Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Left Is Winning on Health Care. And It Will Continue To Do So.

Paul Starr has an excellent article up on the American Prospect website running down how the Democrats are now winning on health care. Starr notes:
"It took a long time, but the Affordable Care Act finally paid off politically for Democrats in the 2018 election. According to exit polls, voters rated health care the top issue, and they trusted Democrats on it more than Republicans....
In 2018, unlike the other elections since the ACA’s passage in 2010, voters had seen what Republicans were actually proposing to do about health insurance....[T]he legislation passed by Republicans in the House and endorsed by Trump would have resulted in millions of people losing coverage and sharply increased costs for others, especially for older people buying insurance in the individual market. Unable to pass that bill in the Senate, Republicans saw the whole repeal-and-replace effort collapse.
Seizing on the Republicans’ failed rollback, Democratic congressional candidates and the groups supporting them highlighted health care more than any other issue. According to an analysis by Wesleyan Media Project, 54.5 percent of all Democratic ads from September 18 to October 15 discussed health care; those ads focused overwhelmingly on protecting people with preexisting conditions and on Republican efforts to undo the progress under the ACA....
Not only do the election results put an end, at least for the next two years, to Republican congressional efforts to undo the ACA; the voters also chose to extend coverage. Five states are now likely to expand Medicaid—three (Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah) where voters passed referenda in favor of expansion, and two (Kansas and Maine) where a shift from a Republican to a Democratic governor removes the last obstacle to expansion."
Starr advocates that Democrats now move to extending and improving the ACA, particularly in the context of the 2020 election campaign. I agree completely. Starr in particular advocates what he calls "Midlife Medicare", making Medicare available to those 50-64. I am fine with that though there is a lot to be said for "Medicare for All", especially in a campaign context. Even if such an approach is difficult to implement all at once, it can serve as both a rallying cry and an identifying principle for various, more specific reforms.
I would broaden Starr's argument about the ACA and left strategy as follows. Over time, the left has accomplished many things, from building out the social safety net to cleaning up the environment to protecting public health to securing equal rights for women, black people, and gay people. These and many other gains of the left have a very important thing in common: They are “sticky.” That’s a term borrowed from economics that means, simply, they will be hard to reverse. They provide benefits that people do not want to lose — and, what’s more, they shift norms of what is right and wrong.
Social Security and Medicare are great examples of policies that once seemed radical and now are simply a part of life. The Affordable Care Act’s core innovations may turn out that way, as well, despite the controversy that has dogged the program from its inception — and the declared intent of the current administration to eliminate it.
The ACA has provided benefits to millions who don’t want them taken away, and helped to establish the principle that every American has a right to health care, guaranteed by the government. That’s why the Republican attempt to radically downsize the program hit a buzzsaw. To be sure, Republicans will keep trying. But, in the end, they will not be able to “repeal and replace” with a fundamentally less generous program.
Instead, it’s more likely that the ACA, either under that name or another, will get more generous over time. As the late conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer noted during the initial ACA repeal fight: “A broad national consensus is developing that health care is indeed a right. This is historically new. And it carries immense implications for the future. It suggests that we may be heading inexorably to a government-run, single-payer system.”
Krauthammer was despairing, but the left should be heartened by the observation. Indeed, at this point, Trump and the GOP have been reduced to hoping that if they neglect the ACA, it will collapse on its own — yet that doesn’t seem to be happening The very desperation of this “strategy” is a sign that Krauthammer may have been prescient about where American health care policy is headed.
So it has turned out. Repealing the ACA turned out to be way, way, way harder than Trump and the GOP anticipated and ultimately it failed. This emphasizes a basic characteristic of American public opinion that Trump and the GOP failed to understand and the left would do well to remember.
The dominant ideology in America combines what political scientists Christopher Ellis and James Stimson refer to as “symbolic conservatism” (honoring tradition, distrusting novelty, embracing the conservative label) with “operational liberalism” (wanting government to do more and spend more in a wide variety of areas). In their definitive book, Ideology in America, they characterize symbolic conservatism as:
"…fundamentally different from culturally conservative politics as defined by the religious right. It is respect for basic values: hard work, striving, caution, prudence, family, tradition, God, citizenship and the American flag….[I]t is the mainstream culture….It is woven into the fabric of how ordinary Americans live their lives."
And on operational liberalism they note:
"Social Security is…no exception. Most Americans like most government programs. Most of the time, on average, we want government to do more and spend more. It is no accident we have created the programs of the welfare state. They were created—and are sustained—by massive public support."
Thus, there was no insuperable ideological obstacle to the ACA and, indeed, there is no insuperable ideological obstacle to a substantially expanded role for government in health and other areas in the future. Indeed, such an expansion would be fully in accord with Americans’ durable commitment to operational liberalism.
Of course these expanded government programs will not happen all at once. Far from it. Like the programs of the past, they will be phased in gradually over time, in fits and starts, frequently in inefficient and suboptimal forms (like the ACA!). That’s the messy business of politics in a democracy. But happen they will and once enacted they will be hard to get rid of; instead, just as in the past, the programs will be modified, improved and even expanded. The reason is simple: people like programs that make their lives better and are far more likely to respond to program defects by demanding they be fixed than by demanding programs be eliminated.
Just like with the ACA.
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And how they can build on that success in 2020

Monday, November 19, 2018

So: How High the Wave?

It really is remarkable how much the story of the 2018 election has changed since election night. If there was any doubt there was a blue wave then, there isn't now.
1. As shown below in the 538 seat tracker, the Democrats now look like they're going to net 40 House seats. 40 seats! That's a lot.
2. The Democrats now have an 8 point lead in the House popular vote according to the tracking spreadsheet kept by David Wasserman of Cook Political Report. That's greater than the Republican popular vote lead in their big wave election of 2010 (or 1994 for that matter).
3. The Democrats did lose a net of 2 seats in the Senate but they faced a map heavily stacked against them. As Geoffrey Skelley and Julie Wolfe show on 538, Democrats strongly outperfomed the partisan lean of the states with Senate elections, including the 10 states carried by Trump that had Democratic incumbents.
4. Democrats made their greatest seat gains in suburban areas, but the data show that Democrats actually made greater margin gains in rural areas. It is also the case, as shown by Stan Greenberg in the New York Times, that Democrats not only made big gains among white college graduate women but made similar gains among white noncollege women. And they actually made very significant gains among white noncollege men, though of course that was from a very low base of support. None of this means Democrats are about to carry rural areas and the white working class. But it does mean that the margins Trump will need to win in 2020 among his best voter groups are under pressure.
Make no mistake: the blue wave was very high indeed. Democrats should take heart, as they prepare for the all-important 2020 election.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Are Young Whites Really Different?

Politically, they're sure acting like it. If you take the Catalist data (linked to in previous posts) and look at the contributions various demographic groups made to the Democrats' improved performance (national-level) relative to both 2016 and 2014, you find these voters looming very large indeed.
Relative to 2016, whites under 45 can more than account for the entirety of Democrats' improved performance. Relative to 2014, these voters account for around 60 percent of the Democrats' improvement between the two midterms (the rest in nonwhite voters, particularly blacks).
There is no demographic force more powerful than generational replacement. The effects on politics can be very large and I think we are starting to see that.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Color Those Metros Blue!

Ron Brownstein has an excellent article out on how Trump is tanking the GOP brand in big parts of the country. Especially metro areas. Especially big metro areas. From the article:
"In Senate and governor’s races, Democrats scored decisive victories in suburban counties that have moved toward them in recent years, from Arapahoe and Jefferson Counties in Colorado; to Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, and Chester Counties in Pennsylvania; to Oakland County in Michigan; to Hillsborough and Orange Counties in Florida. But as in the House races, the collapse also extended to places that had functioned as the GOP’s last outposts inside metro America.
Trump in 2016 carried only 13 of the nation’s 100 largest counties, according to data compiled for me by the Pew Research Center. But last week, about half of that already modest group shifted toward Democrats in statewide races. Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and its surrounding suburbs in Arizona, was the largest county that Trump won. But as of Tuesday night, it provided the Democrat Kyrsten Sinema a decisive margin of about 40,000 votes in her Senate victory over the Republican Martha McSally.
Tarrant County in Texas, which includes Fort Worth, was the second-largest county that Trump carried. But last week, it narrowly backed the Democrat Beto O’Rourke over the Republican Ted Cruz. Among the other large counties that Trump took in 2016, Suffolk (New York), Pinellas and Duval (Florida), Macomb (Michigan), and Oklahoma (in Oklahoma) all broke for Democrats in governor and/or Senate races.
Texas offered perhaps the most dramatic example of the undertow Trump has created for Republicans in metropolitan areas. In addition to his slim win in Tarrant County, O’Rourke carried Harris County (including Houston) by about 200,000 votes, Dallas and Travis Counties (including Austin) by around 240,000 votes each, and Bexar County (including San Antonio) by roughly 110,000 votes. As recently as 2012, Barack Obama’s combined margin across those four counties had been only about 175,000 votes. (He lost Tarrant by 94,000 votes, whereas O’Rourke won it by about 6,000.)"
Obviously Trump and the GOP remain strong in rural and small town America. But as other data on the 2018 election make clear (see my previous posts) even there Democrats were able to chip away significantly at GOP advantages.
All in all, an excellent base from which launch Operation One Term President Trump.
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So long as the GOP stays loyal to President Trump, its prospects on the electoral map will be sharply restricted.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

How Did Demographic Groups Shift Support from 2016 to 2018?

As they promised, Catalist/Yair Ghitza have now released their estimates of voter support by group for the 2018 election, with comparisons to previous elections back to 2008. They previously did the same thing for voter composition in 2018. So now we have both and it's a great resource.
As I noted about Catalist's earlier estimates of voter composition, these estimates of voter support differ substantially from those of the exit polls.That doesn't necessarily mean we should just rely on the Catalist data and disregard everything else. Their methodology, while sound, has a lot of moving parts and is almost certainly not getting everything exactly right. Plus, they will be revising their 2018 estimates over time as more data becomes available. However, I do believe that, given the well-documented problems of the exit polls, it is quite plausible that the Catalist data are "righter" than the exits even if not exactly right.
There's a lot in Ghitza's report and even more in the spreadsheet the report links to. The report focuses on shifts from the 2016 Presidential to 2018 Congressional election, which seems appropriate under the current political circumstances. Here are some of the most intriguing shifts.
1. Young voters (18-29) supported Democrats by 44 points in 2018 up 18 points from 2016. Moreover, white young voters gave Democrats an impressive 26 point margin in 2018. For that matter, Democrats were also +9 on white voters 30-44. That means Democrats carried all white voters under 45 in 2018 and quite easily at that!
2. As other data sources suggest, Democrats carried white college voters in 2018 (+5) with a solid shift relative to 2016. Both white college women and men contributed to this shift but the largest contribution was by white college women. White noncollege voters, on the other hand, continued to be a problem at -26, only a slight improvement over the previous election.
3. Among nonwhite groups, Asians showed the largest support gains for the Democrats. But, contrary to the exit polls, Hispanics showed a slight slippage in support.
4. Democrats carried suburban white college voters by 7 points, representing a strong 12 point shift over 2016 in the Democrats' favor. This is more less as expected.
5. But by and large, the strongest shifts in the Democrats' direction were within rural areas! Comparing overall urban vs. suburban vs. rural areas, the respective pro-Democratic shifts were 1, 5 and 7 points. You see roughly the same pattern when comparing urban whites vs. suburban whites vs. rural whites. You even see a 7 point shift toward the Democrats among white noncollege rural voters!
Even more amazing, the Catalist data show a 25 point shift toward the Democrats among rural 18-29 year olds and a 17 point shift among 30-44 year olds. Most mind-blowing of all, Democrats actually carried rural 18-29 year olds in 2018 by 8 points.
There's something very interesting going on here!
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Last week, I shared the news that we at Catalist have developed a new methodology for projecting the true shape of an electorate, almost…

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

What 2018 Tells Us About How Democrats Can Win in 2020

Several folks have already noticed that my Post op-ed on this topic is up on their site. My intent in the piece was to lay out a basic strategic approach that could succeed in 2020, based on the pattern of results we saw in 2018. How exactly to implement this approach in terms of a candidate/campaign themes is a difficult question and no doubt everyone has their ideas about that. But I wanted to make clear what that candidate and his/her themes has to accomplish.
"Think of it as a military campaign. From their coastal stronghold in the Northeast, the Democrats need to sweep into the Upper Midwest and down the Eastern Seaboard into New South states such as Georgia and Florida. And they also must push out from the Pacific coast and their emerging strength in the Southwest to threaten the other states such as Arizona and Texas that haven’t yet fallen to the Democrats. Each part of that campaign presents different challenges."
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The challenge will be implementing them with President Trump on the ballot.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Et Tu, Rural Areas?

One week on from the November election, it's become quite clear that the Democrats had an excellent election--better than it initially appeared on election night. But what of rural areas? The conventional wisdom seems to be that Democrats kicked ass in urban and suburban areas while losing ground in rural America.
Just one problem: It's not true! While Democrats certainly didn't "win" rural areas, they didn't lose ground either. In fact, they gained ground. Consider the following.
1. Yair Ghitza of Catalist has showed that Republican candidates at all levels systematically did worse in rural areas than Trump did in 2016.
2. Researchers at the Atlantic found that Democrats gained more ground (relative to 2016) in pro-Trump manufacturing counties and Obama-Trump counties than they did in majority-minority counties. In fact, Democrats flat-out carried the vote in Obama-Trump counties and were basically back to 2012 levels of support in these counties.
3. Daniel Block on the Washington Monthly site notes that:
"On the whole, Democrats performed better in rural areas during these midterms than in 2016, which helped the party win some of its most consequential victories....
Among Wisconsin counties with fewer than 55,000 residents (a larger number for a much bigger state), Evers lost with 43 percent to Walker’s 55.8 percent. But he would have lost the entire election had he performed as poorly as Clinton, who was defeated in these counties 37.8 percent to 56.5 percent. Matching Clinton’s vote share would have cost him 29,537 votes. If even five percent of these lost votes went to Walker, Evers would have been defeated. If Walker had matched Trump’s 2016 Wisconsin rural showing, he would have won reelection by 2,307 votes."
So progress was made in rural areas in 2018. Democrats should seek to continue that progress in 2020 and avoid the temptation to write these areas off because that's the other side's territory. That didn't work in 2016 and it won't work in 2020 either.
Contrary to widespread belief, support for the party did not collapse outside of suburbs and cities.