NDN Blog

Election Day 2018 - Reflections and Predictions

This analysis was originally posted on Friday, October 12th.  It will be updated as things warrant over the final few weeks of the election.  Latest update - Election Day, 7am.  And be sure to check out Simon's 2018 election predictions, as submitted Monday am to The Hill.  He predicts Dems pick up 40 House seats, get to 50 in the Senate, rout the Rs in the Rustbelt/Midwest and an already deeply unpopular President will sustain a significant political blow.  

Early Vote Sets Records - Professor Michael McDonald looks at the huge early vote and mail ballot returns and thinks turnout this election year could be as high as 44-45%, way up from the 36% we saw in 2014.  Remarkably 30 states plus DC have already hit their 2014 early vote numbers and McDonald thinks all 50 states will outperform their 2014 ev totals. Let's hope these trends continue through election day - there would be much to celebrate on election night if this is the case.  Remarkably 3 states have already passed their entire 2014 totals (early + election day) - AZ, NV and TX. 

The Hill's Reid Wilson reports that voting seems to be up for all age cohorts, "but turnout has increased the most among younger voters, minorities and people who rarely or never vote. Among voters aged 18-29, turnout is up in 39 of 41 states for which data is available, said John Della Volpe, who directs polling for Harvard University's Institute of Politics. For voters aged 30-39, turnout is up in all 41 states where data is available. As a consequence, the 2018 electorate appears likely to be significantly younger and more diverse than the electorate that voted four years ago — both good signs for Democratic candidates."

And to be clear this increased turnout is as much as about well-funded Democratic campaigns touching far more voters more effectively than in recent years as it is about the fear of Trump.  One of the big stories of 2018 is the Democrats' finally bringing of Presidential level tactical sophistication to Congressional and downballot races - and it marks a huge permanent shift in American politics.  I dive a bit deeper into this issue in a related piece, "38 Million for Beto and Why It Matters." 

Did Trump Blow His Election Close? – In the weeks after the Kavanaugh fiasco, public sentiment stablized with Dems leading the genenic ballot by 8 to 9 points, and Trump's approval in a vastly improved place, coming in between -9 or -10 (had been -14 Labor Day weekend).  Nate Silver offered a very good analysis explaining why Trump's improved standing didn't translate into gains for GOP candidates, adding "Democrats have a generic ballot lead of 8.5 or 9 points. Not sure if people realize how large that is. A bit larger than the 1994 and 2010 waves, when the GOP won the popular vote by ~7 points each time. Similar to 2006, when Dems won by 8.” This election day afternoon Nate has it at 8.7. 

The NYT/Siena/Nate Cohn's House polling project continued to find good news for Democrats all the way through election day. Hard to find many GOPers in competitive races these last few weeks over 45/46, and we know from history that members of the incumbent party in the low to mid 40s a week out seldom win.  Even the Senate has settled down in a relatively postiive place for Dems. Using 538 Democratic candidates lead in AZ, FL and MO and NV remains a toss up (see here for how polls often understate Dem performance in NV, and the early vote is coming in very high for Democrats).  Democrats prevail in these 4 races it will be 50D/49R on election night, with control of the Senate coming down to a December special election in Mississippi. 

What should be worrying for the GOP is that the horrific spate of right wing domestic terror we've seen in recent days may be eroding, deservedly, their already weakened position. Last Tuesday's Gallup's weekly track had Trump going from -6 to -14 (44/50 to 40/54).  538's adjusted polling tool has Trump slipping from -8.9 to to between -10.8 to -11.4 in the past two weeks. The polls in the field after the Florida bomber was caught has Trump's approval at net negative 10, 11, 12, 13, 13, 14, 14, 15, 15, 16.  While this may be more noise than signal even a Trumpian fade of 2-3 points could make a big difference in the many close races across the country.  It is something to watch. 

Recent moves by the GOP House campaign committee provide further evidence the GOP position is eroding, as they have started to campaign and advertise for candidates who were thought to be safe.  Adding to the GOP challenge, Democrats have more money than ever before to make their closing arguments, and the failure of the GOP tax cut and the GOP's many years of assault on the health care of working people has given Democrats an awful lot of material to work with in these closing days.

One of the great questions of this election will be - did Trump blow it by focusing in the last few weeks on the fictional threat of the caravan rather than the economy? New reporting makes it clear the call was his (Jeff Zeleny's is perhaps the best take, more here from the WSJ).  The President admitted in an interview last night hat he needs "to soften his tone." Gaslighting? Or tactic admission his martial border close to a series of domestic terror attacks pushed away far more voters than it excited? To have your closing ad pulled down the day before the election for being too racist, even by Fox, should have been giving the President reason to wonder whether he blew it down the stretch; as would the lack of clear improvement for the GOP anyhwere in the country in the final two weeks, and very high turnout and improved Democratic numbers in heavily Hispanic parts of the country like AZ, CA, FL, NV and TX. 

Trump/GOP Weakness in the Rustbelt, Midwest, 2020 States – Throughout these late ups and downs one thing has stayed constant - a remarkable GOP weakness in the parts of the country which responded well to Trump and are critical for his re-election in 2020.  Let's drill down a bit:

GOP struggling in battleground governors races – At this point GOP gubernatorial candidates do not have a lead outside of the margin of error or even a clear lead in FL, GA, PA, OH, MN, MI, WI, IA and NV.  While a few GOPers will make it through this structural weakness in these key states has to be a big concern for Trump and the RNC heading into 2020. 

GOP Rustbelt wipeout -  Rs head into election day trailing in every competitive statewide race in IA, WI, IN, MN, MI, OH and PA.  Dems lead by 10 or more (!) in the PA Gov and Sen, OH Senate, MI Gov and Sen, MN Gov and Sen (2) and WI Sen.  that the GOP could have not been competitive in this many races in these critical battleground states, icludes 4 Trump won, remains just mindboggling. 

Part of what is driving this newfound GOP weakness is this region the very significant unpopularity of Trump’s tariffs, which remain among the most unpopular of all Trump’s policy initiatives. NDN's Chris Taylor has a smart new piece diving a bit deeper into this important dynamic, and another new analysis which found by almost every measure the economy is worse today than it was when Trump took office.  Critical the 2020 Dems study these economic trends carefully as the Presidential gears up. 

Domestic Terrorism and the 2018 Election - As the nation attempts to recover from a series of domestic terror incidents, time now to discuss and confront our most significant domestic security threat - rising right wing political violence.  I speak to this need in this Washington Post article and this new Twitter thread.  But more than anything Donald Trump should be a President these last few weeks, stood down from his absurd wag-the-dog caravan charade, and focused the nation's attention on combatting rising right wing political violence here at home and protecting Tuesday's elections from interference of any kind.  I know, it didn't happen. Rather, as we discuss above, to close the election with explicit calls for violence, to "fight back" against his political opponents - calls which I worry aren't really about winning the election but about something far more sinister. 

A New and Exciting Democratic Party Is Emerging - Many new Democratic stars have emerged since Trump was elected - Kamala Harris, Andrew Gillum, Beto O'Rourke, Mikie Sherill, Stacy Abrams....the list goes on and on.  To me what we are seeing emerge is a whole set of leaders who will guide and direct the next Democratic Party, a post Clinton/Obama, a post Trump party.  This is my 14th election day as a Democratic operative and strategist, and I will say I have never seen such a talented and capable crop of candidates running and winning across the country.  The future of the Party feels like it is in very good hands.   

For those of us in DC I think this incoming House freshman class has the opportunity to be an historic class.  The DCCC recruited an extraordinarily accomplished and compelling group this cycle, and it is the deepest and most talented class I've seen since I came to Washington (the 1996 class was pretty great). I discuss the potential of this class in a smart new piece by Ron Brownstein and counsel everyone to be very slow at assigning ideological labels other than pragmatist to many of these new arrivals. 

Having said all that, I think there are three groups arriving in January with the power to shape and influence the direction of the caucus for years to come:

Women - Women brought energy and passion to our politics this cycle, huge number of votes and an historic number of women ran and won/will win their elections.  We will have better numbers in the next few days but expect this new dynamic to be central to everything that happens in the Democratic Party in the House and more broadly across the Party in the coming years.

Patriots/National Security Democrats - Next will be a very large group of veterans and former national security officials. Joining current Members like Seth Moulton, Stephanie Murphy, Conor Lamb and Ruben Gallego, this group could become a deeply consequential one, forging American foreign and security policy for decades to come.  To me this group feels like a the type  of Democrat we haven't seen in a long time - a pre Vietnam War Democrat, a WW II and Cold War Democrats, pragmatic patriots, similar to the class full of veterans which came in 1946 after the war to serve their country again but in another way. 

The reason this new type of Democrat will be with us for some time is just the sheer number of Americans who have served in the war on terror and other military conflicts over the past 17 years.  Many of these young soldiers and security officials have now reached the age and a stage in their life where running for office became an option for them.  This is why I think this a permanent trend at least for the next 10-15 years, and one of those trends which makes the emerging Democratic Party very different from the Party of Clinton and Obama.

NDN has been writing and speaking for some time now about the Democratic Party's very real opportunity to reclaim "patriotism" from the right.  Let us hope this will be the case in the years to come.

The Democratic Socialists - While there is no doubt this new sensibility has resonance in the center-left family, it remains to be seen how powerful it will be next year.  This movement has a compelling, emerging champion in future Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, but there just aren't that many candidates running this cycle with this label as their primary affiliation.  The first two groups we discussed - women and the national secrurity Dems - will likely be much larger in number in the Senate and House next year.  Regardless of numbers, expect this new post-Bernie tribe to be loud and influential. 

While some of these new Members will get absorbed into existing groups like the New Dems, Blue Dogs, Future Forum, Hispanic/Black/AAPI Caucuses, my sense is that this class is going to be so large and its sensibilities new enough that it will itself become a force perhaps equal to any of these existing factions.  Will be fascinating to watch.  And watch this new video which brings together, powerfully, two of these trends - women and national security experience.  Hard to watch this and not sense the emergence of a new post-Clinton, post-Obama Democratic Party. 

More - If interested feel free to review my 2014 post-election analysis, "A Wake-Up Call for Democrats," and the one from 2016, "A New Generation of Democrats Will Have to Rise." I am also proud to be a two time winner of The Hill's Election Prediction contest, and look forward to competing again this year. 

A Snapshot of Current Polling

Earlier today, Simon wrote an important thread that took a look at current polling in the midst of the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. The thread is here, and an expanded version is below.

A Snapshot of Current Polling

According to FiveThirtyEight over the last few weeks, Trump's favorables have improved a bit and now are at 41.5/52.8 but the generic has worsened for the Republicans and now stands at 49.6/40.9. Both of these results suggest a very good year for the Democrats. My take is that Republicans now have a very low ceiling across the country. Of the 45 top Gov/Senate/House battlegrounds with recent polls, Republicans are over 50% in only 4 or 5 (not including TX Sen or AZ Gov), and have no lead outside of the margin of error in any Gov or Sen battleground. Republicans are not leading in governor's races in FL, GA, OH, PA, MI, WI, IA and NV - all critical 2020 battlegrounds. They could end up winning some but the GOP can't be happy here.

Furthermore, the GOP wipeout in MI and PA deserves far more attention. 4 GOP candidates for MI and PA Gov and Senate are in the 30s. The 30s. Democrats are likely to win these races by 15-25 points in two of Trump's most important states. The very strong showing of Dems in AZ, CA and TX continues a trend we first saw in 2016 - Trumpism is not playing well in this region of the country. There are also very good numbers for Democrats in CO, NM, NV. Keep an eye on this.

Next, the House. According to the Cook Political Report, Democrats are on track to clearly win 205 seats, and need to win 13 of the remaining 57 Toss Up/Lean Rs seats to flip the House. In Nate Cohn's latest polling of 30 of these districts, Democrats have leads outside of the margin of error in 9 races, while Republicans have those leads in only 5. Republicans are at 45% or below in 9 additional races. So Democrats have 9 clear leads and are outperforming Republicans in another 9 races in a lean Democrat year, while Republicans only have 5 clear leads. Being generous, let's say the parties split those 57 districts. The result would be the Democrats ending up with about 230 seats.

But to be very clear - Democrats do not have this thing in the bag. It is leaning their way. But most competitive races for Gov/Sen/House are too close to call, so any late swing either way could be very meaningful. This is why the shakeout on this Kavanaugh fiasco matters so much.

Support for Open Trade Remains Robust in Recent Polling. Trump’s Tariffs Still Remarkably Unpopular.

This is the fifth article in a series produced by NDN challenging Trump’s tariffs.

Given the conventional wisdom about how Trump won the Presidency in 2016, one would expect to find broad support for his protectionist trade policies and his tariffs in particular. A review of recent polling, however, suggests the American people are far more supportive of open trade policies and less supportive of tariffs than many would have expected. In fact, by some measures, Trump’s tariffs are among the least popular policy initiatives of his Presidency.

Using the Polling Report site as reference, let’s look at some data. The August NBC/WSJ poll asked “In general, do you think that free trade between the United States and foreign countries has helped the United States, has hurt the United States, or has not made much of a difference either way?” 50% said helped, only 23% said hurt. A July version of that poll asked about Trump’s tariffs — 25% said they would help the economy, 49% said hurt. An April Pew poll found similar numbers with 56% saying free trade was a good thing for the US and only 30% saying it was bad. A June Monmouth poll found 52% believing free trade agreements between the US and other countries were good for the US, only 14% disagreed. A March edition of the NBC/WSJ poll asked the question a slightly different way: “What do you think foreign trade means for America? Do you see foreign trade more as an opportunity for economic growth through increased U.S. exports, or a threat to the economy from foreign imports?” 66% said opportunity for growth, only 20% said threat.

Summer polls from Pew and Quinnipiac found slightly better but still net negative spreads for Trump on tariffs and free trade (39/50, 40/49). The new ABC/Washington Post poll out this week found a similar 41/50 split on Trump’s tariffs. In the Quinnipiac poll, however, a whopping 73% said a trade war would be bad for the US economy. Only 17% said good. A June Suffolk poll found only 35% support for the NAFTA renegotiation, and a June CBS poll found support for tariffs on Canada to be only 27% (62% disapprove). In a June CNN poll, 63% said it was better for the US to maintain relations with our close allies rather than impose tariffs. Only 25% said tariffs were better.

In polls which broke out the numbers by party, an overwhelming majority of Democrats come out in favor of free trade and against tariffs. Two examples. In the spring Pew poll, 67% of Democrats said free trade was a good thing, just 19% said bad. 63% opposed the tariffs, just 22% supported. In the new ABC/Washington Post poll, which found support of Trump’s tariffs to be at 41% support/50% opposed, Democrats opposed them 75% to 18%.

Recent state polls have similar findings. A series of Marist/NBC polls found support of the tariffs to be 23/42 in IL, 29/41 in MO, 28/46 in PA and 33/40 in Texas (links here and here). A recent Suffolk University poll (pp 22–23) of Wisconsin found support for the tariffs on China to be 39/47, and on “EU, Canada and Mexico” 31/57. That the popularity of a major Trump policy initiative is under 33% in states like Missouri, Pennsylvania and Texas is pretty remarkable.

While trade is obviously a complicated and tough issue, the idea that there is broad support in the US for protectionist policies, and tariffs in particular, just can’t be supported given this data. Trump has failed to persuade the American people to get behind his trade wars, and in fact, the Pew data suggests more people today are supporting the basic notion that free trade is good than a year ago. Early in his Presidency, Trump’s trade policies have generated more of a backlash than a groundswell of support.

As we’ve written elsewhere, Democrats would be smart to study this data and do some polling and market research of their own. Putting it all together suggests that an extended campaign by Democrats calling on Trump to rescind his tariffs — like the one NDN has been calling for — would not only be smart policy and good for the US economy, but smart politics too.

Update, 9/6/18 — new poll from Chicago Council found even higher levels of support for trade and NAFTA. A summary of its key findings:

  • The highest percentages ever registered in this survey (since 2004) say that trade is good for the US economy (82%), good for consumers like you (85%), and good for creating jobs in the U.S. (67%).
  • Support for NAFTA is also at its highest level yet (63%), and a majority (61%) supports US participation in the revised Pacific trade agreement, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
  • Democrats express the most favorable views of these two trade agreements, while majorities of Independents now also support them. Although Republicans as a group tend to oppose them, a majority of non-Trump Republicans — those with only a somewhat favorable or an unfavorable view of the president — support them, demonstrating splits within the party faithful.
  • Seven in ten are concerned that a trade war with China will hurt their local economy; while just over half are concerned about the impact of a trade war with Mexico. In both cases, trade wars are a greater concern for Democrats.

Trump's Immigration Strategy Is Failing

NBC News just published Simon’s latest essay, Trump's brand is his xenophobic immigration policy. That's why he'll go to any lengths to enact it. It argues that Trump's separation of kids at the border is the result of a political crisis for his administration, rather than any real immigration crisis on the ground. As Trump's immigration policies continue to fail in the face of legal roadblocks and public outrage, expect even more outrageous policies from the administration. Here's an excerpt from the piece:

"The “immigration crisis” the nation now faces is far more a political crisis than a governing one. The hard truth is that there a growing sense that the president’s immigration strategy has failed, and he, like a petulant child, is now lashing out, both threatening to, and taking, extreme measures. Congress has failed to give him his wall and even the Republicans in the Senate rejected the immigration changes he wanted to make. The courts severely scaled back his Muslim ban, blocked his efforts to deport Dreamers and defund “sanctuary cities” and are now forcing him to reunite the kids separated from their parents. Requirements for long-settled immigrants without documentation to have their day in court is preventing him from mass deporting millions, and there is little evidence that millions of undocumented immigrants are “self-deporting” due to the new, far-harsher immigration regime.

But it is what has happened on the border in the past year which poses the greatest political threat to Trump. At the core of his immigration strategy is an effort to create a deep climate of fear through aggressive immigration enforcement. That climate, he and his advisers thought, would encourage undocumented immigrants here in the country to voluntarily leave (“self-deport,” in the parlance) saving the government a great deal of money and effort, and deter new arrivals from coming. But then, starting in the summer of 2017, people started coming to the border in higher numbers again. By December, monthly apprehensions at the border were almost three times what they were in April. Even though all that was really happening was a reversion to the normal monthly flows, for Trump these increases meant he could no longer say this policies were deterring people from coming. The very human desire for a better life was trumping Trump’s policy of fear. And that was a crisis indeed for the president."

This Fall Focus on Protecting US Elections

NBC News.com has just published Simon’s latest essay, Trump wants to be seen as strong on Putin post-Helsinki. Focusing on election reforms is a start. It looks at the sophisticated Russian attacks on our elections and makes recommendations for what Congress and the Administration can do right now to ensure what happened in 2016 doesn’t happen again in 2018. Here's an excerpt from the piece:

"In what has been a monstrous dereliction of duty by the president and his party, America does not have a clear plan for how to prevent a repeat of Russia’s 2016 active measures campaign this year. Two sensible, bipartisan bills to protect our elections from future interference, the Secure Elections Act and DETER Act, have never been brought up for a vote by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and no election protection legislation has been produced by House Republicans. There is no single person in charge of protecting our elections and domestic discourse. The cyber coordinator position in the White House has been eliminated. The Secretary of Homeland Security publicly broke from the rest of the U.S. intelligence community in May and said that she does not believe that Russia acted on behalf of a particular political candidate or party in 2016 and, last weekend, she also downplayed the Russian threat to our elections a day after the Director of National Intelligence issued a dramatic warning about Russia’s ongoing measures in the U.S.

All of this leaves America unacceptably exposed this fall. While there isn’t enough time for big changes, Congress should pass and the president should sign at least one of the many election protection bills which have been introduced this year. It will be an indicator to the public and to the world the U.S. is taking all of this seriously. Additionally, the president should appoint an elections protection coordinator to oversee our efforts to prevent Russia from striking again. This person should be in the White House and have enough authority to convene all relevant U.S. government stakeholders. Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., proposed such a move earlier this week, and it should be implemented immediately."

Can Trump Keep America Safe?

The Trump Presidency raises new questions, daily.  But one that should be increasingly on our minds is can this volatile and inexperienced President keep America safe? Consider the record.  Thousands died due to government inaction in Puerto Rico.  A challenging situation on the border has been grossly mismanaged, and has now become a full blown regional moral and political crisis.  The President continues to encourage right wing extremism in the US, even at a time when that movement has become far more violent. We are in public and acrimonious disputes with neighbors, Mexico and Canada, and our NATO allies.  The North Korea talks have broken down.   All of this is making the American people less safe, here at home and from threats abroad.

But it is the ongoing threat of Russia’s interference in our domestic affairs which should be of the greatest concern to the American people.  On Friday, the head intelligence official of the American government, Dan Coats, said of Russia’s cyber-interference: “The warning lights are blinking red again….Today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack.”  On Saturday, DHS Secretary Nielsen said U.S. intelligence officials are seeing “persistent Russian efforts using social media, sympathetic spokespeople and other fronts to sow discord and divisiveness amongst the American people.”  Given the gravity of what happened in 2016, shouldn’t it be clear to all of us that yes in fact the President was leading a vigorous effort to protect our nation from similar attacks or even worse?

And yet, despite these warnings, America can neither trust their President is looking out for us or has assembled a team responsible for keeping America safe.  The new National Security Advisor dismantled the cyber security coordinating unit in the White House.  There is no clear person in charge of these matters for the US government, and in a hearing just last week, a senior DHS official admitted that the mechanisms to allow DHS, the FBI and others to coordinate are still insufficient.  And remarkably, the President, on the eve of his meeting with the man responsible for these dangerous threats to America, blamed his predecessors and Robert Mueller for causing the worsening relations between the US and Russia, and not the malevolent dictator and the man who directed the 2016 attack against America, Vladimir Putin.

With Trump now we have two issues regarding our security.  First is competence.   For a man who spends so much time in an alternative world, can he be trusted to assess a threat properly and respond appropriately?  Both the inadequate response to the Puerto Rican crisis and the historic mismanagement of the border crisis suggest not.  But then there is the much more challenging question – does the President actually want to protect America from foreign threats?  Can we count on him to be there for us in a time of need? And on this one I think we have to admit we just aren’t sure.   His response to Russian aggression raises questions frankly about where his ultimate loyalties lie.  A true patriot would have mobilized both US institutions and those abroad to ensure Russia could never replicate the 2016 attack.  Bur rather than doing this, the President has not only denied the attacks ever took place, but he has weakened the international and domestic institutions (NATO, EU, FBI, DHS) needed to challenge Russia in the coming years.  He continued those denials today, in his disastrous joint press conference with President Putin.   Given the opportunity to challenge Putin to stop his interference efforts in the US, the President incomprehensibly took a pass.

So here we are.  It is a sad and dark time in America.   It sure appears that we cannot count on President Trump to keep us safe.  We all wish it were otherwise. 

This is a topic well worth debating in the upcoming elections this fall. 

PS - On Monday, July 16th, the same day our President bowed to Russia's Putin, the Treasury Department announced it was no longer requiring disclosures on contributions given to 501 c (4) organizations.  The practical impact of that is to enable foreign governments and nationals to now give unlimited sums to certain "dark" American political organizations without anyone knowing.  It is an unimaginable surrender of our sovereignity, and will allow unfettered and secret foreign involvement in US politcs - all aiding one side of course. 

Things Are Better Under Trump? Data Suggests Not

This essay was originally published on the website Medium.  And be sure to read our companion piece, "Can Trump Keep America Safe?"

We are about at that time in the Trump Presidency where one can begin to discern the impact of his agenda on the nation. We’ve had 17 months of Trumpism now — regulatory reform, immigration restrictionism, big new tax and fiscal strategy, unraveling of the ACA, tariffs and trade disruption — how is it all working out? Let’s take a look at some of the early data:

Deficits and Debt — According to a recent CBO report, Trump’s tax and fiscal policies will add $1.9 trillion to the deficit over the next 11 years. The US will be running $1 trillion annual deficits by 2020, and will now officially be among the most indebted nations in the world no matter how you measure it.

In addition to advancing the very un-conservative notion of spending money one doesn’t have, this new fiscal strategy has brought an era of low interest rates and cheap capital to an end (federal funds rate up 50% from a year ago). Not only will rising interests rates put what is essentially a tax on all consumers and businesses as the cost of simple things like credit card debt, auto and home loans, business loans rise, but it will cost Americans trillions of dollars in increased debt service over time. Our indebtedness also chips away at our sovereignty, as it gives the nations who loan us money — China for example — have a bit more ability to influence our nation’s future course. This explosion of debt makes every American worse off.

Slower Job Growth — While the unemployment rate has dropped under President Trump, the economy is producing fewer jobs than it did in the last few years of Obama’s Presidency. 217,000 jobs were created per month in Obama’s second term. Through May of this year quarter of this year it has been 185,000 under Trump. That is a net difference of 384,000 a year and over 3m over 8 years — no small thing.

As for GDP growth, in Obama’s 2nd term it averaged 2.2% a year. For Trump it was 2.3% in 2017, and 2.2% in q1 this year. No meaningful gains here either.

Declining Wages — The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ June Report found real average wages for non-supervisory workers dropped from May 2017 to May 2018, going from $9.25 per hour to $9.24. While there are many ways to look at this data, there just isn’t any evidence that the Trump Presidency or his tax cut has substantially improved the lot of working people in the US. New June numbers show no change in this downward trend.

Wages for most workers have actually begin to decline.

Rising Interest Rates and Gas Prices — Trump’s tax bill brought the end of low interest rates to an end, which will, as we discussed, raise the cost of just about everything — car, home and student loans, credit cards, business loans — which will take money out of the pockets of every day people. For many these higher costs will almost certainly wipe out any gains received from the tax cut.

Since early 2017 the price of a gallon of gas at the pump has increased by about 30%, with most of those gains coming in just the last few months. Like rising interest rates, higher gas prices raise the cost of just about everything in American society, and takes money out of the pockets of regular folks. These increased costs are likely to impact how much money Americans can spend on other things like groceries and eating out, summer camps and day care, vacations, car and home purchases, transportation to and from work, which will adversely affect tens of millions of people employed in these sectors. Not only will rising energy costs draw us closer to a recession, they dampen labor mobility, something that will make it harder for companies to hire the workers they need to grow.

Rising Levels of Uninsured, Premium Increases — One of the great policy success stories of the past several generations has been the recent rapid reduction of those without health insurance. Using data from Gallup, the insured rate dropped from 18.0 in late 2013 to just 10.9 at the time of the 2016 election. Estimates are that the ACA covered 25m or so of those gaining insurance in just a few years — a remarkable achievement.

Due to a year of sustained political and regulatory attack on the ACA by the President and his GOP brethren, the uninsured rate snapped back to a rate of 12.2% at the end of 2017, a 12% gain — which translates into 3–4 million people. And as Gallup reports, 2017 was the first year since 2013 no individual state saw their uninsured rate decline. And these increases come at a time when the unemployment rate continued to drop and millions of people found employment. Hard to believe that our President has sought this dispiriting outcome on purpose, as a matter of policy; particularly when he explicitly promised to offer a plan which covered everyone and lowered premiums during his 2016 campaign.

For those remaining in a battered ACA, premiums are going to rise dramatically over the next few years. And just in the last few weeks the Trump Administration came out for eliminating the pre-existing condition ban — something that would impact hundreds of millions of Americans.

Stock Market Made Modest Gains, Now Flat — What is perhaps the most extraordinary economic development of the Trump era, the Dow has gained no ground since Trump’s tax cuts were passed late last year. The Dow closed at 24,978 on December 23rd , the first full day after the tax cuts were signed by the President, and began today at 24,252. That the cocktail of huge corporate and high net worth rate cuts, hundreds of billions of newly repatriated assets and hundreds of billions of stock buy backs haven’t produced gains in the stock market is a shocking development, particularly given that the 2017 market gains were modest by historical standards.

Impact of Restrictionist Immigration Policies, White Nationalism — This one is a bit more subjective than the other areas but the President’s all-out assault on undocumented immigrants, and immigrants more broadly, is making the lives of tens of millions living here in the US far worse than it was. There are 11m undocumented immigrants in the US; 13m green card holders (legal permanent residents); 330,000 holders of a temporary protected status visa who have been told to go home; 30 million of Mexican descent, and over 50m Hispanics overall. You pick the number. Whatever it is there are tens of millions of people living and working in the US today who have either been told to leave by the US government or feel far less welcome in their adopted nation. They are not better off today under Donald Trump.

What makes these policies not just harmful to the workers and families directly affected, they are also very bad for the US economy overall. The US is currently at full employment, and labor shortages are becoming more commonplace across the country. Removing millions of current immigrant workers in the coming years would put pressure on US companies to either 1) replace the assimilated immigrant workers we now have with un-assimilated ones — something very costly and complicated 2) grow jobs in countries outside the US where labor is more abundant. As a matter of economic policy, the President’s immigration strategy is nuts, something the Chamber of Commerce echoed in a recent letter to Congress.

Conclusion — So, are we better off under Trump? Job growth is slower. Wages are down. Rising gas prices and interest rates are eating into the incomes (and very modest tax benefits) of everyday people. The stock market had a good 2017 but is down in 2018. Millions are newly without health insurance, and premiums are rising for millions more. The skyrocketing deficit is endangering the US economy, and leaves us little to invest in infrastructure or to combat a future recession. For tens of millions of immigrants, their lives are clearly much much worse. And the President’s trade and tariff agenda is likely to leave American businesses and workers worse off.

So 17 months in Trump’s Presidency it is not clear things are better, and it a strong case can be made that things are worse. Almost nothing the President promised — rising wages, stronger growth, a balanced budget, universal health care and lower premiums, a tax plan that would cause him to pay higher taxes — has come about. It remains to be seen whether the very modest benefits many Americans are receiving from the President’s tax cut will be seen by voters as a net positive given rising costs, skyrocketing deficits and everything else — this remains a big unknown heading into the fall but many polls now suggest the Republicans are losing this one (and for good reason).

Tax Bill 6 Points Net Negative

This piece suggests that the battle over competing economic narratives — “economy was good, worse now” vs “economy was bad/okay/carnage and everything is better now” — will be a hotly contested one this summer and fall. Current polls suggest Democrats have work to do to win this fight; but the data also suggests the battle is winnable if waged. No reason given the disappointing performance of this economy, or the strong economic performance of both the Clinton and Obama Presidencies, that the GOP should be leading Democrats on the economy. But you can’t win battles if you don’t fight ’em, and this one should be central to the Democrats’ battle plan this election year.

Update - Chris Murphy moving on, SR assistant position open

Dear Friends,

It is with both great regret and enormous gratitude that I report today that Chris Murphy, my long-time assistant here at NDN, is moving on. He will be joining our good friends at Mercury LLC in the coming weeks, focusing on public affairs and media relations projects. Chris has been a terrific partner over these past few years. He is hard working, focused, kind to all and very effective. He will be hard to replace, but that process begins today.

If you know of a good candidate for the position please have them email Chris right away at cmurphy@ndn.org. We will be making first cuts this Friday. The email to him should include a resume, cover note and list of references. We shoot for a person one step passed entry level for this position, for it requires a significant degree of ball juggling and complexity. It has proven to be a great stepping stone for many ambitious young center-lefties, so please send us qualified candidates today.

Please thank Chris for his time served here. I know many of you got to know him well, and appreciated how easy it was to work with worth him. Please help me give him a proper send off, but as you know, like many assistants before, they never stop being part of this spirited community.

Best, Simon

Assistant to the President, NDN

The Assistant to the President is responsible for managing President Simon Rosenberg and the office's day-to-day operations. This includes managing the President's schedule; executing weekly emails including NDN's newsletter, member updates, and other releases via NGP-Van; handling administrative tasks (such as event management, meeting arrangements, scanning documents, and other errands); researching legislation or other policy information for the President's use. In this role, you will also work closely with other NDN members' offices and Washington stakeholders.

This position allows for growth as well as special projects assigned by the President. Additional responsibilities consist of handling office communications, including answering the main NDN phone-line, processing invoices, assisting with travel logistics, event coordination, and keeping track of written correspondence, and other duties as assigned.

Democrats Need To Have A Big Conversation About Trade

This essay was originally published on the website Medium.

There is little doubt that Democrats are in the early stages of what will be a very intense debate about how to best lead the nation after Trump’s disappointing Presidency. As I wrote in a recent NBC News column, one of the most important areas Democrats will have to air out is the best way to re-stitch America back into the global, rules-based order our nation — and our Party — imagined and built after WWII. Given America’s plummeting standing around the world, and the utter contempt Trump has shown for so many nations, allies and institutions of this rules-based system both here and abroad, this will be no easy thing. It may perhaps the toughest challenge our next President, and our emerging leaders of both parties, will face in the coming years.

For Democratic Presidential candidates next year, and perhaps a Democratic Speaker and/or Senate majority leader too, one could imagine that calling for a return to the Paris climate accord or the Iran nuclear deal will be relatively easy matters. But one can also imagine calls for returning America to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or putting NAFTA back together if wrecked by Trump in the days ahead, will be much harder. Democrats are going to have to be very careful here, for a refusal to bolster and support the global trading system that Trump has weakened by the next American President could not just cause irreparable harm to this vital instrument of America’s global power and prosperity, but to the broader rules-based system itself.

For as one sees in both TPP and NAFTA, for example, trade agreements are extensions of the rules-based system, and are as much geopolitics as they are economic arrangements. NAFTA created a global economic and political powerhouse known as North America, and TPP was intended to create a regional counterweight to China’s growing influence and cemented America’s leadership in the Pacific years to come. TPP also contained a comprehensive updating of rules involving the Internet and the cyberspace, something that will remain a major priority for American policy makers for years to come, particularly after the Russian attack on our democracy in 2016. My basic point here is the line between geopolitics, foreign policy and trade policy are far more blurred than bright, and a retreat to a facile protectionism by the next President would not just weaken a global system in need of support it would make America’s return to the global stage far less effective than is in our national interest.

For Democrats there is another reason to tread carefully here — Democratic voters are overwhelmingly supportive of free trade. Consider these three graphs from recent Pew Research polling:

Positive views of free trade agreements rebound to pre-2016 levels

67% of Democrats believe free trade is a good thing. 62% oppose tariffs. 72% say NAFTA is a good thing for the US. These findings suggest that protectionism simply isn’t going to play well in a Democratic Presidential primary next year. The case that globalization was wrecked the American economy will be a particularly tough sell in the early 2020 states of Iowa and New Hampshire, each of which are experiencing some of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation and in their history — 2.8% and 2.6% respectively. According to a Pew study done at the height of the Democratic primary in March of 2016, even 55% of Bernie Sanders supporters said that “trade is a good thing,” not all that different from those who supported Hillary Clinton at the time.

There are many explanations for this data I think it has to do with the nature of the Democratic coalition these days. Democrats have large numbers of young people who grew up in a globalized world and have come to expect it; and immigrants or those closely connected to recent immigrant experiences, who often want America to stay connected to the big world out there. The graph below from Pew’s 2017 version of their new report shows the demographic breakdowns of the trade good/bad question — a breakdown that would be familiar to anyone who has studied the recent Brexit vote.

Look, trade is a tough issue. But those Democrats seeking to lead us in the years ahead have to give a great deal of thought about how to approach the trade conversation. Our voters are not with the protectionists, the economy was never as bad as Trump proclaimed, and restoring America’s leadership of — or at least constructive participation in — a global system imagined and built by our party over 70 years ago will be among our most important jobs in the coming years. The answer to Trump isn’t a different version of American retreat; it is a redefining and reassertion of American leadership on the global stage for a new century with new and complex challenges. Democrats have risen to this challenge before, and I am hopeful that we will do so again.

Finally, there is also a cold hard truth here — the global system we built will also continue in some form without us. Europe and Iran appear close to salvaging the Iran Deal, TPP was finalized without the US and without some of our hard negotiated wins. We can both dive into the world and try to lead it, or the nations of the world will end up dictating terms — terms guaranteed to be less favorable — to the US. Retreat is a guarantor of national decline, loss of influence and prosperity. It would be folly to choose that path.

Congress Must Debate Weakening of Global Order

Today NBC News THINK published Simon's column, "Trump's Iran deal withdrawal is an arrogant rejection of the post-war system America built." An excerpt –

President Trump’s decision this week to walk away from the Iran Deal is significant for many reasons – but perhaps most importantly, it is yet another sign that America has lost faith in, and is no longer leading, the global system it imagined and built after World War II.

The global system that exists today – while imperfect – is among America’s most consequential achievements. After the carnage of two world wars, our nation’s leaders made what was a truly historic choice for humankind: We choose to construct a new world that had as its foundation liberty and dignity for all the world’s peoples, and self-determination for all the world’s nations. This new system, best exemplified by the United Nations (which was located and remains here in the United States), was an extension of the vision of our Founding Fathers who fought a revolution and designed a governing system intent on ensuring human liberty would prevail over tyranny, which we know today as authoritarianism.

To continue reading, please refer to the NBC News THINK link.

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