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Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.
But don't panic.
Let’s start with this morning’s agita:
Trump Leads Biden in Nearly Every Battleground State, New Poll Finds - The New York Times
Trump and allies plot revenge, Justice Department control in a second term - The Washington Post
In private, Trump has told advisers and friends in recent months that he wants the Justice Department to investigate onetime officials and allies who have become critical of his time in office, including his former chief of staff, John Kelly, and former attorney general William P. Barr, as well as his ex-attorney Ty Cobb and former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley, according to people who have talked to him, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. Trump has also talked of prosecuting officials at the FBI and Justice Department, a person familiar with the matter said.
Infighting is spreading, slowly but meaningfully, at every layer of the Democratic Party over Biden's full-throated support of Israel. It runs much deeper than college campus protests or caustic comments from elected officials.
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There’s no way to gloss over this. The polls are packed with ominous news for Team Biden:
Discontent pulsates throughout the Times/Siena poll, with a majority of voters saying Mr. Biden’s policies have personally hurt them. The survey also reveals the extent to which the multiracial and multigenerational coalition that elected Mr. Biden is fraying. Demographic groups that backed Mr. Biden by landslide margins in 2020 are now far more closely contested, as two-thirds of the electorate sees the country moving in the wrong direction.
Voters under 30 favor Mr. Biden by only a single percentage point, his lead among Hispanic voters is down to single digits and his advantage in urban areas is half of Mr. Trump’s edge in rural regions. And while women still favored Mr. Biden, men preferred Mr. Trump by twice as large a margin, reversing the gender advantage that had fueled so many Democratic gains in recent years.
Black voters — long a bulwark for Democrats and for Mr. Biden — are now registering 22 percent support in these states for Mr. Trump, a level unseen in presidential politics for a Republican in modern times.
Alarming. But perhaps the alarm should be mixed with some skepticism and a dollop of hope.
Do you really think that Biden only leads Trump by 1 point among young voters? Maybe. maybe not. (And what happens if younger voters come home?)
Do you really think that Hispanic voters will flock to Trump, and put him within a single digits? Maybe. Maybe not. (And what happens if those numbers revert to the norm?)
Do you think that next year Trump will draw nearly a quarter of the Black vote. Maybe. Maybe not. (And what do the numbers look like if he drops back into single digits?)
Another sliver of good news: “Trump Indictments Haven’t Sunk His Campaign, but a Conviction Might.”
If the former president is convicted and sentenced — as many of his allies expect him to be in the Jan. 6-related trial held next year in Washington, D.C. — around 6 percent of voters across Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin say they would switch their votes to Mr. Biden. That would be enough, potentially, to decide the election.
Perhaps there is a pony buried in there. But I regret to the tell you this (because I know you are tired of hearing that Biden is old), but his age really does seem to be an issue. So, there was a good deal of angst in the ranks yesterday.
Obama guru and Democratic savant David Axelrod hinted that it was perhaps time for Joe to go.
It's very late to change horses; a lot will happen in the next year that no one can predict & Biden's team says his resolve to run is firm. He's defied CW before but this will send tremors of doubt thru the party--not "bed-wetting," but legitimate concern.
The greatest concern is that his biggest liability is the one thing he can't change. Among all the unpredictables there is one thing that is sure: the age arrow only points in one direction.
[Biden] is justly proud of his accomplishments. Trump is a dangerous, unhinged demagogue whose brazen disdain for the rules, norms, laws and institutions or democracy should be disqualifying. But the stakes of miscalculation here are too dramatic to ignore.
Only @JoeBiden can make this decision. If he continues to run, he will be the nominee of the Democratic Party. What he needs to decide is whether that is wise; whether it's in HIS best interest or the country's?
My colleague, Bill Kristol had a similar reaction.
The Atlantic’s David Frum, on the other hand, argued that we should put the numbers in perspective. As he notes, this sort of thing has happened before. Who, after all, can forget this from November 2011:
Frum argues that the pre-election polling for both Obama and Biden “tells us less about the world” and “more about the inherent problems of managing the Democratic coalition, which is always more fractious and fissile that the (smaller) Republican coalition.”
What really matters in 2024
This seems like a good moment to be clear about the priorities of 2024.
Ultimately, 2024 is not about re-electing Joe Biden. It is about the urgent necessity of stopping the return of Donald J. Trump to the presidency.
The question is how.
There shouldn’t be any doubt what a second term would mean for the rule of law of liberal constitutional democracy.
Donald Trump and his allies have begun mapping out specific plans for using the federal government to punish critics and opponents should he win a second term, with the former president naming individuals he wants to investigate or prosecute and his associates drafting plans to potentially invoke the Insurrection Act on his first day in office to allow him to deploy the military against civil demonstrations. [Emphasis added.]
Nota bene: The plans have already been drafted. They are specific. They name names.
You have been warned.
Heart attack vs. cancer
Stopping Trump requires an anti-Trump coalition of the center-right and center-left. But that fragile alliance is under tremendous strain these days. And the threat to democracy extends far beyond the Orange Man to the wider fetish of Trumpism and the rise of illiberalism on both edges of the political spectrum.
Liberal democracy faces a two-front assault. At the same time that the MAGA right revels in its illiberalism, the progressive movement, Jonathan Rauch and Peter Wehner wrote last year, “is increasingly under the sway of a totalistic, unfalsifiable and revolutionary ideology that rejects fundamental liberal values like pluralism and free inquiry. And conservatives aren’t hallucinating about its influence.”
But this is where we have to distinguish the heart attack from the cancer.
And right now, the threat of a MAGA restoration is the heart attack. It is the immediate, red-light-flashing, firebell-in-the-night crisis of the moment.
So, this would be a good time to put away the wish-casting and the indulgence in denial, contempt, and partisan myopia, because the stakes are simply too high. I suspect you know what I’m talking about.
Let’s put this bluntly. Donald Trump could win next year. Don’t expect the trials to save us.
The GOP will rally around him, even if he is a convicted felon. You can be shocked. But don’t be surprised.
This also means that Joe Biden could lose.
Despite his vulnerabilities, though, many Democrats (and the pundits who love them) have decided that they absolutely don’t want to hear about Biden’s age/inflation/Hunter’s sleaze/crime/the border. And they are betting the future of liberal constitutional democracy that none of this will matter.
But voters in the real world apparently do care. And that seems to be a problem, especially when Joe Biden is all that stands between us and a revanchist Trump 2.0 presidency.
So, Biden’s cheerleaders and fluffers — the ones who bitterly denounce any Democrat who even suggests that the party might possibly want to think about considering an alternative to the incumbent — miss the point, because the actual point is defeating Trump and defending democracy.
Maybe Biden is the best man to do that. Maybe the Democrats have no one else who could. Maybe he is the reincarnation of Harry Truman. But maybe he’s not; and it’s counterproductive to prop him up if it turns out that he is not, in fact, a bulwark against authoritarianism.
The polls also suggest that Democrats no longer have the luxury of ignoring critics like Ruy Teixeira, who has been trying to explain to Democrats why they are losing ground with working class and minority voters. So maybe listen to Ruy?
It’s tempting to look at the poll numbers and conclude that America has simply lost its mind. And perhaps it has. But there is also a danger in embracing the politics of disdain.
If you regard your fellow Americans as too stupid, racist, or befuddled to be trusted with self-governance, are you really defending democracy? Or have you drifted toward becoming what you oppose?
If you are expecting Republicans to suddenly become Democrats — or conservative swing voters to embrace the progressive agenda — then you are stalking unicorns.
Centrist swing voters are unlikely to jump from one tribalism to another. Any campaign to defeat Trump will have to include voters who are willing to cross the lines to vote for the alternative, but don’t expect them to swallow the whole enchilada.
This brings us back to the fragile anti-Trump coalition.
Even though the last few years have tended to paper over the incongruities and conflicts in a group that ranges from AOC to Liz Cheney (!), recent events remind us that it is not held together by ideological agreement. The splits over Israel and Hamas have exposed deep fissures in the coalition, and those may widen.
So, this is a critical time to refocus on what matters.
This coalition needs to be held together by a shared alarm over the danger of a Trumpian restoration. Nothing else matters.
We are not the crazy ones. We are the ragged, thin line that is the last best hope of holding back the insanity.
So be afraid. But don’t despair.
Trump Keeps Telling Us
On our weekend podcast, Tim Miller joined me: Trump is glorifying insurrectionist prisoners, Bannon-world is using Confederate code words about assassination, and Republicans and a lot of the media are just pretending this radicalizing talk isn’t happening. Plus, Mike Johnson’s thoughts on dinosaurs and gay people
You can listen to the whole thing here. Or watch us on Youtube:
1. Hamas, Israel, and the Dark Power of Vengeance
I WAS ONE MONTH into my first deployment when I saw my first dead little girl.
It was 2006 in Baghdad, and the Shia–Sunni civil war had erupted in full force. Carnage greeted us daily.
Hers wasn’t the first dead body I’d seen. Hardly. I had already responded to multiple mass-casualty car bombs that ripped through Baghdad’s markets. My boots were often covered with blood as I stepped over and through scores of dying Iraqis crying out for help.
But her murder was different.
Her body was crumpled in the back of an Iraqi Police Ford Ranger, alongside other victims of a powerful Iranian-backed terrorist group, Jaysh al-Mahdi.
2. Ohio Abortion Vote a Test Case for 2024
To understand how Democrats might attempt to leverage the issue into big advantages nationally and statewide in 2024, it’s important first to remember that women voters outnumber men by lot—a 53-47 percent margin in the 2020 election, meaning that nearly 10 million more women voted for president than men did.
Think about how that skew could play out with abortion rights on the table. Trump won Florida over Biden by 3.4 percent—roughly 370,000 votes. But about 600,000 more women than men voted in Florida, and this was before the Dobbs ruling. Just getting some of those women to switch this time around would make things a lot closer.
In swing states—think Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, North Carolina, Georgia, and Wisconsin—women coming out in favor of the Democrats more than they did in 2020 will have a measurable impact. But it doesn’t stop there. With abortion at least symbolically on the ballot in the November 2024 presidential race, states like Minnesota and Vermont may have a much tougher time going from blue to red (as Republicans hope) and states like Florida and Texas may conceivably be closer to flippable (as Democrats dream). Trump might even have to campaign in Florida and Texas, something Republicans certainly don’t want to have to do.
3. Republicans Get Angry When You Do the Right Thing
We are living in, as George F. Will recently put it, “the most dangerous U.S. moment since World War II, more menacing than the October 1962 Cuban missile crisis”—because then the country was dealing with just one reckless nuclear power, and today it is dealing with three (China, Iran, Russia). Our national debt is dangerously high. Any serious discussion of the viability of Medicare and Social Security is sidelined indefinitely, even as the tidal wave of Baby Boomers reaches retirement age. The Southern border is indeed in crisis. Emerging technologies such as AI threaten to, at a minimum, have a significant economic impact.
Such a time requires clarity, forward thinking, and moral leadership. But it is abundantly clear that Republicans are not up these challenges—which was not lost on Buck. “It is impossible for the Republican party to confront our problems and offer a course correction for the future while being fixated on retribution and vengeance for contrived injustices of the past.” Indeed, those issues decided the speakership election. They are the raison d’être of the party’s prohibitive nominee for president. They will continue to define a group that cannot credibly call itself “the party of Lincoln”—for today it would resent Abe for his honesty.