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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In his New York Times column, “When Their Idea of Liberty Is Your Idea of Death,” Thomas B. Edsall discusses the “partisan battle to claim ownership of the ideal of freedom,” and shares insights Democrats can use in their talking points, but also a couple of warnings for Democrats and President Biden. Edsall writes, ” Isabel V. Sawhill, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, proposed in an email that Biden and the Democratic Party are well positioned to claim the freedom mantle:

I want to suggest two reasons why this focus may not only be warranted but also have great appeal. The first is the battle over abortion rights. The second is the new attitude of Republicans toward the business community.

On abortion, she continued, “I would argue that the ability to choose whether or not to have a child is a fundamental right,” adding her belief that:

Before the Dobbs decision, we had found a workable compromise on this issue: no or limited abortions after fetal viability around 24 weeks. But the kind of six-week limit that is now the law in Florida and Georgia, not to mention the total ban in 14 other states, is an almost complete abrogation of the rights of women.

On the treatment of business, Sawhill wrote: “Republicans have always been the party of corporate America, dedicated to limiting regulation and keeping taxes low. Gov. DeSantis’s attack on Disney and other so-called ‘woke’ companies is beginning to undermine the party’s reputation.”….The bottom line, she concluded, was that “when Democrats talk about freedom, it’s not just rhetoric. There is substance behind the message.”

However, Edsall also quotes William A. Galston, who warns, ““for much of the 20th century, progressives took the lead in both defining freedom and advancing its borders.”….From Teddy Roosevelt’s expansion of “the 19th-century laissez-faire conception of freedom to include the liberties of workers and entrepreneurs to get ahead in the world” to F.D.R.’s redefinition “to include social protection from the ills of want and fear,” to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s appeal to a “civil and political freedom that included all Americans,” Galston maintains that liberals have successfully argued that freedom often can “be advanced only through the vigorous actions of government.”….Liberals began to lose command of freedom in the 1960s, Galston concludes:

What began honorably in the early 1960s as the effort to expand freedom of speech and self-fulfillment was transformed just a decade later into an antinomian conception of freedom as liberation from all restraint. Enthusiasts could no longer distinguish between liberty and license, and so lost touch with the moral concerns of average citizens, especially parents struggling to raise their children in what they saw as a culture increasingly inhospitable to decency and self-restraint.

“As progressives abandoned the discourse of freedom,” Galston writes, “conservatives were more than ready to claim it.”….I asked Galston whether he stood by what he wrote 18 years ago. He replied by email:

Mostly, but some of it is dated. I did not anticipate that a commitment to fairness and equality of results would morph into a culture of intolerance on college campuses and other areas where a critical mass of progressives has been reached.

Regarding the much-cited ABC-Washington Post poll showing President Biden in deep doo-doo, Ed Kilgore has an insightful critique of the poll at New York magazine. Also check out “What the New Poll Favoring Trump Got Wrong and the Pundits Missed” by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and Steven Tian  at Time magazine, who write: “Of course, political professional point out, polls done this far out have little value, and much can and will change in eighteen months by November 2024. In fact, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama are just three recent presidents who rebounded from comparable sagging public polls to ultimately win 18 months later. We acknowledge the polling around 40 percent favorability is nothing for the Biden Administration to gloat over, however, according to the Gallup Poll, it is consistent with almost all the seven prior presidents at this time except for President H.W. Bush following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and President George W. Bush following the 9/11 attack on the U.S. In fact, George H.W. Bush enjoyed a 73% favorability in September 1990 but then went on to lose his reelection to Bill Clinton….In fact, there are piles of contrasting polls. There are some polls where Trump beats Biden – such as the right-leaning Rasmussen polls and Stagwell’s Harris Poll. Trump has consistently dominated across both polls dating back years. But most major opinion polls, on average, Biden leads Trump by 2 percent, including recent polls done by Yahoo News, The Wall Street Journal, Quinnipiac University, and Morning Consult among many others. Even Rupert Murdoch’s right-leaning New York Post grudgingly concedes that “Biden beats Trump big” across early polling….Pollster Cornel Belcher commented “The poll really is trash, and I don’t say that lightly because I’ve had respect for their polling in the past.”

From “Not Biden vs. Trump Again! The Disgruntled Voters Who Could Decide the 2024 Election” by Alan I. Abramowitz at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Most Americans do not want to see a rematch between Joe Biden and Donald Trump in 2024. Both Biden and Trump are viewed unfavorably by a majority of voters. Nevertheless, there is a strong likelihood that Biden and Trump will be the Democratic and Republican candidates in 2024. In that case, a group of voters who currently favor “someone else” in 2024 may decide the outcome of the presidential election. These voters make up close to one-fifth of the electorate according to data from the 2022 ANES Pilot Study….According to the data from the ANES Pilot Study, Joe Biden would appear to have a small advantage over Donald Trump in a two-way contest: 51% of registered voters rated Biden more favorably than Trump while 47% rated Trump more favorably than Biden on a feeling thermometer scale. Among those who preferred “someone else” in 2024, 49% rated Biden more favorably while 44% rated Trump more favorably….A plurality of voters who prefer someone other than Trump or Biden in 2024 identify as conservative and identify with or lean toward the Republican Party. The key factor driving these voters toward Biden appears to be their concern about the events of Jan. 6, 2021 and the former president’s role in inciting the riot at the U.S. Capitol….Given the unpopularity of both Biden and Trump, there would appear to be an opening for a third party or independent candidate in 2024 who would appeal to the substantial minority of voters, 15% in the ANES Pilot Study, who dislike both major-party candidates. In 2020, however, third party and independent candidates won less than 2% of the national popular vote. Whether any strong third party or independent candidates emerge in 2024 and, if so, which major party candidate’s support they cut into, may well decide the outcome of the presidential election.”

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