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It is noteworthy that all of these effective Democratic messaging examples avoid using any academic language. E.g., “structural factors” or “birthing persons”. I think avoiding such esoteric and alienating language is one of the simplest ways to embrace popularism without having to compromise on policy.

Conversely, adding such academic language to generally popular messages is the quickest way to make it unpopular. E.g., everyone is opposed to surprise medical billing and supportive of policies to regulate that away. But if we dress that up with language about “inherent capitalistic exploitation” and “structural factors that victimize historically marginalized groups”, voter’s will just think we’re a bunch of unserious weirdos.

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One of the biggest issues for the Democratic Party and especially the progressive part of it is meeting voters where they are at. Language is a huge part of it. The progressives who use language like birthing people are completely out of line with the vast majority of Americans. The Democrats got very lucky that the GOP put up a bunch of their own insane candidates and in the states that mattered they in general had a normal enough Democrat running against a nutcase election denier that was enough to pull them across the finish line.

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Don't think that was all luck...progressives love to threaten primaries against moderate dems, but they almost always lose.

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True but in states like Arizona where you had insane Republicans running across the board and moderate enough Democrats, it didn’t hurt! To your point, in my home state of Wisconsin the more normal Democratic Governor candidate way outran the Progressive Democrat candidate in the Senate race. Candidates matter!

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"Intersectionality" and especially "social construct" are the worst.

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I’m not sure that I’ve ever come across a usage of “intersectionality” in the wild that’s followed by some kind of intersectional analysis. It’s just thrown in as a sentence enhancer.

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RemovedDec 5, 2022·edited Dec 5, 2022
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I'd say that last paragraph is underrated. And I'll expand on this with something I've noted before; conservative outlets consider themselves essentially as advancing the electoral interests of the GOP and are essentially appendages of the party. National Review writers may bristle at this description and in a few individual cases it's probably unfair, but practically speaking taking NR as whole, I think it's fair.

Whatever biases Nytimes does have, their coverage is very clearly influenced by the desire to NOT seem like they are working to advance Democratic Party interests.

My point is given this dynamic, it's a real challenge for Democrats to "beat to the Punch" GOP messaging.

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If NYT is trying to seem like they aren't a mouthpiece for the democrats, they are doing a horrible job at it

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I think it's more accurate to describe the NYT as a mouthpiece for, like, the "woke intelligentsia", rather than the actual political interests of the Democratic Party. Sometimes they align, sometimes they don't. But Fox News does serve the actual political interests of the Republican Party.

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RemovedDec 5, 2022·edited Dec 5, 2022
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One of my takeaways from the last couple of years is that much of media, including the NYT, FOX, etc. are increasingly audience controlled. They may prefer to push in a particular direction either because of partisanship or institutional preference, but they are deeply dependent on their audience being willing to go along.

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Superlike (tm)!

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An interesting thought experiment is to ask, “what totally banal message would make a GOP candidate slightly more appealing to me?” For me specifically in Ohio, the fact that Mike DeWine believed Covid was real, empowered a (female) physician to lead his Covid response early on, backed her up in the face of right wing maniacal attacks, encouraged people to wear masks and then get vaccinated, all that left me (and a lot of other Dems in the state) hugely impressed. If we’d had any Georgia-like election shenanigans, I’m confident he would have pulled a Kemp and stood firm for election integrity.

Merely standing up for common sense on the topics your party has most lost their damn minds over is the biggest thing you can do to stand out. But it’s not easy- it takes an independent mind to be able to break out of your own tribe’s group think enough to even SEE where they’ve lost their minds.

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I think we need to appreciate that DeSantis made better calls on COVID restriction than [generic Democratic Governor] while doing well on promoting vaccination and protecting seniors.

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That seems a stretch. Florida's death rate is about 12% better than the national average if you believe that state's opaque statistics. Which is fine, but nothing to write home about. I know people will retort: but Florida's one of the oldest states. And that's true. But it's also one where people can spend a lot of time outdoors and enjoy natural ventilation. And DeSantis for some time now has played footsie with anti vax people. I think it's truer to state Florida has done about average. I think from what we know at this point about covid, it wasn't in the cards for any state (outside of maybe Hawaii) to have New Zealand-like mortality statistics when it's surrounded by a sea of Italy-like mortality. In other words not all that much policy-wise in any of our individual states has made a huge difference in dealing with covid. That's bound to be the case absent hard internal borders.

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Does this take into account how much older Florida is than the average state (5 years)?

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I thought that FL actually had a bit higher than average death rates, but I start from the position that we knew so little (Bad! CDC) about preventing spread that most measures would be ineffective. So somewhat less of everything except preventing large gatherings indoors, vaccination, and requiring good ventilation (not done) was better.

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I had thought that about FL, too, but I like to check before I post, and they've done a bit better than the national average according to their numbers (approx 3,800 deaths per 100K vs. 3,300, IIRC).

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387/100K for FL cf 324 US average according to WaPo which is John Hopkins, I think.

It's odd that we don't see more reporting on studies that look at policies/voluntary behavior and results so we are left with these "impressions."

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I suspect we can argue benefits of the alternative COVID strategies until the cowpox comes home. I'm curious about possible and undeniable knock-on effects. DeSantis has clearly offered negative messages about COVID vaccination. Will that have a deleterious effect on Floridians' willingness to get non-controversial vaccinations, such as the standard ones for children? I note that Florida starts off as pretty bad in that regard, as 9th worst in the nation (though note that New York is #10!) Will that get even worse as a result of the DeSantis message?

(https://www.expertinsurancereviews.com/child-vaccination-rates-by-state/)

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“DeSantis has clearly offered negative messages about COVID vaccination”

You live in Florida?

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Born and raised in Gainesville. Proud Gator. Am there often.

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I asked because I have a hard time believing that anyone who lived in Florida in early 2021 would conclude that DeSantis was anti-vaccination. Because he was anything but.

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If DeSantis discouraged vaccination, I am misinformed. I simply took from he fact that Florida has a higher vaccination rate than other Southern states that DeSantis at least LET something good happen.

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Yeah, the whole idea that DeSantis discouraged vaccinations in any way is ridiculous. An early statement:

https://www.flgov.com/2021/01/09/governor-ron-desantis-provides-update-on-covid-19-vaccine-distribution-efforts/

I received my first two doses at the Hard Rock Stadium vaccination site. This is where the Miami Dolphins play and has enormous parking lot on its east side, right off Florida’s Turnpike. The drive-through site was an amazing operation and processed thousands of vehicles a day. Getting an appointment was very easy and the entire thing was efficient and the staff was thoroughly professional and (amazingly, weeks into the drive) cheerful.

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That best and worst is a wild divergence of what I would expect. Alabama is 7th best, while next door Mississippi is 6th worst. North Dakata is 2nd best, while Minnesota is 4th worst. Iowa 5th best, Indiana 2nd worst. Louisiana is better than California, Kentucky is better than Vermont.

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I thought DeSantis was actively discouraging people from getting vaccinated.

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You were lied to.

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More lies. Note that what that tweet is attributing to DeSantis is (appropriately) not in quotes.

From July 2021:

“If you’re vaccinated and you test positive but you don’t get sick, well the name of the game is to keep people out of the hospital. Seventy-five percent of Floridians over the age of 50 have gotten shots, so we think that’s really, really positive.”

There is no honest, informed way to get from what DeSantis actually said to ‘DeSantis was actively discouraging people from getting vaccinated.’

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Time did not stop in summer 2021, and you can see for yourself what DeSantis said. "They lied to us about the mRNA shots" (there's your quote marks) can only discourage vaccination, and I'm getting pretty sick of the pro-DeSantis gaslighting on this point.

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Why does one have to say, "It goes without saying" before saying this refers specifically to what DeSantis did in 2020; not his positions in 2023

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Paraphrasing your comment: "He made it easy to get vaccinated but didn't use the power of the government to force vaccinations on those who chose not to be vaccinated"

Seems like a good approach.

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I think you need to look up the definition of "paraphrasing."

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deletedDec 5, 2022·edited Dec 5, 2022
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I appreciate your position, and would agree if not for two issues:

1. The fatality rate for COVID-19 was too low to call it a "deadly pandemic", and that was evident pretty early on. For those over 80 with underlying issues, yes, it was a deadly pandemic. For those under 60, it was much worse than the flu but not a deadly pandemic (at least the way most people think of it). For kids, it was less deadly than the flu.

2. My understanding is that there is no level of vaccination that would result in herd immunity, since we now know it doesn't stop the spread or the incidence of transmission. Reduces its severity, yes. (I could absolutely be wrong about this one, as I haven't heard much about herd immunity for a long time)

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deletedDec 5, 2022·edited Dec 5, 2022
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Dec 5, 2022·edited Dec 5, 2022

My read is that he had a good covid response until mid-2021, and then after the smart people got vaccinated, he decided he didn't care if the dumbest people in his base died, and thought their lives were less important than his presidential ambitions. Which sounds like an inflammatory description but honestly isn't an unfair characterization of his strategy, if you look at this in terms of revealed preferences.

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I think it's less that people were cheating and more that locking down 100% doesn't really work well unless 100% lockdown 100% of the time. Immunity though infection or vaccination was stronger than locking down 90% of the time, because eventually your luck runs out. And very few people even in very blue areas could or would actually lockdown 100% of the time.

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This sounds reasonable. I didn't say DeSantis got ether vaccination or mobility restrictions exactly right. We still do not know what exactly would have been and CDC surely did not help anyone figure it out in quasi-real time.

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It's not easy because you have to get through a primary that advantages the most extreme candidates. We desperately need more states to adopt open primaries.

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I would simply fill a room with some smoke and let the problem take care of itself.

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Bring back the superdelegates!

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That's funny, but you need to do more than that to return to powerful parties that can control their members to the point of picking good nominees. Parties are very weak right now.

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Time for some game theory. I propose we have only closed primaries but with a twist: only Democrats can vote in the Republican primary, and vice versa.

Imagine how fun that would be! Do you vote for the worst possible other party candidate, including crazy radicals or the moderate sensible alternative? Classic Prisoner's Dilemma stuff, which implies you'll vote for the crazy one, but recall that this would be an iterative game, so that might muddy the waters.

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I've thought this for a while...Tennessee had open primaries and I thought that was why it, up until the current twat, tended to have moderate governors. I voted Trump in the primary thinking Hillary actually had a chance to beat him and no chance of beating the others, and after he won the general election I renounced trying to be "clever" in primary elections.

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Yeah, much easier if you’re running for re-election.

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>>But it’s not easy- it takes an independent mind to be able to break out of your own tribe’s group think enough to even SEE where they’ve lost their minds.<<

It doesn't just (or even mainly, I reckon) require "an independent mind." A lot of these people know perfectly well large elements of their right flank are beyond the bend.

In the GOP these days, it largely requires being willing to face a primary challenge. In short, it's necessary to put country over career. Not many in the Republican Party seem willing to do that these days.

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I mean, my husband and I were tempted, and we’re very firmly Dems, so I imagine it made a difference to more centrist people. Plus the Dem candidate, Nan Whaley, was pretty progressive, not making any kind of Tim Ryan play to the middle. Just goes to show when you write off the middle, they vote for the other guy.

Evidence: the “Nan Whaley on the issues” doesn’t list crime, public safety, or policing at ALL: https://nanwhaley.com/policy/ (Yeah, I voted for her anyway… but frankly if I thought it was gonna be close I might have thought harder about it. The abortion issue was definitely a decisive one for me tho- if DeWine supported access through 13 weeks, I would have had zero qualms voting for him.)

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Very, very random question - but if I remember correctly, you're from Louisiana? Don't know if you have the time or motivation to answer this, but I'm just genuinely curious on how different the two are. I live in Western Pa. I've never lived in the south, let alone the deep south, and sometimes I wonder if I have giant blind spots wrt to some things, like my views of "a typical GOP voter" or race relations, for example, because I unknowingly assume things everywhere are something like a mix of Western PA and Southern Cal (other place I lived).

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You remember correctly, I'm mostly impressed and only slightly creeped out (kidding, kidding!!). I moved out of Louisiana at 18 but my family still lives there so I still feel pretty connected to the culture, which is very different than the midwest in a lot of ways but probably not as fundamentally as you think. The cities (I grew up in New Orleans, live in Cincinnati) overwhelmingly lean blue, and the suburbs are more red than blue, and outside of the metro areas they're both, like, 99% red. I think the suburbs of New Orleans are red-er than the suburbs of Cinci. Growing up and going to Catholic school in the suburbs (and anyone who could afford to avoid the public schools did), I was literally the only kid in 8th grade to vote Clinton in the 1996 mock election. But I think the conservative values are similar in both states. Self-reliance, "Christian" values, color blindness, distrust of Democrats/the government... One difference is that due to sheer numbers, Louisiana Republicans openly bash Democrats all the time and, upon meeting a new person, will just assume they're a like-minded Republican until they detect otherwise. Like everyone else, they assume they are good people and that their ideological opponents are horrible, evil people, and they want to bond with you over that (think how a progressive would behave in urban California). Ohio only recently tipped from purple to reddish, and midwesterners are just more circumspect, so Ohio Republicans will keep their politics to themselves for the most part until they know you well. I work for a fairly conservative company in engineering (a fairly conservative field) and the conservatives I know at work feel like outcasts and never want to rock the boat for fear of being stigmatized (that could be the Trump effect though- most Ohio Republicans I know only supported him begrudgingly).

Am I answering your questions? I'm rambling here :)

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Yeah, great answer, thanks!

I can absolutely understand "how.a progressive would behave in urban California". It's actually quite jolting to experience Western PA, voters are more circumspect with that kind of thing just like you describe.

Overall, though, I am surprised that you say it's not as fundamentally different as I might think. That's not a disbelief surprise partly because it might have been what I said before subscribing to SB. But I've often encountered commentators here who have extremely different views of race relations or typical GOP voters than I do. Sometimes they're from areas that I've never lived in so I've started to hypothesize that that might account for the difference.

Anyways, thanks again for taking the time to answer, I do always appreciate your comments.

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I mean, it’s been a long time since I’ve listened to Louisiana conservatives speak freely about race issues- as a kid I remember my Uncle Bob saying some stuff that disgusted my mom, to the point I was worried about where to seat him at my very diversely attended wedding reception. But I think most conservatives with a modicum of education know it’s not cool to make sweepingly nasty comments about non-white, non-Christian people. But I do think most of them operate on the assumption that racial disparities in outcomes are mostly due to racial disparities in effort or culture, and that racism “isn’t a big deal” anymore. But also might be surprised that their black neighbor is a doctor. But think the fact that they’re cool with having a black neighbor makes them not a racist. They’re usually pretty sensitive about all this, as they think of themselves as “good people” and resent implications to the contrary. But I think this is all true of Northern conservatives too?

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Beto got so close to beating Cruz in 2018 because even Republicans in Texas don't like Ted Cruz.

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On that last point I would love if MY could do a piece on the TX political “vibes” - I feel like I’ve seen tons of articles about FL, CA, NY, the occasional GA/PA but living here feels like being in political no-man’s land since TX is not even the conservative darling anymore (5th Circuit non withstanding)

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I get the feeling that Texas will be the Democrats' version of the Greek myth of Tantalus. You know:

"Tantalus's punishment . . . was to stand in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree with low branches. Whenever he reached for the fruit, the branches raised his intended meal from his grasp. Whenever he bent down to get a drink, the water receded before he could get any."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tantalus#:~:text=Tantalus%20(Ancient%20Greek%3A%20%CE%A4%CE%AC%CE%BD%CF%84%CE%B1%CE%BB%CE%BF%CF%82%20T%C3%A1ntalos,he%20could%20take%20a%20drink.

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He did have these thoughts after an extended visit last summer: https://www.slowboring.com/p/some-farewell-policy-advice-for-texas

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I feel like there is an under-appreciated opportunity to move to the center AND improve actual policy outcomes by pushing to make jobs in areas like law enforcement into better jobs. I would also lump teaching and a few other service professions into this category. These are not terrible jobs, but the pay and benefits put you solidly middle to lower-middle class, and they are difficult in terms of mental, emotional, and physical labor in ways that many white collar jobs just aren't. I basically view all the teacher appreciation days and blue line flags as an attempt to cheap out on what we actually need to do as a society, which is to provide people who do important jobs with resources, staffing, and pay commensurate with the significance of their role in building a better society.

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I feel this way about teacher appreciation days too - please appreciate me with money. Like JA below I'm probably paid ok, could be better, but to the parents here, instead of a coffee mug or a Starbucks card, just listen when we say your kid did something to another kid or is behind in some area and try to work with us, treat us like professionals in the field of teaching kids stuff rather than hostile adversaries.

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Eh, I’m a teacher and feel pretty ok about my pay, especially given the time off (which I really value). MY’s discussion of this was really valuable: https://www.slowboring.com/p/are-teachers-overpaid-or-underpaid

Now, when I see the way cops who do bad things are coddled, I find it frustrating, because outside of basically Chicago or NYC, it’s actually quite easy to fire a teacher who, say, hits a kid (unless you’re in the Southeast and corporal punishment is legal), or is drunk on the job. The discourse about this feels like it was distorted by that ridiculous New Yorker article about rubber rooms, which, duh, don’t exist in most districts across the US.

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It's quite possible your view of bad police being coddled is distorted is the same way that many think bad teachers are. In other words ridiculous articles about cherry-picked examples are distorting the overall picture and many more officers are quietly fired for bad behavior but that story is never written up.

In any case, there's some element of supply and demand here. If a job like teaching, policing or nursing were truly coddled one indicator would be that we'd see many more applicants per opening, which I don't think is the case for any of the above, but is true for tenure track college professor, for example.

I take JCWs statement as saying we should invest more in teaching and community safety and attempt to elevate their prestige.

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It seems like a lot of the worst incidents involve police officers who have already been fired from a force, but then got rehired next county over or such. So i have the impression individual forces have accountability mechanisms but they are not "joined up." Which then goes to the point about not having enough quality applicants to be cops, so the bad apples keep getting rehired.

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Dec 5, 2022·edited Dec 5, 2022

I think this is 1000% an artifact of public sector unions being bad and working overwhelmingly to shelter their worst members. The conditions and compensation of a normie cop making his best effort never reaches salience. The coddling is the systemic protecting of bad actors from accountability.

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Between policing and the entire educational establishment's response to COVID, my new take on public sector unions is basically "kill it with fire, then nuke it from orbit to be sure."

I was already drifting in that direction after looking at SEPTA and other ostensibly public-serving institutions in the Philly area, but the last few years just iced the cake and lit the candles.

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Dec 5, 2022·edited Dec 5, 2022

Yeah I’ve gone from not being too fired up about the issue to “public sector unions delenda est” for basically the above reasons, plus the horrific effects that you see on cost in other industries like transportation construction.

I know it’s pragmatically speaking impossible (someone will always tack to snap up an open interest group of any material size) but I really wish the unions *per se* (rather than, eg, their individual membership) didn’t have a political home. You can always point to one or two good things that they’ve done but the costs seem to drastically outweigh the benefits.

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While it's great not to treat public sector unions like sacred cow and the indiscernible center of Progressive policy, neither are they the epicenter of all that ails us.

Teachers may have been part of the consensus around too strict session of in person schooling i some places, but no more. Exactly what to do about each school system at different pints in time was a genuinely hard problem made difficult by CDC failure to provide guidance and information about how to make that decision locality by locality plus Trump deliberately politicizing the decision. But teachers and their unions had no systematic reason to come out on the wrong side of the issue. Ditto a lot of other educational issues.

Only part of improved policing and combating crime is minimizing the kind of police misconduct that gets a BLM level of protest and police union contracts are not the main reason abuses can happen. Again, unions should have no opposition in principle to improved policing.

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Comparing teaching in public school or police work to the job of a tenured college professor fails to account for the fact that tenured professor is the ultimate cushy gig, loads of respect and you get to do what you love, vs. jobs that are often not respected and very hard, like trying to teach kids from messed up families or dealing with those same kids after they drop out of school and start boosting cars for a living. Teaching and police work are demanding jobs dealing with people who are frequently, shall we say, unappreciative.

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The way I took JCW's post was that that is why we should appreciate teachers and police more. Maybe that means more pay or maybe it means more respect and prestige or maybe all 3.

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What about firing someone for not being able to teach?

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I think the supply of teachers has become such that even with at will employment this isn’t really happening.

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As a manager, just kind of generally speaking, the folks who skate along doing the bare minimum and tip-toe-ing right up the line are the hardest ones to manage. They know exactly what the rules and requirements are, they do exactly that and not a hair more. They can up the effort if they know they're being watched, but they also know you can't watch them forever and as soon as you stop watching the effort goes back down. In a weird sort of way I can respect the boundary-setting, but damn if it isn't frustrating to manage.

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I have only had the "pleasure" of managing someone like this during our current hiring climate.

Not great, Bob!

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Your hands may be tied for various reasons. But if not, one of the best reasons for firing said person is the effect they have on morale. In other words, losing one almost-performing team member will suck, but if their behavior causes 2 high performing members to leave that's much worse!

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Very much on my radar, but I appreciate the advice.

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There's much to dislike about the practice of firing the bottom 10% every year, but it solves this problem.

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Of course, the idea of firing the bottom 10% is a terrible one. You should be firing every year based on how good of replacements you can get (with some degree of confidence).

If you fired 10% every year, you would soon reach a point where you were firing the same people you had hired the year before and you would have costs due to hiring and training and learning cures and moral.

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Dec 5, 2022·edited Dec 5, 2022

This is rarely one of its issues. If a company has a couple thousand employees and fires the bottom couple hundred, then they can do that repeatedly and never run out of new people to hire (ignoring any major geographic limitations/constraints).

Jack Welch is fairly famous for a open and direct implementation of it. Few places now practice it openly though many companies do version of it more obscurely.

The biggest issues is that assessing employees is usually not simple and almost impossible in a purely objective way. So the system allows a lot of manager manipulation which creates mixed or worse incentives, is bad for employee morale, etc.

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Sometimes you're absolutely right, they are fucking up other things. One of my managers had this policy that he wouldn't let us write people up for insubordination for basically this reason. He felt like insubordination was a weak reason and if they were being *that* difficult, they were either a good employee and maybe they were right and you were wrong, and if they sucked they were probably screwing up more tangible things and that's where the write-up should come in.

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Genius

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As a charter teacher in a state with weak unions this teacher isn’t fired any more frequently in the current climate.

There simply aren’t enough teachers to have that level of discipline and if you can show up and not throw a chair back at a kid you will keep your job till kingdom come.

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This sounds sensible and what you describe sounds much more like a management problem than a union contract problem. For every instance of featherbedding, there was probably a management decision to offer or acquiesce in a feather bed instead of more money.

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The unfortunate thing is most non-famous Democratic normie mayors of high-crime cities really want more people to go into policing and say positive things about police, but the mayor of a midsized city in PA or upstate NY is just not prominent enough to change the general vibes around policing.

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That's why we need national Ds and D "thought leaders" like the NYT to say it.

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I guess you are saying that the upper class guy who joins the police force and becomes a brilliant detective is a myth. Why won’t that person become a cop?

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Am I? I guess I'm not following.

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Sorry. That was a feeble stab at humor. I was trying to say how rare it was that people like Don Graham from the Washington Post choose to become cops.

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Over my head. But it probably landed for the WaPo subscribers out there.

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I would be much more comfortable with a tough on crime message if it were paired with innovative prison reform. Prisons are not only factories of human misery, they are where human potential goes to die. Waiting in a cage for a clock to slowly tick by is soul crushing and enervating.

Some people are broken and cannot be fixed. They need to be warehoused in places where they won’t hurt normies. Plenty of criminals just need to learn discipline and self respect-- if they could perform healthy, physical labor and gradually win privileges for demonstrating virtue, I’d be much more comfortable with incarceration. A prisoner who has worked honorably for three months should be able to get weekend furloughs conditioned on taking a urine test when he gets back. Three months of that, and the urine test could be dropped as long as he’s fit to worth Monday at 8. Three months of that and he could get parole. The jails I’ve seen are so horrible that any talk of rehabilitation is Orwellian.

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Fwiw - I've listened to at least 100 ex-prisoner videos on Youtube. Many do say the experience rehabilitated or improved them. Never have I heard them say the prison itself taught them to change, the closest I've heard to that is a version of "scared straight" where they adjust their lives because they just don't want to go back. More often, though, they say they changed within, that during the time their they found something in themselves that made them realize their old life was bad.

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It is telling that you present prisons as an educational facility and give no acknowledgment for their primary role as an instrument of punishment.

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Punishment is the intentional infliction of pain. Education is much, much better than punishment.

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The two are not mutually exclusive, but the underlying premise of criminal Justice is that wrongdoers ought to be *punished*, I.e. yes, we *want* them to suffer, ideally in a manner commensurate with the crime they committed. But suffering in that commensurate manner is a feature, not a bug. There has yet to exist a human society, past or present, that ever functioned without this principle.

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Dec 5, 2022·edited Dec 5, 2022

One could offer corporal punishment as an opt-in alternative to shorter prison sentences to preserve the public shaming and punishment and general deterrence value of sentences without the “prison is immiserating crime school” problem. I’d probably choose caning over a three month prison sentence without much difficulty.

I first saw this suggested by some internet article many, many years ago. Most folks on the left I’ve spoken to about it have been appalled, for reasons seem to me to be purely aesthetic rather than humanitarian (an opt-in system with alternatives A and B is definitionally better than one in which one has no alternatives at all and one can only get option A), which hasn’t done much to dissuade me that this could potentially actually be a huge win for basically all actors (including the accused) in the justice system

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Corporal punishment as an opt in alternative makes sense, but only if the custodial sentence itself is reasonable.

I also think branding of serious and repeat felons would be wonderful. Brand a CM i. the forehead of child molesters and I doubt they would recidivate. They could, however, work warehouse jobs without hurting anyone and could even enjoy beer and video games. Everyone wins!

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Decades ago Michael Kinsley wrote a column about choosing between years in a maximum security prison versus having your hand amputated, Saudi style. We recoil at the latter but if we really had to make the choice personally well let's just say it's not a slam dunk.

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Everything depends on the specific tradeoff. We can easily construct slam dunk examples for one choice or the other- I'd choose 1 night in jail over having all 4 limbs amputated, but I'd choose 1 hard spank over life imprisonment. In between there's space for a lot of choices.

There's possibly some range of examples where it could be win-win for everyone, ie the victims desire for vengeance and justice feels served and the criminal gets some deterrence without having to be locked up away from society, which is expensive and bad .

Maybe it's unworkable in practice, but I don't the idea itself is wrong.

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This is all accurate, especially the "most progressives are aesthetically appalled" part.

To me the "golden rule" applies here. Just like you, I'd pick caning over 3 months prison. If I think that's the most humane thing for myself, why should it bother me if it's part of the system, as an option, for everyone?

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Society has evolved from corporal punishments to prisons for a reason. If you argue for going back you need to acknowledge this development. Also, I think your categorical determination that choice is *always* better to l almost certainly warrant qualifications, but that’s a side issue.

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What is the reason?

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What kind of job? Outside of prison, in the free world, not everyone has a healthy, tolerably safe

job with half-decent wages. Is there a risk here that the prison job will be better than what some normies are experiencing on the outside? I guess it all depends on the specifics, but it's a bigger problem during a recession, and if it creates perverse incentives then it's a really big problem.

My guess, though, is you're probably underrating how broken many incarcerated prisoners are. These are people that have murdered and molested people, stolen and assaulted, repeatedly throughout their lives in most cases. Currently prison sentences are really short, just 2 years or less for the median violent crime. That's a waste of 2 years, but if you're stealing cars and kidnapping your ex-girlfriends, you're not exactly using your outside free time well, either. Also your potential victims deserve safety. And most importantly of all - no one knows how to rehabilitate people.

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I’m a progressive who does a lot of doorknocking in PA and you are mostly right- if we want to do something about climate change, we need to elect more people from the party that wants to do something about climate change, with means talking normally about things reachable voters will like without hippy punching. The only thing I would add is that it is still important to have things to run on that energize your base and to clearly point out that the Republican Party no longer supports democracy or universal rights. A good campaign needs more than one note.

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I'd like to see Matt make a better case for popularism instead of repeating the same points. Matt's message to progressives is "accept a small L to avert a risk of a big L". But they don't want a small L, they want to win.

They wants real change to American society as the most unequal among its peers and an egregious outlier on multiple metrics, be it healthcare coverage, paid leave, police violence or incarceration.

I'd like to see Matt make a serious case for how popularism really delivers for progressives, because it's extremely evident that they do not believe that it does. That's the only way I can see to get them onside. You don't persuade people by telling them to abandon their aspirations.

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"They wants real change to American society as the most unequal among its peers and an egregious outlier on multiple metrics, be it healthcare coverage, paid leave, police violence or incarceration."

These talking points feature endlessly in progressive talking points, but the United States is also an outlier in the standard of living afforded to 30th-and-up percentile households, in being the main driver of technological advancement for the last century, in presiding over the closest thing to a benign international order which has ever existed, in accepting and assimilating immigrants and affording them better lives, and frankly in overcoming a legacy of racism at home that most of the developed world still refuses to grapple with. Yes, there are individual nations that do one or two of these things as well or better (mostly within the Anglosphere, and Switzerland), but no nation aside from the US does them all reasonably well.

None of this is meant to excuse our failures, but rather to point out two things:

1. There's a lot to the US that is worth preserving, even *must* be preserved, and the progressives prefer to delude themselves into thinking none of that exists, so they can get on with simplistic, frankly stupid, narratives of sweeping change, driving active opposition that is entirely avoidable.

2. The electorate does not trust that progressives understand and value the things the United States already does well, which means they can never durably win over the mushy middle on almost any issue because there's too great a loss aversion bias.

I would love for the US to have more universal, rapid, and even-handed administration of justice, more transparent law enforcement, better-paid teachers, a decent child allowance, basic universal health insurance, and universal paid family leave.

But not at the expense of becoming more European as regards immigration, private sector dynamism, foreign policy and defence, and standards of living. Been there, seen it, not interested.

That's the choice on offer. It's a miracle I'm still a Democrat at all, given what the progressives want for me.

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I almost want to print out this comment and pin it on my wall.

So many people (many people are saying) don't understand the US's superpower of letting the rest of the world spend to educate their best and brightest only for us to scoop them up for free. For free; they want to uproot their lives and come to America! I think we should at least consider that they know what they're doing.

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Here's the printable wall-hanger version:

Repeat after me:

"The United States is not a third-world shithole."

"The United States is not a third-world shithole."

"The United States is not a third-world shithole."

Repeat until genuine belief sprouts.

Honestly, the Zoomer progressives are becoming *so* damned intransigent when called on this particular brand of horseshit that I'm almost starting to buy the "we need to burn the higher education system to the ground" narrative that the reactionaries are selling.

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Ha, *my* wall doesn't need it. I bet at least a third of the faces I see in the halls every day arrived in the United States for their graduate work and decided they never wanted to leave. Constant, visible, human reminders, and I'm so happy we welcomed them, and I wish we would welcome more.

You can print it for the other offices, though.

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I know you don't need it, lol.

I'm just a bit lost as to what the hell to tell the scions of the upper middle and professional classes, who are the root of this problem, when they firmly believe that the US is a third world hellhole. I've been to the developing and undeveloped world both. I've also spent goodly chunks of time in Europe and talking to European colleagues and friends.

The only people on earth who think the US is uniformly terrible are the far left of the American body politic, and as far as I can tell it's mostly because they're fucking ignorant little shits high on guilt over their unearned privileges and with fuck-all else to contribute.

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"The only people on earth who think the US is uniformly terrible are the far left of the American body politic"

I think the European far left also shares that view, but I otherwise agree with your analysis.

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Not really a miracle. Republicans don't want (using the economists' concept of revealed preference) better "immigration, private sector dynamism, foreign policy and defense, and standards of living (for anyone but the top of the income distribution)," either.

It's terrible when one party has to prove its own loyal opposition.

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Well, yes, but if the GOP were closer to being the party of the status quo, as it often has been, then it would be an easy sell. Likewise, if the Democrats as a whole were more committed to incrementalism and iteration, it'd be an easier sell. As is...

The progressives would have me vote to turn the US into Northwestern Europe on all economic matters and go wildly beyond even those nations on most social matters. The reactionaries would even more firmly entrench the rentier state enjoyed by the rich and systemically denude the country of the means to compete in the 21st century, wrapped all the while in the flag.

It's no wonder that the mushy middle is homeless. I, like many, lean towards the Democrats because in practice they more effectively marginalize their nutjobs. But I'm not going to glorify our left-most faction with any word other than that, "nutjobs".

The fundamental point is this: I had to choose between being the US, with all of its failings, and Germany, with all of its, that is just a no-brainer. Not just for myself but for all but the bottom quartile of the US income distribution. I do not give a damn what "progressives" would have me believe about protecting the vulnerable. Not least because on all the issues where Europe is more small-c conservative than the US, the same morons refuse to believe it and want to be even more "progressive" than the US already is, and thereby toss the most vulnerable to the wolves.

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I’m far from certain a 30th percentile household in the US does better than it’s French or German peer. If nothing else, the American family has much more anxiety about health care and education costs than the French or German equivalent

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Quoting from somewhere here:

"I'm not confident that even much of the fourth quintile even in NW European nations is really materially better off than their American counterparts. They enjoy more security in a few metrics, most especially healthcare, but lower disposable incomes, less access to housing, and no real difference in social mobility once immigration is accounted for.

In absolute terms, these are trade-offs, not slam-dunks either way. Only the truly destitute are clearly better off in Europe than the United States."

If I recall correctly, for the 30th percentile American household *disposable* incomes are a few thousand dollars higher in PPP terms than Swiss or Singaporean and $10k or more higher than French, German, Dutch, or any Nordic nation. Disposable meaning that healthcare and childcare costs have already been accounted for.

And another quote: "I think it accurate to say that the tail risks faced by the middle and working class have gotten out of control and hold the potential to cause almost anyone to fail regardless of conscientiousness or work ethic.

It’s not accurate to say no one can get ahead regardless of conscientiousness or work ethic."

You're correct that they face greater risks, and that's something we should work to fix. But not by failing to acknowledge the advantages of our system or the things it does well and benefits it affords to even the working poor.

We can constrain the healthcare system's worst risks, offer paid parental leave, and provide a child subsidy without "transformational change".

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Disposable income is often defined as take home pay. Out of pocket health care expenses eat into disposable income. Also, needing health care isn’t exactly a tail risk. A pregnancy costs $25k and the average women has two pregnancies. A family in the 30th percentile won’t qualify for Medicaid and could have a real problem paying for a pregnancy.

It’s certainly true that a family in the 60th or 70th percentile in America is materially better off than its European peer. The median American family probably has more baubles and less security than the median German family. However, I don’t think America is an outlier in terms of 30th or even 40th percentile living standards.

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Thank You. That's it.

Also, that's why I turned Centrist. Long story.

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>>But they don't want a small L, they want to win. They wants real change to American society as the most unequal among its peers and an egregious outlier on multiple metrics,<<

You can't make policy unless you win elections. Seems pretty simple. And I say this as someone who wants to Nordic-ize (or at least Canada-ize) the country as much as you seem to want to.

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Dec 5, 2022·edited Dec 5, 2022

You don’t persuade people by treating them like idiots either. I’d imagine progressives are well aware you need to win elections to enact policy and popularists acting like they’re the only ones who realise this makes them come across as arrogant and condescending, not savvy.

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Well, explain your case then. You're not an American, and seem to want large-scale change in the American political system. This is clearly hard to do, as we see from American history so far. So what's the plan?

Secondly, why is this a small 'L'? Isn't this more accepting a small 'W' versus a large 'L'? You use words like "really delivering". Are you actually against effective police departments or lowering prescription drug prices?

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Dec 5, 2022·edited Dec 5, 2022

My opinion on issues is irrelevant. I want Democrats to work effectively together. Matt seem to as well. To advance this, he keeps writing the same article which appears to me to be ineffective at getting the party’s left onto behave more constructively. My suggestion is to engage with them more respectfully, and focus not just on the number of seats but also how power is used once won.

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This article doesn't really seem to be directed at progressive candidates, who primarily run in safe blue seats. It seems to be more focused at informing / swaying the opinions of Democrats running in competitive races and staff members of Democratic party institutions such as the DCCC, who have the power to influence competitive races.

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He literally references what people tweet. I follow Matt on Twitter and arguing with progressives seems a pretty big part of what he does there.

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He probably keeps saying the same thing because he sees the left continuing to cling to their most anti-majoritarian impulses, like climate doom saying and anti-capitalism and linguistic weirdness in general.

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You don't like his tone, ok. But you yourself have no plan on what to do, and just want the kids to stop fighting. Come back with a plan as opposed to just worrying online.

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"I’d imagine progressives are well aware you need to win elections to enact policy"

I think they are aware of that as an abstract theory, but are largely ignorant of how one actually accomplishes that, which is Matt's and other popularists' point.

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Don’t a lot of progressives act like idiots? The climate left is certainly being idiotic when it tries to keep oil in the ground. My progressive friends have berated me as a bigot for wanting to protect women’s sports from gender dysphoric men. That’s idiotic when I’m more sympathetic to the gender dysphoric than the median voter. My feminist friends have shat on me for wanting to ban elective, late term abortions. Isn’t that idiotic when I’m more pro choice than the median voter?

Progressives treat my like I’m a plantation overseer and yet I’m one of the few white men in the Atlanta suburbs who has consistently voted Democrat.

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"Keep oil in the ground" is an interesting one. All things being equal, I agree with the goal of keeping oil in the ground. Even if carbon capture works at scale (which it doesn't right now for both technical and economic reasons), it would in fact be more useful to keep the oil in the ground and transition away from it, for many reasons. Do you actually disagree with that goal, or do you disagree with the means the climate left uses to keep oil in the ground?

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I think that supply interdiction means we buy more oil from Saudi Arabia. I’m certain the public is not willing to tolerate higher gas prices

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Who are all these progressives hassling you? Do they exist outside of internet threads? Seriously, on the internet no one knows you are a dog. A lot of people have accumulated power and influence through the medium of the internet, but it's not clear that they have actual power and influence. I understand that committed ideologues can be annoying, but how much influence do they actually have over you? Is this like the Stalinists and Trotzkyites fighting in the CCNY cafeteria?

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Dec 5, 2022·edited Dec 5, 2022

You make a very good point, Binya. There is a tension between the Democratic Party establishment and its left wing around a variety of topics -- police, capitalism itself, structural racism, transgender policy, the Constitution -- that is very difficult (if not impossible) to reconcile.

Donald Trump brought the Left, the near-left and lots of the center together in a way I don't think can be replicated by anyone else. Messaging around "future of democracy" or trying to cast Ron DeSantis as worse than Trump (as Jonathan Chait and others are trying) just won't work.

I don't know how the Party will be able to keep a coalition together that includes a large number of socialists (or anti-capitalism) types along with the upper middle class, economically-successful base of the party. Of course, as Trump fades (I hope), I don't know how the Republican's keep the MAGA racists together with the business-friendly conservative base either. Time will tell.

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“…cast Ron DeSantis as worse than Trump (as Jonathan Chait and others are trying)”

As we all know, Chait is a political genius:

https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2016/02/why-liberals-should-support-a-trump-nomination.html

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I don't think that there's anything really new about either party in a continent spanning two party system having trouble keeping a 51%+ coalition together. The FDR coalition had both civil rights friendly liberals and unreconstructed segregationists.

In a post-Dobbs world the Republicans will have another salient dividing line. (Hello Iowa caucuses).

Without the uber-negative partisanship Trump generates, Democrats will have some issues holding together. But, the process of getting rid of Trump has potential for even more divisiveness on the Republican side, which is precisely why it hasn't been done.

So, yes time will definitely tell.

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Dec 5, 2022·edited Dec 5, 2022

"The FDR coalition had both civil rights friendly liberals and unreconstructed segregationists."

That worked though because the civil rights friendly liberals of FDR's era were willing to bite their tongue and rack up wins on the issues they shared in common with the unreconstructed segregationists in some sort of "Inverse Intersectionalism." Part of the problem I think Matt sees for the modern American left is that a larger (or at least louder) percentage of it is now made up of effectively subconscious "accelerationists": they'd rather pursue an ideologically correct position than the objectively more likely to succeed position.

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Auu, come on, the party just does not have THAT many socialists. ACA is not Socialism and Bernie Sanders, at ever he says, is not a Socialist, either.

Of course I want that business friendly base just swallow hard, accept that the will have to pay higher taxes to get the deficit down and be Democrats.

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In my opinion, the challenge is that many progressive critics of popularism reject courting swing voters outright and instead believe in mobilizing non-voters. Yglesias has repeatedly challenged that strategy using polling data on non-voters and swing voters. E.g., “Progressives' mobilization delusion”, https://www.slowboring.com/p/progressives-mobilization-delusion

I think Yglesias is correct, yet his reasoned argument based on polling data has failed to fully discredit the mobilization strategy. And I don’t think progressive critics of popularism will take it seriously as long as they continue to reject any need to court swing voters.

Further, I don’t believe anyone can reason these progressive activists into rejecting mobilization because they didn’t adopt that strategy based on a reasoned argument using polling data. Instead, it was embraced from a strong emotional aversion to compromising on their deeply held beliefs and the need to rationalize that behavior.

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Honestly popularists verge on self-parody at this point. You act like you have unique insight into winning elections while acting in about the most offensive possible way towards your coalition members and singularly failing to persuade them. You think backing up "you need to win elections to enact policy" with "your opinions aren't based on facts, if they were you'd agree with me" is going to persuade anyone? How does that one poll test?

Here's a fact: centrists have run every Democratic administration in living memory and haven't delivered the results progressives believe are possible, and that many other countries achieve (with way fewer resources). Maybe engage with that reality before dismissing progressives as emotional or ignorant.

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it’s hard to engage bc saying something like ‘this is a more conservative country’ which is true and the explanation for 90% of what you are asking is ‘condescending’.

Progressives do seem to think a lot of stuff ‘is possible’ despite none of it having come anywhere close to actually being achieved ‘in living memory’. That’s very hard to argue with without any hint of condescension, stating ‘the obvious’. Etc.

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"This is a more conservative country" is an endogenous variable. In the progressive view, if Democrats showed more backbone, maybe it wouldn't be quite such a conservative country. Case in point, FDR.

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founding

You show backbone by holding onto your progressive values while speaking about what voters want, so you can get elected and then put those progressive values into policy.

Matt doesn’t tell anyone that caring about climate change is something they should stop doing - he just points out that it’s not necessarily what they should lead with while trying to get elected.

There are a few stated progressive policies that are incompatible with the popularist messaging (notably around policing) but not many.

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“…holding onto your progressive values while speaking about what voters want, so you can get elected and then put those progressive values into policy”

And then prepare for your midterm “shellacking.”

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FDR with his huge majority did some great things. It's just the precondition for having both in power was not, shall we say, highly desirable. The population will let you do amazing things when everything has fallen apart around you.

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Personally, I believe that's why some elements among the progressives *want* everything to fall apart. That's a black mark against them, as far as I'm concerned.

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Endogenous over what timeframe? The religiosity, the % of the country that is recent immigrants or descendants, and many other factors that I would argue create the political environment over a useful timeframe are of course changed by politics itself over a much longer one. But what’s actually proposed publicly is that we will somehow shift fundamental politics in the very short term with rhetoric and big plans.

FDR is beside the point entirely—in fact the more conservative path our state has gone down in welfare state policy etc that leftists would like to shift us to a more European model from was largely set by the new deal and fair deal Dems.

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Sorry, but that's where the progressives are just plain wrong. And FDR is 90 years removed, right?

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What’s the evidence that they’re wrong? They’ve been claiming the midterms proved them right because democrats played offence on democracy and it appears to have been effective

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This post is “acting in about the most offensive possible way” towards progressives? If that’s your sincere belief, it’s hard not to dismiss progressives as emotional and ignorant.

The counterpoint to your fact is if Centrists have run every Democratic administration in your life, then that sounds like they have a unique insight into winning elections! Reread Matt’s post - there’s some real golden nuggets in there. If only Hillary followed it better in 2016.

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Progressives and centrists are on the same team and it's incredibly frustrating to see them fight and denigrate each other instead of work together to meet the challenges, and seize the opportunities, facing America.

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Dec 5, 2022·edited Dec 5, 2022

I think this is the actual key delusion of progressives. They think the centrists are all just ignorant; waiting to have their come to Jesus moment about the glories of Scandinavian Democratic Socialism or whatever. It's just not true. The centrists have their own idiosyncratic views that often make them very committed to never being progressives. The reason the centrists always end up in charge is that their issues are better calibrated to the general public.

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Dec 5, 2022·edited Dec 5, 2022

Binya, your comment lacks serious self-awareness. For example, see above.

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First time poster. Centrist, former Dem. Progressives and Centrists are on the same team, but they're not on the same planet. IMO.

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Are progressives and centrists on the same team? I can see them being partners at various times, but I don't see them as on the same team.

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"Allyship" is often deployed to mean "you must follow my lead on this topic without question".

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I think one of the lessons of the past two or three years is that in the end, after the expected bickering and moaning, progressives and centrists politicians have worked together pretty damn well.

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I apologize. That is, to me, an unusual lesson to find. Over the past two or three years in particular.

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I didn’t mean to imply that progressives are “emotional or ignorant.” And even if I’m tempted to think that there is a grain of truth there—a truth that also applies to popularists—our mutual enemies of MAGA Republicans go far further in embracing an emotional, anger-fueled, politics of ignorance.

I do challenge the disappointment with Democratic administrations. Obama did great things for our progressive policies goals. Notably the ACA, which fundamentally changed healthcare and insurance in the US. Biden just passed the IRA; a massive climate bill that makes a massive investment in green energy. Further, the US provided the largest and most generous pandemic financial aid through a series of bills that include the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

I think the comparison with other countries—chiefly Western European countries with strong welfare states—is counterproductive because the US voters are quite different. As much as it sucks to admit, American voters are just quite small-c conservative when compared to other rich, developed countries.

In my opinion, that creates a fundamental constraint on what we can accomplish in the short and medium term. Hence, the embracement of popularism is our best strategy to implement progressive policies given the voters we have to court. (And the geographical advantage that Republicans have in the electoral college only exacerbate the challenge.)

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Dec 5, 2022·edited Dec 5, 2022

Sorry, I don't meant to be frustrated at you. It's just so disappointing to see progressives calling centrists racists while centrists do the "actually you need to win elections" shtick. 2024 is a terrifying election, bad map, dangerous likely Republican nominee, and the good guys are fighting among themselves. I have no idea how to improve this situation but I'd hope someone in a leadership position such as Matt could help.

I definitely sympathise with Matt's position given how many times I've seen him be accused of racism on Twitter (usually by white men) for completely specious reasons. Two wrongs don't make a right though.

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Matt is not in a leadership position. He has no official position in the Democratic party. I appreciate your concern, but I feel like you are thinking emotionally here instead of rationally.

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Matt is one of the top thought leaders within the Democratic Party.

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Well, I think it is necessary to add some "disappointment" from the center left side, too (some of which may be popularist and some not).

ACA did not do much to break the link between employment and health insurance although it mitigates the worst features of the link.

Neither Biden nor Obama did much (anything?) to reduce the structural deficit.

Neither even tried (when I think trying and failing could have been instructive) to turn the immigration issue from how to keep the wrong people out (a necessary part that cannot be ducked) toward how to attract more of the right people.

Obama did try to get the TPP, but Hillary stabbed him in the back and Biden is playing footsie with "industrial policy."

And while it is probably the best we can do at the moment, subsidizing zero-CO2 energy research and production (even if all the subsidized investments pass CBA tests, which many do not) and other countries mimicked our policies is not enough to actually achieve the CO2 concentration levels consistent with the 1.5 degree an maybe not even the 2 degree target. And close to zero effort has gone into getting hazard insurance rate setting to create incentives not to build vulnerable structures in places subject to climate risk.

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"[T]he results progressives *believe* are possible" - I've emphasized the crucial word here. I don't want to use overly-inflammatory language, so I'll just say this: when assessing centrists' ability to deliver, progressives need to take into account both the structure and balance of power in our political institutions and they need to take a clear-eyed look at adversarial polling data about what the population thinks about the issues they care about the most.

I realize you don't need to hear that this isn't a parliamentary democracy, but a great many people do not understand that. Moreover, the last time the democrats actually had governing majorities that resembled a parliamentary democracy, they took a major (imperfect) step towards universal health care.

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People don't trust government here though - I recommend reading Ezra Klein for the reasons why, but basically American government is just bad at things so nobody wants to give them more money. If government organizations were better run, this would probably help progressives more than progressive campaigning ever will.

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Dec 5, 2022·edited Dec 5, 2022

1. Could we not pretend everything centrists do is for the good of the party/country? Why is Menendez still a Democrat in good standing? Why did Pelosi keep blocking stock trading bans, and apparently intimidate staffers out of working for primary challengers?

2. Winning power isn't everything. What you do with it matters too. They think, even if they cost a few seats, they're ensuring that when Democrats do win power, it is used better. Centrists routinely ignore that part of their argument.

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Agree, but there can be real differences about what is "better" use of the power won.

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Matt's recent Bad Takes episode discusses this in depth, but Pelosi IS a progressive and was the leader of the progressive wing of the party when she became speaker.

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Dec 5, 2022·edited Dec 5, 2022

Man I know. I can’t believe I’m appearing to defend some of these grifters and clowns. But I reject the view that they’re all grifters and clowns. Perry Bacon, Brian Beutler, I respect their views. I think both sides of the movement need to do what they can to be more successful.

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WI voter here. Evers (Democratic Governor) won because yes he was incredibly boring but he also didn’t have piles of controversial sound clips or a Twitter feed that the GOP senate committee could just plug and play into any ad. Barnes, the senate candidate not only was a progressive but had a long, long list of sound clips and tweets that were easily available and made effective ads. Barnes lost votes in even decently blue areas (some Milwaukee suburbs) and got a horrible turnout in the City of Milwaukee. Meanwhile Evers way over performed in Democratic areas and in some swing / red leaning areas in Milwaukee. He also ran against a bumbling moron but that’s another discussion!

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Also, at a nitty gritty level "mobilization" feels like something you can do something about.

It may be just as bid an error to decide that there are no persuadable Progressive activists as to decide there are no persuadable voters. :)

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With 50+ comments this thread is probably exhausted but just registering I think the main disagreement here is you frame Matt's position as "accept a small L to avert a risk of a big L" but I think Matt's position is "accept a small *W* to avert a risk of a big L".

Small wins towards a larger goal (i.e., just make progress) strike me as the most progressive of Progressive positions.

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"Progressive" is one of the many words in our political discourse that has unfortunately been worn threadbare and now mostly just makes everyone start shouting. As you say, outside of the Discourse, "progressive" and "incrementalist" can be used almost synonymously.

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Some of us left Europe and came to the US in large part because of the specific ways Europe* has used to make its societies more equal (like having mostly mediocre universities, or having tax rates that have made at least one of my friends back home avoid getting promoted, because he felt that the trade-off between extra after-tax income and extra responsibilities wasn't worth it). Do American progressives have a better idea on how to make a society more equal other than copy EU member-states? This is a genuine question, because I haven't heard some suggestion, I think. And I say that as one of the biggest haters of American healthcare on Earth.

PS: I also think that most Americans I've spoken to don't want to change their current salary/paid leave equilibrium, but maybe that's just the people I've spoken to. Do we know that Americans would be mostly okay with the salary reductions that would come with more paid leave?

*By Europe here I practically mean the EU, just as in most cases people who say "America" don't refer to Uruguay.

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Great points. Two quick thoughts:

(1) These EU comp. metrics always seem cherry-picked (i.e., no one ever says we want a 15%p drop in home-ownership rate to match Germany) while ignoring the trade-offs ... so sure, we can have all that but we need to double the tax rate and no one wants that.

(2) Just looking at the rail union negotiating history ... salary has always been prioritized.

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It's an interesting question and a reasonable one. I've often seen this attitude from well-educated, high-earning potential Europeans. They trade the better safety net and more equitable income distribution and higher taxes of Europe for the higher-earning power, dynamism, and cheaper low wage labor of the US. It is easier to live as an upper middle/lower-upper class person in the US than in Europe. But it is much harder to live as a lower-class person in the US than in Europe. So I understand why high-earning immigrants come to the US. The question is how you balance the society and what tradeoffs you are willing to make. My feeling has always been that the US needs more social democracy and more economic dynamism, and that would make us better off. The post-war economic miracle is the relevant point here. But that was a time of lower immigration and high population growth, and we don't have those conditions now. So it's a difficult question to answer. I'm in favor of higher government spending on infrastructure and development, higher spending on child welfare, and slightly higher taxes, and I think we can pull it off.

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"But it is much harder to live as a lower-class person in the US than in Europe."

It's anecdotal, of course, but I have met more European citizens in working class jobs in the US than I had seen American citizens in working class jobs in the EU before coming here. Sure, some of them came to the US before the Fall of Communism, but I don't see them going back to the EU now either. I've even met some European guy who made me suspicious that he's not in the US legally, and I don't think that Americans are so desperate to emigrate to the EU that they would do it illegally. Do you think that lower-class Americans would be better off in Poland or Romania?

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Sorry, but Poland and Romania are way, way poorer than the EU average (since they are recent additions). Romania, in particular, is one of the poorest places in Europe. So if you get to use Romania, then I'll use Mississippi, Puerto Rico, and Indian reservations as the point of comparison. I don't think you don't understand how bad poverty is in some places in the US. Drive through the Mississippi delta or rural New Mexico/Arizona/Nevada at some point. It's worth it to peruse child poverty statistics for the US vs. EU at some point.

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I don't know that comparing the tails of the distributions is particularly helpful, but in any case the population of Mississippi, PR and Indian Reservations is around 7 millions, 2% of the total US, and that's all of them, including the non-poor parts. Poland and Romania are almost 15% of the EU.

In any case, I'm not sure being poor in Spain is so much better than being poor in Ohio. Maybe I'm wrong, but the comparison isn't obvious to me.

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I was checking the official EU statistics for GDP per capita here: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php?title=GDP_per_capita,_consumption_per_capita_and_price_level_indices

Romania is roughly on par with Portugal and above Latvia, Croatia, Slovakia, Greece, and Bulgaria. Poland is higher than that, as it has already passed Portugal and is converging with Spain. I chose formerly Communist places on purpose, because I have seen many people say "EU" and mean "only western/northern EU", but this isn't the full picture. Moreover, there are adults today that were born after Poland entered the EU, which is something given that the EU is barely 30 years old. Even if we take into account all preceding European institutions (despite the fact that they were looser in their interdependencies between members), 18 years are not nothing.

The point I'm trying to make is that there are many lower-class Europeans who I don't think have any better lives than their American counterparts, and I think that becomes easier to demonstrate if we think about the millions of people that live in Portugal, and Greece, and Bulgaria, and Romania, and Poland. We need rich Europeans to become as rich as rich Americans, so that Europe has more at its disposal to redistribute.

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I'm not really confident that the fourth quintile even in NW European nations is really materially better off than their American counterparts. They enjoy more security in a few metrics, most especially healthcare, but lower disposable incomes, less access to housing, and no real difference in social mobility once immigration is accounted for.

In absolute terms, these are trade-offs, not slam-dunks either way. Only the truly destitute are clearly better off in Europe than the United States.

The other grand philosophical question is, does the NW European model work in isolation? If we remove not just the US, but also Russia and China, can that model self-perpetuate and continue to advance technology and standards of living? I'm genuinely not sure. The more "cutthroat" economies of the US and Pacific Rim seem to drive a wildly disproportionate share of technological and scientific advancement, bring those advances to commercialization much more rapidly, provide more funding to the job, both public and private...

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Child poverty is really one of the standouts. The US is really bad on child poverty, which means a lot of parents are suffering and unable to support their children. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27044705/

I don't think I really agree with you here. It helps to increase GDP, but the distribution and transfers also are important, and in particular on child poverty and healthcare, the US is really an outlier.

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My understanding is that popularism is more about what you (and in particular candidates) talk about than what you do. Think about how the GOP never talks about cutting taxes for rich people, but then reliably does so when they get power.

The Dems can still try to deliver on progressive goals, but they shouldn't make that their message. More importantly, messaging on progressive ideas in ways that are unlikely to actually result in policy implementation, e.g. voting on HR 1 when you know its never going to pass the Senate, or loudly endorsing "defund the police," gets you all of the blowback and none of the actual policy.

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"Better policing," letting police be police rather than traffic cops, getting guns out of the hands of criminals, making it as safe for people of minority communities to walk to the grocery store as in white communities don't require Progressives to give up anything except some rhetoric and some real tax money.

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It hurts how true that is. Why be that guy when you could be this guy:

https://xkcd.com/1053/

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lol, I was hoping for this one

https://xkcd.com/386/

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I really liked this article right up to the conclusion

Part of the problem is that the small numbers of "people who care about racial justice and procedural fairness in criminal justice" who do sign up to be cops get driven out because the culture of most police departments is hostile to them. There are plenty of stories of cops being disciplined for not shooting someone, of cops being denied backup because they reported another cop. Etc.

It is really important that if we're going to try recruiting people who don't have traditional cop attitudes that there is some really tough leadership prepared to stand by those non-traditional cops.

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founding

Public sector unions result in this same situation across many professions -- police, prison guards, teachers, civil service broadly. Like FDR, I think public sector unions should be abolished.

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You could sell me on a middle ground--collective bargaining for compensation, but absolutely not for discipline.

Dunno how you make that work in practice.

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I have yet to hear about a problem that John doesn't believe can be solved by the elimination of public sector unions.

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"There are plenty of stories..." I'm sure there are because this has become a favorite story of the media over the last 5-15 years. But how representative are these stories of the typical department or the scope of such problems? How often are people "driven out" for these reasons?

It's also worth mentioning that the specific issues your presenting are mostly about "thin blue line" culture. They are not issues about racial justice and are only partially about procedural fairness. In other words, a policeman could be on-board with not "telling" on another cop and think a lot of rules that apply to making arrests can be skipped, but still care a lot about racial justice and the impartiality of the courts.

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> A little blowback for saying something very normal is, I think, a good thing. It means that you get to be normal without being boring, to ensure that people hear what you are trying to say

I like how this evolves the popularism strategy to at times deliberately court some controversy. That addresses Ezra Klein’s critique that messaging needs to not just be popular, it also needs some virality to spread and become salient among voters.

Ideally, we’d court controversy with Republicans rather than the left flank of our coalition. Like, it would be great if we had normie and popular messages that Republicans engaged with using their own less popular messaging. That would provide a clear contrast about the difference between the two parties and the controversy would boost the salience.

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Playing against type on one of your side's key unpopular stances is always going to be salient, just not with Ezra Klein's set.

You're describing an old fashioned wedge issue. I think probably entitlements and abortion seem like the best opportunities for the Democrats there.

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Dec 5, 2022·edited Dec 5, 2022

Entitlements is a class and age-dividing issue, though, and the UMC part of the base (and especially the individual donor class) gets the short end of the stick on those axes. Meanwhile Matt ‘s take is that “no abortion after X weeks” is actually the more accurately triangulated position in terms of voter support rather than “no restrictions are warranted or appropriate” (or the pre-Dobbs “viability” standard)

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As usual, you make good points, but I'm a little distressed by the defensive tone of the essay. I think the single biggest problem the Democrats face in winning elections is the rhetoric of the progressive left. Why should you apologize for implying this?

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founding

What does any of this have to do with the various races we lost in 2018, 2020, and 2022 that could have been won?

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founding

I agree with a lot of that. But I don’t think it’s true that all candidates are leaving the leftist rhetoric on race and police to the side and campaigning on the popular parts of the agenda. At least some of the candidates are adopting the unpopular rhetoric, and certainly some of the leadership is when introducing bills.

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I think the issue is those online people with small followings have a disproportionate influence in areas like Academia, Journalism, Public Health, Big Tech and HR Departments. The median voter may not be on Twitter, but they will probably get exposed to far left progressive ideas and language through their contact with the above list

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What the progressive message borg thinks is not so much that the exciting but ineffective message will go viral, but that the exciting message will inspire offline activism. And they think it will be effective because charlatan message strategists cite Cialdini’s concept of “social proof.” Basically if someone with unformed political beliefs (which is the only way they conceptualize a persuadable voter) hears enough messages from people around them, they start to believe them.

They cite this theory, even though the necessary conditions for its implementation (shared identity ties between progressive activists and persuadable voters) largely don’t exist because of education polarization and old fashioned racism.

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>>This from John Fetterman apparently worked really well, too:<<

Dollars to donuts that unfortunate incident from some years ago—when Fetterman chased down and wrongly apprehended a non-offender—didn't hurt him with the Pennsylvania electorate. (Might even have helped a bit).

(Ok, maybe not one of my better takes; but it *feels* like it could be true).

And, no, I'm not suggesting racial profiling isn't wrong (it is wrong); nor am I suggesting aspiring Democratic politicians should take up free lance law enforcement. But I do think liberal political leaders hurt themselves when they're not credible on public safety, and I also suspect Republicans are given the benefit of the doubt on this issue more so than Democrats are. Not fair, but life isn't fair. So liberals running for office have to have their ducks in a row on this issue.

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I don't remember hearing about that incident except for maybe once during the primary. So my guess is it was mostly just unthought-of. The largest number of attacks on Fetterman during the general tried to cast him as ultra-soft on crime, so in that context you're probably right that it could have even helped.

There's really not much to that story anyway. How do you want people to act when they believe there's a shooting near a school? If it had turned out to be a school shooting we'd probably be blaming him if he did nothing. And the idea that it was racial profiling seems to be come partially from the media bleachers and partly from the jogger, who's now in prison for kidnapping and attempted assault and is probably not the most reliable guy. Fetterman said he was wrapped up in cold weather clothing and had no idea what his race was - even if he could tell he was Black, was he supposed to behave differently? Braddock is like 70% Black anyway, it's hardly profiling to stop the first guy you see "fleeing" the scene if he happens to be black.

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