While the corporate media like to push the story that Democrats are in disarray, House committees have stepped up investigations of the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia as well as the Trump administration’s attempts to obstruct the special prosecutor’s investigation. Meanwhile Democrats are proceeding with plans to promote expansion of Medicare to cover all Americans, set Congress on course to address climate change as well as create new economic opportunities with a Green New Deal, and passed a major bill to increase voting rights and reform campaign procedures to reduce candidates’ dependence on lobbyists to finance their campaigns.
The electoral reform bill, known as HR 1, the “For the People Act,” passed by a party-line vote of 234-193 on March 8. It includes provisions for publicly financing federal elections and requiring candidates for president to release their tax returns.
The bill has been a top priority for Democrats since the party won back the majority in the House in November, in an election marked by challenges to voting rights, including voter suppression efforts by the Georgia Secretary of State’s office under Brian Kemp, which may have provided the margin of victory for Republican Kemp in the race for governor over Democrat Stacey Abrams.
The bill would create a national voter registration system, including expansion of online voter registration, and end aggressive voter purges and election day voter registration. It would provide funding for states to adopt paper ballots, restore voting rights for ex-felons and declare Election Day as a federal holiday. It also would institute new donor disclosure requirements for political organizations and a 6-to-1 matching system to multiply small-dollar donations to federal campaigns.
The bill also prohibits gerrymandering by requiring independent commissions instead of state legislatures to draw congressional maps and would allow federal workers to take up to six days of paid leave to work at polls.
While the public likes most of the provisions in the bill, it is unlikely to advance in the Senate. Every Republican in the House voted against the bill, because conservatives know they are increasingly unlikely to win in fair elections, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he will not bring the election reform bill, which he characterized as a “radical, half-baked socialist proposal,” up for a vote in the Senate.
At least it was another victory for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who held the Democratic caucus together for the electoral reform bill, which some moderate House Democrats said went too far. Ten days earlier, all but two Democrats voted for another potentially controversial bill — requiring federal background checks for nearly all firearms sales and transfers, which the House passed 240-190. That bill is popular, but it also is expected to die in the Republican Senate, which is beholden to the National Rifle Association.
Democrats seem to take little risk in passing bills that are popular but face a roadblock in the Senate. It gives voters a reason to want to see Democrats take back the Senate and the White House.
There also is little reason to be pessimistic about Democrats’ chances of beating Trump, who has never had an approval rating of 50% or more since he’s been president. When he took office in January 2017 he had a national approval rating of 45.5%, according to an weighted average of polls reviewed by FiveThirtyEight.com. But even that anemic level of approval quickly began to founder and bottomed out at 36.5% in December 2017 (which finally settles the question of how many people one can fool all of the time).
Trump’s ratings have fluctuated since then, with approval in the high 30s to low 40s, while disapproval has remained in the low 50s. As of March 12, FiveThirtyEight.com showed him with 41.7% approved and 53.5% disapproved, which is not a good look for a president seeking re-election. In January, a Washington Post/ABC News poll found 56% of Americans said the will “definitely not” vote for Trump’s re-election. And this was before many Trump supporters discovered Trump’s billionaire tax cuts didn’t reach them.
Perhaps more important, Trump has seen his approval ratings plunge in states he carried in November 2016. When he took office, he had a net positive rating in 38 states, according to Morning Consult’s tracking poll, but in January 2019, Trump’s positive states were down to 17, while 31 states had a net negative and two states — Nebraska and Texas — were tossups at 48% approval and 48% disapproval. Two years ago, Trump had a 23-point net positive in Nebraska while Texas was a 20-point net positive for him.
Alaska, Kansas and Montana, all 24-point net positives for Trump in January 2017, were only one point positives for him this past January. Among the states still positive toward Trump, but within single digits, are Indiana and North Dakota, both within four points.
Among states Trump won in 2016 that are now net negative on him are Georgia, down 20 points since 2017, to one point net negative (47-48); Missouri, down 21 points since 2017, to two points negative (47-49); Florida, down 26 points, to four points negative (46-50); North Carolina, down 22 points, to four points net negative (46-50); Ohio, down 20 points, to six points negative (45-51); Utah, down 33 points, to six points negative (45-51); Arizona, down 28 points, to eight points negative (44-52); Pennsylvania, down 20 points, to 10 points net negative (43-53); Iowa, down 23 points, to 14 points net negative (41-55); Michigan, down 23 points, to 15 points net negative (40-55); and Wisconsin, down 22 points, to 16 points net negative (40-56).
Those numbers should not give Republicans confidence going into the 2020 elections. When they expect to have to fight for Utah, Texas and Nebraska, that not only is good news for the eventual Democratic presidential nominee. It also presents opportunities for Democrats in House and Senate races against Trump enablers, when Republicans will be defending 22 Senate seats while 12 Democratic seats will be up for election.
If Democrats win the White House, they’ll need to gain at least three seats to gain control of the Senate. Sen. Doug Jones is the Democrat facing the toughest re-election fight, in Alabama, but endangered Republican incumbents include Cory Gardner in Colorado, Susan Collins in Maine and Martha McSally in Arizona. If Trump pulls down the ticket, other endangered Republicans could include Joni Ernst in Iowa, David Perdue in Georgia, an open seat in Kansas as Pat Roberts is retiring, Steve Daines in Montana, Thom Tillis in North Carolina, an open seat in Tennessee, where Lamar Alexander is retiring, and it makes it worthwhile for Dems to find a candidate to challenge John Cornyn in Texas. And Mitch McConnell was the third least popular senator, with 47% disapproval and only 38% approval in Kentucky, as of January, according to Morning Consult, so Democrats should find a good candidate to put up against him.
With those states up for grabs, Republicans figure they can’t afford to risk fair elections. So, with HR1, the “For the People Act,” buried deep in the bowels of the Senate, you can expect Republicans to devise new ways to keep likely Democrats from casting ballots in 2020. So far, 14 candidates have announced they’re running for the Democratic nomination for president and at least 10 more are considering a run. Any of them would be better than Trump and his gangster associates. Please, this time, don’t make reckless charges about rival Democrats that you can’t take back after the nomination is decided. — JMC
From The Progressive Populist, April 1, 2019
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