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Best in the Big Tent: May 2023
Democratic Problem Solvers speak out against No Labels, Third Way report shows why Dems must be a big-tent to win, DeSantis and Trump battle it out on crime as Biden pivots to the center, and more.
Democratic Problem Solvers speak out against No Labels — and the group goes after one of its own
The most effective product of No Labels’ work has been its bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus.
That’s why it was especially newsworthy that a handful of top Democratic Problem Solvers publicly took on No Labels and its third party presidential effort. Some scoops from Politico and The New York Times:
Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL): “I can think of nothing worse than another Trump presidency and no better way of helping him than running a third-party candidate.”
Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA): “No Labels is wasting time, energy, and money on a bizarre effort that confuses and divides voters, and has one obvious outcome — reelecting Donald Trump as President.”
Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ): “This is not an effort I’m personally involved with or supportive of.”
These criticisms have led the group to retaliate against at least one of their own. After Schneider spoke out, No Labels started running attacks in his Illinois district, calling him “out of step” with his voters for his criticism of their third-party bid.
So much for bipartisanship, unity, and problem solving.
New report from Third Way shows why Democrats must be a big-tent to win
Third Way’s Lucas Holtz is out with a new report on Why Republicans Can Win with their Base—but Democrats Can’t.
The whole thing is worth a read, built atop the basic fact that Third Way and other center-left pragmatists have been pointing out for some time: America skews right of center as a nation — and Democrats must win over a significant share of moderates to win national elections.
In Holtz’s words:
Because conservatives make up a larger portion of the electorate than liberals do, Republicans don’t have to look far beyond their conservative base to win elections. Democrats, meanwhile, have a much tougher and more diverse path to winning.
There is no battleground state in which liberal voters make up a majority or a plurality of the electorate. And liberal voters make up a smaller share of the electorate in nearly every battleground state relative to the national average. In 2020, conservatives and moderates made up the largest ideological groups of voters, and there is no indication we will see a different electorate in 2024.
For the center to hold, Democrats must be a big-tent with a thriving moderate faction:
Due to these asymmetries, President Biden and his party cannot just win a bare majority of moderate voters if they hope to win the presidency in 2024—it is imperative for Democrats to win a supermajority of moderate voters. Since 1980, Democrats have only managed to win a single presidential election when they did not have a supermajority of moderate voters nationwide—and even in that anomalous year, they won 56%.
These are precisely the voters No Labels is courting with their dangerous third-party bid — and this is precisely why such an effort would do nothing other than elect Donald Trump in 2024.
DeSantis and Trump battle it out on crime as Biden pivots to the center
In a March post on his Twitter clone, Donald Trump criticized Ron Desantis’s tenure as Governor of Florida, noting that “on crime statistics, Florida ranked Third Worst in Murder, Third Worst in Rape, and Third Worst in Aggrevated Assualt.”
This line of attack clearly registers. Our March poll with PFP Research found that voters do indeed harbor deep concerns about crime in Florida. Respondents were asked, “Florida governor Ron DeSantis says Florida is a blueprint for America. Do you think Florida is more safe, less safe, or the same as your neighborhood?”
We found that 46 percent of voters thought Florida was less safe than their own neighborhood, while only 21 percent thought it was more safe.
These negative attitudes were pronounced not only among Democrats but among independents, with 63% and 52% (respectively) perceiving Florida to be less safe than their own neighborhoods. The latter is especially striking because the pathway to victory in 2024 will run through independent voters.
DeSantis clearly understands the potency of these attacks, because he’s recently taken to throwing a counterpunch. In a recent statement, he hit Trump from the right for passing prison reform in 2018 in an attempt to brand the 45th president as soft on crime.
Meanwhile, as the top GOP contenders trade jabs and race to the right on crime, President Biden is moving to the middle on the issue and rebuffing his bona fides with the moderate voters who he’ll need to keep in 2024. Our poll found that voters place Biden to the center of his party, agree with his stance on the DC crime bill, and support his role in the 1994 crime bill. Keep an eye out for more on this as the campaign heats up.
Will Rollins puts democracy (back) on offense in CA-41
WelcomePAC’s top challenger of 2022 is back!
As we wrote in celebration of big-tent Democrat Will Rollins’ rematch against 30-year GOP establishmentarian Ken Calvert in California’s 41st congressional district:
In 2022, Rollins’ campaign focused on building bridges and finding common ground, rather than stoking partisan division. His bipartisan background, especially his work in a moderate Republican administration, was a key selling point, as was his emphasis on the future of democracy. This approach appealed to a broad range of voters, including independents (“No Party Preference” voters in California parlance) and moderate Republicans disillusioned with the current state of the GOP.
The result of what the late journalist Blake Hounshell called a “centrist insurgency, of sorts” in CA-41:
…a stunning overperformance in November. On Election Day 2022, Rollins shocked the political world and came within a mere 11,100 votes of Calvert in the general election. He lost by 4.6 points, not the 10-point blowout FiveThirtyEight had forecast. And not only was Rollins the only California Democratic challenger to win among independent (“No Party Preference”) voters, but data guru David Shor found that Rollins was the third highest performing challenger in any GOP-held seat in the country in 2022.
Second time’s the charm — and Rollins is the right candidate running in the right district at the right time.
Tweet of the Month
Mainstreaming the Mainstream
Check out highlights from the past month in essential big-tent outlets.
But first, the Best of the Rest:
Illiberalism is a threat to democracy — on the right and left by Theodore Johnson in The Washington Post:
In the far reaches of the left wing, illiberalism springs from an unwillingness to recognize and praise those aspects of the United States that should be conserved, preferring instead to portray a nation corrupt from the start, beyond repair and in need of a teardown. The illiberal left chills the speech of ideological opponents, hijacks legitimate protest movements to serve undemocratic ends and supports coercive means to achieve policy goals. Although not equivalent to the excesses of right-wing illiberalism, the left repudiates democracy nonetheless.
Millennials Are Not an Exception. They’ve Moved to the Right. by Nate Cohn in The New York Times:
In the 2020 presidential election, voters who were 18 to 29 in 2008 backed Joe Biden by 55 percent to 43 percent, according to our estimates, a margin roughly half that of Mr. Obama’s 12 years earlier. The exit polls show it even closer, with Mr. Biden winning by just 51-45 among voters who were 18 to 27 in 2008 (exit polls report results among those 30 to 39, not 30 to 41 — the group that was 18 to 29 in 2008). And last fall, the young voters of ’08 — by then 32 to 43 — preferred Democratic congressional candidates by just 10 points in Times/Siena polling.
Biden’s underrated deal-making prowess strikes again by Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post:
President Biden’s capacity to overperform after an onslaught of negative press and Democratic hand-wringing is second to none. He did it with the Inflation Reduction Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, NATO solidification and expansion, and now with the debt ceiling deal. It’s hard to conceive of an outcome more favorable to Biden.
Black turnout dropped sharply in 2022 midterms, Census survey finds by Scott Clement and Lenny Bronner in The Washington Post:
Turnout in last year’s midterm elections fell from a century-high point of 50 percent in 2018 to 46.6 percent in 2022, and census data released Tuesday suggest the drop was concentrated among Black voters, younger voters and college graduates. Black voter turnout dropped by nearly 10 percentage points, from 51.7 percent in 2018 to 42 percent in 2022, according to a Washington Post analysis of the Census Bureau’s turnout survey. White voter turnout slipped by only 1.5 points to 53.4 percent. The 11-point turnout gap between White and Black voters is the largest in any presidential or midterm election since at least 2000.
What’s ‘Woke’ and Why It Matters by Nate Cohn in The New York Times:
But while the definition of “woke” may be up for debate, there’s no doubt that the term is trying to describe something about the politics of today’s highly educated, young “new” left, especially on cultural and social issues like race, sex and gender.
As with the original New Left in the 1960s, the emergence of this new left has helped spark a reactionary moment on the right. It has split many liberals from their usual progressive allies. And it has helped power the rise of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has done more to associate himself with fighting “woke” than any other politician. Like it or not, “woke” will shape this year’s Republican primary.
Best of The Liberal Patriot
"A Fighter for My Country" by Brian Katulis with Rep. Ritchie Torres:
You know, I am convinced that for all our imperfections, America is the greatest country on Earth. It is a multiracial, multiethnic, multilingual democracy the likes of which the world has never seen. The dominant form of government in human history has been empire, and the dominant form of democracy in human history has been small, homogeneous democracy. America’s multiracial democracy should be seen as a miracle in the grand sweep of history.
Where Is the Electoral Payoff to Progressivism? by Ruy Teixeira:
A more plausible explanation for the lack of a progressive electoral payoff is that the whole progressive electoral theory is just wrong. It’s not the case that moderating Democrats’ approach results in more losses among base group voters than gains among persuadable voters. On the contrary, it is strenuous progressivism that results in losses among base group voters and certainly does little good among persuadable voters outside the Democratic base. The whole tradeoff posited by progressives to justify their approach and disparage a moderate alternative does not exist.
A Broken Link Between Democrats and Young People by Seth Moskowitz:
In other words, Democrats as a party have a tendency to overpromise and underdeliver. Even significant policy achievements like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act wind up looking like half a loaf as a result—and these policies are only now beginning to be implemented. No wonder young people tell pollsters that politics is “no longer able to meet the challenges our country is facing” and that political involvement “rarely has any tangible results.” If they want to win over young voters, the first thing Democrats need to do is break these habits as soon as possible. Ideological purity, extreme policies, and soaring campaign rhetoric are unpopular and do not put money in people's pockets, make homes affordable, give people health care, or solve racial bias.
The Democrats’ Merit Problem by Ruy Teixeira:
Will Democrats pull themselves back from the brink? We shall see. But they should know this: the voters they aspire to lead are not with them. On the bedrock question of merit and outcomes, Americans still believe—and will continue to believe—that “equality of opportunity is a fundamental American principle; equality of outcome is not”. In the very blue state of Massachusetts, voters overall agreed with this statement by 61 percent to 16 percent. Republican voters agreed with the statement by 72-12, but so did independent voters by 65-13 and even Democrats by 56-17. White voters endorsed the statement by 63-12 but so did black voters by 56-17.
How Much Will Abortion Influence the 2024 Presidential Race? by Michael Baharaeen:
Even as the threat to abortion rights has energized much of the Democratic base, there’s a meaningful segment of voters who support protecting a woman’s right to choose but who will also vote Republican. According to the AP VoteCast survey of 2022 midterm voters, nearly a third of all voters who said abortion should be legal in all or most cases voted Republican in their U.S. House race. The survey also showed that those who said they “somewhat favor” a law “guaranteeing access to legal abortion nationwide” broke for Republicans by 13 points, 55–42 percent.
Best of Slow Boring
"Misinformation" isn't just on the right by Matt Yglesias:
You also have a lot of very influential wrongheaded ideas on the left… [such as] the idea that the world faces a hard tipping point to climate apocalypse sometime around 2030. This is routinely debunked (here’s Scientific American) but keeps popping up. As is often the case with misinformation, the problem arises in large part because elite communicators say things that are a little confusing or misleading. This NPR headline “Earth has 11 years to cut emissions to avoid dire climate scenarios, a report says” sounds superficially similar to AOC’s “The world is gonna end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change.” But the report is not measuring humanity’s time to avert human extinction — it’s measuring humanity’s time to avert the 1.5 degrees of warming adopted as a global target in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
Democrats' strange victory in the 2022 midterms by Matt Yglesias:
The non-wave of 2022 differed in several key waves from those older non-waves. In 2014, Democrats did 4 points worse nationally compared to 2012. Then in 2018, Democrats did three points better nationally than they’d done in 2016. In 2022, Democrats did three points worse nationally than in 2020. Same old, same old. But what made 2022 different, per the Catalist data, is that Democrats did way better than average in precisely the closely contested races where it mattered most.
Seventeen thoughts on the debt ceiling deal by Matt Yglesias:
Going back even further, the true fiasco here was how Democrats handled this during the Trump Era. After a little bit of posturing, Pelosi and Schumer consistently gave Trump basically clean debt ceiling increases. What they should have done was held out for elimination in order to avert the threat of this happening in a post-Trump administration. It probably would have worked. What did Trump care about setting up congressional Republicans for a spending fight in a future Democratic administration? The problem is Dem congressional leaders apparently didn’t care about this either — but they should have.
Best of The Bulwark
Don’t Expect DeSantis to Deliver the GOP from Trumpian Abuses of Power by Jill Lawrence:
There are many ways I would consider DeSantis a greater threat to the public welfare than Trump, given his cruel Florida record on education, race, abortion, immigration, and the health, safety, and rights of the LGBTQ community. He’s anti-science and so is his surgeon general, as Scientific American argues. He’s even attacked the First Step Act, a bipartisan criminal justice reform law that Trump signed and few in Congress opposed.
Anatomy of a Murder: How the Democratic Party Crashed in Florida by Steve Schale:
The idea that Florida Democrats should sublimate themselves to a donor alliance was predicated on the belief that the Florida Democratic party itself should be weak. This may have served these groups well. But it has been disastrous for actual Democratic candidates. The entire model should have been flipped—building a strong party first, and using the outside groups to supplement it. But instead, we kept the party down to benefit the outside groups. When political parties are weak, they tend to become feckless and inept. Feckless and inept parties lose elections.
Best of The Welcome Party
Everybody Knows a Murphy with former Rep. Stephanie Murphy:
I am a moderate because I'm a pragmatist. I believe that we should fight passionately for our principles and the things that matter to us, but in order to make change in this country, we have to move forward with pragmatic policy… The only way you can make a difference in the lives of your constituents is to have your policy ideas be signed into law. So it's out of necessity to deliver for my constituents that I'm a pragmatist.
Despite the far-left base only making up one fifth of Democrats, uber-progressive candidates and leaders are overrepresented in the media’s dominant narrative about where the Democratic Party stands. There is a tendency to treat the Democratic coalition as if it is split evenly between the Bernie and AOC flank and the party’s moderate wing, when in reality only a fraction are on the far-left.
The story of Will Rollins’ 2022 campaign in CA-41 is a testament to the potential of next-generation centrist politics in our polarized current political climate…. One thing is clear: this is the right candidate, running for the right seat, at the right time. The Politico story announcing the rematch is titled “A do-over in the desert.” Sometimes, you don’t get a second chance. Let’s finish the job and answer that question.
More cops, more school, and more economic opportunity. It doesn’t take a PhD in political science to figure out what voters want in a city that Biden won with 81% of the vote. It’s the same thing the vast majority of Democrats want everywhere: mainstream candidates who deliver tangible results, not extreme candidates with celebrity endorsers. True Blue beats Red Rose Twitter, the home base of the Democratic Socialists of America.
The Declining Value of a (Political) Dollar with Lakshya Jain:
As polarization rises at the fringes, the fact that we can still move the needle to put the shrinking but still significant crop of seats in the middle into play becomes all the more important. As the value of a dollar decreases at the fringes, it becomes even more valuable to invest in the battlegrounds where a relatively small share of movable voters could flip a seat — and control of a narrowly-divided Congress.
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