Democrats Weigh In On Party’s Direction, Message and Future

Several Democrats – including a DNC chair candidate, an Obama cabinet secretary, and a potential 2020 presidential candidate – penned a collection of mini op-eds for the Washington Post outlining their vision for the party and its future. All of them are worth reading.

Democratic Senator Announces Opposition to Trump HHS Nominee

Senator Joe Donnelly – an Indiana Democrat up for reelection in 2018 – released a statement today announcing his opposition to Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), Donald Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, citing Price’s position on overhauling and privatizing Medicare in his capacity as chairman of the House Budget Committee.

The fact that a red state Democrat like Donnelly (who is from the same state as Vice President-elect Mike Pence) is willing to do this shows that he (presumably) thinks this is an issue he can run on two years from now. Whether other Senate Democrats do the same remains to be seen, but Price’s confirmation hearing should be interesting to watch for this issue as well as his views on repealing, dismantling, and/or replacing Obamacare.

Keith Ellison Describes Fidel Castro’s Legacy as “A Mixed Bag”

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) – the presumed frontrunner in the race to be the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee – was asked for his views about the legacy of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro during an interview on SiriuxXM Radio’s The Karen Hunter Show:

ELLISON: He [Castro] was a revolutionary leader who confronted a system of government that excluded everybody except the military and the monied rich. Because he took them on and defeated them, and set the country up in a way where, did he use harsh, dictatorial tactics? Yeah, probably he did. But did he also stand up for peace and freedom in Africa? Absolutely. His Cuban forces took on the South African apartheid military forces and defeated them. He deployed doctors everywhere from Chernobyl to all over Africa. Wherever people were sick, he sent those doctors there. He made medical education very available, made medicine available.
So if you look at his legacy, you have to say that he confronted people with a lot of power on behalf of people who didn’t have any. But he also did jail people who were political critics of his. He did also not allow total and free speech, and so I think it’s a mixed bag. But for anybody to say that he was all bad, that’s all wrong.

Listen to the audio of the comment here:

A Look Ahead at the Possible 2020 Democrats

Because it’s never too early to start speculating for the next presidential election, the Washington Post handicapped the Democrats’ possible field of presidential candidates for 2020.  One key observation:

Although this most stunning upset in modern presidential history has produced (and will produce) a thousand aftershocks, one of the most unlikely and important is that the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 is now open.

That opening is made all the more remarkable by the fact that there is simply no logical heir (or even heirs) to President Obama or Clinton — no obvious candidate waiting in the wings to step forward and rebuild the party. Vice President Biden appears to have decided that he is done running for office. As a two-time loser, Clinton is done, too. And after that, the bench is, well, pretty thin.

The outcome of the last election did two things: it postponed the Republican reconstruction most people thought would happen after a Donald Trump loss; and it accelerated the need and timetable for a Democratic reconstruction, which many thought wouldn’t happen until after a Hillary Clinton presidency. To elaborate on the latter point, most Democrats and political observers would probably have assumed that the party would have another four years (or eight) during a Clinton presidency to develop its bench in state and federal government. Needless to say, that plan changed and they’re scrambling to start the rebuilding process, particularly at the state level where the party has suffered many losses during the Obama years.

The good news for Democrats is they have a favorable map and calendar for statewide races for the next two years, not so much for congressional races, particularly the Senate. [Keep in mind, a lot can change in two years. This is the outlook as it stands right now.]  This gives them an opportunity to recruit candidates and test new messages and strategies and build up their bench in the run-up for the 2020 presidential election and redistricting. The bad news is they have a lot of catching up to do.

Democrats Looking Ahead to Governors’ Races in 2017 and 2018

Politico has a good look at the governors’ races coming up in the next two years, and how they offer the Democratic Party’s best immediate chances as a path to rebuilding in the wake of the recent election.

Coming up first are the New Jersey and Virginia governor’s races and statewide legislative races scheduled for late 2017. Candidates in both parties are already moving in these races. I will write a preview/outlook of these states and races in December as a look for what’s ahead in the new year.

Even further down the line are the 2018 midterms. The Senate calendar that year is particularly difficult, and the likelihood of retaking the House of Representatives is slim. However, 26 out of 36 governor’s mansions up for election (or re-election) are held by Republicans. This means that if Democrats can retake some of those states, their party will be in place and in control for the 2020 census and redistricting.

The great unknown right now will be the dynamics of the country and individual states going into those election cycles. Looking at it one or two years ahead, the two obvious factors that will have an impact will be the state of the economy, as well as the popularity of the Republican-controlled Washington DC (President Trump and the McConnell/Ryan Congress).

Lots more on this subject to come in the future.

Kirsten Gillibrand Reaching Out to Clinton Donors

The New York Post is reporting that Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (Hillary Clinton’s successor in the Senate) has been reaching out to Clinton’s donors with an implicit eye toward the 2020 presidential election.

The story also points out, “However, while Gillibrand has close ties to Clinton’s political network, the move hasn’t gone down well with some Clinton supporters. ‘Many of us are still grieving. It’s like going after the widow at a funeral.'”

In addition this could also potentially set up a battle between two New Yorkers in the 2020 Democratic primaries (the other being Governor Andrew Cuomo) to take on New Yorker Donald Trump in the general election.

DNC Candidate Keith Ellison: “I think I bring a skill set that can help us win”

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) called into the Keepin’ It 1600 podcast to discuss his candidacy for DNC chair. Here are some Ellison quotes from the episode:

  • “I don’t think we can make outreach to exist to fight Trump. Outreach has to exist to fight for the American working people: the overwhelming majority of folks who go to work every single day, hope to make enough money to be able to retire one day, hope to make enough money to put food on the table and do something good for their kids, you know? So that’s where it’s at, that seems to guide everything that we do. My take on it is we need to speak to that issue, speak to trade, outsourcing. We need to speak to minimum wage, collective bargaining. It’s about the money. A lot has been made about the white working class. I think we’d better take a look at the working class, of all colors. I’m telling you, everybody is hurting. I think the average wage in America, and I might be wrong on this, is about $16.75. We have a federal minimum wage of $7.25 and a tip wage of $2.13. It’s true that states have been doing a lot. In this last election, four states actually increased their minimum wage. The one thing that unites us all is money and economic opportunity. The money is more than the money. The money is prosperity, it’s a sense of achievement, having enough resource in the richest country in the world has something to do with your chances, your idea of who you are, what your possibilities in life are.  But the economy is not working for a lot of people.”
  • I’m going to tell you: Obama, bless his heart, all those numbers of private sector job growth, unemployment level brought way down, those things are really good. But we were digging out of such a deep, deep hole, that we are now just seeing some moderate job growth and now all of the sudden we are staring Trump straight in the face.  At the same time, corporate profitability is way up. Wall Street trading massive volumes. And then of course, the money bleeds into the politics. Because if you’ve got a lot of money, after you buy a bunch of consumer items, you can invest in the political system and make that go your way, too and people feel like the system is not working for them.”

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