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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

At Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Alan I. Abramowitz crunches data from major political polls and shares some observations regarding ‘negative partisanship,’ including: “What is perhaps even more surprising than Trump’s domination of the Republican nomination contest is his continued competitiveness in a potential general election matchup with President Biden. Despite all of the criminal charges filed against him, Trump remains locked in a near dead heat with Biden, receiving an average of 43.7% of the vote compared with 44.2% for Biden according to the most recent RealClearPolitics polling average…..the key to understanding both Donald Trump’s domination of the Republican nomination contest and his continued competitiveness in a general election matchup with Joe Biden is negative partisanship. Negative partisanship refers to the growing dislike of the opposing party and its leaders among voters who identify with or lean toward one of the two major parties in the U.S….One of the most important consequences of negative partisanship is that crossing party lines to support a candidate from the opposing party has become totally unacceptable to the large majority of partisans. As a result, defection rates by partisans have declined dramatically in all types of elections, and especially in presidential elections….There is one interesting difference between the ratings given by Democrats and Republicans to their own party’s leader: 16% of Republicans rated Donald Trump below 35 degrees while only 8% of Democrats rated Joe Biden below 35 degrees. These numbers suggest that a somewhat larger share of Republicans than Democrats had serious reservations about the frontrunner for their party’s 2024 presidential nomination….it appears likely that a rematch between Biden and Trump in 2024 will remain highly competitive with the outcome hinging on a small number of swing voters in a handful of closely contested states — an outcome that could lend itself to attacks on the integrity of the election by the former president and his allies.”

In his article, ““What’s the Matter With Florida? The GOP’s doomed war against higher ed,” James Fallows writes at The Washington Monthly: “Community colleges are an exception to the partisan divide over higher ed. According to the New America survey, some 85 percent of Americans, a majority in both parties, believe that community colleges are succeeding in their main role, which is to match people who need opportunities with the opportunities a continually changing economy can open up. As for research universities, their role in spinning off innovations and businesses has been evident from the time of the land grant universities onward. “Researchers estimate that for each new patent awarded to a college, 15 jobs are created in the local economy,” Fischer writes. If you want to boost your region’s economy, the best step would be to establish a research university there 100 years ago. The second-best step would be not to drive that university’s students and faculty away now….In the biggest sense, colleges and universities are increasingly the key to community and regional success. But, as Charlie Mahtesian recently pointed out in Politico, they’re also an electoral threat to a Republican Party seen as anti-knowledge….What’s the matter with Florida at the moment might boil down to Ron DeSantis, and his crass willingness to sacrifice his state’s future to his own culture war campaign. What’s the matter with the GOP’s larger anti-education campaign is that it can do a lot of damage before it ultimately fails….It will fail because it’s based on a losing bet—that a party can permanently ride the grievances of a shrinking minority—and because it’s at odds with the long-term sources of economic, cultural, and civic development. Someday historians will see the anti-college campaign as the death throes of a doomed movement, like the last stages of the Know-Nothing Party in the 1850s.”

Fallows also has some suggestions for “college community—leaders, teachers, neighbors, students,” also good advice for Democratic campaigns to: “Never pull up the ladders. Keep talking about a bigger tent. Yes, these are two different images, and clichés. But they embrace one crucial reality: Even people who “don’t like” colleges mostly dream that their children and grandchildren will go to one. I don’t have New America polling data to back this up. But I do have nearly a decade of traveling smaller-town America with my wife, Deb, talking mostly with people who themselves lacked college degrees. And this is the story the Monthly’s improved college rankings have told….Ask people what they don’t like about the weirdos and lefties who now run colleges and they’ll tell you—as their grandparents might have complained about the weirdo hippies at Berkeley in the 1960s, and their grandparents might have grumbled about the privileged, prissy “college boys” in the era of Stover at Yale. But ask them what they hope for their own grandchildren, and the doors opened by higher education are almost always high on the list….Colleges need to present themselves as holding the doors open, expanding the tent, making sure the ladders are available to people who couldn’t reach them before. Making college sustainably affordable is obviously number one on this list. Number two is making people aware that 99 percent of American colleges are not Darwinian struggles-for-survival in the admissions process but in fact have room for nearly all. Colleges have often portrayed themselves as citadels, and with reason. For now they should emphasize their nearness and accessibility, not their distance from normal life….The Republican war on colleges boils down to the idea that colleges are them—one more object of suspicion, resentment, riling-up, and punishment….America’s higher ed establishment should show day by day why the colleges view America, and the larger public should view America’s colleges, as crucial parts of us.” Of all the discontents felt by Trump’s working-class voters, the limited opportunities for affordable higher education for their kids has to be a leading concern. President Biden’s initiatives to make college and vocational education affordable for all young people are a good start. He and Democrats should push these initiatives louder and harder.

In “A New Poll Has Bad News for the Guy Who Keeps Getting Indicted,” Josh Marshall shares some thoughts at Talking Points Memo on recent polling showing how the public feels about Trump’s legal woes. As Marshall writes, “There’s a new poll out from Politico Magazine/Ipsos the results of which are straight out of Obviousville. But surprisingly few people ever go to Obviousville. So those results are worth discussing. The central finding is that the parade of criminal charges against Donald Trump are not in fact good news, politically or individually, for Donald Trump. More specifically, majorities (albeit bare ones) of Americans want his trials to be held before the election (61%), believe he’s guilty (51%) and believe he should go to prison if convicted (50%)….Critically, Politico notes that a substantial minority of the population (between a quarter and a third) says they’re not that familiar with the charges against Trump. Since the charges – especially those in the Mar-a-Lago case – are quite strong as an evidentiary matter that suggests there’s plenty of room for things to get worse for Trump….For all this, what struck me most in the poll is below the top lines. These 50% or 51% results suggest the same old split down the middle polarization we’re accustomed to. But that’s not quite it. 51% believe Trump is guilty. 26% believe he’s not. That’s pretty lopsided. 22% say they don’t know. 50% say Trump should go to prison if he’s convicted. 18% say he shouldn’t be penalized. The rest are split between probation and some financial penalty….If you step back and ask how many respondents buy what we might call the Republican public line – that Trump’s innocent and the prosecutions are an abuse of power – only a bit over 20% of the population seem to buy that….My hunch is that a substantial part of the ‘don’t know’ group is based on what we might call willed partisan uncertainty. In other words, people who really don’t want Trump to be guilty and are uncomfortable with what would seem to flow from that judgment. But they also can’t square the facts with any belief that he’s innocent. When push comes to shove partisanship has a way of shaping not only our opinions but also how we interpret the facts. I suspect partisanship will bring a significant proportion of those people around.”

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