The Democrats/progressives after the 2016 Election Chapter I

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Amy Walter: A Wave Is a Comin’
(Cook Political Report) In 2016 we made the mistake of rationalizing away the prospect of a Trump victory. He was too unorthodox. He couldn’t possibly sustain momentum through the grueling primary campaign. We should not make same mistake in 2018. Sure, a lot can change between now and next November. And, Democrats have a narrow path to 24 seats – even with a big wave or tailwind. But, do not ignore what’s right in front of us. A wave is building. If I were a Republican running for Congress, I’d be taking that more seriously than ever. (16 November)

30 December
2020 Dem primary could be a New York affair
New York gave the country not one, but two presidential nominees in 2016. The next contest may bring more of the same.
Five prominent Democrats from the greater New York-area are eying bids for the White House in the next presidential cycle, which would again put the nation’s top media market at the center of national politics.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy have all been mentioned as potential candidates in 2020.
Gillibrand is widely seen as a possible contender. She recently made national headlines by calling for Sen. Al Franken’s (D-Minn.) resignation, and for saying Bill Clinton should have stepped down during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. That led Trump to call her out in a tweet that said she used to come to him begging for money and would do “anything” for it, a remark Democrats blasted as sexist innuendo.
Booker has been seen as a future White House contender since he first reached the national stage. In December, he appeared side-by-side with Democratic candidate Doug Jones in the final days of the contentious Alabama Senate race. The Jones victory burnished Booker’s credentials.
Cuomo has long been seen as a possible White House candidate and has been in the news in recent weeks for his criticism of the tax-cut bill Trump signed into law last week.
Murphy is best known for his advocacy for gun control, which has won him a spot on many 2020 watch lists.

29 December
Missed this when it was first posted in September
The next Kennedy weighs his next move
The congressman is inspiring grass-roots Democrats, but is he ready to take a larger role in the fight against Trump?
(Politico) Democrats are in search of new leaders to take on Donald Trump, and Rep. Joe Kennedy could fit the bill. But it’s not clear he wants the job.
In short order, Kennedy has garnered a loyal grass-roots following with a series of viral speeches challenging the president on everything from health care to hate speech, leading some Democrats to believe he could help fill the party’s leadership vacuum.(3 September)

24 December
Can net neutrality be a potent political issue for Democrats?
Democrats see an opportunity to capitalize on the massive backlash to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision to repeal its net neutrality rules.
The repeal sparked a massive outcry from internet users, spurred on by celebrities and activists who believe the move will allow internet providers like Comcast and Verizon to control consumers’ internet experience.The question is whether the outrage on Reddit forums can translate into votes for Democratic candidates next fall given the fact that younger people engaged on the issue are often the least reliable voters — particularly in midterm elections. … A recent poll out of the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation found that 83 percent of registered voters supported keeping the FCC’s rules in place. That number included 75 percent of Republicans, 89 percent of Democrats and 86 percent of independents.

22 December
10 reasons Democrats think the tax bill will be a political loser for Trump’s GOP in the midterms

21 December
‘We’re losing the war for truth’: Franken denounces Trump, GOP in final floor speech
(WaPost) In his farewell address, Franken lamented what he described as the degradation of truth in the national political debate and the hyper-partisan environment this has produced. He will resign his seat on Jan. 2 and his successor, Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (D), is scheduled to be sworn in on Jan. 3.
“As I leave the Senate, I have to admit that it feels like we’re losing the war for truth,” Franken said in his final speech on the Senate floor. “Maybe it’s already lost. If that’s what happens, then we have lost the ability to have the kinds of arguments that help build consensus.”

19 December
(The Atlantic) Tax Bill: The U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the GOP’s tax proposal only to find that additional changes from the Senate will require another vote on Wednesday. Even so, the bill is expected to become law this week. The $1.5 trillion tax cut is likely to substantially increase the national deficit, which in turn could set the stage for a Republican push to roll back entitlement programs. Yet history suggests that Democrats will be more likely to gain a political advantage.

6 December
GOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration
(The Hill) Democrats who are considering running for president in 2020 are calling for a hard line by threatening a government shutdown if Republicans don’t agree to protect young immigrants who came to the country illegally as children from deportation.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), all prospects to run for president in three years, say they won’t vote for a year-end funding bill while these immigrants face the threat of deportation.
Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have also warned they would oppose spending legislation unless some concessions are made to protect these so-called Dreamers.
But vulnerable Democrats running for reelection next year in states that President Trump won don’t want any part of that strategy. They are aiming to show swing voters who backed Trump that they’re willing to work with Republicans when it makes sense.

19 November
Democrats see Thursday’s passage of the House tax-reform bill as a potent weapon for the 2018 midterms.
(The Hill) Democrats plan to tie the GOP tax bill to the party’s failed attempts to repeal ObamaCare, a message they hope will portray Republicans as abandoning the working class in favor of businesses and the wealthy.
All income groups on average would see a short-term tax cut under the House bill. But some lower- and middle-income groups will see their taxes go up in the long term if the House GOP bill becomes law — a fact Democrats are eager to seize on.

17 November
(The Atlantic) Assault and Politics: President Trump lashed out at Senator Al Franken on Twitter after the Minnesota Democrat was accused of forcibly kissing and groping a woman in 2006. The allegations pose a dilemma for the Democratic Party, which is now divided between constituents’ calls for Franken to resign and lawmakers’ political need to keep him in office. …  And Democrats are reckoning with the decades-old rape allegations against Bill Clinton—and with the role that Hillary Clinton played in their suppression.

12 November
Despite Recent Wins for Democrats, Gerrymanders Dim Hopes for 2018
(NYT) They won smashing victories last week in Virginia and other states. With voters giving the Trump presidency and the Republican-led Congress dismal grades, and the Democratic grass roots re-energized, hope is widespread for a takeover of the House of Representatives and a strong run in the Senate in the 2018 midterm elections.
But for all the optimism, the elections in Virginia last week vividly reflected why the reality might be a good deal harsher. While Democrats won the governorship by nearly nine percentage points and won a similar margin in total votes in legislative races, it appears likely, unless recounts reverse seats, that they will fall just short of taking control of the state’s heavily gerrymandered House of Delegates.
And around the country, gerrymandering, refined to a high art, and increasingly restrictive voting laws have left many experts wary of assuming that the intensity of Democratic voters will translate into equally robust electoral gains. … the gap between votes and legislative seats is a cautionary reminder that Democrats face daunting structural obstacles in turning around Republican majorities in Congress and in state legislatures.
“If Democrats win 52, 53, 54 percent of the national House vote, we’re likely to see Republicans hold onto control,” Nicholas Stephanopoulos, a University of Chicago law professor and an expert on gerrymanders, said in an interview. “Unless there’s a true wave, I think Democrats will be disappointed in 2018.”

5 November
Brazile’s revelations stir confusion, anger among Democrats
Former Democratic National Committee (DNC) interim chairwoman Donna Brazile on Sunday further stirred the pot among Democrats, who are already reeling from her revelations about the DNC during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Democrats are confronting the implications from excerpts of Brazile’s forthcoming new book, “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House,” including the possibility that the 2016 primary was rigged in favor of Hillary Clinton at the expense of her opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
Some Democrats are calling for party reform, while others are downplaying Brazile’s account. … Her disclosure re-opened a party rift that Democrats had sought to move on from after a contentious primary. Brazile defended her right to speak out, which some in her party criticized, especially during the lead-up to important state elections in Virginia and New Jersey.

4 November
Virginia’s election serves as a road map for 2018 congressional races
(WaPost) Regardless of the victors Tuesday, some national strategies have already come into focus. Democrats will try to paint Republican incumbents as the incompetent, dysfunctional leaders of a Congress that did not fulfill President Trump’s promise to focus on the “forgotten men and women” of the working class. Republicans are placing their bet almost entirely on their ability to deliver a large tax cut, wagering that putting more money in people’s pockets is the sort of deliverable good most voters will reward…. each side now admits that the House majority is very much up for grabs. …  Democrats are trying to reassure their donors and activists, after years of explaining away their electoral failures with talk of gerrymandered districts, that the contours have shifted. Now, about 50 seats are in play — more than double the 24 needed to flip the majority.

5 October
Top House Democrat says Pelosi should step aside
(Politico) Rep. Linda Sánchez, a member of House Democratic leadership, said Thursday she thinks it’s time for longtime Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and her top lieutenants to step down.
“I do think we have this real breadth and depth of talent within our caucus and I do think it’s time to pass the torch to a new generation of leaders,” Sanchez said Thursday on C-SPAN.
There have long been rumblings among rank-and-file members about how long Pelosi, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) would rule the caucus. Pelosi and Hoyer have been the top two Democrats in the House for nearly 15 years. But most members, even those who are critical of leadership, don’t take their complaints public.
BUT, BUT, BUT …. Pelosi had a really good September. Even her detractors privately say she’s at the top of her game at the moment. Several Democrats publicly backed her after Sanchez’s comments. No one is running against her, or can beat her, for now. And, Pelosi would have a very strong case for staying in power if Democrats win the majority in the House.

29 September
Dem addiction to Trump attacks gives party cause for concern
Democrats are linking Republican gubernatorial candidates to President Trump in New Jersey and Virginia, two states won by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in last year’s presidential election where the attacks could drive base voters to the polls.
But some Democrats are concerned about their party’s strategy.
Even if Democrats win the two contests, they say it could give the party a false sense of confidence that attacking Trump is the best way to win the House and Senate in 2018.

23 September
Biden rips Trump over race in South Carolina return
The former vice president stoked speculation about another presidential run with a speech urging Americans to stand up to hate groups in a key early primary state.
(Politico) Noting the heavily African-American makeup of the state’s Democratic primary electorate — especially compared to Iowa and New Hampshire — [Democratic National Committee Associate Chairman Jaime Harrison, the former South Carolina Democratic Party chair who keeps in touch with Biden’s team] added, “If a candidate comes to South Carolina and does really well, it really looks good for them as it relates to the rest of the primary schedule. And Biden has an established network here in South Carolina, with deep roots, good friends. It increases the difficulty for anybody else.”

10 September
E.J. Dionne: Trump has spent his whole presidency making Democrats stronger
(WaPost) If Trump had opened his presidency by detailing a major infrastructure plan, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and his colleagues would have had no choice but to cooperate, as Schumer himself signaled at the time. If Trump had also lived up to the promises of his campaign by proposing to make Obamacare better and not simply pushing for repeal, he might have fostered a similar spirit of bipartisan engagement. … He is a far weaker figure today than he was when he was inaugurated. His poll numbers are terrible, the Russia story has ballooned in importance, and Democrats are in no mood to throw him any lifelines. His words and actions on race and deportations have erected new moral barriers to any pragmatic turn toward working with him. “All he’s done in eight months,” said a senior Senate Democratic aide, “is make the price of cooperation a lot higher.”

7- 8 September
House passes Trump deal on majority Democratic vote 
The House on Friday cleared a short-term measure to avoid a government shutdown and raise the debt limit through December, ratifying a deal President Trump struck with Democrats.
Lawmakers voted 316-90 for the package that includes more than $15 billion in disaster recovery aid for communities affected by Hurricane Harvey. The majority of House Republicans voted for the bill, something that had been uncertain, but more of the votes in favor came from Democrats.

It seems that the Democrats are better deal-makers than Mr. Trump:  According to this and other analyses, “the agreement for a three-month extension, which then passed the Senate with 17 Republicans voting no, guarantees repeated spending votes between now and the midterm, each of which will force Republican lawmakers to cast uncomfortable votes, and each of which will require Republican concessions to the Democratic minority. All of those concessions inevitably will anger many Republican voters. Trump’s deal with Democrats averts the budget and debt crisis, but leaves some in the GOP seething

Energized Trump Sees Bipartisan Path, at Least for Now
(NYT) … even as Republicans fumed at being sidelined, many in Washington were skeptical that the moment of comity would last. Although Mr. Trump has at times preached bipartisanship, he has never made it a central part of his governing strategy. While he may have been feeling energized on Thursday by the collaboration, he is a politician driven by the latest expression of approval, given to abrupt shifts in approach and tone. He is a man of the moment, and the moment often does not last.
There are also reasons to doubt whether Democrats would sustain a partnership with Mr. Trump beyond the deal they have cut to keep the government open for three months and paying its debts. The centrifugal forces of partisanship tug from the left as well as the right, and the liberal base has put pressure on Democratic lawmakers not to meet in the middle a president it loathes.

6-7 September
Clinton’s score-settling frustrates Democrats
Clinton blasts Biden for saying Dems didn’t address middle class during campaign
(The Hill) Hillary Clinton is settling old scores in a campaign tell-all book — and angering some Democrats in the process.
Excerpts from “What Happened,” the Clinton campaign memoir scheduled to be released next week, find her letting loose on the Democratic Party’s most popular figures and venting frustration with a process that culminated in her shocking election defeat by Donald Trump.
There is an urgency to unite the progressive and mainstream wings of the party ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, when Democrats will face a brutal slate of Senate reelection campaigns in states that Trump carried over Clinton.
Those daunting challenges have some Democrats fuming at what they view as Clinton’s petty post-election score settling.

A Brief List of People Clinton Blames for Her Election Loss, Part 3
Obama, Biden, and Sanders all make the cut.
(Vanity Fair) In her new memoir, What Happened, a contrite Hillary Clinton goes over her “own shortcomings and the mistakes” during the 2016 presidential race and “take[s] responsibility” for everything that led to the election of Donald Trump. …  despite seemingly suggesting the fault is hers alone, Clinton also clearly believes that a lot of other people are responsible, too.  … Clinton fingers Barack Obama and Joe Biden, too. Herewith, a brief list of people, companies, and concepts that are apparently to blame:

A lengthy and perceptive analysis
Franklin Foer: What’s Wrong With the Democrats?
If the party cares about winning, it needs to learn how to appeal to the white working class.
(The Atlantic Magazine July/August 2017) Demography’s long arc may yet favor the Democrats, but in the meantime the U.S. electoral system penalizes a party with support concentrated within and around metropolises. White voters without college educations remain a vast voting bloc—especially important to Democrats in Senate races and in contests to control state governments. As the Democrats seek to recover, they need a deeper understanding of the forces that have driven these voters beyond the party’s reach.

29 July
Dems pivot to offering ObamaCare improvements
(The Hill) House Democrats are poised to advance a flood of proposals designed to address the problems dogging President Obama’s signature healthcare law — a move that puts pressure on Republican and Democratic leaders alike. … rank-and-file Democrats are getting restless, with some saying they can no longer tell constituents they oppose the Republicans’ repeal bills without offering solutions of their own. … The entrenched position of Ryan and House Republicans presents a strategic dilemma for Democratic leaders, who have said they’ll come to the table with specific ACA fixes only if the Republicans discard their insistence on repeal.
The irony — Healthcare could mean Democrats take the House
Between strong, energized women candidates and outraged women voters, the Democratic majority is in sight for 2018.
By Stephanie Schriock, President of EMILY’s List, the nation’s largest resource for women in politics.
(The Hill Opinion) In previous midterm elections, parties in power have lost an average of 28 House seats.
In 2018, Democrats only need to flip 24 to take back the House and 23 of the competitive districts at play this cycle are districts Hillary Clinton won in 2016.
So when it comes to House recruitment, I am encouraged by the great strength of EMILY’s List candidates like Iowa legislator Abby Finkenauer, who is poised, at 28, to become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress when she takes back Iowa’s 1st Congressional District.  Newcomers like Chrissy Houlahan, a business leader and veteran, who is running for Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District, and pediatrician Mai Khanh Tran who is running for California’s 39th Congressional District, are the Democrats who will hold the GOP accountable and part of the 24 seats that will decide the majority for 2019.

8 July
Hillary Clinton looks for her role in midterms
Hillary Clinton wants to play a role in next year’s midterm elections. It’s just not clear yet what that role will be.
Clinton has already launched a PAC aimed at helping congressional Democratic candidates in 2018, signaling the former first lady, senator and secretary of state is ready to help her party with fundraising. She also is looking at the House districts she won in last year’s presidential contest against Donald Trump as part of an autopsy of her failed campaign, according to two sources who have spoken to the former secretary of state.

6 July
Dems divided on Trump attack strategy for 2018
(The Hill) many Democrats maintain that linking the unpopular president to vulnerable Republicans is the obvious way to pick up the 24 seats the party needs to win back the House after eight years in the minority.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has for months been crunching the numbers surrounding the 2016 elections in search of a path forward in 2018.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said the focus on Trump, while understandable, gives congressional Republicans a pass. He wants the Democrats to focus on a message of economic justice that hauls Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) into the fray, much as the GOP has energized conservatives by invoking the liberal Pelosi.
“Because of the justified fixation on Trump, you’re letting [Senate Majority Leader] McConnell [R-Ky.] and Ryan off the hook. They’re the legislative kingpins around here. They’re the ones pushing the crappy healthcare [bill]; they’re the ones talking about tax reform. It’s Ryan plan to undo Medicaid and Medicare,” he said.
Senator, (Un)Interrupted: Kamala Harris’s Rise Among Democrats
(NYT) California’s very junior senator has emerged as the latest iteration of a bipartisan archetype: the Great Freshman Hope, a telegenic object of daydreaming projection — justified or not — for a party adrift and removed from executive power.

2 July
Obama plays behind-the-scenes role in rebuilding Democratic Party
(The Hill) Since leaving office, he has held meetings — on a by-request basis — with a handful of House and Senate lawmakers in his office in Washington’s West End and over the phone.
In recent months, for example, he sat down one-on-one with freshman Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), according to a Democrat familiar with the meeting.
He has also met with and has had phone conversations with Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez throughout the spring, according to two sources.
27 June
Why has the Democratic Party’s hold on the middle class loosened? WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib ponders this question in his latest column, which examines how the party’s weakness with the middle class will need to be addressed as its leaders plot a path forward.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren is traveling to Trump-friendly areas of her state hoping to connect with his backers and provide a road map for her party to win back working-class voters. Her message echoes the gloomy assessment of the U.S. economy that President Trump sketched out during the 2016 campaign, though her prescription for addressing it is diametrically opposite.
Dems face identity crisis
(The Hill) Democrats say there is a way to appeal to both progressives and white working-class voters.
“Everybody is being too simplistic,” Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons said. “Voters are much more complex.” … They “want politicians to say something about Black Lives Matter and equality — they also want to know how they’re going to get their kids through college, pay off their house and get a better job,” he said. “The thing that’s most frustrating to me is this either-or dichotomy.”
“This crisis is Democrats not realizing their own strengths, or being scared of articulating their core principles, rather than a crisis of having no agenda,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University.

21 June
Matthew Yglesias:The overall message of 2017 special elections is that Republicans are in trouble
Democrats are consolidating Clinton’s gains, and Republicans aren’t consolidating Trump’s.
The 2016 presidential election featured a substantial reworking of the underlying demographic map of American politics. Clinton did about 10 percentage points better with white college graduates than Barack Obama had done four years before, offset by doing about 14 percentage points worse among whites without college degrees. Since college graduates vote at a higher rate than non-graduates, this is a decent swap in popular vote terms but was deadly to Democratic fortunes in the Electoral College.
An important question going forward was how much that vote swapping would stick. And the answer of the special elections thus far seems to be fairly optimistic for Democrats. … The party seems to be consolidating Clinton’s gains with white college graduates to a much greater extent than the GOP is consolidating Trump’s gains with non-college whites.

8 June
The Democratic Party Is in Worse Shape Than You Thought
By Thomas B. Edsall
(NYT) Sifting through the wreckage of the 2016 election, Democratic pollsters, strategists and sympathetic academics have reached some unnerving conclusions.
What the autopsy reveals is that Democratic losses among working class voters were not limited to whites; that crucial constituencies within the party see its leaders as alien; and that unity over economic populism may not be able to turn back the conservative tide.
Equally disturbing, winning back former party loyalists who switched to Trump will be tough: these white voters’ views on immigration and race are in direct conflict with fundamental Democratic tenets.
Some of these post-mortem conclusions are based on polling and focus groups conducted by the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA; others are drawn from a collection of 13 essays published by The American Prospect.

4 June
Dems want Hillary Clinton to leave spotlight
(The Hill) Democrats say they’d like Hillary Clinton to take a cue from former President Obama and step out of the spotlight.
They say her string of remarks explaining her stunning loss in November coupled with the public remarks blaming the Democratic National Committee for the defeat — which many took as also critical of Obama — are hurting the party and making the 2016 candidate look bitter.
The Hill interviewed more a dozen Democrats about Clinton’s remarks, including many staunch Clinton supporters and former aides.
They said they understood the need for Clinton to explain what happened in the election, and many also empathized with Clinton’s anger over former FBI Director James Comey’s handling of a probe into her private email server. But they also unanimously said Clinton needs to rethink her public blaming tour.
Clinton’s remarks come at a point in time where the Democratic Party feels somewhat leaderless after the eight years of Obama and the surprise Clinton defeat.
Obama has largely gone out of public view, though he reappeared with a statement this week blasting President Trump for pulling the United States from the Paris climate deal.
Advisers to Obama have said he wants to give a new generation of leaders room to grow.

26 May
A sympathetic, even-handed, long profile. Well worth reading.
Hillary Clinton Is Furious. And Resigned. And Funny. And Worried.
The surreal post-election life of the woman who would have been president.
By Rebecca Traister
(New York Magazine) She is hoping to build on the momentum with her new 501(c)4, Onward Together, which is supposed to direct the fire hose of fund-raising dollars that powered her campaign to grassroots groups working to oppose the Trump administration. One of those groups is Emerge America, which trains female candidates to run for office. Another is Run for Something, a group designed to draw young people into politics; its 27-year-old co-founder Amanda Litman worked on Clinton’s digital team. “It has to be sustained,” says Clinton. “And here is my big worry. The other side is sustained by greed and hate and power and ideology, and they never quit. They get up every day looking to take advantage and drive their agenda forward.”

12 May
The Secret Weapon Democrats Don’t Know How to Use
Cheri Bustos of Illinois has lessons about how to win in Trump territory.  Are Democratic leaders listening?
(Politico) No Democrat in the House of Representatives did what Cheri Bustos did last November. She wasn’t the sole member of her party to win in a congressional district Donald Trump also took—there were 11 others—but she was the only one to post a 20-point landslide, and she did it in agricultural, industrial, blue-collar northwestern Illinois.

8 May
(LATimes) Any House Republican who supported the American Health Care Act before Congress left town last week could well be painted as the deciding vote given the razor-thin margin it passed the chamber. That may just be the line of attack coming from Democrats eager to wrest back control in 2018.

4 May
Now we know: Bill Clinton cost his wife the presidency
(WaPost) Almost three hours into a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, FBI Director James Comey shed new light on his decision to go public about his agency’s investigations into Hillary Clinton’s emails, first in July 2016 and again, with devastating effect, in late October, 11 days before the election.
The specific reason he cited: Bill Clinton’s decision to board Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s plane in late June, when their planes were both on a tarmac in Phoenix.

27 March
A sympathetic political profile, worth reading and keeping as a reference
Can Chuck Schumer Check Donald Trump?
After suggesting that he might be able to work with the President, the Senate Minority Leader is taking a harder line.

15 March
Barack Obama has a plan for the Trump era
It’s a mix of political goals and apolitical ideals, six interviews with current and former Obama aides reveal
(Vox) Since leaving the White House, Obama has publicly embraced the traditionally apolitical role of most former American presidents. “He’s been looking forward to a life without the title of president that automatically draws resistance and the Pavlovian response of opposition,” says one adviser close to Obama. “As a former president, you are liberated from that baggage and can reach people in a way that’s not so political.”
But even as Obama tries to transcend partisanship, his jokes suggest political aims. This is the tension that already dominates his post-presidency, as revealed by interviews with six current and former aides to the former president: Obama wants to rise above the partisan muck, but he’s also eager to accomplish goals that are inescapably political in nature.

How should liberals respond to Trump on foreign policy?
Uri Friedman interviews the junior U.S. senator from Connecticut:
Chris Murphy sensed well before most people that the 2016 election would largely revolve around U.S. foreign policy. … in its most primal sense—as in, how America should interact with the world beyond its borders and how Americans should conceive of nationhood in an age of globalization. On issues ranging from trade to terrorism to immigration, Donald Trump reopened a debate on these broad questions, which candidates from both parties had previously treated as settled. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, focused on policy specifics.
Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote an article in early 2015 titled “Desperately Seeking: A Progressive Foreign Policy,” in which he noted that the modern progressive movement, as exemplified by organizations like MoveOn.org and Daily Kos, was “founded on foreign policy,” specifically opposition to the Iraq War. It needed, in his view, to return to its roots.

28 February
New DNC chair Perez will attend Trump’s speech as former rival’s guest
“DNC Chair Tom Perez has always been on the side of working people, and I am honored to have him as my guest to tomorrow evening’s Presidential Address,” Ellison said in a Monday statement.
27 February
After the divisive Democratic National Committee chair election, what’s next?
(The Guardian) Tom Perez triumphed over Keith Ellison for the position of DNC chair. Has the damaged party made the right move? Our commentators give their verdict
Jill Abramson: The Wall Street Journal hammered him. Breitbart News labeled him “the most radical Cabinet member since Henry Wallace”, who was so far to the left that Franklin Roosevelt dumped him from the Democratic ticket in 1944. He rejuvenated the civil rights division of the justice department, taking action against racist voter suppression efforts and initiating investigations of police abuse. He was Ted Kennedy’s civil rights counsel. How could the victory of a man with these credentials be judged a defeat for progressives?
Only inside the weakened, fractured Democratic party, which has always had a fatal attraction for circular firing squads. Tom Perez, winner of the Democratic National Committee’s chairmanship, inherits the job at a particularly difficult time. Because he jumped into the race after Bernie Sanders had endorsed Keith Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress and an early Sanders backer, Perez was caricatured as the establishment candidate. It’s true that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton preferred him, but the former labor secretary, who won backtime pay and extended overtime for workers, is any sane person’s definition of a progressive.
Kate Aronoff: ‘An unbelievably stupid call’
Progressives’ battle for the soul of the Democratic party was not won or lost when Tom Perez became the Democratic National Committee’s new chairman this weekend. But it did suffer a blow.
By choosing to run Perez in the first place against Keith Ellison – a longtime community organizer and the first Muslim member of Congress –the party’s higher-ups made an unbelievably stupid call. In voting for him, picking a deliberate fight with the left over a largely symbolic office, they have risked alienating the only people capable of keeping the Democratic party from stumbling into irrelevance.

22-25 February
Tom Perez is new Democratic party chair, beating Keith Ellison in tight vote
(The Guardian)  Former labor secretary and progressive congressman call for unity against Trump after party race that became symbol of centrist-progressive divisions
The threshold for victory in the second round was 218 votes, out of 435 voters. Perez gained 235 to 200 for Ellison. After announcing the result, Brazile presented the gavel to Perez. He presented a motion to name Ellison as deputy chair, which passed unopposed.
Both men used their remarks after the vote to appeal for party unity, the race for DNC chair having become a symbol of divisions that opened during the 2016 presidential primary between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
Dems fear divisions will persist after DNC chair election
(The Hill) Democrats in Georgia to elect the next chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) are grappling with lingering divisions from the presidential primaries that they fear will persist no matter who becomes the party’s next leader.
The contentious race that has split party members appears headed for a close finish.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and many of his allies are backing Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a progressive firebrand and favorite of the left.
Former Vice President Joe Biden and other key figures from the Obama administration back former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who supported Hillary Clinton in the primaries.
Democrats have done their best to quash the notion that the DNC chair race is a proxy war between these competing wings of the party.
Meet the DNC chair candidates vying to take over Democratic leadership
Frontrunners Keith Ellison and Tom Perez are challenged by Pete Buttigieg, Sally Boynton Brown and others as the party seeks direction in the Trump era
(The Guardian) Hundreds of Democrats have gathered in Atlanta to chart their path forward after a demoralizing defeat in last year’s election. The most pressing issue on the agenda: choosing a new chair to lead the party in the era of Donald Trump. After a months-long national campaign, the chairmanship will be decided by 447 voting members – party functionaries, including state party chairs, activists, donors and elected officials
Weakened Democrats Bow to Voters, Opting for Total War on Trump
(NYT) Reduced to their weakest state in a generation, Democratic Party leaders will gather in two cities this weekend to plot strategy and select a new national chairman with the daunting task of rebuilding the party’s depleted organization. But senior Democratic officials concede that the blueprint has already been chosen for them — by an incensed army of liberals demanding no less than total war against President Trump.
Immediately after the November election, Democrats were divided over how to handle Mr. Trump, with one camp favoring all-out confrontation and another backing a seemingly less risky approach of coaxing him to the center with offers of compromise.
Now, spurred by explosive protests and a torrent of angry phone calls and emails from constituents — and outraged themselves by Mr. Trump’s swift moves to enact a hard-line agenda — Democrats have all but cast aside any notion of conciliation with the White House.
Senator Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, a middle-of-the-road Democrat up for re-election in 2018, cautioned that loathing Mr. Trump, on its own, was not a governing strategy. He said he still hoped for compromise with Republicans on infrastructure funding and perhaps on a plan to improve or “repair” the Affordable Care Act.
Meet the DNC dark horse: Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg is shaking up the race for Democratic chair
(Salon) In a race split between big names, gay small-town mayor and Afghan war vet Pete Buttigieg is now a contender

26 January
Democrats are lost right now. The DNC chairman’s race isn’t helping.
(Boston Globe) Following GOP victories in the 2016 elections, Democrats have descended to their lowest levels of power in Washington, D.C., and capitals across the country since the Hoover administration. And with the Clintons and Obamas exiting the stage, there is no natural leader to take the party forward.
Unfortunately for Democrats, the race for Democratic National Committee chairman — one of the party’s most powerful open posts in D.C. — is unlikely to give much clarity to their conundrum. The DNC chairman’s race features no clear front-runner and, so far, little debate about the soul and direction of the party.
For the first time in a dozen years, there is an open race to run the party. The previously elected chair, US Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, resigned in July. She left after WikiLeaks released e-mails suggesting party staffers coordinated with Hillary Clinton’s campaign during the primary — and against US Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
The DNC chairman’s election will be held in late February in Atlanta, and it’s really anyone’s guess who will win.
3 January
NYT Opinion: Fixing the Democratic grass roots
Part of the answer is circumstances beyond the party’s control. Democratic-leaning voters are clustered in major metropolitan areas, which makes many legislative districts and states tilt Republican.
But part of the problem has been the party’s own doing. Many Democrats and progressives simply have not paid enough attention to grass-roots politics. The devastation from the 2016 elections finally seems to have focused the party and its allies on the importance of such an approach.
“The Democratic agenda is better for all working people,” said President Obama, in a recent episode of The Axe Files podcast. “The problem is, we’re not there on the ground communicating not only the dry policy aspects of this, but that we care about these communities, that we’re bleeding for these communities.”
Obama, for all of his political success, deserves some blame for not doing a better job building the party at a grass-roots level. So does virtually the entire party leadership. But the more important question is: What now?
The answer needs to involve hard work during the lulls between campaigns. In an Op-Ed today, three progressive activists  argue that Democrats can learn lessons from the Tea Party.
2 January
To Stop Trump, Democrats Can Learn From the Tea Party
By Ezra Levin, Leah Greenberg and Angel Padilla
The Tea Party’s success was a disaster for President Obama’s agenda and for our country, but that success should give us hope today. It proved the power that local, defensive organizing can have.
With this in mind, we coordinated a group of former congressional staffers and advocates to develop “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda.” It takes a few pages from the Tea Party playbook, focusing on its strategic choices and tactics, while dispensing with its viciousness. It’s the Tea Party inverted: locally driven advocacy built on inclusion, fairness and respect. It’s playing defense, not to obstruct, but to protect.
1 January
Van Jones on Democratic Party’s Future: ‘The Clinton Days Are Over … You Can’t Run and Hide’
During a panel discussion about the future of the Democratic Party on CNN’s State of the Union this morning, political commentator and former Obama adviser Van Jones made the case that the party should be pressing in a more progressive direction rather than move towards the middle.
After former Democratic Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer blamed Democrat support for trade deals and Obamacare eroding support in the heartland and ex-Clinton aide Karen Finney said there was a need to build grassroots organizing in red states, Jones explained that there were some budding stars in the party.

2016

29 December
A lot of truth in this
Anthony Bourdain Slams ‘Privileged Left’ For Their ‘Utter Contempt’ of Working-Class Americans
“The utter contempt with which privileged Eastern liberals such as myself discuss red-state, gun-country, working-class America as ridiculous and morons and rubes is largely responsible for the upswell of rage and contempt and desire to pull down the temple that we’re seeing now,” he argued.
2 December
Dean’s drop-out reshapes DNC chair fight
Once thought to be the favorite, Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison faces resistance.
(Politico) Just hours after Ellison’s role as the favorite was thrown into question … former Chairman Howard Dean dropped his comeback bid and bowed out of the race, scrambling an already complicated contest.
The result is a race that’s even more of a muddle, with the likelihood of additional candidates jumping in prior to February’s vote.
Democrats are still on the lookout for the obvious next leader in the Donald Trump era, an increasingly urgent imperative as they seek to minimize the recriminations and deep tactical divides that are starting to surface across the party in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s loss.
(The Atlantic) Democrats are still trying to make sense of Hillary Clinton’s defeat. She got fewer votes than Barack Obama did in 2012, and her critics say that’s evidence of her campaign’s failures—but a closer look at the numbers shows a more complicated picture. What’s the point of dissecting Clinton’s campaign again? Whatever’s revealed about the success of her strategies could guide her party as it chooses new leadership: Keith Ellison, the progressive Minnesota rep who’s running for DNC chair, stands at the center of the party’s struggle to reconcile economic populism and identity politics.
nancy_pelosi_2013Brooks & Shields on Nancy Pelosi
DAVID BROOKS: Republicans were preparing for a big defeat and then reorganization. Democrats were preparing for victory. So I don’t think the Democrats are that far along on where the party should go.
But you can see the objection to Pelosi. She’s — the top three leaders in the House on the Democratic side are all in their mid-70s. She’s some San Francisco, not exactly — if you’re trying to reach Ohio.
And is she a fresh face for the party in an era of change? Well, no. On the other hand, she’s a really good tactician and a good legislative leader. And I can see why she ended up winning, because it’s a local race. And they probably wanted somebody who could master the craft of legislation. And, plus, they all owe her to a great degree.
So, it’s a testimony to her that, even in an extremely adverse climate, it’s a testament to what people think of her skills, I would say, that she ended up winning, you know, still by a reasonably comfortable margin.
MARK SHIELDS:  The fact that she’s from San Francisco, if anything, is a help, in the sense that you want a leader who can take tough positions and not jeopardize their own survival. That’s one of the things you want in a leader. She has been a very formidable leader. She was a great speaker. But … A third of her caucus voted against her. Only 12 people came out publicly and were willing to stand up with Tim Ryan, but, in private, 64 or 63 came out and voted in the secret ballot for him. If there had been 35 that had come out, then maybe there might have been 75 or 80 who had been so emboldened to vote outside. But she did prevail, for the reason that David cited. … The Democrats have an enormous problem. Today, as we sit here, there are five states in the United States that have a Democratic governor and two houses of the legislature controlled by Democrats. … There are 12 fewer Democratic senators than there were the day that Barack Obama was sworn in. There are 16 fewer Democratic governors than there were the day. … than there were the day that Barack Obama was sworn in. [Nobody redistricts state lines] There are 63 fewer House members. There are fewer Democratic state legislators today in the 50 states than there have been at any time in history, at any time in history. … I look at this and say, the Democratic Party is noncompetitive west of New Jersey, all the way to Carson City, Nevada, with the exception of the blue island of Illinois and Latino-strengthened states of New Mexico and Colorado.
1 December
Jamie Raskin Has a Fierce, Funny Message for Dispirited Democrats
(New Republic) On Wednesday, House Democrats doubled down on the same old, same old, voting for Nancy Pelosi and a leadership team with an average age of 76—a group that, for all its virtues, doesn’t exactly offer a fresh message to inspire the left. But on Wednesday night in the D.C. suburb of Silver Spring, Maryland, a vibrant new left-wing voice in the House made himself heard—with exactly the message that Democrats across the country sorely need. “The resistance begins right here and the revival begins tonight,” said Representative-elect Jamie Raskin, whipping up the crowd at a rally he called “the first true-blue, overflow Democratic revival meeting of 2016.”
Elizabeth Warren Proposes to Strengthen Democratic Spines With a Powerful New Tool: Math
Noting that more Americans voted for Democrats, the senator says her party has a mandate to resist Trumpism.
Speaking of the popular vote totals that favored her party, Warren said:

The American people didn’t give Democrats majority support so we could come back to Washington and play dead. They didn’t send us here to whimper, whine or grovel. They sent us here to say “no” to efforts to sell Congress to the highest bidder. They sent us here to stand up for what’s right. Now, they are watching, waiting, and hoping — hoping we show some spine and start fighting back when Congress completely ignores the message of the American people and returns to all its same old ways.

Nancy Pelosi Re-Elected: Is More of the Same Harmful?
30 November
Nancy Pelosi today secured another term as House minority leader.
17 November
In Their Coastal Citadels, Democrats Argue Over What Went Wrong
Epic loss reveals retreat of white working-class support across America’s midsection; ‘there are big parts of the country that just aren’t hearing us’
By Reid J. Epstein and Janet Hook
(WSJ) After last week’s election, Democrats hold the governor’s office and both legislative chambers in just six states—all of them on the Atlantic or Pacific oceans—compared with 25 for Republicans.
Just a few weeks ago, when Hillary Clinton was leaping ahead in the polls, it seemed as if it would be the Republicans heading for a reckoning. Instead it’s the Democrats who are plunged into a bout of soul-searching about the party’s diminishing footprint, especially among the white working class.
The moment has been years in the making, masked by President Obama’s singular ability to knit together a broad coalition of young people, women and minorities. The last Democratic presidential nominee to connect with the working class was Bill Clinton, whose most recent appearance on the ballot was 20 years ago. Al Gore and John Kerry, who each lost to Republican George W. Bush, were both seen as cerebral creatures of an economic and political elite.
15 November
The Democrats’ Hubris Elected Donald Trump
(HuffPost) If your first reaction to Hillary Clinton losing is to merely blame the racism, sexism and misogyny of white people in Middle America, then you can rightfully take your share of credit in our defeat. That kind of lazy intellectualism and self-righteousness cost us dearly in this election cycle. Throwing empathy into the dumpster was easier than talking to people who believed differently than us. We failed to articulate why our way was better for those that are struggling in the country regardless of their race.
Are there some racist and sexist people that voted for Donald Trump? Yes, of course there are some. But to pretend that we as Democrats don’t have our own racial issues is naïve and dishonest. African-Americans voted in lower than expected numbers because many of us were unwilling to vote for either candidate, who we believed would fail to significantly address the concerns of black Americans. Hillary Clinton was seen by some as the candidate who called us “super predators” and played a role in the creation of the mass incarceration system that has devastated the black community. These issues made it hard for Hillary to muster the enthusiasm of many young black voters. Bigotry unfortunately is bipartisan and we still have not adequately addressed our own questionable racial history as a party.
13 November
‘Devastating’ election for House Democrats triggers request to Pelosi
Several House Democrats say they need more time to discuss their leadership makeup
(Politico) A group of House Democrats is pushing to delay its leadership elections, saying lawmakers need more time to evaluate what went wrong and map out next steps after the party’s “devastating” showing in the election.
The group is not explicitly calling for a change in House leadership but wants to have a discussion about it. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other top House Democrats are aware of their request.
Several Democrats have grumbled privately since the election that something needs to change after House Democrats picked up only a handful of seats. Pelosi and other party leaders were anticipating large gains with Trump at the top of the GOP ticket, and several weeks before the election, some Democrats believed a takeover was within reach.
Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) have led the caucus for more than a decade

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