2018

Invite: Wed, Dec 12th - NDN's "Patriotism, Optimism"

Over the past year or so Simon has been making a big argument about the past and future of the center-left in America.  Called "Patriotism and Optimism," it makes the case that America is not in decline and is in fact doing as well as it has in any point in its history. It is meant to be an explicit rebuttal to the core argument Trump is making about America and its decline, an argument which is malevolently selling America and its people short every day. 

This primary way this argument has made itself into the world is through a 45 minute long Powerpoint deck, which has been seen in dozens of showings over the web and live in person to policy makers here in Washington and around the country. Our next showing of the deck will be Wednesday, December 12th from 12:00pm to 1:15pm at our new offices at 800 Maine Avenue SW, Washington, DC. Lunch will be served. You can RSVP for the event and learn more here. For background before the showing, feel free to check out some related readings below.

Key Background Readings On "Patriotism and Optimism"

The Case for Optimism: Rejecting Trump's Poisonous Pessimism, Simon Rosenberg, Medium, 6/2/17. In an essay that originally was published on Medium, Simon argues that the great rationale of Trump's Presidency  –  that America is in decline – simply isn't true, and must be challenged more forcefully.  This is the piece that spurred the creation of the presentation. 

Chin Up, Democrats, Simon Rosenberg, US News and World Report, 1/20/17. In his column Simon argues that Democrats should have pride in their historic accomplishments and optimism about the future of their politics. This one is very relevant to the presentation itself. 

A Center-Left Agenda for the Trump Era - Simon Rosenberg, US News and World Report, 12/9/16.  In the early days after Trump's election Simon layed out a possible agenda for the Democrats centering on prosperity, security, shoring up the American led liberal order and ambitiious efforts to reform our political system. 

Additional Readings

Some Thoughts On the Caravan - By Simon Rosenberg, Medium, 10/24/18.  The Caravan, composed of 7,000 poor, unarmed, mostly Honduran Central Americans, poses no threat to the US, and illegal border crossings continue to be way down. Some thoughts on what Democrats should do to respond to Trump's farcical attacks and terrible policies.

Are We Better Off Under Trump? The Short Answer Is No - By Simon Rosenberg and Chris Taylor, NDN, 10/18/18.  Most measures of the US economy are worse today than when Trump took office. Worse still, the President’s policies have made it very challenging to manage the next recession or global economic downturn.

Challenging Trump's Tariffs - An Ongoing Series - By Chris Taylor, 10/17/18.  In a new series challenging Trump's tariffs, we argue that the President's trade policy is illegal, recklessly ignorant, damaging to the US economy, and historically unpopular. Congress must step up and rescind them in the coming months. 

Trump's Immigration Strategy Is Failing - By Simon Rosenberg, NBC News, 8/6/18.  Almost nothing the President has done on immigration and the border has worked; expect more extreme policies as the elections approach. 

Congress Must Debate The Weakening of Global Order - By Simon Rosenberg, NBC News, 5/10/18.  Few presidents have inherited a world or a nation in which more was going right. Trump seems determined to undo it all.

The Pernicious Politics of Oil - Simon Rosenberg, US News and World Report, 12/16/16.  Petro-powers are challenging the global order, and the next president seems uninterested in stopping them.

An Enduring Legacy: The Democratic Party and Free and Open Trade - Simon Rosenberg, Huffington Post, 1/24/14.  The global system created by Presidents FDR and Truman has done more to create opportunity, reduce poverty and advance democracy than perhaps any other policies in history. 

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. 

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