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The Daily Strategist

August 4, 2015

Dems Unveil War on Gerrymandering...at Last



From Jonathan Martin's New York Times article, "Democrats Unveil a Plan to Fight Gerrymandering":

The Democratic Governors Association is creating a fund dedicated to winning races in states where governors have some control over congressional redistricting, the party's first step in a long-range campaign to make control of the House more competitive.

Billed as "Unrig the Map," the effort will target 18 of the 35 states in which governors play a role in redistricting, and where new congressional maps could allow Democrats to win House seats that are now drawn in a way to favor Republicans. The fund will be used for governors' races over the next five years, leading up to the 2020 census.

Democratic officials said that they hoped to raise "tens of millions" for the effort and that they believed they could gain as many as 44 House seats if lines were more favorably redrawn in the 18 battleground states. Many of those states still have Republican-controlled legislatures, but with Democratic governors in place they could at least veto the next round of congressional maps and send the disputes to the courts.

"About time" or "What took them so long?" seem like appropriate responses, before we settle for "better late than never." But this campaign is really a call to arms for Democrats, who get it that all the good we do in presidential election years is rigged to be undone in the following midterm elections, and without a congressional working majority Democratic presidents will be doomed to nibbling at the fringes of social change into the forseeable future.

Martin reminds his readers of one of the most disturbing political statistics in recent memory -- that Democrats won 2 million more votes than Republicans in 2010, but still we got "shellacked." The presidential race gets all of the media glory, but the midterms define the limits of the majority's hopes and dreams, thanks in large part to gerrymandering. Yes, political apathy and voter suppression also play important roles in the midterm "correction." But having no plan to fight gerrymandering has proven to be a loser.

But ther DGA initiative won't be cheap. As Martin points out,

..Democrats have also been badly outplayed and outspent in the battle for statehouses. Both parties operate networks of political committees intended to channel national money into governor and state legislative races. But the Republican version is far better financed: The Republican Governors Association, for example, spent $170 million during the 2014 cycle, compared with $98 million for the Democratic Governors Association.

Democratic governors and strategists have often complained that their donors are too focused on more glamorous presidential and Senate races, while Republicans have been pouring money into state-level contests.

Martin concludes by quoting top Democratic donor Peter Emerson, who said, "We're late to the game, but we don't have to come up with a new strategy -- we just have to adapt to their strategy."

Better we should improve on their strategy and use our edge in social media and small donor contributions to fund the campaign. Dems simply must make this campaign a priority or accept the alternative --- perpetual gridlock.


August 3, 2015

Political Strategy Notes



Following what HuffPo's political commentaors Michael McAuliffe and Christine Conetta call "The GOP's Epic Month Of Dysfunction," Michael Tomasky puts the Republicans' current situation in perspective with his Daily Beast post "The GOP: Still the Party of Stupid," which calls the current GOP pack of presidential wannabes "an astonishingly weak field." Tomasky notes the GOP field's "hostility to actual ideas that might stand a chance of addressing the country's actual problems," and adds, "The Democratic Party has its problems, but at least Democrats are talking about middle-class wage stagnation, which is the country's core economic quandary."

"If Jeb Bush wants to be a different kind of Republican, he should end GOP war on voting," writes Paul Waldman at The Plum Line. Walkman explained, "And while Jeb will happily tout his record on things like charter schools as helping African-Americans, one topic he didn't raise [when he recently spoke at the Urban League] was voting rights. That may be because on that subject, his hands are as dirty as anyone's...When he was governor of Florida, Bush's administration ordered a purge of the voter rolls that disenfranchised thousands of African-Americans, in a happy coincidence that made it possible for his brother to become president. The private corporation they hired to eliminate felons from the rolls did so by chucking off people who had a names similar to those of felons; people who had voted all their lives showed up on election day to be told that they couldn't vote....At a moment when his party is fighting with all its might to limit the number of African-Americans who make it to the polls, it's going to be awfully hard to make a case that the GOP has their interests at heart."

NYT's Jonathan Martin presents an interesting argument that Jeb Bush benefits from Trump's campaign because Bush wasn't going to get those voters anyway, and Trump draws support away from Scott Walker. "Mr. Trump's bombastic ways have simultaneously made it all but impossible for those vying to be the alternative to Mr. Bush to emerge, and easier for Mr. Bush, the former Florida governor, to position himself as the serious and thoughtful alternative to a candidate who has upended the early nominating process." Bush can't have Trump as his running mate, unless he wants to run alongside a loose canon. So how would he keep Trump from running a third party campaign? Cabinet post?

John Sides interviews David Shor at The Monkey Cage on the topic, "Do early campaign polls tell us anything? Let's ask a campaign data guru." Much of their discussion is about the utility of early polls to political scientists (they agree that early polls don't help much with outcome predictions). But I think they missed an important benefit of early polls, which is they help candidates to better hone their messaging.

Marian Cogan's "Everyone Is Already Freaking Out Over the 2016 Election Polls" at New York Magazine has more to say about the misuse of early polling.

At The Upshot, Lynn Vavreck mulls over "2016 Endorsements: How and Why They Matter," and shows that there is a relationship between a presidential candidate's success and his/her endorsements. It's just not quite so clear that it's a causal relationship.

In his post at AlJazeera America, "Most Americans don't vote in elections. Here's why," Demos research associate Sean McElwee contends that "The rise of the donor class and the influx of corporate cash have caused many voters to lose faith in politics."

But many want to vote, but are still being denied their voting rights by Republican-driven suppressive state legislation and court rulings. Jim Rutenberg's excellent "A Dream Undone" in the New York Times Magazine takes a thorough look "inside the 50-year campaign to roll back the Voting Rights Act of 1965."

For Kasich's campaign, there's good news and bad news.


August 1, 2015

NYT grossly libels Hillary Clinton on front page, runs inadequate corrections on back pages and then tells Clinton campaign: "we don't plan to comment further." Perhaps they should change their corporate slogan to "all the smears that fit the print."



The New York Times screwed up badly on July 22nd, when 'the newspaper of record' ran a disastrously-flawed story saying that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has been targeted by criminal referrals from two inspectors general relating to her e-mail usage during her tenure as Secretary of State.

The Times report included some astounding errors, and the newspaper's clumsy walkback compounded the mess exponentially. Clinton campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri responded with a devastating letter to executive editor Dean Banquet. The Eric Wemple blog at The Washington Post frames Palmieri's letter and the stunningly inadequate Times response:

Thanks to a letter from Clinton campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri shared this evening with the Erik Wemple Blog, we now know that the version of events from within the Times was incomplete. In a lengthy, detailed and merciless letter, Palmieri documents just how rushed and reckless was the Times' push to publish the story that night.

You can read more about it right here.


July 31, 2015

Clinton's Wide Net Strategy to Win Labor Support



Those who follow the role of American labor unions in politics will find "Hillary Clinton's multi-step strategy to woo labor: Before winning over AFL-CIO, she hopes to gain backing of individual unions" by Brian Mahoney and Gabriel Debenedetti of interest. Writing in Politico, the authors explain:

...The Democratic front-runner's machine is turning its attention to individual leaders one by one, looking to methodically win over unions as she faces off against an insurgent Bernie Sanders -- a longtime union ally whose fiery rallies have riled up rank-and-file labor members across the country.

Clinton spent about an hour with the AFL-CIO's executive council on Thursday, with the ultimate goal of securing the formal endorsement of the federation of 57 labor unions and the political organization and millions of dollars in campaign money that would come with it. But while Sanders shows staying power in the early-voting states, the organized labor movement sees an opportunity to gain leverage over the party's likely nominee, whose labor bona fides are still a topic of debate among some activists.

As a result, Democrats associated with multiple campaigns don't see the AFL-CIO taking the rare step of backing a candidate in the Democratic primary anytime soon, even if they expect it to eventually back Clinton and to keep urging local groups to stop backing Sanders...The Clinton campaign's targets in the meantime? Some of the prominent unions that make up the AFL-CIO.

Debenedetti and Mahoney go on to note that Clinton has secured a key endorsement from the influential1.6-million member American Federation of Teachers, and is actively wooing the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, United Food and Commercial Workers and the 1.8 million member Service Employees International Union.

As for issues, the authors report that Clinton is focusing on "the AFL-CIO's central demand for 2016: raising wages," while remaining undecided regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which Sen. Bernie Sanders and former MD Governor Martin O'Malley oppose, joined by key unions, including the United Steelworkers.

Meanwhile, Sen. Sanders is reportedly racking up support from rank and file, as well as local labor leaders. Sanders, who is held in high regard by American labor leaders across the nation has a near-perfect track record on his votes on issues of critical concern to unions. Any union would be more than comfortable with a Sanders presidency. Should Clinton win the Democratic nomination to run for president, however, a Clinton-Sanders ticket would be hugely popular with unionized voters, who would likely also be fine with O'Malley against any Republican.

Despite numerous articles in recent years about organized labor's declining membership and impact, when it comes to elections, no progressive constituency provides more support for Democrats in terms of both money and manpower than unions. That is a leading reason why Republicans are constantly seeking to destroy and undermine labor and worker rights.

Conversely, the next Democrat to win a landslide victory in a presidential election would be smart to strongly support and work for policies to revive the American labor movement, which remains the best hope for reducing income inequality and improving living standards for millions of American families.


July 30, 2015

Let's Debate Mass Deportations



One of the frustrating things about the immigration debate is that many conservatives have gotten into the habit of complaining about any solution to the problem of 11 million undocumented people that involves citizenship or even legalization. But when it comes to an alternative the Right typically changes the subject to "securing the border," which does nothing about the 11 million already here. Mitt Romney articulated the implicit position of many Republicans in 2012--"self-deportation"--favoring harassment of suspected undocumented people and immigrants generally until they choose to go "home." But that was a political loser. And so most anti-immigration-reform Republicans now shut up or stay vague on the subject. But this week, Donald Trump kind of blew up the conspiracy of silence, which I wrote about at Washington Monthly.

The Donald has done a signal service to public debate by coming right out and endorsing the implicit immigration policy of much of the Republican Party (per a report from CNN's Jeremy Diamond):
Donald Trump, the Republican presidential hopeful who shot up to the head of the pack over his controversial comments about illegal immigrants, is finally starting to lay out an immigration policy.

Trump said Wednesday in an interview with CNN's Dana Bash that as president he would deport all undocumented immigrants and then allow the "good ones" to reenter the country through an "expedited process" and live in the U.S. legally, though not as citizens....

Trump would not say how he would locate, round up and deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants he says must go. Instead, he deflected, saying that while it may be a task too tall for politicians, it isn't for a business mogul like himself.

"Politicians aren't going to find them because they have no clue. We will find them, we will get them out," Trump said. "It's feasible if you know how to manage. Politicians don't know how to manage."

Yeah, sure: it's just a management problem, and any tycoon worth his salt can figure out a way via universal hourly traffic stops and police raids on workplaces and maybe house-to-house searches to "find them," and then it's just a matter of setting up a few thousand transit camps and deploying a few hundreds of thousands of cattle cars to round 'em up and "get them out."

Estimates of the cost of mass deportation of the undocumented start at about $265 billion and range on up from there; one key variable is whether a sufficiently terroristic atmosphere would encourage some of these people to "self-deport," as Mitt Romney surmised. Trump might even claim some of these folk will self-deport to get a prime place in the line to reenter the country as a permanent helot class if they pass muster. In any event, it would indeed make this country a very different place.

Now that Trump's forced this issue right out in the open, it's time for us all to ask him and other Republicans who won't endorse a path to legalization exactly how much they are willing to spend in money and in lost civil liberties to implement their plans. No sense weaseling around and dog-whistling this issue any more.

We can only hope the subject comes up early and often in next week's first GOP presidential candidates' debate.


Political Strategy Notes - Medicare 50th Anniversary Edition



medicare.jpg It was fifty years ago today (July 30, 1965) that President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law. Pictured above with LBJ are: fellow Democrats former President Harry S. Truman; Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey; First Lady Lady Bird Johnson; former First Lady Mrs. Bess Truman and other Democrats: "At the bill-signing ceremony President Johnson enrolled President Truman as the first Medicare beneficiary and presented him with the first Medicare card."

From a DCCC e-blast: "Before Medicare was signed into law 50 years ago, fewer than 50% of seniors had insurance; 35% of seniors lived in poverty; Life expectancy was 8 years less for men and 5 less for women. Now, 5 decades later, 54 million people are enrolled in Medicare! It's helped millions of older and disabled Americans across the country access quality health care. It's truly been life-saving! And as Republicans try to tear Medicare to pieces, President Obama has fought to protect it for decades to come. Thanks to his Affordable Care Act, we've extended the life of the Medicare trust fund by 13 years." More Medicare stats here.

Jonathan Cohn notes at HuffPo that "In the years leading up to Medicare's creation, conservatives fought it bitterly, with Ronald Reagan famously warning it would create some kind of socialist apocalypse: "We are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it once was like in America when men were free." Here's an audio clip of the sainted Reagan dissing Medicare:

Yet, back then Medicare was passed with significant bipartisan support -- the House passed the bill 313-115 on April 8, 1965. The Senate passed another version 68-21 on July 9. All of today's Republican presidential candidates want to eradicate, eviscerate or weaken the program. Jeb Bush recently said the U.S. needs to "phase out" Medicare. Send. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz recently voted against a measure to protect Medicare benefits from a "voucher" measure.

Economically, Medicare has proved to be a huge bargain for taxpayers. As NYT columnist/Nobel laureate Paul Krugman notes, "It's true that for most of Medicare's history its spending has grown faster than the economy as a whole -- but this is true of health spending in general. In fact, Medicare costs per beneficiary have consistently grown more slowly than private insurance premiums, suggesting that Medicare is, if anything, better than private insurers at cost control. Furthermore, other wealthy countries with government-provided health insurance spend much less than we do, again suggesting that Medicare-type programs can indeed control costs..Medicare spending keeps coming in ever further below expectations, to an extent that has revolutionized our views about the sustainability of the program and of government spending as a whole."

A major 'side benefit' of the program: Medicare Helped To Desegregate Hospitals.

Medicare is enormously popular. As Kenneth T. Walsh reports at U.S. News: "...The basic program of Medicare now covers an estimated 55 million people, and three-quarters of Americans consider Medicare "very important," according to a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Seventy percent say it should remain as it is. So politicians who propose major changes do so at their peril."

Robert Pear's New York Times article commemorating Medicare's 50th anniversary concludes with this paragraph: "In a comment echoed by other Medicare beneficiaries, Judith M. Anderson, 69, of Chicago said: "After a lifetime of an utterly boring personal health care history, I was diagnosed with cancer in 2013. Without Medicare, I would be bankrupt and probably dead by now. I had three surgeries and chemotherapy and paid less than $1,000 out of pocket. I love Medicare."


July 29, 2015

Antichoice Impatience With the GOP



The heavy maneuvering among Senate Republicans to get a vote on a symbolic, sure-to-be-filibustered-and-if-necessarily-vetoed amendment cutting off all federal funding to Planned Parenthood in response to the series of videos an antichoice sting operation is generating sure looks like Kabuki theater to most Democrats. But it reflects a bit of a panic among Republicans dealing with the fury of antichoicers over the failure of the GOP to keep its promises. I wrote about this at Washington Monthly yesterday.

[W]ho really cares how far down the road to perdition the [Planned Parenthood defunding} amendment was allowed to proceed?

But for serious antichoice types, the answer to this question would be: We do, and thus the entire GOP we've been propping up for decades should, too. That's pretty much the message sent by conservative columnist Emmanuel Gobry at The Week today:

I sincerely believe in the pro-life agenda. And it frustrates me to no end that even as pro-lifers have delivered electoral majorities to the GOP over and over again, the GOP has not kept up its end of the bargain. Five Republican-appointed justices sit on the Supreme Court, and yet Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land.

Early this year, the GOP failed at what should have been a simple task: Pass an enormously popular late-term abortion ban. Passing a bill that polls well, and is symbolically very important to your biggest constituency, ought to be the no-brainer to end all no-brainers. But Republican politicians couldn't even do that.

And now, after the devastating revelations that Planned Parenthood routinely engages in the sale of baby organs for profit -- something that is illegal, unethical, and disgusting on at least 12 different levels -- GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell couldn't bring himself to allow to the Senate floor a bill to defund that activity by Planned Parenthood. Why not? Because he wants to pass a highway bill instead -- a pork-laden monstrosity that comes with the disgusting cherry on top that is the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, a corporate welfare program that free-market conservative activists particularly detest.

The road Gobry wants the GOP to take on abortion legislation will inevitably end at a government shutdown that will backfire on Republicans. And Lord knows Senate Republicans have used every code word imaginable to elicit a negative position on Roe v. Wade from judicial nominees, especially since the Souter "stab in the back," but hey, the current fly in the ointment, Anthony Kennedy, was the appointee of The Gipper himself, the man who made uncompromising opposition to reproductive rights an unchanging part of the GOP platform.

But I guess if you think legalized abortion is an American Holocaust, as folks like Gabry often suggest, then you're probably going to insist on results for your decades-long investment of energy, money, votes and agitprop. I mean, if anti-choicers can successfully convey the lie that they are only concerned about a tiny number of late-term abortions that "shock the conscience" of the casual, murder-tolerating Good Germans in the political center--when their real goal is to ban the vast majority of abortions that occur in the first trimester, that do not shock that many consciences--then can't the GOP contrive some way to get the ball over the goal line? So that leads to the sort of strict liability, "no excuses" demand that Gobry issues:

We should rule with fear. For the past 30 years, we've been bringing a hymnal to a gunfight. The Tea Party has shown how it's done: Don't like someone? Primary them. End their political career. That's the only thing politicians fear.

I'm done waiting. I hope you are, too.

Before you chuckle at the arrival of another intra-GOP fight over priorities, keep in mind that if Republicans win the White House and hang onto the Senate, they will indeed run out of excuses for saying "later" to their antichoice activists. Perhaps they'll be forced to resort to the "nuclear option" to get rid of any possible filibuster against antichoice legislation or the next Republican Supreme Court nominee. As for said nominee, I think we will see an end to all of the dog-whistling about abortion; no matter how much it violates every premise of our legal system to pre-commit judges to a position on future litigation, we'll see nominees who are all but visibly frothing to overturn Roe. In other words, if 2016 goes their way, the antichoicers may be able at long last to call in what I've referred to as a balloon payment on their mortgage on the soul of the GOP.

Don't be surprised if the antichoicers keep Republicans hopping.


Cruz, Bush, Huckabee Lead GOP Field in Voter Suppression Advocacy



None of the declared Republican presidential candidates could be considered even remotely-friendly to voting rights and all would likely rejoice in further suppression of demographic groups who tend to cast their ballots for Democrats.

But if you had to pick the three most dangerous advocates of voter suppression among the GOP wannabe field, you would likely pick Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush. These three, more than any of the others have demonstrated an eagerness to manipulate, eliminate or even violate voting rights laws.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee sets the standard for lowbrow voter suppression advocacy among current GOP presidential candidates. As Mollie Reilly explained in her HuffPo article "Ohio Issue 2: Mike Huckabee Urges Voter Suppression Against Opponents Of Anti-Union Measure":

As reported by MasonBuzz, the 2008 presidential candidate spoke to a crowd of about 350 Issue 2 supporters at a pancake breakfast and rally in Mason, Ohio on Friday. Huckabee expressed his support for the referendum, and outlined what supporters could do to ensure the measure's passage in next month's general election.

"Make a list," said Huckabee, referring to supporters' family and friends. "Call them and ask them, 'Are you going to vote on Issue 2 and are you going to vote for it?' If they say no, well, you just make sure that they don't go vote. Let the air out of their tires on election day. Tell them the election has been moved to a different date. That's up to you how you creatively get the job done."

The crowd laughed at Huckabee's remarks. In 2009, he made a similar joke in Virginia, saying, "Let the air our of their tires ... keep 'em home. Do the Lord's work."

When it comes to higher-brow voter suppression, Sen. Ted Cruz is the GOP's top advocate. Cruz, like Chief Justice Roberts, clerked for Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who had a particularly sordid history as an advocate of voter suppression. In 1999, Cruz been working as a domestic-policy adviser on the George W. Bush Presidential campaign. In the New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin explains some of Cruz's role in opposition to voting rights of pro-Democratic demographic groups.

When the result of the 2000 campaign devolved into a legal struggle over the vote in Florida, Cruz was well situated to play an important role. By the Thursday after Election Day, he was in Tallahassee. "Through an odd bit of serendipity, it happened that I was the only practicing lawyer, and, in particular, constitutional litigator, who had been on the full-time campaign team," Cruz told me. "One of the realities of the recount and life is that lawyers and political folks don't really speak the same language. By the accident of being in that place I found myself, there was sort of a small leadership team that consisted of Jim Baker and Josh Bolten and Ted Olson and George Terwilliger and Ben Ginsberg and me. And I'm twenty-nine years old, this kid, and all of these other folks are Cabinet members and masters of the universe." Ginsberg, the national counsel to the Bush campaign, and his associates set up seven teams of lawyers to address the sprawling controversies generated by the recount, and Cruz was the only lawyer who served on all seven. His job was to encourage communication and assure consistent positions.

"I've been amused at some of the subsequent descriptions of Bush versus Gore, because they sort of described us as this fine-oiled machine with a careful strategy," Cruz said. "It was one tiny notch slightly below utter chaos."

Cruz's initial assignment was to assemble a legal team. His first call was to his former mentor Carvin, who wound up representing Bush before the Florida Supreme Court. Cruz's second call was to a Washington lawyer named John Roberts. "John had been a friend and a Rehnquist clerk--I've known John a long time," Cruz said. "Everyone we called, without exception, dropped everything and came down..."

Toobin recounts Cruz's role as a successful advocate in cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, and notes:

In another case, a major challenge to Texas's 2003 electoral redistricting on the ground that it discriminated against minorities, the number of plaintiffs before the Court was so large that Cruz was allowed to file a hundred-and-twenty-three-page brief in response, well above the usual page limit. He won that case as well.

Should any Democrats find themselves feeling indifferent about the prospect of Jeb Bush getting the GOP 2016 nomination, take a stroll down memory lane with Greg Palast and feel the burn once again:

WI Governor Scott Walker could also be added to the short list of the GOP candidates who are most invested in voter suppression, given his history and relationship to the Koch brothers and their sponsorship of ALEC's voter suppression template legislation. And don't be shocked if two of these candidates end up on the GOP ticket. If Bush or Walker wins the nomination, Huckabee could be on their veep short lists, if they need an attack-dog/bomb-thrower. Cruz or Huck might end up as any other GOP nominee's running mate. It's hard to imagine Bush settling for a second spot, but there are quite a few plausible Republican ticket scenarios that have one of these four candidates on the 2016 GOP ticket.

Even more voter suppression will be the order of the day if the GOP wins the white house and control of the Senate, especially with Justice Roberts at the helm of the U.S. Supreme Court. A rigged electoral system designed to disenfranchise millions more voters and permanently disadvantage Democrats will then become a top priority of the federal government.

It's a nightmare scenario, not just for Democrats, but also the integrity of Democracy itself. That's why Democrats must support the party's 2016 nominee with unprecedented unity, energy and resources.


July 28, 2015

Towards a Better Understanding of Modern Systemic Racism



Emory University philosophy professor George Yancy conducts an excellent interview with sociologist Joe Feagin, "a leading researcher of racism in the United States for more than 40 years" on the topic of "American Racism in the 'White Frame'" on the pages of the New York Times Opinionator. This is a good read for Democrats who want to better understand and more effectively navigate complex race relations in the U.S. at this political moment. Some highlights:

G. Y.: In your book "The White Racial Frame," you argue for a new paradigm that will help to explain the nature of racism. What is that new paradigm and what does it reveal about race in America?

J.F.: To understand well the realities of American racism, one must adopt an analytical perspective focused on the what, why and who of the systemic white racism that is central and foundational to this society. Most mainstream social scientists dealing with racism issues have relied heavily on inadequate analytical concepts like prejudice, bias, stereotyping and intolerance. Such concepts are often useful, but were long ago crafted by white social scientists focusing on individual racial and ethnic issues, not on society's systemic racism. To fully understand racism in the United States, one has to go to the centuries-old counter-system tradition of African-American analysts and other analysts of color who have done the most sustained and penetrating analyses of institutional and systemic racism.

G.Y.: So, are you suggesting that racial prejudices are only half the story? Does the question of the systemic nature of racism make white people complicit regardless of racial prejudices?

J.F.: Prejudice is much less than half the story. Because prejudice is only one part of the larger white racial frame that is central to rationalizing and maintaining systemic racism, one can be less racially prejudiced and still operate out of many other aspects of that dominant frame. That white racial frame includes not only racist prejudices and stereotypes of conventional analyses, but also racist ideologies, narratives, images and emotions, as well as individual and group inclinations to discriminate shaped by the other features. Additionally, all whites, no matter what their racial prejudices and other racial framings entail, benefit from many racial privileges routinely granted by this country's major institutions to whites.

Feagin has an interesting observation about blind spots many white Americans share about their own history:

G.Y.: I realize that this question would take more space than we have here, but what specific insights about race can you share after four decades of research?

J.F.: Let me mention just two. First, I have learned much about how this country's racial oppression became well institutionalized and thoroughly systemic over many generations, including how it has been rationalized and maintained for centuries by the broad white racist framing just mentioned. Another key insight is about how long this country's timeline of racial oppression actually is. Most whites, and many others, do not understand that about 80 percent of this country's four centuries have involved extreme racialized slavery and extreme Jim Crow legal segregation.

As a result, major racial inequalities have been deeply institutionalized over about 20 generations. One key feature of systemic racism is how it has been socially reproduced by individuals, groups and institutions for generations. Most whites think racial inequalities reflect differences they see as real -- superior work ethic, greater intelligence, or other meritorious abilities of whites. Social science research is clear that white-black inequalities today are substantially the result of a majority of whites socially inheriting unjust enrichments (money, land, home equities, social capital, etc.) from numerous previous white generations -- the majority of whom benefited from the racialized slavery system and/or the de jure (Jim Crow) and de facto overt racial oppression that followed slavery for nearly a century, indeed until the late 1960s.

Feagin also illuminates the phenomenon of 'white virtue framing,' which is well-understood by many people of color:

G.Y.: What implications does the white racial frame have for blacks, Asians, Latinos and those from the Middle East in our contemporary moment?

J.F.: That white frame is made up of two key types of subframes: The most-noted and most-researched are those negatively targeting people of color. In addition, the most central subframe, often the hardest to "see," especially by whites, is that reinforcing the idea of white virtuousness in myriad ways, including superior white values and institutions, the white work ethic, and white intelligence. This white-virtue framing is so strong that it affects the thinking not only of whites, but also of many people of color here and overseas. Good examples are the dominant American culture's standard of "female beauty," and the attempts of many people of color to look, speak, or act as "white" as they can so as to do better in our white-dominated institutions.

The Yancy-Feagin interview is a good read for any American, especially for Democrats, as members of the racially-inclusive party who want to promote interracial solidarity in pursuit of progressive reforms. The challenge for Dems is to provide leadership to alleviate what Feagin terms "the centuries-old reality of this country's white racism, especially...its systemic and foundational character and how it has been routinely reproduced over 20 generations."


July 27, 2015

Political Strategy Notes



From "Latino turnout in congressional elections is low and falling" by Matthew Yglesias at Vox: "Overall turnout in 2014 was the lowest in a generation. Black turnout actually increased slightly over this period, but white turnout has fallen and Latino turnout has fallen a lot even as the Latino share of the population rose considerably...And this, to be clear, is turnout among eligible voters -- i.e., US citizens over the age of 18. The overall Latino population in the United States is disproportionately likely to be too young to vote, so Hispanics are even more underweighted in actual congressional politics."

At Daily Koz Leslie Salzillo flags a study by the CDC's Violence Policy Center ranking the 50 states according to state firearm deaths in 2011. Guess which political party controls all of the top ten. As for the bottom ten states, where Americans are safest from firearm deaths, eight are solid blue states, with one (IA) purplish and one red (WI).

Washington Post syndicated columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. explains why "Americans are polarized but ambivalent." Dionne notes "...the Pew Research Center released findings that should alarm Republicans. Its survey found that only 32 percent of Americans had a favorable view of the Republican Party -- down nine points since January -- while 60 percent had an unfavorable view. For Democrats, the numbers were 48 percent favorable (up two points) and 47 percent unfavorable." Dionne cites TDS and adds, "One key finding, from pollster Stan Greenberg: Such voters are "open to an expansive Democratic economic agenda" but "are only ready to listen when they think that Democrats understand their deeply held belief that politics has been corrupted and government has failed." This calls for not only "populist measures to reduce the control of big money and corruption" but also, as Mark Schmitt of the New America Foundation argued, "high-profile efforts to show that government can be innovative, accessible and responsive."

Zogby, NBC/Marist, Economist/YouGov and CNN/ORC polls show Trump still leads in GOP race.

Not to be outdone in awful taste by Trump, Huck tries a little grotesque bomb-throwing of his own, and draws this response: "Cavalier analogies to the Holocaust are unacceptable," said Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. "Mike Huckabee must apologize to the Jewish community and to the American people for this grossly irresponsible statement."

Dartunorro Clark reports on a new app at the Albany Times Union, via Government Technology: "Electorate literally puts information on elected officials into the palm of your hands," Krans said. "The biggest impact comes when we marry easily accessible voting information with the power of existing social networks...[It] allows registered voters...to find out information on local, state and federal elected representatives. Additionally, it allows users to verify and link their voting record with their Facebook account to display their full voting record and history, see upcoming elections and endorse candidates and also see who their Facebook friends have endorsed."

Laura Lorek of siliconhillsnews.com reports more "High Tech and Low Tech Solutions to Low Voter Turnout," and notes "To encourage people to be more civically engaged and to vote is one of the latest challenges the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation took on. On Wednesday morning, the foundation announced the winners of its Knight News Challenge on Elections. The foundation received more than 1,000 submissions and awarded $3.2 million to 22 winners. "Ten of the winners will receive investments ranging from $200,000 to $525,000 each, while 12 early stage ideas will receive $35,000 each through the Knight Prototype Fund," according to the Knight Foundation." Loren adds, "The largest grant for $525,000 went to a project titled "Inside the 990 Treasure Trove" by the Center for Responsive Politics and Guidestar. The project seeks to better inform the public about who is funding campaigns through a partnership with Guidestar to reveal the sources of so-called "dark money."

The Berkeley News reports on a new study "Does the American Dream Matter for Members of Congress? Social-Class Backgrounds and Roll-Call Votes," from the Political Research Quarterly. Among the findings: "Having a working-class background tends to make members of Congress (especially Democrats) more liberal," explained Grumbach. "There are other factors that make legislators more liberal, too, such as coming from a district with liberal voters, or being nonwhite or female -- but coming from a working-class background is especially impactful."...Grumbach observed that "almost all members of Congress are upper-class and held elite occupations before being elected to seats in Washington, D.C...Few Republicans with working-class experiences get elected to public office, and upper-class Republicans in Congress do not back government support programs for the working class as often as Democrats even if they did grow up in families of modest financial circumstances."

Betsy Woodruff's "The Walker Slayers Dish: How They Beat Him" may come in handy.






Editor's Corner

by Ed Kilgore



July 30: Let's Debate Mass Deportations

One of the frustrating things about the immigration debate is that many conservatives have gotten into the habit of complaining about any solution to the problem of 11 million undocumented people that involves citizenship or even legalization. But when it comes to an alternative the Right typically changes the subject to "securing the border," which does nothing about the 11 million already here. Mitt Romney articulated the implicit position of many Republicans in 2012--"self-deportation"--favoring harassment of suspected undocumented people and immigrants generally until they choose to go "home." But that was a political loser. And so most anti-immigration-reform Republicans now shut up or stay vague on the subject. But this week, Donald Trump kind of blew up the conspiracy of silence, which I wrote about at Washington Monthly.

The Donald has done a signal service to public debate by coming right out and endorsing the implicit immigration policy of much of the Republican Party (per a report from CNN's Jeremy Diamond):
Donald Trump, the Republican presidential hopeful who shot up to the head of the pack over his controversial comments about illegal immigrants, is finally starting to lay out an immigration policy.

Trump said Wednesday in an interview with CNN's Dana Bash that as president he would deport all undocumented immigrants and then allow the "good ones" to reenter the country through an "expedited process" and live in the U.S. legally, though not as citizens....

Trump would not say how he would locate, round up and deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants he says must go. Instead, he deflected, saying that while it may be a task too tall for politicians, it isn't for a business mogul like himself.

"Politicians aren't going to find them because they have no clue. We will find them, we will get them out," Trump said. "It's feasible if you know how to manage. Politicians don't know how to manage."

Yeah, sure: it's just a management problem, and any tycoon worth his salt can figure out a way via universal hourly traffic stops and police raids on workplaces and maybe house-to-house searches to "find them," and then it's just a matter of setting up a few thousand transit camps and deploying a few hundreds of thousands of cattle cars to round 'em up and "get them out."

Estimates of the cost of mass deportation of the undocumented start at about $265 billion and range on up from there; one key variable is whether a sufficiently terroristic atmosphere would encourage some of these people to "self-deport," as Mitt Romney surmised. Trump might even claim some of these folk will self-deport to get a prime place in the line to reenter the country as a permanent helot class if they pass muster. In any event, it would indeed make this country a very different place.

Now that Trump's forced this issue right out in the open, it's time for us all to ask him and other Republicans who won't endorse a path to legalization exactly how much they are willing to spend in money and in lost civil liberties to implement their plans. No sense weaseling around and dog-whistling this issue any more.

We can only hope the subject comes up early and often in next week's first GOP presidential candidates' debate.


July 29: Antichoice Impatience With the GOP

The heavy maneuvering among Senate Republicans to get a vote on a symbolic, sure-to-be-filibustered-and-if-necessarily-vetoed amendment cutting off all federal funding to Planned Parenthood in response to the series of videos an antichoice sting operation is generating sure looks like Kabuki theater to most Democrats. But it reflects a bit of a panic among Republicans dealing with the fury of antichoicers over the failure of the GOP to keep its promises. I wrote about this at Washington Monthly yesterday.

[W]ho really cares how far down the road to perdition the [Planned Parenthood defunding} amendment was allowed to proceed?

But for serious antichoice types, the answer to this question would be: We do, and thus the entire GOP we've been propping up for decades should, too. That's pretty much the message sent by conservative columnist Emmanuel Gobry at The Week today:

I sincerely believe in the pro-life agenda. And it frustrates me to no end that even as pro-lifers have delivered electoral majorities to the GOP over and over again, the GOP has not kept up its end of the bargain. Five Republican-appointed justices sit on the Supreme Court, and yet Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land.

Early this year, the GOP failed at what should have been a simple task: Pass an enormously popular late-term abortion ban. Passing a bill that polls well, and is symbolically very important to your biggest constituency, ought to be the no-brainer to end all no-brainers. But Republican politicians couldn't even do that.

And now, after the devastating revelations that Planned Parenthood routinely engages in the sale of baby organs for profit -- something that is illegal, unethical, and disgusting on at least 12 different levels -- GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell couldn't bring himself to allow to the Senate floor a bill to defund that activity by Planned Parenthood. Why not? Because he wants to pass a highway bill instead -- a pork-laden monstrosity that comes with the disgusting cherry on top that is the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, a corporate welfare program that free-market conservative activists particularly detest.

The road Gobry wants the GOP to take on abortion legislation will inevitably end at a government shutdown that will backfire on Republicans. And Lord knows Senate Republicans have used every code word imaginable to elicit a negative position on Roe v. Wade from judicial nominees, especially since the Souter "stab in the back," but hey, the current fly in the ointment, Anthony Kennedy, was the appointee of The Gipper himself, the man who made uncompromising opposition to reproductive rights an unchanging part of the GOP platform.

But I guess if you think legalized abortion is an American Holocaust, as folks like Gabry often suggest, then you're probably going to insist on results for your decades-long investment of energy, money, votes and agitprop. I mean, if anti-choicers can successfully convey the lie that they are only concerned about a tiny number of late-term abortions that "shock the conscience" of the casual, murder-tolerating Good Germans in the political center--when their real goal is to ban the vast majority of abortions that occur in the first trimester, that do not shock that many consciences--then can't the GOP contrive some way to get the ball over the goal line? So that leads to the sort of strict liability, "no excuses" demand that Gobry issues:

We should rule with fear. For the past 30 years, we've been bringing a hymnal to a gunfight. The Tea Party has shown how it's done: Don't like someone? Primary them. End their political career. That's the only thing politicians fear.

I'm done waiting. I hope you are, too.

Before you chuckle at the arrival of another intra-GOP fight over priorities, keep in mind that if Republicans win the White House and hang onto the Senate, they will indeed run out of excuses for saying "later" to their antichoice activists. Perhaps they'll be forced to resort to the "nuclear option" to get rid of any possible filibuster against antichoice legislation or the next Republican Supreme Court nominee. As for said nominee, I think we will see an end to all of the dog-whistling about abortion; no matter how much it violates every premise of our legal system to pre-commit judges to a position on future litigation, we'll see nominees who are all but visibly frothing to overturn Roe. In other words, if 2016 goes their way, the antichoicers may be able at long last to call in what I've referred to as a balloon payment on their mortgage on the soul of the GOP.

Don't be surprised if the antichoicers keep Republicans hopping.


July 24: 2014 Republican Advantages Are Gone

Something Democrats should keep in mind in trying to understand the opposition as that while we look at the last few election cycles and see massive discontinuity between presidential and midterm elections, many Republicans think of 2012 as a pure aberration in an upward spiral of support for them that reassume its strength in 2014 and is still building steam. At the Washington Monthly I addressed some fresh evidence that's an illusion:

A lot of Republicans came out of their 2014 landslide fully expecting to keep the party going right into the presidential cycle. There were a lot of reasons to doubt that optimism, from the change to a presidential cycle with less positive turnout patterns for the GOP, to the end of a six-year midterm dynamic that was sure to fade, to an improving economy. But whatever changed, the evidence is growing clearer that the 2014 party's over. Here's some relevant data from Pew just out today:
The Republican Party's image has grown more negative over the first half of this year. Currently, 32% have a favorable impression of the Republican Party, while 60% have an unfavorable view. Favorable views of the GOP have fallen nine percentage points since January. The Democratic Party continues to have mixed ratings (48% favorable, 47% unfavorable).

Part of the problem is that Republicans themselves are less enthusiastic, which is a bit strange since they are being offered the largest presidential field in recent memory. Perhaps it is the inability to blame Congress' fecklessness on Harry Reid any more.

Interestingly, despite or because of all the shrieking among Republicans about the world being this terrible place where no American is safe, the GOP advantage on foreign policy has vanished since the last Pew survey on the parties in February, and its advantage on "the terrorist threat at home" has been cut in half. But perhaps most significantly, views of the two parties on economic policy are pretty stable for now.

Any way you slice it, any thoughts by Republicans that the landscape is tilting in their direction in this cycle really come down to the fairly abstract notion of an electorate that thinks it's time for a change after the Obama administration. If contrary to that notion this turns out to be a "two futures" election in which voters are simply comparing the two parties and their candidates, the landscape just isn't tilting Right.

There are some "ifs" in that last sentence, but then again, the last really boffo Republican presidential election performance was all the way back in 1988.


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