washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


A Shift in Public Opinion About Trump’s ‘Criminality’?

An excerpt from “Public Opinion About Trump’s Criminality Is Shifting—a Bit” by John Cassidy at the New Yorker:

Will the accumulation of charges and evidence, and maybe even actual trials, gradually turn opinion decisively against the former President, especially among voters who aren’t highly partisan? Will things swing in his favor? Or will things stay where they are now, with views highly polarized on partisan lines?

In thinking about these questions, a good place to start is the latest opinion survey from Bright Line Watch, a group of political scientists that monitors threats to democracy. The survey, which was published last week, was carried out before the latest charges against Trump were filed. On the face of things, it confirmed the familiar picture that, when it comes to anything having to do with the former President, universally acknowledged truths hardly exist. Fewer than one in six Republican voters said they believed that Trump had committed crimes in trying to overturn the 2020 election, in his actions before the January 6th riots, or in making hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels. A few more Republicans said they believed that he committed a crime in the classified-documents case, but the total was still only one in four. By contrast, at least three in four Democrats believe that Trump committed crimes in each of these instances, the results indicated.

Among self-identified independents who don’t lean toward either party, the survey yielded more ambiguous results. Fewer than half of these respondents—between thirty-seven per cent and forty-six per cent, depending on the specific cases—said they believed that Trump had committed a crime. And about half of these respondents said that the charges were politically motivated. But, although these findings seem encouraging for Trump and his supporters, the survey also found that the number of independents who believe that Trump has done something criminal is growing, especially in relation to the classified-documents case. In a Bright Line Watch survey carried out last October, thirty-four per cent of independents said that a crime had been committed in that case. In the latest poll, that number had grown to forty-six per cent.

This suggests that, as prosecutors release more details of the charges and evidence against Trump, opinion is slowly shifting against him among less partisan voters. The survey even showed evidence of movement among Republicans. Since last October, the percentage of Republicans who said they believed that Trump had committed a crime in handling classified documents rose fromnine to twenty-five. “We have to keep two things in mind at the same time,” Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist at Dartmouth who co-founded Bright Line Watch, told me on Monday. “On the one hand, the public is incredibly polarized on these cases. On the other hand, the new evidence does seem to be moving the needle.”

In a world of filter bubbles and willful propagating of misinformation, this shift can be viewed as an encouraging development. It’s evident in other recent polls, too. Last week, a survey from NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College indicated that the percentage of Republicans who believe that Trump has “done nothing wrong” has dropped from fifty per cent to forty-one per cent since June. Evidently, public opinion isn’t set in stone. “Even among Republicans, it does seem like information is being taken in,” Nyhan noted.

However, he emphasized that there were two caveats to this interpretation. Regardless of Republicans’ views about the charges against Trump, there is still no evidence in the Bright Line survey that large numbers of G.O.P. voters will refuse to support him, Nyhan said. This finding is confirmed by other polls: in a New York Times/Siena College poll that was released on Monday, seventy-one per cent of Republicans agreed with the statement that, in relation to the ongoing investigations, “Republicans need to stand behind Trump,” and fifty-eight percent said that they would vote for him in the primary if it were held today.

Nyhan’s second caveat was that the classified-documents case might be special, because the evidence attached to it is so vivid and compelling. In their indictments and other court documents, the federal prosecutors have included photographs of classified documents strewn around Trump’s compound at Mar-a-Lago, and statements from his own lawyers and employees. “I’m cautious about anticipating the same type of movement we’ve seen in the documents case in the 2020-election cases,” Nyhan said. “I think those cases may play as rehashing old issues and evidence that is familiar to people. If it comes down to secondhand accounts of complicated political events, it is easy enough to talk people into holding with their partisan preconceptions.”

Nyhan’s point is well-taken. Together with the recent survey findings, it underscores the importance of the special counsel Jack Smith and the Fulton County district attorney, Fani Willis, laying out compelling evidence if they indict Trump on charges relating to the 2020 election and January 6th. Regardless of how strong these cases are, they will never persuade Trump diehards. (When he remarked, in January, 2016, that voters would support him if he shot somebody in the middle of Fifth Avenue, he was right.) But there is now at least some evidence that the public at large is more open to reason and evidence. With the next act of the Trump story set to unfold, this offers some ground for cautious optimism.”

Will Dip in Black Voter Turnout Imperil Biden?

The following article by Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent, is cross-posted from The Seattle Medium:

Democrats are increasingly worried about a potential drop in Black voter turnout next year, particularly among Black men, their most loyal constituency, who played a pivotal role in securing President Biden’s victory in 2020 and are crucial to his bid for reelection.

The Washington Post analyzed the Census Bureau’s turnout survey and found that Black voter turnout saw a significant ten percentage-point decline in last year’s midterms compared to 2018, a more substantial drop than among any other racial or ethnic group.

While Democrats initially downplayed these warning signals due to other victories in 2022, such as gaining a U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania and Senator Raphael G. Warnock’s reelection in Georgia, the decline in Black turnout has become a significant concern for the party as they look ahead to the next presidential contest in 2024.

States like Georgia, which are crucial to Democrats’ strategy for mobilizing Black voters in significant numbers, saw lower turnout among younger and male Black voters in the midterms, according to internal party analysis.

W. Mondale Robinson, the founder of the Black Male Voter Project, highlighted the urgent turnout problem among Black men, telling the Post that many are “sporadic or non-voters” registered but haven’t voted in recent presidential elections.

He expressed disappointment that the Democratic Party seems more focused on converting conservative-leaning white women in the suburbs, considering Black men as potential swing voters who need targeted efforts to be mobilized.

In response to the growing concern, Biden’s political team acknowledged the issue and pledged to act, especially among younger Black men.

Cedric L. Richmond, a former Biden adviser now serving as a senior adviser at the Democratic National Committee, emphasized to the Post’s researchers the need to connect with Black voters, highlighting the benefits they have received from Biden administration policies.

The party aims to learn from past shortcomings and draw explicit connections between its policies and the well-being of Black communities.

The challenge is particularly acute among Black men who often feel alienated from the political process due to historical policies that increased incarceration and job losses in manufacturing sectors.

Many express disillusionment after experiencing upheaval from a global pandemic and witnessing escalating violence in urban areas.

To win their support, Democrats must focus on highlighting specific policy benefits rather than solely concentrating on criticism of former President Trump and Republican extremism, the analysts found.

Despite Black women historically showing more robust voting enthusiasm, concerns over Black voter turnout also extend to this group.

Biden’s reelection garnered a tepid reaction in a Washington Post/Ipsos poll of Black Americans, with only 17 percent expressing enthusiasm about another term. The poll also revealed that most Black Americans wouldn’t consider voting for Trump, but a significant portion is not enthusiastic about Biden’s reelection.

Terrance Woodbury, chief executive of HIT Strategies, a polling firm focused on young, non-white voters, warned liberal groups of the urgency to convince Black voters that they have benefited from Biden’s time in office.

The messaging needs to shift from attacking Trump to emphasizing policy benefits and addressing the belief among Black Americans that their votes don’t matter—a significant barrier to voter participation.

Brittany Smith, executive director of the Philadelphia-based Black Leadership PAC, which mobilizes Black voters, said she has noticed a shift in how Black people respond to get-out-the-vote efforts.

Also, as much as Biden has praised Black voters and the Black Press, the campaign has done little thus far to utilize Black-owned newspapers and media companies to help reach African Americans.

“Everybody knows that there’s no path, whether it’s President Biden or any other Democrat, federal or state, there’s no path to win that does not involve massive turnout from Black voters,” Cliff Albright, co-founder and executive director of Black Votes Matter, told the Post.

“But they can’t just think that it’s just going to happen on its own. They’ve got to invest in making that happen.”

Teixeira: Voters Who Dislike Both Trump and Biden May Decide ’24 Outcome

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

Back in 2016, neither Trump nor Clinton were widely liked. But Trump got some important help among a key group that amounted to about a fifth of voters: those who didn’t like either of them. Trump’s advantage among these “double haters” helped him win the presidency. This cycle a key role will likely be played by a similar group, also amounting to about a fifth of voters: those who like neither Trump nor Biden.

These “double haters” at this point seem to lean toward Biden. But closer scrutiny of this group, afforded by a 6,000 person survey from the Survey Center on American Life (SCAL), suggests Democrats’ hold on this group is not at all secure. First, while the SCAL survey also finds that double haters lean toward Biden against Trump, a matchup of Biden against DeSantis finds the same group leaning toward DeSantis and even more heavily. So the Biden support here is quite soft.

Moreover, a huge swathe of these double haters—about 40 percent—at this point are noncommittal when asked to choose between Biden and Trump. This group, like double haters in general, displays jaundiced attitudes toward both parties in most areas. But there are some notable divergences in these attitudes that indicate considerable vulnerability for Biden and the Democrats. Consider the following.

  1. Undecided double haters consider both parties “too extreme” but more (59 percent) think that about the Democrats than think that about the Republicans (54 percent).
  2. Among this group, a mere 28 percent think the Democratic Party “shares my values;” a considerably larger share (42 percent) think Republicans share their values.
  3. About half think the Democrats “look down on people like me”. Less (42 percent) feel that way about the Republicans.
  4. Just 36 percent think Democrats “look out for the working class” compared to 45 percent who think that about the Republicans.
  5. On patriotism and valuing hard work, attitudes toward the parties are essentially inversions of each other. By 63 to 37 percent, undecided double haters say “patriotic” does not describe the Democratic Party. But by 59 to 41 percent they say patriotic does describe the Republicans. Similarly, by 60 to 40 percent, they say “values hard work” does not describe the Democrats. In stark contrast, by 64-36 percent, they believe Republicans do value hard work.

Democrats’ vulnerability is underscored by views among this group on contentious issues dividing Republicans and Democrats. Take the issue of racism in our society. Is racism “built into our society, including into its policies and institutions”, as Democrats contend, or does racism “come from individuals who hold racist views, not from our society and institutions?” In the SCAL survey, by 64 to 34 percent, our undecided double haters chose the latter view, that racism comes from individuals, not society.

Or consider the question of transgender athletes participating in team sports. Should “transgender athletes… be able to play on sports teams that match their current gender identity” or should they “only be allowed to play on sports teams that match their birth gender?” By a staggering 75 to 20 percent, those who dislike both Trump and Biden but currently can’t choose between them, choose the second option, that sports team participation should be determined by birth gender.

The same pattern can be observed on issues ranging from the funding of police departments to the “greatness of America” to the continued use of fossil fuels: views associated with the Republicans are much more popular with this swing group than those associated with the Democrats. On the latter issue, when given a choice between the country using “a mix of energy sources including oil, coal and natural gas along with renewable energy sources” and the current Democratic approach, phasing “out the use of oil, coal and natural gas completely, relying instead on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power only”, they endorse the continued use of fossil fuels by a thumping 80 to 20 percent.

All this suggests Democrats have much work to do—and Republicans have considerable opportunity to take advantage of their vulnerablities. Right now, Plan A for the Democrats seems to rely on the projected success of “Bidenomics,” along with an intransigent refusal to compromise on cultural and green issues beloved by the party’s liberals and aggressive attacks on Republicans as racist reactionaries, if not fascists. The success of Bidenomics, especially as it might translate into a sunny mood about the economy among voters, remains speculative. That puts a lot of weight on the intransigent refusal and aggressive attacks part of the strategy.

Certainly Democrats can point to issues like abortion where Democrats do have an advantage, even with the swing group discussed here. But perhaps they should consider a Plan B, where the success of the Bidenomics pitch is not assumed and compromise is not anathematized. As I have argued previously, Democrats have generally dealt with culturally-freighted issues by some combination of ignore(change the subject) and attack (our opponents are hateful bigots who want to roast the planet). The latter now seems like the preferred Democratic approach. But there is a third way, if you will, that would fit nicely into a Plan B.

That approach is to defuse. This means moving aggressively to neutralize vulnerabilities in cultural areas by (a) dissociating the party from extreme positions in their own ranks; and (b) embracing a common-sense approach to these issues which typically aligns well with both Democratic values and public opinion.

The defuse approach relieves Democrats of the need to defend a multitude of unpopular, controversial practices—thereby giving voters the impression that Democrats are unwilling to draw any lines anywhere against the activist left—and allows them instead to occupy the moral and policy high ground against Republican attacks on common-sense moderation. That’s way better than the situation they currently find themselves in on many cultural issues where the Democratic image is defined by the most leftward position pushed by activists.

In the hand-to-hand combat likely to define the 2024 election, Democrats can ill afford to leave any swing voter behind. They should accept the fact that many, many voters are likely to dislike both Trump and their own standard-bearer. A little compromise is a fair price to pay for reaching more of these voters and having a better chance of victory—especially when we consider what the price of losing might be.

Where it’s Harder and Easier to Vote for Democrats

Nathaniel Rakich reports “16 States Made It Harder To Vote This Year. But 26 Made It Easier” at FiveThirtyEight, and writes:

Two years ago, the biggest battles in state legislatures were over voting rights. Democrats loudly — and sometimes literally — protested as Republicans passed new voting restrictions in states like Georgia, Florida and Texas. This year, attention has shifted to other hot-button issues, but the fight over the franchise has continued. Republicans have enacted dozens of laws this year that will make it harder for some people to vote in future elections.

But this year, voting-rights advocates got some significant wins too: States — controlled by Democrats and Republicans — have enacted more than twice as many laws expanding voting rights as restricting them, although the most comprehensive voter-protection laws passed in blue states. In all, 39 states and Washington, D.C., have changed their election laws in some way this year….

Some political commentators have argued that making it harder to vote matters less than the integrity of vote counting. Although Republicans are louder complainers about vote theft, Democrats may have more reason for concern. Indeed, since both Trump and Putin are heavily-invested in Trump winning the presidency in 2024, it’s hard to imagine their minions not doing whatever they can to corrupt the count.

But no political commentators have provided a persuasive analysis that Democrats should simply ignore voter suppression, although there are legitimate questions about the amount of resources to commit to fighting against it. Rakich continues,

….According to data from the Voting Rights Lab, a pro-voting-rights organization that tracks election-law legislation, state legislators introduced 566 bills restricting voter access or election administration that year, 53 of which were enacted. This year hasn’t been quite so busy, but as of July 21, 366 laws with voting restrictions had been proposed and 29 had been enacted.

All but one of those 29 new laws1 came in states where Republicans have full control of the lawmaking process: Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana,2 Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming. Five of the laws include provisions that tighten voter-ID requirements, 11 include provisions that interfere with election administration and 13 have at least one provision that targets mail voting.

For Democrats the most worrisome state has to be Georgia in terms of presidential electoral votes, since Trump won all of the others in 2020. But Democrats could lose even more Senate and House of Reps seats in the other states through voter suppression and partisan redistricting.

But there is good news for Democrats in terms of recent electoral reforms, as Rakich notes:

….As of July 21, according to the Voting Rights Lab, 834 bills had been introduced so far this year expanding voting rights, and 64 had been enacted. What’s more, these laws are passing in states of all hues. Democratic-controlled jurisdictions (Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island and Washington) enacted 33 of these new laws containing voting-rights expansions, but Republican-controlled states (Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming) were responsible for 23 of them. The remaining eight became law in states where the two parties share power (Nevada, Pennsylvania and Virginia).

Events permitting, Democrats should be able to pick up at least a few House seats in 2024, thanks to these reforms. The Senate is a bit trickier to suss out.  The caveat, according to Rakich: “That said, not all election laws are created equal, and the most comprehensive expansive laws passed in blue states.” In any case, hard-fought battles over redistricting will continue into the foreseeable future.

Clearly, there is every reason for Democrats to strengthen their state parties as an essential precondition to building a working majority in congress.

Levison: 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

The following article by TDS Contributing Editor Andrew Levison, author of The White Working Class Today: Who They Are, How They Think and How Progressives Can Regain Their Support, is cross-posted from a TDS strategy memo:

The current debate over the country song “Don’t Try That in a Small Town” is, on the surface, straightforward. The song begins by listing outrages that are presumably common in big cities:

Sucker punch somebody on a sidewalk

Carjack an old lady at a red light

Pull a gun on the owner of a liquor store…

Cuss out a cop, spit in his face

Stomp on the flag and light it up

In the video version of the song, these acts are illustrated with particularly lurid news footage of urban crime and inner-city/Antifa rioting.

The song then proceeds to warn outsiders what will happen if they try to do such things in a small town.

Got a gun that my granddad gave me…

Around here, we take care of our own

Full of good ol’ boys, raised up right

If you’re looking for a fight

Try that in a small town.

For progressives and Democrats the extremist message is entirely clear and unambiguous. It is a blunt threat of vigilante violence against any outsiders—implicitly African-Americans and radicals—who are foolish enough to try to engage in such behavior in small town America.

In fact, critics of the video note that many extremists are aware that the town where the video as filmed has a documented racist past that includes the near-lynching of Thurgood Marshall.

The progressive commentary thus simply interprets the video as a shockingly overt call to vigilante violence which clearly justifies the demand that it should not be promoted.1



But there is a problem. If the strategy behind the song were simply to issue an overt extremist challenge to non-extremist America the singer would proudly stand behind the song’s message and assert his open support for right-wing vigilante action. What he actually does, however, is quite the opposite – he issues a plaintive claim that he is being misinterpreted:

In the past 24 hours I have been accused of releasing a pro-lynching song… [But] there is not a single lyric in the song that references race or points to it – and there isn’t a single video clip that isn’t real news footage.. “Try That In A Small Town”, for me, refers to the feeling of a community that I had growing up, where we took care of our neighbors, regardless of differences of background or belief. Because they were our neighbors, and that was above any differences.2

For progressives, this defense is so patently absurd that it fails the laugh test. Pictures of masked youths robbing grocery stores or urban rioting clearly invokes race and whether the video clips are authentic or not is a complete non sequitur. Equally, the notion that people in small towns “took care of their neighbors regardless of differences in background” is beyond absurd for anyone with even the most cursory knowledge of life in the segregationist south. As a result, Democrats easily conclude the defense can be dismissed out of hand.

But this is where the trap occurs. The audience that the extremists are addressing is not sophisticated Democrats. Their real audience is non-extremist Republicans, many of whom were born after the 1970’s and have a very limited understanding of the pre-civil rights period. Yes they know that their parents still used the N-word at home when they were growing up and they were aware of the unspoken racial attitudes in the community. But they do not think that robbery and anti-police rioting are legitimate protest or that denouncing them is racist—and they cannot conceivably understand why Democrats seem to believe that they are.

Indeed to them, the simpering excuse of the singer does not actually seem patently absurd. It reflects their own hazy understanding of the past and supports the extremists’ continual whining that they are being censored which fits into the broader narrative the extremist wing relentlessly promotes.

This is the trap into which Democrats regularly fall – rather than identifying with the majority of Americans against extremism, Democrats find themselves maneuvered into a situation where they seem to support and reinforce the extremists’ hyper-polarized view that the only choice is between a right-wing “us” against a left wing “them,” the latter opposing the values of most Americans and attempting to censor all opposition.

Extremists will use variations of this trap again and again in 2024 – clearly suggesting some extremist measure or action and then claiming that they are being misunderstood and unfairly censored when they are challenged (Trump regularly uses a variation of this strategy – suggesting an extremist measure and then claiming he was “just joking” while at the same time giving a sly wink to the extremist audience on the side).

To a significant degree Democrats have permitted this trap to be exploited by the GOP out of a misguided conception of solidarity with Black America which holds that ANY criticism of ANY action by ANY group of African-American activists or their allies is impermissible because it represents a betrayal of the entire Black community and the struggle for justice.

As various recent elections have shown, large numbers of African-Americans themselves do not accept this notion of solidarity.

For Democratic candidates the way out of this trap is to firmly identify with the non-extremist decent people in America who the extremists are trying to win.

A candidate’s statement would be something like this:

Let us be clear. Gunpoint robbery and violent rioting are crimes, not protest. No sensible person disagrees with this. But between that extreme and threats of vigilante action there is a right, moral road.

When George Floyd died millions—yes, millions—of white Americans joined with African Americans in peaceful, dignified protest in cities all across America. The films and photographs from those days that can be seen across the internet recorded the massive outpouring of opposition that rose up across the nation to the clear, utterly cruel and inexcusable death which the cameras clearly showed had occurred. The peaceful marchers walked with their children beside them to teach them the true American values – of freedom with justice for all, of the right of every American to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that is promised in the Declaration of Independence.

My friends, the choice that we face today is not a choice between extremism and chaos but between the decent values that most Americans hold dear and the values of those who reject them.

On election day I hope you will stand together with me and all of the decent, good people in America, in small towns and large cities and in every state across the nation, in standing up for the America we believe in.

Cox and Teixeira: The 2024 Presidential Election: Familiar Partisan Divisions Drive Evolving Political Coalitions

Daniel A. Cox and Ruy Teixeira have an article, “The 2024 Presidential Election: Evolving Political Coalitions and Familiar Partisan Divisions” up at the Survey Center on American Life of the American Enterprise Institute. Among their observations:

Political coalitions are complicated and fluid, and they evolve in response to emerging issues, political leaders, and public priorities. A new survey, conducted among more than 6,000 adults living in the United States by the Survey Center on American Life, a project of the American Enterprise Institute, reveals deep fissures currently dividing the American electorate and how they crosscut and define today’s Republican and Democratic parties.

The new survey, detailed below, finds an American public torn between optimism and pessimism for the country but, perhaps surprisingly, largely maintaining faith in the ability of individuals to attain the American dream. Less surprisingly, the public expresses far less confidence in current political leaders’ ability to put the country on the right course. Instead, the public is divided, both between and within parties, on what key priorities political leaders should address.

Despite the partisan rancor so prominent in our country today, supporters of both parties declare a preference for candidates who can appeal to moderate voters rather than remain consistently liberal or conservative. Moreover, when political parties have more moderate reputations, they are generally viewed more favorably than when they are operating at the ideological extremes.

In the early days of the 2024 presidential campaign, we find the probable candidates—Joe Biden on the Democratic side and Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis on the Republican side—to be fairly evenly matched in voters’ current preferences, and we reveal key weaknesses in the coalitions they would hope to assemble to support their candidacies.

However, at least at this early stage, DeSantis appears to be the somewhat stronger Republican challenger. Biden remains a weak incumbent, but his leading opponents have their own liabilities. For example, Biden is viewed without enthusiasm among young voters, a key Democratic constituency, while Trump appears to be losing support among one of his strongest previous constituencies: white evangelicals.

Cox and Teixeira review the data on “American Optimism and pessimism,” “The American Dream,” and “America’s Most Pressing problems.” Regarding the 2024 presidential election, they note:

Neither Biden nor Trump is especially well regarded by the American public. Roughly four in 10 Americans have favorable views of Biden and Trump (41 percent vs. 38 percent, respectively). A majority of Americans view the current and former presidents negatively. Sixty percent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of Trump, and 54 percent have an unfavorable view of Biden. However, Trump engenders much stronger negative feelings than Biden does. Nearly half (48 percent) of Americans have a “very unfavorable” view of Trump, compared to 38 percent with a correspondingly negative view of Biden.

Biden also has a slight advantage over Trump among partisans. Eighty percent of Democrats have a favorable view of Biden, while 75 percent of Republicans view Trump favorably. Nearly one in four (23 percent) Republicans have an unfavorable opinion of Trump. Fewer (18 percent) Democrats have an unfavorable opinion of Biden.

They analyze the Trump, Biden and DeSantis coalitions, and write:

Americans hold nearly identical views of the country’s primary political parties’ ideological profiles. Almost seven in 10 (66 percent) Americans believe the Democratic Party is liberal, including 37 percent who say the party is very liberal. Almost three-quarters (72 percent) of Americans say the Republican Party is conservative, including 39 percent who say the GOP is very conservative.

Not only do Americans have similar views about the ideological profiles of the Democratic and Republican parties, they generally agree about how the parties have changed over time. Sixty-seven percent of Americans believe the Democratic Party has become much more liberal (40 percent) or somewhat more liberal (27 percent) in recent years. Six in 10 (60 percent) Americans say the Republican Party has become much more conservative (37 percent) or somewhat more conservative (23 percent).

Cox and Teixeia probe the depth of divisions among various constituencies and conclude:

Our country is divided, but not hopelessly so. Faith in the American dream remains strong, and interest in partisan moderation is considerable. But the 2024 election seems likely to present Americans with a choice between candidates who fail to generate much enthusiasm outside of hard-core partisans. The findings in our survey suggest there are abundant opportunities for both parties to reshape political coalitions in their favor, even if they currently seem reluctant to step outside their comfort zones. These opportunities will be explored in depth in a forthcoming AEI report on the evolution of party coalitions from early American history to the present day.

This upcoming report will trace the evolution of American political coalitions from early American history through the current partisan stalemate. The core political dynamic of this period—close elections with power alternating between the parties—is unusual in a historical perspective and suggests a failure of the American party system. But it is likely also a phase that will pass and be replaced by one dominated by a relatively stable majority coalition. Either party may have a path to becoming that next majority. But for either party, that would require a greater awareness of the nature of its failure, which in turn requires a greater awareness of the modern evolution of the party coalitions, the changing demographics and priorities of the electorate, and what it takes to build a durable majority.

The authors have much more to say in this thoughtful and data-rich exploration of the 2024 presidential campaign 16 months from Election Day.

‘Freedom and Fairness’ Frame Can Lead Dems to Victory in 2024

Some nuggets mined from Colin Woodard’s article, “Liberty on the Ballot: How Biden’s freedom agenda could win him a second term and save the republic‘ at The Washington Monthly:

Joe Biden officially launched his reelection campaign in April with a three-minute video laying out the stakes in this election: the survival of the American experiment itself.

“The question we’re facing is whether in the years ahead, we have more freedom or less freedom. More rights or fewer. I know what I want the answer to be, and I think you do too,” the president said, as images flashed by at subliminal speeds of him speaking to union workers on a factory floor, in the Rose Garden, and at the opening of a new Amtrak railroad tunnel in Baltimore. “This is not a time to be complacent.”

….“Around the country, MAGA extremists are lining up to take on those bedrock freedoms … dictating what health care decisions women can make, banning books, and telling people who they can love, all while making it more difficult for you to be able to vote,” he added. Freedom is the most important and sacred thing to Americans, he said, and making sure we’re all given “a fair shot at making it” is essential to securing it.

Woodard continues, “An analysis of 2016 voters by the political scientist Lee Drutman showed that almost all of Trump’s general election supporters were conservative on social issues, but on the economic front they were split almost evenly between liberal and conservative tendencies. (The Obama voters who then chose Trump—about 9 million of them in 2016—were almost entirely economically liberal and socially conservative.)”

Woodard notes that “Two and a half years into his first term, Biden has racked up enough policy successes that he and his party have a shot at resetting the country….From June 2022 to April 2023, per capita income in America, after inflation, rose 3.6 percent—the highest real income growth in a quarter century. (Under Trump before the pandemic, it was 2.5 percent.)  Public opinion hasn’t caught up to this reality, which is not surprising—a similar lag occurred in the 1990s, when economically traumatized voters didn’t believe that positive developments would persist. Consequently, Biden’s job approval numbers on the economy remain low. If current trends continue, however, he’s likely to be in a stronger position with voters going into the November 2024 elections.” Further,

Still, to survive the coming GOP onslaught, Biden and the Democrats will need to talk about their past accomplishments and agenda for the future in terms that are persuasive to voters in the swing regions of the country.” Also, Woodard writes,

….Seven years ago, in American Character, I wrote that the American way—the set of political values shared by the vast majority of Americans—is about pursuing happiness through a free and fair competition between individuals and the ideas, output, and institutions they produce. If someone becomes fantastically rich through hard work or brilliant innovation, most Americans applaud them. If they squander their opportunities by greed, sloth, or indulgence, most Americans have little sympathy. Rightly or wrongly, we Americans have great faith that when individuals are so freed, their aggregate actions will contribute to the creation and sustenance of a happy, healthy, and adaptable society, one responsive to change and inhospitable to the seeds of tyranny: ignorance, hopelessness, fear, and persecution….

….The freedom-and-fairness agenda isn’t about a government handout or hand up, or a plutocracy’s resources trickling down; it’s about the government having your back as you make your way in the world (if you’re not one of the 0.1 percent at the top) or keeping your power in check (if you are). As Americans, we’re committed to defending each other’s equal moral right to pursuit happiness, participate in our politics, and not be tyrannized, which is why government should vigorously respond to discrimination and disenfranchisement.

Biden and his party have a record of policy achievements that beautifully match this freedom-and-fairness creed. The administration, for instance, has begun reversing four decades of lax federal antitrust enforcement that has allowed corporations in a few big metro areas to monopolize much of the economy and has narrowed freedom and opportunity for entrepreneurs, employees, and smaller cities and towns in the middle of the country. The administration has blocked airline mergers that would have raised ticket prices and reduced choices for travelers, sued Google for cornering digital ad revenues and thereby killing off local news outlets that average Americans trust, and proposed a ban on “noncompete” agreements that rob employees of the ability to negotiate higher wages by seeking jobs at rival firms. At times, the president has discussed his antitrust actions in eloquent freedom-and-fairness language. “Capitalism without competition is not capitalism,” he said in his 2023 State of the Union address. “It is exploitation.”

Biden and the Democrats have other big achievements to brag about, but so far they haven’t consistently done so in freedom-and-fairness terms. The infrastructure bill—passed with some Republican support—is a big communitarian investment package that maintains and expands the bridges, roads, tunnels, ports, and rails that allow Americans to freely participate in economic and social opportunities regardless of where they live, and keeps clean water and power running to their homes and communities. The Inflation Reduction Act made nearly $400 billion in clean energy investments, giving hundreds of millions of Americans and their decedents potential freedom from dependence on unreliable petroleum markets controlled by despotic regimes in Russia and the Middle East—and also quicker access to that ultimate expression of American freedom, latest-technology cars, this time low-maintenance, fast-accelerating electric ones. The legislation also made the wealthy and corporations begin to pay closer to their fair share through new increased corporate minimum taxes, a new 1 percent tax on stock buybacks, and better enforcement and collection by the IRS.

“Most Americans also don’t want to live in the authoritarian, fascistic world Trump and his emulators are trying to create,” Woodard argues. “They don’t hate their neighbors or fear trans kids or want LGBTQ people erased from schoolbooks, Target stores, and legislatures. They don’t want their government overturning democratic elections or pardoning convicted seditionists or kidnapping toddlers from migrant parents at our borders or deploying soldiers to crush those who demonstrate against it. They want women to have control of their bodies and their children to be free to go to school without the need for Kevlar, armed guards, and terrifying safety drills. They don’t think America should be an ethno-state of white Christians. But they need leaders to make stark the alternatives and to rally them to the cause: to build an America that is truly great because it’s a place where we all fight for each other’s inborn and equal entitlement to freedom.”

‘No Labels’ Makes Mockery of ‘Transparency’

At Daily Kos, Joan McCarter reports on ‘No Labels” and their embrace of “transparency” and writes that “NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard was valiantly trying to get No Labels founder Nancy Jacobson to answer any questions at all about the group’s funders, its deliberations on running a third-party presidential ticket, and how they’ll ensure they don’t spoil the 2024 race and put Donald Trump back in the White House. Jacobson was clearly uncomfortable being confronted with these questions and was awkwardly evasive while insisting that the group’s aims are totally transparent. Here’s a snippet tweeted by NBC.”

McCarter notes further, “You have no primaries or caucuses,” Hillyard pointed out. “There are rich people that are funneling millions of dollars to your effort. Why should the public trust that this is nothing short of a backroom deal?” Just look at the people who have been involved in this for 13 years, Jacobson answered, which is not an answer. It is, however, instructive; after all, Joe Lieberman is one of those people.

Hillyard also pointed out that No Labels is trying to have it both ways, insisting that it isn’t a political party so that it doesn’t have to disclose its donors. Jacobson tried to deflect, saying they aren’t a party but are “building a movement of the common sense majority” (here we go again) “and we’re getting ballot access in the 50 states, and we will never run a campaign.” Which is … what being on the ballot means: a campaign.”

McCarter’s article also provides this video clip from Hillyard’s interview of Jacobsen:

Thanks to Hillyard for reminding television audiences what good political reporting looks like.

Teixeira: Why Dems Must Convince, Not Just Mobilize Hispanic Voters

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

The day before (and after) Donald Trump was indicted on 37 federal counts, he chose to devote his time to outreach among Latino voters, giving interviews and visiting a local Miami restaurant. This is not surprising given the surge in Hispanic support he enjoyed in his 2020 reelection bid. He obviously wants to build on that support in 2024.

Can he — or another Republican candidate — do so? To answer this question, it is first necessary to understand the scale and breadth of the Hispanic shift toward the GOP in 2020. Start with Florida, where Trump won half the Hispanic vote, surging among Republican-leaning Cuban Americans and Puerto Ricans and other Hispanics.

But it wasn’t just Florida: Trump improved his performance among Hispanics by 20 points in Wisconsin, 18 points in Texas and Nevada, 12 points in Pennsylvania and Arizona and among urban Hispanics in Chicago, New York and Houston. In Chicago’s predominantly Hispanic precincts, Trump improved his raw vote by 45 percent over 2016.

Catalist data confirm a nationwide shift among Latinos in 2020. The Democrats’ overall margin among this group dropped by 18 pointsrelative to 2016. Cubans had the largest shift of 26 points, but Puerto Ricans moved by 18 points to Trump, Dominicans by 16 points and Mexicans by 12 points. An overall weak spot for Democrats was among Latino men who gave Trump a shocking 44 percent of their two-party vote in 2020.

The unusually broad shift raised the question: Could the trend continue? Since then, the 2022 election contained both good and bad omens for Democrats. The good news is that, with the exception of Florida, they did not lose any further ground among Hispanics. The bad news is that they didn’t win back the ground they lost.

Since then, polls consistently find that Hispanic voters prefer Republicans to Democrats on inflation and handling the economy. Nearly all — 86 percent — Hispanics say economic conditions are only fair or poor and about three-quarters say the same thing about their personal financial situation. By 2 to 1 they say President Biden’s policies are hurting, not helping, them and their families. In a just-released 6,000 respondent poll from the Survey Center on American Life (SCAL) on evolving party coalitions, almost two-thirds believe Biden has accomplished not that much or little or nothing during his time in office.

And in a recent Washington Post-ABC poll, Hispanics preferred the way Trump handled the economy when he was in office to Biden’s performance so far by 55 to 36 percent.

Beneath this discontent is an emerging gulf between the cultural outlook of many Hispanics and the increasingly left-wing values of the Democratic Party. In the SCAL survey, half of Hispanics think Democrats are “too extreme” and slightly more than half think Democrats don’t share their values. A healthy minority, 42 percent, believe the Democratic Party “looks down on people like me.” This is not to say Republicans come out any better on these measures — they don’t — but simply to illustrate how many Hispanics struggle to identify with Democrats.

Take the issue of racism in our society. Is racism “built into our society, including into its policies and institutions” or does racism “come from individuals who hold racist views, not from our society and institutions?” In the SCAL survey, by 60 to 39 percent, Hispanics chose the latter view rather than the received wisdom in Democratic circles that racism is baked into society and institutions.

In contrast, White, college-graduate liberals chose the “structural racism” position by an overwhelming 81 to 19 percent.

Or consider the question of transgender athletes participating in team sports. Should “transgender athletes … be able to play on sports teams that match their current gender identity” or should “transgender athletes … only be allowed to play on sports teams that match their birth gender?” By 66 to 30 percent, Hispanics in the SCAL survey choose the second option. For Hispanic men, the margin is 74 to 22 percent. White, college-graduate liberals, on the other hand, believe eligibility should be dictated by current gender identity by 68 to 31 percent.

The same pattern can be observed on issues ranging from the funding of police departments to the “greatness of America” to the continued use of fossil fuels.

It seems plausible that Trump or another Republican could trigger a second Hispanic surge toward the GOP in 2024. That is not to say Republicans will have an easy time of it; Hispanics are still more likely to identify with the Democratic Party and tend to view it as being generally “better for Hispanics.” That produces a default presumption among many Hispanics that they should vote Democratic despite a lack of enthusiasm for the party. But that default is eroding, creating a Republican opportunity.

The challenge for Democrats is this: The party can no longer rely on simply mobilizing this constituency. They will have to convince these voters that Democrats share the values of a community that is socially moderate-to-conservative, upwardly mobile and patriotic with down-to-earth concerns focused on jobs, the economy, health care, good schools and public safety.

If they don’t, Republicans will seize the opportunity to move more Hispanics — especially men — into their camp and further erode that community’s longtime loyalty to the Democrats.

Teixeira: Cultural Leftism Misrepresents Most Democratic Voters

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, co-founder and politics editor of  The Liberal Patriot, is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

On Tuesday, John Halpin introduced our new survey project on the important issues and political ideas shaping the 2024 presidential election. He recounted some of the findings from our initial 3,000 voter survey, the first of five we plan to do over the next year or so.

I’ll do the same here, focusing on a set of questions we asked to tap voters’ views on three culturally freighted issues that are sure to loom large in the impending campaign: immigration, climate, and transgender controversies. The data strongly indicate that Democrats’ positions on these issues appear to correspond closely to the views of the left of the party but not to the views of the rest of the electorate, especially those voters who occupy the electorate’s center ground.

Taking immigration first, we asked voters to choose from three options:

  1. People around the world have the right to claim asylum and America should welcome more immigrants into the country;
  2. America needs to secure its borders and create more legal and managed immigration paths to bring in skilled professionals and workers to help our economy grow; or
  3. America needs to close its borders to outsiders and reduce all levels of immigration.

Under a quarter (24 percent) chose the first option, emphasizing the right to asylum and admitting more immigrants, which is closely associated with the Democratic Party. By far the most popular option was the second one, emphasizing border security and skilled immigration, which 59 percent favored. The draconian third option, which favors just closing the border and reducing all immigration was chosen by 17 percent. The latter two positions outnumber the permissive first position by three to one.

Among moderates, the second position was chosen by an overwhelming 66 percent and just 18 percent favored the permissive first position, not much more than the 16 percent who favor the draconian third position. Among the swing-y pure independent group, the story was similar: 62 percent chose the second position and the same number—19 percent—chose the first and third positions.

It’s clear Democrats do not occupy the center ground here.

Turning to climate and energy, we offered voters these three choices:

  1. We need a rapid green transition to end the use of fossil fuels and replace them with fully renewable energy sources;
  2. We need an “all-of-the above” strategy that provides abundant and cheap energy from multiple sources including oil and gas to renewables to advanced nuclear power; or
  3. We need to stop the push to replace domestic oil and gas production with unproven green energy projects that raise costs and undercut jobs.

Once again, the Democratic-identified first position, emphasizing ending the use of fossil fuels and rapidly adopting renewables, is a distinctly minoritarian one, embraced by just 29 percent of voters. The most popular position is the second, all-of-the above approach that emphasizes energy abundance and the use of fossil fuels and renewables and nuclear, favored by 46 percent of voters. Another 25 percent—not far off the number backing the first position—flat-out support production of fossil fuels and oppose green energy projects.

Moderates are even more heavily skewed toward the all-of-the-above approach, favoring it by 58 percent, compared to 23 percent support for the rapid green transition and 19 percent for fossil fuels production. Similarly, 54 percent of independents support the all-of-the-above, energy abundance approach, with a mere 18 percent favoring a rapid green transition away from fossil fuels and a larger 27 percent group backing continued fossil fuels production.

Once again, Democrats seem out of touch with the median American voter on a critical issue.

This distance from the center is even more obvious when we take a look at voter views on transgender controversies. Here are the three choices we offered voters:

  1. States should protect all transgender youth by providing access to puberty blockers and transition surgeries if desired, and allowing them to participate fully in all activities and sports as the gender of their choice;
  2. States should protect the rights of transgender adults to live as they want but implement stronger regulations on puberty blockers, transition surgeries, and sports participation for transgender minors; or
  3. States should ban all gender transition treatments for minors and stop discussion of gender ideology in all public schools.

The first position here, emphasizing availability of medical treatments for transgender children (euphemistically referred to as “gender-affirming” care) and sports participation dictated by gender self-identification, is unquestionably the default position of the Democratic Party today. Indeed, to dissent in any way from this position in Democratic circles is enough to earn one the sobriquet of “hateful bigot”—or worse. Yet only about a quarter (26 percent) of voters endorse this position. Indeed, the most popular position of the three is the most draconian: that medical treatments for transgender children should simply be banned, as should discussion of gender ideology in public schools. That’s embraced by 41 percent of voters; another third of voters favor the second position, advocating stronger regulation on puberty blockers, transition surgeries, and sports participation for transgender minors. Together, the latter two positions make it three-to-one among all voters against the Democratic position.

A mere 18 percent of moderate voters back the Democratic position. In contrast, a healthy 47 percent favor the stronger regulation of transgender medical treatments approach and another 35 percent want transgender medical treatments banned for children. And only 15 percent of independents are in favor of the “gender-affirming” Democratic position while roughly equal proportions (42 and 43 percent, respectively) back the middle regulatory approach and the total ban approach.

The rather startling unpopularity of Democratic positions in these areas and their obvious distance from the views of the electoral center raises the question of where these unpopular views came from. Part of the answer is that not all Democrats have been enthusiasts for these positions, but the ones that have been punch way above their weight in the party.

Consider how the views of “very liberal” Democrats—only slightly more than a quarter of the party—differ from other Democrats, spanning ordinary liberals, moderates, and the small number of conservatives. In each of these areas, overwhelming majorities of very liberal Democrats back the standard Democratic position. On immigration, 65 percent of very liberal Democrats support the permissive Democratic position but only 35 percent of other Democrats—and these Democrats are almost three-quarters of the party! On climate and energy, 69 percent of very liberal Democrats are all-in on ending fossil fuels and rapidly transitioning to renewables—but just a minority (44 percent) of other Democrats; instead more (48 percent) favor the all-of-the-above energy abundance approach. And on transgender issues, 71 percent of very liberal Democrats endorse the “gender-affirming” care approach but only 42 percent of other Democrats do so. Instead they favor stronger regulations on the treatment of transgender children (43 percent) or an outright ban on drugs and surgery for these children (16 percent).

So cultural leftism not only does not represent the views of most voters; it also doesn’t represent the views of vast segments of the very party—the Democrats—that is now identified with promulgating said cultural leftism. This is not how a big tent party should act. Many Democratic politicians appear to believe they can get away with indulging, if not promoting, such cultural leftism because Trump and the Republicans are so terrible. This is short-sighted. The best and surest way to beat Trump and Trumpism is to embrace the electoral center of the country (not to mention the views of tens of millions of their own partisans) and assure these voters that Democrats are their party and not beholden to an aggressive leftist minority in their own ranks.