this is easily explained by the simple fact that Millennials/Gen Z in 2018 covered voters ages 18-37, while in 2022 these generations covered ages 18-41. More ages covered = more voters so there’s no need to posit any particularly good turnout performance by these generations.

2. Turnout by age goes up and that affects generations a lot. This is another factor that leads to confusion. As generations age, their turnout (defined as percent of eligible voters that cast a ballot) goes up for many years simply because older voters vote at a much higher rate than younger voters. In fact, the age-turnout gradient is particularly sharp among voters in their twenties and thirties, which of course complicates interpretations of turnout performance among Millennials and Gen Z. This makes it harder—or should make it harder—to ascribe any turnout magic to these generations.

3. Presidential elections are different from congressional elections. In 2022, young (18-29) voters defied the prevailing winds and Democrats improved their marginamong these voters by 5 points relative to 2020. But congressional elections and presidential elections can be quite different, not least because a different, larger group of voters shows up for presidential elections. That affects the attitudinal complexion of all demographic groups, especially a volatile group like young voters.

Consider that Democrats carried the two party vote among 18-29 year olds by 36 points in 2018 only to have that margin decline by 12 points in 2020. And that was with Trump on the ballot. Right now, polls tend to show Democratic weakness among young voters moving into the 2024 cycle. In the latest Washington Post/ABC poll, Biden leads Trump by only 11 points among the 18-39 year old age group (which incidentally covers almost all of Millennials and Gen Z). And in the latest Quinnipiac poll, where Biden leads Trump overall, his lead among 18-34 year olds is a mere 5 points.

4. If something cannot go on forever, it will stop. This saying, attributed to the economist Herbert Stein, is apt. Democrats seem to expect all future generations to exhibit the same Democratic proclivities as the Millennials and Gen Z have. In fact, only about half of Gen Z was even of voting age in 2022 so we really don’t know how the other half will shape up. And succeeding generations—generations post-Z and post-post-Z—who knows? One political carbon copy of the Millennials after another cannot go on forever and, yes, it will stop.

The same can be said about the currently-existing Democratic proclivities of Millennials/Gen Z. They will be susceptible to decay, even if these generations retain a baseline lean toward the Democrats That’s exactly what Nate Cohn showed in a recent piece on generational cohorts. Millennial/Gen Z Democratic support cannot remain at the current high levels forever; it will stop.

5. Demographics are not destiny. This point cannot be repeated enough. The demographics is destiny thesis seems to attract Democrats like moths to a flame. We saw it in the bowdlerization of (ahem) The Emerging Democratic Majorityargument and we’re seeing it today in the enshrinement of generational change as the engine of certain Democratic dominance. Rising pro-Democratic generations = larger share of voters over time = Democratic dominance.

We’ve been here before with the rise of nonwhite voters. Here’s how the argument is being repurposed: if voter groups favorable to the Democrats (racial minorities, now younger generations) are growing while unfavorable groups (whites, now older generations) are declining, that’s good news for the Democrats. This is called a “mix effect”: a change in electoral margins attributable to the changing mix of voters.

These mix effects are what people typically have in mind when they think of the pro-Democratic effects of rising diversity (now generational succession). But mix effects, by definition, assume no shifts in voter preference: they are an all-else-equal concept. If voter preferences remain the same, then mix effects mean that the Democrats will come out ahead. That is a mathematical fact.

But voter preferences do not generally remain the same (see #4). We have seen this in the case of rising nonwhite voter share, as white working-class voters moved toward the Republicans and, more recently, nonwhite voters themselves have become more Republican. This has cancelled out much of the presumed benefit for the Democrats from the changing racial mix of voters.

To summarize how this applies to generations: while the mix effects of generational succession may indeed favor the Democrats, these effects are fairly modest in any given election and can easily be overwhelmed by shifts in voter preference against the Democrats among older generations. In addition, even among pro-Democratic generations (e.g., Millennials and Gen Z), the electoral benefit to the Democrats from their growth can be completely neutralized by shifts against the Democrats within these generations.

In short, there’s no free (demographic) lunch. The boring, tedious, difficult task of persuasion is still the key to building electoral majorities.

How Far Right Can Republicans Go? DeSantis Testing the Limits

I’m old enough to remember when I thought the Republicans of the George W. Bush era had gone far off the cliff into the right-wing fever swamps. As I noted at New York, it’s getting far worse during the GOP 2024 presidential contest:

There’s a huge strategic dilemma at the heart of Ron DeSantis’s 2024 presidential campaign. He wants to convince the MAGA Republicans most likely to vote in primaries that he’s Trump without the drama, and perhaps even more radical than the 45th president. But that’s at odds with the “electability” argument that he’s better positioned to beat Joe Biden. Since DeSantis formally launched his campaign, Trump has maintained and even expanded his lead in virtually every poll of Republicans. The Florida governor has responded by leaning more heavily on a hard-core ideological pitch that may leave some anti-Trump Republicans, not to mention swing voters, cold. The Florida governor is trying to out-Trump Trump, and it’s not clear this strategy has much of a chance of success with the GOP base still in love with the 45th president.

The DeSantis stump speech has been evolving in recent weeks. Now, as before, he touts his record in Florida as a model for his party and for the nation. But his early emphasis on such standard gubernatorial virtues as industrial recruitment and sound fiscal management has gradually given way to a presentation of DeSantis as a culture warrior who gazes at conservatism’s enemies with a sort of unblinking reptilian stare, unlike Trump’s many self-distractions and sideshow antics.

DeSantis’s remarks at the candidate cattle call hosted by the Faith and Freedom Coalition, the country’s most politically focused organization of conservative Christian activists, in Washington on June 23 represented his most strident effort yet to get to the former president’s right. Trump is generally seeking vengeance against his enemies in the federal government; DeSantis is promising “accountability” for alleged COVID tyrant Anthony Fauci specifically. Trump is a hero to the anti-abortion movement; DeSantis insisted on a draconian six-week abortion ban that Trump called “too harsh.” Trump wants to finish building his border wall; DeSantis wants to militarize the border to stop the “invasion” of immigrants, and even to blockade Mexican ports to stop delivery of chemicals used to make fentanyl. Trump appointed three hard-core conservatives to the U.S. Supreme Court; DeSantis would only appoint a justice as extreme as Clarence Thomas.

Despite all of DeSantis’s huffing and puffing, the Faith and Freedom Coalition event turned into a MAGA rally at which even the mention of Trump’s name drew rapturous applause. When it came time for the former president’s “keynote” address, he was allowed to rant and rave to his heart’s content in contrast to his rivals’ limited time slots. DeSantis may have successfully made himself over in Trump’s image, but he’s still overshadowed by the former president.

The acid test for DeSantis won’t come in any shared candidate event or even in the debates that begin in August (which Trump may or may not deign to attend). It will be in the Iowa caucuses, where in the recent past the candidate successfully depicting himself as the “true conservative” in the field has generally won (e.g., Mike Huckabee in 2008, Rick Santorum in 2012, Ted Cruz in 2016). And indeed, it was the site of Trump’s biggest defeat in 2016 (though of course he later denounced it as “stolen”). DeSantis has surrounded himself with veterans of the Cruz campaign. And that is very likely reinforcing his decision to run much like Cruz did, relying on a hard-core conservative message and an expensive field effort focused on the likeliest — which often means the most conservative — voters.

Without question, this strategy will take a toll on the breadth of DeSantis’s support among more moderate Republicans who have plenty of other candidates to choose from. And there’s little evidence that general-election swing voters are really longing for an effective extremist (DeSantis’s big 2022 performance in Florida, which is receding rapidly in voters’ memories, is now his only evidence for “electability”). But you can appreciate that unless DeSantis wins Iowa or over-performs expectations notably, he’s probably sunk. He’s not looking that strong in New Hampshire, and in South Carolina he’s fighting not just Trump but two Palmetto State rivals.

So for the foreseeable future, DeSantis is going to campaign as not just steadier and more effective than Trump, but as the man who will leave the libs, as he likes to say, “in the dustbin of history.” There’s nothing cheerful or swing-voter-pleasing about the message he’s conveying.

It may be rather difficult to soften this image of DeSantis if it doesn’t work to outflank Trump. And it clearly hasn’t so far; Trump continues to lead his governor by 30 points in the national RealClearPolitics polling averages and leads in every early state poll as well. If that pattern continues, even as Trump faces indictment after indictment, Ron DeSantis may wind up in a narrow corner of the Republican Party into which he has painted himself very deliberately.

Tomasky: Dems Must Abandon ‘Somnolent Indifference’ to ‘Most Accomplished President’

In his article, “Democrats, Wake the Hell Up!,” at The New Republic’s ‘Soapbox,’ Editor Michael Tomasky calls President Biden “the most accomplished” President” since LBJ and the most “pro-labor President since Harry Truman,” who has “amassed an historic record in his first term,” and writes further:

“…Biden has been a terrific president. The big legislation. The way he played Kevin McCarthy on the debt deal. The global leadership against Putin. The plain human decency restored to the White House after four years of self-obsessed thuggery. Oh—the 13 million jobs created since he took office, which is more jobs in 28 months than created under any other president, in all of our history, in a full four-year term.

I bet you didn’t know that last fact. The president and his administration mention it, as in this press statement. But do they crow about it? Do congressional Democrats crow about it? What percentage of the American electorate do we think knows this fact—2, 3? And let me ask you this. If a Republican president had accomplished that, what percentage of voters would know it? A hell of a lot more, because congressional Republicans and the propagandists on Fox and elsewhere would be saying it every day, several times a day.

Democrats are walking around in some state of somnolent indifference about Joe Biden. They need to snap out of it. From senators and House members on down to state and county committee members, they have a huge fight on their hands. Go look at the Biden-Trump polls. They’re neck and neck, or margin of error at best. And the media, of course, which just can’t shake the #demsindisarray default narrative, no matter how huge a hot mess the congressional GOP is, invariably touts the outliers that show Trump ahead. But the point is, a Biden-Trump race, or a Biden-anyone race, will be down to the wire.

Tomasky goes on the blister Biden’s challengers and potential challengers for the Democratic presidential nomination, and observes “Why does the media promote these campaigns? Partly because of the #demsindisarray reflex. But the press has that reflex because Democrats let things happen that way. There’s no central message that everyone repeats. And there’s far less touting of the administration’s accomplishments than there ought to be.”

If Democratic campaigns and their consultants aren’t gearing up a social media tsunami touting Biden’s remarkable accomplishments and showing how Republican candidates are Trump’s shameless enablers in a war against democracy itself, then they are committing political malpractice.

Moving to his conclusion, Tomasky adds, “Joe Biden is going to be the nominee (barring of course some major health issue in the next few months). He’s the most accomplished president since Lyndon Johnson, and without the immoral war….And the next president of the United States is either him or someone who’s going to dismantle democracy and usher in authoritarianism and fascism, either immediately (Trump) or slowly (most of the others)….he is what stands between us and fascism, and he’s gotten far more done than anyone would have dared imagine. Democrats, get it together.”