Friday, September 20, 2019

Is Warren Electable?

Well, if Trump is in bad enough shape next November, sure she is. So might any Democrat. But there are certainly reasons to wonder how well she'd fare if Trump is only in his average amount of hot water.
Right now, Biden is running a smile-inducing 12 points ahead of Trump in RCP's running average of trial heats. Warren is running a less exciting 5 points ahead of Trump in the same average.
One reason is that she shows persistent weakness among white noncollege voters. This is nothing new as Paul Starobin recently pointed out in a Times article:
"The problem is that she has a relatively weak standing in Massachusetts with non-college-educated working-class voters, and especially white workers. These voters are critical, especially in the Midwest and in states crucial to Mr. Trump’s victory like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
You might call it the Warren Paradox. Her core message as a politician — that America has become rigged in favor of the very wealthy, and the rich get richer as the rest of us get shafted — is very much aimed at the working class. What’s more, her personal narrative, of her rise from “the ragged edge of the middle class” in her native Oklahoma, as she has put it, to professional success and acclaim in the fields of education and government might seem to embody a character trait of grit that appeals to blue-collar workers....
In Massachusetts, the Warren Paradox can be glimpsed in towns like Rockland, population near 18,000, a suburb about 20 miles south of Boston, overwhelmingly white and working class. In her November 2018 Senate race against a pro-Trump Republican, Ms. Warren won 60 percent of the vote statewide but only 44 percent of the vote in Rockland. By contrast, northwest of Boston, in the upscale suburb of Lexington, where the median home value is $1.15 million, (compared with $340,000 in Rockland), Ms. Warren took 74 percent of the vote."
David Leonhardt adds in a different piece:
"In her 2012 and 2018 Senate races, Warren struggled in other blue-collar parts of Massachusetts, like the areas around Springfield and Worcester. And in most state polls asking voters to choose between Trump and potential Democratic nominees, Warren looks considerably weaker than Joe Biden.
She is tied with Trump in Wisconsin, while Biden led by nine percentage points, according to a recent Marquette University poll. In New Hampshire — which borders parts of the North Shore — Biden leads Trump by 10 points, while Warren trails by two, according to an Emerson College poll."
All that said, I do like Warren and think she'd make a very good president--perhaps the best of the lot currently running for the nomination. But to govern, you gotta win the darn election. Jonathan Chait explains some of my frustration, as well s some cautious optimism that she could turn things around:
"Warren has joined most of the field in embracing broadly unpopular stances that play well with progressive activists, like decriminalizing immigration enforcement, abolishing the death penalty, and providing health coverage to undocumented immigrants. Trump’s campaign clearly grasps that his only chance of success is to present the opposition as unacceptably radical, and the Democratic primary is giving him plenty of ammunition to make this case....
Does this mean the Democratic Party in general, or Warren in particular, is doomed? Not at all. If the economy goes into recession or slows significantly, almost any Democrat would be expected to defeat Trump. It is also possible Warren can successfully pivot from the primary to the general election.
The outlines of such a pivot can be discerned already. Her recent campaign message targeting political corruption reprises her original theme, which simultaneously indicts the malfeasance of the Trump administration, presents Warren as a good-government outsider, and moves the debate away from tax-and-spend liberalism and onto more popular, anti-corporate grounds. Her recent plan to jack up Social Security benefits — yes, it is another budget item — gives her a selling point that polls incredibly well.
One can imagine other steps Warren can take to shore up her vulnerabilities in the coming months. She could produce her own health-care plan, one that leaves the option of employer-sponsored insurance in place. She could promise not to raise middle-class taxes, and that such a promise would take priority over enacting the full panoply of her domestic agenda. And, without breaking faith with core liberal values, she could think of some conciliatory gestures toward social traditionalists of the sort that worked well for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama (and which Hillary Clinton largely dispensed with).
Here is another thing about Warren that is impossible to measure, but which ought to count nonetheless: She is a compelling orator with a sympathetic life story and a gift for explaining complex ideas in simple terms. Yet she has spent most of the last year positioning herself as if the general election will never happen. At the moment, I’d feel very nervous betting the future of American democracy on Warren’s ability to defeat Trump. But a lot can change in a year, and it’s not hard to imagine the Warren of 2020 as a potent challenger."
Well said, both the bad and the good. Let's hope she and her campaign team are thinking long and hard about how to shore up these weak points, particularly with white working class voters. Without that, all her great plans could come to naught.
About this website
She has struggled with white, working-class voters like those important to winning Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The White Working Class: Why Writing Them Off Is Political Insanity

The excellent David Wasserman had some astute comments on Twitter about the white working class and how nuts it is for Democrats to write them off. He is correct in all respects and his data is spot on!
"The bottom line: Dems don't need to win a higher % of the WWC than in '16 b/c 1) it's declining as a % of voters and 2) Dems have made robust gains among college whites.
But Dems *can't* afford to backslide much further & hope to win MI/PA/WI etc. And avoiding that isn't simple.
Not about winning the demog. It’s about Dems not getting absolutely annihilated.
Moreover, the notion that voting behavior is polarized to the point that there aren't any swing/persuadable voters left isn't based in reality.
Not only did we see above-average swings from '12 to '16, Dems wouldn't have gone +40 in '18 without converting lots of '16 R voters.
Much of the analysis I'm seeing on this site assumes there's no more room for Dems to fall w/ white non-college voters, who are simply a "lost cause."
In fact, Dems have an awful lot more room to fall w/ them, and that's especially true in many of the most critical EC states.
Dems' path to beating Trump absolutely depends on retaining the gains they made in diverse, college-educated burbs - the kinds we saw in 2018 & #NC09.
But even a slight drop among white non-college voters could negate all of it, given the demog's size & geographic distribution.
Dems' backslide w/ these voters is the main reason IA (66%) and OH (60%) have already exited stage right off the EC battleground, and why a Dem nominee who performs even worse w/ them could risk losses in ME (66%), NH (61%) or MN (56%).
Here's why the "let's win without working-class whites" mentality doesn't hold water for Dems. That demog comprises 45% of all eligible U.S. voters, but:
61% in Wisconsin
61% in New Hampshire
56% in Michigan
56% in Minnesota
56% in Pennsylvania
47% in North Carolina
Good luck."

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The Fool's Gold of Calling Trump a Racist

Certainly Trump has done and said a lot of things that could be reasonably be characterized as reflecting racist beliefs or assumptions. Therefore, many assume, it is their moral duty to call him a racist in the most direct and unqualified terms possible.
I disagree. If you don't like what Trump does and says on race--and for that matter on many other things--it is your moral duty to defeat him and get him out of office. It has nothing to do with calling him a racist, however righteous that might make you feel.
And the fact of the matter is that calling him a racist--and calling the people who support him racists--is actually counterproductive to the moral goal of ejecting him from the White House. There has been substantial research along these lines previously and now there is new research that confirms this:
"[P]olling done by an alliance of progressive groups last month studying possible Democratic responses to Trump’s immigration rhetoric...found that a response calling Trump racist decreased overall support for Democrats relative to Trump. A response saying Trump uses fear to divide by race worked substantially better. The competing messages produced no major differences among Democrats and independents, but the racism response played much worse among white, non-college-educated voters and soft partisans. The racism response was especially damaging to Democrats after voters were shown an anti-immigration video with Trumpian themes."
About this website
Research shows the term could hurt the chances of defeating him in 2020.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

What Do You Mean "We", Woke Person?

Today's woke white liberals see themselves as committed allies of nonwhite voters, seeking to advance their well-being in a white supremacist society. Given this, one would assume that the views of these white liberals on various social and economic issues would be closely aligned with those of the nonwhites they seek to support.
One would think that but one would be wrong. The views of white liberals certainly represent their own preferences and perhaps those of some activist groups and intellectuals they use as reference points. But they do not, in fact, very closely match the expressed preferences of nonwhite voters.
Nowhere is this clearer than with black voters who are simply not as woke as the white liberals who aspire to advance their cause. In the simplest terms, black voters are more conservative on many social issues and more liberal, or at least more focused, on everyday economic issues. Tom Edsall goes a good job rounding up some of the relevant research and data in his most recent Times column. Some of the key parts:
"The African-American electorate has been undergoing a quiet, long-term transformation, moving from the left toward the center on several social and cultural issues, while remaining decisively liberal, even radical, on economic issues, according to a series of studies by prominent African-American scholars.
“There has been a shift in the attitudes of black masses about the extent to which systematic discrimination and prejudice are the primary reasons blacks continue to lag behind whites,” Candis Watts Smith, a political scientist at Penn State, wrote in a paper published in the Journal of Black Studies in 2014, “Shifting From Structural to Individual Attributions of Black Disadvantage: Age, Period and Cohort Effects on Black Explanations of Racial Disparities.”....
Contemporary polling provides evidence of moderation among black Democrats compared with the views of white Democrats. The poll data suggests a reversal of traditional roles. More conservative and more centrist Democratic whites were once the tempering force within party ranks. Now, on some of the most controversial issues currently under debate, African-Americans — who make up an estimated 25 percent of Democratic primary voters — have emerged as a force for more moderate stands as white Democrats have moved sharply left....
While less committed to many of the broad social and cultural issues important to white liberals, black Democrats remain more committed than their white counterparts to progressive stands on economic issues of the type that characterized the New Deal coalition of the last century that also established the Great Society programs of the 1960s like Medicare and Medicaid."
The following data strike me as especially key and underscore how white liberals and blacks tend to have different priorities, despite the claims of white liberals that they struggling mightily against their "privilege".
"Asked to rate the importance to them of jobs and wages, 84 percent of black Democrats said both are “very important,” 20 points more than the 64 percent of white Democrats who said so....
Asked if they “must hear” from candidates about their policies on creating jobs, 39 percent of whites agreed compared with 68 percent of African-Americans. Conversely, 76 percent of white Democrats and 48 percent of black Democrats said they must hear candidates’ proposals to combat climate change."
This suggests that woke white liberals, if they truly want to help the people whose side they say they're on, should listen more to the views of actually-existing nonwhite voters and less to trendy takes on the intrinsic perfidy of the country and all white people.
About this website
Recent research shows that a crucial bloc of Democrats is at once more moderate and more radical than its counterparts.

Friday, September 13, 2019

The Key Demographic in 2020: White Noncollege Women (and How to Reach Them)

Good advice from David Axelrod on the centrality of white noncollege women to the 2020 election and how to reach them. I estimate they'll be 22-23 percent of voters in 2020. It won't take a very large shift among these voters to fatally undercut Trump's chances of re-election. And the signs of weakening support for the President among these voters is already there. But to take advantage of this, the Democrats have to play it smart.
"Mr. Trump’s serial assaults on the decency and the decorum upon which civil society depends are enraging — and meant to be. It is only natural to respond to his every provocation with righteous indignation.
My advice to the Democratic nominee next year is: Donʼt play....
Mr. Trump was elected to shake things up and challenge the political establishment. And to many of his core supporters, his incendiary dog whistles, bullhorn attacks and nonstop flouting of “political correctness” remain energizing symbols of authenticity.
But polling and focus groups reflect a growing unease among a small but potentially decisive group of voters who sided with Mr. Trump in 2016 but are increasingly turned off by the unremitting nastiness, the gratuitous squabbles and the endless chaos he sows.
Plenty of attention has been paid to the historic shift in suburban areas Mr. Trump narrowly carried in 2016 but that broke decisively with his party last fall. That revolt was led by college-educated white women, who overwhelmingly turned against Republican candidates.
But what should be of even greater concern to Mr. Trump is the potential erosion among the non-college-educated white women he is counting on as a core constituency. Those women gave Mr. Trump a 27-point margin over Hillary Clinton in 2016. Yet in a recent Fox News poll, Mr. Trump was beating former Vice President Joe Biden by just four points in that group.
If I were sitting in the Trump war room, this number, more than any other, would alarm me. He won the presidency by the slimmest of margins in three battleground states. With little place to grow, even a small erosion of support among these women could prove fatal to Mr. Trump’s chances. While they are inclined to many of his positions, the thing that is driving these voters away is Mr. Trump himself.....
Mr. Trump’s impulse is always to create a binary choice, forcing Americans to retreat to tribe. He wants to define the battle around divisive cultural issues that will hem in his supporters, and it would be seductive for Democrats to chase every tweeted rabbit down the hole. The president would welcome a pitched battle over lines of race, ideology and culture.
But while Mr. Trump’s thermonuclear politics may rally both his base and Democrats who slumbered in 2016, it is the paralyzing disorder and anxiety his bilious behavior creates that is a distressing turnoff to voters at the margins who will make the difference.
To win, the Democrats will have to turn Mr. Trump’s negative energy against him without embodying it themselves."
About this website
The Democratic nominee, whoever it turns out to be, should use the president’s contortions and carrying-on against him.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

OK, So Here's the Plan: We'll Run on the Popular Stuff!

The debate tonight didn't seem like much of a game-changer. But maybe Elizabeth Warren's Social Security proposal, rolled out on the eve of the debate, will actually turn out to be important. It's exactly the kind of idea a Democrat should be running on in the general election against Trump. Social Security: Popular! Taxing the rich: Popular! Increasing and expanding Social Security benefits: Popular! This one could provide just the contrast a Democrat wants with Trump and should be exceptionally appealing to persuadable working class voters.
Let's hope if Warren is the nominee she runs on this and not decriminalizing the border and Medicare for All (whether they want it or not). And if Warren isn't the nominee, whoever it is should take up this idea.
Jonathan Chait:
"Democrats have been racing haphazardly to the left, with Warren often in the lead. Some of their ideas, like moving everybody off employer-sponsored insurance and onto a public plan, are toxic to general-election voters. But some ideas have appeal to the left and to swing voters. This is one of them.
Of all the potential soft spots in the Republican party, Social Security is among the most underrated. George W. Bush’s failed pursuit of a privatization scheme in 2005 was a major cause of his political collapse. Conservatives, seeking to deflect blame from their own ideas onto external forces, preferred to blame his response to Hurricane Katrina for his poor polling. But Bush’s polling was dropping like a stone for months before Katrina struck. By July of that year, his plan to change the system was polling 29–62....
The trauma of the 2016 election has left many Trump critics so skeptical of political fundamentals they have failed to discern some basic political realities that allowed Trump to win in the first place. Trump was not a popular candidate, but his opponent was unpopular, too. He neutralized public distrust of his party’s economic agenda by positioning himself to the left on economics, both in substance and style, as an outsider who would threaten insiders and the rich. His failure to keep this promise is a major reason why his polling has stagnated in the low 40s...
Democrats don’t need to cheat to beat [Trump]. But they do need to stop dreaming up blue-sky notions catering to progressive activists and refocus on some ideas with gut-level appeal to persuadable working-class voters. An extra $200 a month in Social Security is just the stuff."
About this website
Democrats need to get serious about the national emergency that is the 2020 election with some actual popular ideas.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Yes Indeed, Trump Really Is Quite Vulnerable

In my previous post, I wrote about how the Democrats could absolutely, for sure blow the opportunity to beat Trump if they don't run a smart, relentless, laser-focused campaign with no unforced errors.
'The other side of this is how very vulnerable Trump is, which would make it a great pity to mess this one up. We have a raft of new polling data that testify to that vulnerability. Consider:
* In the new CNN poll, Trump has an approval rating of just 39 percent (and is now running around 41 percent in the 538 running average). His strong disapproval vastly outweighs his strong approval, much more so than for recent incumbents. Even his approval rating on the economy is dropping, from +15 (approval minus disapproval) to only +1 today.
As for his "re-elect number", those who who say he deserves re-election, it is dreadful: just 39 percent of registered voters, compared to 58 percent who say he does not deserve re-election. As Harry Enten notes:
"The percentage of voters who said Obama didn't deserve reelection on this question was usually under 50%. Even at its height, it never got above the mid-50s. For Trump it has never gotten below the high 50s.
The same holds true when you at George W. Bush's reelection ratings. They were usually below 50% at this point in the campaign. They never got above the mid 50s even at their peak.
Perhaps more troubling for the president is these generic questions seem to be matching up with what we're seeing in the ballot test against potential Democratic contenders. As I noted previously, Trump's deficit against them is higher than it's been for any president since World War II."
Note particularly Trump's performance among white noncollege voters, who he probably needs to carry be greater margins than he did in 2016 (+31 points). In the CNN poll, he is at just + 8 among these voters on the re-elect question (deserves minus not deserves).
* in the new Washington Post poll, Biden crushes Trump in a 2020 trial heat. Trump also loses to other possible Democratic candidates:
"The new poll tested Trump against five potential general election challengers, and in four of those cases, the president trails, significantly or modestly. He does worst against former vice president Joe Biden, but also runs well behind Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and slightly behind Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.). Against South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Trump is numerically behind but the gap is within the range of sampling error.....
Of all the Democrats tested against Trump, Biden currently does the best, aided by significant support from women. He is ahead of the president by 15 points, 55 percent to 40 percent, among registered voters. Among all adults, he is at 54 percent and Trump is at 38 percent."
It really would be a shame to blow this one.

Monday, September 9, 2019

David Leonhardt Throws Down the Gauntlet

And I throw it down with him. Let's hypothesize that it will not be easy to defeat Trump in 2020 (not to mention taking back the Senate). Let's also hypothesize that a second term for Trump will be a huge disaster for the country and the world, making genuine progress on most progressive goals essentially impossible.
If these hypotheses are true--and I sure as hell think they are--one might further hypothesize that Democrats would be obsessively focused on crafting the probability-maximizing strategy for defeating Trump. No unforced errors. No risky position-taking that would push the public far out of its comfort zone.
But one would be wrong about this third hypothesis. Democrats are not, in fact, focusing obsessively on the probability-maximizing strategy of defeating Trump. Oh sure, there are many strategies that could possibly win under the right circumstances, with luck and just the right reactions from the voting public. You can always make a case.
But that's different from the probability-maximizing strategy: the strategy that will make it most likely that Trump with lose if the Democrats run a reasonably competent campaign, have reasonable luck and run on ideas that can reasonably be expected to elicit positive voter reaction.
In a lot of cases, that ain't what we got. Leonhardt:
'You would think that Democrats would be approaching the 2020 campaign with a ruthless sense of purpose. But they’re not, at least not yet. They are not focusing on issues that expose Trump’s many vulnerabilities. They have instead devoted substantial time to wonky subjects that excite some progressive activists — and alienate most American voters....
Over the past two decades, incomes for most Americans have barely grown. Median wealth has declined. Americans are frustrated, and a majority supports a populist agenda: higher taxes on corporations and the rich, expanded government health care and financial aid, a higher minimum wage, even a Green New Deal.
The Democrats are on solid ground, substantively and politically, by pushing all of these issues. They should be casting Trump as a plutocrat in populist’s clothes, who has used the presidency to enrich himself and other wealthy insiders at the expense of hard-working middle-class families. It’s a caricature that has the benefit of truth....
The mistake that Democratic candidates have made is thinking that just because they should activate their progressive id on some issues, they should do so on all issues.
There are two main examples, both of which have received a lot of airtime during the presidential debates. The first is the idea of decriminalizing border crossings, so that the illegal entry into this country would be only a civil violation. Most top Democratic candidates — Cory Booker, Julián Castro, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — support the idea. If illegal entry weren’t a crime, they say, Trump couldn’t lock people in cages.
Supporters of the idea make intricate, technocratic arguments about how decriminalization won’t make the border less secure. But most voters tune out. They don’t buy the long explanations for why the policy doesn’t mean what it certainly seems to mean: less border enforcement. In an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll, 67 percent of registered voters called decriminalization “a bad idea.”
The second example is a proposal to eliminate private health insurance and require people to have Medicare. Sanders and Warren back it. Again, supporters offer complex arguments about why Americans will love this idea (especially if it’s phrased in just the right way) — and, again, most Americans say no thanks. They’re dealing with enough economic anxiety, without having their health insurance taken away and replaced by something uncertain.
The shame is that both health care and immigration should be Democratic advantages. Most voters recoil at Trump’s racist immigrant-bashing, and most want the option to join Medicare. And if Democrats want to reverse Trump’s policies, they need to beat him, not offer policies, like decriminalization, that would hypothetically constrain him."
Got it? We gotta beat Trump and any strategy/policy proposal has to be evaluated in that light. Will it reduce or increase the probability that Trump will be defeated? Activists that can't plausibly make the case that their proposals will increase that probability should stop pushing them and Democratic candidates should have the courage to start ignoring them.
Nothing else will do. This election is too important for self-indulgent progressive grandstanding.
About this website
The 2020 election is too important.