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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Debate over country song is a right-wing trap for Democrats.

The debate over the song “Try That in a Small Town” is an excellent example of a particularly devious right-wing extremist trap – one that the GOP will use against Democrats again and again in 2024. Dems need to understand what the trap is designed to accomplish, how it works and how to defend against it.

Read the Memo.

A Democratic Political Strategy for Reaching Working Class Voters That Starts from the Actual “Class Consciousness” of Modern Working Americans.

by Andrew Levison

Read the Memo

Progressives need to apologize to Oliver Anthony

He understands working people better than they do, he can talk to them better than they can.

Read the Memo.

Why Don’t Working People Recognize and Appreciate Democratic Programs and Policies

The mythology of “Franklin Roosevelt’s Hundred Days” and the Modern Debate Over “Deliverism.”

Read the Memo.

Innovative Study Offers New Insight into White Working Class Voters.

Innovative Study Provides Startling New Insight About Working Class Voters
By Andrew Levison

Read the memo.

Democrats Will Lose Elections in 2022 and 2024 if They do Not Offer a Plausible Strategy for Reducing the Surge of Immigrants at the Border.

Read on…

The Daily Strategist

December 10, 2023

Trump’s “Drain the Swamp” Plan Worse Than a Return to the Spoils System

It’s hard to keep up with the growing evidence of the horrors Trump plans to implement in a second term, but I wrote about one item that really struck me at New York:

There have been many credible reports that a second Trump administration would feature an assault on the federal civil-service system in order to reduce “deep state” resistance to his authoritarian ambitions — or, to use his terms for it, to “drain the swamp” — while stuffing the higher levels of the federal bureaucracy with political appointees. Those of us who are history-minded have immediately thought of this as threatening a return to the “spoils system” of the 19th century, which was more or less ended by enactment of the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883 (signed into law by Republican president and reformed spoilsman Chester Alan Arthur).

But the more we know about Team Trump’s plans, this understanding of what they want to do in staffing the federal government looks increasingly inadequate and anachronistic. The spoils-system beneficiaries of the distant past were by and large party foot soldiers rewarded for attending dreary local meetings, talking up the the party’s candidates in newspapers and forums, and, most of all, getting out the vote on Election Day. No one much cared what they believed in their heart of hearts about issues of the day or how they came to their convictions. It was enough that they put on the party yoke and helped pull the bandwagon to victory.

As Axios reports, one questionnaire used late in the first Trump administration to vet job applicants and another distributed by the Heritage Foundation to build up an army of second-term appointment prospects show a far more discriminating approach:

“The 2020 ‘Research Questionnaire,’ which we obtained from a Trump administration alumnus, was used in the administration’s final days — when most moderates and establishment figures had been fired or quit, and loyalists were flexing their muscles. Questions include:

“’What part of Candidate Trump’s campaign message most appealed to you and why?’

“’Briefly describe your political evolution. What thinkers, authors, books, or political leaders influenced you and led you to your current beliefs? What political commentator, thinker or politician best reflects your views?’

“’Have you ever appeared in the media to comment on Candidate Trump, President Trump or other personnel or policies of the Trump Administration?”

Similar questions are being asked for the Talent Database being assembled by the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025 — the most sophisticated, expensive pre-transition planning ever undertaken for either party.

The Heritage questionnaire makes it especially clear that being just any old kind of Republican isn’t going to be enough. It asks if applicants agree with a number of distinctively MAGA issue positions, including:

“The U.S. should impose tariffs with the goal of bringing back manufacturing jobs, even if these tariffs result in higher consumer prices. …

“The permanent institutions of family and religion are foundational to American freedom and the common good. …

“The President should be able to advance his/her agenda through the bureaucracy without hinderance from unelected federal officials.”

One insider told Axios that both the 2020 Trump and 2024 Heritage questionnaires have a common and very particular purpose:

“An alumnus of the Trump White House told us both documents are designed to test the sincerity of someone’s MAGA credentials and determine ‘when you got red-pilled,’ or became a true believer. ‘They want to see that you’re listening to Tucker, and not pointing to the Reagan revolution or any George W. Bush stuff,’ this person said”.

This represents a really unprecedented effort to place the executive branch under the direction of people chosen not on the basis of merit or experience or expertise, and not on party credentials, but on membership in an ideological faction that is also a presidential candidate’s cult of personality. As such, it’s more dangerous than a return to the partisan habits of a bygone era.



Edsall: Biden’s Fraying Coalition in Danger

Some excerpts from Thomas B. Edsall’s  “‘This Is Grim,’ One Democratic Pollster Says” at The New York Times:

The predictive power of horse-race polling a year from the presidential election is weak at best. The Biden campaign can take some comfort in that. But what recent surveys do reveal is that the coalition that put Joe Biden in the White House in the first place is nowhere near as strong as it was four years ago.

These danger signs include fraying support among core constituencies, including young voters, Black voters and Hispanic voters, and the decline, if not the erasure, of traditional Democratic advantages in representing the interests of the middle class and speaking for the average voter.

Any of these on their own might not be cause for alarm, but taken together, they present a dangerous situation for Biden.

Edsall notes further, “From Nov. 5 through Nov. 11, Democracy Corps, a Democratic advisory group founded by Stan Greenberg and James Carville, surveyed 2,500 voters in presidential and Senate battleground states as well as competitive House districts….In an email, Greenberg summarized the results: “This is grim.” The study, he said, found that collectively, voters in the Democratic base of “Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, L.G.B.T.Q.+ community, Gen Z, millennials, unmarried and college women give Trump higher approval ratings than Biden.”

Edsall goes on to roll out the discouraging specifics, including:

On 32 subjects ranging from abortion to China, the Democracy Corps survey asked voters to choose which would be better: “Biden and the Democrats” or “Trump and the Republicans.”

Biden and the Democrats led on six: women’s rights (ahead by 17 percentage points), climate change (15 points), addressing racial inequality (10 points), health care (three points), the president will not be an autocrat (two points) and protecting democracy (one point). There was a tie on making democracy more secure.

Donald Trump and the Republicans held leads on the remaining subjects, including being for working people (a seven-point advantage), standing up to elites (eight points), being able to get things done for the American people (12 points), feeling safe (12 points) and keeping wages and salaries up with the cost of living (17 points).

In the case of issues that traditionally favor Republicans, Trump and his allies held commanding leads: patriotism (11 points), crime (17 points), immigration (20 points) and border security (22 points).

As for the causes, Edsall writes, “There is some evidence in both the Democracy Corps survey and in other polls that concerns specific to Biden — including his age and the surge in prices during his presidency — are driving the perception of Democratic weakness rather than discontent with the party itself…..The survey found, for example, that Democratic candidates in House battleground districts are running even with their Republican opponents among all voters and two points ahead among voters who say they are likely to cast ballots on Election Day.”

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Biden’s sagging popularity is weakening Democratic 2024 prospects. As Edsall notes,

Along similar lines, a November 2023 NBC News poll found Trump leading Biden by two points, 46 to 44, but when voters were asked to choose between Trump and an unnamed Democratic candidate, the generic Democrat won 46 to 40.

In a reflection of both Biden’s and Trump’s high unfavorability ratings, NBC reported that when voters were asked to choose between Biden and an unnamed generic Republican, the Republican candidate led Biden 48 to 37.

What makes these numbers and conclusions harder to ignore than other recent polls indicating trouble for Democrats, is the name Stan Greenberg associated with the Democracy Corps poll and related analyses. While James Carville is familiar to many political junkies because of his frequent television appearances, his political partner Stan Greenberg is the Democrats’ platinum standard pollster, poll and election data analyst. Indeed, they have advised successful social democratic candidates all over the world. Greenberg and Carville steered President Bill Clinton’s two victorious election campaigns, and if Hillary Clinton heeded their advice to focus more on winning the support of  working-classs voters in key states, the nation might have been spared the entire Trump disaster, which now threatens the future of America’s democracy.

It is true that nobody knows what is going to happen in the months ahead, and yes, Biden could rally, if the economic picture improves substantially, or if Trump’s legal problems drag him down. In any case, President Biden, or whoever runs against Trump or another GOP nominee, would do well to pay close attention to the insights of Stan Greenberg and James Carville.

To round out your take on Democratic 2024 prospects, do read the rest of Edsall’s column. It provides as thorough and carefully-considered a report as you are going to find.

Political Strategy Notes

My big takeaway from the GOP “presidential” debate is that Dems should start preparing for the Trump-Haley ticket, if they haven’t already done so. Three of the four remaining candidates, despite their claims to the contrary, are really auditioning for the veep slot. Former SC Governor Haley may still be harboring some grand delusions that she could top the ticket, with all of her current buzz and cash infusion. But in her gut, she knows that the most realistic scenario is for her to run as Trump’s second. Trump needs her badly, and they both know it. The bad news for Dems is that she is a formidable debater, who has a sharp sense of when to attack and when to pull back, and she might give some swing voters just enough gender cover to vote for the GOP ticket, despite their unpopular war on abortion rights. Even former Gov. Christie – the only Republican candidate with enough integrity to reject election denial – is criticizing her very delicately. He no doubt sees her as a good running mate in the highly unlikely event that he wins the GOP presidential nomination. And she would help to rebalance his bellowing persona. Hence Christie’s slashing attack on Ramaswamy for the latter’s broadside blasts against Haley. Florida Governor DeSantis would also love to run with Haley, with visions of sunbelt solidarity dancing in his unsmiling head. Yes, Kamala Harris could slice, dice and shred her in an extended debate. But few voters will cast their ballots based on the outcome of that confrontation. Haley is nonetheless highly vulnerable because of her positions on abortion, all of which impinge on women’s personal freedom and reinforce Trump’s bragging about how he got rid of Roe v. Wade, and will try to do the same for the Affordable Care Act. Haley’s policies may cancel out whatever benefit she brings to the GOP ticket.

Margaret Carlson takes another view in “Haley’s Comet,” written before the debate, and observes at The Washington Monthly: “Haley is also helped by the fears of Republican partisans alarmed that an increasingly unhinged madman could win the nomination, sending the party to a cataclysmic defeat next year. She’s also helped by the fears of Republicans and independents, alarmed that an increasingly unhinged madman could win the nomination and the presidency, sending the country into a cataclysm. These Planet Earth Republicans will go with whoever has the best chance to topple Trump, braying that he will act out his dreams of a dictatorship….At a briefing by a super PAC aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Republicans got a “wake-up call” that more people, including Republicans, had moved into the “pro-choice camp” and to adapt accordingly. Frank Luntz, the consultant known for Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America and changing the lexicon of swapping levies on estates for ominous “death taxes,” was impressed by Haley’s abortion rhetoric. He deemed hers “the best Republican answer on abortion” and urged others to follow. “The GOP would be stronger if they used her language.”….The Carolina Contortionist is not just comfortable in her five-inch heels; she’s comfortable in her heels perched on a fence. She’s for a six-week ban. She’s for a 20-week ban. She’s for no national ban! She loves Trump. She hates Trump. She often says he was the right president at the right time, the man who appointed her ambassador to the United Nations and who sincerely believed he had won the 2020 election….But on the other hand, he’s an unelectable criminal defendant. She swore she wouldn’t run against Mar-a-Lago Mussolini—until she announced she would. She said she wouldn’t support him for president should he be the party’s nominee—until she raised her hand in the affirmative at the first debate, even if, by next summer’s convention, he’s a convicted felon. Later, she allowed that she might pardon him.” Carlson ends her rant with a quote from Woody Allen, ““One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction.” Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”

Check out “Democratic decline in the United States: Strategic manipulation of elections,” in which Vanessa Williamson writes at Brookings: “Last week, the Supreme Court heard another case about whether a state’s new maps constitute racially discriminatory gerrymandering, and a federal judge barred former president Trump from attacking witnesses, prosecutors and court staff involved with his federal trial for election subversion. It is a good time to reflect on how the states and the courts are ensuring (or failing to ensure) free and fair elections in the United States. Unfortunately, strategic manipulation has become a recurring feature of U.S. elections, and there are good reasons to doubt whether the courts will adequately protect voting rights as we head into the 2024 election season….Distinct from “voter fraud,” which is almost non-existent in the United States, election manipulation includes election procedures that make it harder to vote (like inadequate polling facilities) or that reduce the opposing party’s representation (like gerrymandering). These kinds of maneuvers have become increasingly common and increasingly extreme in recent years — but only in some states….Political scientist Jake Grumbach has developed the most comprehensive and rigorous measure of state-level electoral democracy, the State Democracy Index (SDI), which takes account of factors like polling place wait times, red tape voter registration procedures, and gerrymandering. The SDI quantifies the divergence occurring between U.S. states. In 2018, 17 states had a higher SDI than they did during the period from 2000 to 2010, indicating a stronger democracy in those states. The other states, however, have seen their SDI decline — some by a very substantial margin….Though there have been legal consequences for many of those who participated in the 2020 election subversion efforts,” Williamson concludes, “and though the 2022 elections occurred without major incident, Americans should remain vigilant in the face of ongoing threats to election integrity.”

Democrats should hope it is true that “Issues, not candidates, are motivating young voters: Abortion is at the center of young people’s political engagement,” as Monica Potts writes at 538. Potts explains, “For young voters, key issues like abortion may matter more to their vote than who’s at the top of the ticket in 2024. While Democrats worry that President Joe Biden might be losing support with millennials and Gen Z, policy questions, rather than candidates, have taken center stage for young political activists and could be one of the biggest factors driving young people to the polls….The November election offered a preview of how the issue of abortion could motivate voters, as Ohio saw unusually high turnout following grassroots organizing around Issue 1, the ballot initiative to enshrine abortion rights into the state’s constitution….Young voters strongly favored the Ohio abortion rights initiative, with 77 percent voting to pass it, according to exit polling. That wasn’t such a surprise: Polls have shown consistently higher support for abortion rights among young voters, especially young women. This support made a difference in 2022 as well, when many credited concern over abortion rights with boosting Democrats to better-than-expected midterm results despite Biden’s low approval ratings. When asked about which issues influenced their vote, abortion was the top choice for voters under 30, according to an analysis of Edison Research National Election Pool exit poll data by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, or CIRCLE, at Tufts University. Those who supported access to abortion strongly preferred Democratic candidates….Another interesting finding from the CIRCLE analysis was that 59 percent of voters under 30 said President Biden was “not a factor” in their vote in 2022, more than any other age group. They were also most likely to say his policies “made no difference on the country.” While Biden wasn’t on the ballot in the midterms, it’s possible that even in a presidential election year, approval or disapproval of the job he’s doing may not matter as much to young voters as the issues they care about….Young voters are also likely to be motivated by issues like gun control and climate change, two issues that have also inspired high-profile youth activism in recent years.” Potts does not address the opinions of young voters regarding foreign policy issues, perhaps because they will focus increasingly on domestic policies that directly affect their lives as we approach the 2024 election.

Dems, Don’t Forget the GOP’s Other Big Failure – Health Care Policy

Eleanor Clift explains how “Democrats Can Win if They Make the 2024 Election About Healthcare: Ron DeSantis updated the GOP’s “repeal and replace” Obamacare mantra to “replace and supersede,” and Trump wants to “terminate” it. But voters like the Affordable Care Act” at The Daily Beast:

Of all the issues before voters, healthcare remains the holy grail for Democrats.

In the last three election cycles, it delivered Democratic victories based on deeply held beliefs about which party could be trusted to reform a system that had left millions without health care and millions more bankrupt with medical debt.

The Affordable Care Act, signed into law in 2010 (and more commonly known as Obamacare), is far from perfect, but it allowed people with pre-existing conditions to get health insurance, it removed unrealistic caps on medical care, and it allowed young people to remain on their parents’ insurance policy until the age of 26.

It was revolutionary, and more than a decade of Republican calls to “repeal and replace” proved futile. The GOP might have learned its lesson, but Donald Trump, who never tires of his old fixations, says on social media he would like to “terminate” Obamacare and “replace it with something much better.”

Clift adds that “it is music to Democrats whenever Republicans start mucking around in health care. Forty million Americans now have health insurance thanks to Obamacare, an ace card that Democrats hold going into the 2024 election where health care could once again play a decisive role in the outcome.” Also,

“It’s the most powerful kitchen table issue there is,” says Leslie Dach, executive chair of Protect Our Care, a health advocacy group, and senior advisor to the Congressional Integrity Project, a pro-Biden rapid response group. “Politically, it’s a loser for them (GOP) because it’s a totally non-partisan issue. The only place it’s partisan is in Washington, D.C. Everybody in America worries about getting sick, and how they’re going to pay for it, and they’re trying to make it an ideological issue.”

In addition, Clift writes, “It will be 14 years in March since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. Most Republicans are ready to put the issue in the rearview mirror, recognizing the futility of repeal and replace, as well as the complexity of the healthcare market in a bitterly partisan political climate….Nikki Haley’s home state of South Carolina and DeSantis’ Florida are two of 10 remaining states that have blocked Medicaid expansion, withholding health care coverage from hundreds of thousands of people.”

Clift concludes, “Any time Trump or DeSantis want to vent about Obamacare, they sharpen the contrast between the party that delivered health care for millions of people and the party that would take it away under the false illusion that they’ve got a secret plan to make it better.”

Sure, Democrats should frame the Republicans’ cluelessness on abortion rights for maximum advantage. But don’t forget their failure to propose a single credible health care reform.

Political Strategy Notes

In “Putting Biden’s Troubles with Young Voters in Perspective: Youngest voters have been strongly Democratic in recent elections, but the president also has clear weaknesses with that group,” Kyle Kondik writes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “According to the available exit polls from the 2020 primary season, Biden generally won paltry shares of the 18-29 bloc, finishing well behind his top rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), even in states that he won handily, like South Carolina. There were 15 states with Democratic primary exit polls in 2020 that had results for the 18-29 group, as compiled by CNN; Biden won the 18-29 group only in Mississippi, a state where Biden won 81%-15% overall against Sanders (that primary was held a week after Super Tuesday, when Biden had grabbed the reins of the nominating contest following a slow start in the kickoff states). Biden won 61%-35% among the 18-29 group in Mississippi; he did not surpass 30% among that group in any other state that had an exit poll, and his support from the youngest voters was minuscule in many places, like in Super Tuesday megastates California (just 6%) and Texas (12%). Biden still won many of these states (including Texas), but it’s clear that the youngest voters would have preferred a different nominee. To the extent Biden shows weakness in his renomination bid, we would expect protest votes to disproportionately come from younger voters (this is something to monitor during the primary season). This primary weakness didn’t prevent Biden from doing well with young voters in the 2020 general election, but it is an indicator that Biden’s softness with young voters is not new….Biden’s approval with young Americans has also been weak. Back in the spring, one of the top sources of information on young voters — the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School — found Biden’s approval rating at only 36% with 18-29 year olds. A possible contributor to Biden’s weak standing with these voters may include the economy and inflation — the aforementioned New York Times polls of swing states found that among 18-29 year olds who supported Biden in 2020 in these states, just 11% thought the economy was “excellent” or “good,” compared to 89% who said the economy was “poor” or “only fair.” This was a more pessimistic economic view than older cohorts of 2020 Biden supporters. Other potential contributors could be Biden’s unsuccessful effort to forgive some student debt for tens of millions of Americans and, more recently, how Biden has handled the aftermath of the Hamas strike on Israel in early October (young people are likelier than the broader public to sympathize with the Palestinians instead of Israel)….Our own two cents is that we really doubt Trump would beat Biden with young voters, or even come that close to doing so, in an actual November 2024 election. But we also think Biden clearly has weaknesses with young voters — weaknesses that could be electorally fatal if they endure, given the highly competitive nature of modern presidential elections. Young voters could end up defecting to third party candidates at higher rates than older cohorts, and it’s also possible that some of these voters from what is already a lower-turnout group could just decide not to vote, which could have the effect of reducing whatever Biden’s margin with the group would be.”

Leah Askarinam, Holly Fuong, and Mary Radcliffe write in “Why is Biden losing support from people of color His numbers among Black, Hispanic and Asian Americans have reached a new low” at 538: “According to a basic polling average,* Biden’s approval rating is currently at one of the lowest points of his presidency. But he wasn’t always this unpopular. When he was sworn into office, Biden’s approval rating started in the high 50s, but it dropped below 50 percent in summer 2021. That overlapped with the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the delta variant of COVID-19, which seemed to put an end to Biden’s honeymoon period….Biden’s approval rating continued to decline for nearly a year, bottoming out near 40 percent in summer 2022 as inflation reached 40-year highs. But it rebounded that fall, not long after the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned federal abortion rights. Still, the president’s approval rating hovered in the low 40s through the rest of 2022 and through the first few months of 2023, and by this summer, it had started to sag again….But with which demographic groups is Biden losing the most support? We looked at the crosstabs of his approval polls to find out. Biden’s approval rating has consistently been highest among Black Americans and lowest among white Americans. But while white Americans have been lukewarm about Biden for a majority of his administration, the president is losing support at a faster clip among people of color. That’s consistent with what other sources have found: The latest New York Times/Siena College polling found signs that Biden was losing ground among Black voters. And Democrats have been warning about signs of Latino voters turning toward the GOP for years….Biden started his presidency with an 86 percent average approval rating among Black Americans, higher than any other racial group. But by July 2022, that number was down 23 percentage points, to 63 percent. That said, his approval rating among Black Americans — unlike the other three racial groups we looked at — did mildly increase ahead of the midterm elections. But since early 2023, it has dropped again to 60 percent, the lowest his approval rating has ever been among Black Americans during his presidency….Democrats need to make it clear that the 2024 election is a choice between two opposing visions, not a referendum on the Biden presidency.”

From “‘Time to Be Bold’: Advice for Democrats from a Quietly Powerful Governor: As the new chair of the Democratic Governors Association, Gov. Tim Walz has some tips for the party” by Elena Schneider at Politico: “Like many Democrats, Walz doesn’t think President Joe Biden is getting the credit he deserves on a relatively strong economy, but the campaign can still retool their message as needed….“They may — I think — rework, refine, this message, but it doesn’t change the fact that Joe Biden invested in the middle class, just like Democratic governors did, and made life more affordable,” Walz said Saturday on the sidelines of the DGA’s winter meeting in Phoenix….Regardless of what happens in 2024, the party boasts a deep bench going forward, and Walz believes the 2028 Democratic nominee could indeed be a sitting governor….“I’m biased towards governors,” he said. “But they’re proven.”….Schneider: What are the most important governors’ races next year? Walz: I think holding those races we have. I tried my hardest to get [Washington Gov.] Jay Inslee to stay again. He could be my governor forever. There, of course, and in North Carolina and Delaware, where we’re term limited with [North Carolina Gov.] Roy Cooper and [Delaware Gov.] John Carney. I think there’s a golden opportunity in New Hampshire [where GOP incumbent Chris Sununu is retiring]. I can tell you those four states are a priority, especially with our incumbent governors being term-limited….We’re not naive. This is going to be nationalized in some of these races. But governors have a much better way, and especially good ones, of bringing it back down. Andy Beshear did that and he won because of that. He stayed focused on disaster relief, about recovering, caring for people, delivering on that, so they’re going to have to explain why they’re supportive of President Trump, but I think our candidates will be out there saying, “This is the difference it makes. We’re functional, not dysfunctional. We get things done,” and I think that’ll be the message.”

Schneider continues, “Schneider: Governors like Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan and Josh Shapiro in Pennsylvania have job approval ratings that are 10, 15, 20 points better than Joe Biden. Can you explain that gap?….Walz: I think it’s not surprising to see governors do that, because we’re delivering every day. I think the constant drumbeat of dysfunction in D.C. gets attached to the president. But we all run into this. When we’re running against the generic Republican, our races are always really close, but there’s no such thing [as a generic Republican]. These guys are weird. Once they start running, their weirdness shows up, and especially with the nominee on the other side. I don’t think it’s that surprising….This is going to be a binary choice. Democracy, or what we saw with the former president. Projects, like roads getting built, or dysfunction. Pre-existing conditions being covered by health care, or having that ripped out. Those binary choices will start to become clear. They saw us act, how we acted during Covid, they saw us act on the recovery. It’ll work itself out….It’s one of our jobs to get out there and talk about it. I’ve talked to [White House infrastructure czar] Mitch Landrieu and the White House on infrastructure. Look, this is a golden age of infrastructure because of the president. Governors are the ones that are managing that — broadband expansion, removal of lead pipes. Put the signs up. Say where it came from….I wouldn’t be so bullish on Joe Biden or be so excited about it, if I saw that he wasn’t delivering. I’ve watched him deliver. We, as governors, who lived through what President Trump did not do during Covid, I’m not going back there again. Tell the story. Put some signs up for building bridges. Let us know where the money came from.”

Teixeira: The Democratic Position on Crime Is a (Political) Crime

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, politics editor of The Liberal Patriot newsletter and co-author with John B. Judis of the new Book “Where Have All the Democrats Gone?,” is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

As we head into the 2024 election, Biden’s chief liability is clearly voter dissatisfaction with the economy, which triumphalist talk about “Bidenomics” has done little to allay. However, there are other serious weaknesses he will have to overcome. One obvious one is immigration and the border where voters’ assessment of his administration’s performance is particularly dire. But we shouldn’t forget about crime and public safety, where Democrats’ image is scarcely better.

Gallup has just released a tranche of data on the crime issue which highlight the potential salience of the issue in 2024. Key findings include the following:

  1. Sixty-three percent of the public now say the crime problem in the nation is extremely or very serious. This is the highest reading on this question since Gallup starting tracking it in 2000.
  2. Over three-quarters (77 percent) say there’s more crime in the country today than there was a year ago. Along with similar results from their 2022 and 2020 surveys, these views on rising crime are the highest since 1993 in the Gallup’s series.
  3. In terms of crime in respondents’ local areas, 55 percent say there’s more crime today than a year ago. Along with a similar reading from last year, these are the highest levels every measured by Gallup on this question going back to the beginning of their time series in 1972.
  4. Over a quarter (28 percent) say their household has been victimized by at least one of these crimes in the past year: having a home broken into, having property vandalized, having money or property stolen, having money or property stolen by force, having a car stolen, being physically assaulted or being sexually assaulted. Except for 2016, this is the highest level reported by the public since Gallup initiated this time series in 2000.
  5. Forty percent now say within a mile of their home there is an area where they would be afraid to walk alone at night. This is the highest level Gallup has measured since the crime-ridden early 1990’s.
  6. Along with levels measured last year, Americans are more worried about the crimes of having their car stolen or broken into, being attacked while driving your car, getting mugged, and getting murdered than they have been since 2000 when Gallup started measuring these fears.
  7. As for illegal drugs, for the first time since 1972, when Gallup first asked about this question, more than half (52 percent) think the U.S. is losing ground on the illegal drug problem. Just 24 percent believe the U.S. is making progress, 28 points less than those who feel we’re losing ground—the largest gap ever measured.
  8. In light of the trends above, it is not surprising that negative views of the criminal justice system have gone up. Views that the justice system is “not tough enough” have spiked, rising 17 points since 2020 to 58 percent of the public, the highest level since the early 2000’s.

Consistent with these pessimistic views, voters are not happy with the job the Democrats have been doing on crime. In a September NBC poll, voters favored Republican over Democrats by 26 points on dealing with crime. Biden is consistently way underwater on his job approval in the crime area, averaging 21 points more disapproval than approval on the issue.

Even more pertinent to the coming election, Democracy Corps has a new surveyout of 2500 voters in next year’s battleground states and congressional districts. In this survey, inflation and the cost of living is tabbed by voters as the most pressing issue for the country by a considerable margin. But the second most cited is “crime, homelessness, and violence”. This pattern holds for black, Hispanic, and Asian voters and for moderate Democrats and political independents.

In the same survey, battleground voters favor Trump and the Republicans over Biden and the Democrats by 12 points on “feeling safe” and by 17 points on “handling crime”. The survey also asked these voters what they would worry about the most if Biden wins the election. Topping the list was “the border being wide open to millions of impoverished immigrants, many are criminals and drug dealers who are overwhelming America’s cities.” But a very close second—just a point behind—was “crime and homelessness being out of control in cities and the violence killing small businesses and the police”. Among black, Hispanic and Asian voters as well as among white Millennials, moderate Democrats and political independents, crime and homelessness worries actually topped the list.

It is not hard to think of reasons voters feel this way. In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder and the nationwide movement sparked by it, the climate for police reform was highly favorable. But Democrats blew the opportunity by allowing the party to be associated with unpopular movement slogans like “defund the police” that did not appear to take public safety concerns very seriously.

At the same time, Democrats became associated with a wave of progressive public prosecutors who seemed quite hesitant about keeping criminals off the street, even as a spike in violent crimes like murders and carjacking swept the nation. This was twinned to a climate of tolerance and non-prosecution for lesser crimes that degraded the quality of life in many cities under Democratic control. San Francisco became practically a poster child for the latter problem under DA Chesa Boudin’s “leadership.”

So the voters kicked him out in a recall election. Based on the neighborhood pattern of voting and pre-election polling data, it seems clear that Asian voter support for the recall was particularly strong.

Nonwhite support for cashiering Boudin shouldn’t be surprising. The most enthusiastic supporters of a Boudin-style approach to policing tend to be white college-educated liberals. Nonwhite and working-class voters approach the issue of crime quite differently. Think of Eric Adams’ support in his successful run for the New York mayoralty, or of Cherelle Parker’s support in her recent successful run to be Philadelphia’s mayor.

Adams wasn’t afraid to put public safety front and center in his political appeals and called out affluent professionals who think nonwhite and working class communities can do with less policing. He believed that this was what his constituencies wanted.

Dionne: Time to face Democracy’s Twin Threats

In “Democracy faces two threats. Trump is only one of them,” Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes:

Over the next year, the survival of democracy should be the central issue in American politics. To insist on this is to be a realist, not an alarmist. But making that case requires identifying two distinct threats.

The first is Donald Trump, who is already at the center of our national conversation. The second is the ongoing assault on voting rights, which rarely commands the airwaves.

Let’s start with the good news: It has become untenable to treat Trump as a normal presidential candidate, thanks to his own evermore radical rhetoric, starting with his pledges to use the Justice Department as a tool for revenge against political enemies. The result is a partial but welcome shift in journalistic coverage recognizing Trump’s journey into what the New York Times called “more fascist-sounding territory.” The Economist, no avatar of left-wing politics, received wide attention for declaring that Trump “poses the biggest danger to the world in 2024.”
However, Dionne writes, “We are paying far less attention to the long-term deterioration of the right to vote, the essential building block of a democratic republic. It’s easier to overlook because chipping away at access to the ballot has been a subtle, decade-long process. It began with the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision that gutted Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, thus sharply circumscribing the Justice Department’s power to enforce the law.” Further,
This led to an explosion of state abuses, including discriminatory voter-identification laws, targeted purges of electoral rolls, gerrymanders that undercut minority representation and changes in early-voting rules that often advantaged some groups over others.
Because such moves fall short of the wholesale disenfranchisement of Black voters during the Jim Crow era — it ended with the Voting Rights Act’s passage in 1965 — defenders of today’s restrictions insist they are not discriminating against anyone. But making it harder for some people to vote — often in the name of preventing the falsely imagined “voter fraud” that is at the heart of Trump’s election denial — is no less an attack on democracy.

Also, “In his decision in Shelby, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. claimed that even without a strong Section 4, the Voting Rights Act bans discrimination under Section 2, which “is permanent, applies nationwide, and is not at issue in this case.” In addition,

Permanent? Not if the 2-1 decision last week from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit is allowed to stand….The court’s majority arrogantly tossed aside what Congress explicitly said it was doing when it passed the law, claiming miraculous powers to read the “text and structure” of the act as preventing private parties, including civil rights groups, from bringing cases under Section 2. As the Atlantic’s Adam Serwer noted, the ruling’s claim that only the Justice Department had this authority ignored “Congress’s intentions, Supreme Court precedent and decades of practice.”

This is no minor bit of judicial activism. Rick Hasen, a law professor at UCLA, wrote in the Election Law Blog that the ruling would eliminate the bulk of the cases aimed at protecting voting rights because “the vast majority of claims to enforce section 2 of the Voting Rights Act are brought by private plaintiffs, not the Department of Justice with limited resources.” Bye bye, Voting Rights Act. Indeed, there were immediate signs (in a key Louisiana case, for example) that the 8th Circuit ruling would be used to overturn earlier voting rights actions.

“Preventing Trump from overthrowing liberal democracy is certainly a necessary step,” Dionne argues, “but it’s not sufficient. Renewing the fight for a new Voting Rights Act and the access-enhancing reforms in the Freedom to Vote Act is essential. But it’s also time to address one of the major flaws of our Constitution: It does not contain an explicit, affirmative guarantee of every citizen’s right to vote. Enacting a constitutional amendment that would do so, Hasen argues, would bring our voting wars to an inclusive conclusion.
“Why do we let the state put barriers in front of people when they exercise their right to vote?” Hasen asked in an interview. The director of UCLA’s Safeguarding Democracy Project, Hasen details his proposed amendment and the case for it in a forthcoming book, “A Real Right to Vote.” A carefully framed amendment, he argues, could simultaneously protect voter access and assure election integrity. He’d link automatic voter registration with a nationwide, universal, nondiscriminatory form of voter identification.

Dionne concludes, “Polarization makes amending the Constitution nearly impossible these days, one reason Hasen addresses fears on both the left and the right. But whatever chances Hasen’s amendment has, it calls on Americans to address the most important question facing our democracy: Are we truly committed to being a democracy? We’ll decide that at the ballot box next November, but we’ll have a lot more work to do even if we get the initial answer right.”

Biden Has a Relatively Low Popularity Requirement for Beating Trump

Staring at the polls and recent precedents, I offered some blunt thoughts at New York on exactly how popular Biden needs to be in 2024:

There’s abundant evidence that if it were held today, a general election rematch of Joe Biden and Donald Trump would show the 46th president in serious trouble. He’s trailing Trump in national and most battleground-state polls, his job-approval rating is at or below 40 percent, his 2020 electoral base is very shaky, and the public mood, particularly on the economy, is decidedly sour.

The standard response of Biden loyalists to the bad recent polling news is to say “The election is a year away!,” as though public-opinion data this far out is useless. But it’s only useless if Biden turns things around, and while there’s plenty of time for that to happen, there has to be a clear sense of what he needs to secure victory and how to go about meeting those needs. Vox’s Andrew Prokop provides a good summary of possible explanations for Biden’s current position:

“One theory: Biden is blowing it — the polls are a clear warning sign that the president has unique flaws as a candidate, and another Democrat would likely be doing better.

“A second theory: Biden’s facing a tough environment — voters have decided they don’t like the economy or the state of the world, and, fairly or not, he’s taking the brunt of it.

“And a third theory: Biden’s bad numbers will get better — voters aren’t even paying much attention yet, and as the campaign gears up, the president will bounce back.”

The first theory, in my opinion, is irrelevant; Biden isn’t going to change his mind about running for reelection, and it’s simply too late for any other Democrat to push him aside. And the second and third theories really point to the same conclusion: The president is currently too unpopular to win in 2024 and needs to find a way to change the dynamics of a general-election contest with Trump.

There’s not much question that Biden needs to improve his popularity at least modestly. There is only one president in living memory with job-approval ratings anything like Biden’s going into his reelection year who actually won; that would be Harry Truman in 1948, and there’s a reason his successful reelection is regarded as one of the great upsets in American political history. There are others, including Barack Obama, who looked pretty toasty at this point in a first term and still won reelection but who managed to boost their popularity before Election Day (Obama boosted his job-approval rating, per Gallup, from 42 percent at the end of November 2011 to 52 percent when voters went to the polls 11 months later).

Given the current state of partisan polarization, it’s unlikely Biden can get majority job approval next year even with the most fortunate set of circumstances. But the good news for him is that he probably doesn’t have to. Job-approval ratings are crucial indicators in a normal presidential reelection cycle that is basically a referendum on the incumbent’s record. Assuming Trump is the Republican nominee, 2024 will not be a normal reelection cycle for three reasons.

First, this would be the exceedingly rare election matching two candidates with presidential records to defend, making it inherently a comparative election (it has happened only once, in 1888, when President Benjamin Harrison faced former president Grover Cleveland). In some respects (most crucially, perceptions of the economy), the comparison might favor Trump. In many others (e.g., Trump’s two impeachments and insurrectionary actions feeding his current legal peril), the comparison will likely favor Biden.

Second, Trump is universally known and remains one of the most controversial figures in American political history. It’s not as though he will have an opportunity to remold his persona or repudiate words and actions that make him simply unacceptable to very nearly half the electorate. Trump’s favorability ratio (40 percent to 55 percent, per RealClearPolitics polling averages) is identical to Biden’s.

And third, Trump seems determined to double down on the very traits that make him so controversial. His second-term plans are straightforwardly authoritarian, and his rhetoric of dehumanizing and threatening revenge against vast swaths of Americans is getting notably and regularly harsher.

So Biden won’t have to try very hard to make 2024 a comparative — rather than a self-referendum — election. And his strategic goal is simply to make himself more popular than his unpopular opponent while winning at least a draw among the significant number of voters who don’t particularly like either candidate.

This last part won’t be easy. Trump won solidly in both 2016 and 2020 among voters who said they didn’t like either major-party candidate (the saving grace for Biden was that there weren’t that many of them in 2020; there will probably be an awful lot of them next November). So inevitably, the campaign will need to ensure that every persuadable voter has a clear and vivid understanding of Trump’s astounding character flaws and extremist tendencies. What will make this process even trickier is the availability of robust independent and minor-party candidates who could win a lot of voters disgusted by a Biden-Trump rock fight.

So the formula for a Biden reelection is to do everything possible to boost his job-approval ratings up into the mid-40s or so and then go after Trump with all the abundant ammunition the 45th president has provided him. The more popular Biden becomes, the more he can go back to the “normalcy” messaging that worked (albeit narrowly) in 2020.

If the economy goes south or overseas wars spread or another pandemic appears, not even the specter of an unleashed and vengeful authoritarian in the White House will likely save Biden; the same could be true if Uncle Joe suffers a health crisis or public lapses in his powers of communication. But there’s no reason he cannot win reelection with some luck and skill — and with the extraordinary decision of the opposition party to insist on nominating Trump for a third time. Yes, the 45th president has some political strengths of his own, but he would uniquely help Biden overcome the difficulty of leading a profoundly unhappy nation.

Political Strategy Notes

At Maddowblog Steve Benen reports: “One need not be a political expert to know what issues Republicans see as their strengths. If it were up to GOP leaders, the public conversation would focus entirely on inflation, border security and crime — not because the party has solutions to any of these challenges, but because polls tend to show that voters favor Republicans more than Democrats on these issues….That said, there are plenty of issues that favor Democrats, most notably health care. A recent national survey from NBC News found the party with a 23-point advantage over the GOP on health care, which is one of the reasons Republicans generally avoid the subject….It was against that backdrop that Donald Trump apparently thought it’d be a good idea to publish this message to his social media platform on Saturday morning, telling Americans that he’s “seriously looking at alternatives” to “Obamacare.” The former president went on to complain about Republican senators who failed to “terminate” the Affordable Care Act in 2017, concluding, “[B]ut we should never give up!”….The public comments coincided with a written statement from the president’s re-election campaign. “Forty million people — more than 1 in 10 Americans — have health insurance today because of the Affordable Care Act and Donald Trump just said he would try to rip it away if he returns to power,” spokesperson Ammar Moussa said. “He was one vote away from getting it done when he was president — and we should take him at his word that he’ll try to do it again….“That means letting insurance companies deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions like diabetes, cancer, or asthma; kicking college kids off their parents’ coverage the moment they graduate; leaving a job once again resulting in a loss of coverage; premiums skyrocketing; and middle class families suffering. Donald Trump’s America is one where millions of people lose their health insurance and seniors and families across the country face exorbitant costs just to stay healthy. Those are the stakes next November….If Democrats were to have literally written a script for Trump to follow, they probably would’ve had the Republican pick a fight over the future of the ACA. It was awfully generous of him to play along for no apparent reason.”

“The problem for Biden is that Republicans have shown themselves over time to be brilliant at setting campaign narratives,” Colorado Sun columnist Mike Litton writes. “And the narratives that Biden is too old, that the economy sucks, that the border situation is in crisis make the job fairly easy….Trump may be slightly ahead in the polls, but no one is really running against him yet. The Republican pretenders, other than Chris Christie, have to be provoked to even mention him. It took Nikki Haley days — and only after she was asked — to note that Trump’s use of  “vermin” may not have been the best choice of words. I don’t think Ron DeSantis ever commented on it…. Even Biden has been trying to make the campaign about his own successes, which is the usual strategy for an incumbent. But there are two incumbents in this race. And what we know is that whenever Trump is on the ballot, voters inevitably choose between the candidate who is Trump and the candidate who’s not Trump….The candidate who is Trump is campaigning as a would-be strong man, as a democracy-defying defendant facing 91 charges in multiple courtrooms, as an immigrant basher who promises to round up undocumented immigrants by the millions, as the president who appointed the Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade….That should be enough, but we learned in 2016 how these things can go….The way to beat Trump is to remind voters that he is Trump, as Biden did four years ago. A younger, more vibrant Democrat could probably have done that better. But at this point the question is not whether it’s time for Democrats to panic, but what they do to make sure Biden can pull off that trick, and beat Trump, one more time.”

Has No Labels Become a Stalking Horse for Trump?,’ NYT columnist Thomas B. Edsall asks, and writes, “After its founding in 2010, the group was praised by moderates in both parties as a force for cooperation and consensus. Now, however, No Labels is a target of criticism because of its plan to place presidential and vice-presidential nominees of its choosing on the 2024 ballot — a step that could tip the outcome in favor of Donald Trump if he once again wins the Republican nomination….No Labels officials contend that their polling suggests that their ticket could win….Numerous factors exacerbate the suspicion that whatever its intentions are (or were), the organization has functionally become an asset to the Trump campaign and a threat to the re-election of Joe Biden….Leaks to the media that prominent Republican donors, including Harlan Crow, Justice Clarence Thomas’s benefactor, are contributing to No Labels — which is well on its way to raising $70 million — suggest that some major donors to No Labels see the organization as a means to promote Republican goals….No Labels, in turn, has declined to disclose its donors, and the secrecy has served to intensify the concern that some of its contributors are using the organization’s plan to run a third-party ticket to weaken the Biden campaign….“No Labels,” Representative Abigail Spanberger, Democrat of Virginia, declared, “is wasting time, energy and money on a bizarre effort that confuses and divides voters and has one obvious outcome — re-electing Donald Trump as president.”….An NBC survey in September found that the presence of third-party candidates on the ballot would shift the outcome from a 46-to-46 tie to a 39-to-36 Trump advantage over Biden.”

“Equally important,’ Edsall adds,  “NBC also found that the strongest appeal of third-party candidates is among constituencies Biden must carry, including voters pollsters call persuadable; low-income, working-class and middle-class voters of color; and voters who said they “somewhat” disapproved of Biden….In the media, the potential No Labels candidates most commonly mentioned are Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, who is 76 and recently announced his retirement from the Senate, and Larry Hogan, who is 67 and a former Republican governor of Maryland. The organization could also pick someone outside politics, including a military or corporate leader….Many Democratic leaders and organizations — including Nancy Pelosi, a former House speaker; state Democratic chairs; Third Way, a Democratic think tank; and advisers to President Biden — contend that a No Labels candidate in the race would probably doom Biden’s chances of re-election….No Labels is gearing up to pick a third-party presidential ticket without the constraints and safeguards of primary elections and caucus contests….William Galston, a Brookings Institution senior fellow and one of the 2010 founders of No Labels, resigned from the group this year in protest over the group’s plan to run presidential candidates….Over Galston’s objections, No Labels began “in 2022 to explore the possibility of an independent bipartisan ticket,” he wrote in an email to me. He objected, he said, “not only because I thought this plan had no chance of succeeding but also because I believed that anything that could divide the anti-Trump coalition was too risky to undertake.”….Ultimately, Galston continued, he decided he “did not want to be associated with a venture that I believed (and continue to believe) will increase Donald Trump’s chances of re-entering the Oval Office.”….I asked Fred Wertheimer, the founder and president of Democracy 21, a campaign-finance-reform organization, for his assessment. “In my view,” he replied, “when No Labels started qualifying in various states to be on the ballot to run a presidential candidate, they were functioning as a political organization under I.R.S. law and should have registered as such under section 527 of the I.R.S. code and disclosed their donors.”

Biden, Trump and Young Voters

I decided to add my analytical two cents at New York to the political topic many Democrats are worried about right now: the direction of the youth vote.

Until recently, Democrats’ biggest concern about the 2024 youth vote was that millennial and Gen-Z voters were so disappointed with our octogenarian president that they might not turn out in great enough numbers to reelect Joe Biden. Young voters were, after all, the largest and most rapidly growing segment of the Democratic base in the last election. But now public-opinion surveys are beginning to unveil a far more terrifying possibility: Donald Trump could carry the youth vote next year. And even if that threat is exaggerated or reversible, it’s increasingly clear that “the kids” may be swing voters, not unenthusiastic Democratic base voters who can be frightened into turning out by the prospect of Trump’s return.

NBC News reports it’s a polling trend that cannot be ignored or dismissed:

“The latest national NBC News poll finds President Joe Biden trailing former President Donald Trump among young voters ages 18 to 34 — with Trump getting support from 46% of these young voters and Biden getting 42%. …

“CNN’s recent national poll had Trump ahead of Biden by 1 point among voters ages 18 to 34.

“Quinnipiac University had Biden ahead by 9 points in that subgroup.

“The national Fox News poll had Biden up 7 points among that age group.

“And the recent New York Times/Siena College battleground state polling had Biden ahead by just 1 point among voters ages 18 to 34.”

According to Pew’s validated voters analysis (which is a lot more precise than exit polls), Biden won under-30 voters by a 59 percent to 35 percent margin in 2020. Biden actually won the next age cohort, voters 30 to 49 years old, by a 55 percent to 43 percent margin. In 2016, Pew reports, Hillary Clinton won under-30 voters by a 58 percent to 28 percent margin, and voters 30 to 44 by 51 percent to 40 percent.

So one baby-boomer Democrat and one silent-generation Democrat kicked Trump’s butt among younger voters, despite the fact that both of them had their butts kicked among younger primary voters by Bernie Sanders. It’s these sort of numbers that led to a lot of optimistic talk about younger-generation voters finally building the durable Democratic majority that had eluded the party for so many years.

What’s gone wrong?

For one thing, it’s important to note that yesterday’s younger voters aren’t today’s, as Nate Silver reminds us:

“Fully a third of voters in the age 18-29 bracket in the 2020 election (everyone aged 26 or older) will have aged out of it by 2024, as will two-thirds of the age 18-to-29 voters from the 2016 election and all of them from 2012. So if you’re inclined to think something like “gee, did all those young voters who backed the Obama-Biden ticket in 2012 really turn on Biden now?”, stop doing that. Those voters are now in the 30-to-41 age bracket instead.”

But even within relatively recent groups of young voters, there are plenty of micro- and macro-level explanations available for changing allegiances. Young voters share the national unhappiness with the performance of the economy; many are particularly afflicted by high basic-living costs and higher interest rates that make buying a home or even a car unusually difficult. Some of them are angry at Biden for his inability (mostly thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court) to cancel student-loan debts. And most notoriously, young voters are least likely to share Biden’s strong identification with Israel in its ongoing war with Hamas (a new NBC poll shows 70 percent of 18-to-34-year-old voters disapprove of Biden’s handling of the war).

More generally, intergenerational trust issues are inevitably reflected in perceptions of the president who is turning 81 this week, as youth-vote expert John Della Volpe recently explained:

“Today many young people see wars, problems and mistakes originating from the older generations in top positions of power and trickling down to harm those most vulnerable and least equipped to protect themselves. This is the fabric that connects so many young people today, regardless of ideology. This new generation of empowered voters is therefore asking across a host of issues: If not now, then when is the time for a new approach?”

All of these factors help explain why younger voters have soured on Uncle Joe and might be open to independent or minor-party candidates (e.g., Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Cornel WestJill Stein, or a possible No Labels candidate). But they don’t cast as much light on why these same voters might ultimately cast a ballot for Donald Trump.

Trump is less than four years younger than Biden and is about as un-hip an oldster as one can imagine. He’s responsible for the destruction of federal abortion rights, a deeply unpopular development among youth voters (post-election surveys in 2022 showed abortion was the No. 1 issue among under-30 voters; 72 percent of them favored keeping abortion legal in all or most cases). His reputation for racism, sexism, and xenophobia ought to make him anathema to voters for whom the slogan “Make America Great Again” doesn’t have much personal resonance. And indeed, young voters have some serious issues with the 45th president, even beyond the subject of abortion. In the recent New York Times–Siena battleground state poll that showed Trump and Biden about even among under-30 voters, fully 64 percent of these same voters opposed “making it harder for migrants at the southern border to seek asylum in the United States,” a signature Trump position if ever there was one.

At the same time, under-30 voters in the Times-Siena survey said they trusted Trump more on the Israel-Hamas conflict than Biden by a robust 49 percent to 39 percent margin. The 45th president, needless to say, has never shown any sympathy for the Palestinian plight. And despite the ups and downs in his personal relationship to Bibi Netanyahu, he was as close an ally to Israel’s Likud Party as you could imagine (among other things, Trump reversed a long-standing U.S. position treating Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank as a violation of international law and also moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a gesture of great contempt toward Palestinian statehood). His major policy response to the present war has been to propose a revival of the Muslim travel ban the courts prevented him from implementing during his first term.

But perceptions often differ sharply from reality. Sixty-two percent of 18-to-29-year-old and 61 percent of 40-to-44-year-old voters said they trusted Trump more than Biden on the economy in the Times-Siena survey. It’s unclear whether these voters have the sort of hazy positive memories of the economy under Trump that older cohorts seem to be experiencing or if they instead simply find the status quo intolerable.

In any event, the estrangement of young voters provides the most urgent evidence of all that Team Biden and its party need to remind voters aggressively about Trump’s full-spectrum unfitness for another term in the White House. Aside from his deeply reactionary position on abortion and other cultural issues, and his savage attitude toward immigrants, Trump’s economic-policy history shows him prioritizing tax cuts for higher earners and exhibiting hostility to student-loan-debt relief (which he has called “very unfair to the millions and millions of people who paid their debt through hard work and diligence”). Smoking out the 45th president on what “Trumponomics” might mean for young and nonwhite Americans should become at least as central to the Biden reelection strategy as improving the reputation of “Bidenomics.” And without question, Democrats who may be divided on the Israel-Hamas war should stop fighting each other long enough to make it clear that Republicans (including Trump) would lead cheers for the permanent Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank while agitating for war with Iran.

There’s no world in which Donald Trump should be the preferred presidential candidate of young voters. But it will require serious work by Team Biden not only to turn these voters against the embodiment of their worst nightmares but to get them involved in the effort to keep him away from power.