A Bold New World View, Part 4- Who Decides

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

Read Part 3 here.

Yesterday the Democrats officially took the House. Before yesterday, there were 195 Democrats in the House, now there are 40 more. Where did these 40 new seats come from?

They were not seats won in the Democratic base- urban America- for the most part. They also were mostly not in rural America, where Republicans clean up on whiter votes. Most of these new members (not all) are coming from suburban and even a few exurban districts. They’re not coming from previously safe “blue” districts, but districts that have shown a tendency towards moderacy and swing-voting.

American elections are generally decided in semi-affluent, higher educated areas. Suburban counties around Philadelphia, Cleveland, Miami, Raleigh, Washington, Des Moines, and Detroit tend to decide Presidential elections. Many of the districts that flipped in Congress and state legislatures in 2018 were in those same areas. These voters decide most of our elections.

This is not to say that a Presidential candidate should not seek to stoke their base voters to increase turnout, and/or seek to cut margins in the opposition’s strong turf. It’s to say that Presidents who win that way are not building a governing coalition. Winning with your base isn’t strengthening your party’s fortunes in the swing districts that decide partisan control in the legislatures. Without strong legislative majorities, you cannot pass laws and make changes.

Who are these voters? They’re college educated. They don’t live higher taxes, but do like good public services. They’re not very fond of the blatant racism, sexism, and bigotry of Trump. They tend to believe in science. They tend to not support “big government” or socialism. While not as diverse as the big cities, they’re not as lily white as “the sticks.”

These are the places that handed Donald Trump a beating in 2018, but Hillary didn’t spend enough time on in 2016. They’re the small cities of Pennsylvania, like Allentown, Reading, Bethlehem, or Scranton. They’re the suburban areas in Milwaukee County. They’re the suburban areas around Charlotte in Mecklenburg County, and the suburban counties around Raleigh, and even in Wake County. They’re obviously the areas outside of Detroit, within that metro market.

I’m not suggesting it’s an “or” choice. Should a Democratic nominee in 2020 campaign in Charlotte or Matthews? Philadelphia or Allentown? Milwaukee or Janesville? My answer is both. My answer is talk about the things that are applicable, and go to both. Campaign to your base, but also talk to and about things that matter to the voters who are up for grabs.

There are those that disagree, either because of perceived practical problems with it, or an ideological bias towards a particular base of voters. My suggestion is that they are incorrect in their view of the electorate, and in the pathway forward. Many of the areas that flipped or went more Democratic from 2016 to 2018 got an increase of campaign action and attention this time. Issues of importance to them- like health care- were now front and center. It’s not that they like or dislike either party’s base, but mostly that they have different issues.

Finally, there is a belief by some that demographics will simply change American politics in due time. It’s true- by 2045, the nation will be majority-minority, though it will remain plurality white for some time after that. Even as that happens, at least 37 states will remain majority white, and even more will be plurality white. Half the country will live in eight states. The voting population is likely to be even whiter than this. By the time the voters of America are a more diverse majority, many of us are likely to be very old, or even dead. Diversity will move the nation, but not as fast and dramatically as some believe.

Elections are not decided where either major party would generally like. They’re not decided among the activists. They’re decided among voters who are less ideological. Winning them over takes a more complex, higher political messaging. This makes a lot of political people uncomfortable.

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0- Election Day

I was in an odd place on Election Night of 2002. I was suffering from mono, and had just decided to not try to return to running track and field or cross-country once cleared. I wasn’t playing the drums anymore, and was only about 20 months removed from my last wrestling bout (a 15-0 win), after 11 years in that sport. At that time, I was simply a young political science major, driven mostly by my opposition to the Iraq War and my support for the working class and unionized labor. I had no idea that politics would replace sports and music as the central meaning in my life yet, or the places it would take me. I thought I was majoring in political science at that time as a pathway to law school, not to be heading into 2020 still working on campaigns, but life doesn’t ask permission when moving you in a direction.

What I wouldn’t give to be back on a wrestling mat today, or run down that windy back-stretch on Easton’s track, or jam out on my drum set for a jazz band competition. All of those things once defined me as a person, and their fading from my life is part of why I am where I am this morning- running a regional boiler room, over-seeing the Charlotte area for the Democratic Party. Politics has taken me all over the place, and let me see places and things I never would have expected to see. I’ve managed Congressional, county and State legislative races, been a statewide field director, run a statewide early and absentee vote program, and of course been a regional field director. I’ve worked for members of the progressive caucus in Congress, and downright conservative Democrats. I’ve been exposed to people, places, ideas, and issues that I never would have seen otherwise. Politics has come to re-define who I am, what I am, and how I see the world. It truly filled the voids I previously left.

Father Time is not my friend though. If I want to retire at 65, I need to start moving in that direction sometime soon. Politics, and yes the Democratic Party, have changed a lot since I was a 19 year old intern for the PA Dems coordinated campaign. I don’t honestly know how I feel about it, if I’m honest. It’s not what I signed up for as an anti-war, pro-union youth. At the same time, these values are who I am now, at this point.

I’m not sure how many of today’s I have left. Let’s hope this is enjoyable.

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GOTV is not a place or time for intellectual thought- you just do it. You do your job, as instructed, and just hope it works out. Freelancers who try to do their own thing and be heroes usually end up doing more harm than good. It’s a place for people who are orderly and follow directions. I find that Democrats aren’t so hot at that.

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By 11pm tonight, one of two narratives will take hold:

  1. Democratic passion and enthusiasm, buoyed by anti-Trump fever, swept the nation up in a Blue Wave that at a minimum flipped the House, and maybe more. I also imagine that inside of this narrative will be a sub-story on whether “Berniecrat” lefties or mainstream, establishment figures lead the way, which will shape the opening salvos and days of the 2020 Election.
  2. Donald Trump’s stark rhetoric, his barnstorming schedule, and the awakening of the right-wing over Brett Kavanaugh’s “treatment” by Democrats stoked Republican enthusiasm to perform better than expected. Trump’s tough talk on immigration and Republican tough rhetoric against Democratic candidates in Georgia, Florida, and more saved the day. While many races were tight, Republicans held on in Republican seats. Donald Trump looks nearly impossible to beat.

For what it’s worth, be careful to not over buy on either story. The Democratic “Resistance” of these past two years may or may not work in a mid-term, in which Donald Trump is not actually on the ballot. Either way, that doesn’t mean you should conclude the same for 2020, when the Democrats will have to pick an actual person to run against him.

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Just to make things clear, on no other level has the national political environment helped Democrats as much as the U.S. Senate. We are not talking much today about normally swing state seats like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, or Virginia. If Hillary had won in 2016, all would be in serious danger today. Even so, the road to winning a majority is brutally hard tonight. Democrats must:

  • Win tough races they currently lead in West Virginia, Indiana, and Montana.
  • Win at least one, if not two of Florida, Missouri, and North Dakota, all of which are within a point leads or much worse.
  • Pick up at least three of Nevada, Arizona, Tennessee, and Texas, all of which are razor close.
  • Get Mississippi to a run-off and hope Republicans pick a nut, if they fall short on any of the above.

To be clear, it’s possible that Republicans pick up like five seats, and Democrats get none of their pick-ups. A 56-44 GOP Senate could happen. By the same token, so could a 53-47 Democratic Senate. Neither seems likely. I still would expect the GOP to hold the Senate with 50-53 seats after this election. That, by the way, is not a bad outcome for the Democrats, relative to where they started the cycle.

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I don’t want to start 2020 before it needs to, but it’s worth noting- not many of the Democratic leading candidates are being invited into swing districts to close. You see some Barack Obama. You see some Joe Biden. You do see some Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, the occasional Elizabeth Warren, and a few others in blue areas to try and bump turnout, but you don’t see them going much to PA-10, NC-9, or any other moderate district we need to win the House. For the most part, this tells me that our field doesn’t have a broad enough audience to win the electoral college in 2020. A majority party that wins elections can win electorates that aren’t fully ideologically aligned with them, especially against a polarizing figure like Donald Trump.

Just saying.

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If Democrats win back the House tonight as expected, it’s important to remember all the points on the road to this victory, beginning with Donald Trump’s victory speech in the early hours of November 9th, 2016 in New York. There was the GOP’s decision to try and repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court striking down their Congressional map and putting their own fair map in place, the GOP pushing through two conservative judges after blocking Judge Garland, Charlottesville, Parkland, many Trump statements, Connor Lamb’s victory, and of course the tax cuts, to name a few moments.

When you watch tonight though, there are some key areas of the country to watch. The Philadelphia, Miami, and San Diego media markets look ripe for big Democratic gains. California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas, and Florida all look like states where major gains are happening.

What are some districts that Democrats have to win? PA-5, 6, 7, 17, CA-49, NJ-2, 11, AZ-2, CO-6, FL-27, IA-1, IL-6, KS-3, MI-11, MN-2, 3, VA-10, WA-8. These 18 seats are prime pick-ups.

What are the toss-ups that Democrats need to win some of to win back the House? CA-10, 25, 39, 45, 48, FL-15, 26, GA-6, IA-3, IL-14, KS-2, KY-6, ME-2, MI-8, NC-9, 13, NJ-3, 7, NM-2, NY-19, 22, OH-12, PA-1, 10, TX-7, 32, UT-4, VA-2, 7. These 29 seats are where Democrats would tip the House and build their margin.

What seats would signal a huge Democratic wave? There are actually 56 additional GOP seats in their likely or leaning camps, which the Cook political report is still tracking. I can tell you for a fact that at least a couple of these seats are firmly in play after early voting. All told 103 Republicans are waking up in danger today. 80 of them could win, and they would still possibly lose the House. Remember, the Democrats are flat out favored to take 18 of these seats.

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Down here in Charlotte this cycle, things have been eventful. My region has five state House races, all pick-up opportunities. It has two State Senate seats, also pick-ups. We also are doing GOTV for NC-9 on the Congressional level, a pick-up opportunity. It’s nice playing all offense, for a change. I expect us to pick up a State House seat or two, a State Senate seat, and possibly a Congressional seat tonight (though that will be tight). If things go well though, we could easily pick up much more than that. If you’re watching at home, you should keep an eye on HD’s 68, 98, 103, 104, and 105, SD’s 39 and 41, and CD 9.

Back up home, the only work I did for the general was PA HD-121. I have more than a passing interest in PA-115 (did work there last cycle) and 137 (my home district, I tried to push some personal capital with national organizations in there for our nominee). I did some Summer field work on PA’s CD-10 before it was targeted too. I am hoping for a Blue Wave to sweep them all into office.

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My three tiers of potential Democratic Gubernatorial pick-ups tonight:

  • Likely- Maine, Michigan, Illinois, New Mexico
  • Leaning- Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada
  • Possible- Georgia, South Dakota, Kansas, New Hampshire
  • Giant Blue Wave- Vermont, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, Arizona

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There’s less good forecasts out there for state legislatures than any other major level of government. Fortunately, the Washington Post recently published an article on this, and named the following chambers as “in play”:

  • Michigan House and Senate
  • North Carolina Senate
  • Maine Senate
  • New York Senate
  • Arizona House and Senate
  • Colorado Senate
  • New Hampshire House and Senate
  • West Virginia House

For what it’s worth, people in North Carolina think the House is at least as much in play. Carl Klarner did the forecasts for the Post, and you should check him out here.

No, Pennsylvania is not on here. Expect solid gains though tonight. I suspect the Democrats will end up with between 92 and 95 House seats, and 20 Senate seats. This puts both chambers at least marginally back in play moving forward.

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Go vote. No, really, do it. Your country needs you, whoever you are. While I have interesting stuff to write here, none of it matters like you doing your civic duty. I have friends who are overseas right now representing our country, the least you can do is go vote.

2

Like a fool I went and stayed too long. Now I’m wondering if you’re love’s still strong? Ooh baby, here I am, signed sealed delivered, I’m your’s…

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Where was I ten years ago right now? Ripping shots in the PA HDCC headquarters, watching Barack Obama be declared the winner of the 2008 Presidential Election as the last PA House seats trickled in to give us a 104-99 Majority. It remains an iconic moment in my political memory and life, the moment America overcame an ugly history and elected it’s first African-American President. What’s come since may sew doubts, but make no mistake, that moment will never leave any of us.

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Today’s GOTV playlist:

  1. Stevie Wonder- Signed Sealed Delivered
  2. Aerosmith- Sweet Emotion
  3. Green Day- American Idiot
  4. Red Hot Chili Peppers- Dani California
  5. Drake- Back to Back

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Will the Democrats flip the House? It’s pretty clearly the question of all questions heading into this midterm. Nancy Pelosi has staked her career, reputation, and legacy on it. Democrats have put their heart and soul into it. They need 23 seats to do it, and there’s more than that on the board.

If you use Cook Political report, Democrats are playing offense in the following seats:

  • Likely Dem-4- NJ-2, PA-5, 6, and 17.
  • Lean Dem-13- AZ-2, CA-49, CO-6, FL-27, IA-1, IL-6, KS-3, MI-11, MN-2, 3, NJ-11, PA-7, VA-10.
  • Toss-Up-28- CA-10, 25, 39, 45, 48, FL-15, 26, IA-3, IL-14, KS-2, KY-6, ME-2, MI-8, NC-9, 13, NJ-3, 7, NM-2, NY-19, 22, OH-12, PA-1, TX-7, 32, UT-4, VA-2, 7, WA-8.
  • Lean Republican-28- AK-AL, CA-50, FL-6, 16, 18, GA-6, 7, IA-4, IL-12, 13, MO-2, MT-AL, NC-2, NE-2, NY-11, 24, 27, OH-1, PA-10, 16, SC-1, TX-22, 23, VA-5, WA-3, 5, WI-1, WV-3.
  • Likely Republican-27- AR-2, AZ-6, 8, CA-1, 4, 21, 22, CO-3, FL-25, IN-2, MI-1, 3, 6, 7, NC-8, NY-1, 2, 21, 23, OH-10, 14, OK-5, TX-2, 21, 24, 31, WI-6.

For those of you counting at home, the Democrats are favored in 17 GOP seats, in a straight toss-up for 28, close in 28 more, and have some shot in 27 more, leaving 100 GOP seats out on the field right now. They need the 17 they’re favored in, plus a net of 6 from the remaining 83. By contrast, they should lose PA-14 and MN-8, face a toss-up in MN-1, and have ten seats in range that the GOP is still trying for.

Let’s play fair and say the GOP wins all three toss-up or better Democratic seats, and even two more out of the ten. Democrats would need 28 seats out of 100 in play. Let’s give them the 17 they’re favored in, a quarter of the 28 toss-ups (7), and another 3 from the other 55 in play- so a floor of 27. That would give the GOP a 218-217 House Majority- their best case scenario. That’s possible, maybe as possible as any other scenario, but unlikely. It’s at least as likely the GOP picks up two Democratic seats, loses all 17 they’re supposed to lose, loses half or more (14) of the toss-ups, a quarter of their leaning favorites (7), and 2 they shouldn’t, a net loss of 38 seats.

For now, I’m going with 35 new Democratic House members, and a 230-205 Democratic Majority.

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Tonight’s candidate of the night is a surprise to me- Andrew Gillum, the Democratic nominee for Governor of Florida. Gillum is the Mayor of Tallahassee, was an active surrogate for Hillary, and would be Florida’s first African-American Governor. He’s faced blatant racism, unfair attacks, and an active Donald Trump- but he’s still here. You can donate to Andrew here, or volunteer for him here.

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One of the hardest aspects of this job is the stuff you miss. I missed a buddy’s wedding yesterday. I’ve missed a lot of college football games I was invited to this season. I miss family birthdays, bacon and garlic festivals in Easton, the changing of the leaves back home in Easton- and just the opportunity to lead a normal life. You do so because campaigns are your job, but also because you believe in the people you’re electing.

One of these days, I tell myself, I won’t miss all of this stuff, and my favorite season of the year. Or, maybe, one of these years I won’t believe in the cause, the candidates, as much anymore. This has been an exhausting, draining election cycle, and not nearly as fun of one as years past were for me. I’m not planning on stopping before 2020, and I’m not ever planning on going apathetic, but the best thing I can say for 2018 is that it had to be done, because otherwise we’re heading for rock bottom.

One of these days.

4

I’ve been going through life, making foolish plans. Now my world is in your hands. Send in the congregation. Open your eyes, step in the lies. The jukebox generation. Just as you were…

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Tonight’s GOTV playlist:

  1. Foo Fighters- Congregation
  2. Eminem- My Name Is
  3. The Rolling Stones- Jumping Jack Flash
  4. Kanye West- Never Let Me Down
  5. The Dropkick Murphys- Shipping Up to Boston

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Tonight’s candidate of the night is Christy Clark, the Democratic nominee here in North Carolina House District 98, North Mecklenburg County. Christy is fighting for quality education, affordable health care, jobs, clean drinking water, stopping gun violence, and voting rights. Endorsed by Emily’s List, Christy has put an entrenched incumbent, in a traditionally red seat in play.

Christy is one of a group of candidates I’ve been down here in the Charlotte area trying to elect. You can donate to her here. You can come down and volunteer by clicking here.

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New York friends- I’ll be in town the 16th and 17th. Come out and join me.

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Tonight’s final GOTV story of time’s past- 2016. It was the worst of times, and the worst of times. I was here in North Carolina, but in the northeastern most 15 counties. The saving grace- waking up some mornings on the bayside of the Outer Banks, or other mornings in an Elizabeth City hotel room, hung over. I built up a lot of character in that election, but all I got to show for it was that I’m back here to get Governor Cooper a better legislature now.

It wasn’t just losing the state for Hillary, or losing the national election, but it was as much the ugly under current I saw here (and across the nation) around that election. Open white nationalism, sexism, and bigotry of all kinds was prevalent. I never had so many organizers and volunteers express fear and anxiety over voter contact.

But other than that, it was a beautiful place, and I saw some amazing sights.

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So the Senate seems pretty straight forward to me: Democrats have to win Nevada for anything to matter, and Republicans are almost certainly winning North Dakota. That probably means the Senate rides on Missouri, Florida, Arizona, and Tennessee. The Democrats probably need to sweep them to win the Senate, or they need a win in Texas, of which I’m still skeptical of (I’m not saying he won’t win, just that I’m a doubter.) Republicans are still hoping to win in Montana, Indiana, and West Virginia, but I don’t see them as likely to do that.

If I were betting today, I’m seeing a 50-50 Senate. Republicans will win North Dakota and Missouri, but lose Nevada, Arizona, and Tennessee. The Senate probably rides on Texas, Florida, Missouri, Tennessee, and Arizona this Tuesday.

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Speaking of Missouri, for as much as has changed, that state will still come down to McCaskill winning the pro-life Democrats and suburbanites in St. Louis County (not the city proper). The problem, of course, is that this cycle has seen so much discussion of social issues that I’m just not sure that holds up. Yes, Claire seems to win the close ones. This still feels like the wrong cycle for her.

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Easton won their playoff football game back home tonight, 39-19 over Easton. I saw them play in week two and was impressed. I look forward to seeing them on Thanksgiving.

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Tomorrow will be a busy day, overseeing over 500 canvass shifts from my boiler room. This is the time of year political operatives live for though. All of this Democratic energy from the last two years means nothing if we don’t turn it into seats in Congress and state capitols.

6

Leaving, on a southern train, only yesterday, you lied. Promises of what I seemed to be, only watched the time, go by. All of these, things I said to you.

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There’s a point in every election cycle where everything becomes white noise. Races you know are competitive, some poll says they aren’t. Races you know aren’t competitive, some poll says it is. Polling this late in the game is notoriously tough to believe, so you have to have an eye for what is what.

First, watch less polling and boasting by organizations about “what they’ve done” so far. Watch more for anomalies in early voting and where money moves. Elections aren’t horse races, they’re bean-counting. When resources move, it’s because votes could move.

In other words, let me give you a sleeper- Linda Coleman in NC-2. She’s tonight’s candidate of the night, a late-cycle mover who took some time to catch national eyes. She was recently put on “Red-to-Blue,” and the money has followed her in. Early vote for Democrats and non-white voters are popping in her district. She is the final type of piece in the potential Democratic Wave. Donate to her here. Volunteer for her here or here.

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The other thing to watch in the final days is the tone of Republicans. Back in my home district, my state representative called the Democratic candidate a domestic terrorist. In New Jersey, rich-guy Bob Hugin is drumming up old, discredited attacks alleging Bob Menendez frequented Dominican prostitutes. Donald Trump is talking about a migrant caravan and birthright citizenship. This is all fear-mongering.

But what’s that mean? Don’t just assume this means Republicans are afraid. Let’s not forget, this is what motivates their base voters. They should be running scared, and hopefully are, but this is also what passes as Get Out The Vote for the GOP in 2018.

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I’ll expand on this after the election, but Democratic field campaigns need a serious overhaul moving forward. It’s time to get organizers off of doors more, change their metric goals from dials to volunteers recruited, realize hitting doors more is good, that “street money”/paid canvass operations are not bad, but also that you need to give volunteers more options than just canvassing. Not all volunteers are able to go knock doors.

The one other piece we need to consider is who we spend our time on. We spend a ton of time mobilizing new and inconsistent voters, but we actually lost 2016 because some historically Democratic voters turned on us. It’ll be a while before we can nationally try to just forget about them- and we probably ethically shouldn’t then.

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GOTV Playlist-

  1. Stone Temple Pilots- Interstate Love Song
  2. Pearl Jam- Black
  3. Notorious B.I.G.- Ten Crack Commandments
  4. The Rolling Stones- Angie
  5. Jay Z- Encore

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Barring a recount I have to work, the plan for my DC Friends is to be in DC by the night of 11/15 for a night out. I haven’t decided yet if it will be on the Hill or in town.

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I love my Phillies, but one of the things we are going to find out this Winter is if they love themselves. They’re a cash-rich franchise, in a big market, with very little committed payroll in the long term. If they want Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado, they can afford them. Patrick Corbin? Why not. Craig Kimbrel? Absolutely. J.A. Happ, Dallas Keuchel, or Charlie Morton would all be upgrades too.

It’s good business for the Phillies to go sign these guys. Bryce Harper sells tickets. You aren’t going to lose money signing a superstar. With an 80 win team this past season, there’s no reason a big signing can’t thrust the young Phillies into contention.

The question is if they want it as badly as us fans do.

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Tonight’s story of GOTV Past? The Iowa Caucus of 2008. Just after New Year’s, in the bitter cold, we went through the motions of GOTV for Senator Dodd. It was clear we weren’t going to win, but we were hoping for a surprising finish ahead of someone. It didn’t happen. We had walk packets and signs though for people to knock doors or do visibility leading up to the caucus. Some folks came down from Connecticut. The most intense part was coaching our captains on making a deal with the other campaign of their choice, in hopes of getting a delegate.

I remember emailing a friend the morning of the Caucus, predicting an Edwards, Clinton, Obama finish. If turnout had been a normal 125k, I was right. It was 250k caucusers who attended that night. I was in Grinnell, at the college that night, and witnessed an insane turnout. It was a liberal enough site that Hillary didn’t even win a delegate. That was kind of the story that night.

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Tom Perez and the DNC Fail Their Voters

By every measure we have, Hillary Clinton won the 2016 Democratic Nomination for President by a country mile. Current DNC Chairman Tom Perez supported her at that time, and got some mention as a potential running-mate for her. Clinton won the pledged delegate count cleanly, the overall delegate count clearly, and the popular vote by roughly 15%. Despite the cries of conspiracy nuts, there is no sign that the DNC took any clear or tangible act to support Clinton in her race against Bernie Sanders. Even the over zealous cries of a “rigged” primary by Donna Brazile and others had to be walked back when placed under the microscope of reality in the time since the conclusion of the 2016 Election.

Here’s the fact- the 2016 Democratic Primaries were totally fair, Hillary cleanly beat Bernie, the “superdelegates” have never tipped a Democratic nomination against the winner of the pledged delegate count, and the Democratic Party had absolutely no need to reform their process in selecting a Presidential nominee. Despite the complaints of backers of Bernie Sanders, he quite simply lost the vote to be the Democratic nominee. The voters did not want him. The DNC under Perez has chosen to “bend the knee” to an old man who lost clearly, and is not a member of our party. No one actually benefits here, except for potentially the GOP.

There was no pressing need to change the Democratic nomination rules. Never since the adoption of the modern Democratic Convention nomination rules have the delegates chosen to override the selection of the elected delegates to be our Presidential candidate. This includes the nominations of Hillary, Barack, Kerry, Gore, Clinton, Dukakis, Mondale, and Carter. There is no need to “return the nominating process to the grassroots,” because the will of the people has always been done.

Beyond that point though, the reforms being done will cut off more access for party activists, not improve it. More party and elected leaders are likely to run for pledged delegate slots to the national convention, given their inability to vote on the first ballot, cutting down the opportunity for most common voters to be a delegate. Given the probability of a large 2020 field, there is a high likelihood that those superdelegates that don’t run as pledged delegates will decide the nominee if the vote goes to a second ballot. In the search for a problem to solve, the DNC made their process less fair and likely to increase access to the grassroots, and probably created an unnecessary monster for 2020.

The Democratic Party made their Presidential nominating process worse for 2020. While “solving” false problems, they made it less likely we get a fair nominee. More importantly, they paid mere lip service to real problems of voter suppression. They didn’t force states outside of the “first four” to abandon caucuses (states after Iowa and Nevada don’t nearly get enough personalized attention from candidates and campaigns to justify highly restrictive caucus systems). They didn’t ban “open primaries” that encourage non-Democrats to run. They did nothing to empower the Democratic base in the process. They empowered loons and wackos, and made it harder to stop future unelectable, “McGovern style” nominees from getting nominated.

Tom Perez’s DNC should never have entertained suggestions to change the nomination process from the “Unity Reform Commission.” These folks set out to do damage, and their reforms do more harm than good.

It’s Time to Re-Think Who “Won” the Cold War, Civil Rights Movement, and World Wars

It’s 2018, and Germany has a roaring economy, universal health care, and an impressive infrastructure. China is building a world order that doesn’t center around us. France, the United Kingdom, and Canada are adjusting to life without an absolute alliance with us. Russia interfered in our elections, got away with it, and is being rewarded with Presidential summits. We have a President who is a reality TV star, who bankrupted a casino, and who tweets in all caps, LIKE THIS!

You’d have to pardon anyone wondering out loud if the story of American Exceptionalism that came out of the 20th Century was a myth.

While Europe built strong social-safety nets, Asia innovated, and Russia put their energy into mastering the internet, the United States built the largest military industrial complex in the world. While America built up corporate profits, built up a credit bubble, slashed taxes for the wealthy, and increased the income inequality gap, Germany went in the opposite direction, in a span of less than 30 years. While America assumed the success of the 1950’s and 60’s Civil Rights Movement, the electoral polarization that came from it became bad enough that Russia preyed on our racial tensions in interfering with our 2016 elections.

At the end of the 1980’s, the Berlin Wall came down, the Soviet Union was in collapse, and China was “modernizing” their economy towards capitalism. Kids were taught about the progress that had been made by the Civil Rights movement in school. The 1990’s were a period of remarkable, broad-based economic success in America. The United States was considered the world’s greatest military superpower, and used that power and influence in places like the former Yugoslavian republics. We were instrumental in peace agreements in the Middle East, even bringing the Palestinians and Israelis together in the Clinton years. It seemed as though America had defeated the evil of the world, and was creating a peaceful, prosperous world order.

The 21st Century has to make us ask questions- children in cages, Iraq, white nationalists coming out of the shadows, Russian hacking of our elections, mass shootings with no government reaction, Abu Ghraib, tens of millions uninsured, massive student debt, Gitmo, sham summits with foreign dictators, no action on climate change, a massive bank meltdown, and so much more. Is the United States still making progress? Does our federal budget and government match our values? Have we made the right choices on how to spend our dollars? How did we squander the booming economy and budget surpluses we ended the 90’s with? How did we end up with a crumbling infrastructure, school shootings, a health care system that leaves millions behind, no plans for clean energy development and energy independence, white nationalists in the streets, school students testing out rather mediocre against other countries, but the largest military budget in the world, by leaps and bounds?

It is clear now that things were not quite what they once seemed, at least to me. It’s clear to me that our priorities for spending our collective dollars were wrong. It’s clear to me that Germany, who lost both World Wars, is set to be in a much stronger position moving forward than we are, 100 years after World War I. It’s clear to me that China has become far more effective and innovative at solving societal and global issues, without matching us in bombs. It’s clear that 30 years after the Cold War, Russia is effectively meddling in our elections, and causing America to damage itself. It’s clear to me that the successes of the Civil Rights movement have given way to a tyranny of the majority, where resentment and re-segregation is happening both politically and in regular life. It is entirely fair to me that we question how America spent it’s capital, it’s hard-earned global power. Rather than enriching our people, building a strong, stable society, we enriched the few and built a strong country for yester-year. Obviously in the short term, we have to defeat Trump, and get his ilk out of power. In the longer term, we have to reconsider our entire paradigm, ditch our toxically polarized politics, and reconsider the decisions and actions we’ve taken with our great power.

Summer’s End

I leaned against a tree for about 15 minutes, watching the sky light up over Bethlehem, as I’ve done virtually every Summer since I was in Middle School. It was the final night of Musikfest, the ten day, outdoor music festival in the city where I went to college, the night that ArtsQuest puts on a free fireworks show for the locals. Unlike years past, I chose to not watch these fireworks among the crowds, opting instead to watch them a mile or so down the river, where I could get out of town in a hurry when they were done. Today is, after all, a work day.

I’ve always called the end of Musikfest the end of the Summer in the Lehigh Valley, which usually is quite exciting for me. I am not a huge Summer person, other than the beach and baseball games part. I’m a Fall person. The Fall is for pennant race baseball, which my Phillies will play in this season. The Fall is election season, which usually is exciting for me, and really should be this year with Democrats poised for great victories. Fall is the return of football, which could mean the NFL, college, or my beloved Easton Red Rovers high school ball for me. Fall is Oktoberfest season. Fall is hoodies’ season. Fall is pumpkin everything season, especially my coffee. Fall is for bonfires. Fall is a great time for new music, buying new clothes, and at least for me, meeting new people. The Fall is edgy. The Fall is cooler, both in temperatures and in feelings. I’m a Fall person.

I’m not as excited as usual though, and I’m not sure why. My Phillies are good, but haven’t captured my imagination like the 2008 team of ten Summers ago did, yet. The Eagles won the Super Bowl, and I’m far too content with them. I plan on seeing Notre Dame and Penn State play live this Fall, but I’m not fully dialed in on college football, yet. Pumpkin spice? It’ll get here. Oktoberfest? Still a little bit away. The wardrobe changeover to Fall will wait until the heat goes away. It’s cool and rainy today, but it doesn’t feel like the Fall is here, yet.

Perhaps my discontent with politics, my profession, is over-shadowing the rest of the cool things about Fall. The 2018 election feels like a necessary evil to me, a must-win to stop the country from becoming a mirror image of Donald Trump, who disgusts me. The problem though, is that I’m as unexcited by the Democratic Party as I have been since I registered to join it in 2001. I want the Democrats to win Congress, in fact I see a need for them to, but I find myself mostly voting for them because the alternative are the white nationalists marching outside of the White House yesterday. It’s easy to oppose this Administration, but it’s not as easy getting out of bed and being excited to work for it when you increasingly find yourself rolling your eyes at your own side. Maybe that’s a downer for me.

Or perhaps it’s just raining, and I’m on my first coffee of the day at 1:55pm. You tell me.

American Politics 2040

Things change. The trajectory of things change. Nothing is set in stone that has not happened yet. This does not mean that you can’t take an honest look at your current trajectory and figure out where you are going. America could use that right now, but it’s leadership is simply unwilling or incapable of doing so. After the 2016 election, we need to really consider where it is we’re headed.

The Republican Party of Reagan and Nixon is changing, morphing before our eyes. They will become a more hard-line nationalist party, one that identifies heavily as white and traditional. They are still for low taxes and de-regulation, but are a more populist party that can support government “welfare” for those who they deem as “American.” They want to back away from being the world’s active superpower, particularly on matters of climate change and trade policy, and instead pursue a more isolationist world view on those matters. They are certainly not George W. Bush in his view of American leadership, instead agreeing more with Vladimir Putin’s regionalized powers view of the world. They reject the 20th Century, post World War II “western order” with our traditional allies in Western Europe, in part because they reject the globalist view of those countries. They’ll spend big on defense, but not to play “global policeman.” The Republican Party is becoming an “America First,” hard borders and isolationist economics party, one that embraces white identity and traditional values, is pro-military spending, dismantles collective safety nets in favor of arbitrary ones, and who opposes taxes and regulations to protect the public.

Democrats are on a trajectory that is quite different. The Democrats are becoming a fully globalist party. Global trade, collective action with our Western allies on global issues, a pluralistic identity, a more open immigration policy, and a very science driven policy process are some of the hallmarks of the Democratic future. Democrats are embracing more socialistic concepts and collective actions and solutions. Democrats embrace a more active global voice, a softer “national identity,” particularly on matters of race and language, and more integration with the world.

Over the next twenty years or so, the two parties will battle over this “America First,” traditional-nationalist view of the world, versus a more globalist, collective, Civil Rights driven world view. Election cycles will be volatile, and leadership will change more often. Primaries will push both parties more clearly into their corners. The current divisions in this country will be more stark. The need for money in our campaigns, along with gerrymandering and voter sorting, will produce more “pure” parties in terms of their differences and positions.

About twenty years from now, half of America will live in eight states. The most important two data points in determining if a state, district, or county is red or blue will be:

  • The percentage of non-white voters. This is fairly simple, straight forward, and easy to understand. If there are a large percentage of African-Americans, or certain groups of Latinos or Asians, you can expect Democrats to do well. If not, expect it to be red. The exception comes out of the second point-
  • The existence of major metropolitan markets that are “winning” in the global economy. If you have a New York or San Francisco, you’re blue. If you have a failing regional urban market or ones that are too small, you’re red. This is they key delineation point among white people. White people in large, successful urban places like Philadelphia or Washington are usually Democrats. White people in white collar suburbs near those kind of markets are swing voters who will lean left. White voters everywhere else are trending the other way. The higher education and earning white people will live in the bigger, successful job markets, and trend Democratic.
  • What does this mean in the long haul? By 2040, I have these states as blue:
    • New York
      New Jersey
      Massachusetts
      Delaware
      Maryland
      DC
      Virginia
      Georgia
      Illinois
      Texas
      New Mexico
      California
      Hawaii

    If you’re trying to think out loud on how many electoral votes that is, it should be about 220. Assuming Democrats win all of the Senate seats in these states, it’s 24 (If DC isn’t a state). Interestingly, these states should have just under 200 House seats, under my math, meaning the “friendliest” branch of the government for Democrats to win elections might be the House.

    What other states could be in play? Well, you’re looking for one of two things- major metropolitan areas that are attracting new economy jobs, and non-white voters. You need some sort of coalition between non-white voters and white voters who are “winning” in the 21st Century economy. What states have this?

    • North Carolina- I almost put this state with the group of blue states, because of the “Research Triangle” and Charlotte areas, but there are large rural swaths in this state that can and will probably keep it competitive. This will become to Democrats what Pennsylvania has been, a “must have,” in order to win.
    • Florida- I’m not overly bullish on Florida’s long term prospects for Democrats, in part because the Latino population is simply less liberal leaning than those in the West- in part because they come from different places and are less connected to the immigration issue. Florida will remain a competitive state though, because it is diverse, and has the Miami and Tampa areas that fit the bill as metropolitan areas.
    • Pennsylvania- Pennsylvania will not be the Democratic lock for national candidates that it was from 1988 through 2012, but it’s not going the wrong way completely anytime soon. Why? Philadelphia is a giant market, and to a lesser extent the Allegheny County (Pittsburgh area) will remain relevant. The state won’t remain cleanly “blue” though because Northeast PA is increasingly behaving like Central and Northwest PA already were. Democrats need to dig into the Lehigh Valley and Pocono regions in order to win statewide contests in the future. The polar opposition behavior of the rest of the state will make those areas the key.
    • Minnesota- In 2016, one of the under-reported stories of the election was how Minneapolis-St. Paul and their suburbs had to bail Democrats out. That is looking like the new norm. With some of the “generation Mondale” Democrats leaving the more rural Congressional seats, Democrats are at risk of atrophying further in those parts of the state. The “Twin Cities” will increasingly be pitted against more rural, conservative areas in competitive races.
    • Connecticut- How is Connecticut a swing-state in 20 years? I’m not very bullish on Democrats future hopes in New England right now. If you look right now, Democrats only hold two of the six Governorships. They could lose Connecticut this year. The region is very white. The only state with a mega-market in it is Massachusetts. What keeps this state from going away from Democrats? Suburban New York and Boston voters. Higher education centers and highly educated voters. Hartford. Even with those things, New England is quite white and not huge fans of taxes. Expect this state to be competitive.
    • Colorado- Put this state next to North Carolina as a state that I almost made Blue. Educated millennial voters have moved to metro Denver at a fast clip. The Latino vote should grow in Colorado moving forward. Even so, it’s a “Denver vs. the world” effect out there. In large sections of the state, Democrats probably won’t be overly competitive. This state, like Pennsylvania and Minnesota, will constantly come down to turnout in their largest metropolitan market. Denver isn’t as large as Philadelphia, so their margin of error will be a little smaller. Fortunately the state’s demographics are a little better than Pennsylvania’s in 20 years. It will still be a battle.
    • Nevada- There’s Las Vegas and the “rest of Nevada.” Democrats aren’t going to win much in rural Nevada, meaning their margins in Clark County will need to continue to decide elections. Democrats should continue to win the Las Vegas market, but they don’t win it as crazy big as one might think. Lots of older white people live in Clark County, which narrows the margins. Democrats are held up by a sizable Latino voter shares and organized labor’s considerable strength in Las Vegas. If Republican sabotage of labor weakens Vegas labor, this state may be red. Labor’s strength may decide this state’s political future.
    • Washington- If you remove the Seattle market from Washington, it’s already red. That divide probably won’t lessen in years to come. As long as Seattle remains a destination for young workers, Washington will remain blue. Still, this state’s political future will entirely ride on Seattle’s turnout, so it’s not a safe bet in twenty years.
    • Rhode Island- Either Rhode Island will continue to perform like a well-educated Boston suburb, or it will perform like an extremely white, Catholic state. Like Connecticut, I like the chances of Democrats better in the southern part of New England than the north. I still think Democrats will have to fight for it.
    • Oregon- Take everything I wrote about Washington, and put Portland in the place of Seattle. While this state is traditionally liberal, it’s also largely rural and white, which I’m predicting to be the data points that matter. Can Portland keep it Blue? Maybe. It’s not a lock though.
    • Vermont- How can I put Vermont here? The home of Bernie Sanders as a swing state? Well, there’s a few things to consider here. First, they have a Republican Governor right now, which isn’t terribly odd for them. Second, it’s very rural. Third, it’s a very pro-gun state. Vermont’s perceived liberalism may not be as “baked in” as others think, especially as the parties shift. Burlington is not a mega-market that can keep Vermont “blue” on it’s own.
  • So how important are those states in 20 years? About 125 electoral votes worth. 22 Senate seats worth. Another 100 or so House seats. If Democrats do well in these states, they can cobble together Electoral College victories and small House majorities. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a Senate majority between these states and all the ones in the base.
  • What this means of course, is that Democrats will need to keep several states competitive enough to win sometimes that I did not put into this mix. Perhaps Arizona will belong in this group, or Mississippi, or South Carolina, none of whom are on my current list. I’m not bullish on the current trajectory of Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Ohio- mostly because their major urban markets have seen major population declines, and I am not certain they can overtake the declining returns of national Democrats in their more rural areas- but Democrats will need to compete in them and occasionally win to build governing majorities. I should include New Hampshire and Maine here, two rural, white New England states that don’t feel like they trend with us in this re-alignment. These states moved far towards the Republicans in Trump’s 2016 win and have Republicans as Governors currently. Even so, Democrats probably can’t check out on them.
  • Obviously trends can change. The middle-aged and elder Trump voters and their brand of politics will begin dying during the next 20 years, and young Republicans could make the party more libertarian. That may calm some of the white-nationalist rhetoric- though I’m doubtful, and I know that doesn’t drastically change their policies. The internal Democratic fight- of identity vs. ideology- isn’t over yet. Things can happen. Changes will happen.
  • No matter how much I shift things though, I keep coming back to the same two definitive data points- non-white voters and major metropolitan, global marketplaces. No matter how I apply those, the future for Democrats, on the current trajectory, is threading a needle in every election. The Democrats may never lose another popular vote for President in this country, but have many repeats of 2000 or 2016 in the future. Because Democrats win many of their House seats with more than 75% of the vote, even in a country where the majority want a Democratic House, Democrats May never see majorities the size of the one they had in 2009-10. Because half the country will live in eight states in 2040, and most of the non-white votes will be in those states, the Senate may very well simply exist to thwart the desires of the nation’s majority through a safe, conservative Senate Republican majority.
  • Here’s the part though that is most concerning. The open antipathy between the bases of the two parties may create a situation in the future where the minority of the country, the rural white states, rules with an iron fist over the majority of the country in those eight big states. I’m not sure if it will rise to the level of apartheid South Africa, or Saddam’s Iraq, but the Trump era must make you concerned about it. If “owning the Libs” is the motivating factor of the Republican Party, rather than governing an increasingly diverse country and improving outcomes for even those across the partisan divide, our union will be severely tested in ways not seen since the Civil War. That’s a dark future to look forward to.
  • Politics Ain’t Working in America

    Sixteen years ago this month I got involved with politics and the Democratic Party. Politics were pretty different then. Republican moderates held more urban seats, and Blue Dog Democrats held rural seats. George W. Bush was reaching out to Latino voters as best he could, and his electoral results showed that it was helpful. Democrats were still competing in Missouri and in the parts of Western Pennsylvania not calling themselves “Pittsburgh.” Wyoming Republican Senator Alan Simpson worked with Democratic President Bill Clinton, while Democratic Senator John Breaux worked with Republican President George W. Bush. I guess I’ve now been involved long enough by age 35 to opine for the old days.

    None of that stuff is remotely relevant in 2018. There was no Alan Simpson for Barack Obama, and there sure as hell isn’t a John Breaux for Donald Trump. Frankly, that kind of bi-partisanship gets you primaried out of office in 2018. The interest groups basically run the two parties, which has forced most elected officials into their ideological corners. Gerrymandering and outside money force ideological conformity that didn’t even exist fifteen years ago. Bi-partisanship is essentially dead, not that the era of Donald Trump is really making anyone long for it anyway. Trump’s existence is to troll his opponents, and some of his supporters even will tell you they don’t care if he got Russian help- at least he stopped Hillary. I think most Democrats would tell you we don’t care how we beat him in 2020 either, it’s a moral imperative at this point.

    More than anything though, the changes in our politics are about sorting. Democrats have lost almost all of their rural seats in Congress, besides those that are majority-minority, and are essentially an urbanized party now. Save for a few urban enclaves like Staten Island, the Republican Party doesn’t exist at all in urban America. Congressional elections are decided in suburbia now, but neither party’s messaging really reaches them- because most Congressmen represent gerrymandered, base districts, and fear primaries. These voters often find themselves disgusted and disinterested in politics, and end up just voting against one side of the other. The overwhelming majority of districts are decided ahead of time, the other districts are full of disgusted voters, and we wonder why Congress can’t get much done? We used to think we all had the same goals, and different routes there. That’s just not true anymore. The America each side wants is no longer the America the other side wants.

    From a political standpoint, we can work around this- the majority rules. Whoever wins the election does what they want and governs for their side. Of course, this constantly leaves the minority party’s voters discontent with America. It leads to fluctuations in policy as Congress and the Presidency go back-and-forth like a yo-yo. A Democratic government passes a comprehensive health care bill in the ACA, and the succeeding Republican Congress and President do everything they can to sabotage that bill. A functional, consistent government that works is nobody’s goal. Achieving ideological victory is the motivator for Congress.

    America’s great achievements- the interstate highway system, landing on the moon, Civil Rights legislation, and others- were bi-partisan, collective victories. That seems like pie-in-the-sky now. While I think both sides have become very ideological, I have to say I don’t assign equal blame- today’s Republicans literally questioned Barack Obama’s citizenship, and generally treat Democrats, particularly minorities, as lesser or non-citizens, and question their patriotism. In this kind of environment, things don’t get done. Infrastructure crumbles. Thirty or forty million people don’t get health care. Our students fall to the middle of the pack in education outcomes. A broken immigration system doesn’t get fixed. Our children get mowed down by madmen with machine guns. Common-sense energy policy that protects our environment can’t get passed. Just partisan fixes that favor major funders of the majority party can pass. Problems can’t get solved.

    Our constitutional system was not drawn up to deal with a country literally divided along identity lines. Racial, gender, urban vs. rural, education, and other divisions have created a country where we don’t have shared goals. Globalism has moved so many of the good jobs to population clusters, or big cities. Self-sorting among the people has made a situation where most of the Democrats are in the big cities, and most of the Republicans live in exurban or rural areas. Our federal system, particularly the electoral college and Congressional re-districting, gives one side an advantage on the other. In twenty years, half the country will live in eight states. We are heading towards a divided society not unlike those in third world countries, or at the worst case scenario, apartheid-era South Africa. If we continue on this path, Donald Trump may end up being the calm before the actual storm.