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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

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

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

Read the Memo.

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

by Andrew Levison

Read the Memo

Progressives need to apologize to Oliver Anthony

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

Read the Memo.

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

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

Read the Memo.

Innovative Study Offers New Insight into White Working Class Voters.

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

Read the memo.

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

Read on…

The Daily Strategist

October 3, 2023

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.

And Now, For Something Completely Different: a Two-Incumbent Presidential Election

As a political history fanatic, I quickly read and then wrote about this history-based insight on 2024 at New York:

There isn’t much question that the likeliest scenario for the 2024 presidential election will be a rematch between 2020 winner Joe Biden and 2020 loser Donald Trump. Allegedly, this is a pairing most Americans don’t want (it’s actually a bit hard to tell since Democrats nearly all despise Trump and Republicans nearly all despise Biden, meaning a “rematch” begins by displeasing half of the electorate). But the polls show Biden crushing Robert Kennedy Jr. and Marianne Williamson in the primary and Trump far ahead of 12 intraparty opponents, so anything other than a rematch would be quite a surprise.

But Biden vs. Trump: Part II will not simply be a replay of the 2020 election. Most obviously, conditions in the country have changed with the winding down of the COVID-19 pandemic and the winding up of the economy, along with renewed Russian aggression against Ukraine and all the partisan controversies that have accompanied this latest phase of divided U.S. government.

Perhaps most important, there will be a new incumbent president on the ballot in 2024. But as Jonathan V. Last observes, Biden won’t be the only president on the ballot if Trump wins the GOP nomination:

“No one living has seen an election in which two presidents have run against one another.

“And that changes everything …

“One of the (many) advantages an incumbent president has is that he has proven that he can do the job.

“This sword has two edges: An incumbent’s presidential record can be attacked. Some voters may like it. Some may not. But at the lizard-brain level, they have all seen him sitting at the big desk in the Oval. They know what he looks like as president.

“At the risk of stating the obvious: Joe Biden is president of the United States. Donald Trump used to be president of the United States.”

So in a Biden-Trump rematch, both candidates will have already passed the plausible-president threshold, and both have a recent presidential record to defend. As Last points out, this hasn’t happened since 1892, when former president Grover Cleveland faced incumbent president Benjamin Harrison, who had narrowly defeated Cleveland (while losing the popular vote) four years earlier. Then as now, the rematches came in an extended period of closely contested presidential elections. Then as now, the electorate knew both candidates very well.

But there are some big differences between the 19th-century and 21st-century rematches. For one thing, Harrison’s 1892 defeat was preceded by a financial panic and recession that cost his Republican Party an incredible 93 House seats (out of a total of 332) in the 1890 midterms. The 2022 midterms, by contrast, were a near dead heat with modest Republican gains in the House. But the even bigger difference is that the Cleveland-Harrison transition in 1889 was peaceful. The 2021 transition was perpetually contested by the loser and eventually by a mob that invaded Congress and tried to stop the final certification of the winner. Indeed, those events are an important — to many voters, a central — part of Trump’s record as an incumbent.

The horrific culmination of the first Biden-Trump election has frozen the vast majority of partisans in place as a rematch approaches, with most Democrats regarding Trump as a lawless rogue who had to be impeached twice, and most Republicans regarding Biden as a usurper who stole the White House from its rightful occupant. Conversely, most Republicans view the Trump administration as an era of peace and prosperity, while most Democrats view the Biden administration as a return to normalcy and constitutional governance. It’s unclear how many voters will engage in any judicious comparison of the records of the two presidents, and it’s entirely possible the result will be determined by voters who must decide which of them they dislike the least.

But beware of anyone telling you there is some infallible historical precedent governing a 2024 rematch. As has been so often the case since Trump won the 2016 election in an upset that overturned previous infallible historical precedents, we’re in unexplored political territory.

Political Strategy Notes

“The Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization transformed the politics of abortion, turning an issue that once mattered mostly to conservative Christians into a powerful voting issue on the left,” Amelia Thomson-Deveaux writes at FiveThirty Eight. “But new polling suggests that the decision could also be reshaping the way abortion-rights supporters think about the issue — specifically, whether abortion is something that should be regulated by the government at all….A new and intriguing finding from PerryUndem, a nonpartisan research firm, suggests that a significant chunk of abortion-rights supporters may now oppose anygovernment restrictions on abortion — even limits on later abortion that were largely uncontroversial before Dobbs. The researchers asked 4,037 registered voters if they supported a constitutional amendment establishing reproductive freedom. Half of the sample read an amendment identical to the ballot measure that passed in Michigan in 2022; the other half read the same amendment except the researchers removed language that allowed the state to regulate abortion after viability, or when a fetus can live outside a woman’s body….PerryUndem found that respondents who received the version of the ballot measure with no government regulations included were 15 percentage points more likely to say they would “definitely” vote for it: Forty-five percent said they would “definitely vote yes” on the version with no restrictions, while 30 percent said they would “definitely vote yes” on the version with a viability restriction. The results were particularly pronounced among Democrats and women of reproductive age (ages 18 to 44), who were much more likely to support the version of the amendment without restrictions….While just one initial finding, this survey lines up with other public opinion research suggesting that over the past few years, a subset of Americans have gotten more supportive of unrestricted abortion in the late second and early third trimester of pregnancy. That’s a big shift from just a short time ago, when pressing to expand viability limits was a political lightning rod for Democratic politicians in states like New York and Virginia. And if that shift turns out to be real, it may create new opportunities — and new challenges — for abortion-rights supporters who are pushing for ballot measures like the one that passed in Michigan last year.”

In his post, “Donald Trump Is Running to Stay Out of Prison. Say It, Democrats!,” at The New Republic’s ‘Soapbox,’ Editor Michael Tomasky writes: “As we anticipate the third and fourth indictments of Donald Trump, both of which look like they might land before school starts, I am reminded that presidents all think about their place in history. George Washington did—he was careful, for example, not to do certain things that would carry the whiff of monarchical ambition. He eschewed a third term that he could easily have won because he knew that he was setting the precedent for all who would follow him….But let’s be clear about Trump’s main motivation. Yeah, he wants to be president. He wants to corrupt and destroy democracy, bask in the radioactive glow of his sycophants’ blubbery praise over his perfect phone calls to Putin, start the mother of all culture wars, and all that. But mostly: He wants to stay out of prison….As we know, it is official Justice Department policy that sitting presidents can’t be prosecuted. So for Trump, being president for the next four years would in essence wipe these indictments off the books. As for criminal trials that started before he was sworn in on January 20, 2025, should he win? Easy peasy. He can pardon himself. Come on. You think he wouldn’t do it? You think he couldn’t count on the right-wing media to endorse it as no big whoop and look at those stupid fulminating libtards, along with a chorus of right-wing, Leonard Leo–anointed constitutional “scholars” to explain why it’s all fine?”

From “Biden looks to put North Carolina on ’24 map: Without the Tar Heel state, Democrats say, Republicans don’t have a path to the White House” by Myah Ward at Politico: “Biden lost the Tar Heel state to Donald Trump by just 1.4 percentage pointsin 2020, and a Democrat at the top of the ticket hasn’t managed to turn North Carolina blue since Barack Obama did in 2008. Now Biden’s team sees opportunity in 2024 amid a fresh abortion ban, a contentious, expensive gubernatorial race and steady population growth that has ballooned urban and suburban areas….State and local party leaders are pointing to North Carolina as the next Arizona or Georgia for Democrats. They’re calling on the Biden campaign and DNC to invest heavily in the state because without it, they say, Republicans don’t have a path to the White House….“I think the road to reelection will run through North Carolina this time. And we’re encouraged by the [Biden] campaign’s early commitment to our state,” said Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, a member of the president’s national advisory board. “It’s pretty clear that they have decided that North Carolina is going to be one of their targeted states … I told the president that this investment is going to be critical to his reelection, and that I believe we can win this state for him.”….The Biden campaign came out early in May with a strategy memo outlining its 2024 path to victory, including its plans to target the Tar Heel state. The DNC and campaign have already run ads in North Carolina this cycle, including on television and on two billboards in Charlotte and Rocky Mount highlighting Biden’s economic agenda.”

At Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, Mike Lux responds to “deliverism” — the notion that “if Democrats deliver genuine, tangible benefits to working-class and poor people, they will win more elections.” In his article, “Bidenomics, Storytelling, and Community,” Lux writes: “Democrats will have to overcome long-term cynicism and bitterness about the decline in economic fortunes for the two-thirds of voters without a college degree (as well as a whole lot of people with college degrees). And the Republican spin machine that vilifies not only Democrats but any government effort to lift up regular folks won’t be easy to overcome either. But the combination of Biden’s economic policy wins and a successful reframing of the trickle-down versus Bidenomics debate gives Democrats their best opportunity in a long time to begin to win the hearts and minds of working-class voters….Writers Matt Stoller and David Dayen coined the term “deliverism,” which argues that if Democrats deliver genuine, tangible benefits to working-class and poor people, they will win more elections. Stoller and Dayen have plenty of cautions and caveats to that formula—especially that policies need to be more far-reaching than most legislative measures for voters to notice—but the fundamental idea of deliverism is a critical one that the Biden team is counting on….I would add that part of our challenge is to expand progressive media, especially at the local level, and that our organizing needs to include community building to address the isolation voters are feeling….Passing big policy changes is not the only thing we have to do, but it is the first big thing we have to do. The path to electoral success still has to have at its center the enactment of policies that truly and deeply improve working-class voters’ lives….This isn’t either/or. We need good progressive policies, but we also need deeper organizing, better storytelling, more innovative ways of getting the story out, and a long-term vision of a better society for working families….Over the long run, a decade of fully flowered Bidenomics—where we build on the good things that were passed in 2021-22 and add important components like child care, affordable housing, a higher minimum wage, and a permanent expanded child tax credit—gives us an opportunity to change the dynamics. If we combine these policies with deep organizing, good storytelling, and innovative ways of delivering the story, we will have real potential to break loose big chunks of working-class voters. Democrats could start to consistently compete again in states like Ohio, Iowa, Missouri, and more of the South, as well as winning in more of rural America….An America where progressive policy wins make a better life possible for most people will restore our democracy for the long term, and make the Democratic Party the party of working people again.”

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.

Political Strategy Notes

Democrats should get ready for ever-increasing GOP efforts to suppress the votes of college students. Charley Mahtesian and Madi Alexander write in “‘This Is a Really Big Deal’: How College Towns Are Decimating the GOP” at Politico that “In state after state, fast-growing, traditionally liberal college counties….are flexing their muscles, generating higher turnout and ever greater Democratic margins. They’ve already played a pivotal role in turning several red states blue — and they could play an equally decisive role in key swing states next year….Name the flagship university — Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, among others — and the story tends to be the same. If the surrounding county was a reliable source of Democratic votes in the past, it’s a landslide county now. There are exceptions to the rule, particularly in the states with the most conservative voting habits. But even in reliably red places like South Carolina, Montana and Texas, you’ll find at least one college-oriented county producing ever larger Democratic margins.” Mahtesian and Alexander dive into the specifics of several college towns and the counties where they are located, and it’s all bad news for the GOP. They note further that “The American Communities Project, which has developed a typology of counties, designates 171 independent cities and counties as “college towns….Of those 171 places, 38 have flipped from red to blue since the 2000 presidential election. Just seven flipped the other way, from blue to red, and typically by smaller margins. Democrats grew their percentage point margins in 117 counties, while 54 counties grew redder. By raw votes, the difference was just as stark: The counties that grew bluer increased their margins by an average of 16,253, while Republicans increased their margins by an average of 4,063….None of this has gone unnoticed by the GOP, which is responding in ways that reach beyond traditional tensions between conservative lawmakers and liberal universities — such as targeting students’ voting rights, creating additional barriers to voter access or redrawing maps to dilute or limit the power of college communities. But there are limits to what those efforts can accomplish. They aren’t geared toward growing the GOP vote, merely toward suppressing Democratic totals. And they aren’t addressing the structural problems created by the rising tide of college-town votes — students are only part of the overall phenomenon.”

The dccc.org web pages have an exposé of some of the Republican House members who voted against expansion of high speed internet, which would lower costs for their constituents. An excerpt: “REMINDER: David Valadao Voted Against Expanding High-Speed Internet and Lowering Costs in CA-22.  “Today, the DCCC is reminding voters in CA-22 that David Valadao voted against the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which just announced massive savings for 2,298,429 California families…The ACP will expand high-speed internet access to help qualified households in California save up to $30 a month on internet costs….More than 14 million Americans lack access to high-speed internet. This massive investment in California will provide families tools to access jobs, education, health care services, and more. House Democrats are laser-focused on lowering costs, creating better-paying jobs, and expanding opportunity in every zip code – unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Valadao.DCCC Spokesperson Viet Shelton: “David Valadao’s vote against lowering costs for Californians is just another indication of his failure to deliver. While Valadao is spending time in the House majority chipping away at reproductive freedom and petty political fights, House Democrats are taking bold action to lower costs and deliver for everyday families.The DCCC post features similar exposes with links to more detailed reports for Republican House members: Mike Garcia (CA-27); Young Kim (CA-40); Ken Calvert (CVA-41); Michelle Steele (CA-45); Scott Perry (PA-10); Bryan Steil (WI-1); Lauren Boebert (CO-3); Marionette Miller-Meeks (IA-1); and David Schweikert (AZ-1). Citizens and journalists in these districts are invited to ‘share their shame.’

At Yahoo News Marquis Francis and Andrew Romano report that “As public support for reparations for African Americans remains stubbornly low, a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll reveals one major roadblock: Donald Trump voters believe that racism against white Americans has become a bigger problem than racism against Black Americans….The survey of 1,638 U.S. adults, which was conducted from July 13-17, shows that among 2020 Trump voters, 62% say that racism against Black Americans is a problem today — while 73% say that racism against white Americans is a problem….Asked how much of a problem racism currently is, just 19% of Trump voters describe racism against Black Americans as a “big problem.” Twice as many (37%) say racism against white Americans is a big problem….Trump voters and self-identified Republicans — overlapping but not identical cohorts — are the only demographic groups identified by Yahoo News and YouGov who are more likely to say racism against white Americans is a problem than to say the same about racism against Black Americans. A majority (51%) of white Americans, for instance, think racism against people who look like them is a problem — but overall, far more white Americans (72%) say racism against Black Americans is a problem.” Perhaps rigorous analysis of the phrasing of the questions would help shed more light on the survey responses. The poll will likely fuel heated discussions about affirmative action, reparations, set-asides and other compensatory programs based on racial discrimination. But creative policy ideas like affirmative action based on socio-economic status could help build bridges between racial groups for coalition action.

Speaking of coalitions, one of the enduring truths of politics is that no interest group can achieve its top political goals without some support from other groups. All too often interest groups become so narrowly-focused that they alienate potential supporters who perceive something like ‘Well their goal seems reasonable enough, but they don’t care about me, so I’m not going to do anything to help them.” Republicans have skillfully exploited this tendency with a range of ‘divide and conquer’ tactics for decades. The antidote is a conscious effort to build coalitions of diverse interest groups rooted in the understanding that we can all do better if we help each other. MLK had an eloquent take on what he termed “the art of alliance.” Among his insights: “The future of the deep structural change we seek…lies in new alliances.” Also, “The ability of Negroes to enter alliances is a mark of our growing strength, not of our weaknesses” and “In a multiracial society, no group can make it alone…To succeed in a pluralistic society, and an often hostile one at that, the Negro obviously needs organized strength, but this strength will only be effective when it is consolidated through constructive alliances with the majority group.” Further, said King, “A true alliance is based upon some self-interest of each component group and a common interest into which they merge. For an alliance to have permanence and loyal commitment from its various elements, each of them must have a goal from which it benefits and none must have an outlook in basic conflict with the others….If we employ the principle of selectivity along these lines, we will find millions of allies who in serving themselves also support us, and on such sound foundations unity and mutual trust and tangible accomplishment will flourish.” After Dr. King was assassinated, his widow, Coretta Scott King  leveraged these principles in working with multi-racial coalitions for a wide variety of progressive causes. By the time she organized the 20th Anniversary March on Washington in 1983, she secured the endorsements of more than 800 diverse organizations for the MLK holiday. Not a bad template for a stronger Democratic Party.

‘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.”

Are Liberal Media Afraid of DeSantis? I Don’t Think So.

Sometimes you just have to cringe at the excuses politicians make for their troubles. As I noted at New York, Ron DeSantis has resorted to the hoariest of them all.

It’s never a great look when a politician hits a rough patch and blames it on the news media. But rather than blaming Donald Trump for his recent 2024 campaign troubles — or even taking some responsibility for his bungled start — Florida governor Ron DeSantis keeps making the cringeworthy claim that his campaign is actually going gangbusters but is being artificially downgraded by liberal scribes who fear him.

“I think it’s pretty clear that the media does not want me to be their candidate,” DeSantis recently told Fox News when asked how he plans to overcome Trump’s lead. “They’ve tried to create a narrative that somehow the race is over.”

Let’s say he was just talking about the liberal mainstream media, that great nemesis for all conservative politicians. Is it true that they (we?) fear DeSantis as the GOP nominee and are thus developing a “narrative” that “somehow the race is over,” presumably to head off the awful specter of a DeSantis-Biden general election? You can see why that’s a story Team DeSantis would relish since it both implies the candidate’s problems are imaginary and encourages Republican primary voters to support their enemies’ enemy.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t make a great deal of sense.

For one thing, reporting that the DeSantis campaign is encountering problems doesn’t mean writing him off (as a matter of fact, I just wrote a piece the other day arguing it was far too early for that). But the candidate has some basic weaknesses that have been evident for some time.

As my colleague Jonathan Chait observed back in April, DeSantis is potentially a very vulnerable general-election candidate:

“He has gone on the record in the past supporting both privatization and benefit cuts for Social Security and Medicare, a position so deeply toxic that even most Republican voters recoil from it. More recently, he signed a ban on abortion after six weeks, a period so restrictive it virtually amounts to a complete ban …

“Yes, DeSantis would be able to regain some of the orthodox Republican voters repelled by Trump’s personal style. But he would forfeit not only some of the Trump cultists whose only connection to Republican politicians is a personal attachment to the 45th president but also some of the working-class voters Trump attracted by discarding some of his party’s unpopular issue baggage.”

Since April, DeSantis has doubled down on trying to run to Trump’s right. He has gone hog wild not only with an abortion stance that may be kryptonite to his swing-voter appeal but on positions like his hostility to COVID-19 measures (including vaccines) and his demands for militarization of the southern border, which may appeal to the GOP base at the cost of alienating the general electorate. If he keeps pursuing this strategy while chasing Trump from far behind, you have to figure that by the time the deal goes down in 2024, the DeSantis who won an easy reelection in Florida in 2022 may be all but unrecognizable to those who voted for him mostly because the state’s economy was doing well.

But you don’t just have to speculate about how offensive a crazed MAGA monster out-Trumping Trump may be to swing voters down the road. You can look at polls right now and see the evidence that DeSantis has no actual general-election advantage over Trump despite his team’s constant assertions that he is more electable. According to the RealClearPolitics polling averages, trial heats show Trump trailing Joe Biden by 0.2 percent (43.8 percent to 43.6 percent). DeSantis trails Biden by 1.5 percent. It’s not a meaningful difference, but it does show that the breezy self-confidence with which many DeSantis boosters assume he’s Democrats’ biggest nightmare is based on supposition, if not superstition.

Perhaps DeSantis backers would argue that the governor isn’t kicking Biden’s ass just yet because his sterling virtues aren’t as well known as they will be after he runs a couple of hundred million dollars worth of ads. But a look at DeSantis’s favorability ratio (better than Trump’s or Biden’s but still underwater) suggests that may not be true either. His RCP polling averages are currently at 37.9 percent favorable and 45.2 percent unfavorable. So to know him is not necessarily to love him; more exposure as the 2024 race heats up may not improve his standing against Biden.

None of this data, of course, factor in the signs that are actually the source of recent negative media stories: DeSantis, for all his money and the incessant boasting of his campaign and super-PAC staffs, isn’t running a particularly tight operation.

It’s a separate question, of course, as to whether Democrats would prefer dealing with an actually inaugurated Trump or DeSantis. No one knows exactly how either man would conduct himself in the Oval Office, and a lot would depend on what happens downballot as well. But to the extent that DeSantis’s route to the nomination involves capturing the heart of Trump’s base of support, the odds are very high that by the time Republicans (likely) nominate one of them, their differences would be less significant than ever before. As Chait put it:

“The best option for any liberal, moderate, or believer in democracy is to keep the Republicans away from power until they become sane again. In the meantime, the party has nothing to offer but different kinds of bad choices.”

So no, liberal media aren’t lashing out at DeSantis because he strikes them as a world-beater. Right now, DeSantis’s objective standing in the 2024 contest doesn’t require any negative spin.

Political Strategy Notes

Could a third-party candidate actually derail Biden?” Nicole Narea addresses the question at Vox and writes, “A third-party candidacy generally tries to carve out unique policy positions distinct from the major parties. (See, for instance, Cornel West’s bid from Biden’s left.)…No Labels has put out what it calls a “common sense” policy platform that appears to be a blueprint for a third-party candidate, and that tries to split the difference between Republican and Democratic positions. However, it fails to acknowledge major sticking points: For example, it asserts that “America must strike a balance between protecting women’s rights to control their own reproductive health and our society’s responsibility to protect human life,” but doesn’t articulate what that balance is — except that it’s not Florida’s six-week abortion ban….The group has said that any third-party nominee it recruits would have the freedom to diverge from that platform. But those kinds of vague platitudes won’t help the case of any such candidate, risking offending both sides of an issue over which the country remains bitterly divided….a third-party candidate is unlikely to gain much traction at all given the history of such failed bids….But even just a little bit of traction could undermine Biden’s razor-thin margins in states such as Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin, where he won by just 44,000 votes altogether in 2020….“Under the guise of this gauzy, mythical bipartisan ticket, No Labels is actually trying to hurt the chances of reelection of the incumbent Democratic president, because that is what this election is — a referendum on the first term of the Democratic president,” [pollster Fernand] Amandi said. Lieberman, for his part, claimed on ABC Sunday that No Labels is just aiming to fix the problem that the “American people are not buying what the two parties are selling anymore.”….Voters had similar ennui with both former President Barack Obama and then-Sen. John McCain in 2008, and with Ronald Reagan when he sought reelection in 1984.”

New Republic Editor Michael Tomasky writes, “I’ll grant that on some level, No Labels may be expressing a genuine frustration on the part of moderates about the two-party system (more on which later). But these are political professionals, deep insiders, and they all understand very well that their efforts are likely to help elect the anti-democrat. And they don’t care. In fact, what we know so far tells us that the people at No Labels prefer the anti-democrat….We have another candidate who has already proven he is way outside normal, given that he watched eagerly as a mob sought to kill his own vice president. And No Labels wants to run another normal candidate, obviously splitting the normal vote. And they’re doing so under color of the most mendacious rhetoric, about “unity” and “common sense” and the preposterous idea that this candidate of theirs could win….People have varying degrees of enthusiasm for Joe Biden, which is fine and natural. Other people are fed up with “the two-party duopoly,” as it’s often put, and that’s fine too. But anyone who has studied the question—as the No Labels leaders surely have—knows that running long-shot presidential candidates is not the way one changes that.” Tomasky concludes, “The choice next year will likely be between a candidate who will defend and preserve democracy and a candidate who will seek from his first hour in office to strangle it. I would think that choice would be clear. If Trump wins and follows through on what he says he will do, history will have a harsh verdict to render on all those who thought 2024, of all years, was the year to take his threats lightly.”

Harry Enten weighs in on the topic at CNN Politics and explains, “This would normally be the part of the story where I’d tell you that a third-party candidate has little chance of winning next year – and I am telling you that. It’s also true, however, that 2024 is shaping up to be the kind of election Biden could lose primarily because of a third-party candidacy….Let’s start off with the basic fact that the very early 2024 general election polling is tight. Depending on how you average the polling, Biden is either up or down a point or two against former President Donald Trump (the most likely GOP nominee at this point)….This is important because if the polls were pointing to a blowout, it would take a very popular third-party candidate to change the outcome of the general election….Instead, all it may take to affect that outcome is for a sliver of the electorate to back a third-party candidate instead of either Biden or Trump in a hypothetical matchup….it seems voters who don’t have a favorable view of either Biden or Trump are more likely to go with Biden. In an average of the past three Quinnipiac University polls, Biden leads Trump by 7 points among those who don’t have a favorable view of either man. This is a reversal from 2016 when voters in the same camp supported Trump….The national polls I’ve seen over the past few months that have included a third-party or independent candidate have shown Biden losing ground to Trump relative to when only the two of them are matched up….It’s not a substantial difference (1 to 3 points), as detailed by FiveThirtyEight’s Geoffrey Skelley. But all it may take is a shift of 1 to 3 points to change the electoral outcome if the race remains so close….We’re still well over a year from the election. Independent and third-party candidates almost always fade the closer we get to Election Day – see 2016, when Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson got about 3% nationally when early polling had shown him closer to 10%….Biden and the Democrats better hope that a similar trend occurs, if he remains this unpopular.”

Julia Shapero reports that “Almost half in new poll would consider third-party presidential candidate” at The Hill. As Shapero writes, “Almost half of voters in a poll released Wednesday said they would consider casting their ballot for a third-party presidential candidate in the 2024 election….The Quinnipiac University poll found that 47 percent of respondents said they would consider voting for a third-party candidate, while another 47 percent said they would not….Independents were much more likely than Democrats or Republicans to say they would consider voting for a candidate not running under a major party banner. While 64 percent of independents said they would consider a third-party ticket, just 35 percent of Democrats and 38 percent of Republicans said the same.” Former Democratic Majority Leader in the House of Reps, Richard Gephardt, now representing Citizens to Save Our Republic, adds in a PBS interview: “….if it’s a two-person race….that Joe Biden wins by four points, which is precisely what he won by in 2020. But if you put a third-party, independent, bipartisan candidate — and that’s the way we phrased it, to give it the best benefit of the doubt — then Joe Biden loses by five or six points….If you look at 2020, it was independent moderate voters in six swing states that stayed enough with Biden for him to win the race over Donald Trump. We cannot have Donald Trump back in the White House. He engineered an overthrow of the electoral process. He would do it again….So we’re going to do messaging in every way we can. We’re going to talk to everybody that’s involved and try to speak common sense to them that this is a risk we cannot take in this country. This democracy is fragile. It’s always fragile. It can collapse. We can lose our ability to have elections.”

Good News For Democrats In Full Midterm Data

Now that we have something more accurate than exit polls for examining the 2022 midterms, it’s time for a reconsideration of that election’s implications, as I noted at New York:

National elections are complicated phenomena. You can determine the results and their immediate consequences soon enough. But the internal dynamics of the electorate and the implications for future elections can take a while to grasp. At first, all you have are imperfect exit polls and pundit insights, and they sometimes produce equally imperfect conventional wisdom.

That’s what happened in the 2022 midterms. We know that Republicans managed narrowly to flip the U.S. House but fell short of expectations in that chamber, as well as in the U.S. Senate and to some extent state contests. There was a lot of talk about Democrats benefiting from highly motivated pro-choice voters upset about the reversal of Roe v. Wade, and Republicans suffering from extremist Senate candidates promoted by Donald Trump. Now we’re getting a clearer picture thanks to the Pew Research Center’s careful analysis of validated voters (those saying they voted and for whom Pew found voter files) from the midterms:

“In midterm elections that yielded mixed results for both parties, Republicans won the popular vote for the U.S. House of Representatives largely on the strength of higher turnout.

“A new Pew Research Center analysis of verified voters and nonvoters in 2022, 2020, 2018 and 2016 finds that partisan differences in turnout — rather than vote switching between parties — account for most of the Republican gains in voting for the House last year.”

So while Democratic turnout may have exceeded expectations, it didn’t exceed Republican turnout. And voters who did turn out overwhelmingly stayed with their own party:

“Overall, 68% of those who voted in the 2020 presidential election turned out to vote in the 2022 midterms. Former President Donald Trump’s voters turned out at a higher rate in 2022 (71%) than did President Joe Biden’s voters (67%) …

“Relatively small shares of voters defected from their partisan affiliation or 2020 presidential vote. Among those who voted for both president in 2020 and for a House representative in 2022, just 6% crossed party lines between elections or voted for third-party candidates in either election.”

Viewed in total isolation, this might be viewed as good news for Republicans going forward; that was how the New York Times interpreted the Pew numbers:

“The report serves as a warning sign for Democrats ahead of the 2024 presidential election, with early polls pointing toward a possible rematch between President Biden and former President Donald J. Trump.

“Though Democrats maintained control of the Senate, all but one of their governor’s mansions and only narrowly lost the House, the Pew data shows that a larger percentage of voters who supported Mr. Trump in 2020 cast ballots in November than those who backed Mr. Biden did. People who had voted in past elections but sat out 2022 were overwhelmingly Democrats.”

But the midterm results and the Pew data on who voted and for whom should emphatically not be viewed in isolation from historic trends. There were two data points supporting the expectation that a “red wave” would form in November 2022. The first was the “midterm falloff” typically experienced by Democratic-leaning voter groups, particularly young and minority voters who have never participated in non-presidential elections in numbers matching the older and whiter voters who now lean Republican. The second is that traditional midterm voter backlash almost always afflicts the party that controls the White House. What the Pew analysis shows us is that the first phenomenon (a Democratic turnout falloff) indeed occurred, but the second (significant vote-switching away from Joe Biden’s party) largely didn’t. As so you had a small Republican ripple instead of a wave.

The other side of the “midterm falloff” coin is that turnout by pro-Democratic voting groups tends to improve in presidential elections. All else being equal, that means if Democrats can again hang onto their voters and they turn out at a higher rate, they should have an advantage in 2024. To put it another way, they should have lost significant ground between 2020 and 2022 but didn’t. The fact that Democrats didn’t do as well as they did in 2018, which the Times analysis emphasized, is extremely unsurprising: Republicans controlled the White House then, and Democrats did produce some vote-switching in their favor.

The exceptional party loyalty exhibited by 2022 voters found by Pew, it should be mentioned, refutes some of the impressions of unusual voter trends that pundits discerned right after the elections, some of them derived from iffy exit-poll findings. The exits showed Democrats carrying women by a robust eight-point margin (53 percent to 45 percent), which reinforced the belief the abortion issue changed the results significantly. The validated voter data showed Democrats carrying women by a more modest three-point margin (51 percent to 48 percent). On the other side of the ledger, exit polls showed Republicans winning 13 percent of the Black vote, more than double the percentage the GOP won in 2018. But Pew’s validated voter data showed Republicans winning just 5 percent of the Black vote, a point less than they won in 2018.

To be very clear, the Democratic advantage in 2024 that I’ve inferred from the Pew data is what would happen if only turnout patterns change in that election. Everything — from conditions in the country, issue salience, and the quality of candidates and campaigns — may not stay the same, which could mean a narrow GOP victory or the first comfortable win for Democrats (or for either party) since 2008. But there’s a reason Democrats were thrilled to come out of the midterms without bigger losses than they sustained, and there’s no reason to assume their position will become more tenuous in a presidential year.