National Politics

Column: Democrats In Midst of Historic Presidential Run

Last week US News and World Report  published Simon's third column, "Democrats Will Dominate," in his weekly Op-Ed series that will every Thursday or Friday through the end of the year.

Be sure to also read his recent column, "Calling all Patriots," which argues it is time for Republicans to once again find their inner patriot and work with the Democrats to keep the Russians from intervening in our election, and to make it easier for Americans to vote.  

An Excerpt from "Democrats Will Dominate"

If the polls are right, and Hillary Clinton wins on Nov. 8, Democrats will have won more votes in six of the past seven presidential elections. This successful run is among the most significant periods of dominance by an American political party in U.S. history. Perhaps the only run that has topped this was Thomas Jefferson's Democrat-Republican Party, which won six consecutive elections beginning in 1800, or FDR and Harry Truman's run in the mid-20th century. But nothing else really compares.

Acknowledging the historic success of the modern Democrats matters, for it unlocks a deeper and perhaps inconvenient truth about our politics often obscured in the daily chatter – there is a vast difference between the two American political parties today. A Bloomberg poll released Tuesday does a good job capturing these differences:

48 percent see the Democratic Party favorably, 47 percent unfavorably. 35 percent see the GOP favorably, 61 percent unfavorably.

45 percent of Americans identify as Democrats, just 38 percent as Republican.

In a recent U.S. News column, I offered an explanation for why the Democrats have been so successful. Since the end of the Cold War, when the world did indeed begin to go through profound change, each party has had control of the White House twice. Both Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama will have left America better than they found it, leaving behind lower unemployment rates and annual deficits, rising incomes and soaring stock markets. Over their presidencies you can point to many other policy successes too – improvements in our health care system, welfare reform, the expansion of the earned income tax credit, establishment of the modern global trading system, Obama's all-of-the-above energy strategy and his progress on tackling climate change, the ending of al-Qaida, and a series of decisions that helped the global internet develop and flourish.

Finding similar successes during the two Bush presidencies is far more difficult. Each left office with the country in recession, leaving higher unemployment rates, soaring annual deficits, declining incomes and the second Bush even a declining stock market. Credit George W. Bush with the establishment of a Medicare prescription drug benefit and his global AIDS initiatives (neither loved by fellow GOPers) and George H.W. Bush with the successful execution of the first Iraq War (yes, debatable). But that's about it.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can also find more of Simon's US News articles here.

Column: How America Prospers In A Global Age

Friends, the middle class has not been in decline for 40 years, nor have incomes been flat in America for the past 15. Over the past several months we’ve released a series of reports that show that things are far better today than much of what we’ve heard on the campaign trail this year, and that Americans themselves can feel it. In my new Op-Ed in US News (read here, excerpts below), I argue that since a new age of globalization began in 1989, America has seen periods of growth, lower annual deficits, booming stock markets and real income gains for workers – but only when the right policies have been put into place. There is a need for all of us to get closer to this data, find a better way to talk about the US economy and help reframe the economic conversation in the months and years ahead. The profound economic pessimism we’ve heard from many candidates these past two years neither accurately reflects the true experience of the American economy, nor the perception of American workers themselves. This is particularly true for Democrats, 78% of whom said economic conditions were good (in this same poll the # was 28% for Republicans – a 50 point difference). 

For more on this discussion review the Op-Ed below, a series of recent pieces from NDN, and this excellent set of analyses and essays from Dr. Rob Shapiro. 

Key Paragraphs:

"One of the more important questions in this long presidential election asks whether this new age of globalization has worked and is working for everyday Americans. We've heard many charges – decades of middle class decline, years of no income growth and lots and lots of anger at elites. Given how central this discussion has been to 2016, it deserves a closer look."

"Here at home the data suggests a more complicated picture than what we've heard on the campaign trail. While median income is only $3,000 higher today than in 1989, it has not moved on a straight line. As the graph below shows, it fell under President George H.W. Bush, rose steadily under President Bill Clinton, flatlined and then dropped under the second Bush, then declined as a result of the Great Recession and is now steadily rising again under President Barack Obama. By the end of this year incomes are likely to be 10 percent higher than they were at their recent nadir in 2012, and grew more in 2015 than in any single year of the modern era."

"Other economic data from this period follow similar trend lines – the annual deficit grew under both Bushes, and dramatically improved under Clinton and Obama. The unemployment rate rose under both Bushes, and fell during Clinton and Obama. The stock market had a modest rise under the first Bush, fell under the second and had explosive growth under Clinton and Obama. Three million net new jobs were created in the two Bush presidencies. Thirty million were created under Clinton and Obama."

"So a fairer characterization of this new global economic age isn't one of relentless decline; it is one that acknowledges workers have been able to prosper and make gains, but that two recessions – one the second worst in the past century – wiped out many of those gains. Or to put it another way, when the right policies and team were in place, Americans have been able to prosper in this new age. And the opposite has been true as well. So perhaps it isn't globalization or bad trade deals that have caused the struggle of far too many of late, but policies and leaders not capable of navigating a vastly changed economic, demographic, technological and geopolitical landscape."

"Which is why the choice Americans are about to make for their president matters. The last two presidents who argued for aggressive military action abroad and regressive economic policies at home brought us recession, income losses and larger annual deficits. Those who argued for investment at home, an embrace of this new global age and its opportunities and a restrained multilateralism abroad saw long, sustained periods of growth, lower annual deficits and rising incomes. We've tried this four times now since the wall fell, and we have real data to guide us going forward. Americans have prospered and succeeded in this new age, and can do so again – but only if we follow policies that look far more like Hillary Clinton's than Donald Trump's."

Report: America Is Better Off and Safer Today

You can find the full report in a PDF at the very end of this post.  Below is an excerpt.

The questions of whether we are better off, and safer, are always central to our Presidential elections every four years, and this one is no exception. This report does a deep dive on publicly available data to see if we can answer those questions for this election in 2016.

As you will see from the following summary of the data and the many graphs that follow, our findings suggest Americans are indeed better off today, and safer, than they were when Barack Obama took office in 2009.

We also include portions of very recent polls that confirm that Americans are relatively content with the economic progress that has been made in recent years, and feel that things are getting better. These results are consistent with other recent polls showing President Obama hitting his highest job approval ratings of his second term; and they raise the question of whether this is really a “change election” after all.

This report builds on other recent work by NDN, including our recent economic report, "In A Global Age, Democrats Have Been Far Better for the US Economy, Deficits and Income," Simon's recent column, "On 2016: We Are Better Off Today" and an in-depth analysis, "America Is Better Off and Safer Today". 

The US Is Better Off Today

Unemployment Rate – When President Obama came to office the unemployment rate 7.8%. Today it is 4.9%.

Jobs – During George W. Bush's Presidency, the American economy gained 135,000 jobs a year. Under President Obama it has been more than 1.3m a year.

Incomes – After dramatic increases during the Clinton Presidency, incomes fell under President Bush. Incomes have once again risen under President Obama, and preliminary 2016 data suggest that median income for American families will be the highest in recorded history at the close of 2016.

Uninsured Rate – The rate of those without health insurance has dramatically declined in the Obama years and now stands at the lowest level ever recorded, 8.6%. At least 20 million Americans have gained insurance in recent years.

Annual Deficit – When President Obama came to office the annual deficit was $1.4 trillion. Today it is $616 billion.

Stock Market – When President Obama came to office the Dow was at 7,494. Today it is around 18,000 and is repeatedly reaching record highs.

Americans Are Safer Today

The question of “are we safer” is a bit harder to get at than the question of “are we better off.” We choose to look measures that have been raised by Donald Trump himself this year (often erroneously). We fully acknowledge that there may be other legitimate data sets that could be added to this section to help paint a fuller picture.

Two things stood out in the section: by most measures, the Obama Presidency has experienced the lowest levels of crime and violence ever recorded; the large flows of undocumented immigrants into the US we witnessed during the Bush Presidency has not been replicated in the Obama years, and there are now fewer undocumented/unauthorized immigrants in the US than there were in 2008.

Crime Rate – During the Bush Presidency, the violent crime rate was 476 violent crimes per 100,000 people (average of each year). During Obama's Presidency the violent crime rate has been 387 incidents per 100,000 people.

Americans Killed By Terrorists – During the Bush Presidency, 3006 Americans were killed by terrorists, an average of 376 deaths per year. During the Obama Presidency, 91 Americans have been killed by terrorists, an average of 12 per year.

Police Killed In the Line of Duty – During the Bush Presidency, 437 police officers were killed in the line of duty, an average of 55 per year. During the Obama Presidency, 344 police officers have been killed in the line of duty, an average of 49 per year. The Obama Presidency has seen the fewest police officers killed on duty during any Presidency since records began to be kept in the early 1960s.

Flow of Unauthorized Immigrants into US – During the Bush Presidency, the US gained an average 400,000 net new unauthorized immigrants each year. During the Obama Presidency, the average yearly rate is below zero, as there are fewer unauthorized immigrants in the country today than when President Obama took office.

 

Column: Thoughts on the New Democratic Coalition (esp Hispanics/Millennials)

“Monday Musings” is a new column looking at the 2016 elections published most Mondays. You can find previous editions here.

2016 Overview – Using our regular polling aggregator, Clinton leads this week 46/42. The race is clearly tightening, both across the country and in the 13 battleground states. This of course was to be suspected. Trump had been struggling for months to consolidate the Republican electorate, and is slowly, slowly doing so now. One should expect him to continue to do so until he is regularly polling at 45%. The question begs – can Clinton answer, regain some of the standing she’s lost in recent weeks, and put the race away?

To do so Clinton is now functionally running against three candidates – Trump, Johnson and Stein. Simply, if Clinton performs well at the debates, spends her time, particularly in the 1st debate, making her case, laying out her plans, conveying her optimism and can do spirit, she should be able to pull voters who’ve wandered over to Johnson and Stein. But the campaign would be wise now to start kicking around ways to create more excitement about this race for Democratic voters – inspirational videos, more Michelle Obama and Cory Booker, things that provide a lift and resist the deeply negative environment that I worry is indirectly suppressing our voters. We need more “for” to complement the very well articulated with hundreds of millions of dollars of the “against.” And count me in on the idea of having aging politicians lecturing voters why the vote for a Clinton alternative is “youthful” or a “waste” is itself a waste of time. Time now to focus on making our case. And as I wrote last week, we have a compelling case to make indeed.

On the new Democratic Coalition and turnout – In the last week we’ve seen a stream of stories about how Democratic voters are less enthusiastic about voting than Republicans, and emerging weaknesses with two of the pillars of the muscular new Democratic coalition, Hispanics and Millennials. Whether this is true or not is a bit hard to tell, but that is in some ways the point. Given how important this new electorate is to 2016 and the future of the Democratic Party, there shouldn’t be any confusion about what is going on with these voters at this point in the election cycle.

A decade ago NDN was among a handful of organizations and researchers who pointed out that American politics was in the process of going through a huge demographic transformation, one driven by the explosion of two emergent groups, Hispanics and Millennials. Perhaps more than any other organization in American politics NDN focused on these two groups in particular, capped by the major magazine piece Pete Leyden and I penned for Mother Jones in 2007 (yes prior to Obama winning in 2008). In our piece, and in the hundreds of presentations we’ve done on the subject, we argued that these demographic changes represented a big “opportunity” for Democrats if their politics could adapt to the sensibilities and the far different media consumption habits of these new potential voters. We do not and have never believed demography was destiny. It was an opportunity to be seized, and never guaranteed (Bush showed us this in 2000 and 2004).

In the last few elections we’ve seen the opportunity this emerging electorate offers, and the perils for Democrats in not getting it right. In part by surfing this demographic wave, Barack Obama received 53 and 51 percent of the vote in his two elections, the best showing for Democrats in back to back elections since 1940 and 1944. But at the same time, during this same period of historic success, we had two disastrous midterm elections. In a series of essays (here and here) and a major poll we did in the spring of 2010, NDN warned that these new voters were far less committed to voting in mid-terms and that left unaddressed we could see a very bad election ahead. My own view since 2010 has been simple: as Tip O’Neill said, we cannot expect someone’s vote unless we ask for it, and we just weren’t asking for the votes of this new electorate with the money and strategic intent we were with the rest of the electorate. This was a bit of an “old dogs new tricks problem,” and as Harry Reid says in today’s Washington Post, it is also expensive (and I would add hard, complicated and requiring the reinvention of the traditional 20th century campaign model).

So heading into 2016 it was conventional wisdom that a great deal of the Democratic Party’s success would ride on the ability to get this new Democratic Coalition (it is not Obama’s coalition, and I will leave that for another day) to be actively engaged in the election. This was particularly important, for given the growth of both Hispanics and Millennials, the electorate this year was projected to be about 2 percentage points more favorable to the Democratic nominee. Getting this part right, holding all other things equal, would make success far more likely.

Which was why I became loudly opposed to the Democratic debate schedule when it was first announced last summer. It was in many ways it was the exact opposite of what was required by the Party to address this strategic opportunity/challenge. Nothing was built in to appeal to Millennials, the Hispanic/Spanish part was TBD, and the choice of old school broadcast networks on the weekends was seemingly designed to create as few impressions with all voters as possible. Given the success of the Party and its 26 debates and highly competitive primary in 2008, it was hard to justify a big change in the debate strategy; it was impossible to justify the schedule the DNC committed to last summer. Look at the results: the GOP’s debates were seen by over 100m more people than the Democrats, an impression gap worth literally hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars. And we did nothing to address this core strategic challenge that we need to design and learn new ways to reach new audiences that are far more open to hearing from us than them.

The burden of re-inventing the 20th century broadcast model of American politics falls far more heavily on the Democrats, as our coalition is younger and has far more rapidly left the reach of a traditional 30 second spot. The DNC should have used these debates to have experimented with the model, bringing in new partners and models, showcased younger more diverse leaders, etc. Lots of things could have been tried, but instead we relied on media partners from the predigital age (incl PBS!!!!!!!!!!!) of media and few people watched. No Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Snapchat, Twitch, Vice. Our clear message to this emerging electorate who remain episodic voters – our party is not speaking to you. It was one of the greatest mistakes by a major American political party in my lifetime.

Given the fear Democrats should have had about this new coalition not adequately showing up in 2016 literally everything the Party should have done these past two years should have been designed to engage these new audiences in new ways. And that’s why reading these articles – Spanish language ads starting 10 days ago (In May in 2012, March in 2004), the Millennial effort beginning today, no clear evidence of major Hispanic strategy at the DSCC – you just have to sit back and say WTF guys. Given both the promise and very real challenges of engaging the new electorate the only justifiable strategy would have been to spend more money and to have created more impressions (asking for their vote) than ever before.There is no strategic logic for less, particularly when there are as many as 20 million more Millennials and 4m more Hispanics in the electorate than in 2012.

In my mind, the Democratic Party had one truly significant strategic challenge this cycle – to have ensured that we had a tested, true and funded national strategy to ensure this emerging electorate did not underperform again. Sitting where I sit today, it is clear that we are not there yet. Democrats are still likely to win this year but man is it long past time for there to be a big national conversation about how are going to finally once and for all become the party of the digital age and this new electorate that offers us so much promise and opportunity. 

P.S. Simon wrote about these matters extensively in his 2014 post-election memo, "A Wake Up Call For Democrats".

Report: In A New Global Age, Democrats Have Been Far Better for the US Economy, Deficits and Incomes

Overview – This report looks at the economic performance of the two American political parties when in the White House since the end of the Cold War.  You can find the full report below, as an attachment. 

We use 1989 as a starting point for comparison because when it comes to the American and global economies, the collapse of Communism and the non-aligned movement ushered in a new, truly global economic era, one very different from the one that came before. It is thus fair to see how the two parties have adapted to the enormous changes this new era has offered, and whether their policies have helped America prosper or struggle as we and the world changed.

As you will see from the following analysis, the contrast between the performance of the Democrats and Republicans in this new economic era is stark: 2 GOP Presidencies brought recessions, job loss, higher annual deficits, and struggle for workers; the 2 Democratic Presidencies brought recovery and growth, job and income gains, and lower annual deficits.

Based on these findings it is fair to assert that over the past generation the Democratic Party has been far more effective at crafting effective responses to a new economic era than the Republican Party. This case is bolstered, of course, when recalling the GOP’s spirited predictions of economic calamity when opposing both the 1993 Clinton economic plan and budget and the 2009/2010 Obama stimulus and “job-killing” Affordable Care Act.

The Republicans have gotten it wrong now in four consecutive Presidencies.

While it will not be the subject of this short report, our findings raise questions about whether the characterizations of the US economy as one not producing income and wage gains either over 40 years or over the past 15 years are accurate. It would appear that a more accurate description of the US economy in recent years is that with smart policies, Americans can prosper even in a more challenging and competitive global age.

Key Findings From The Report:

Job Growth: Over the Clinton and Obama Presidencies, more than 30m new net jobs were created. In contrast, during the two Bush Presidencies, approximately 3.5m jobs were created.

GDP Growth: Both Democratic Presidents saw the GDP rate rise during their Presidencies. The first President Bush saw GDP hold steady during his tenure. The second President Bush saw GDP decline.

Unemployment Rate: Both Democratic presidents saw more than a 3% point decrease in the unemployment rate during their terms. The Bushes saw increases in the unemployment rate by more than 2% and 3% points respectively.

Income: Both Bush Presidencies saw Americans experience decline in their median income, while during the Presidencies of Presidents Obama and Clinton Americans experienced gains. The newly reported 2015 increase in median income of almost $3,000 is the largest ever recorded since statistics began being kept in 1967.

Deficits: Both Democratic presidents saw dramatic improvements in the annual deficit during their tenures, with Clinton turning large structural deficits into annual surpluses and Obama cutting the annual deficit he inherited by one half. Both Bushes saw increases in the annual deficit on their watches, with the second President Bush seeing a more than ten-fold increase in the annual deficit during his presidency, one of the greatest explosions of debt in US history.

Public Opinion About the US Economy: Survey after survey finds Americans believing that things are far better, and improving. According to one new report, the President’s job approval on the economy stands at its highest mark since 2009. A new report from Gallup finds fully 80% of Americans are satisfied with their current standard of living.

Healthcare: The uninsured rate has plummeted, while the growth of health care costs – a significant driver of the US budget deficit – has slowed. Slower cost growth and healthier Americans are good for the American economy, businesses and the nation as a whole.

Energy: President Obama’s “all of the above” approach has a rousing success for the nation, increasing domestic production, lowering energy costs for American businesses, lessening our dependence on foreign sources of energy while giving the US a leg up on the new energy technologies of the future.

Again, you can find the full report, below, complete with lots of charts and graphs. Enjoy. 

Column: Clinton Expands The Map, Trump's Worrisome Embrace of Putin

“Monday Musings” is a new column looking at the 2016 elections published most Mondays. You can find previous editions here.

2016 Overview – With fewer than 60 days to Election Day, according to our polling aggregate Clinton continues to hold a substantial 5 point lead in the race, 46-41. A few things to also note: 1) While Clinton retains this 5 point lead, a majority of public polls now have the race within 2 points. 2) Trump is still struggling to get out of the low 40s, and is only above 42% in a handful of either national or battleground state polls. 3) Clinton has successfully expanded the battleground to three new states – AZ, GA and NC. New polls from NBC this weekend should both AZ and GA to be a dead heat, and she leads in most North Carolina polls.

This last point is significant. A larger battleground allows the Clinton financial and organizational advantage to become magnified, as her resources – including powerful surrogates – are being deployed in more than just 10 states (the core battleground - CO, FL, IA, NV, PA, MI, NH, OH, WI, VA). This not only puts much more pressure on the under-resourced Trump operation, but it will mean more wins for Democrats down ballot in these additional states. For the Republican Party who has struggled so much at the national level in recent elections this expansion of the map is a very ominous development.

The move of Arizona into a pure toss up (two good polls out this week have the race dead even, Romney won by 9 pts in 2012) is one that should be particularly worrisome for the national GOP. For it means that soon Texas will start to be in play for Democrats, and not just statewide – Hispanics make up more than 15% of eligible voters in fully 15 Congressional seats held by Republicans in Texas, and 5 of those have more than 25% share. Dedicated, funded campaigns designed to get Hispanic turnout up in those districts could have a significant impact on the balance of power in the House in coming years. The last two public polls of Texas have Clinton up 1, and Trump up 6. Even assuming a 6 point spread, this is way way too close for the GOP to feel good about.

For those wondering about the state of play in the House, this Politico piece is well worth reading.

Trump and Putin – While Trump’s apparent admiration for Vladimir Putin has gotten a lot of attention of late, it is his embrace of Putin’s worldview that should be most alarming to Americans and to his fellow Republicans. Trump and his top supporters, including Governor Pence, have repeatedly praised Putin’s “strength,” admiring of his ability to prosecute his agenda on the world stage particularly in the Middlle East. But let’s look at that agenda a bit, and question whether it deserves praise and admiration.

In the Middle East, Putin is funding and protecting Syria's Assad, and is thus directly complicit in mass slaughter of civilians, the lengthening of the Civil War, and the massive refugee crisis in Europe that is doing so much to weaken establishment parties in Europe right now.  Putin has also for years been Iran’s primary backer on the global stage, including at the UN. The ISIS insurgency is primarily a fight against the Iran/Shi’a aligned regimes in both Syrian and Iraq, and thus one could argue that it has been Russia more than any other global power who has been responsible for creating the conditions that have led to both the rise of Iran as a regional power and ISIS itself - something Trump blames Hillary Clinton for daily.  

The distance between Putin's approach to the Middle East and the very public demonization of Iran we've heard from the GOP over the past few years could not be greater. 

His “strength” has also led Putin to invade and occupy portions of a foreign neighbor, and like Trump, support Brexit, weakening of both Europe and NATO (see this piece for a longer discussion of this).  His “strength” has also put him right in the middle of both the greatest sport cheating scandal in history, the FIFA scandal, and now the greatest Olympic cheating scandal in history. The level of cheating and corruption practiced by Russia on the global sports stage has no historic parallel, and is another sign of Putin’s utter contempt for a rules-based, international system.

Third, Putin is a leader of what has become the most pernicious political economy of the 21st century – the petro state. There is perhaps no system more antithetical to the American creed than petro states – unaccountable dictatorships, systems whose wealth and power is derived from mass pollution of the planet and the threat of global instability (which keeps oil prices high) rather than a commitment to the current global system.

Which brings me to my final point – that Trump, like Putin, has denigrated institutions and conventions which keep our democracy strong. He has broken from time honored bi-partisan tradition and refused to release his tax returns and his medical records, and has even failed to produce Melania’s basic immigration documents that he promised weeks ago.. He has refused to allow press to travel on his plane, and ended the traditiona of the “protective pool” that would travel with him at all times of day. He already said the election will be rigged and thus illegitimate, has encouraged the hacking of a major political party in the US by a foreign power to help disrupt our election and constantly calls the media and political elites dishonest and corrupt. He has questioned the efficacy of NATO and the European project, praised Brexit, and has said he will rip up trade agreements we have with other nations, violating international law and weakening the global trading system that has done so much to advance democratic capitalism around the world.

It would be one thing to praise Putin’s charm, but to praise his leadership and “strength” is praising a man who gets up every day fighting against time worn American values and the modern world we helped build. This is the very opposite of patriotism, and to me is the single most troubling manifestation of the new politics of Trump.

On 2016: We Are Better Off Today

“Monday Musings” is a new column looking at the 2016 elections published most Mondays. You can find previous editions here.

2016 Overview – Sticking with the poll average we’ve used all election, Clinton heads into the home stretch up 48.1/42.5 over Trump. The Real Clear Politics “No Toss Ups” Electoral College map has it 340/198 for Clinton. While the race has tightened a bit, and the CNN poll shows Trump up today, I will stick with the data in front of us – Clinton holds a firm lead on Labor Day. It was always inevitable that Trump would claw his way back to the mid 40s from the historically low place he has been in recent months. Part of what we are seeing is the slow, painful “coming home” of Rs who are holding their noses and deciding to vote for Trump. My expectation is that heading into the 1st debate on September 26th Clinton will hold a 3-4 point lead.

The Real Clear Senate “No Toss Ups” has it 50/50, which would give control to the Democrats if Clinton wins. Any way you look at this election right now, we should expect it to be competitive across the board. The ace in the hole for Democrats is their huge financial and organization advantage, which could make a significant difference in close states either for President or Senate. More on the House next week.

We Are Better Off Today – One of the most significant sets of data in the 2016 revolves around the perception of the performance of President Obama. As I’ve said for years now, if folks don’t believe that Democrats did a good job these last eight years there won’t be any reason for them to vote for them in 2016. We know that President Obama’s various approval ratings hover in the high 40s, low 50s, and in some polls are the highest they’ve been in his second term. We know that the employment rate is below 5%; median incomes have been rising in the US since 2011; there is direct evidence now that wages have alos been rising since 2013; the stock market is at historic highs; the annual deficit is less than half of what it was when Obama took office; 20m have health insurance today who didn’t have it and the growth health care costs are slowing: despite dystopian rhetoric from Donald Trump, crime rates in the US have plummeted over the past generation and investment in our cities has soared; energy costs are lower today, domestic production is up and we’ve begun to make the transition to a cleaner energy future in earnest.

To me it is clear and evident that things are better today than when Obama took office.

Helping fill in this picture a bit comes a brand new study from Gallup. We include the key graphs from the study but this shows is that simply isn’t a high level of discontent in the country right now. 80% of Americans say they are satisfied with their current standard of living, and 50% say things are getting better for them. Take a look:
 

 

Democrats need to do a better job owning the success of their past two Presidents. Both have left the country far better than they found it. The same cannot be said of the last two Republican Presidents. If Democrats were to move one single message as a party in the final two months of the election it would be this – when they are in power, things better. When the Rs are in power, things get worse. This is both true, and germane to the debate we are having in America right now.

We end with a chart that Jared Bernstein used in a recent Washington Post piece,  It shows that median income has been rising since 2011. 

Voting Machines As Critical Democracy Infrastructure

Our friends at the Open Source Election Technology Foundation (OSET) penned this thoughtful piece in The Hill as a response to the news reports of foreign interference in our elections process. 

Some key passages:

"Part of the problem is that by design, our nation’s voting infrastructure is a balkanized system comprised of a small number of vendors’ machinery, combined with a variety of ways of casting and counting ballots. While a large-scale national attack is highly unlikely, such would be unnecessary to derail a general election. In fact, it only requires a targeted attack of a few machines in a key county of a swing State."

"While candidates on the left and the right use the new four-letter word “rigged” and call for election observers, we need to understand that elections officials work hard to make sure the charges of people voting multiple times and other illegal activity doesn’t occur. There are straightforward, low-tech things we can do today to improve the integrity of our elections."

"Longer term, we need careful consideration of what it would mean to designate America’s voting systems as “critical (democracy) infrastructure.” The U.S. Department of Homeland Security cannot do this in a vacuum. They must proactively collaborate with States’ election professionals, and engage with all relevant parties to ensure a long-term sustainable and scalable approach."

"And digital innovation must be a part of that discussion, because the casting and counting of 120 million+ ballots in time for orderly transfer of Presidential powers can no longer be done in time by hand. And we need to think through the continuing challenges of our fellow Americans needing to cast ballots remotely, especially our military from overseas. Meager and finite budgets are forcing vulnerabilities into the systems — emailing or uploading a cast ballot is not secure." 

You can learn more about OSET and the organization's great work here.

Clinton Getting A Bounce, Wages Are Rising

“Monday Musings” is a new column looking at the 2016 elections published most Mondays. You can find previous editions here.

2016 Overview – As expected, we find early evidence today of a Clinton bounce. CBS has Clinton going from 43/44 to 47/41, CNN from 45/48 to 52/43, Morning Consult from 40/44 to 43/40 and PPP and Ipsos/Reuters each have Clinton with a 5 point lead. The averages are showing gains for Clinton of 2-3 points already, and Obama’s approval rating in Gallup over the past 10 days has gone from 49/48 to 54/42, the best of his entire second term. It is early but Clinton and the Democrats are clearly getting a meaningful bounce.

It is significant that in some of these new polls have Trump hovering in low 40s, signaling that he still having trouble bringing his party together. If he is not in the mid 40s by mid August his campaign will officially be in trouble. Additionally, based on the Real Clear Politics state averages, Clinton should be firmly ahead in every single battleground state including Arizona and North Carolina by week’s end.

But could the economy slow over the next few months, and change the current dynamic that seems to be favoring Clinton? While Friday’s GDP report appeared to signal trouble ahead, as this analysis from the NYTimes’s Neil Irwin explains things are better than many reported on Friday. And for consumers (voters), things were particularly good:

“The wages and salary component of compensation is now up 2.5 percent over the last year; that same reading was only 2 percent in the second quarter. It’s just one number, but it points to this conclusion: Worker pay is not just rising; it’s also starting to rise at a faster pace. And it’s coming in the form of cash compensation, not being eaten up by health insurance and other employer-provided benefits.”  

Given this report, it is far more likely for economic sentiment to be an asset for Clinton in these final 100 days of the election than Trump.

A Very Good Week for Democrats – Last week’s DNCC was my 8th Convention, and I think it was the best I’ve attended. The speeches and talks by private citizens were powerful, the production itself just excellent and the tone upbeat and can-do. It was an extraordinary contrast to the angry mess the Republicans stumbled through a week before.

What we saw last week was a mature, successful governing party, one with a deep set of talented, experienced and well-regarded leaders comfortable on the national stage. It was a reminder of just how successful the Democrats have been at the Presidential level – both the Clinton and Obama Presidencies left America better than they found it, and Democrats have won more votes in 5 of the last 6 Presidential elections. If Hillary Clinton wins this fall, it will be arguably the best stretch for a political party in all of our history.

This confident, mature, successful Democratic Party took a generation to build. When I got into American politics in the last 80s and early 90s, things were reversed – the GOP was ascendant, confident, well led, popular with young people and it was the Democrats who had run out of political and ideological gas. Led by the New Democrats of that time, the Democratic Party began a long period of modernization and reform that has helped produce the governing and political success we’ve had over the past generation.

Critical to that success today is the demographic opening NDN and a handful of other organizations helped identify a decade ago. If they can harness this emergent coalition in this and coming elections, the Democrats have discovered a young, growing and diverse coalition that could sustain them for many elections to come and will eventually also generate majorities in both Congresses. Remarkably, Democrats may be in the middle or even early stages of a very long run (see our 2007 magazine essay laying all this out, The 50 Year Strategy) and not at its end. 

Clinton Enters the Two Conventions With Meaningful Lead

“Monday Musings” is a new column looking at the 2016 elections published most Mondays. You can find previous editions here.

2016 Overview - This will be a short column this week as so much news will be made in next few weeks any big analysis will just have to wait till after the Dems gather in Philadelphia.

That said, our trusty Huffington Post poll aggregate has the race at 43.4 Clinton to 39.8 Trump. My quick summary of the many national and state polls that have tumbled out in recent days is that Clinton still holds a meaningful lead nationally and in the battleground states. The main issue for US politics in the next two weeks is whether Trump can do anything to change that central dynamic. As I've written many times, I remain doubtful. Why?

First, Trump. I just don't see how his high negatives, ongoing nastiness, terrible campaign, no real solutions to things that matter and warring Party can help him make the gains he needs to make in the coming months. As others have written he is still hovering around 40%. My guess is that he should be up at 44-45% by mid August, but does he have the ability to rise above that level? Am super skeptical.

Second, Clinton. Friends despite the obvious challenges the Clinton effort has been a well run, confident enterprise, not likely to make a major mistake that could alter the trajectory of the race. With Sanders endorsing, a VP pick this week and what will be a strong Convention with a slew of well-regarded and popular politicians, she should match any bump Trump gets. We won't really know where the race stands until about two weeks after Philadelphia, but my expectation at that point is that Clinton will lead by 4-6 points nationally and in the battlegrounds, putting her in a very good position to win this fall.

On Trump and Chaos - One of the more remarkable things about this memorable election is the Trump's campaign comfort in comparing their effort to Richard Nixon's in 1968.   First, why anyone would knowingly compare oneself to Richard Nixon is hard enough to understand.  Second, the embrace of the son of Southern stategy "law and order" theme and its very direct indictment of the Obama era is something Democrats will have to rebut head on.  I offered some thoughts on this debate in last week's column, "America is Better Off and Safer Today."  The order/disorder theme, which was so central to the GOP's late victories in 2014, will be just about all we hear about in Cleveland this week.  Will Democrats be ready? That is the big question now.  

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