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Report: Trump’s Health Care Failure May Hurt Him With Rust Belt Voters

President Donald Trump had a lot to say about health care when he gave his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, February 4, claiming that he was determined to protect coverage for preexisting health conditions and that “socialist” Democrats were trying to rob Americans of the health plans they love.

Problem: the Trump Administration is very much on board with a Republican lawsuit that seeks to abolish the protections of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare — including coverage of preexisting conditions — and rip health insurance away from millions of Americans by arguing that the law is unconstitutional. And journalist Daniel McGraw points out in a February 10 article for The Bulwark that health care could be a major liability for Trump in the Rust Belt states that he needs to win in order to be reelected in November.

The Bulwark is not liberal or progressive. Founded by Never Trump conservatives Bill Kristol and Charlie Sykes in late 2018, The Bulwark has a right-wing point of view but is passionately anti-Trump. On the surface, it might seem strange that a conservative site would be sympathetic to Obamacare. But in fact, the elements of the ACA were greatly influenced by the “universal health care via the private sector” approach championed by President Richard Nixon, the Heritage Foundation and Mitt Romney (now a U.S. senator) in the past. Nixon never would have favored the type of Medicare-for-all proposal that Sen. Bernie Sanders is pushing for, but the health care overhaul he proposed in the early 1970s and worked on with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy was comparable to the ACA yet more aggressive.

Demonstrating why health care could be problematic for Trump in the 2020 election, McGraw cites the results of Baldwin Wallace University’s Great Lakes Poll (which was published on January 21). Only four states were included in the poll, all of them Rust Belt States that went from voting for President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 to favoring Trump over Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin.

McGraw explains, “One question in the poll was especially relevant to health care, and unlike the questions in most previous national polls, phrased very directly: ‘Do you approve or disapprove of the way Donald Trump is handling health care policy?’ The results show Trump and the Republicans have a big problem in these key states.”

Respondents who said they “somewhat” or “strongly” disapprove of how Trump has handled health care, McGraw notes, include 53 percent in Michigan, 56 percent in Wisconsin and 51 percent in Pennsylvania. Those figures include both men and woman; among women, the numbers increase to 59 percent in Michigan, 58 percent in Wisconsin and 53 percent in Pennsylvania.

“Exit polls in 2016 showed Trump lost to Hillary Clinton among women in each of those states: by 42-55 in Pennsylvania, 42-53 in Michigan and 43-53 in Wisconsin,” McGraw points out. “He can’t afford to lose even more ground.”

Robert Alexander, an Ohio State University political science professor and one of the people who oversaw the Great Lakes Poll, told The Bulwark that health care is a high priority among older votes in Rust Belt states.

“The aging population in these states is big in terms of numbers, and (health care) is a big issue for them,” Alexander explained. “These people in these states aren’t looking 20 years down the road on how they get health care; it is much more immediate for them. This is a very real issue, and instability doesn’t sell well. Trump’s policy seems to be based on more chaos, and while that might be appealing to some voters on other issues, it doesn’t seem to be that way for the people we polled.”

According to Lauren Copeland (a political science professor at Baldwin Wallace University in Ohio who worked on the Great Lakes Poll), public support for Obamacare has continued to grow.

“People are really skeptical of new policy changes that are imposed upon them,” Copeland told The Bulwark. “What seems to have happened is that the voters (still) saw Obamacare as a new policy in 2016, and were a little leery of it. But now, it is the standard in many ways — and most people don’t want to lose it now.”

If independent voters in the Rust Belt believe that Trump is hostile to their health care needs, McGraw explained, they might swing Democrat.

“Much will depend on who the Democratic candidate turns out to be, but whoever it is, Trump will need to get the independents on his side by at least the same margins as he did in 2016,” McGraw writes. “If health care is, as these independents say, their most important issue — and if they disapprove by large margins of Trump’s handling of health care —  his challenge is formidable.


We’ve Got Some Big Lessons To Learn From The 2016 Election

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet. 

One of the first things Hitler did after his electoral victory in 1933 was ban the trade unions. He understood power dynamics and saw that unions were a threat to his influence over the working masses. Workers with good unions have good jobs and good lives; people with good lives don’t listen to demagogues. The same insight informs the 2016 post-election tweets of key right-wing strategist Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform:

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The right’s obsession with union busting is nothing new; sadly, neither is the Democratic Party’s indifference to it. For 35 years, Democrats have ignored, acquiesced in, even supported the dismantling of the American labor movement. Believing that demography is destiny, big data is strategy, and framing is persuasion, the liberal elite cast off the working class. As a result, our nation and the world now face an era of unprecedented danger. Never before has a single party had as much decision-making power: control of the executive, legislative, and, soon, judicial branches of government at the federal and local level. And that single party is not mainstream: It is extremist.

Twentieth-century century fascism and Donald J. Trump attained power as false populists, their “populism” anti-union in the literal sense, for while decrying the elite, they actually turned the rank-and-file not against bosses and bankers but against one another. Of course, like democracy itself, unions are complicated and flawed. Yet we’ve found no better system for running a country than democracy, and no better mechanism for ensuring good lives for its working class than unions. It’s time we finally learned the two are inseparable. Without basic economic justice to underpin it, democracy cannot thrive, or survive.

Union organizers and the millions of workers who have fought to unionize have long experience with the kind of campaign that just put Donald J. Trump in the White House. Today, an employer who wants to stop employees organizing to better their lives hires an outside firm from a sector called the union avoidance industry. The tactics of Steve Bannon, Breitbart News mastermind, Trump campaign CEO, and now White House chief strategist, are taken from union avoidance professionals: sow division, fear, and futility. Racism, misogyny, appeals to competitive individualism, and bold lies are the chosen weapons. For 30 years, those tactics have helped union busters win most fights. Yet against that post-Reagan tide and very stiff odds, some unions have pulled off true victories. Understanding how is key to rebuilding a strong working class and political movement, and getting out of the mess we’re in now.

Two things need to be done in the workplace fight and our national fight to build successful labor and progressive political movements. Workers and voters who have been divided must unite. And they must unite under their own organic leadership.

The original division among the U.S. working class—between paid laborers and slaves—has left the deepest, most powerful imprint on relations between workers today. When I am helping workers win family-supporting wages, good health care, and the right to retire, I make one thing crystal clear to all of them: The employer doesn’t need any of you, but he does need all of you, and the sooner you make a plan to unite, the faster you will win the changes you seek. While helping workers organize, I have had to spend plenty of time defusing racism, in real live fights, in the heat of the moment. When white workers complain of colleagues, “Why don’t they just talk English?” I ask, “When’s the last time you pulled up a chair in the breakroom at lunch and asked them about where they came from and why they came to the U.S.?” When Latino workers say, “Blacks steal when you aren’t looking,” I say, “Funny, the employer says that about you, and do you steal?” For my book, No Shortcuts, Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age, I studied a dozen recent campaigns, mostly union but not just union. In one, in 2008, 5,000 Southern factory workers overcame employer-cultivated hatred between black, Latino, and white workers and formed a union. As it always does, that took deliberate solidarity-building exercises that confronted racism day in and day out to build a broad, populist, working-class movement.

To prevail in a tough fight against union busters who preach Breitbart’s individualist “populism,” experienced organizers practice true populism: identifying natural leaders among the workers themselves, and coaching them to reach out to coworkers who are fearful or skeptical of unions. These “undecideds” won’t converse with just anyone, particularly not with “activists”, who tend to do all of the talking and none of the listening. In each workplace, as in each community, there are natural or organic leaders—ordinary, not elite, people of high intelligence who have the trust of their peers—who seek them out for help, advice, and more.

These natural, organic leaders can be trained to engage undecided coworkers and help them see that their problems at work must be solved by collective, not individual, action. No professional organizer or activist, no matter how passionate, can match these leaders’ power to persuade and lead in a hard fight—because their co-workers already look to them for leadership–and yet most organizing campaigns use the professionals and leave the rank-and-file leaders on the sidelines.

Like the labor movement, progressive politics in the U.S. is driven by hired activists, not organic leaders. And so we’ve lost. Trump’s working-class votes were mobilized not just by his rhetoric but also through deliberate base expansion by the Christian right, the Tea Party, National Rifle Association, and other groups who organized the masses—the base that the unions and the Democrats had written off and allowed to wither.

When I was a young organizer, back in the late 1980s, pollsters were a distant, obscure bunch. By the late 90s, they’d become the chief strategists, with unfettered access to the decision makers in most unions and in the Democratic Party. Frames and messages directed at people quickly replaced face-to-face engagement and one-on-one conversations with people. I sat through sessions where well-known national pollsters instructed union leaders to replace the words “working class” with “middle class,” “workers” with “working families,” and “union” with “associations.” Worker agents were replaced by an army of professional staff trained to “work the message” with a handful of telegenic, carefully selected pro-union worker activists, in turn trained by pollsters to present the narrative.

This rebranding has been a colossal disaster. It can be reversed, but only by returning to back-to-basics classic organizing. The movement doesn’t need advice from pollsters. Organic leaders, trained by skilled organizers, and the rank and file those leaders spring from provide far more accurate information, and have proven over and over they can change the actual facts on the ground, not just the “message”.

Demography is not destiny, and destroying the one institution through which the working class understood and dealt with the world—unions—led us to this moment. There are no shortcuts to rebuilding our base, yet we can take the long road very fast, in a few years, if we choose to do it right.

Jane McAlevey has been an organizer for 25 years spanning union, community, and environmental movements. She is currently a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program. She’s also still actively coaching workers (organizing). Her first book, Raising Expectations and Raising Hell (Verso, 2012) was chosen by The Nation as the “most valuable book of 2012.” Her second book No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age (Oxford University Press) was published last September.

IMAGE: A protester has his sign covered by Trump supporters as GOP candidate Donald Trump spoke at a campaign rally at the Sunset Cove Amphitheater in Boca Raton, Florida, March 13, 2016. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

In America’s ‘Rust Belt,’ More Voters Trust Clinton On Trade

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s promise to restore American jobs by renegotiating international trade deals appears to be failing him in states most affected by outsourcing, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Voters in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania – three competitive states in the Nov. 8 election that form the bulk of a region dubbed the Rust Belt for its swaths of shuttered factories – favor Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, on the issue of trade, according to the polling, with some respondents citing how international trade can bring down prices.

The results underscore the uphill battle the New York businessman faces on Election Day, when he needs to sweep a broad array of battleground states to win the White House.

“Trump has made a strong effort to portray Clinton as favorable to trade policies that he has labeled ‘a disaster’ for the United States,” said Thomas Nelson, a political science professor at Ohio State University.

In the automaking state of Michigan, which has voted reliably for Democratic candidates in recent presidential elections but which Trump has fought hard to win, some 40 percent of likely voters believed Clinton would be better equipped to address trade, compared with 36 percent for Trump.

In Ohio, known for its aerospace, steel and rubber industries, 45 percent said Clinton would be better on trade, compared with 38 percent for Trump. In Pennsylvania, long a steel and heavy manufacturing center, 45 percent favored Clinton on trade, compared with 38 percent for Trump, according to the polling, conducted in mid-October.

Clinton is leading Trump in all three states among likely voters, with advantages of 4 points in Michigan, 3 points in Ohio and 6 points in Pennsylvania, according to the Reuters/Ipsos polling.

But other polls show the race tightening in those states. RealClearPolitics, which averages data from most major polls, shows Clinton leading Trump by 6.6 points in Michigan and 5.1 points in Pennsylvania, and Trump leading Clinton by 2.7 points in Ohio.

Officials for Trump’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

‘WHAT JOBS ARE YOU BRINGING BACK?’

Poll respondents reached by Reuters who favored Clinton on trade mainly gave two reasons – first, that international trade deals can help people by lowering prices for goods; and second, they doubt Trump can deliver on his promise to restore the U.S. manufacturing sector.

“We all like to have inexpensive items,” Ronald Lane, 56, of Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, who plans to vote for a third-party candidate next week as a protest against both Trump and Clinton.

“I think it’s important to save American jobs which have already gone overseas, but I don’t believe there is much that can be done to bring them back,” he said.

Christina Ledesma, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, a Clinton supporter, said she also disagreed with Trump that the economy would suffer a lasting negative effect from trade deals.

“Our unemployment rate is lower than it’s been since 2008. What jobs are you bringing back?” she said.

Michigan’s unemployment rate was 4.6 percent in September, below the national average of 5 percent. Ohio’s was at 4.8 percent and Pennsylvania’s at 5.7 percent.

Trump has called the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico one of the worst deals ever struck and blames it for manufacturing jobs being moved to Mexico.

He also opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would open markets in East Asia. Trump argues that the deal, which must be ratified by Congress, would motivate more U.S. companies to move their production overseas.

Last week while campaigning, he called outsourcing “the greatest job theft in the history of the world”.

“The jobs theft will end … the day I start the presidency. It’s going to be America first again,” he said.

Clinton has offered a more tempered approach, saying she would seek to re-evaluate NAFTA if elected and that there were problems with some aspects of the TPP.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online in English from Oct. 6 to Oct. 17 in Michigan and Pennsylvania, and from Oct. 6 to Oct. 12 in Ohio. It included 1,370 likely voters in Michigan, 1,467 in Pennsylvania, and 1,200 in Ohio. All three state polls had a credibility interval, a measure of accuracy, of 3 percentage points.

(Reporting by Ginger Gibson; Additional reporting by Alana Wise and Chris Kahn; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Peter Cooney)

IMAGE: Hillary Clinton visits a campaign field office in North Las Vegas, Nevada. REUTERS/Brian Snyder