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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Rural Voter

The new book White Rural Rage employs a deeply misleading sensationalism to gain media attention. You should read The Rural Voter by Nicholas Jacobs and Daniel Shea instead.

Read the memo.

There is a sector of working class voters who can be persuaded to vote for Democrats in 2024 – but only if candidates understand how to win their support.

Read the memo.

The recently published book, Rust Belt Union Blues, by Lainey Newman and Theda Skocpol represents a profoundly important contribution to the debate over Democratic strategy.

Read the Memo.

Democrats should stop calling themselves a “coalition.”

They don’t think like a coalition, they don’t act like a coalition and they sure as hell don’t try to assemble a majority like a coalition.

Read the memo.

The American Establishment’s Betrayal of Democracy

The American Establishment’s Betrayal of Democracy The Fundamental but Generally Unacknowledged Cause of the Current Threat to America’s Democratic Institutions.

Read the Memo.

Democrats ignore the central fact about modern immigration – and it’s led them to political disaster.

Democrats ignore the central fact about modern immigration – and it’s led them to political disaster.

Read the memo.

 

The Daily Strategist

July 22, 2024

Teixeira: The Students Are Revolting!

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:

The current wave of student demonstrations/occupations/encampments around Israel-Gaza has drawn some comparisons to the large protest wave of 1968. To be sure, there are some similarities…but also some very large and important differences.

To understand this, we need to get in the Wayback Machine and revisit the era, not just what happened, but “the vibes.” So put down your placards or that angry email you were going to write supporting or denouncing the student demonstrators and curl up with some of the best books for getting a feel for the glory and madness of 1968.

Here are some of the books I recommend.

There are couple of good general histories of SDS and the associated youth rebellion: Kirkpatrick Sale’s history—simply called SDS—and Todd Gitlin’s, The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage. See also: Maurice Isserman and Michael Kazin, America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s for much useful context.

I’ve always had a soft spot for James Miller’s, Democracy Is in the Streets: From Port Huron to the Siege of Chicago. Really excellent on the spirit of the times and the world view of student radicals.

Given the prominent role of Columbia in these protests, why not take a dive into Mark Rudd’s, Underground: My Life with SDS and the Weathermen? Rudd has had second, third, and fourth thoughts about everything he did so that adds another dimension to this fascinating memoir. See also: Robert Pardun, Prairie Radical: A Journey Through the Sixties, for more of a heartland perspective and Carl Oglesby, Ravens in the Storm: A Personal History of the 1960s Anti-War Movement, for the perspective of an early SDS leader who watched that movement go from mass-based to self-destruction mode in just a few years.

Speaking of self-destruction, there is no better guide to the level of self-destruction the student radical left reached than Bryan Burrough’s, Days of Rage: America’s Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence. Truly amazing levels of lunacy were reached; I think most people these days have forgotten, if they ever knew, how completely crazy things got.

And surely we must take a quick visit to the ur-events of May, 1968 in France. The spirit of those events and the student radicals who led them is well-captured in Daniel and Gabriel Cohn-Bendit’s, Obsolete Communism: The Left Wing Alternative. Be realistic: demand the impossible! (Incidentally, “Danny the Red” is still around, but now he agitates for eco-socialism as a Green politician in the European parliament.)

I hope you find your journey back to 1968 in the Wayback Machine instructive. You should be in a better position to judge whether it really is 1968 all over again. Or for that matter, whether you’d even want it to be!


Political Strategy Notes

In his article, “One path for Biden to lure blue-collar voters – find the economic villains: ‘You have to pick fights’,” Steven Greenhouse writes at The Guardian: “To the dismay of Democrats, blue-collar voters have lined up increasingly behind Donald Trump, but political experts say Joe Biden can still turn things around with that large and pivotal group by campaigning hard on “kitchen table” economic issues….With just six months to go until the election, recent polls show that Trump has stronger support among blue-collar Americans than he did in 2020. But several political analysts told the Guardian that Biden can bring back enough of those voters to win if he hammers home the message that he is helping Americans on pocketbook issues – for instance, by canceling student debt and cutting insulin prices….According to Celinda Lake, a pollster for the Democratic National Committee, Biden needs to talk more often and more effectively about how his policies mean “real benefits” for working families and how he’s battling on their behalf against “villains” like greedy pharmaceutical companies….“We need to have a dramatic framing that we’re going to take on villains to make the economy work for you and your family,” said Lake, who did polling for Biden’s 2020 campaign. “The villains can be a lot of things – corporations that don’t pay any taxes or drug companies that make record profits while they gouge you on prices.”….Republicans have won over many voters by attacking Democrats on cultural issues, but Lake said Democrats can overcome that. “We need to recognize that the economic message beats the cultural war message,” she said, adding that the economic message should focus on specific examples of how Biden’s policies have helped workers and their families….Several Democrats voiced concern about the party’s current messaging, arguing that the White House and the Biden campaign are too insular and in ways locked into an outdated vision – that if a president delivers good things to voters, like good-paying construction jobs created by the $1.2tn infrastructure package, and runs campaign ads about those things, that will win over many voters….In the 2020 election, 48% of voters without a college degree voted for Biden, while 50% supported Trump, according to exit polls, White voters without a college degree backed Trump over Biden 67% to 32%, while voters of color without a college degree supported Biden, 72% to 26%. All told, 59% of 2020 voters didn’t have a college degree. Biden won the overall election because his comfortable 55% to 43% margin among college graduates more than offset his narrow loss among non-college graduates….Taking a position that has angered many progressives, Teixeira said the Democrats’ stance on “crime, race, gender and climate is a whole can of worms” that has turned off many blue-collar voters. He said the Democrats are obsessed with climate change in a way that alienates many blue-collar voters, who, he said, fear that the push for renewable energy will mean higher energy prices. Teixeira also said that Democratic concerns about transgender rights – a culture war focus of the Republicans – has turned off many blue-collar voters….“

Greenhouse continues, “The Democrats have to orient themselves away from the median liberal, college- educated voter who they get a Soviet-style majority from and orient themselves toward the median working-class voter, not just white, but non-white voters,” Teixeira said. “It’s not easy to do. They have to turn the battleship around.”….Another reason blue-collar voters have turned away from Democrats is the decline in union membership – from 35% of all workers in the 1950s to 10% today. Rosenthal remembers going to a steelworkers’ union hall in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, several decades ago – it had 15 bowling lanes and a bar. “Around 30% of workers were in unions,” Rosenthal said. “Another 10% or 15% were in union households, and a lot of other workers drank at the bar or bowled there.” The steelworkers’ hall served as a community center where people received information from the union and there was robust support for Democrats. The new book Rust Belt Union Blues describes a transformed landscape where many union halls have closed and gun clubs have often replaced them as gathering places for the working class – and there, the ambience is pro-Trump….Another factor contributing to the Democrats’ woes is that over half the nation’s local news stations are in the hands of Sinclair and other rightwing owners, said Lux. That often makes it harder for Biden and other Democrats to get their message across….As a result, Lux said, Democrats have to work extra hard to get their message out – for instance, through community Facebook pages that explain that the new bridge in town is being built thanks to Biden or that the Biden administration has helped blue-collar Americans by extending overtime coverage to 4 million more workers and banning non-competes that cover 30 million workers….“The Democrats have to lean into issues that mean a lot to working people,” Lux said. “We have to keep showing up in Ottumwa [a working-class town in Iowa] and keep showing up in Youngstown [a blue-collar Ohio town].”….“In a war between good policies and good stories that speak to people’s identities and emotions, good stories are going to win,” said Deepak Bhargava, president of the JPB Foundation and former head of the Center for Community Change….[Center for American Progress President Patrick] Gaspard said that in his economic messaging, Biden needed to “recognize the insecurities that working folks – white, Black and brown – are feeling” whether about the cost of living or other matters. “Biden needs to call out General Mills and Kimberly-Clark for raising the price of cereal and diapers,” Gaspard said. “People like it when you’re fighting for them.”

From “Nothing Passes in the House If Hakeem Jeffries Doesn’t Want It to Pass” by Charles Pierce at Esquire: “You may have missed it on Tuesday, but Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) became the de facto speaker of the House of Representatives. He did it by shrewdly announcing that he and his leadership group will encourage their caucus to block any attempt by the Angry Children’s Caucus to eighty-six the nominal speaker, Mike Johnson, Republican of Louisiana…..Admittedly, I’m usually of the toss-them-an-anchor school of partisan politics. I think there are several reasons to be suspicious of Johnson’s good faith on anything. And I’m not inclined to give him as many points as some people have for passing a vital and popular foreign-aid package against the opposition of the flying monkeys. But the fact remains that without Democratic support, Johnson would be accounted to be a do-nothing speaker as well as vulnerable at all times to motions to vacate his chair….Dozens of Democrats have indicated for weeks they might be willing to step in to save Johnson if he brought the foreign aid package to the House floor—many were just waiting for an official signal from their party leaders….MTG has always looked fairly capable of repeatedly running her head into the wall. She sure as hell isn’t interested in legislating. What I am sure of is that nothing passes in this House unless Hakeem Jeffries wants it to pass. He’s Mike Johnson’s new landlord.” It’s not quite the same thing as Jeffries, who is one of the smartest strategists in congress, actually holding the Speaker’s gavel. He would be the first to say that Democrats must win a comfortable working majority to pass legislation that moves America forward. But Pierce is undoubtedly correct that Jeffries now has what amounts to veto power, thanks to the GOP’s disarray, abandonment of all bipartisan pretense, and free reign of its looney fringe.

Editor-in-Chief Josh Marshall makes it plain at Talking Points memo in his article “Trump Attacks the Jews As Biden Puts His Foot Down,” opening with a quote from Trump: “”If any Jewish person voted for Joe Biden, they should be ashamed of themselves.” That’s ex-President Trump this morning as he headed into the courtroom in New York City. This is worth everyone taking a close look at. When Trump feels cornered and scared one of his go-tos is to lash out at American Jews. The overwhelming percentage of American Jews voted for President Biden in 2020. And there’s no pollster or political prognosticator who doesn’t think the same will happen this year. So this isn’t some hypothetical — if that happened they should be ashamed. It did happen and will again. While the precise percentage of American Jews voting for each party can shift a bit cycle to cycle, Jews are, along with African-Americans, the most consistent Democratic voting block in the country and have been so for the last century. And for this they should be ashamed of themselves, according to the Republican nominee.” Marshall adds in another article, “What was first communicated by reports of a slowdown in weapons transfers and then confirmed in leaks has now been brought into the open: Joe Biden is saying he will cut off the supply of heavy munitions (big bombs from the sky) if Israel goes ahead with a major ground incursion into Rafah, the southernmost city in the Gaza Strip, which is both the last refuge of Hamas’ intact battalions and hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians who have fled other parts of the strip over the last six months. This is in addition to the city’s normal civilian population….I have seen some commentators who have absolutely no love for Netanyahu saying this undercuts whatever leverage Israel has in the hostage negotiations by depriving them of the threat to go into Rafah in force. There’s likely something to that. But it is basically a certainty that this move was absolutely the final straw for the U.S. It had been insisting and insisting and insisting not to do this without a plan to evacuate the city, and the Israeli government is saying too bad. We’re doing it. Biden had the choice to make his words meaningless or put down his foot. When you’re supplying the weapons, your foot comes down very hard.”


Comparing Antiwar Movements Past and Present

As a participant in anti-Vietnam War protests, I felt some clear comparisons to today’s antiwar protests was in order, so I wrote an assessment at New York:

For many a baby-boomer, the sights and sounds of student protests against U.S. complicity in Israel’s war in Gaza brought back vivid memories of the anti–Vietnam War movement of their youth and of the conservative backlash that ultimately placed its legacy in question. Some of today’s protestors consciously promote an identification with their forebears of the 1960s and 1970s. And some events — notably the huge deployments of NYPD officers at Columbia University 56 years to the day after police crushed an anti–Vietnam War protest at the school — are eerily evocative of that bygone era.

As someone who was involved in a minor way in the earlier protests (mostly as a member of the Student Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam), I’m both fascinated by the comparisons and alert to the very big differences between the vast and nearly decadelong demonstrations against the Vietnam War and the nascent movement we’re seeing today. Here’s how they compare from several key perspectives.

Size: Gaza protests are smaller than anti-Vietnam demonstrations.

While early protests against Israeli military operations in Gaza were often centered in Arab American and Muslim American communities, the latest wave is principally college-campus-based, albeit widespread, as the Washington Post reported:

“The arrests of pro-Palestinian protesters at Columbia University on April 18 set off the latest wave of student activism across the country.

“The outbreak of nearly 400 demonstrations is the most widespread since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. From the Ivy League to small colleges, students have set up encampments and organized rallies and marches, with many demanding that their schools divest from Israeli corporations.”

The size of these protests has ranged from the hundreds into the thousands, but they can’t really be regarded as a mass phenomenon at this point.

There are, however, similarities to the earliest phase of the anti–Vietnam War movement: the campus-based “teach-ins” of 1965 (the year U.S. ground troops were first deployed in Vietnam). These began at the University of Michigan and then went viral, as a history compiled by students of the university recalled:

“The March 1965 teach-in at the University of Michigan inspired a wave of more than fifty similar teach-ins at universities around the nation and directly challenged the Johnson administration’s ability to shape public opinion about the War in Vietnam. At Columbia University, just two days after the UM event, professors held an all-night teach-in attended by 2,000 students …

“At UC-Berkeley, after an overflow crowd attended the initial UM-inspired teach-in, the Vietnam Day Committee organized a second outdoor event that drew 30,000 students.”

The anti–Vietnam War movement soon outgrew its campus origins as the war intensified and U.S. deployments soared. By 1967, monster rallies and marches were held in major cities — notably a New York march that attracted an estimated 400,000 to 500,000 protesters and a San Francisco rally that filled Kezar Stadium. At the New York event, the expansion of the antiwar movement to encompass elements of the civil-rights movement that had in part inspired the early protesters was exemplified by the participation of Martin Luther King Jr., who had just made his first overtly antiwar speech at Riverside Church.

By then the antiwar movement was beginning to attract support from a significant number of politicians, mostly Democrats but some Republicans.

The pro-Palestinian protest movement could eventually grow to this scale and breadth of support, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Durability: Gaza protests are new; anti–Vietnam War movement lasted a decade.

The fight to end American involvement in Vietnam lasted as long as the war itself; protests began in 1964, grew to include a mainstream congressional effort to cut off U.S. military aid, and continued as the South Vietnam regime collapsed in 1975. It had multiple moments of revived participation. Once such moment was Moratorium Day in October 1969, when an estimated 2 million Americans joined antiwar demonstrations once it became clear that Richard Nixon had no intention of ending the war begun by Lyndon Johnson. Another was the massive wave of protests in May 1970 when Nixon expanded the war into Cambodia; student walkouts and strikes occurred on around 900 college campuses and students were killed in Ohio and Mississippi.

It’s unclear whether the pro-Palestinian protests have anything like that kind of staying power. That’s a significant issue, since the goal shared by many protesters — a fundamental shift in the power relations between Israelis and Palestinians — could be harder to execute than an end to the Vietnam War.

Focus: Gaza protests have less clear-cut goals than Vietnam demonstrations.

Most pro-Palestinians protesters have embraced multiple demands and goals: an immediate permanent cease-fire in Gaza; termination of U.S. military assistance to Israel; and an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. Campus-based protesters have also called for termination of university investments in companies operating in Israel and, in some cases, closure of academic partnerships with Israeli institutions.

If this is going to become a sustained movement rather than a scattershot series of loosely connected local protests, some clarification of tangible goals will be necessary. Some of these aims are more achievable than others. If, for example, the Biden administration and the Saudis succeed in negotiating a significant cease-fire that temporarily ends the carnage in Gaza, does that take the wind of out of the sails of protesters seeking a definitive withdrawal of support for Israel? That’s unclear at this point.

For the most part, the anti–Vietnam War protest movement had one principal goal: the removal of U.S. military forces from Vietnam. Yes, factions of that movement expanded their goals to include such war-adjacent issues as university divestment from firms manufacturing weapons, closure of ROTC programs, draft resistance, and non-war-related issues like Black empowerment and anti-poverty efforts. But there was never much doubt that bringing the troops home was paramount.

Leadership: Gaza protests include more radical organizers.

One of the reasons for a perception of unfocused goals in the current wave of protests stems from organizers with more radical positions and rhetoric than some of their followers. As my colleague Jonathan Chait has pointed out, two major groups helping organize pro-Palestinian protests subscribe to ideologies incompatible with mainstream support:

“The main national umbrella group for campus pro-Palestinian protests is Students for Justice in Palestine. SJP takes a violent eliminationist stance toward Israel. In the wake of the October 7 terrorist attacks, it issued a celebratory statement instructing its affiliates that all Jewish Israelis are legitimate targets …

“A second group that has helped organize the demonstrations at Columbia is called Within Our Lifetime. Like SJP, WOL takes an uncompromising eliminationist stance toward Israel, even calling for ‘the abolition of zionism.’”

This was intermittently an issue in the anti–Vietnam War movement, particularly as such campus-based pioneers of protests as Students for a Democratic Society drifted into Marxist sectarianism. I vividly recall an antiwar march I attended in Atlanta in 1969 wherein the organizers (mostly from the Trotskyist Young Socialist Alliance) put Vietcong flags at either end of the march and controlled bullhorns bellowing slogans like “Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh / The NLF is gonna win,” referring to the communist insurgency in South Vietnam. This effectively turned a peace rally into something very different.

But over time, the extremist wing of the anti–Vietnam War movement went its own way, falling prey to fragmentation (the collapse of SDS into at least three factions that included the ultraviolent and Maoist Weatherman group epitomized its self-marginalization) and irrelevance. If the pro-Palestinian protest movement is to last, it needs to shed its more extreme elements.

Relevance: Gaza protests aren’t impacting U.S. politics as deeply.

There was never any doubt that anti–Vietnam War protesters were talking about something that vitally affected Americans, even if it took them a while to get on board. 2.7 million American citizens served in the Vietnam War with 58,000 losing their lives. 1.9 million young Americans were conscripted into the military during that war. While what Americans did to the people of Indochina wasn’t often called “genocide,” millions of Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians perished at the hands of the U.S. and its allies, and the humanitarian disaster did increasingly trouble the consciences of many people not directly affected by the conflict. As many military leaders and reactionary politicians bitterly argued for decades, U.S. public opinion eventually ended the Vietnam War.

While the rise in sympathy for Palestinians and support for some sort of cease-fire has been palpable as deaths soar in Gaza, it remains unclear how invested Americans are in any sort of policy change toward the conflict. Yes, unhappiness with Joe Biden’s leadership in this area is a real political problem for him, but much of the unhappiness stems from conservatives (particularly conservative Evangelicals) who want stronger support for Israel. And the effort to make this issue an existential threat to Biden’s renomination during the 2024 Democratic primaries failed in contrast to the major role played by anti–Vietnam War sentiment in sidelining LBJ in 1968.

Making Gaza a crucial issue in American politics grows more challenging to the extent protesters choose more radical goals, like a single secular (i.e., non-Zionist) Palestinian state. And at the same time, more modest goals could undermine the strength and unity of the protest movement if protesters reject half-measures (much as anti–Vietnam War protesters rejected “Vietnamization,” phony peace talks, and other steps that prolonged the war).

Legacy: Gaza protests could provoke a similar backlash.

Arguably, the many sacrifices and eventual triumph of anti–Vietnam War protesters were more than offset by a conservative backlash that treated the “disorder” and alleged lack of patriotism associated with protests as a social malady to be remedied with heavy-handed repression. In the 1968 presidential election, Richard Nixon and George Wallace, the two candidates who engaged in law-and-order rhetoric and often espoused more violent steps to win the war, won 57 percent of the national popular vote. Other successful conservative politicians like Ronald Reagan made crackdowns on “coddled” student protesters a signature issue.

Today, Donald Trump and other Republicans are eagerly making pro-Palestinian protests part of a law-and-order message aimed at both student protesters and the “elite” faculty and administrators who are allegedly encouraging them. If protesters deliberately or inadvertently help Trump get back into the White House, they may soon encounter a U.S. administration that makes “Genocide Joe” Biden’s look like an oasis of pacific benevolence.


An Update on Party Loyalty in Battleground Pennsylvania

The following article “Where Pennsylvania has lost Democrats since 2008, and what it means for the November election” by Kate Huangpu, is cross-posted from Spotlight PA:

HARRISBURG — For the first time in at least 16 years, the Democratic and Republican parties in Pennsylvania are within half a million registered voters of one another.

Since 2008, Democrats’ registration edge over Republicans has steadily shrunk — from a 12% advantage in April 2008 to about a 4% advantage in April 2024, according to a Spotlight PA analysis of Department of State data.

The number of people registered as independents or under a third party has also grown, from 11% of total registered voters in 2008 to 15% this year.

Political consultants who spoke with Spotlight PA said that while registration trends can signal an electorate’s moods, they can’t tell you everything about how a closely divided state like Pennsylvania will vote.

Stephen Medvic, a government professor at Franklin & Marshall College, said 2010 was a high water mark for Democratic registration in recent Pennsylvania history and that there was “nowhere to go but down” from there in terms of registration numbers.

The party’s relatively lower registration rate is “not good [for Democrats], but I’m not sure it spells doom,” said Medvic.

Beyond that, consultants say Pennsylvania has undergone a political realignment in the last decade and a half. Anne Wakabayashi, a Democratic political consultant with public relations firm BerlinRosen, said registration is “catching up more with the behavior of the electorate.”

That behavior, she said, includes working-class voters in Western Pennsylvania who have historically been part of labor unions changing their registration to Republican in recent years, coupled with an influx of highly educated and wealthy transplants establishing themselves in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

Sam Chen, a GOP political consultant based in the Lehigh Valley, pointed to the same dynamic and noted that it can be seen in the commonwealth’s changing registration geography. Democrats used to dominate counties in the industrial and rural parts of the state, particularly in the southwest and northeast. Now those areas are redder, while Democrats have consolidated support in suburbs, particularly in the populous southeast.

“The Republican Party has shifted away from traditional conservativism into a more populist version of it, which speaks to traditional Democratic values like made-in-America union labor,” Chen said. “On the Democratic side, I think you see that shift away from traditional liberalism over to a little bit more of a progressivism.”

Wakabayashi noted that registration doesn’t always keep pace with quickly shifting political preferences.

In her experience, voters can be slow to change registration even as their political opinions change. Sometimes they vote across party lines, opt to split their ticket and vote for candidates in both parties, or just don’t turn out to cast a ballot.

For example, despite a dwindling advantage in the party’s number of registered voters in Pennsylvania, Democrats won top-of-ticket races for president in 2020, and U.S. Senate and governor in 2022.

However, in the latter year, Republicans Stacey Garrity and Tim DeFoor won statewide races for state treasurer and auditor general — flipping those offices.

Political consultants and academics also say the increase in independent and third-party voters is significant and could indicate a growing disdain for the major political parties and a wider apathy that results in low voter turnout, such as during the 2024 primary election.

This is particularly notable as Pennsylvania is one of 10 states with a closed primary system, which excludes independent and third-party voters from choosing which major party candidates will end up on the November general election ballot.

Some experts noted that this system could lead to fewer voters who consider themselves politically independent registering as such. Plus, voters can switch their party registration up to 10 days before the election, which they may do close to a primary so that they can participate in choosing a major party candidate, before switching back.

“As our partisans are getting increasingly more partisan, there are a lot of people that are heading to either third parties or the middle of the road,” said Wakabayashi. “Some of that is disillusionment with the parties on both sides.”


Watch Out! Team Trump Setting Up Another Premature Victory Claim

I got a strong sense of deja vu from a comment by Lara Trump this week, and fired off a warning at New York:

A dark specter hanging over the 2024 presidential election is the possibility that Donald Trump will again declare victory on Election Night based on deliberately false accusations about voting by mail. Lest we forget, that was the foundation for all of Trump’s efforts to reverse Joe Biden’s 2020 victory, up to and including the January 6 insurrection: the idea that it was Democrats who “stole” the election by stuffing the ballot box with fabricated mail ballots counted after Election Day had ended (that wasn’t the only phony “fraud” allegation made by Team Trump, but it was the one made most often).

In the run-up to the Trump-Biden rematch, Republicans and the candidate himself have sent mixed signals about the legitimacy of voting by mail, mostly suggesting it’s inherently fraudulent yet encouraging MAGA voters to use it as a sort of fighting-fire-with-fire strategy. But the crucial if totally counterfactual idea that Democrats will look to see how many votes they need on Election Night and just make up enough mail ballots to reverse a Trump victory is being kept alive by Trump’s daughter-in-law, the new Republican National Committee co-chair Lara Trump, in an interview on Fox News. Per Raw Story:

“Republican National Committee co-chair Lara Trump argued Sunday that ballots should not be counted after elections are over.

“’You cannot have ballots counted, Maria, after elections are over,’ Trump opined. ‘And right now, that is one of the many lawsuits we have out across this country to ensure that just that happens, that we have a free, fair, and transparent election.’

“’So in Nevada, as you pointed out, we are saying we want, on election day, that to be the last day that mail-in ballots can be counted,’ she added. ‘And we’ve been very successful in a lot of lawsuits.’”

Taken literally, this argument is absurd. An election isn’t “over” until the votes are counted. Trump’s 2020 victory claim was based on the candidate arbitrarily declaring the election “over,” conveniently, when he was momentarily ahead. Even in the era before widespread voting-by-mail, close elections often weren’t resolved until days or even weeks after Election Day, as anyone who remembers 2000 (or countless other elections with respect to downballot contests) can tell you. Slow counts are sometimes as attributable to safeguards against election fraud as to any sort of funny business.

Lara Trump’s reference to a lawsuit in Nevada, however, suggests a much narrower issue: Nevada is one of 17 states where mail ballots postmarked by Election Day can be counted if they are received by election officials within a specified time. This practice has sometimes been demonized by Republicans seeking conspiracy-theory legitimization for election defeats (notably in 2018, when early GOP leads in California congressional races melted away once late mail ballots were counted). But it raises a question critics of voting-by-mail never seem to answer: When does voting happen in the first place? When a vote is cast or when it is tabulated? If it’s the former, why isn’t the act of filling out, sealing, and placing a ballot in the hands of the U.S. Postal Service as definitive an act of voting as marking a ballot in a polling booth? Arguably the postmark-rather-than-receipt deadline is fairer and more rational at a time (in 2024 as in 2020) when expedient delivery of mail by a troubled USPS is by no means assured.

Of the 17 postmark-deadline states, only two (Nevada plus North Carolina) are likely presidential battleground states, so it won’t be easy for Team Trump to pin an election defeat on that practice. But complaints about Election Day being extended by larcenous Democrats, however bogus, are part of the pall Republicans are trying to cast over the entire 2024 election. If Trump wins, our election system will retroactively become golden in MAGA-land, or perhaps we will be told Trump’s immense popularity will have overcome Democrat and Establishment efforts to count him out. If he loses, the election was “rigged” and patriots need to to un-rig by any means necessary.

We’ve been warned.


Political Strategy Notes

Opinion essayist Thomas B. Edsall probes reasons why “The Happiness Gap Between Left and Right Isn’t Closing” at The New York Times and rolls out some nuggets, including: “There is a difference in the way the left and right react to frustration and grievance. Instead of despair, the contemporary right has responded with mounting anger, rejecting democratic institutions and norms….In a 2021 Vox article, “Trump and the Republican Revolt Against Democracy,” Zack Beauchamp described in detail the emergence of destructive and aggressive discontent among conservatives….Citing a wide range of polling data and academic studies, Beauchamp found:

  • More than twice as many Republicans (39 percent) as Democrats (17 percent) believe that “if elected leaders won’t protect America, the people must act — even if that means violence.”

  • Fifty-seven percent of Republicans consider Democrats to be “enemies” compared with 41 percent of Democrats who view Republicans as enemies.

  • Among Republicans, support for “the use of force to defend our way of life,” as well as for the belief that “strong leaders bend rules” and that “sometimes you have to take the law in your own hands,” grows stronger in direct correlation with racial and ethnic hostility.

Trump himself has repeatedly warned of the potential for political violence. In January, he predicted bedlam if the criminal charges filed in federal and state courts against him damaged his presidential campaign….Before he was indicted in New York, Trump claimed there would be “potential death and destruction” if he were charged.” Edsall quotes scholars in the fields of psychology, sociology and public health to pinpoint many of the sources of liberal discontent. The lowest income voters, most of whom are Democrats also have some good economic reasons to be less happy than most Republicans.

“Six months before the most fateful election of our lifetimes, we are entering that moment in the campaign when model makers rush onstage hawking their presidential predictions,” Walter Shapiro writes at The New Republic. “And, no, we are not talking about hobbyists who put ships in a bottle or glue together plastic replicas of World War II fight planes. These model makers are election theorists from academia, economic forecasting firms, and polling websites who offer their presidential forecasts based on their proprietary formulas—many of which are blithefully unconcerned with the identities of the actual White House contenders…. To oversimplify a bit, these mathematical approaches to political soothsaying involve combining some variant of presidential approval ratings, economic growth numbers, the inflation rate, prior election returns, and an exclusive blend of herbs and spices to reveal who is going to win long before anyone votes….Almost nothing scares Democrats more than those ominous three words: “presidential approval rating.” But context is badly needed…. Gallup, which has been charting presidential popularity for more than 70 years, recently released a report showing that Joe Biden’s approval rating at the beginning of the fourth year of his presidency is lower than that of any elected president dating back to Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. Even Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Donald Trump—three incumbents who failed to retain the White House—had Biden beaten at this point in their respective presidencies.”

Shapiro continues, “On the surface, it looks dire since it is obvious that how voters rate a president’s job performance will play a major role in shaping their ballot choices….Until 15 years ago, approval ratings were volatile and presidents routinely polled well over 60 percent in Gallup surveys. In the wake of the Gulf War in early 1991, George H.W. Bush had a stunning approval rating of 89 percent. Two years later, Bush was a former guy. Bill Clinton’s approval rate hit 73 percent at the end of 1998 as he was being impeached. And in early 2004, as the Iraq War was fast becoming a quagmire, George W. Bush was still polling over 60 percent….But since the early months of Barack Obama’s presidency in 2009, no incumbent has hit the 60 percent mark. There are many causes for the unprecedentedly sour mood in the electorate, including enhanced partisan passions. My own guess is that the Great Recession of 2008–2009 may have permanently upended voter trust in any president….Stunningly, Trump never once in his presidency broke the 50 percent mark in the Gallup numbers—he would still go on to win more than 74 million votes, the second-highest total of any presidential candidate….If you must brandish a historical precedent, I have one for you that did not show up on the Gallup roster of the nine elected presidents who polled better than Biden. The Gallup list did not include Harry Truman because of the technicality that he took office after the 1945 death of Franklin Roosevelt…. In April 1948, Truman limped home in the Gallup Poll with a dispiriting 36 percent approval rating. That, by the way, is lower than Biden’s current numbers. And as history junkies may recall, Truman pulled off the biggest upset in modern politics. Maybe it is time for Amtrak Joe to dust off the revered tradition of a whistle-stop tour of the Midwest.”

Some “economic confidence” notes from the Gallup poll: “With Americans less optimistic about the state of the U.S. economy than they have been in recent months and concern about inflation persisting, their confidence in President Joe Biden to recommend or do the right thing for the economy is among the lowest Gallup has measured for any president since 2001. But Biden is not alone in facing a skeptical public, as Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, the Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress, and presumptive presidential nominee Republican Donald Trump garner confidence ratings below 50%….Forty-six percent of U.S. adults say they have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of confidence in Trump to do or recommend the right thing for the economy, while fewer say the same of Biden (38%), Powell (39%), and Democratic (38%) and Republican (36%) leaders in Congress….These findings are from Gallup’s Economy and Personal Finance poll, conducted April 1-22. During the poll’s field period, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the latest Consumer Price Index data showing that inflation remains stubbornly elevated, though nowhere near the 40-year highs seen in 2022….Americans’ confidence in these key leaders is driven by partisans’ differing views. Broad majorities of Republicans express confidence in the economic competence of Trump (86%), their party’s presumptive presidential nominee, and 82% of Democrats do the same of Biden….Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say they are confident in their own party’s congressional leaders (80% vs. 67%, respectively). Democrats (56%) are also more confident than Republicans (30%) in Powell’s handling of the economy. Few in either party are confident in the opposing party’s presidential candidate or congressional leaders….Roughly one-third of independents say they are confident in Biden, Powell and both parties’ congressional leaders. Trump earns higher confidence from independents (45%).”


Scher: Polls Indicate Dems Gaining Traction in House Races

Excerpts from “Democrats Just Took the Lead In This Poll Average and No One Noticed” by Bill Scher at The Washington Monthly:

In last Tuesday’s newsletter, charting Joe Biden’s clearest Electoral College path, I noted his recent improvement in national and some swing state polling averages from Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight since March.

While Biden has made modest gains, he still doesn’t lead in any of those averages.

However, there is another poll average where, on April 22, Democrats took the lead for the first time in five months:

The Real Clear Politics generic congressional ballot test average.

Generic congressional ballot tests are poll questions that ask which party’s candidate you would choose to represent your congressional district.

Scher asks, “Does this mean Democrats are well-positioned to take back the House?,” and answers:

In the Real Clear Politics generic congressional ballot test average, Republicans led their widest lead of the year, 2.6 points, on March 6, just before Biden’s State of the Union address. As of May 7, Democrats now lead by 1.4 points.

A slightly less dramatic but similar story is told in the FiveThirtyEight average, with a Republican lead around 1 for most of January and February, Democrats tying at the end of February, followed by a series of tiny lead changes. As of May 1, the last reported result, Democrats are up 0.7 points.

Should Democrats feel good at all about such a small lead? Doesn’t gerrymandering favor Republicans so much that Democrats need a big polling lead—and big national popular vote lead on Election Day—to take back the House?

Not so.

Scher continues, “Back in 2021, for the Monthly, I wrote that “When Democrats won control of the House in 2018 and 2020, their share of the popular vote (53.4 percent and 50.3 percent, respectively) was roughly equal to their share of the House seats (54 percent and 51 percent, respectively).” Further,

The 2022 midterm House national popular vote also tracked the House seat share. Republicans won 50.6 percent of the popular vote and 51 percent of the seats.

Of course, a tiny lead within the margin of error six months before Election Day tells us nothing about the final outcome beyond the necessity for determined get-out-the-vote efforts.

But if Democrats maintained a 1 point polling lead, would that be enough to win the House? Or has there been systemic bias among pollsters inflating the Democratic numbers, and therefore, requiring Democrats to build up a large polling lead to ensure at least a narrow Election Day victory?

Scher notes further, “In August 2022, writing for Real Clear Politics, I observed, “In the 10 House elections for which RCP produced a generic congressional ballot average, Democrats outperformed the poll average four times.” Also,

And in the November 2022 midterm, the polling averages were darn close, with slight GOP overperformance. Republicans won the House national popular vote by 2.8 points. The Real Clear Politics generic ballot average was 2.5 and FiveThirtyEight‘s was 1.2.

Wider divergences are possible, but the widest since 2012 was in 2020, when the Democratic House popular vote margin underperformed the final Real Clear Politics average by 3.7 points. More often, the final margin is within 2 points of the poll average.

Scher concludes: “So while a 1-point margin in the generic congressional ballot test average may not be quite enough to instill confidence in the prospect of a Democratic House takeover, it certainly means Democrats are competitive with six months to go.


Teixeira: Immigration-Health Care Nexus Still Challenges Dems

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:

Two things are clear about the 2024 campaign at this point. One is that Biden is still trailing Trump: he’s behind nationally in both the RCP and 538 running averages, as well as in every single swing state. The other is that his two great vulnerabilities are the economy/inflation and immigration, generally the two most important issues to voters. Indeed the latter now sometimes eclipses the former in importance as it has in the Gallup poll for the last three months.

Immigration was very important in the 2016 election as well. One way David Shor frequently illustrated the dynamic in 2016 relative to 2012 was with a simple two by two table illustrating that the big swing toward Trump in 2016 was among voters who both (1) supported universal health insurance and (2) opposed “amnesty” for illegal immigrants. Put simply, Obama did way better than Hillary Clinton among voters who were both populist/progressive on health care and conservative-leaning on immigration.

Could we see the same dynamic this year, with Trump making decisive gains among such voters? The basis for it certainly seems to be there. It has been widely noted that not only has the immigration issue become more salient but also that voters are now open to a wide range of tough approaches to dealing with the illegal immigration problem. Some of the relevant findings were reviewed by the Post’s Aaron Blake in an article, “Harsh deportation tools are just fine with many Americans.” And a recent Axios poll found a majority of the public supporting mass deportations of illegal immigrants, including a shocking 42 percent of Democrats.

Findings from a brand new poll of over 4,000 voters from The Liberal Patriot and Blueprint confirm this pattern of support for tough measures against illegal immigration. My analysis of the data also shows an enormous overlap between these conservative leanings on illegal immigration and strong support for populist/progressive measures on health care. These cross-pressured voters could play a decisive role in November’s election just as they did in the 2016 election.

Here is what I found:

1. The TLP/Blueprint poll tested 40 different policy ideas associated with the Biden and Trump campaigns. The strongest issues for Biden were generally proposals around health care, most of which were wildly popular. One example was, “Increase the number of prescription drugs that Medicare can negotiate the price of for seniors.” The proposal was supported by 81 percent of voters with just 6 percent opposed for a cool 75 points net support. Those who supported the proposal also supported using “existing presidential powers to stop illegal migrant crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border” by 57 points (72-15).

2. Similarly, supporters of more Medicare price negotiation on prescription drugs also supported deputizing “the National Guard and local law enforcement to assist with rapidly removing gang members and criminals living illegally in the United States” by 46 points (67-21).

3. Nor do these Medicare price negotiation supporters blink at the idea that we should “restrict the ability of migrants who illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border to seek asylum.” They support this proposal by 40 points (63-23).

4. More draconian proposals on dealing with illegal immigration also generate solid support among those favoring a stronger Medicare role on prescription drug prices. For example, these pro-Medicare populists favor the idea that we should simply, “Round up undocumented immigrants, detain, and deport them to their home countries” by 24 points (58-24).

5. The pro-Medicare populists also favor building “a full wall on the US-Mexico border” by 20 points, with 56 percent in favor and 36 percent opposed. They even think it would be a good idea to “change federal law so that drug traffickers can receive the death penalty” (55-33)!

6. A similar dynamic can be observed in some other areas of Democratic vulnerability. Among supporters of an increased Medicare role in prescription drug pricing, we also find overwhelming support for increasing “funding for police and strengthen[ing] criminal penalties for assaulting cops” (72 percent to 17 percent).

7. It is also interesting that some aspects of Democratic approaches to climate/energy issues fit this pattern. For instance, our pro-Medicare populists net oppose requiring “auto companies to sell more electric vehicles after 2030” (45-40). They also are narrowly in favor of repealing “subsidies for clean energy and electric vehicles” (41-40).

8. I also looked at another super-popular Biden health care idea, “Require pharmaceutical companies to charge American consumers the lowest price they charge consumers in foreign countries” and the related super-popular proposal, “Protect Medicare and Social Security from funding cuts or increases in the age of eligibility.” You see the exact same pattern: voters who support these populist ideas overwhelmingly want a much tougher approach to illegal immigration.

These cross-pressures then are very real, just as they were in 2016, and are undoubtedly undermining Democrats’ ability to capitalize on their immensely popular health care proposals. Could these pressures produce the kind of shift in 2024 relative to 2020 that so helped Trump in 2016? The basis is certainly there.

I looked at support/opposition to increasing the Medicare role in prescription drug pricing and support/opposition to the most popular proposal for cracking down on illegal immigration, using the president’s executive powers to directly stop illegal crossing at the southern border. I found that, comparing reported vote in 2020 to expressed vote preference today, the big shift toward Trump occurs precisely among those who both support an aggressive Medicare role in drug pricing and support using presidential powers to stop illegal border crossing.

There’s a lesson there for Democrats should they care to take it. Apparently, the idea of using Biden’s executive powers to stop illegal border crossing is under consideration at the White House, but, predictably, nothing has happened yet in the face of fierce opposition from the usual suspects. The recent decline in illegal border crossings from insanely high to merely very high (due to a crackdown in Mexico not by US authorities) may also be breeding some complacency about the issue in Biden-land despite the scathing message sent by the polls.

This seems unwise. Especially since the ace in the hole the Biden campaign was counting on— voter appreciation of the strong economy finally kicking in—may turn out to be only a deuce. Both the Michigan consumer sentiment index and the Conference Board consumer confidence index went down last month and basically have made no progress since January. Morning in America it’s not.

The Democrats would appear to need all the help they can get. The immigration-health care nexus reviewed here suggests they may be leaving votes on the table by failing to take strong action on illegal immigration. The specter of the 2016 election looms over this campaign and, like a hanging, should concentrate the mind.


Political Strategy Notes

Washington Post syndicated columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. explains why “The Supreme Court’s Republican bias hangs over the Trump immunity case: The conservative justices must navigate a crisis moment of their own making,” and writes that “As members of its 6-3 conservative majority ponder how and when they will rule on Donald Trump’s absolute immunity claim, they should understand how much they have already done to paint themselves as instruments of the Republican Party and the political right. They have created a crisis moment….the conservative justices seem hellbent on taking a side in the searing partisan battle that is dividing the country into closely matched halves, at a cost to its own legitimacy and the nation’s confidence in the rule of law….Add to this the invention of the “major questions doctrine,” through which the court has seized the power to strike down executive agency actions of “vast economic and political significance” unless Congress clearly authorized them. It’s a move that allows the court’s conservatives to throw out any regulations and executive actions by Democratic administrations that they don’t like….Trump’s contention is both absurd and dangerous to a free republic. Yet in last week’s oral arguments, most of the conservative justices were more eager to worry about entirely hypothetical problems future presidents might confront than to deal with the facts before them involving a president who plainly tried to overturn a legitimate election….If the court delays its ruling until late June or forces the trial court to litigate new issues it might raise, it knows it will be delaying Trump’s most important trial until after this year’s election. The court already fed skepticism about its motives in December when it denied special counsel Jack Smith’s request for the court to bypass the appeals process and fast-track a hearing on matters Smith knew the justices would want to address….There is a way for the court to prove its willingness to suspend partisanship at least some of the time. Instead of wasting precious time to rule on issues not directly raised by this case, it could take up Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s suggestion that it confine itself to answering the question Trump raised: “whether all official acts [by a president] get immunity.” She proposed that it wait for a case that “actually presents” the issues that preoccupy the conservatives….One of her fellow justices has made an excellent argument for this approach. “If it is not necessary to decide more to dispose of a case, then it is necessary not to decide more,” Roberts wrote in a 2022 opinion. In the Trump case, he would do a lot for the court’s reputation by following his own advice and bringing another conservative with him.”

Gary Langer reports on a new a new ABC News/Ipsos poll at abcnews.com: “Locked in a tight race for the presidency, Donald Trump prevails in trust to handle most issues in a new ABC News/Ipsos poll, yet President Joe Biden scores competitively on key personal attributes — leaving wide open the question of who’ll prevail come Election Day, now six months away….Excluding people who say they wouldn’t vote, Trump has 46% support, Biden 44%, in this national survey of more than 2,200 adults. (Nearly all the rest say they’d pick someone else.) Among registered voters, it’s Biden 46%, Trump 45%. Among likely voters, it’s Biden 49%, Trump 45%, again not a significant difference….A five-way contest doesn’t change the picture in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates with fieldwork by Ipsos. This finds the race at 42% for Trump and 40% for Biden, with 12% for Robert F. Kennedy Jr., 2% for Cornel West and 1% for Jill Stein. (That, of course, assumes Kennedy, West and Stein are on the ballot in all states, an open question.) Among registered voters in the five-way race, it’s 42-42%, Biden-Trump, and Biden is a non-significant +3 or +4 points in likely voter models….Kennedy gets 12% even though 77% of his supporters say they know “just some” or “hardly anything” about his positions on the issues. Notably, his supporters are more apt to be Republicans or GOP-leaning independents (54%) than Democrats and Democratic leaners (42%, a slight difference given sample sizes), and in a two-way race, they favor Trump over Biden by 13 points. That may explain why Trump attacked Kennedy as a stalking horse in social media posts last week….Another result finds a potential risk for Trump in his current trial in New Yorkon charges of falsifying business records to hide a payoff to a pornographic actress who says they had sex, which he denies. Eighty percent of Trump’s supporters say they’d stick with him even if he’s convicted of a felony in this case. But that leaves 20% who say they’d either reconsider their support (16%) or withdraw it (4%) — easily enough to matter in a close race.” Among the usual caveats, it is a national poll, not a swing state poll with a fairly small sample (2260). Langer presents more polling data readers can access by clicking on this link.

In “Democrats launch early efforts to persuade undecided voters” at The Hill,  Amie Parnes observes “In an election where enthusiasm is low and voters are lukewarm on support for both parties’ candidates, Democrats are focusing on early persuasion in battleground states to help sway so-called surge voters — the part of the electorate who sat out during the 2016 presidential race but backed Biden during the 2020 cycle.,,,The Democrats say they’re seeing a need to launch these efforts earlier than usual because of the unprecedented race between Biden and former President Trump and threats from third-party candidates like Robert F. Kennedy Jr…. This week, for example, the progressive activist group MoveOn is intensifying the persuasion phase of a $32 million election program, which will engage those much-desired voters, sources tell The Hill….Biden lags Trump across several polls, which have strategists saying the early contact is essential….Organizers at MoveOn say issues like abortion and the fight for democracy have shown to be motivating for Democratic-leaning voters….MoveOn’s persuasion efforts will be handled by three “personalized contacts,” the sources say, which include phone, postcards and through in-person door-knocking, the sources say….In 2020, the group took part in get-out-the-vote efforts much later in the cycle, in August. But it didn’t focus as much on persuasion, something they say is needed during this election….“We believe that this strategy is key to doing the important work to successfully persuade voters and supply them with the information they need to protect their progress and their freedoms from Donald Trump and MAGA,” said Britt Jacovich, a press secretary for MoveOn….One source familiar with the AFL-CIO’s efforts says there is a specific focus on the Rust Belt states and having discussions on health care, wages and other issues….“There’s so much noise and the only way to cut through that noise is conversation,” the union source said. “People don’t want the political speak.”….in key battleground states — Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — the former president has a slim advantage over Biden, according to surveys published Tuesday from Emerson College Polling/The Hill, but the difference is within the survey’s margin of error….“When you’re in power and your side controls the White House, there is a tendency for your side to become complacent, and that’s where the turnout message becomes important,” said Rachel Bitecofer, a political strategist and author of the new book, “Hit ‘Em Where it Hurts: How To Save Democracy By Beating Republicans At Their Own Game.”….A lot of these surge voters are not paying attention to the daily news … The more contacts those people have to vote and vote Democrat, the better.”

Some thoughts from Politico’s “Don’t Forget the Backlash to the ’60s” by Jeff Greenfield, five-time Emmy Award-winning political analyst: “Most media retrospectives of the 1960s celebrate the marchers, the protests, the peace signs along with the compulsory Buffalo Springfield lyrics (“There’s something happening here/ But what it is ain’t exactly clear”). The reality is those upheavals were an enormous in-kind contribution to the political fortunes of the right. And if history comes even close to repeating itself, then the latest episode will redound to Donald Trump’s benefit….Ronald Reagan centered much of his 1966 campaign for governor of California on attacking the Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley. He pledged to “clean up the mess at Berkeley,” and denounced the “beatniks, radicals and filthy speech advocates” who fueled “anarchy and rioting.”….He proposed that a code of conduct be imposed on faculty to “force them to serve as examples of good behavior and decency.” He won election by a million votes.” And that was in liberal California. Greenfield continues, “The backlash against the left was a key part of the 1968 presidential race. Richard Nixon famously ran a campaign on “law and order” — highlighting both urban and campus unrest. One commercial featured scenes of protest, as Nixon argued that “in a system of government that provides for peaceful change, there is no cause that justifies a resort to violence.”….The scenes of violence in Chicago outside the Democrats’ 1968 presidential convention, meanwhile, further contributed to the notion that left-wing lawlessness had gotten out of control. It was a nightmare event for Hubert Humphrey’s beleaguered presidential campaign, one where the public overwhelmingly sided with the Chicago police, not the demonstrators. (And, of course, guess where Democrats are holding their 2024 convention: Chicago.)….The political consequences of the upheaval became clear. While the doomed liberal campaigns of Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy draw most of the focus in retrospectives of the era, the fact is that in November of 1968, Nixon and Wallace combined for 57 percent of the vote, close to the levels of historic landslide wins of LBJ in 1964 and Reagan in 1984….It may be that the months of summer, or a meaningful cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, will dampen the heat on American college campuses. But if the turmoil continues, history suggests that it will be another significant burden on Biden’s fight for a second term.”


Democrats Should Call Out Trump’s Big Lies on Abortion

Everyone knows that Donald Trump can’t be trusted on abortion policy (or many other things). But his particular lies on abortion are worth noting, as I explained at New York.

There is no exercise more exhausting and probably futile than examining a Donald Trump speech or social-media post for lies, half-truths, and incoherent self-contradictions. But it’s important on occasion to highlight some very big whoppers he tells that are central to his political strategy. It’s well known that Trump’s own position on abortion policy has wandered all over the map, and it’s plausible to suggest his approach is entirely transactional. Now that he’s staked out a “states’ rights” position on abortion that is designed to take a losing issue off the table in the 2024 presidential election, he’s telling two very specific lies to justify his latest flip-flop.

The first is his now-routine claim that “both sides” and even “legal scholars on both sides” of the abortion debate “agreed” that Roe v. Wade needed to be reversed, leaving abortion policy up to the states:

This claim was the centerpiece of Trump’s April 9 statement setting out his position on abortion for the 2024 general election, as CNN noted:

“In a video statement on abortion policy he posted on social media Monday, Trump said: ‘I was proudly the person responsible for the ending of something that all legal scholars, both sides, wanted and, in fact, demanded be ended: Roe v. Wade. They wanted it ended.’ Later in his statement, Trump said that since ‘we have abortion where everybody wanted it from a legal standpoint,’ states are free to determine their own abortion laws.”

This is clearly and demonstrably false. The three “legal experts” on the Supreme Court who passionately dissented from the decision to reverse Roe are just the tip of the iceberg of anguish over the defiance of precedent and ideological reasoning underlying Justice Samuel Alito in the majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The Society of American Law Teachers immediately and definitively issued a “condemnation” of the Dobbs decision. When the case was being argued before the Supreme Court, the American Bar Association filed an amicus brief arguing the constitutional doctrine of stare decisis required that Roe be left in place. None of these views were novel. Back in 1989 when an earlier threat to abortion rights had emerged, 885 law professors signed onto a brief defending Roe.

Sure, there was a tiny minority of “pro-choice, anti-Roe” liberals over the years who claimed resentment of the power of the unelected judges who decided Roe would eventually threaten abortion rights (not as much, it turns out, as the unelected judges that decided Dobbs). And yes, there have always been progressive critics (notably Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg) of the particular reasoning in the original Roe decision, but by no means have any of them (particularly Ginsburg) favored abandoning the federal constitutional right to abortion even if they supported a different constitutional basis for that right. So Trump’s claim is grossly nonfactual and is indeed not one that any self-respecting conservative fan of Dobbs would ever make.

The second big lie that Trump has formulated to defend his latest states’-rights position is that he’s just supporting the age-old Republican stance on the subject, as he has just asserted at Truth Social:

“Sending this Issue back to the States was the Policy of the Republican Party and Conservatives for over 50 years, due to States’ Rights and 10th Amendment, and only happened because of the Justices I proudly Nominated and got Confirmed.”

Yes, of course a growing majority of Republicans have favored reversal of Roe as a way station to a nationwide ban on abortion, but not as an end in itself. The GOP first came out for a federal constitutional amendment to ban abortion from sea to shining sea in its 1980 party platform, and every single Republican presidential nominee since then has backed the idea. There have been disagreements as to whether such a constitutional amendment should include exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. But the last GOP presidential nominee to share Trump’s position that the states should be the final arbiter of abortion policy was Gerald R. Ford in 1976, as the New York Times reported at the time:

“[Ford] said that as President he must enforce the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that forbids states to ban abortions. But he has come out in favor of a constitutional amendment that would overturn that ruling and return to the states the option of drawing up their own abortion laws.”

Ronald Reagan, who challenged Ford’s nomination in 1976 and was already a proponent of a “pro-life” constitutional amendment, and the GOP formally adopted that position in 1980; four years later, it adopted its long-standing proposal that by constitutional amendment or by a judicial ruling the protection of fetal life under the 14th Amendment should be recognized and imposed on the country regardless of what states wanted. Anti-abortion leader Marjorie Dannenfelser noted this well-known history in a not-so-subtle rebuke to Trump’s revisionist history, as NBC News reported:

“’Since 1984, the GOP platform has affirmed that 14th Amendment protections apply to unborn babies and endorsed congressional action to clarify this fact through legislation,’ Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, said in a statement to NBC News. ‘Republicans led the charge to outlaw barbaric partial-birth abortions federally, and both chambers have voted multiple times to limit painful late-term abortion. The Senate voted on this most recently in 2020. In January 2023, House Republicans also voted to protect infants born alive during an abortion.’”

It’s pretty clear that anti-abortion activists know Trump is lying about both Roe v. Wade and the GOP tradition and will support him anyway. But the rest of us should take due notice that the once and perhaps future president’s word on this subject, including his current pledge to leave abortion policy to the states, cannot be trusted for even a moment. Absent the abolition of the Senate filibuster (which, lest we forget, Trump backed as president out of impatience with the Senate’s refusal to bend the knee to his every demand), there isn’t going to be a complete federal ban on abortion in the foreseeable future. But Trump can be counted on to use the powers of the presidency to make life miserable for women needing abortion services, among the many “enemies of the people” he wants to punish.