Elected Democrats continue to misunderstand the conflict they’re in.

Virginia’s Democratic governor-elect won by 9 points in an election where he campaigned heavily on expanding Medicaid. The election saw enormous efforts expended by the Democratic grassroots. Now that Northam has won, he’s having some second thoughts.

Outgoing Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) tried every year to push the legislature to accept millions in federal money to expand the health program to hundreds of thousands of low-income Virginians. Northam campaigned heavily on the promise of getting more Virginians access to health care.

He said Friday that he remains committed to that pledge, but that he must be careful about obligating the state to escalating costs. Under the program, the federal government pays the lion’s share in the early years but the state contribution gradually increases. “Medicaid is growing in Virginia by 5 to 7 percent, in that ballpark, every year,” he said. — www.washingtonpost.com/…

In his interview Northam also suggests he wants to have Medicaid recipients work as a condition of receiving benefits. Then “eyes lit up” and he spent several minutes telling WaPo about his classic car collection and hosting classic car shows.

“We’ve also had discussions with the Richmond Raceway to bring one of my cars out there and do like an exhibit,” he said. The point would be to show that he was able to do the restoration because he learned the skills in school, “and to really interest or excite children that there’s a future in those things,” he said. — www.washingtonpost.com/…

Let me say this publicly to Ralph Northam from the bottom of my heart.

You can take your classic cars and stick them where the sun doesn’t shine.

You were elected, by Democrats to make their lives better.

Get your head out of your ass.

Stop mentally polishing the bipartisanship trophy you believe you’re going to win, and start working for the people who put you in office.

Perhaps Democrats should chosen someone who “eyes light up” when they talk about making the lives of the poor and oppressed better, rather than when they talk about polishing an 1971 Corvette.

Maybe a few Democratic activists should walk over to Northam’s office and remind him that while he’s mapping out how exactly he’ll be“reaching across the aisle” and be “fiscally responsible”, the Republican party is about to deliver a $1.5 Trillion unfunded tax cut to their owners. Then, next year, they plan to use the same “fiscal responsibility” excuse to gut social security, Medicare, Medicaid and as much of the New Deal as they can.

They’re doing all this though the President lost by 3 million votes. Northam is, rightfully, already seeing some backlash:

Brian Fallon, is by the way, the former spokesperson for Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer.

It’s tough to believe, but we have even more politically insane statements being made by the Democratic senator from West Virginia.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said early Monday that he won’t call for an investigation into President Trump over sexual misconduct allegations, adding that he has “moved on.”

“I’m not going to make that determination because he went through an election process,” Manchin told CNN’s “New Day” when asked if the president should be investigated. — thehill.com/…

Manchin is absolutely wrong, and a few of his Democratic colleagues should pull him aside and show him the light. Trump needs to be investigated, by Congress, for the sexual harassment allegations, and for the stream of statements emanating from official White House spokespersons that have sough to brand his victims as liars.

This needs to be done because there is an active disinformation campaign against victims of sexual assault and harassment who have come forward to accuse Republicans. Here’s Laura Ingraham leading the charge, assisted by a random Twitter bot, implying the victims who stepped forward were paid.

Talk to a rank and file Republican,  or look at the exit polls from Alabama, and what you’ll see is a steady stream of false claims that victims are “being paid” and “lying”. The unconditional surrender Manchin is advocating will simply fuel these false claims.

— @subirgrewal

Most “Conservatives” will protect Trump. No Matter What.

This week, Hannity and Hume rushed to tell us that colluding with Putin to subvert the results of an American election is entirely legal. The National Review thinks evidence of collusion would be “an enormous calamity” for Trump and lead to impeachment if Democrats win Congress. But, they don’t think there’s anything wrong about collusion, they just think it’s a “dead-end” argument to talk about legality.

Let’s set aside, for a moment, all the state, federal or campaign finance laws that might have been broken. Or even the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Let’s set aside the fact that Trump asked for help from “Russia, if you’re listening…”

Let’s focus on why a big faction of the Republican party isn’t troubled by the idea that the GOP candidate might have colluded with a foreign government to influence an election.

We’re up against a party that doesn’t think we are Americans.

Remember all that talk about “Real America” and “Real Americans”? Those terms are used specifically to suggest we are “fake Americans” who listen to “fake news”.

That’s why Trump was a birther.

Seriously, go read Jim Henley’s entire thread. Highlights below.

That’s James G. Watt, Reagan’s Secretary of the Interior, who was later indicted on perjury and obstruction of justice charges by a federal grand jury.

Jim goes on to talk about how our security agencies have meddled in foreign countries, how they can always find someone willing to take their money, and whether turnabout is fair.

Trump isn’t a “Putin stooge”. He’s as American as apple pie. Roughly 60 million Americans didn’t need any convincing to vote for him.

Republicans on the Hill will protect Trump. Most Republicans would vote for Trump in 2020, no matter what happens. “Russia” won’t faze them for a second.

The task Democrats face is to pull together a compelling vision and message to win back the House and Senate over 2018 and 2020. “Russia” alone, won’t work. Just as distaste for Trump alone didn’t work in 2016.

Democrats fail to pick up any seats in special elections for Congress.

We’ve had four House special elections this year. Democrats have lost all four. All four were tough races to replace Republicans from very safe districts who were appointed to posts within the Trump administration. In 2016, the Republicans were all incumbents, and their Democratic challengers were:

  • Mike Pompeo (60.7%) won against Daniel Giroux (29.6%) in KS-4
  • Ryan Zinke (56.2%) won against Denise Juneau (40.5%) in MT-AL
  • Tom Price (61.7%) won against Rodney Stooksbury (38.3%) in GA-06
  • Mick Mulvaney (59.2%) won against Fran Person (38.7%) in SC-05

In KS-04, an Independent and a Libertarian won almost 10% of the vote in 2016.

First for the good news, Democrats improved their margins significantly, losing by single digits races they had lost by 15%, 20% or even 30%.

Seat ‘16 margin 2017 Dem Dem 2017 Rep rep 3rd ‘17 Margin
KS-04 -31.1% James Thompson 45.7% Ron Estes 52.5% 1.7% -6.8%
MT-AL -15.7% Rob Quist 44.1% Greg Gianforte 50.2% 5.7% -6.1%
GA-06 -23.4% Jon Ossoff 48.1% Karen Handel 51.9% 0.0% -3.8%
SC-05 -20.5% Archie Parnell 47.9% Ralph Norman 51.1% 1.0% -3.2%

3rd party candidates didn’t play a significant role in the special elections except in Montana. I’m ignoring CA-34 for obvious reasons. FWIW, Chaffetz’s seat in UT-03 is up on November 7, Sessions’ Senate seat is also up on Dec 12.

Two of these special elections rank among the most expensive house races. The Georgia race was the most expensive ever, with estimates putting total spending at $60 million. The DCCC dropped $5 million into the Ossoff race, which was an enormous bet that they could win a deeply Republican district in the Atlanta suburbs. The DCCC and other Democratic groups spent far less on the other three races.

Seat DEM Spend REP Spend D Party Spend R Party Spend ‘16 turnout ‘17 turnout Turnout drop
KS-04 $292,000 $501,093 $3,000 $130,000 275,251 120,897 -56.09%
MT-al $6,000,000 $4,600,000 $340,000 $5,600,000 507,831 379,763 -25.22%
GA-06 $23,000,000 $4,800,000 $5,000,000 $11,700,000 326,005 259,488 -20.40%
SC-05 $500,000 $1,100,000 $275,000 $97,000 273,006 87,840 -67.83%

* The numbers above aren’t complete, Q2 filings aren’t in, I link to my sources.

The amount of spending does seem to correlate with turnout. The two expensive races, MT-AL and GA-06 had pretty high turnout for an off-year election. For a special election, it was sky-high. The low spend races had much larger drops in turnout.

But the spending didn’t result in better margins. The improvements over the 2016 Democratic candidate and Clinton’s vote share were lowest in MT-AL and GA-06. The largest gains over 2016 tallies were in KS-04 and SC-05. Those races were largely ignored by the national media and Democratic donors, until the very last minute,

Seat   ‘12 BHO ‘16 HRC ‘16 Dem ‘17 DEM Lost by > ‘16 Dem > HRC HR.676 Trump poll
KS-04 36.1% 33.0% 29.6% 45.7% 6.8% +16.9% +12.7% YES 41.6%
MT-AL 41.7% 35.9% 40.5% 44.1% 6.1% +3.6% +8.2% YES 39.3%
GA-06 37.5% 46.8% 38.3% 48.1% 3.8% +9.8% +1.3% NO 38.4%
SC-05 43.6% 38.8% 38.7% 47.9% 3.2% +9.2% +9.1% NO 38.4%

Distaste for Trump alone won’t automatically translate into victory. I listed the candidate’s stances on single-payer as a proxy for whether or not they’re progressive, so you can consider whether or not policy positions played a role. It’s not clear it made a difference, but if you look at average improvement over the 2016 Presidential and Congressional candidate, even Rob Quist did better (3.6% + 8.2%) than Jon Ossoff (9.8% + 1.3%). There is still some question as to whether any of the candidates have run a robust “anti-Trump” campaign.

That said, every candidate improved on the vote-share gained by the presidential or congressional candidate in 2016. They all improved on Obama’s vote-share in 2012.

If improvement over 2016 is the measure, then James Thompson’s campaign was the best run. But he lost by the widest margin. If loss by smallest margin is the measure, then Archie Parnell ran the best campaign. And Parnell is literally a lawyer for Goldman who ran on a centrist message.

The loss margin has shrunk with each race. Perhaps that’s because the GA, SC candidates ran better races. Or it may be because Trump’s approval ratings have dropped even further in a month. The only woman in the four races was a Republican, Karen Handel in GA-06. All the candidates were white.

There are many different ways to read the data. Personally, the two things that stand out to me is that the sleeper races were tighter, and that fundraising/spending drove turnout.

It is very difficult to claim the enormous sums spent on the GA-06 race were a wise allocation of resources. Yes, on its face, Clinton outperformed Obama’s 2012 tally in GA-06, so it’s reasonable to believe that district had a high dislike for Trump. Yet Ossoff didn’t improve much over Clinton’s total. Should that silence those strategists who believe dislike of Trump married to a carefully crafted centrist message delivered by a polished candidates will carry Democrats to victory (at least in the suburbs)? It probably won’t, because there are other reasons the party contested Ga-06 as if it were and existential threat:

If Ossoff were to win, it would be taken by a lot of Democrats as a huge validation of the centrist/barely-left-of-center approach to 2018.

But yeah, if he comes up short, it’s a new opening for the left of the party to argue that only a more pointed liberal message will fire up the voters the party needs for 2018.

That was the biggest concern mainstream Democrats had going into tonight. — NY Times

The biggest question I’m left with is this. Would it have made more of a long-term difference if $20 of the $28 million spent in GA-06 had been spent on a voter registration campaign? We will never know.

PS. If this isn’t enough, and you’re still searching for answers as to why Jon Ossoff lost in GA-06. Eve Peyser over at Vice has collected 51 reasons, including this gem:

—  @subirgrewal

Bernie Sanders: How Democrats Can Stop Losing Elections

Bernie at the People’s Summit, a Rainbow coalition.

The NY Times has an Op-Ed by Bernie Sanders up, advocating the Democratic party adopt a more progressive agenda.

Bernie Sanders: How Democrats Can Stop Losing Elections

In 2016, the Democratic Party lost the presidency to possibly the least popular candidate in American history. In recent years, Democrats have also lost the Senate and House to right-wing Republicans whose extremist agenda is far removed from where most Americans are politically. Republicans now control almost two-thirds of governor’s offices and have gained about 1,000 seats in state legislatures in the past nine years. In 24 states, Democrats have almost no political influence at all.

Bernie argues that the right way to reverse this decline is with a progressive agenda that shows working people the party is firmly on their side. He notes that the sharp spike in participation among young people in the UK is an example of how a progressive platform can help drive voter turnout among the young.

The Democrats must develop an agenda that speaks to the pain of tens of millions of families who are working longer hours for lower wages and to the young people who, unless we turn the economy around, will have a lower standard of living than their parents. A vast majority of Americans understand that our current economic model is a dismal failure. Who can honestly defend the current grotesque level of inequality in which the top 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent? Who thinks it’s right that, despite a significant increase in worker productivity, millions of Americans need two or three jobs to survive, while 52 percent of all new income goes to the top 1 percent? What person who claims to have a sense of morality can justify the fact that the richest people in our country have a life expectancy about 15 years longer than our poorest citizens?

Bernie highlights a number of issues he believes Democrats should campaign on and how these can be contrasted with Trump’s plans and those of the GOP’s billionaire masters. The list includes Medicare for All, a progressive tax system, an infrastructure plan, action on climate change, free public college, criminal justice reform and comprehensive immigration reform. Some of these issues have been part of the mainstream Democratic agenda for a while, others have been languishing in the progressive caucus for years. Bernie argues it is time for Democrats adopt an unabashedly progressive platform.

While Democrats should appeal to moderate Republicans who are disgusted with the Trump presidency, too many in our party cling to an overly cautious, centrist ideology. The party’s main thrust must be to make politics relevant to those who have given up on democracy and bring millions of new voters into the political process. It must be prepared to take on the right-wing extremist ideology of the Koch brothers and the billionaire class, and fight for an economy and a government that work for all, not just the 1 percent.

In many ways, the Democratic party has already begun moving in the direction Bernie is advocating for. John Conyers Jr. who has been a relentless voice for Medicare-for-All (and sponsor of the bill Bernie advocated for on the campaign trail) is seeing more Congressional Democrats than ever support his plan. Rep. Bobby Scott (VA-3), Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-5), Sen. Patty Murray (WA) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) introduced a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $15. They are supported by the Democratic leadership.

— @subirgrewal

DNC lawyers say it can pick candidates in smoke-filled back-room

For the DNC, the fallout from the presidential primary is not yet over.

In the conduct and management of the affairs and procedures of the Democratic National Committee, particularly as they apply to the preparation and conduct of the Presidential nomination process, the Chairperson shall exercise impartiality and even handedness as between the Presidential candidates and campaigns. The Chairperson shall be responsible for ensuring that the national officers and staff of the Democratic National Committee maintain impartiality and even-handedness during the Democratic Party Presidential nominating process. — Democratic party charter/by-laws

That section of the charter is the subject of a class-action lawsuit by Sanders supporters and DNC donors. The plaintiffs claim the DNC violated its own by-laws and was not impartial during the 2016 presidential primary race.

The DNC’s lawyers had an interesting defense at the initial hearing:

“We could have voluntarily decided that, ‘Look, we’re gonna go into back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way,’” Bruce Spiva, lawyer for the DNC, said during a court hearing in Carol Wilding, et al. v. DNC Services Corp., according to court filings exclusively obtained by TYT Politics. […]

In one of the more strange defense rationales, Spiva evoked baptism to suggest the term “impartial” is too vague and open-to-interpretation to be enforced legally.

“You have a charter that says you have to be — where the party has adopted a principle of even-handedness, and just to get the language exactly right, that they would be even-handed and impartial, I believe, is the exact language. And, you know, that’s not self-defining, your Honor. I mean that’s kind of like, you know, saying, Who’s a Baptist?”

Jordan Chariton (TYT) on Medium

Now, as an occasional cigar-smoker, I object to the stereotype, but I’ll let it slide, this one time.

The attorney for the plaintiffs pointed out that DNC officials, including chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz repeated the impartiality claim on television numerous times.

The DNC’s lawyers aren’t addressing that. Instead, they’re trying to undermine the expectation of impartiality itself. Claiming that it is too vague and not enforceable.

“There’s no right to not have your candidate disadvantaged or have another candidate advantaged. There’s no contractual obligation here . . . it’s not a situation where a promise has been made that is an enforceable promise,” Spiva said.

— Salon

The DNC lawyer’s argument is this: The charter is crafted in such a way that what appears to the average person to be a promise of impartiality isn’t one at all. It’s all an illusion. What Democrats have is just a “political promise”.

The most recent court hearing on the case was held on April 25, during which the DNC reportedly argued that the organization’s neutrality among Democratic campaigns during the primaries was merely a “political promise,” and therefore it had no legal obligations to remain impartial throughout the process. — Newsweek

An uncharitable view would be that the actions of DNC officials were indefensible, and so this is the only defense their legal team could come up with.

Let’s be charitable for a moment. Maybe this is just a legal tactic, the quickest way for the DNC’s lawyers to get this case dismissed. Let’s accept their claim that there’s no “enforceable promise” so we don’t waste the court’s time trying to figure out whether or not the DNC was actually impartial. Let’s agree with them that impartiality is undefined, and there’s no measurable standard to apply to the DNC official’s actions.Now, let’s take this line of thought to its conclusion. The DNC claims:

  • the charter authorizes them to pick a candidate in a proverbial cigar smoke-filled backroom.
  • “impartiality” is so vague a concept that DNC officials can, with impunity, take actions to favor whichever candidate they wish.
  • impartiality is a “political promise”, and we all know those are worth squat amiright?

What then, is the purpose of the entire primary charade? To give Democrats the illusion that they have an actual say in who heads the ticket? To lull us into believing Democrats actually stand for democracy?

Does anyone at the DNC understand what calls for “unity” look like in this light?

Does anyone at the DNC understand what this argument does to their credibility in the future?

Does anyone at the DNC understand what happens when politicians break a “political promise”?

— @subirgrewal

Why do 67% of Americans think Democrats are out of touch with the concerns of most people?

That 67% of Americans think Democrats are out of touch with their concerns should worry all of us. I don’t have a good explanation at the moment.

But looking through the cross-tabs of this poll, I can say that it’s not just racist white people, note that 60% of non-white Americans say Democrats are out of touch.

And before we jump to the conclusion that it’s just misogynist men, please note that 59% of American women say Democrats are out of touch.

and before we jump to the conclusion that it’s just awful Republicans, please note that 75% of independents, and 44% of Democrats said the party is out of touch:

That 44% of self-declared Democrats think the party is out of touch should cause some very serious soul-searching.

Before we console ourselves that Republicans must doing worse than Democrats, note that they are not:

Before we insist that Trump must be doing worse than Democrats, please note that he is not:

It’s also worth noting that income and education don’t explain the disaffection with Democrats. Americans across levels of educational attainment and household income think Democratic party is out of touch.

We do a little better with voters from households earning <50K, but it is not as big a difference as we might think. 62% of households making less than 50K think the Democratic party isn’t in touch with their priorities.

The poll results are from a telephone survey of 1,004 randomly selected adults in the US. 74% of respondents voted in the election. Of those, 46% voted for Hillary Clinton while 43% voted for Donald Trump. In one bright spot, when these voters are asked whom they would vote for today, support for Trump drops to 37%.

the Democratic Party is viewed as far more out of touch by Democrats than Trump or the GOP are by Republicans. — WaPo

The same poll asked voters in 2014 whether they thought Democrats were in touch, 48% said yes back then. In 2013, 43% had said Democrats were in touch. How did we drop to 28% between 2014 and 2017?

PS. Obama’s “in-touch” numbers were even better than Democrats at 48% and 51% in 2014 and 2013 respectively.

Top Democratic pollsters have conducted private focus groups and polling in an effort to answer that question, and they shared the results with me.A shockingly large percentage of these Obama-Trump voters said Democrats’ economic policies will favor the wealthy — twice the percentage that said the same about Trump. I was also permitted to view video of some focus group activity, which showed Obama-Trump voters offering sharp criticism of Democrats on the economy. […]

Skepticism about the Democratic Party was echoed rather forcefully in the focus groups that I watched. In one, Obama-Trump voters were asked what Democrats stand for today and gave answers such as these:

“The one percent.”

“The status quo.”

“They’re for the party. Themselves and the party.”

One woman, asked whether the Democratic Party is for people like her, flatly declared: “Nope.” — WaPo

So, for discussion, what exactly is going on here and why do so many Americans now think the Democratic party is so out of touch?

GOP donor picks 2016 presidential candidates just like he picks “acquisitions” or “investments”

The NY Times is running a story about a privately commissioned poll that played a role in shuffling the Republican Presidential candidate deck for 2016: Mystery Solved: The Man Behind a G.O.P. Trend-Setting Poll

The NY Times says this expensive, private poll convinced Romney he had a chance to win the nomination and the general election. It now indicates Jeb Bush is the strongest GOP candidate. So who might have have had enough at stake to pay for an extensive poll of over 10,00 participants?

Now, the identity of the wealthy Republican donor who commissioned the polling is no longer a mystery: It was, according to people interviewed on the matter, Muneer A. Satter, a former partner at Goldman Sachs and a major Republican donor in Chicago.Mr. Satter, a keen student of data, is now backing Mr. Bush.

But that’s not all. You might ask yourself why someone would go through all the expense and trouble. Thankfully, Mr. Satter has a spokesperson who can explain:

Asked about the polling, a spokeswoman for Mr. Satter, Lisa Wagner, said: “Any decision Mr. Satter makes regarding an investment, an acquisition, or on anything, he uses metrics and data.”

This probably falls into the not news category (yawn). But I found it oddly refreshing that someone had the balls to come out and admit that politicians are “investments” and “acquisitions” for wealthy donors. They don’t call it “political economy” for nothing.

The question for those of us among the hoi-poloi who can’t make such “investments” should be to ask what “return” these “investments” are expected to provide if they succeed in “acquiring” power through our democratic process?

Perhaps lower taxes for “job-creators”, or a more “industry-friendly” regulatory environment are expected. Is that more meaningful than being invited to a White House sleepover?

And I wonder, once you’ve “acquired” a presidential candidate, do you ask your personal trainer to teach them to sit and roll-over when you command? If money is speech, marching orders must be twice as protected by the first amendment right?

But we are a government of the people, for the people and by the people. Or is that just a fairy-tale we tell ourselves so we can sleep at night?

I have used up my quota of air-quotes for the year.

PS. In case you were wondering, yes, this is the same Muneer Satter who gave over 100k to Obama and kicked another 100k over to Rahm Emanuel. I guess that’s what we mean when we say America is all about equal opportunity?