If you work in politics for awhile, and you don't drink first thing in the morning, you can't help but see the tactical patterns of your opponents. They're rarely tricky or oblique. Both parties have fairly straightforward playbooks to appeal to core voters.
Some people label the Democrats' tried-and-true method "identity politics." In New York City, it's also sometimes called "tribal politics," although that term is mercifully falling from fashion. Either way, the Democrats' divide-and-conquer strategy works consistently well for left-of-center elected officials and their busy network of affinity groups.
In essence, and this is hardly an insight, Democrats rile up key voting blocs by convincing them that they're suffering some type of injustice.
Once the group is targeted, the well-oiled propaganda machine kicks in. Not-for-profit 501 (c)(3) and 501 (c)(4) organizations drop news releases and place stories in friendly and powerful news outlets; news conferences and demonstrations are organized and covered in the media, and then, when the desired anger within that group is ginned up to a critical pitch, the villain is identified: Republicans in Congress, the state senate, state house, town or city council -- name your legislative body.
To get there, legislation is introduced in those bodies by Democrats knowing full well that it will never be passed by Republicans. Parts of a bill might be reasonable -- the name of the bill always sounds good -- but tucked somewhere into the legislation is a poison pill or two that will guarantee its demise among Republicans. That's the play. When the bill doesn't pass, Republicans can be labeled as impediments to "progress."
Republicans do this with their constituencies, too -- think repeated Obamacare repeal votes -- but they rarely target voters by ethnicity and gender. That lies almost entirely in the Democrat domain.
The wedge issue provides a stable platform on which Democratic political operatives can engineer sustained rhetorical assaults. Flashpoint anger only lasts so long; you can build a multiyear campaign around a bill or, more dramatically, an "Act" (e.g., "The Women's Equality Act" in New York State, a section of which I have worked against.)
I raise this because I see part two evolving in the latest Democratic Party campaign to stir up African-American discord in time for the 2016 election cycle. Part one involved organizing demonstrations against police officers, a reliable target in high-crime communities, using unpopular grand jury decisions as the rallying cry. Part two will involve the legislative "remedies." We're seeing only a fraction of them now. But trust me, more are on the way.
In the New York City Council, a bill has been introduced that would make it illegal for employers to ask employees whether they've been convicted of a crime. That's actually supposed to appeal to African-Americans, not insult them. State Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Yonkers just introduced a bill that would strip local district attorneys of the right to prosecute local police officers. Her bill would hand prosecution to the state attorney general, suggesting that local prosecutors can't be impartial in cases involving police.
Expect legislation in New York State to hold police officers personally liable in civil suits for actions on the job, something recently pushed through in New York City. And any day now, look for the big federal bill -- a creatively titled omnibus package that will become integral in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential and congressional elections. Someone, somewhere, is already stitching the battle flags together for that one.
The African-American vote is nothing to sneeze at. For years, black voters turned out at rates far below that of white voters. But as Wall Street Journal editorial writer Jason L. Riley points out in his powerful new book, "Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make it Harder for Blacks to Succeed," African-Americans, as a demographic, turned out at a higher rate than any other group when they supported President Barack Obama for re-election in 2012 with 95 percent of their vote. (Bill Clinton won 84 percent of the black vote in his 1996 re-election.)
You already see headlines predicting the importance of the African-American vote in 2016, like the one this week in National Journal: "[Hilary] Clinton Will Need to Win Over the Black Voters That [defeated Louisiana Sen. Mary] Landrieu Couldn't."
These organized demonstrations in black communities come on the heels of Obama's unilateral decision to grant work visas to people in this country unlawfully, most of them Latino. A lot of unemployed African-Americans were very unhappy about that decision, with good reason. There had even been grumblings among some black leaders that the African-American vote had to stop being so monolithic.
A stone-cold cynic might suggest that what's going on in the wake of Ferguson might just have something to do with that.
William F. B. O'Reilly is a Republican consultant.