Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Keep Doing Popular Stuff!

Two Democratic consultants, Jessica Tarlov and Antjuan Seawright, get a lot of things right in a piece on The Hill site. This ain't rocket science people!
"First and foremost, Democrats must keep doing popular things. Joe Biden was the only candidate in the Democratic field, and certainly in the general election, who understood that Twitter isn’t real life. He has grounded his agenda in opinion polling that shows tremendous support for the policies he’s putting forward. That’s a pretty logical approach, but one that, for some reason, many pundits can’t wrap their heads around.
From the high approval for the American Rescue Plan to his handling of the coronavirus to rejoining the Paris Agreement and World Health Organization to restarting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Biden hasn’t taken an action unpopular with the majority of Americans since his inauguration. That’s also how he has kept his approval rating above 50 percent.
Democrats have to keep it up. Eschew policies that are polarizing and appeal only to the fringes. Extinguish any discussion of “defund the police,” which is supported by only 18 percent of Americans. Stick to popular gun reform policies such as universal background checks and closing the so-called Charleston loophole. Common sense keeps Democrats in charge and independents happy with the direction in which the country is going.
To that end, new polling from Morning Consult shows that 65 percent of registered voters support funding Biden’s infrastructure plan by raising taxes on corporations. That includes 42 percent of Republican voters. This will be another feather in Biden’s cap and will position Democrats well for state and national elections over the next two years.....
Democrats must seize the opportunity to expand voting opportunities and push back against Republican efforts. H.R. 1, the For the People Act, must be a top legislative priority, but as we look to expand our tent we must also be cautious in our rhetoric. There are certainly egregious pushes to limit access to the ballot box, but there are also many moderates who would support Democrats but don’t want to be told that they’re racist for thinking that voters should present a valid photo I.D. when voting, for example. We must be tempered where possible and stick to the facts. They more than support our point of view.
Lastly — and we don’t want to belabor this point too much — there is a growing issue with so-called “cancel culture.” A recent Harvard CAPS-Harris poll shows that 64 percent of Americans believe there is “a growing cancel culture” that threatens their freedom. In contrast, 36 percent said they did not view it as a threat to their freedom.
If Republicans had their way, future elections would be fought over faux cancelations of Dr. Seuss and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). But that doesn’t mean this isn’t an issue that resonates with the broader electorate, wherein our words and past actions are being scrutinized and held to high standards with little room for forgiveness.
Whether we like it or not, this practice can be a big turnoff regarding the Democratic Party, especially to independents who aren’t comfortable with partisan [orthodoxy] to begin with. Big issues such as the economy or the coronavirus will always matter more, but we should not alienate voters for no good reason."

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Unions for Professionals But Not the Working Class?

Harold Meyerson had the best postmortem I've seen on the failed union drive at the Bessemer, AL Amazon warehouse. There's a lot in his article but I was particularly struck by this trenchant observation:
"Ironically, the failure at Bessemer comes at a time when unions are more popular than they’ve been in several decades. In each of the most recent Gallup and Pew polls, unions’ approval ratings stood at 65 percent. And in workplaces where employees know they can’t easily be replaced, unions have been having a pretty fair run over the past several years. Media outlets new and old (including the historically anti-union Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune) have seen their workers unionize, as have the grad student teaching and research assistants on a range of campuses, and the employees of a host of nonprofit organizations. Throw teachers and nurses (who continue to unionize) into the mix, and the membership of unions is tilting more and more toward professionals, while working-class Americans, whose forebears began trade unionism and whose current members desperately need them, constitute a steadily smaller share of the unionized workforce."
Sad! As Meyeron notes, this situation is unlikely change without big shifts in public policy including, but not limited to, labor law.

Tough on Bad Police, Tough on Criminals

It shouldn't be that hard for progressives to put these two things together. But it is. John Halpin explains the problem at The Liberal Patriot:
"Most political theory throughout history centers on the state’s role in promoting and ensuring social order and eliminating chaos and violence for people. The Four Freedoms itself served as the basis for future international human rights frameworks, including Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which clearly states, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person," (emphasis added).
A person’s guaranteed liberties and freedoms don’t amount to much if they constantly step outside their door—or send their kids out to play—full of fear that they or their family members may be shot or attacked by someone.
Yet sadly, this is the case in far too many places in America today, such as in my hometown of Baltimore where 10 people were killed just last week, and 14 severely injured, including a 14-year old girl shot in the leg in broad daylight. Baltimore has 85 homicides in just the first few months of this year, many of which will never lead to prosecutions or jail-time for anyone. None of these deaths came at the hands of the police....
Every bad cop who violates his or her duties and responsibilities should be held fully accountable by law. But the amount of time and media attention that goes into police reform far exceeds the amount of effort dedicated to concrete actions by leaders to produce safe and secure neighborhoods for all people at a time of rising murder rates and violence in our cities. Unfortunately, a lot of police reform activism is just political theater by elected officials that overlooks the source of most threats to human life—fellow family members, violent neighbors, or organized gangs of criminals killing people with impunity.
Bad cops who use deadly force or unwarranted violence on innocent people erode community trust and violate people’s rights. So do gun-wielding criminals who go unpunished after shooting someone or robbing an old person or carrying out carjackings that result in good people dying. Effective political leaders should be able to put in place policies to deal with both problems. Broadcasting that you are no longer going after certain classes of criminals certainly doesn’t help, as Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby recently pronounced. And neither does tearing down police budgets when Americans across party and racial lines say they would feel safer with more police patrols in their neighborhoods, not less safe.
Police reform is only one part of the public safety equation. Tackling the perpetrators and sources of violent crime is equally, if not more important, for the personal freedoms of all Americans."
Read the whole article at The Liberal Patriot!

Monday, April 12, 2021

Left Activist Groups Are Paper Tigers

The formula for political success is simple. Do popular things and don't do, and ideally dissociate yourself from, unpopular things. The Democrats have been doing well at the first but they are still having trouble with the second.
Why is this? One reason is fear. Democratic politicians fear the wrath of activist groups if they dissociate themselves too directly from causes dear to the hearts of activist groups even if these causes are widely unpopular with actual voters. The reasoning is presumably that these activist groups represent important constituencies whose views have to be attended to lest they turn against the Democrats or become demoralized and fail to turn out.
But there is a simple solution to this problem that would give the Democrats a lot more freedom to adopt optimal political positions. Ignore the activist groups--or at least most of them. The fact of the matter is that these groups are typically quite unrepresentative of the constituencies they purport to represent. Therefore the threat that these groups will denounce politicians who fail to accord their unpopular policy ideas due respect is empty and can safely be discarded.
Matt Yglesias points out a good example of this in the context of the New York mayoral race, where Andrew Yang is doing quite well despite being the target of a number of activist groups.
"Yang versus the activists....reveals — and not for the first time — that progressive identity-oriented activist organizations often have very little connection to the groups they purport to represent. You can listen to these groups if you want to. But if your purpose in listening to them is to understand how certain communities are thinking about specific issues, you’re barking up the wrong tree....
Of course, groups that are not representative could nonetheless be influential in delivering the votes of the constituencies that they claim to represent.
But something we keep seeing is that this is not the case. For a good case study here, I strongly recommend Astead Herndon’s February 2020 article “Elizabeth Warren Has Won Black Activists. She’s Losing the Black Vote.”
There’s no politician in America who’s more closely aligned with what Skocpol calls “the non-profit industrial complex” than Warren. This cluster of progressive groups is not exactly “the establishment” (in the sense of lobbyists, revolving door types, etc.), but like Warren herself, they were sufficiently embedded enough in establishment politics that they didn’t want to back a longshot rogue operation like Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign. Then the Warren 2020 campaign was supposed to be the moment of triumph for this bridging sector of Democratic politics — displacing the establishment with a counter-establishment of academics, think-tankers, and activists.
And it worked very well at winning Warren the loyalty of (mostly white) college-educated liberals. But it also worked well at securing Warren a kind of rainbow coalition of college-educated liberal activists of many ethnicities. It’s just that Warren-endorsing groups like Black Womxn For turn out to neither reflect the views of Black women nor be influential in shaping the views of Black women. Most African American voters turned out to be moderate, electability-minded Biden supporters, and those who were not turned out to be mostly younger, anti-establishment Bernie supporters.
Julián Castro, after a successful career in San Antonio politics and the Obama cabinet as a fairly mainstream Democrat, decided for some reason to run a very Warren-esque presidential campaign, and for his trouble ended up flopping massively with Hispanic voters. This is a younger group than African Americans, so it was a Sanders demographic in the primary, but then (famously) a decent slice of conservative-minded Latinos defected to Trump in 2020.
Andrew Yang, similarly, has become the frontrunner in the New York City mayoral election, not despite criticism from activist groups, but precisely because he has adopted normal popular opinions like “groups suffering from rising crime need more police protection.”.....
[W]hat’s striking about Yang is how effortlessly the combination of “he’s well-known” and “he avoids toxically unpopular left-wing ideas” has let him leapfrog past people like Scott Stringer and Maya Wiley who’ve spent years (if not decades) trying to climb the greasy pole of progressive niche politics.
And the thing about this is we are talking about a primary election in New York City, not a statewide race in Pennsylvania or North Carolina or Florida. If this style of politics doesn’t have purchase there, where does it have purchase?
The answer, I think, is it serves as a cudgel that works internally in fairly elite progressive spaces.
One reason is that white progressives now operate in the context of a set of deference norms that lead them to seek out questionably representative activist groups as powerful bludgeons. Instead of one white progressive agreeing to disagree with another white progressive, the winning move is to find some activist entity that agrees with you and use that to say that the other person has an obligation to shut up. Here’s what Indivisible’s national leaders told their local members last fall about why they had to stick with the slogan “defund the police” rather than adopting some more palatable message:
"Why say “defund” instead of [insert option here]? We hear you. During such a contentious time in our history, it might seem like we should be prioritizing strategic language at every turn. The thing is, allyship is about listening to the people who are most profoundly affected and taking their position seriously. Defunding the police comes from Black and brown grassroots organizations, like Movement for Black Lives’s (M4BL), who are rightfully at the forefront of this fight for justice. The #DefundHate Coalition, spearheaded by immigration rights organizations at United We Dream and Detention Watch Network, relates their own mission to cutting funding for ICE and CBP to defunding the police in solidarity with Black lives. As a white-led organization, it is not Indivisible’s place to make suggestions about how Black and brown activists are expressing their demands. We want to participate in the conversation, but it’s not our place to reframe it to be more palatable to the masses to people of color’s lived experiences."...
[T]here is an important similarity between Yang and Trump, namely that Trump ran in 2016 by blowing off elite conservative attachment to free trade and “entitlement reform” to deliver a brand of politics that was better at catering to the base and also won over some swing voters. The key insight they share is that even in today’s polarized world, normal people are more polarized on affect toward the other party than they are on specific policy issues. So there’s an easy opportunity for “outsider” figures who are well-known to sort of waltz in, brush off the activists, and appeal to normal people.
What’s interesting to me is that so far, you don’t see very many career politicians copying that approach. At a certain level of politics that makes sense. To get from local office to statewide office, being well-liked by elite co-partisans is very, very helpful. But I think Castro would have done much better in 2016 if he’d run as “like Joe Biden, a former member of the Obama administration, but young and energetic and Hispanic.” And I think it’s odd that Kamala Harris doesn’t try harder to do some populist stuff around immigrant patriotism or a little light mockery of the most laughable Bay Area progressives. Once you reach a certain level in the game, the activists don’t have any more power over you, and in fact fighting with them can be a good way to elevate your profile and emphasize your popular ideas."
Promote popular ideas, dissociate yourself from unpopular ones. Once you remember most activist groups are paper tigers, this all becomes much easier to do.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

"Defund the Police" Was a Terrible Idea and Worse Slogan, Part a Zillion

 From a new Vox/Data for Progress poll:

May be an image of text that says '[5] Do you think regular police patrols Response Topline Democrat Less safe your neighborhood would make you feel less safe or more safe? Independent/Third Party 14 More safe 21 Repub- lican Under 45 77 45+ Don't know 14 71 Black African American 7 9 28 76 6 Weighted N 8 Hispanic or Latino/a 85 White 63 1209 26 85 10 456 8 22 9 10 65 9 334 418 70 81 9 441 768 8 9 138 103 893'

David Brooks, Liberal Patriot

Say what you will about David Brooks, he writes some good columns sometimes. This is one of the good ones, where he channels his inner Liberal Patriot. I find little to disagree with here.
"The early days of the Biden administration are nothing if not a daring leap....Some people say this is like the New Deal. I’d say this is an updated, monster-size version of “the American System,” the 19th-century education and infrastructure investments inspired by Alexander Hamilton, championed by Henry Clay and then advanced by the early Republicans, like Abraham Lincoln. That was an unabashedly nationalist project, made by a youthful country, using an energetic government to secure two great goals: economic dynamism and national unity.
Bidenomics is a massive bid to promote economic dynamism. It’s not only the R&D spending and the green energy stuff; it’s also the massive investment in kids and human capital.
If, as expected, Biden’s American Family Plan includes universal pre-K education and free community college, that would mean four more years of free schooling for millions of young Americans. As Rahm Emanuel said to me, when was the last time we achieved something as big as that?
It’s also a unifying agenda. For the past several decades the economy has funneled money to highly educated people who live in large metro areas. That has created a ruinous class rift that divides the country and fuels polarization. The Biden measures would funnel money to the roughly two-thirds of Americans without a bachelor’s degree — who work on road crews, in manufacturing plants, who care for the elderly and are disproportionately unemployed."
That's an excellent way to look at Bidenomics. Good for Brooks to get this and say this. Also, the article I wrote with Peter Juul for American Affairs has some similar themes and might be worth a look if you are intrigued by Brooks' column.

Friday, April 9, 2021

How Moderate Democrats Can Take Advantage of a Republican Coalition in Crisis

Andy Levison at The Democratic Strategist takes a look at the latest Democracy Corps memo on "What Will Trump Loyalists’ Sensed Powerlessness Mean For Politics?"and considers how moderate Democrats can leverage the situation to improve Democratic prospects. Important stuff. As I have frequently noted, the ostentatiously progressive Democrats get the ink but the Democrats' near-term fate depends much more on how moderate Democrats fare in coming elections.
"While it is almost impossible for many Democrats to seriously imagine that any white Americans could be genuinely afraid of this result, there is no question that it is felt by many white Republicans with complete sincerity. While Democrats envision a progressive future America as being an exciting, culturally and ethnically diverse, multiracial country in which there is general tolerance for diversity, white working class and small town people imagine an elitist society in which they have no place. To understand how this vision can seem entirely plausible, one has only to consider how rarely small town life or manual labor are portrayed positively in TV commercials and other media as part of the golden future that lies ahead. In slick advertisements and magazine spreads “the future” always looks like a world of gleaming office towers, bright young people in bustling urban centers and “country” as a place that people drive to in late model SUVs in order to go rock climbing or mountain biking.
The political implication of this is that moderate Democrats in Red State districts must very sincerely reassure Republicans that they genuinely value and respect the America of small towns, manual labor and the cultural traditions of that world and do not think it all an obsolete relic that should disappear. Moderate Democrats must make clear that the Democratic vision is for mutual tolerance and respect for different kinds of communities and not the ascendency of one group or community over another.
A related fact that emerges from the research is that many Republicans are seriously and deeply disturbed by what seems to them a Democratic indifference and even tolerance for social chaos. This extends across a wide range of social problems – from crime to urban decay to homeless vagabonds, illegal immigrants and failing schools. For Republicans, the common thread in all these problems is a Democratic failure to insist that rules should be followed and law and order firmly upheld.
The most powerful issue in 2020 was the specter of urban riots whose importance the GOP vastly exaggerated until many Republicans were sincerely convinced that it was totally out of control….Democrats must draw a clear line regarding what they view as genuinely unacceptable violations of social order. Among progressives there is tendency to resist endorsing slogans like “law and order” because they can sound like coded appeals to racial prejudice. But carried to an extreme this is profoundly counterproductive. Democratic voters do not actually support rioting of the type in which the Antifa protesters engaged in last year or passively accept street crime and other urban lawlessness. Democrats can be tough on riots and crime and actually win support from African-Americans and Latinos who drifted notably toward the Republicans in significant measure because in 2020 they also fear and reject chaos as much as whites….
Moderate Democrats will also have the opportunity to make inroads into the 30% who are somewhat or strongly opposed to him.
The Democracy Corps report says the following about this group: About 30 percent of Republicans are [either] non-Trump conservatives [or] the ideologically and religiously moderate —with the latter forming half of this bloc that vocally opposes Trump. …they are now much clearer where they differ with Trump and much more willing to express it, even in a room full of Trump loyalists. Trump’s CPAC speech — “that’s what I hate” says one. They called out the “nut jobs” and conspiracy theorists. They don’t understand their fellow Republican’s opposition to masks and health measures. They don’t think the 2nd Amendment is sacred, oppose the display of weapons in Michigan, and want to regulate guns. When others said they appreciated what the Proud Boys did, they called them out as “not patriots.” They seemed open to a much more expansive role for government.
This is encouraging but it should not lead to misperceiving them as fully in agreement with moderates or liberals:
They do share with other Republicans an aversion to BLM and cancel culture; they too are looking for more law and order and seem uncomfortable with whites being on the defensive. They agreed that the elite media ignored the violence in the cities.
What this clearly indicates is that the same tactics that can reassure or partially neutralize the opposition of the Trump loyalists can also present an attractive alternative for these voters….
[M]oderate Democrats must recognize that they have to pre-empt the inevitable Republican distortions of their views by very clearly drawing certain “lines in the sand” about their firm opposition to rioting, crime, and allowing demands for “political correctness” to essentially require that average Americans completely adopt the language and culture of the university or face censure, contempt and condemnation.
A position of this kind will not only resonate with the 30% of non-Trumpist Republicans but will also “lower the temperature” of the Trumpist Republicans themselves and convince them that the elections of 2022 and 2024 are not apocalyptic battles against evil in which the future itself is literally at stake. To the extent that this can be achieved, it will reduce the turnout of low frequency GOP voters and enhance the likelihood of Democratic victories."
Read all of Levison's analysis and the original DCorps memo at the links below.
THEDEMOCRATICSTRATEGIST.ORG
thedemocraticstrategist.org