The Democrats/progressives 2018

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The Democrats/progressives after the 2016 Election Chapter I

Elizabeth Warren Announces Iowa Trip as She Starts Running for President in 2020
The competition for the Democratic nomination is poised to be the most wide open since perhaps 1992: The party has no single leader, no obvious front-runner for 2020, and no broadly unifying ideology as it moves away from a quarter-century of dominance by the Clintons and Barack Obama.
(NYT) Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat and a sharp critic of big banks and unregulated capitalism, entered the 2020 race for president on Monday, becoming the first major candidate in what is likely to be a long and crowded primary marked by ideological and generational divisions in a Democratic Party determined to beat President Trump.
Ms. Warren quickly made plans to campaign this weekend in Iowa, which holds the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses in February 2020. The senator, who has not traveled to Iowa recently, announced Tuesday that she would visit several of the state’s major cities: Des Moines, Council Bluffs, Storm Lake and Sioux City.
While Ms. Warren’s stinging attacks on Mr. Trump and Wall Street have helped make her a favorite of grass-roots liberals, she also faces challenges as a presidential candidate: controversy over a DNA test to prove her Native American heritage, skepticism from the party establishment and a lack of experience in a national race.
The editorial board of The Boston Globe, her hometown newspaper, recently urged her not to run for president, saying she had become “a divisive figure.” And some in her party believe she missed her best chance to run in 2016, when liberal activists urged her to challenge Hillary Clinton.

27-28 December
Why the Bernie Movement Must Crush Beto O’Rourke
(New York) The first skirmish of the 2020 Democratic primary, a wave of attacks on Beto O’Rourke by supporters of Bernie Sanders, took almost everybody by surprise. On the outside, it looks like one of those inscrutable, personality-driven online spats that characterize the Twitter era. But the feud is neither petty nor personal nor irrational.
Why Sanders 2016 backers are no longer feeling the Bern
(The Week) Some backers of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)’s 2016 presidential bid, including lawmakers as well as former staffers and advisers, spoke with The New York Times on Thursday and said they won’t necessarily support him if he runs again in 2020. …  A common concern among the Democrats the Times spoke to was Sanders’ age; the Vermont senator would be 79 by the time he took office, which would make him the oldest president in U.S. history. Others noted that Sanders no longer sticks out among Democrats as much when many of his policy proposals, such as single-payer health care, have been adopted by other candidates, including O’Rourke and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

14 December
The left blindsides Beto
The Texas congressman is taking flak for several votes and for not joining the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
(Politico) The criticism — ranging from O’Rourke’s membership in the centrist New Democrat Coalition to his acceptance of campaign money from oil industry employees — has so far been confined largely to social media, newspaper opinion pages and online message boards. But as O’Rourke considers running for president in 2020, his potential opponents are quietly taking stock, plotting lines of attack they believe could weaken the Texas congressman in a crowded primary field. … supporters of O’Rourke have been pressed to reiterate the progressive credentials of a Democrat who, in his Senate campaign, was chiefly criticized for being too progressive and not diluting his positions to account for the state’s conservative tint. They point to his support for Medicare for All and for leftist drug, military and immigration policies.

12 December
George F. Will: This candidate may be the optimum challenger to Trump in 2020
He must decide how much he wants to be president; Democrats must decide how single-minded they are about defeating Trump.
(WaPost) [Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)]’s muscular progressivism, explained in pitiless detail in a 45-page manifesto (“Working Too Hard for Too Little: A Plan for Restoring the Value of Work in America”), should alarm conservatives wary of interventionist government and therefore should thrill progressives with fresh reasons to enlarge the administrative state. He is already intellectually limbered up to compete in the policy-sweepstakes part of the scramble for his party’s nomination.

19 November
Pelosi’s bid for speaker imperiled as public opposition grows
Sixteen Democrats released a letter promising to vote against the California Democrat on the House floor.
(Politico) the Democrats called Pelosi “a historic figure.“ But, they added, “Our majority came on the backs of candidates who said that they would support new leadership because voters in hard-won districts, and across the country, want to see real change in Washington. We promised to change the status quo, and we intend to deliver on that promise.“

13 November
How Democrats Won Over Older Voters—And Flipped the House
Democrats were victorious because they fought Republicans to a draw among Americans age 50 and up. How they did that is the story of the 2018 election.
(Politico) The main reason for Democrats’ electoral success this year with older Americans is that in 2018, Democratic candidates stopped seeing health care as a liability and began seeing it as a political weapon. Health care was the single-most-discussed issue in political ads in 2018.
An analysis of House and Senate campaign ads by the Wesleyan Media Project found that from Sept. 18 to Oct. 15, 2018, a full 54.5 percent of all ads for Democratic House and Senate candidates discussed health care, while only 31.5 percent of pro-Republican ads did the same.
…one of the most reliable arrows in the Democratic quiver this year, a reference to a provision of House Republicans’ health care legislation that would’ve allowed insurers to charge Americans over age 50 up to five times more for health insurance than younger people. In races from upstate New York to the Arizona-Mexico border to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to the suburbs of Richmond, Va., Democratic challengers flipped GOP-held House seats while running ads accusing Republicans of supporting this so-called Age Tax, using a term popularized by the political arm of the AARP.
Democrats’ resounding victories in House races from coast to coast … were driven by a marked improvement among all segments of the electorate. But because older voters made up a larger share of the electorate in this year’s midterms, Democrats’ stronger performance with this cohort was critical to their success.

12 November
A really, really, bad idea
Former Clinton adviser says Hillary will run in 2020
Two-time Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will mount a third bid for the White House, longtime Clinton adviser Mark Penn wrote in an op-ed published Sunday by The Wall Street Journal, predicting that the former first lady and secretary of state is readying a “Hillary 4.0” campaign for 2020.
In the Journal op-ed, Penn, an adviser and pollster to the Clintons from 1995-2008, and former New York City politician Andrew Stein wrote that in a 2020 run, Clinton would reinvent herself “as a liberal firebrand.” The twice-failed presidential candidate would not “let a little thing like two stunning defeats stand in the way of her claim to the White House,” they wrote.
News that Clinton might try to take on President Donald Trump again elicited cheers from the White House. Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway on Sunday retweeted reporting on Penn and Stein’s assertion, adding: “Dear God, please, yes.”

7 November
The Democrats’ Deep-South Strategy Was a Winner After All
Losses in marquee races might lead the party to believe it can’t win elections with candidates like Andrew Gillum, Stacey Abrams, and Beto O’Rourke. But there’s more to the story.
(The Atlantic) A deeper look at the results from Tuesday shows that the presence of three rock-star candidates with progressive bona fides had real effects beyond their Election Night outcome, and that the payoff came not at the top of the ballot but at the bottom.
…  all told, there is little evidence in the 2018 results that moderate candidates are the key to the Democratic Party’s future. … Across the country, progressive ballot initiatives fared surprisingly well. Indeed, measures against gerrymandering, in favor of medical marijuana, in favor of higher minimum wages, in favor of Medicaid expansion, and in favor of criminal-justice reform received broad bipartisan support in several states, and actually outperformed Democrats running for statewide office.
Abrams, Gillum, and O’Rourke are likely directly responsible for these down-ballot wins. In Florida, Amendment 4’s popularity was clearly boosted by the unprecedented grassroots effort to elect Gillum. In Texas, O’Rourke’s momentum was cited as a key factor in major Democratic gains in the state and local judiciary, including the victories of 19 black women judges around the Houston area. In Georgia, Lucy McBath, a black activist whose son, Jordan Davis, was murdered in 2012 in Florida, declared victory in the state’s Sixth Congressional District over the Republican Karen Handel, a result—still unconfirmed by some major news outlets—delivered by overlapping circles of activists who’d also helped Abrams.

The US just elected 9 new scientists to Congress, including an ocean expert, a nurse, and a biochemist. Here’s the full list.
(Business Insider) When the 116th Congress heads to Washington in January, there will be a record number of women in the ranks — at least 123, according to the news website Axios, including the first Muslim women, the first Somali-American, and the first Native American women.
There will be more scientists too.
On Tuesday, nine new science-credentialed candidates were elected: one senator and eight members of the House.
The members of the current 115th Congress include one physicist, one microbiologist, and one chemist, as well as eight engineers and one mathematician. The medical professions are slightly better represented, with three nurses and 15 doctors, as well as at least three veterinarians.
The new winners will bolster those science ranks. The Democratic candidates who won all ran successful campaigns with the support of a nonprofit political action committee called 314 Action, which started in 2016 and is dedicated to recruiting, training, and funding scientists and healthcare workers who want to run for political office.
All seven of the scientists endorsed by 314 Action who were up for reelection won their races. So did seven other incumbent scientists.

BUT Some lesser-covered causes have lost backers, as their champions were swept out of office in Tuesday’s U.S. midterm elections. The next Congress will lose several Republican fans of space exploration, including one who’s helped grow NASA’s budget over the years, including for its climate-science programs. Also of note: Climate moderates were already a minority among House Republicans, and this midterm swept away almost 20 more of them.

David Frum: Beto’s Loss Was a Blessing in Disguise for Democrats
And other lessons of the 2018 midterm elections
It may not be right that the middle of the country exerts radically more political weight than the coasts, or that white votes typically count for more than nonwhite votes. Right or not, those things are true, at least for now, and as long as they remain true, political realists must reckon with them. If 2018 offered a promise of at least some restraint on the Trump presidency, it also yielded a reminder of the hardest facts of American life and politics. Be guided by that reminder—the struggle for liberal democracy is too real and too dangerous for hearts undirected by heads.

14 September
Former NYC mayor, billionaire Michael Bloomberg planning 2020 presidential run: report
Sources tell Times of London he’s preparing to run as a Democrat
(Salon) This is certainly not the first time that Bloomberg’s name has been referenced in the same breath as “president.” Aside from possessing the purse strings to independently finance a presidential run, the Bloomberg brand is one of technocratic centrism that appeals to both sides of the aisle; purportedly, he was on the short-list for Democrat Hillary Clinton’s vice-presidential candidate in 2016, while he was likewise reported to be a contender for Republican John McCain’s vice presidential pick in 2008 as well.

7 September
Obama Calls Out Trump: How Hard Is It to Say ‘Nazis Are Bad’?
(The Daily Beast) The remarks appear to be the first time Obama has said Trump’s name during a post-presidential public address. … Obama’s speech, billed as a preview of the themes he will discuss on the campaign trail this fall, precedes the beginning of a travel schedule that will bring him around the country for Democratic candidates.
This new phase of Obama’s political activity marks a significant uptick from what he was doing during the early stages of President Trump’s tenure. … he is now leaping into the fray in a crucial election cycle for Democrats.
Prior to this speech and his travel plans, Obama endorsed more than 80 candidates nationwide and according to his office, he plans to release another round soon in addition to more travel.

4 September
Ayanna Pressley Upsets Capuano in Massachusetts House Race
… scoring a stunning upset of 10-term Representative Michael Capuano and positioning herself to become the first African-American woman to represent the state in Congress.
There is no Republican on the November ballot in this storied Boston-based district, which was once represented by John F. Kennedy and is one of the most left leaning in the country.

2 September
(Politico) “There is little debate House Democratic candidates are running with the wind at their backs. The president’s party has lost House seats in 18 of the last 20 midterm elections, with an average loss of 29 seats. The last time a president’s approval rating was as low as Mr. Trump’s 40%, Republicans lost 30 seats as George W. Bush’s popularity sagged during the Iraq war in 2006.” WSJ

29 August
David Leonhardt: Another Strong Night for Democrats
Primary season is almost over. It’s been a good one for people who want to hold Trump accountable.
All told, the primary season has been quite good for Democrats. They have largely avoided nominating weak candidates in winnable districts. They have kept their focus on economic issues, where the public tends to support Democratic positions (as opposed to social issues or impeachment, on which voters are more evenly split). Meanwhile, President Trump continued acting in ways that have kept his approval ratings in the low 40s.
Last night’s results continued the trend. Combined, Arizona and Florida have nine House districts that Democrats have a legitimate chance to flip, according to the Cook Political Report. Solid Democratic candidates won the primaries in all nine.

23 August
Inside the progressive movement roiling the Democratic Party
(Reuters) Frustrated by a string of defeats at the polls, a progressive wing of the Democratic Party pushes a populist platform across the country. Amid wins and losses, the movement aims to reshape a party in flux.
Less than three months before the midterm elections, a rising progressive movement is roiling the Democratic Party – fueled by fury at Republican President Donald Trump’s administration, a growing populism among voters impatient for seismic change, and resentment of party leaders who have presided over a losing streak in national elections.
Republicans disparage Democratic progressives as wild-eyed radicals led by a 28-year-old political neophyte, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose take-down of senior Democratic leader and 10-term incumbent Congressman Joe Crowley in a June 26 New York contest rocked Washington.
Ocasio-Cortez is only the most visible symbol of a grassroots insurgency that has sprung up across the country, including in spots far from deep-blue Democratic strongholds. Most embracing the progressive label share a disdain for corporate money in politics and favor more government-run healthcare, subsidies for college tuition and wage hikes for laborers.
Progressives have a mixed record in early nominating contests, more often than not losing to more mainstream Democrats.
But they have moved the party sharply to the left, particularly on expanding the government role in healthcare, a Reuters review of Democratic positions in the most competitive congressional races found.

16 August
A shake-up of Democratic leadership could be on the way.
(NYT) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is bracing for a challenge to her position, and has said she is deliberately building a “bridge” to a new generation of party leaders.
A surge of upstart candidates is reshaping the party, and younger Democrats are crying out for a generational change.
Paul Krugman: Something Not Rotten in Denmark
It’s true that Denmark doesn’t at all fit the classic definition of socialism, which involves government ownership of the means of production. It is, instead, social-democratic: a market economy where the downsides of capitalism are mitigated by government action, including a very strong social safety net.
A recent Gallup poll found that majorities both of young voters and of self-identified Democrats prefer socialism to capitalism. But this doesn’t mean that tens of millions of Americans want the government to seize the economy’s commanding heights. It just means that many people, told that wanting America to be a bit more like Denmark is socialist, end up believing that socialism isn’t so bad, after all.
The same may be said for some Democratic politicians. Much has been made of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, not just because of her upset primary victory, but because she’s a self-proclaimed socialist. Her platform, however, isn’t socialist at all by the traditional definition. It’s just unabashedly social-democratic.
Whenever I read articles questioning what Democrats stand for, I wonder if the writers are paying any attention to what candidates are saying about policy. For today’s Democratic Party is actually impressively unified around social-democratic goals, far more so than in the past.

14 August
TOP TAKEAWAYS FROM TUESDAY’S PRIMARY RESULTS — STEVEN SHEPARD: “Democrats bet on boring in the Midwest … Scott Walker’s machine remains a force … Voters aren’t keen on D.C. lobbyists … A historic night for Democrats.”
— ELENA SCHNEIDER: “Democrats post a night of firsts in Tuesday primaries”: “Democratic voters selected a diverse array of history-making candidates in primaries across four states Tuesday, including nominating a transgender woman for governor of Vermont.
Christine Hallquist, a former energy executive, would be the first openly transgender governor in America if she defeats GOP Gov. Phil Scott in November. “Meanwhile, Connecticut teacher Jahana Hayes is poised to become the first African-American Democrat to represent the state in Congress after winning her primary in the 5th District, and in Minnesota, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) could become the first Muslim attorney general in the U.S. after winning his primary — days after facing allegations of abuse from the son of an ex-girlfriend, which Ellison denied.”
More than a grain of truth?:
Margaret Wente: The Democrats are self-destructing again
(Globe & Mail) The chances that the Democrats will retake the House of Representatives this November are looking pretty good. But I can’t say I’m too optimistic about 2020. …  The party’s progressive wing – which includes Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillebrand, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker – has taken a clear message from Mr. Trump’s traumatizing victory. Unfortunately, it’s the wrong one. Instead of concluding that they lost the 2016 election because they had an awful candidate who couldn’t connect with ordinary middle-class voters, they concluded that the Democratic Party needs to move more left than ever. And that means more economic populism, more immigrant rights, more identity politics.

8 August
GOP senator: ‘Real likelihood’ Dems win the House ‘by 10 or 12 more seats than they need’
(The Hill) Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) warned that Democrats could win back control of the House and pick up more seats than they need to hold the majority in the upcoming midterm elections.

7 August
Win or lose, Beto O’Rourke’s campaign against Ted Cruz could shape Texas politics for years
(Texas Tribune) Despite the excitement he’s generated among Democrats, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is still widely viewed as a long shot. Yet the El Paso congressman’s campaign could still help rebuild his party and make a difference in races lower on the ballot.
O’Rourke’s 18-month statewide tour could still help significantly rebuild a flagging state party apparatus. The term being thrown around quietly among Democrats is “losing forward.”

5 August
The Progressives’ Plan to Win in 2018
(The Atlantic) The first Netroots Nation conference in a Donald Trump–era election year opened with not one, not two, but five keynote speakers of color, all of whom underlined the potential of a “multiracial coalition” of voters made up of African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and progressive whites. Their prescription for taking back the House in the November midterms was not winning back Trump voters, but expanding the electorate. “Our swing voter is not red to blue,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez … told an audience of progressive activists on Saturday. “It’s nonvoter to voter.”

3 August
If Democrats fail to take back the House in November, this might be why
Here’s why Republicans are hopeful they can hang onto their majority:
1. Special elections are just that, special.
2. Republicans feel good about their most vulnerable incumbents.
3. There are structural barriers for Democrats to overcome.
4. The economy is chugging along, and there are no major international disasters.
The economy continues to grow by adding jobs, though wage growth remains sluggish — and everything is below Trump’s vocalized expectations, as The Post’s Philip Bump notes.
On the international stage, Trump is picking a lot of unconventional fights, but nothing has boiled over to a crisis point. Republicans also think there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that voters inclined to support the president will give him a chance to prove that there’s a method to his madness.

27 July
Why Washington insiders think Democrats will take back the House
(WaPost) Retirements and the map: Even before election season got started, Republicans were vulnerable to a Democratic takeover. Democrats need a total of 23 pickups to take back the House, and there are 23 Republicans sitting in districts Hillary Clinton won. Then Republicans started retiring in historic numbers. A notable number of House Republicans who have held their districts for years are leaving competitive districts in California, Pennsylvania and Florida. Since it’s much easier to win an open seat than to oust an incumbent, these races naturally get even more competitive for Democrats.
Energy on the left: Republicans argue that it’s natural for the party out of power to perform well after a presidential election, so we shouldn’t read too much into this stat. But Democrats are performing really well. They’ve flipped 40 state legislature seats in special elections since Trump became president, including some deep in Trump country
Democrats are doing well in polling:  In polls over the past month… voters say they would choose a generic Democrat over a generic Republican by an average of eight points, according to a Washington Post analysis of polling.
Republicans are in power, with Trump at the wheel: Recent history shows that the party that controls the White House normally loses seats in Congress in the next election. But Republicans aren’t just in control of the White House. They’re in control of all of Congress. That allows Democrats to argue that whatever voters may not like about Washington is the other side’s fault.

20-23 July
Michelle Goldberg: Democrats Are Moving Left. Don’t Panic.
If you want to beat Trump, centrism is not the answer.
(NYT opinion) … the economic demands that animate the left are generally quite popular. Though “Medicare For All” means different things to different people, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll from last year found that 62 percent of Americans view it positively. A recent Rasmussen poll found 46 percent of likely voters support a federal jobs guarantee, a more radical proposal that was barely present in American politics a couple of years ago.
Centrists might not think these are good ideas, but they are not wild fantasies; they represent efforts to grapple with the chronic economic insecurity that is the enemy of political stability.
Democrats will not defeat Trump and his increasingly fanatical, revanchist party by promising the restoration of what came before him; the country is desperate for a vision of something better. Whether or not you share that vision, if you truly believe that Trump is a threat to democracy, you should welcome politics that inspire people to come to democracy’s rescue.

There Is a Revolution on the Left. Democrats Are Bracing.
(NYT) “There are so many progressive policies that have widespread support that mainstream Democrats are not picking up on, or putting that stuff down and saying, ‘That wouldn’t really work.’”
[These] Voters… may not represent a controlling faction in the Democratic Party, at least not yet. But they are increasingly rattling primary elections around the country, and they promise to grow as a disruptive force in national elections as younger voters reject the traditional boundary lines of Democratic politics. … The pressure from a new generation of confrontational progressives has put Democrats at the precipice of a sweeping transition, away from not only the centrist ethos of the Bill Clinton years but also, perhaps, from the consensus-oriented liberalism of Barack Obama

The Fix’s top 10 Senate races show Democrats with a (narrow) opening to win the Senate
(WaPost) Democrats won a special election in Alabama last year, giving them a narrow path to take back control of the Senate this November. A couple things have aligned in recent months that keep that possibility alive. But here’s the catch: Democrats will need a near-perfect midterm performance to take back the Senate.
They need to overthrow at least two Republicans in competitive states while protecting nearly all of the Senate Democrats running for reelection in states that President Trump won. Seven of those red-state Democrats make our list of the most vulnerable incumbents, and five of those Democrats are trying to hang on in a state Trump won by double digits.

30 June
As Trump Consolidates Power, Democrats Confront a Rebellion in Their Ranks
(NYT) The pitched battle looming over the Supreme Court, along with a jolt to the Democratic leadership at the ballot box last Tuesday, is threatening to shatter the already fragile architecture of the Democratic Party, as an activist rebellion on the left and a lurch to the right in Washington propels the party toward a moment of extraordinary conflict and forced reinvention.
Mr. Trump’s divisive and at times demagogic presidency has ignited much of the liberal upheaval, driving many left-of-center voters on to a kind of ideological war footing. That has translated into a surge in outsider candidates in the midterms who are pressuring Democratic leaders to support an ambitious liberal platform that includes single-payer health care, free college tuition and the abolition of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
But this insurgency, which is both encouraging and alarming Democratic officials, is not merely aimed at pushing the party farther left ideologically. There is a deeper divide over how far to go in confronting Mr. Trump and attempting to thwart his agenda. …
Senate Democrats settled on a careful strategy for the coming Supreme Court confirmation battle. They would drop their demands that Republicans not appoint a replacement for Mr. Kennedy until after the midterm elections, senators decided, and instead would highlight the threat to abortion rights and health care to try to mobilize opposition to Mr. Trump’s appointment.

27 June
Who Is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? A Democratic Giant Slayer
in a stunning upset Tuesday night that ignited the New York and national political worlds, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, a Bronx-born community organizer and member of the Democratic Socialists of America, defeated Representative Joseph Crowley, a 19-year incumbent and Queens political stalwart who had not faced a primary challenger in 14 years.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, who has called for Medicare for all, tuition-free public colleges and the abolition of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, made her underdog status the central pillar of her upstart campaign.

24 June

A fascinating analysis of the enigmatic political role the former president plays today. Sympathetic but not uncritical. A good read now and one to be revisited over the coming months.
Where Is Barack Obama?
The most popular American, whose legacy is the primary target of Donald Trump, has, for now, virtually disappeared from public life.
By Gabriel Debenedetti
(New York) How did the most ubiquitous man in America for eight years virtually disappear? Over the course of his presidency, Obama cast himself as the country’s secular minister as much as its commander-in-chief, someone who understood the moral core of the nation and felt compelled to insist that we live up to it. What explains his near absence from the political stage, where he might argue publicly against the reversals of his policy accomplishments, and also from American life more broadly? What is keeping him from speaking more frequently about the need to protect democratic norms and the rule of law, to be decent people? Where is the man who cried after Sandy Hook and sang in Charleston, who after each mass shooting tried to soothe an outraged nation, who spoke of American values in his travels across the globe? And, tactically, what is behind the relative silence of one of the most popular figures alive just as American politics appears to so many to be on the brink of breaking? (24 June)

22 June
The Midterms Are All About Trump
(New York) It’s a political science truism that midterm elections are typically referenda on the current president, and that the party controlling the White House typically loses ground in midterms that it won in more congenial presidential elections.
Because there’s never been a president quite like Donald J. Trump, with his extraordinary ability to dominate the media landscape morning, noon, and night, it stands to reason that he might dominate the thinking of voters looking toward the midterms in an especially powerful way. And that’s exactly what a major new survey from Pew shows.
… it’s the combination of intense positive and negative focus on the president that’s new, and that makes measurements of midterm “enthusiasm” harder to make than is usually the case:
George F. Will: Vote against the GOP this November
The congressional Republican caucuses must be substantially reduced. So substantially that their remnants, reduced to minorities, will be stripped of the Constitution’s Article I powers that they have been too invertebrate to use against the current wielder of Article II powers. They will then have leisure time to wonder why they worked so hard to achieve membership in a legislature whose unexercised muscles have atrophied because of people like them.
Mark Penn: Dems could win House, but Pelosi not guaranteed speakership
(The Hill) … he suggested the slim margin could give Democrats disgruntled with Pelosi’s leadership an opening to negotiate with Republicans to pick a different Speaker.
“If there is only five or six seats here that make the difference, you can see some real negotiations going on among the Democrats, or the Democrats and Republicans who have the balance of power,” he said, noting a Speaker is chosen by a majority vote of both parties and not just the ruling party.
GOP pollster: Democrats are poised to take back the House

20 June
Bloomberg to Spend Big to Help Democrats in the Midterms
Mr. Bloomberg — a political independent who has championed left-of-center policies on gun control, immigration and the environment — has approved a plan to pour at least $80 million into the 2018 election.

6 June
(New York) This week, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced that he was stepping down, prompting widespread speculation that he would run for president in 2020. In “Democrats Must Reject Howard Schultz and His Radical Centrist Ideology,” Eric Levitz warns against embracing Schultz’s vision of the world. Schultz believes that liberals are drifting too far left, and that the national debt is the biggest problem facing America today. The coffee baron may present this worldview as pragmatic approach to politics, but it is actually “more detached from empirical and political reality than are those of the left-wing Democrats he decries,” who want the richest country in the world to focus on things like universal health care and a sane climate policy. Still, while Schultz’s ideas have little purchase among liberals, it would be unwise to dismiss them altogether, given the like-mindness of some of his fellow billionaires, who hold outsize electoral influence. Democrats strengthen hand in seeking control of House, even if odds of a blue wave are diminishing
(WaPost) Halfway through the primary season, election results across the country have strengthened the Democrats’ hand in their quest for control of the House, even as shifts in the national mood raise the possibility that an anticipated electoral wave could flatten into a ripple.
After votes in 21 states, including California and seven others that held primaries Tuesday, Democrats have avoided potential pitfalls and secured general-election candidates in many Republican-held districts who have compelling biographical stories and political profiles that party leaders hope will have broad appeal in a nation that tends to vote for change in off-year contests.
Democrats poised to claim ballot slots in nearly all House districts in California
In a state heavily antagonistic toward President Trump, Democrats spent millions targeting roughly a half-dozen Republican-held congressional seats that could give them a chunk of the 23 seats they need to flip to gain majority control of the House.
Opposition to Trump and his policies produced scores of candidates, which complicated Democratic efforts in a state with an un­or­tho­dox primary system in which the top two vote-getters advance regardless of party. But by Wednesday morning, it was clear that Democratic candidates would compete in nearly all of the 53 districts.

How California’s ‘Jungle Primary’ System Works
(NPR) The California primary is a free-for-all. Voters can pick any candidate, regardless of party, and the top two vote-getters will advance to the general election. NPR’s Ari Shapiro talks with University of Southern California associate professor Christian Grose about the state’s “jungle primary” system.

4 June
The results of California’s primary elections on Tuesday will echo across the nation, with Democrats hoping to flip several congressional seats there. National Democrats have poured millions of dollars into the state, hoping to avoid disaster. Here are the races to watch, and an explanation of California’s unusual “jungle primary” system.

28 May
Joe Scarborough: Democrats may be in for a surprise in 2018
Republican candidates justifying their support for a man who lies about payoffs to porn stars, lies about policies that rip infants from their mothers’ arms and lies about the existence of White House staffers speaking on his own behalf now have more than Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch to justify their devotion to the “carnage” president.
For starters, they can point to Trump’s conservative judicial nominees beyond Gorsuch as cause for celebration. But their talking points can also include massive tax cuts, a bigger military budget, regulatory reform and the gutting of the Environmental Protection Agency. Other wedge-issue winners include the planned withdrawal from the Paris climate accords, scrapping of the Iran nuclear deal, undermining Obamacare, moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, attacking federal employee unions and promoting extreme immigration policies. Add to that the mocking of political correctness and identity politics, and you have a platform sure to inspire the activists who drive today’s Republican Party.
While many of these policies will drive up the federal debt and diminish U.S. power across the globe, and will likely be reversed by a stroke of his successor’s pen, Trump’s list of “accomplishments” are scratching an ideological itch that establishment Republicans could never reach. This is, of course, because many of his moves will prove to be disastrous in short order

Richard Cohen: For Democrats, 2020 should be about one thing
(WaPost Opinion) …the Democratic field lacks a giant-killer and, worse, seems to lack anyone imbued with a red-hot desire to flatten Donald Trump. He is the issue — not needed programs such as banking regulation or the desire for diversity or the requirement to invest in education and reeducation. Ask Trump. It is always about Donald Trump.

Democrats Are Running a Smart, Populist Campaign
By David Leonhardt
(NYT Opinion) Stacey Abrams and Conor Lamb are supposed to represent opposite poles of the Trump-era Democratic Party. She is the new progressive heroine … He is the new centrist hero. … [But} They come across as ideological soul mates, both upbeat populists who focus on health care, education, upward mobility and the dignity of work.
They come across as ideological soul mates, both upbeat populists who focus on health care, education, upward mobility and the dignity of work.
Americans really are divided on abortion, guns, race and other cultural issues, but they’re remarkably progressive on economics. When Democrats talk about health care, education and jobs, they can focus the white working class on the working-class part of its identity rather than the white part. And Democrats can fire up their base at the same time. …

12 May
In wide-open 2020 presidential field, Democrats are road-testing messages — and trying to redefine their party
(WaPost) Before the start of a 2020 Democratic presidential campaign, at least 25 candidates — mayors, governors, entrepreneurs, members of the House and Senate — have hit the road to workshop their vision, experiment with catchphrases and test policy ideas that could keep President Trump from winning a second term.
Is the 2018 Democratic Wave Receding?
(New York Magazine) The bottom line is that we all need to buckle up for the long haul and exhibit some patience in figuring out what this election cycle will produce. A Democratic “wave” that flips or nearly flips the House and minimizes Senate losses is still the best bet. Overreaction to one poll or one primary is still going to happen, of course, but it makes about as much sense as just flipping a coin.

10 May
So far this primary season, Dems are united in taking on Republican seats—not each other
By Elaine Kamarck, Alexander R. Podkul, and Nicholas W. Zeppos
(Brookings) As the 2018 primary season moved into high gear this week with contests in Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia, both wings of the Democratic Party have reason to celebrate. The progressive wing of the Democratic Party, most recently associated with the presidential candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders, is providing a boost of activism and energy to the Democrats. In a year where we are seeing a large increase in the total number of Democratic candidates we are also seeing a very large increase in the percentage of self-identified progressive Democrats running in primaries.
Compared to 2016 and 2014, the number of progressive candidates—many of them endorsed by political action groups that have sprung up in the wake of the 2016 presidential election—has increased sharply in all of the states that have had primaries so far, with the exception of West Virginia.

25 April
Why Last Night’s G.O.P. Victory Should Terrify Trump
Another massive special-election swing portends a 2018 bloodbath for Republicans.
(Vanity Fair) On Tuesday, party operatives received the latest evidence of what strategists predict will be a ‘blue wave’ in November: a massive 16-point swing in Arizona’s 8th Congressional district, where Republican Debbie Lesko eked out a narrow 5-point victory over her Democratic challenger in a district that went for Trump by 21 points in 2016.
… inside Washington, the writing is on the wall. Four Senate Republicans and 25 House Republicans—including House Speaker Paul Ryan—have already said they will not run for re-election this fall, making the lower chamber all but certain to change hands in November. According to the renowned Cook Political Report, 50 Republican seats are considered competitive, compared to just five for Democrats.
Some Republican operatives fear the Senate, too, could be in play. “Everyone just universally assumed it would be status quo or Republicans would win a seat or two,” a Republican lobbyist with ties to the Senate told Axios. “And now it feels like Republicans are at a risk of losing one, which would be a 50-50 Senate or two, which would be a Democratic Senate.”

19 April
This Poll On Hillary Is Brutal
(Daily Wire) According to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, Clinton’s favorability rating is even more grim than it was when she lost in 2016
As the Journal notes, her extremely negative favorability rating makes her a far more toxic figure for political candidates in competitive areas than Trump. For that reason, Republicans have already begun looking for ways to tie embattled Democrats to Clinton …
The feeling is that Hillary 2016 has never ended. While America has moved on, including her own party, Clinton appears to have convinced herself that if she just explains “What Happened” one more time, she’ll finally win the election we all knew was hers by right. And one thing Americans hate more than a loser is a loser who won’t accept that she lost.

6 April
Early days
Schapiro: The Macker readies for a second act
(Richmond Times-Dispatch) Three months after leaving the Virginia governorship, [Terry] McAuliffe is considering a second act: the presidency.
He’s among nearly two dozen mentioned for the Democratic nomination in 2020 and, perhaps, a shot at President Donald Trump — if impeachment, Bob Mueller or Stormy Daniels don’t take him out first. The Washington Post rates McAuliffe No. 8 in a field that seemingly has more nobodies than somebodies.
… a McAuliffe candidacy will be about his stewardship of Virginia’s finances after the ravages of sequestration, his stout advocacy of abortion rights, gun control and the restoration of felons’ voting and civil rights, and his forceful response to deadly, racially tinged violence in Charlottesville.And there’s what McAuliffe considers his strongest selling point: the victory last year of his handpicked choice for governor, Ralph Northam, and the Democrats’ stunning, near-takeover of the House of Delegates, where they had been outnumbered 2 to 1.

3 April
A Wave of Young Women Running Campaigns (and Changing Politics)
(NYT) Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 presidential election prompted a surge of Democratic women not only to run for office, but also to manage campaigns With a seat at the head of the table, staff members are responsible for strategy, message, staff and creating networks for future campaigns.They have the potential to reshape a profession long dominated by men. This year, 40 percent of the campaign managers for Democratic congressional candidates are women, and the numbers are up for Republican candidates too.

2 April
Obama eases into post-presidential life
(The Hill) Obama’s absence from politics may change in the coming months, as the midterm elections draw closer.
Obama will hold a fundraiser for his old pal Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) in May. But those close to him say not to expect him to officially wade into campaign waters until the end of the summer.
Obama has purposely stayed out of politics for the most part, carefully selecting his moments to weigh in on headlines and policy.
He is careful, those around him say, not to be a foil for Trump — who often seems to feel a need to come after him.
Investor Fears of a Democratic Win in November Could Help Democrats Win in November
(New York Magazine) Stock market performance is one of many variables that could at the margins have an impact on the midterm elections this November. … in the 16 quarters that make up any four-year period, it’s the two preceding midterm elections — in which the party controlling the White House almost always loses some ground — where losses are concentrated. Clearly investors have come to anticipate political problems for the party controlling the White House. But when that White House is occupied by a president who has all but treated the stock market’s performance as a referendum on his leadership, you might expect significant erosion in the markets to have a greater-than-normal impact on the president’s party.

27 March
(LATimes) California’s attorney general and its chief elections officer both came out swinging on Tuesday at the late decision by federal officials to add a single question to the 2020 census: Are you an American citizen?
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross gave the go-ahead to the question on Monday night, even though former Census Bureau directors warned it could limit participation.
In California, state Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra quickly filed a lawsuit to block the action. At issue are federal dollars divvied up by population data and the once-a-decade apportionment of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives based on population. Smaller numbers from California could hit the state hard on both fronts.

24 March
Protesters take to the streets – but can they take Congress?
At the Women’s March last year the day after Trump’s inauguration, and at several demonstrations after that, protesters were swarming and angry but had no idea what to do next. The election eight months from now seems to have given the movement an organizing principle.
by Isaac Dovere and Elana Schor
(Politico) There’s energy on the streets, Joe Biden told a few dozen House Democrats in a private session this week, and it should be enough to produce a blue wave in November – but only if they figure out how to harness it. ‘If we don’t win the House, Trump is there for eight years,’ the former vice president and prospective 2020 candidate warned. Members of the ‘Blue Collar Caucus’ looked stunned. ‘I’m serious,’ Biden added. ‘So, no pressure.’
The outcome in November hinges on whether the anti-Trump fervor on the left amounts as much action as words. … March for Our Lives volunteers circulated with voter registration clipboards and flyers for anyone who signed up with instructions to text “FIGHT” to a number to get more information and get in their database. The Democratic National Committee dispatched organizers all over the country with “commit to vote” cards. The Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence passed out circular stickers reading “227 Days Until Midterm Elections.” Individual candidates worked local events.
“The rally’s constant chant was, ‘Vote Them Out!’ The biggest boo was during a brief video clip of President Donald Trump. The march was explicitly nonpartisan, but no prominent Republicans were visible, and many prominent Republicans were bashed.
The student organizers called for marchers to use the next two weeks of the congressional recess to press senators and representatives at home. There will be more school walkouts, and they’ll be registering and preregistering students across them. They’re already laying plans to spread out to town halls through the summer.
“We will register, we will educate, and then when it comes down to it, we will vote,” said student leader Ryan Deitsch
Lawmakers spotted at ‘March for Our Lives’ rallies across US
(The Hill) Democratic lawmakers turned out in force on Saturday as hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered in cities across the country to call for an end to gun violence.
At “March for Our Lives” rallies across the U.S., congressional Democrats joined in calls demanding swift action on gun control more than a month after a deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla., lent momentum to the debate over firearms.

22 March
The 7,383-Seat Strategy
Taking inspiration from Virginia, Democrats are finally running to win in the states. But will the party make room for a different kind of candidate?
(The Nation) Since Trump’s victory, however, Democrats have flipped 39 statehouse seats, counting the 15 Virginia pickups plus four in New Jersey. Amazingly, 20 of these victories have come in special elections, mainly in districts carried by Trump, some by very large margins, in places as varied as Wisconsin, Missouri, Kentucky, and Florida. Democrats have taken five GOP statehouse seats in purple New Hampshire, four in red Oklahoma, and a big one in Washington State last November 7, when activist Manka Dhingra grabbed an open seat formerly held by a Republican, flipping the State Senate to blue.
Nationwide, there are 7,383 state legislative seats, and 6,066 of them, in 87 out of 99 chambers, will be on the ballot this November. Democrats aren’t quite running a 7,383-seat (or a 6,066-seat) strategy—at least not yet. But after years of frustration and neglect, it’s no longer impossible to imagine the day when the party contests every single statehouse seat in every state in the Union. Party insiders, activists, resistance groups, and candidates—from Maine to Minnesota, from Arizona to Georgia, and all the GOP-dominated states in between—are gearing up for an unprecedented number of races in 2018.

16 March
Cabinet shakeups give Democrats a chance to block Trump picks
The White House faces an uphill battle getting nominees Pompeo and Haspel confirmed ahead of the midterm elections.

14-15 March
(The Atlantic) In Like a Lamb: The Pennsylvania Democrat Conor Lamb’s narrow victory in this week’s special election for a House seat in a district Trump won in 2016 could mean that Democrats have a chance to gain ground with the president’s base. According to Trump, the key to that victory was that Lamb “sounds like a Republican.” For example, he joined the GOP in opposing the House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi—who might lose her role if other Democrats follow Lamb’s lead.
Conor Lamb Wins Pennsylvania House Seat, Giving Democrats a Map for Trump Country
(NYT) Conor Lamb, a Democrat and former Marine, scored a razor-thin but extraordinary upset in a special House election in southwestern Pennsylvania after a few thousand absentee ballots cemented a Democratic victory in the heart of President Trump’s Rust Belt base.
The Republican candidate, Rick Saccone, may still contest the outcome. But Mr. Lamb’s 627-vote lead Wednesday afternoon appeared insurmountable, given that the four counties in Pennsylvania’s 18th district have about 500 provisional, military and other absentee ballots left to count, election officials said.
That slim margin — out of almost 230,000 ballots cast in a district that Mr. Trump carried by nearly 20 percentage points in 2016 — nonetheless upended the political landscape ahead of November’s midterm elections. It also emboldened Democrats to run maverick campaigns even in deep-red areas where Republicans remain bedeviled by Mr. Trump’s unpopularity.
‘It’s difficult to spin this one’: Republicans blame campaign as Democrat retains slight edge in Pennsylvania
(WaPost) Republicans scrambled Wednesday to explain what happened in Pennsylvania, as a Democrat stood on the verge of a monumental win in a U.S. House special election that became a test of President Trump’s political clout.
Although the race was still too close to call late Wednesday afternoon, Democrats were declaring victory as their candidate, Conor Lamb, clung to a narrow lead over Republican Rick Saccone in a district Trump won by almost 20 points.
Five takeaways from the Pa. special election
(The Hill) More evidence of a blue wave
More Republicans are starting to sound the alarm about the future of their House majority.
Trump’s unpopularity is pushing seats that had once been considered safe into riskier territory. Democrats need to win 24 seats to take back the House.
Tax cuts and Pelosi attacks won’t work everywhere
Tuesday’s results have emboldened Democrats who believe that Lamb’s strong performance is proof that the GOP can’t lean too heavily on the tax plan as the centerpiece of its midterm strategy.
GOP trouble in Trump country
While Trump wasn’t on the ballot, the race was a test of whether other Republicans could draw on the votes who helped hand Trump his surprise 2016 win. And growing unpopularity has spurred an enthusiasm gap that buoyed Democrats in recent elections.
A boost for Biden 2020
Biden has been an effective surrogate for connecting with rural and working class voters. Now Lamb’s victory demonstrates that Biden can help win back those voters — right as Democrats consider which 2020 primary hopeful will deliver them the White House.
Dems can break with litmus test and win
House Democrats’ campaign arm said there are 60 other Democratic House candidates whose military or national security credentials echo Lamb’s background.

25 February
Feinstein loses California Democratic Party’s endorsement
(WaPost) More than 54 percent backed state Senate leader Kevin de León, who entered the race in October and has run to Feinstein’s left on health care, taxes and immigration. … making Feinstein the first incumbent senator in recent memory who will run in June’s primary without official backing.
The contest between Feinstein and de León has emerged as the only serious Democratic primary squabble, as Democrats in redder states such as Indiana and West Virginia are facing only token challenges. But even a bitter showdown in June may end up helping California Democrats. The party’s top-two primary system sends the two candidates who win the most votes in the summer to the general election in November — regardless of their party affiliation.

31 January
Jennifer Rubin: Kennedy’s speech — so how’d he do?
Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) had the utterly thankless task of delivering the response to the State of the Union. Speaking in front of a live audience that frequently applauded was smart. Did he look awfully young and have a distracting bead of sweat (or was it saliva) at the corner of his mouth? Yes, but by gosh he gave a fair to very good speech. (Moreover, millennials are overwhelmingly anti-Trump so a youthful image for the Democrats is probably a net plus.) …
He closed with: “Out of many, one. Ladies and gentlemen, have faith. Have faith. The state of our union is hopeful, resilient and enduring.” Again, this — E pluribus unum — was not the normal rhetoric that we heard from decades of Democratic identity politics. If this marks a turn to a more inclusive message, one of shared values and not separate traits, Democrats and the country will be the better for it.

29 January
All Signs Point to Big Democratic Wins in 2018
(Bloomberg) Even if only one chamber flips to the Democrats, Trump’s ability to impose his agenda would be thwarted, and his administration almost certainly would find itself pinned down by investigations and subpoenas from congressional committees.
An analysis by Bloomberg Government of historical data, election maps and public polling points to sweeping Democratic gains in the November election, when all 435 House seats and one-third of the Senate are on the ballot.
Since the end of World War II, the party in control of the White House has, on average, had a net loss of 26 House seats in midterm elections. Democrats can win control of the House with a net gain of 24 seats in November. They’d need to win two seats to gain a majority in the Senate.

14 January
Lewandowski: ‘We’ve got a real problem’ if Dems retake the House
(The Hill) “The real concern right now is the Democrats are exceptionally motivated to run a campaign against this president. And if that’s the case, they may have some good opportunities in front of them in the 2018 cycle,” Lewandowski said.
“If you look at the numbers, I think we’ve got 32 or 33 Republican members of Congress who have already announced they are not seeking reelection. The problem with that is the Democrats only have to take back 24 seats in the House in order to take over,” he added.

11-12 January
Jonathan Freedland: If Oprah took on Trump, he would be the ultimate winner
(The Guardian)  If Democrats nominate Oprah for the White House, they would, in effect, be declaring that Trump was right, that the presidency is indeed an extension of the entertainment industry: they’d just want to install a different entertainer.
Democrats need to make a better argument than that. Yes, they need to find a candidate who can rouse the passions and stir the faithful … But they also need to persuade American voters that political experience matters; that the highest decisions of state are of a different order to devising what makes good TV and brings in high ratings; that policymaking is a serious business, one that involves the weighing of evidence, the balance of competing interests and reasoned deliberation.
Oprah leads Trump in new poll — but can’t transcend partisan divide
(CNN) Simply put, most believe she could win and would happily fight on her behalf, but others worry about Winfrey’s inexperience in campaign politics. And for a party still trying to sort out a winning (and unifying) message, questions over where exactly she stands on the major issues of the day linger ominously over the conversation.
“Everyone loves Oprah,” RoseAnn DeMoro, the executive director of National Nurses United, told CNN earlier this week. “The problem is that we are on the precipice of an extremely dangerous time in history, and I believe that this calls for the most seasoned, knowledgeable, in-depth president. To get us to unwind what’s going to happen by 2020 is going to take enormous experience.
Dave Leonhardt in NYT: I agree that Oprah’s career is a whole lot more impressive than Trump’s prepolitics career. But I still hope she isn’t the Democratic nominee in 2020.
For one thing, there is little evidence that she would be more likely to win than another Democrat.
For another, a President Winfrey would probably be less effective than someone with more training for the job. Julia Azari (in a July piece in Vox, which isn’t specific to Winfrey), Thomas Chatterton Williams in The Times and Paul Waldman in The Washington Post each explain why.

8 January
What the Oprah Boomlet Means for Democrats
Pleas for the entertainer to run for president point to a split over whether to treat Donald Trump as a dangerous anomaly or a particularly extreme Republican.
By David A. Graham
(The Atlantic) Sunday night, Oprah gave a moving speech while accepting a Golden Globe Award for lifetime achievement, speaking about women and especially women of color. The remarks won instant praise and pleas for a presidential run. “She would absolutely do it,” her partner Steadman Graham said. By Monday morning, Brian Stelter reported that Winfrey is “actively thinking” about running for president, and that confidants were encouraging her to run.
Just as predictable as the Oprah boomlet is the pushback to the Oprah boomlet, and while it’s far too early to draw any conclusions about whether this is a flight of whimsy or a true trial balloon, or about how Winfrey might fare as a candidate, or about what positions she may take, the frenzy is useful for assessing where the Democratic Party is and how it might be thinking about Donald Trump as 2018 starts.
… treating Trump as an anomaly allows congressional Republicans to dissociate themselves from the president. … Picking a candidate like Winfrey would hasten the de-professionalization of government while at the same time moving the United States closer to a state where everything is an extension of partisan politics.
If Trump is just an extreme version of a Republican president, then the problem lies less with him personally but with his party. It would matter much less to Democrats whether their candidate can govern than whether their candidate can win.
The most intelligent comment about the Oprah speech
Oprah’s Real Message
It wasn’t about her. It was about us.
By Dahlia Lithwick
(Slate) Oprah’s speech—in my hearing—wasn’t about why she needs to run for office. It was about why the rest of us need to do so, immediately.
The dominant theme I heard was about giving voice to invisible people. It was the arc of the entire speech. It’s also what the very best journalism is about, and it’s worth remembering that’s how Oprah began her career.

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