Quote of the week from Ruy Teixeira:
"It's almost like political malpractice
not to push the minimum wage at this time."
The Daily Strategist
The following article by TPM editor and publisher Josh Marshall, is cross-posted from Talking Points Memo:
Very interesting discussion here at The Hive of what TPM Readers think of the group 'Third Way' (sub req). I think I'll jump in myself. But just speaking for myself, it's not so much that I disagree with most of the group's positions (though I do) as I see them as sort of irrelevant to most current policy discussions.
Obviously, calling a group 'irrelevant' can simply be the harshest sort of swipe. And in a sense it is. But I mean it more specifically. During the 1980s and 1990s, the Democratic Leadership Council (which, not coincidentally, went out of business two years ago), definitely had a constituency in right-leaning Democrats from the South and Midwest. It had a policy-political constituency in the widespread belief that the national Democratic party had discredited with the public on issues like national security, welfare, crime, etc.
There's no point in rehearsing the discussion of whether that was accurate or not: it was the baseline question around which a lot of campaigns and policy debates were argued during that period. The Democrats did lose 5 out of 6 consecutive national elections (1968-1988). And its one-time Southern base appeared to be (and was) in permanent decline.
It is fascinating to remember that one of the high profile 'victims' of the 1994 Republican landslide was David McCurdy, then a member of the House trying to make his jump to the Senate and a man very much with national political ambitions. And he was from Oklahoma. It's hard to imagine any Democrat trying to build a national political career from Oklahoma today.
Things look very different now. Republicans have won the popular vote only once since 1992 and a fairly progressive Democratic President was just reelected during a period of slow growth and high unemployment. It's just hard to make any credible argument that the Democratic party, either objectively or subjectively, has drifted outside the mainstream of American political life. Nor is it easy to argue that both parties are captive to their extremes and a 'third way' is necessary. Certainly, it's hard to make that case to Democrats, whereas there was a decent constituency of Democrats who very much did believe that twenty and thirty years ago.
The key policy question facing Democrats today is whether there is any credible or viable policy prescription to arrest the trend toward a winner take all society in which the top 10% or 15% do better and better and the rest stagnate or lose ground. In other words, the question of the day is inequality and whether we can act collectively to do anything about it. In that context, cutting taxes for high-income earners and retrenching social insurance programs like Social Security and Medicare is a pretty tough sell.
Back during the time he was in the House and angling for promotion to the Senate, Harold Ford used to say, "I didn't leave my party; my party left me." Of course, that's an old line told by countless Democrats in the post-60s era. But it perfectly captured Ford's ridiculousness in the post-Clinton era since for most people who used to say that, the time when the Democratic party 'left them' was in the 60s or early 70s. That is to say, around the time Ford was born.
That captures a lot of what the 'Third Way' is about: a sort of fossilized throwback to a period in the late 20th century when there was a market for groups trying to pull the Democrats 'back to the center and away from the ideological extreme' in an era when Democrats are the fairly non-ideological party and have a pretty decent record of winning elections in which most people vote.
In his latest New York Times op-ed, Thomas B. Edsall addresses a weighty question at the intersection of policy and conscience, which is likely to be repeatedly raised throughout 2014, "Does Rising Inequality Make Us Hardhearted?" Edsall explains:
...A 2008 study of public attitudes during periods of mounting inequality found that "when inequality in America rises, the public responds with increased conservative sentiment." This conservative shift applies to all income groups, including the poor, according to the political scientists Nathan Kelly of the University of Tennessee and Peter Enns of Cornell. "Rather than generating opinion shifts that would make redistributive policies more likely," Kelly and Enns write, "increased economic inequality produces a conservative response in public sentiment."
The Kelly-Enns study examines poll data and inequality trends between 1952 and 2006. In an email Enns wrote earlier this week, he added that more recent data shows a continuation of the trend: "between 2006 and 2011 (when the most recent data are available) inequality has mostly continued to increase and the public has shifted in a more conservative direction -- especially since 2008. This relationship is consistent with our previous findings."
A key tool Kelly and Enns use for their work is a statistical analysis of the policy mood of the country developed by James Stimson of the University of North Carolina...From 1992 to 2012, according to Stimson's analysis, overall support for liberal, pro-government initiatives has declined. These results suggest that President Obama's plan to dedicate the remainder of his term to reducing inequality, to which he devoted a major speech last week, will face significant political opposition inside and outside of Congress.
Edsall adds that a 2011 Pew Research Center survey "found that among all voters capitalism (a rough proxy for deregulated markets) is viewed favorably by a 50-40 margin and socialism (a rough proxy for interventionist government) negatively by 60-31." Edsall notes the exception of African and Latino American voters, who feel otherwise. Other polls have indicated surprisingly small opposition to an expanded role for government and even "socialistic" policies.
On the question of "whether a voter believes that people are poor because of their own bad choices or thinks that poverty is the result of what pollsters call "circumstances," Edsall adds:
A Pew survey, conducted in 2012, produced results that demonstrated the nation's ambivalence on this question. The more voters blame poverty on a lack of effort by the poor themselves, the more inclined they are to say that there are legions of "undeserving" poor for whom taxpayer-funded government programs are not warranted. The more a respondent blames poverty on external circumstances, the more likely he or she is to support government action to remedy those circumstances.
Overall, according to Pew, 46 percent of the public does not fault the poor, agreeing that their plight is the outcome of unfavorable circumstances, while 38 percent are more judgmental, declaring that poverty stems from a lack of individual effort.
This relatively modest 8-point difference among all voters masks very large partisan -- and significant racial and ethnic -- divisions. A decisive majority of Republicans (see Figure 3), 57-27, say that people are poor because of a lack of effort, while an even larger majority of Democrats, 61-24, say "circumstances" are the cause of poverty. Whites are split, 41-41, while blacks back circumstances 62-28, as do Hispanics, 59-27.
Edsall also notes that "Voters are notoriously conflicted in their ideological outlook -- what Stimson, writing with Christopher Ellis of Bucknell, described in a 2009 paper on belief systems as "the contradiction in American ideologies, a contradiction often seen in joint preferences for both conservative symbols and liberal policy action." It's as if many voters are more comfortable calling themselves conservatives, even though they support progressive policies when offered the choice.
Citing Gallup data indicating that few voters are comfortable identifying themselves as "economic liberals," Edsall wonders if "Obama risks activating voters' "theoretical" conservatism, as opposed to a strategy that stresses specifics in non-ideological terms, a kind of practical liberalism: raising the minimum wage, raising tax rates on unearned income, job training, early education.
Readers won't have much trouble finding other polls which indicate that substantial majorities support various populist economic proposals, regardless of how respondents describe their individual political beliefs. For now, at least, Edsall's analysis suggests Dems should give as much thought to how they describe their economic ideology as they do to the policies they advocate.
The following article, by Democratic strategist Mike Lux, author of "The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be," is cross-posted from HuffPo:
There has been a long-term intra-Democratic party battle between progressive populists and the more Wall Street-oriented wing of the party for 3 decades now, one that (full disclosure) I will admit to having been a happy warrior in on the side of the progressives for that entire time. This week has been a big moment in that battle, as the Third Way amusingly picked Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal as the place to launch an attack on progressives generally but most particularly against Elizabeth Warren. Jonathan Martin did a nice job of summarizing the back and forth in this article, where I am quoted a couple of times on why progressives would choose to defend Warren so strongly, which great leaders like PCCC and Markos Moulitsas at Dailykos did so well.
However this isn't really mainly a battle between progressives and "centrists" for the soul of the Democratic party, although there is certainly an element of that, and it is certainly understandable for reporters to talk about it in those traditional political battle terms. But what this is more fundamentally about is a battle between the biggest special interest corporations in the world, who tend to have overwhelming sway over everything in Washington, and those of us who want to confront and rein in their power. Those interests know they control the Republicans, because Republicans answer to money first and foremost. But Democrats have DNA and ancient roots from ancestors like Tom Paine, Tom Jefferson, Andy Jackson, William Jennings Bryan, FDR, Harry Truman, and the Kennedys -- people who distrusted the big financial firms based in New York, distrusted big corporate trusts in general -- and that DNA is a continuing problem for these Wall Street conglomerates.
The think tanks and political committees they fund on the Democratic side -- in the Clinton era their lead group was the DLC, now it's Third Way -- are asked by the big money guys to come to their defense when the populists start to rise up and upset their apple cart, and they do. Yes, this is undeniably a battle between 2 different wings of the Democratic party, the people wing and the money wing. But it is even more centrally a fight between Wall Street and big business on the one hand, and the politicians who might threaten them like Elizabeth Warren.
I actually feel kind of badly on one level for the leaders of these kinds of DC Centrist groups. Al From and Bruce Reed at the DLC, and Jon Cowan at Third Way, are smart policy wonks who are actually very thoughtful and engaging in the kind of policy discussions they enjoy having, and both groups have come up with some good policy ideas and analysis -- the AmeriCorps idea, the Reinventing Government initiative, and the 100,000 cops on the street piece of the 1994 crime bill were all Third Way proposals, and all good ideas. But what happens to these kinds of groups is that because DC centrism has no broad appeal to regular folks who make the activist and small contributor base of the Democratic party (for some reason, it's hard to raise money through email appeals that call for cutting your grandma's Social Security benefits), these kinds of groups have to rely on corporate special interest contributions.
And as politicians who take a lot of money from them know, these special interests expect you to come through for them when they come calling for a favor. And boy do they hate the idea of so many people being excited about Elizabeth Warren's common sense populism, so they really needed their friends at Third Way to try and take her down a couple of notches (and throwing in a shot across the bow at Wall Street's new mayor was an important political message too.) Just like during last year's campaign, when Wall Street was desperate to defeat Warren, so they got Third Way to issue a scathing statement against her that the Chamber of Commerce and other Republican hit groups immediately used against her, Wall Street needed Third Way to come through, and they did.
Continue reading "Lux: Centrists Vs. Progressives Not the Real War" »
The following article by Democratic strategist Robert Creamer, author of "Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win," is cross-posted from HuffPo:
For many years the American Right -- and many of the most powerful elements of corporate and Wall Street elite -- have conducted a war on public employees.
Their campaign has taken many forms. They have tried to slash the number of public sector jobs, cut the pay and benefits of public sector workers, and do away with public employee rights to collective bargaining. They have discredited the value of the work performed by public employees -- like teachers, police and firefighters -- going so far as to argue that "real jobs" are created only by the private sector.
Last week a conservative court ruled that by going through bankruptcy the city of Detroit could rid itself of its obligation under the state constitution to make good on its pension commitments to its retirees.
It should surprise no one that the Republican Chairman of the U.S. House Budget Committee, Paul Ryan, is demanding that a budget deal with the Democrats include a 350 percent increase in pension contribution by all civilian federal employees. That would effectively mean a pay cut of about 2 percent for every federal worker. And that cut would come after a three-year pay freeze and multiple furloughs caused by the Republican "sequester."
Unbelievably, in Illinois the right wing Chicago Tribune and the state's corporate elite snookered the Democratic-controlled legislature into passing changes in that state's pension laws that slashed the pensions of its public employees. The changes affected all state employees and many of Illinois' teachers. All of them had faithfully made their required contributions to the state's pension funds for years, even though the legislature regularly failed to make its required payments so it could avoid raising taxes on the state's wealthiest citizens.
Illinois cut teacher pensions, even though many do not participate in the Social Security system and the state pension is their only source of retirement income.
All of these attacks on public employees -- and cuts in public sector expenditures in general -- are premised on two myths that are simply untrue.
Myth number one. The Right claims we live in a period of scarcity that requires extreme public sector austerity. They claim "we just can't afford" to pay people like teachers the pensions that we had agreed to in the past, because "America is broke."
This, of course, is simply wrong. In spite of the hardships brought on by the Great Recession that resulted from the reckless speculation of Wall Street banks -- and even though George Bush thrust our country into an unnecessary war that cost our economy a trillion plus dollars -- America is wealthier today than ever before in its history.
Per capita income in America is at an all-time high because productivity per person has gone up 80 percent since 1979.
Of course the Right is able to make the case that "we can't afford" to pay our teachers as much as we once did, because everyday Americans feel like they have been losing ground - which of course they have. That's because virtually every dime of that increase in our per capita national income went to the top 1 percent.
The solution to this problem is, of course, to change the rules of the game that have been rigged over the last three decades to bring about this result. By cutting the incomes, pensions and collective bargaining rights of middle class public employees rather than raising taxes on the wealthy, we make the problem worse.
But from the standpoint of the corporate Wall Street elite, that is precisely the idea. They want to continue to siphon off more and more of America's bounty. And they want to shrink the public sector, because they don't want to pay taxes at rates like they did back in the '40s, '50s and '60s when the American middle class was born and the portion of our national income going to the top 1 percent actually dropped.
That gets us to myth number two.
Continue reading "Creamer: Why Dems Must Resist 'Right Wing War on Public Employees'" »
Just to set the record straight, not all of those Republicans now saying nice things about Mandela supported his cause when it counted, as Jordan Michael Smith reports in his New Republic post, "All the Terrible Things Republicans Used to Say About Nelson Mandela: Reaganites called him a terrorist and a phony." Smith points out that Reagan put Mandela on the "terrorist" list and Cheney also called Mandela a terrorist, while Norquist supported the apartheid government.
Now that the Obamacare website is functioning well, Republicans are shifting their attack meme to highlight cases in which individual policy-holders are paying more to get less under the ACA, report Bloomberg's Mike Dorning, Derek Wallbank and Alex Wayne.
But Bloomberg's John McCormick explains why "Angry Self-Insured Voters Dim Democratic House Takeover Strategy." McCormick notes "... House Democrats represent more than a third of the districts with above-average proportions of residents who get health insurance through individual policies, Census Bureau data compiled by Bloomberg shows." The article goes on to note cases in which some of these policy-holder end up paying more and getting less, but it's unclear what percentage of self-insured are having this experience.
From Ari Berman's The Nation post (via Moyers & Company) "Ohio GOP Resurrects Voter Suppression Efforts": "...Ohio Republicans are once again resurrecting efforts to make it harder to vote. Last month, the GOP-controlled Ohio Senate, on a party-line vote, voted to cut early voting by a week, eliminating the "Golden Week" when Ohioans can register and vote on the same day during the early voting period (Senate Bill 238). The legislation was introduced and passed in one week, with almost no time for substantive debate. The Senate also passed a bill preventing the secretary of state or individual counties from mailing absentee ballots to all eligible voters unless the legislature provides the money, which they are unlikely to do (Senate Bill 205)...These restrictions -- and additional measures being considered by the legislature -- have the potential to impact millions of voters in the Buckeye State: 600,000 Ohioans voted early in 2012, more than 10 percent of the state's electorate and 1.25 million voted by mail, 22 percent of the electorate."
The first fruits of filibuster reform will soon ripen, as Timothy M. Phelps reports in his L.A. Times article "Filibuster rule's end should help Obama reshape a key court." As Phelps explains "On Monday, the U.S. Senate is scheduled to cast a historic vote to confirm Patricia Millett, an experienced Supreme Court advocate and taekwondo black belt, as a judge on the second-most powerful court in the land, tipping that court's balance of power to Democrats for the first time in nearly three decades."
Beth Reinhard asks a good question at the National Journal: "Can Democrats Make 2014 About the Minimum Wage?" She notes "...Democrats see the opening that Garcia and other low-income, typically Republican voters appear to be offering on the issue. A Gallup poll last month pegged support for raising the minimum wage at 76 percent and found majority support across the board, including Republicans (58 percent), whites (72 percent) and southerners (80 percent)..."It's almost like political malpractice not to push the minimum wage at this time," said Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank that hosted Obama's speech on income inequality."
DCCC head Rep. Steve Israel marshals a shrewd argument in favor of the Undetectable Firearms Act, which is being opposed by the NRA and Republicans: "I can't understand why anybody would want to make it easier and more convenient for bad guys and criminals to smuggle plastic guns onto airplanes...To me, this is the consummate example of common sense."
Here's a disturbing Reuters report that "Democrats wouldn't reject U.S. budget deal over jobless aid: senator" by Caren Bohan and Aruna Viswanatha.
At The Nation Reed Richardson has a brutal critique of Third Way centrism in the wake of their latest round of liberal-bashing: "So if Third Way really doesn't offer much besides run-of-the-mill Republican-lite boilerplate,why does it merit any media oxygen in the first place? The question, essentially, answers itself--Third Way's corporate-heavy, economic austerity agenda dovetails with the likes of the Beltway media's "pain caucus." That an ineffectual advocacy outfit like Third Way can still command a healthy pick of establishment op-ed perches is no coincidence. In its 2012 tracking study of think-tank citations, media watchdog FAIR found centrist and conservative groups overwhelmingly dominated. Only two center-left--and no progressive groups--cracked the top 10. (And true to its word, the academically lightweight Third Way didn't even make the list.)"
It appears that some of the chaps at The Third Way have overestimated their cred as critics of liberalism, along with their assessment of thoughtful voters' appetite for ad hominem attacks.
In her Daily Kos post, "Social Security expansion now very real. Thanks, Third Way!," Joan McCarter explains:
Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA.), honorary co-chair of Third Way and gubenatorial candidate, is now a cosponsor of a bill to expand Social Security. That's after Third Way president Jon Cowan, Jim Kessler, the group's senior vice president for policy called the legislation "exhibit A of this populist political and economic fantasy." The "fantasy" that is going to doom, DOOM, Democrats. Of course, Schwartz isn't leaving Third Way. And she's also coming pretty late to the "expand Social Security" party.
...Schwartz isn't running on that, on her pro-austerity, cut Social Security record, but is instead essentially repudiating it. Not just that, she's now embracing that "populist political and economic fantasy" that Third Way swears is political ruin for any Democrat. Go figure.
When Sen. Sherrod Brown signed on to the bill to expand Social Security, it made news. It gave the movement real momentum. When Sen. Elizabeth Warren joined the team it catapulted the issue into what could be a centerpiece in the 2014 and 2016.
And that's what put Third Way and the whole world of Wall Street "Democrats" into panic mode, coordinating a full-frontal assault against her and this issue. That assault has fallen completely flat. Nothing proves that more than Allyson Schwartz's name on the Strengthening Social Security Act.
So thanks, Third Way! Now we've got ourselves a real rallying point for real Democrats.
The Third Way's populist-bashing seems tethered to a long-dead template, which mistakenly assumes that most voters are ideologues who actually care where candidates fit on political spectra. As Paul Waldman puts it in his Politico post, "Left Turn = Dead End?Why class warfare won't defeat Hillary in 2016":
The real question isn't so much whether there's ideological room to stake out on Clinton's left flank--there certainly is--but whether another candidate could capture the liberal imagination the way Obama did in 2008. Part of the problem is that when your party is in power, the hunger for victory doesn't gnaw nearly so intensely at your gut as when you're on the outside. Liberals felt a powerful combination of anger and hope in 2008, but today their sentiments are a much quieter mix of defensiveness and disappointment. The president they elected then has done some admirable things, but his second term is likely to be defined largely by defending those gains and fending off an increasingly reckless GOP. It's necessary work, but it's not the kind of thing you write songs about.
Obama might have been the liberals' choice in the 2008 primaries, but it wasn't because he was the most liberal. It was because he embodied almost everything liberals wanted in a candidate, most of which had little to do with ideology. He was new and fresh, multiracial and cosmopolitan, and untainted by the compromises and cowardice Democrats saw their party gripped by in the previous decade.
Most of all, Obama made voters understand what a vote for him said about them. If you were an Obama supporter, you were supposed to be forward-thinking, creative, optimistic, courageous and youthful. (That was the genius, for instance, of hip-hop artist will.i.am's viral campaign video.) It wasn't too different from the marketing message that has worked so well for Apple, and after feeling beaten down for eight years, it was just what liberals wanted.
It's possible that another Democratic politician could make people feel something like that again, even with the idealism of the 2008 Obama campaign ground down in the messy reality of governing. Some believed Elizabeth Warren could be that candidate, and no one has spoken more often or more eloquently about inequality in recent years than the Massachusetts senator. But Warren now says she isn't going to run (though, of course, she could change her mind). There might well be a governor or senator out there who could emerge as a liberal champion, but if so, whoever it is is lying low at the moment.
As for the Third Way's cred in the wake of their Warren-bashing, Paul Krugman says it well in his "Pathetic Centrists" post:
I mean, going after Warren and de Blasio for not being willing to cut Social Security and their "staunch refusal to address the coming Medicare crisis" ??? Even aside from the question of exactly what the mayor of New York has to do with Medicare, this sounds as if they have been living in a cave for years, maybe reading an occasional screed from the Pete Peterson complex.
On Social Security, they're still in the camp insisting that because the system might possibly have to pay lower benefits in the future, we must move now to cut future benefits. Oh, kay.
But anyway, they declare that Medicare is the bigger issue. So what's this about "staunch refusal" to address Medicare? The Affordable Care Act contains lots of measures to limit Medicare costs and health care more generally -- it's Republicans, not progressive Democrats, who have been screaming against cost-saving measures (death panels!). And health cost growth has slowed dramatically, feeding into much better Medicare projections...
...So what does Third Way think it would mean to "address the Medicare crisis"? They don't say. But my strong guess is that they mean raising the Medicare age; living in their cave, they probably haven't gotten the memo (literally) from CBO concluding that raising that age would hardly save any money.
It's just so tired and tiring. If being a "centrist" means fact-free denunciations of progressives for not being willing to cut entitlements, who needs these guys?
None of this is to disparage the legitimate role of political centrists in the Democratic party's internal debates. But next time they pop off, Third Way polemicists might try bringing their 'A game,' and give the juvenile liberal-bashing a rest.
Writers all over the world are today mining their stock of superlatives to honor Nelson Mandela. And there have been many musical tributes to Mandela. Senegalese super-star Youssou N'dour did an entire album in tribute to him, and numerous artists have recorded songs honoring Mandela, including Nickleback, Johnie Clegg, Raffi, Elvis Costello, Dolores Keane, Christy Moore, Hugh Masekela, Zahara and many other African musicians. Probably the biggest global hit was "Free Nelson Mandela" by The Special AKA from Coventry U.K., which goes like this:
The following article by TDS founding editor Ruy Teixeira is cross-posted from ThinkProgress:
As the Obamacare situation stabilizes, Democrats are starting to come to their strategic senses and realize their best course of action is to defend the program, not run away from it.
But that's not enough. If Democrats want to maximize their chances of holding the Senate in 2014 and making at least some progress in the House, they need to go on the offensive on issues that will mobilize their base and split their opposition. A new poll from National Journal shows how.
In the poll, respondents were asked first about whether legislation would be passed in the next year to address various issues. Of the issues tested, three were deemed more likely than not to generate successful legislation: "Creating jobs by increasing federal spending on infrastructure projects like roads and bridges" (56 percent likely/39 percent not likely); "Requiring universal background checks on all gun sales" (53-43); and "Reforming the immigration system to increase border security and provide a pathway to citizenship for people in the U.S. illegally" (49-46).
This expectation is borne of desire, not fatalism. The poll followed up by asking respondents whether they'd be pleased or disappointed if legislation actually passed in these areas. The results were quite one-sided. By 77-21, Americans said they'd be pleased rather than disappointed if legislation was passed to create jobs through infrastructure spending. By 74-22, they said they'd be pleased to see universal background checks on gun sales (including an astonishing 56 percent who said they'd be "very" pleased, the highest of all the issues tested). And by 66-28, they said they'd be pleased to see a pathway to citizenship make it through Congress.
So the public wants and expects action in these three areas. Who's standing in the way? Congressional Republicans, of course.
And here's the beauty, tactically speaking: not only do these issues hugely appeal to the Democratic base, they also appeal to the majority of Republicans, thereby making these issues potential vehicles for splitting the GOP vote. A large majority of Republicans would be pleased to see more infrastructure spending to create jobs; 66 percent would be pleased to see universal background checks on gun sales and 57 percent of GOP identifiers would like to see immigration reform happen.
Mobilize the base, split the opposition -- these issues are political gold for the Democrats. And while we're speaking of political gold for the Democrats, it would be remiss not to mention raising the minimum wage, an issue not tested by the National Journal poll but likely to be voted on in the Senate shortly. This is also an issue that gets overwhelming public support, particularly from the Democratic base, but splits the Republican party. Moreover, this split in support has a very distinct class character. In a recent Pew Research poll, working class (non-college) Republicans supported the proposal by 58-40, while college-educated Republicans opposed it by 60-34. Similarly, low income Republicans (less than $30,000) supported raising the minimum wage by 68-31 while high income Republicans (over $75,000) opposed such a raise by 57-40.
Job creation through infrastructure spending. Universal background checks for gun sales. Immigration reform. Raising the minimum wage. Music to Democratic ears and a prescription for political success. Maybe Democrats should think about taking their medicine.
GOP strategist Ed Rogers worries at WaPo that Democrats could well benefit from stock market and oil booms, and be sitting pretty come next November.
Elizabeth Warren says she is not running for president, and The Fix's Sean Sullivan explains some of the reasons why.
...And Esquire's Charles Pierce channels a little Gore Vidal to explain (via Reader Supported News) why that's a good thing.
At Real Clear Politics, Sean Trende analyzes "Democrats' 2013 Drop-Off Problem" and what it might mean for 2014. "What does this mean for 2014? Possibly nothing. There is a lot of football left to be played, the president's job approval rating could rally significantly, the Democrats could become enthused, and drop-off could become a non-issue...But if that doesn't happen, Democrats have a real headache coming on. Let's assume they can expect a drop-off of four to five points from Obama's 2012 performance, all other things being equal. Twenty-eight House Democrats occupy seats where Obama won less than 55 percent of the vote..."
Kyle Kondik notes at Sabato's CrystalBall that "Late filing deadlines give Republicans a chance to find better candidates in places where they're lacking." Same is true for Dems, however.
A new poll of 2,089 18- to 29-year-olds, which was conducted online by GfK between Oct. 30 and Nov. 11 by Harvard University's Institute of Politics suggests Dems need a better Obamacare pitch to young voters. As Sheryl Gay Stolberg reports at the News York Times, "A solid majority, 56 percent, disapproved of the law when it was called the Affordable Care Act. Just 17 percent said the measure would improve the quality of health care; 78 percent said quality would either stay the same or get worse. Half said the law would increase costs, while 46 percent said costs would decrease or stay the same."
Be that as it may, Tracy Seiple reports at the San Jose Mercury-News that "The startling finding by the Public Policy Institute of California says that young and healthy people are overwhelmingly more likely to seek health insurance than older and sicker people...The PPIC numbers on young people who plan on signing up for insurance appear to mimic an early analysis by Covered California, the state's online health exchange, that trumpeted its first-month enrollment figure of 30,830 people, including 6,900 who are between 18 and 34."
Mark Blumenthal and Ariel Edwards-Levy point out at HuffPollster: "In a CNN poll released in November, opinion on the health care bill was split among those aged 18 to 34, with 48 percent supporting the law, 33 percent opposing it because it was too liberal, and 12 percent because it was not liberal enough. Younger Americans were also more optimistic on the law's prospects. Just 25 percent in that age group called the law a failure, compared with 40 percent or more in older age groups. Seventy-one percent said the law's problems would be solved, while 50 percent or fewer of older Americans predicted they would."
One of the most potentially-powerful, but most underutilized message points Dems could use more aggressively to mobilize young voters against the GOP is conservatives' unflagging assault on the environment, nicely documented in "ALEC calls for penalties on 'freerider' homeowners in assault on clean energy" by The Guardian's Suzanne Goldenberg and Ed Pilkington.
From a strategy memo entitled "The Polling Lay of the Land" by Obama pollster Joel Benenson:
Our data continues to show, unequivocally, that the nation's economic health remains voters' overriding priority.
Even amid a cascade of news cycles focused on the Affordable Care Act, Syria, the government shutdown and the NSA, voters' primary focus has never shifted from their economic well-being and financial security.
While we have seen a marked increase in voters ' sense of financial stability throughout most of 2013 - worries about the immediate loss of jobs or homes had subsided - we have a long way to go before voters feel truly secure in their economic futures, and that of the nation.
Fully aware of the long road ahead, voters are extremely eager to see Washington once again put economic issues at the center of their attention.
Over the course of 2013, we have seen improvement in voters ' views of the economy. Four years of deeply entrenched pessimism around the economy has finally begun to give way to a brighter outlook.
After steadily improving since January, this June we reached high points on two key metrics we have been tracking since 2009:
68% of voters described the economy as "getting better", a 9-point increase over our 2012 average. Just 29% - mostly Republicans - said the economy is "getting worse".
21% of voters rated the economy as "excellent" or "good". This number was in almost invariably in single digits from 2009 until 2012 , and averaged 13% throughout that year.
However, the government shutdown and debt ceiling fight all but wiped out this burgeoning optimism. We are starting to see these metrics slowly creep back up, but the shutdown and ongoing dysfunction have had a lingering effect on views of the economy.
The number saying the economy is getting better dropped to a shutdown low of 50% in mid-October...By last week, this figure had ticked back up to 56%, still well below the highs of the first and second quarters of this year.
Our guiding light needs to be our focus on creating a more secure economy for hard-working American families, with smart investments now and for the next generation.
Benenson has more so say on this topic of critical importance, and we urge Dems who want to win in 2014 to give it a thoughtful read.
Experiencing a bit of vertigo over assessments that Obama and Democrats were riding high and ready to crush the GOP in 2014 just a few weeks ago, but are now doomed to oblivion today, I took a look at some numbers at the Washington Monthly, and regained a bit of perspective. First, I quoted Jonathan Bernstein:
Obama's popularity is probably at the low point of his presidency (again, depending on the adjustments, he's either a bit below or a bit above his previous low. But it's not any kind of unusually low low point (he's nowhere near Truman, Carter, Nixon, W.), there's no particular reason to expect the slump to continue, and myths aside no reason to believe he won't recover if the news turns better. Granted, it's hard to know what to expect from healthcare.gov, but it's not as if it's getting worse over time. I'm not saying his numbers will go up. Just that it's more or less equally likely as further drops....
As for electoral effects? I wrote an item dismissing direct electoral effects of the shutdown against Republicans back last month; that post pretty much works now, in reverse for effects against Democrats. I should say: it's far easier for sentiment against the president to translate into midterm electoral losses than it is for feelings against the out-party. So if Obama is unpopular in November 2014, it will hurt Democrats. But today's frenzy about the ACA is going to be mostly forgotten by then, one way or another, just as the shutdown seems forgotten today. That's probably even true, believe it or not, if the program totally collapses, although I don't think that's going to happen.
Then I gave a gander of my own to Gallup's approval rating numbers:
After reading Jonathan Bernstein's essay on the massive over-reaction to the president's sag in approval ratings--some of it based, no doubt, on media cherry-picking of whichever polls had the lowest numbers--I went back and looked at Gallup's weekly approval rating averages over the last few weeks.
The CW is that Obama and the Democrats were riding high--on the brink, perhaps, of a history-defying 2014 sweep of Congress--when the government shutdown ended. That week Gallup had Obama's approval ratio at a 43/51 average. Now the CW is that Obama is sinking into second-term Bush-like oblivion, with Democrats abandoning him and Republicans roaring towards a conquest of the Senate. The latest Gallup weekly average of Obama's approval ratio is at 41/52, a booming one-and-a-half point deterioration since the shutdown ended.
Looking at the two junctures in terms of internals, Obama's approval rating among liberal Democrats has gone from 84% to 85% among Liberal Democrats, from 75% to 74% among Moderate Democrats, and from 69% to 62% among Conservative Democrats. His ratings are the same as before among Pure Independents, and actually up four points among Moderate/Liberal Republicans.
What does it all mean? Probably that most people aren't breathlessly following events in Washington other than to register their heat and noise.
Democrats didn't win the 2014 elections in October and they aren't losing them in November. It's time to chill a bit.
In the media-driven panic over cancellation of individual insurance policies that aren't "grandfathered" and aren't ACA-compliant, Democrats are in danger of forgetting they are going to be associated with the success or failure of Obamacare no matter what they do. That's true of the congressional Democrats backing potentially Obamacare-unraveling "Keep Your Insurance" bills in Congress, and it's also true of single-payer fans who are taking a bit too much pleasure in the problems with the private-insurance exchanges. Here was my comment at Washington Monthly about the need for "owing Obamacare:"
[I]t's perfectly understandable that proponents of a single-payer system or those who thought a public option was absolutely essential to the kind of competitive system the ACA set up would note some of their concerns may have been vindicated, or that even as the Obamacare exchanges founder, the Medicaid (thought of as a single-payer program, though actually semi-privatized in many states) expansion is enrolling new people at a fairly robust pace in the 25 states where it's proceeding.
Atrios--nobody's idea of a neoliberal squish--offered a reminder of the political realities of Obamacare right now.
Whatever the merits of ACA, it is now something the Dems own. For decades I've watched Dems try to run away from things which have been surgically implanted on any politician with a D next to their name. It's always bizarre and pointless. You're the party of gay marriage, abortion, and Obamacare whether you like it or not.
That's as true of single-payer fans as it is of those chasing after GOP "fixes" of Obamacare. If Obamacare doesn't work, we go back to the status quo ante, not to some magic moment where Medicare For All becomes the national rage overnight.
Perhaps non-destructive "fixes" of this or that short-term problem with the exchanges or the cancellation of individual policies before the exchanges are functional can be found. But even as it took left-center Democratic unity to enact the Affordable Care Act, it will take left-center unity to prevent its destruction by a now-united Republican opposition.
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Since the off-year Election Day, I've been noodling around with some exit poll comparisons for NJ and VA in 2009, 2012 and 2013 (sadly, there were no exit polls in either state in 2010, which would be useful to know about in looking ahead to 2014). I quickly discovered the composition of the electorate in both states was quite similar in 2009 and 2013--with one glaring exception in VA, as I wrote about at Washington Monthly:
In New Jersey the 2013 electorate looked an awful lot like it did in 2009, and quite different from its composition in 2012. The racial breakdown was 73% white, 14% African-American and 9% Latino in 2009, and 72% white, 15% African-American and 9% Latino in 2013. By contrast, it was 67% white, 18% African-American and 10% Latino in 2012. You see a similar pattern with the vote by age: in 2009, voters over 50 represented 55% of the vote while those under 30 were 10%. Yesterday voters over 50 were 59% of the vote while those under 30 were 10%. In 2012, over-50s were 49% while under-30s were 16%.
So New Jersey followed the expected pattern of an off year election producing a significantly older and whiter electorate than in a presidential year. Christie would have won with either electorate, but he did have a stiff wind behind him this year.
The age breakdowns in Virginia follow the same pattern. Over-50s were 54% in 2009 and in 2013, but only 43% in 2012. Under-30s were 10% in 2009 and 13% in 2013, but rose to 19% in 2012.
But the racial breakdowns broke the mold a bit: in 2009, the Virginia electorate was 78% white and 16% African-American (with 5% Latino or Asian). In 2012 it was 70% white and 20% African-American (with 8% Latino or Asian). And yesterday it was 72% white, 20% African-American (with 5% Latino or Asian). It's unclear whether the McAuliffe campaign did an unusually good job of turning out the African-American vote, or something else was going on, but it is clear it was a key factor in his victory, since the additional 4% of the electorate that were African-American as compared to 2009 represented close to 90,000 votes. He won by just over 54,000.
Since I wrote that quick analysis, there's been a lot of talk about the composition of the VA electorate resembling that of 2012, but little or no focus on the African-American vote specifically. This, too, I mentioned at Washington Monthly:
Now comes the magisterial Ruy Teixeira at TNR with a deeper look at Virginia, and he, too, focuses on the unexpected composition of the electorate:
In 2009, Virginia voters were 78 percent white and 22 percent minority. In 2013, they were just 72 percent white and 28 percent minority--not far off the 70/30 split in the 2012 presidential election. There you have the key to McAuliffe's victory: Despite performing much better among white voters than the hapless Creigh Deeds, McDonnell's Democratic opponent, McAuliffe would nevertheless have lost this election if the white/minority voter distribution had mirrored that of 2009. It was the increase in the minority vote that put him over the top.
But here's the thing: according to the exits, the Hispanic/Asian percentage of the vote came in this year at 2009 (5%), not 2012 (8%) levels. And the age composition of the electorate was very much like that of 2009, not 2012. Nor was there any "super sizing" of the overall electorate; total turnout was up a bit from 2009, but nowhere remotely close to presidential levels. So what we are looking at is not some sudden change in the overall size or configuration of the off-year vote, but a pretty isolated but very significant surge in African-American turnout.
Ruy has no particular explanation for this phenomenon; nor have I. I've heard a few random folk cite the pre-election voter purge executed by Virginia (about 37,000 people suspected of dual registrations were disqualified, not the kind of purge most likely to overwhelmingly target minorities) as a provocation to black voters. And there's a general sense that the McAuliffe campaign devoted a significant portion of its abundant resources to GOTV efforts, which would naturally affect African-American turnout. But that was quite a surge in the black vote, and Democrats looking ahead to 2014 ought to go to school on it.
So the mystery remains, but I'm sure there's an answer that some Democrats in Virginia are chortling about.