Three Reasons for Democrats to Be Optimistic About the Midterms

A woman makes a photo of the United States Capitol in Washington DC, January 18, 2017
A woman makes a photo of the United States Capitol in Washington DC, January 18, 2017 (Lorie Shaull)

Democrats in the United States have three reasons to feel optimistic about this year’s congressional elections, argues Ruy Teixeira at his blog, The Optimistic Leftist.

  1. Off-year elections are a good predictor of performance in the midterms, as reported by Daily Kos. Democrats won several special elections in 2017, notably in Alabama and Virginia. That bodes well for 2018.
  2. Republicans don’t have a turnout advantage, at least not with a Republican president, according to Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight. Republican voters are usually more motivated when a Democrat is in the White House.
  3. Donald Trump is hugely unpopular. Nate Cohn writes in The New York Times that the president is far less popular than the state of the economy would suggest — and when presidents are unpopular, their party usually loses. Read more

How and Why Americans Switch Parties

Visitors at the de Young museum in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, California, October 16, 2005
Visitors at the de Young museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, California, October 16, 2005 (Thomas Hawk)

13 percent of Americans switched parties in the last five years. Economic anxiety had little to do with Democrats changing sides to support Donald Trump.

Those are some of the more surprising findings of the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group. Read more

For the Future of the Democratic Party, Look to California

Street view in San Francisco, California, April 7, 2010
Street view in San Francisco, California, April 7, 2010 (Jerome Vial)

Peter Leyden and Ruy Teixeira argue that California’s Democrats are leading the way in developing a progressive vision for the twenty-first century:

The New California Democrats understand that a healthy society needs a strong government that’s well funded, and they don’t shy from raising public funds through progressive taxation. But the New California Democrats appreciate the market and the capabilities of entrepreneurial business. They are tech-savvy and understand the transformative power of new technologies and the vibrancy of an economy built around them. They understand that to solve our many twenty-first-century challenges, we need business to come up with solutions that scale and that grow the economy for all.

If the twentieth-century progressive model was the welfare state, the twenty-first century’s could be what Leyden and Teixeira call the “opportunity state.” Read more

Takeaways from Democratic Victories in Virginia

Ralph Northam, the Democratic candidate for the governorship of Virginia, speaks with voters
Ralph Northam, the Democratic candidate for the governorship of Virginia, speaks with voters (Northam for Governor)

Democrats who are wary of toning down their identity politics can take heart from Tuesday’s election results in Virginia.

Ed Gillespie, formerly a center-right Republican who adopted the race-baiting tactics of Donald Trump, lost to middle-of-the-road — not Bernie Sanders-style populist — Democrat Ralph Northam with 45 to 54 percent support.

Bob Marshall, the author of the state’s failed “bathroom bill”, was defeated by Danica Roem, the first openly transgender state senator elected in American history.

Preliminary analysis suggests Gillespie failed to boost Republican turnout in the sort of left-behind places that threw their support behind Trump in 2016 and lost votes in affluent suburbs that have increasingly leaned Democratic. Read more

Lessons for Democrats from Europe

German Social Democratic Party leader Martin Schulz and the French Socialist Party's Benoît Hamon deliver a news conference in Berlin, March 28
German Social Democratic Party leader Martin Schulz and the French Socialist Party’s Benoît Hamon deliver a news conference in Berlin, March 28 (Facebook)

How can Democrats win back working-class voters who have switched to the right?

The obvious solution is to become more populist. Less Hillary Clinton, more Bernie Sanders. Tax the rich, spend more on welfare, make health care universal and oppose new trade deals.

Except we have seen social democrats try this in Europe and it didn’t work.

When left-wing parties cling to a shrinking working-class electorate, they end up neglecting middle-income supporters — and satisfy neither. Parties that takes sides are more successful. Read more

Democrats Should Campaign for Dutch-Style Health Reforms

Dutch girls cycling in Amsterdam, June 13, 2014
Dutch girls cycling in Amsterdam, June 13, 2014 (Shirley de Jong)

The other day, I explained that the reason Americans can’t get a European-style health-care system is not opposition from insurance companies but the fears of 155 million Americans who currently get health insurance through their employers. They worry that a single-payer system, like Britain’s, would mean higher taxes and lower-quality care.

Such fears — largely unfounded — would undoubtedly be amplified by drug companies, health providers and insurance companies if the Democrats campaigned for “Medicare for all”.

So instead of having an abstract, and probably pointless, debate about which health-care system is superior, why not look at what advocates of single-payer hope to achieve and see if this can’t be done without eliminating private insurance? Read more

Democrats Should Look to the Middle, Not to the Left

Hillary Clinton supporters listen to a speech in Davidson, North Carolina, October 12, 2016
Hillary Clinton supporters listen to a speech in Davidson, North Carolina, October 12, 2016 (Hillary for America/Alyssa S.)

Since last year’s presidential election, the American left has been calling on Democrats to adopt a program of economic populism in order to lure back working-class voters.

This would be a mistake.

A lurch to the left may not bring back working-class whites but would disappoint middle-class voters who have been joining the Democratic Party in far greater numbers. Read more