Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Working Class Heroes In The Midterms?


Fake President by Richard Serra

I'm not trying to cast a kenahora for November but, let's be real... the House Democrats, despite the DCCC, are going to be the beneficiaries of a big wave. Probably in the Senate races too... but there just aren't enough plausible seats available there for a political earthquake. Tennessee and Texas, though, would make for earthquakes. Combined with Arizona and Nevada, that would be big news-- not enough to oust Trump impeachment-wise, but... enough to send McConnell to the bench. The wave is despite the Democrats' election committees not because of them. They're making the same incompetent moves that have lost them both chambers and made the GOP the ruling party for years. But one thing is on their side this time: sheer voter disgust with Trump.

Even with polls showing that 57% of Americans satisfied with how things are going in general, just 41% approve of Trump. (The last time a blue wave swept over an American midterm-- in 2006 when the Democrats picked up 31 seats-- only 46% of voters thought the country was doing well.) Trump is special. Yesterday, though, Ron Brownstein asserted that whether or not the Democrats sweep the midterms will depend on whether or not they can link "voters' perceptions of the Republican tax bill with the GOP's persistent efforts, in that bill and elsewhere, to roll back the federal role in guaranteeing access to health care." I don't agree, but he's a smart guy with a lot of experience and his abstractions and overthinking the matter are worth looking at.

That Trump is disgusting and needs a Congress to balance him his why the GOP will lose Congress but Brownstein's straw man is "Trump's legal and ethical troubles,"which are just a fraction of what's wrong with Trump. "[I]n the district-by-district battle to retake the House, many Democrats are focusing less on condemning Trump's character than on discrediting the Republican agenda," he explains, correctly. Trump's repulsion is already baked into the cake. No one even has to hammer it home. Democrats are winning special elections without talking about Trump. No one needs to anymore. "Central to that mission," explains Brownstein, "is arguing that the GOP has benefited the wealthy, and burdened the middle class, with its twin legislative priorities of the past 17 months: passing a large tax cut and attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act." Fine; that's good for Democratic candidates to talk about.

Most political professionals and journalists talk about "the health care repeal and the Trump tax plan as two different issues," says Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic consultant working with outside groups supporting the ACA. "The voters see them as ways Washington isn't looking out for them. ... On both of them, it's basically the same: they [Congressional Republicans] have been giving tax breaks to health insurance companies, to pharmaceutical companies and those come at the expense of people who work for a living. It means higher health care costs, eventually higher taxes, more debt for your kids, and cuts to Social Security and Medicare as you get older."

...Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a longtime party electoral strategist, is dubious that Democrats can connect the tax cut and health care vote in a manner that erodes support for each, largely because the full ACA repeal didn't become law. What Republicans did accomplish in the tax bill was to zero out the penalty associated with not obtaining health insurance, which is likely to have the effect of tilting the insurance pool more heavily toward those with greater health needs, ultimately raising premiums. Elsewhere, Trump has made clear he intends to starve the ACA through administrative actions where he can. But Cole said he believes the two issues won't cross over.

"I don't see it as nearly as salient an issue," Cole says. "It's hard to beat you on a vote you didn't succeed on. The ACA wasn't repealed, and the only part of it that was was the least popular part: the individual mandate."

But Democrats see reason for optimism in polls from the Kaiser Family Foundation showing that more Americans now view the ACA favorably than unfavorably and significantly more trust Democrats than Republicans to handle health care issues. A wide array of other surveys have found rising health care costs spiking to the top of the public's list of priorities for Washington.

"This is the first real election that the defense of the ACA has turned into an asset," says Chris Jennings, a veteran Democratic health care expert.

The solidifying Democratic decision to focus their local messaging more on health care and taxes than the ethical and legal storms constantly battering Trump represents an attempt to learn distinct lessons from the experience of both Bill and Hillary Clinton.

The Hillary Clinton lesson is a negative one. In 2016, Clinton and the principal super PAC supporting her, Priorities USA, bet most of their chips on disqualifying Trump personally for voters.
Poor Hillary. The message has finally sunk in. It took longer than it should have-- although she did win the popular vote for nearly 3 million, 65,853,514 (48.2%) to 62,984,828 (46.1%)-- but now the Democrats, with Hillary herself out of the equation, will benefit from it without having to talk much about it. (The Republicans will try to substitute Pelosi for Hillary; but that won't work-- hasn't worked-- because no one is being asked to vote for her, except in San Francisco, where they actually like her... a lot.)
Initially, both the campaign and the super PAC signaled that they would place a heavy emphasis on undermining Trump's claim that as president he would champion the interests of average families. But after some initial salvos (notably a Hillary Clinton speech in Atlantic City that accused Trump of bilking small business contractors at his hotel), the party largely dropped that argument. Instead it focused mostly on painting Trump as unfit to serve as president, by morals, temperament and judgment.

That case clearly found an audience: In the exit poll on Election Day in 2016, 61% of voters said they did not believe Trump was qualified to serve as president and 63% said they did not believe he was temperamentally suited for the job. But in the end, those concerns were not disqualifying for enough people: Nearly one-fifth of the voters who expressed such negative opinions about Trump personally still supported him over Hillary Clinton.

The hard lesson many Democrats took from that experience is that if voters believe Trump is fighting for them, even some of those uneasy about his volatile personal behavior will excuse or at least accept it. Recent polling offers evidence that dynamic is holding. The nonpartisan Pew Research Center found last week that the share of Americans who say they "don't like" Trump's conduct as President remains very high, at 54%. But the same national survey found that the share of Americans who say they mostly agree with Trump on issues has significantly increased, from only 33% last August-- just after the ACA debate had peaked in the Senate-- to 41% now.

In new polling from CNN and SSRS released Monday, Trump's overall approval rating was similarly 41%, but he has seen improvement on key issues like the economy, where 52% approve of his performance.

Not surprisingly, the Pew poll found that over three-fourths of those who said they didn't like Trump's behavior said they planned to vote Democratic for Congress, while over four-fifths of the smaller group that liked his behavior (about 1-in-5 adults overall) said they intended to vote Republican. Most telling perhaps was that a commanding majority of the roughly one-fourth of adults who said they had mixed feelings about Trump's personal behavior also said they intended to vote Republican in November. That suggested that even amid the unrelenting national media focus on Trump's ethical and moral controversies, Democrats were still struggling to reach beyond the universe of voters-- admittedly a big pool-- personally alienated from the President.

If Hillary Clinton's excessive focus on Trump's character in 2016 offers a negative model on how to reach those voters, Bill Clinton's experience provides a more successful political precedent. After Clinton's chaotic first two years in office, he suffered a resounding repudiation when voters in 1994 swept Republicans to control of both the House and Senate. Led by then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the new GOP majorities moved quickly to press their advantage by passing a budget plan that cut taxes and slashed federal spending. But Clinton revived his presidency by arguing that Republicans had paid for their tax cut through simultaneous spending reductions in Medicare and Medicaid (as well as education and the environment). After two epic confrontations that shut down the government, Clinton forced the GOP to back down, pushed his job approval rating back past 50% and set himself on a path for an unexpectedly easy re-election in 1996.

Democrats today are increasingly paralleling Bill Clinton's arguments from that era. Last month, the House Majority PAC, a leading Democratic super political action committee, ran digital ads against three Republican House incumbents-- Andy Barr in Kentucky, Kevin Yoder in Kansas and Bruce Poliquin in Maine-- that echoed Clinton's case during his showdown with Gingrich. Tellingly, the ads connected the GOP agenda not to Trump but to House Speaker Paul Ryan as the embodiment of the congressional Republican majority.

"Paul Ryan gave his wealthy friends a massive tax cut while cheating hardworking American families out of health care coverage," the ad declared. "And to pay for the tax giveaway, Ryan has a plan to cut Medicare for seniors before he's through." (That last segment refers to Ryan's long-standing hope of converting Medicare into a "premium support" system that provides seniors a fixed sum of money, or voucher, to buy private insurance.)

Democratic strategists such as Ferguson, and Charlie Kelly, the House Majority PAC's executive director, see these messages not as competing but complementary to the national debate over whether the Republican-led Congress is providing Trump a blank check.

"That conversation is happening," Kelly says. "The thing that really impacts individuals day to day are these kitchen table issues that are front and center and very personal. Health care is very personal, and it is something that is going to be a large focus for us."

Democrats talk about the twin arguments operating almost in a form of political stereo. They believe the controversies around Trump dominating the national media are energizing turnout from the party's base (and inhibiting the GOP's ability to advance any message selling its agenda) while the focus on taxes and health care functions as a persuasion tool for reaching swing voters. Particularly with working-class white women, whose votes were essential to Trump's 2016 victory, "health care is the tip of the spear" for winning them back, Ferguson says. Indeed, when the Democratic group Democracy Corps on Monday released a memo on focus groups it recently conducted in blue-collar Macomb County, Michigan, it reported, "In every focus group we hear more and more about the crippling cost of health care, especially among the women."

It's virtually certain that the repeal of the ACA's individual mandate and other changes Trump has imposed on the law will lead to significant increases in health insurance premiums later this year-- a process that began, ironically, on the one-year anniversary of the repeal vote last Friday when two large insurers in Virginia proposed substantial hikes. That could benefit Democratic efforts to maintain focus on the Republican efforts to repeal the law; so will the promises from Republican candidates, such as Nevada Sen. Dean Heller and Pennsylvania Rep. Lou Barletta-- who is seeking to unseat Democratic Sen. Bob Casey-- that they will mount a renewed repeal effort if they maintain congressional control after November.

...Hillary Clinton's failure to effectively dislodge Trump from his claim to champion working families proved to be perhaps the crucial messaging failure of her campaign. Now Democrats are making a second attempt at defining the Trump-era GOP as phony populists more committed to benefiting the wealthy and big business. That won't be easy while the economy is growing, and Trump is daily playing so many chords-- from economic nationalism on trade to racially tinged populism on immigration and crime-- that resonate with white working-class voters.

Succeed or fail, the Democratic efforts against Republicans in Congress this fall will offer a revealing trial run for the much larger test looming for 2020: challenging the billionaire President's identity as a working-class hero.

Many Democratic candidates are using a two pronged attack-- anti-Trump plus a positive vision. Alan Grayson's campaign in Orlando, where he first has to win a primary against a bump-on-a-log worthless Democratic incumbent, conservative Darren Soto, is a perfect example. Monday his campaign sent out an e-mail extolling the virtue of standing up to Trump, and getting good things done for people. Grayson wants to work towards impeachment but that's just part of his message.
Citing his previous record in Congress and the title of “most effective member of Congress” from Slate, Grayson explains he made progress before and wants to go back to get more done for the people on issues including Medicare, Social Security, healthcare, paid sick leave and gun safety to name a few.

“Seniors deserve a raise. Seniors need someone is going to fight to increase Social Security, and this has been a longtime issue for me,” Grayson said. He has worked on Social Security issues his whole adult life, from academic studies to Congress, where he was known as a fierce defender of Social Security. Grayson cited West Orlando News’ 2016 candidate questionnaire from Rep. Soto as an issue where he thinks he can draw a distinction.

Overall on healthcare, Grayson doubled down on his prior criticism of the Republicans’ plan as “don’t get sick, or die quickly,” saying it’s still true today. He added if he was in Washington, he would be holding them accountable for it, in contrast to the current silence from Democratic Party officials. Bringing up paid sick leave, he laughed about the fact Italy passed a paid sick leave law if your dog gets sick. One can only imagine Grayson unleashing about healthcare and paid sick time on the floor of the House, again.

Goal ThermometerOn Medicare, Grayson already has a plan in mind to fix current flaws and gaps in medical coverage for seniors. And he believes he can win Republican support for his plans, saying GOP members were open on the matter when he was last in Congress. “Currently, Medicare leaves out teeth, eyes and ears,” he said. “We need coverage for dental, glasses, hearing aids and more for seniors. We can’t accept the current situation.”

He cited his previous work with Republican John Mica and Rep. Corrine Brown to secure funding and support for the new VA hospital, as well as his work with Mica on SunRail funding as examples of reaching across the aisle and delivering for communities who could have been left out. In fact, Grayson says his mix of exposing Republican hypocrisy, holding other officials accountable including the President, and his ability to pass, amend and influence legislation is the winning formula that’s been missing in Washington.

From issue to issue, Grayson is quick to question “why is no one working to change that?” or he asks “why is no one working to bring money into the district for that?” Grayson is proud of his previous track record in D.C. of bringing money back for Central Florida.

“District 9 consists of people with human needs, with low wages and few benefits if any for the most part,” Grayson said. “Our district is being neglected.”

Grayson believes he delivered more for his constituents than Soto, even in the Hispanic communities. Grayson referenced specific accomplishments including foreclosure remediation and bilingual housing program for Osceola County. Grayson’s efforts resulted in foreclosures being cut in half, and the policy was later adopted statewide. However, Republicans wanted to cut funding for a bilingual housing program and Grayson said he was proud to save funding that directly benefited Central Florida. On gun safety, Grayson referenced a 40 hour sit-in to force the House to debate. He also shut down the House with a mini-filibuster of his own to honor Pulse after the mass shooting.

He is not short on accomplishments, but he is quick to add he doesn’t feel done.

“People don’t need more members of Congress who enjoy the perks and benefits, or who take corporate money,” Grayson said. “We need people who will get good things done. That’s what I’ve done before and I want to go back and get more good things done.”

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At 12:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Grayson is one of the few real Democrats that I would unhesitatingly support due to his past performance. The Party leaders could learn many things about how to garner public support from him, but they aren't willing to give up those fat "donation" checks.

At 3:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like Grayson. But as a democrap in the house, he'd be less than one half of one percent; his total progressive fraction of the caucus will be maybe 5%; and none of them are in the oligarchy.
As such, Grayson and his progressive brethren will add up to diddly squat. Pelosi or her successor will rule the caucus tyrannically, as they have since 2006, and nothing that Grayson or any of them want to do will be allowed to see even a committee for a vote much less the floor for a full house airing.

There will be no 'working class heroes'. The speaker and committee chairs (assigned by the speaker) will see to it.

The democraps are having trouble finding campaign issues to leverage in order to make themselves attractive to non-reflexive 'crap voters. They haven't actually DONE anything positive in well over a decade. And they've REFUSED to do any of the things they promised in the seminal 2008 campaign.

So all they have is pointing out that ryan ratfucked the voters and tried to kill millions of them; trump is a pig and ratfucks everyone and is a criminal, liar and probably guilty of treason; mcturtle tried to kill millions of them; and their party promotes child molesters and felons for high office.

That's all they got. They can run on promising to fix A through Z, but once they get their majorities and they refuse to fix anything... again... still... they may never be a viable party ever again. Nor should they be.

At 4:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Typical 'Democrap Anonymous' (at 3:16) fatalism and loser mentality. Gripes, distorts, and exaggerates, and hasn't disclosed what if anything he has ever done to even try to change anything for the better -- griping certainly doesn't, nor does trying to sabotage with B.S. rationalizations people who are actually working hard to change things for the better. I guess some disappointed nihilists will never change. They certainly are a boring lot.

At 4:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So 4:46 advocates maintaining the status quo and keeping a kennel full of Blue Dogs and a mound of recycled "New" Dems so as to keep those not yet convinced that change needs to happen from seeing the light?

That DxCC check must have at least two figures to the left of the decimal!

At 6:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

4:46, why do you think it's 'griping'?

I'm stating historical facts and data to support my contention. Perhaps it seems like griping because it's all negative info on your status quo goal?

If the truth seems that bad... maybe change should be the goal and not status quo?

The reason we've been forced to endure 40 years of this is because there are far too many 4:46s and DWTs who want to do the least they can do, which is to promote the status quo, lesser evilism meme. The reason we have trump and this dumpster tire fire is because of our 40 years of taking the easy path for lesser evilism instead of insisting that our elected government actually serve the people.

All horrible. All truth. All our own (un)doing. Whether it's fixable at this late date no one may ever know because (imagine a whiny voice) 'it's just tooooo hard'.


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