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Apr 11, 2022·edited Apr 11, 2022

I'll just say that by far the most obvious thing D's could and should have done to bolster their coalition like a decade ago was drop gun control from their agenda. Yes it'll piss off people in states they already won by 30, but it would help them literally everywhere else. It's a high cultural, low practical salience issue. And it's been clear for a while that it's a lost cause in the courts anyways. Sticking behind assault weapon bans, and capacity limits and "ghost gun" hysteria is an all downside proposition that hurts them in exactly the places they need to stop bleeding votes.

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It is absolutely true that effective gun control can lower gun crime, but it does so not by keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, but by keeping guns out of everyone (so the criminals can't steal them or pretend to be non-criminals), and the scale of the regulation that would be needed to have any effective impact in the US is way beyond the politically possible - and the inevitable failure of any policy that is politically possible will just discredit gun control.

I'd love to see Democratic politicians going to gun-control lobby groups and saying "regulations could stop children being murdered in schools, but voters won't vote for them. Go and convince white Christians in rural areas to demand gun control and I'll pass the policies you like: but stop campaigning in Democratic primaries, because all you are doing is picking people who lose to Republicans".

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Aside: unlike drugs, gun manufacturing and concealment is hard enough that if no-one is allowed to make or carry a gun, then it can be effectively enforced to the point that even criminals can't get guns.

Now, the US would have the problem that it has lots of guns already and you'd have to remove them all, but if you had the political consensus necessary to pass such laws, then the vast majority of gun owners would voluntarily give up their guns. The fact that that last sentence is laughable is why a political campaign to get rid of guns won't get off the ground.

A Democrat could perhaps get around it by a "no half measures on guns, repeal the second amendment or nothing" position - knowing that gun owners will recognise that second amendment repeal is going nowhere and therefore the substance of this person's position is "nothing" - especially if they then vote against gun control measures.

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Your statement about gun manufacturing was maybe true until 3d printed guns got reliable enough to use in crime, which at this point is 3-5 years ago.

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It's not 3D printing- this is a common misconception- it's CNC machining (which actually makes it worse, because there's probably 10 million CNC machines across the US, in every machine shop)

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Either process works. Fully 3d printed semiautomatic carbines with electrochemically rifled barrels are entirely attainable for the average handyman/hobbyist (notably the FGC-9). If you allow purchasing of unregulated metal parts, AR/AK pattern rifles and many pistol/PDW designs are also doable.

CNC will get you anything else, but the low bar is 3D printing, which is much more affordable and low skill than CNC.

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Most of what you've written here is incorrect. There is no 3D printing process for a metal receiver yet. There are easily 10-20 million guys in America who can operate a CNC machine, and the new Ghost Gunner CNC machines require zero skill, just a laptop. There are no 3D printed firearms yet except for extremely goofy, plastic, single-shot ones. I think you have the basic facts right but you've confused CNC with 3D

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3D printing is a very viable means of acquiring a firearm. US laws only consider the serialized part to be a "firearm" and allow all other parts to be bought without a background check. For weapons where the receiver just holds the rest of the parts together and doesn't handle much stress it's pretty easy to print the receiver. Once you have a printed receiver you can buy OEM parts to finish it off and have them delivered to your door. There are a few guys doing AR-15 lowers and AWCY has released a 3d printed receiver for the CZ Scorpion Pistol Caliber Carbine.

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I'm talking about the difficulty of getting a gun in a country with an effective national gun ban, like the UK. Not about getting a gun as a criminal in a country where large numbers of non-criminals have guns.

It's certainly true that a 3D printed gun is an option, though pure 3D-printed receivers are still pretty poor unless you use 3D printers that can print in metal, which are still much too expensive for criminal use. If RocketLab can print a rocket engine in metal on a 3D printer, then I'm sure the same printer can print a receiver - but those are multi-million dollar machines, not really in the price range for a criminal. Now, CNC milling is a completely different story, but it's a question of how many CNC millers are prepared to associate themselves with violent criminal gangs - regardless of how much money they are offered. Still, I'll concede that this is getting much closer to being possible.

But where are you getting the ammunition?

I have fired a legally-owned SMLE here in the UK (it belonged to an acquaintance and was on a licensed range). Without a firearms certificate, I can't legally buy ammunition. Legally-owned ammunition is well-secured, and stealing it would result in a major police alert to track it down and retrieve it.

I can probably get hold of used brass. I could pour lead for the bullets, though making FMJ would be harder (not impossible, though). But nitrocellulose is a really hard problem. Powder is controlled the same as ammunition, so I'd probably have to make it myself. Nitric acid at the levels of concentration needed is a controlled substance, though you could probably steal some from a chemical plant - and cellulose is trivial; cotton is never going to be a controlled substance.

But making powder is notoriously dangerous, this isn't like a meth lab. Get it wrong, and you blow yourself up, and the people who know enough of how to do it to ever produce anything useful know how dangerous it is. You need permanent facilities, which are hard to hide, you need to be able to survive the occasional accidental explosion, which is going to attract attention. And I know I wouldn't trust the quality control enough to put it in a gun I was firing.

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Hand casting bullets is absolutely a thing, and nowhere near as dangerous or difficult as you imagine here. There's an entire hobby industry here in the US devoted to enthusiasts hand casting their own bullets. I bet you the number of rounds hand-casted here in the US yesterday was in the four figures- just guys working in their garage or basement. I recommend poking around Youtube for some American redneck hand-casting how-tos

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I didn't suggest that hand-casting bullets was difficult at all: "I could pour lead for the bullets, though making FMJ would be harder".

It's guncotton - nitrocellulose - that is a pain to make. You need strong nitric acid, you need to keep it cool, it takes a long time, and the safe way to do it is in very small batches, 24 hours or more for a batch that might be enough to fill a single AR-15 magazine's worth of rounds.

And primers are even worse. The chemistry is nastier, and primary explosives are shock-sensitive.

Hand casters tend to buy powder, not make it - and you'd have to be cracked to make your own primers. Primer factories - modern ones with all sorts of safety options that no-one has access to at home - still blow up occasionally. If criminal gangs had chemists making primers in secret labs the way that they have meth labs and crack labs, then we'd know about it, because of all the random explosions.

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2nd Amendment advocates would take you seriously...if not literally. They are scared of the smallest 2nd amendment rollback. They aren't going to take "a full repeal or nothing" argument like "oh, he means nothing." A republican would just respond "nothing". Then who would they side with? the guy threatening repeal or nothing...or the guy saying nothing?

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An actual effective gun control scheme would basically be a blanket ban of every firearm designed in the last 125 years. Like, the lethality gap in firing into a crowd with an 1897 shotgun vs a 2021 AR-15 is really not very significant.

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And such laws exist and work in other countries.

UK firearms law says that the only firearms that normal people can have are muzzle-loaders (no licence required) and shotguns (SGC, much simpler licence) that have to be broken open to reload and may have no more than three barrels.

Rifles that are not self-loading (ie semi-automatic) can be licensed (also semi-autos in .22LR), but getting a licence is pretty arduous - and you have to license each gun separately, so large collections are always illegal. There are just over 100,000 such licenses (guns, not persons) in the UK - about 1 per 600 persons.

Pistols (guns shorter than 24" or with a barrel under 12") are wholly illegal for private use and cannot be licensed; some manufacturers make very long pistols specifically so competition shooters can use them. There are some exceptions for elite-level sporting events (e.g. the 2012 Olympics had one)

Ammunition cannot be legally sold without a firearms licence, other than black powder.

The net effect is that criminals mostly can't get guns. Armed robberies frequently involve replica firearms because the criminals can't get real ones. Even when they can, they are often deeply unreliable, especially the massive jam tendencies in badly made/badly repaired semi-automatics.

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Sure, but this is wildly beyond the scope of the Overton window of "common sense gun control" bullshit the D's waste their political capital getting behind.

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Absolutely, which was my argument: either you do something actually effective, or you do something politically effective (ie shut up about guns).

That's why I suggested supporting the NRA definition of what the second amendment means and also supporting repeal: "I want to restrict guns; it's unconstitutional to do it, that's why I want to repeal the second amendment. Until it is repealed, gun restrictions are unconstitutional and I will vote against breaking the constitution".

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Banning something doesn't make it magically go away. See also the drug war.

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Works better with guns than drugs for various reasons, but you need a really comprehensive ban to be effective.

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Except for the whole amending the Constitution part.

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Well, yes, but that's clearly the goal of some people from the occasional gaspingly hysterical mention in news report about guns that let you fire a bullet each time you pull the trigger, i.e., a semi-automatic weapon of the sort that's existed since the late 19th Century (and have made up a majority of new handgun sales for a few decades now, I believe).

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UK law bans all handguns (defined as shorter than 24") and all semi-automatic and automatic weapons.

The most powerful gun that is licensable and anything resembling common is an SMLE (Short, Magazine Lee-Enfield), ie the rifle used by the British Army in the two World Wars.

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Yes, I'm aware that the UK has much more restrictive gun control laws than the US (as do many other countries), but I don't see the connection to my comment?

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I think some US gun control people would like to end up with gun laws like the UK, and the UK exists as an exemplar of what is possible.

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All "possession" crimes are trash and ripe for abuse. Throwing thousands of people in jail for being found to have a gun is a terrible fucking alternative to solving actual crimes.

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deletedApr 11, 2022·edited Apr 11, 2022
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"Guns aren't like drugs... they cost hundreds of dollars and are much harder to get."

you sound like someone not very familiar with drugs or guns. It's quite easy to spend hundreds (or thousands) on drugs.

Also, while it's true that the black market for guns is smaller than the drug market, at least part of that is because it's so easy to get legal guns.

More prohibition, will just mean more people getting guns off the black market

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Excellent question. Maybe the premises of those laws are dumb, also usually racist. Wouldn't that be something to find out? You should look into it.

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deletedApr 11, 2022·edited Apr 11, 2022
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I'm not sure public defenders taking the libertarian position on a criminal justice issue is a good horseshoe anecdote.

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TIL this term. Thanks!

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I would also add that this is an area where most left-of-center people, myself included, don't have any lived experience because we don't own guns. One of my closest friends is a conservative Republican, now in the military, for whom gun rights are a top voting issue, and a point he always made to me was that he felt frustrated by liberals who objectively knew less about guns that he did telling him that his views were wrong.

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Specifically, with regard to the steps Biden/ATF announced yesterday, steps that overwhelmingly target firearm enthusiast/hobbyists being taken as a reflexive "anti-crime" effort is embarrassingly disconnected from anything that will actually impact levels of violence and extremely insulting to the sorts of people with personal experience assembling home built guns.

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I agree here as well - I think any real reform we're going to get in this country at a national level, it's going to come from gun owners / pro-gun politicians leading the way. It was a conservative Australia PM led the charge on pretty radical gun reform after they saw a horrific school shooting.

I think Manchin and Toomey showed real leadership here - they tried in 2013 after the Newtown tragedy - they were bipartisan "A rated" NRA members with rural constituents who said it was time for common sense reform. I thought it was worth the attempt then, they got 54 votes. But until we think we can get that close and have bipartisan support for a bill, I don't think it's worth drawing attention to doomed efforts that will hurt electorally.

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I am sympathetic to this in some ways, but less in others. Sure liberals may not know what ‘actually’ constitutes an assault rifle, but the more important knowledge is knowing handguns are far more likely than long rifles to be used in crimes.

Most gun deaths are suicides, yet it’s not a big political issue. The gun rights debate has fell off so far from reality it’s barely worth engaging in anymore. But I don’t think giving up on gun rights will help Democrats much.

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handguns are far more likely than long rifles (or assault rifles) to be used in crimes (or suicide) but no one is actually arguing to get rid of handguns because of their use as a home defense tool. Maybe handgun abolishment is the secret goal--many gun supporters are suspicious--but no one is advocating for that. So, people on the right see a lot of virtue signaling in left proposals that won't have any public safety impact but will impact their ability to enjoy shooting guns they enjoy having.

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"Know less but lecture me" is an extremely common frustration. I constantly have to point out that machine guns are already basically illegal, most gun deaths in the US are suicides, the "gun show loophole" isn't about gun shows, so on. More than any other issue I can think of, there is a massive information asymmetry on gun control: the median democrat knows almost nothing about gun laws except that they want more.

I'm a fairly centrist technocrat type who wants to keep firearms legal, and I would be much more open to voting Dem if they would drop the attempts to restrict firearms. I feel like having me voting for a carbon tax and legal abortion in a purplish state is more valuable than running up the vote count in Massachusetts.

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What I find frustrating about the Gun Rights debate is Gun Rights activists want the debate to be about the details, while Gun Rights opponents argue on moral and emotional grounds. Everyone agrees on the emotion (well, almost everyone) but then the debate shifts to "the details" and it becomes a stupid muddled mess.

Personally I find the Gun Rights arguments to be specious. The US has far more gun deaths than the rest of the industrialized world, and the reason is obvious: we're ALSO an outlier in gun rights. So the answer to me is obvious, but I see no path forward currently.

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This is a good point. Turn gun control into a local issue... why use it to hamper national races.

There are a good many issues where this is probably good advice.

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founding

It’s impossible to have a local issue these days. Nearly all political engagement is national (or even global).

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And just to expand on that (or make express what you implied), even if not a single Democrat running for or elected to a federal office mentioned gun control for two years, the issue can and would still hurt Dems among rural voters. People hear "New York Democrats move to add additional restrictions on gun ownership" and they do not readily conclude that this is limited to only one state's Democratic party, and only in that state's legislature. It is hard to shed a national brand that is the result of thousand of politicians' choices and concerted RW media effort to make sure negative aspects of the brand relationship stick.

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“…they do not readily conclude that this is limited to only one state's Democratic party, and only in that state's legislature”

Because it’s not only in one state, it’s in basically every single state under the control of the Democratic Party. If I drive from Florida to Maine I can legally carry a loaded pistol with me - on my person or accessible from the driver’s seat in FL, GA, SC, NA, and VA. But in order to comply with the law, before entering DC I would have to unload the pistol, lock it in a box, lock the ammunition in a separate box, and store those boxes in the trunk of the car or in a place not readily accessible from the passenger are of an SUV. Those same requirements have to be followed in MD, DE, PA, NJ, NY, CT, and MA.

(Once I get across the NH border, however, it’s lock & load time, because, Live Free or Die!)

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I was making a point about how peoples' perception of a political party's platform is leaky across state borders even when not warranted. I agree that, as to this issue, the reality is that the party is consistently and correctly identified as pro gun control across many, if not all, states.

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Apr 11, 2022·edited Apr 11, 2022

There was a time where it really seemed like it might get devolved out of the platform. Seemed like people realized it was a losing issue. Then Obama made his infamous "cling to their bibles and guns" comment and it's been a stone on the party's neck ever since. Maybe the tactically dumbest thing he ever said.

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You can't wish issues to the state and local level. Republicans will bring it up as a wedge issue. You can try...but easier said than done.

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I agree. I'm passionate about gun control but can see it's clearly doing a lot of harm politically and not achieving what it hopes to on the national level. There's a lot you can accomplish more quietly at a state level.

Obama was fairly close to this from 2008-2012; he actually *expanded* gun rights in office (permitting guns on Amtrak) in that first term. The NRA and gun lobby will still convince millions of people that Democrats are just waiting to snatch guns away even if they drop gun control from the agenda, but maybe some voters will be persuadable.

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The issue with moderate Democrats is they a. say sincerely that they don't want to take away peoples guns, then a fellow Dem comes out and says... yes that is the goal. Or b.. they actually say they want to take away guns (Beto).

Gun control is one issue that I rarely see anyone address.

The most public gun control platform issues are the ones that are the least efficient. Universal Background Checks (gun show loophole)... this wouldn't make a dent in the gun murders in the U.S. (I support it anyway... just realistic about its impact)

The things that would work... harsher penalties/longer sentences for people who commit crimes with guns would result in a huge disparate impact issue.

A huge percentage of murders are committed by people who have previous gun possession convictions.

Now most gun owners... vast majority are law abiding, but also aware of these statistics. There is a cultural punishment angle to the public gun control discussion.

Disclaimer: I own multiple weapons. All kept in a safe.

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I haven't looked into it much but I like the idea of requiring liability insurance for people seeking license to carry - I think IL is pursuing this right now.

Discounts for people with gun safes, safety training courses completed, military/police, record of safety. But if you're Dick Cheney and you shot a guy in the face on accident...you're either uninsurable or should have sky high premiums.

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People with carry licenses don't commit crime. They're like the statistically most law abiding demographic in the country. This sort of suggestion is exactly the worst thing D's do. Proposals that entirely burden the most law abiding set of gun owners while doing absolutely nothing to constrain violence or crime are wildly alienating and blare out the ignorance of people who have no personal experience navigating the existing gun law environment in the country.

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"People with carry licenses don't commit crime." - pretty bold statement to say members of any group 'don't commit crime', also pretty easy to debunk - https://concealedcarrykillers.org/

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It's also incredibly easy to recognize when a statement is statistical and obviously not an absolute.

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But it would do zero to help with gun violence.

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That's a bold claim - any evidence you can share that it would have zero impact?

As discussed here, we know 'gun violence' is a lot more than just the high profile mass shooting. A large part is suicides. A small but still tragically high number are kids playing with unsecured weapons. If gun liability nudged people to have safer gun habits, you're certain it would have zero lives saved?

We also just have a lot of knuckleheads do stupid things with guns that might not kill anyone, but I would still like to see them paying high premiums, the same way terrible drivers should pay higher premiums on their car insurance. Consider the FBI agent who shot someone by accident because he did a flip on a dance floor at a wedding. That was really dumb and could have killed someone. I don't think he needs to face the most extreme punishment, but a gun liability law could make sure his record with a grossly negligent incident is reflected in his gun liability rates should he still want to carry a gun in his personal life.

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I mean is there any reason to believe that the subset of negligent/accidental firearm injuries is on a scale anything remotely like cars? Let alone the danger posed to persons other than oneself? How many people actually pull a Dick Cheney? I'm gonna guess there's a laundry list of things like pools, bicycles, trampolines, scooters etc. Etc. That pose a similar risk.

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I would agree with this for a carry permit. Not for just owning a gun though. Or transporting one.

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The Democratic Party’s issues stem far beyond just gun control at this point.

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Can we come up with a way to get votes that doesn't directly lead to more mass shootings? I'll take anything else to pander on please.

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Apr 12, 2022·edited Apr 12, 2022

These things are generally popular (https://news.gallup.com/poll/1645/guns.aspx). But they're not *wildly* popular and, more to the point, it's impossible for them to pass. That's why I'm okay with the Democrats stating them as part of their principled positions; I just don't want them to lead any more doomed efforts to try to pass them. All that does is infuriate that solid minority bloc of the population that will die on the hill of unlimited gun rights while disappointing people who would like to see more gun control but, outside of the latest horrific slaughter, really doesn't think about it.

The last thing the Democrats should do is reverse their position on guns. No one would believe them, it would pick up no new votes, and would simply prove how they have no principles. Just don't jump up and down about how this time you're really going to do something about it.

Contrast that with "defunding the police." That's wildly unpopular (https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2021/10/police-reform-polls-white-black-crime.html) and the entire Democratic party was getting branded with something that almost all of the leadership opposed. That's why it was brilliant politics of Biden to use the State of the Union to reject that piece of non-popularist idiocy.

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Ehhh, even where you can get small majority preference, it's an issue where the level of voter investment is wildly biased towards the 2A camp. And you can't escape the geography problem, the voters you lose being anti gun are votes you really need and the votes you lose by respecting gun rights are votes you can afford to lose.

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But is it really part of the Democrats' agenda?

Here's what the DNC has to say about gun control:

"Democrats believe that we can reduce gun violence while respecting the rights of responsible gun owners. We believe we should expand and strengthen background checks for those who want to purchase a firearm – because it shouldn’t be easier to get a gun than a driver’s license. We believe we should ensure that guns don’t fall into the hands of terrorists (whether they be domestic or foreign), domestic abusers, other violent criminals, or those who have shown signs of danger toward themselves or others. And we believe we should treat gun violence as the deadly public health crisis it is." (https://democrats.org/where-we-stand/the-issues/preventing-gun-violence/)

The Biden position was more detailed but arguably no more aggressive: https://joebiden.com/gunsafety/

If the Democratic party and its nominee had entirely dropped all that verbiage from its materials and just said nothing, how many more votes would they have gotten. Very very few, I'd say.

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The Democrats' agenda, in this sense, is the most radical thing that any vaguely serious person in the party said and didn't receive massive pushback for. Beto O'Rourke (pretty much the definition of "vaguely serious") said "Hell yes, we are going to take your AR-15". and he didn't get the shocked demands he take it back that, say, Ilhan Omar got when she used anti-semitic tropes against Israel.

If someone says something and they don't get dogpiled for it, then the party gets tagged with it. That's why the Republican lack of pushback against MTG is so damning - if the Kevin McCarthys and Mitch McConnells of this world were aggressively pushing back the way they did to Madison Cawthorn about the sex and drugs stuff, then it would be treated as a fringe position. But they don't, they just ignore it, and that is (not unreasonably) seen as meaning that even moderate members of the party are either OK with it or secretly support it - apart from individuals who do their own pushback, like Romney and Collins.

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Beto O'Rourke dropped out of the presidential campaign on Nov. 1, 2019. He was a total non-entity in the Democratic race. It's not the job of leaders of the Democratic party to comment on every stupid comment made by second or third tier candidates.

I'd like to see evidence how their silence on MTG is hurting Republicans (among whom?) but while she's not a leader of the party, she's a hell of a fund raiser.

I'm not saying that the *image* of the Democrats -- and the intense policy positions of many of them -- are strongly pro-gun control, just that if you look at what the party as a whole and the leadership says, it's not crazy stuff and that dropping that would not likely help them.

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I'm saying that if you have an image of being strongly pro-gun control, then you have to say things that counter that. And if you want to do that without sounding like an obviously fake pro-gun person, then your best opportunity is to jump on a prominent national Democrat who has taken a position much more hostile to guns than the Democratic consensus - because you can do that without sounding like an NRA stooge.

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I agree Democrats have a lot less room for error. Trump, at an event centering on gun control while he was POTUS, said he favored confiscating guns from suspected bad actors before any due process. Imagine if Obama had thrown that out there. There was no real blowback for Trump saying that, or other anti-gun things (bump stock regulation - restricting gun rights passed in 2018!) from the pro-gun voters - because they know the GOP is firmly in line with the NRA.

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Sure I can see that. Just regarding O'Rourke though, that would not have worked back in the fall of 2019 when no one other than Democrats (and trolling Republicans) were paying attention to the primary debate.

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The Biden DoJ/ATF are literally announcing plans trying to redefine a firearm receiver today. They're also moving to redefine tens of thousands of braced "pistols" as short barreled rifles in a move that would make thousands of people felons because ATF thinks it has the power to arbitrarily redefine the law. None of these moves will impact gun violence. It's simply culture war bullshit criminalizing gun owners.

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They dropped the proposed pistol brace/SBR rule man. They proposed it, then they dropped it when they encountered pushback.

As a very pro-gun guy who owns multiple ARs (hell I own an AR pistol with a brace that would've been affected by Biden's withdrawn rule), I don't even understand what the argument would be against requiring a stamped serial number on a lower. Like, are there are any gun restrictions you're OK with? We'll allow fully automatic weapons to be sold freely again? Explosives? How about barring firearm sales to felons, you OK with that one?

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Apr 11, 2022·edited Apr 11, 2022

The pistol brace rule is dead? Hope it stays that way.

The whole "ghost gun" thing is a wildly dumb red herring. Just doesn't matter. Just trying to make shit sound scary to no useful end. Presumably the goal of the new rulemaking is to roadblock the availability of 80 percent lowers and various parts, again with the only meaningful outcome being an assault on gun owners wallets.

The actual rule just released is far too long for me to possibly parse all the implications at this moment. The most objectionable bit is ATF's penchant for claiming to have the power to simply redefine people into being felons.

I do happen to think there's probably room for a coherent, comprehensive federal gun control compromise that respects the 2A, but everyone would hate it and the politicians would rather have the issue than a resolution.

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As Democrats write off more and more states I find the arguments about senate/EC bias less compelling.

To an extent, at this point the entire debate hinges on the idiosyncratic unpopularity of republicans in California. If Republicans gain there (or Democrats fall) you’ll see the skew disappear.

Moreover, it’s one thing to argue that Democrats are the more popular party nationally but their votes are grouped inefficiently. As this ‘inefficiently’ starts to just mean “in California” they begin to resemble any regional party in a parliamentary system whose vote share outperforms their seat total.

The Bloc Québécois is not the victim of a bad system but of their own intentionally targeted appeal.

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Apr 11, 2022·edited Apr 11, 2022

I agree with that.

And it's telling that many Democrats see the "solutions" as either changing the rules of the game, or engineering a Democratic advantage by creating more states instead of competing in the system whose rules haven't changed in a very long time. It's not as if we woke up one day to discover the Democrats somehow had a structural disadvantage foisted upon them. The disadvantage is the result of emergent politics and political choices made by both Republicans and Democrats over time.

It seems to me the obvious solution to this problem is for the Democratic party to do what it has always done until recently - compete in the system as it is. It used to be that Democrats had the structural advantage. The fact that they have lost it is primarily a problem with Democrats, not a problem with the system.

And I find the idea that we ought to engineer the system to be more "fair" to one party to be deeply troubling. It's a kind of gerrymandering on steroids.

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I think there's something wrong with the idea that the rules haven't changed in a very long time. The rules have changed a ton across various states and continue to do so. Gerrymandering is alot more precise than it used to be and doing well in 2010 was a huge advantage for Republicans in a way that's hard to unwind.

And you don't think Republicans once added states for political gain? Because they did, though the politics of the country was very different.

On top of that you have a Supreme Court that is locked in as a 6-3 Republican majority for the foreseeable future no matter how many elections Democrats win.

It's not about engineering the system to being more fair to one party. It's about ensuring that the party who gets the majority of the votes actually gets a chance to govern. Whereas right now the Democrats can win more votes than the Republicans and have that not be the case.

Democrats have no choice but to try and win on an unfair playing field and work within the system as is. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't be more fair or that isn't a worthy eventual policy goal.

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The system hasn't changed in the sense that the popular vote does not determine election outcomes for President. And the structure of the Senate also has not changed because this country is a federation of semi-sovereign states. If one wants to change those things, then I might support that, depending on the details, but I don't support "reforms" that are transparently intended to give an advantage to one party.

With regard to "fairness" this should not be seen in purely partisan terms. The system is most unfair to the majority of Americans who don't like either party and would prefer more options and accountability. Fairness would be an actual multi-party system which Democrats and Republicans both oppose.

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A multi-party system would of course be more fair, and that's something that least some elements of the Democratic party do support. But it's also not a reform that's anywhere close to happening.

The structure of the Senate has changed significantly from founding. First of all Senators are no longer directly elected by state legislatures. But also we've add tons of states since the founding, and some instances it was done so for purely partisan gain.

The popular vote does not determine outcomes for President, but it is a very poor political system where one party can win by a significant margin and still lose the White House. Joe Biden won the popular vote by 7 million. Yet if you flip votes in three states by 22,000 or so, Donald Trump is still the president. And never before in American history have you had this large a disparity in the electoral college.

Also these reforms aren't designed to give an advantage to one party, they are designed to correct the the fact that rural areas have disproportionate influence in our political system, at the expense of everyone else. The goal is to have a level playing field, and the same way Democrats should make efforts to try and reach out to rural voters, Republicans should be similarly incentivized to try and win over the votes of urban voters.

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Apr 11, 2022·edited Apr 11, 2022

We've had the same number of states for 63 years - that is a lot of election cycles and for most of that time the Democrats had a significant advantage. The current disadvantage for the Democrats is not due to structural problems or changes in the Senate, it's due to changes in partisan politics which Democrats are partly responsible for.

So I do not buy the argument that Democrats are somehow victims of our longstanding structural institutions and that the only valid or "fair" fix is to change those institutions to be more advantageous to Democrats. And it seems transparently true that most Democrats who are interested in adding more states at the present time take that position out of partisan interest.

My view is that we shouldn't make structural changes to our political institutions that are clearly intended for partisan advantage.

"The popular vote does not determine outcomes for President, but it is a very poor political system where one party can win by a significant margin and still lose the White House. "

I do think that mismatch is a problem. Of course, the reasons for why it is happening more often recently and what might be done about it tend to run in similar self-interested partisan veins.

In my view, the best way to fix that (and also fix or reduce many other problems) is to increase the size of the House. It's a reform that is defendable on the merits, does not give a definitive partisan advantage, is long overdue, and doesn't require a Constitutional amendment.

Of course, both Republicans and Democrats completely oppose it.

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American history is longer than 63 years. You can't just pick a point in time and say it's not valid to add states after that.

It's also not the case that Democrats have had a significant advantage for most of that time. Indeed the last time a Republican Senate majority represented a majority of American people was after the 1994 election. The Democrats had a long standing advantage in the House (which is why in the early 90s it was George Bush pushing for ending gerrymandering), but that's not been the case for the Senate and it's gone back and forth quite a bit since Reagan became president.

The problem is you keep assuming if Democrat add states that those states are going to be permanent Democratic states. Where there's no reason that in the long term Republicans can't adjust and try to win both. The partisan leans of various states have changed a ton throughout American history.

And it's also sort of hypocritical because you want Democrats to do the same thing to try and compete in rural states. Why is it more fundamentally fair for one party to have to adjust because the rules are unfair as opposed to both parties being forced to try to appeal to the median voter. Again the idea is not to switch the system to benefit Democrats, but to make it fair for both parties. And under a fair system it's not as if Democrats wouldn't lose elections.

The point is to have a fair political system that doesn't advantage either party. As opposed to one where rural voters or any other kinds of voters have disproportionate influence on things. There wasn't a huge focus on fixing this before because it wasn't a problem before.

There isn't actually a ton of opposition to expanding the House. It's just not an issue anyone really cares much about. The other limiting factor is they just don't have the office space right now for that significant an increase.

Also the push for switching to the popular vote versus the electoral college is fairly long standing, and predates our current political situation.

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> The disadvantage is the result of emergent politics and political choices made by both Republicans and Democrats over time.

Is it? Or is it a result of Republicans awarding themselves the Presidency in court in 2000 and then deliberately deciding to skew things via REDMAP in 2010?

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State boundaries haven't changed (for the Senate), and the 2010 maps will be gone starting this election.

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The GOP bias in the electoral college actually comes not so much from the small states, but the big ones. The four biggest states with reliable Republican majorities are Texas, Florida, Ohio, and North Carolina - all close enough that very few votes are wasted, but none close enough to make the outcomes of statewide races seriously in doubt. Compare with the four biggest states with reliable Democratic majorities: California, New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts - much bigger margins and many more wasted votes.

(I'm skipping over the large tossup states of Michigan and Pennsylvania).

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Yep, the Electoral College would actually be a benefit to Democrats if they could win in large, multiracial democracies like Florida and Texas.

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founding

It was a benefit to democrats in 2008 and 2012, before the Midwest got redder than Virginia and Colorado.

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Being frank, the Republican Party *is* a regionalist party, of the South and the Sun Belt. It just so happens that the Sun Belt regions have nice weather and are the only ones that routinely permit large amounts of new housing construction, so they keep getting population inflow and seats whether or not anyone really likes the Republican Party's policies as such.

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Apr 11, 2022·edited Apr 11, 2022

Urban/Suburban/Exurban/Rural explains Republican or Dem voters much better than state patterns. Rural and exurban parts of Illinois and New York vote R, urban parts of Tennessee and Nebraska vote D, for example. If you look at maps of vote margins the South and Sun Belt don't particularly stand out. Really only New England and west coast rural areas buck that trend.

https://www.npr.org/2020/11/18/935730100/how-biden-won-ramping-up-the-base-and-expanding-margins-in-the-suburbs

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The Republican Party has been doing very well in the Midwest and Great Plains as well...

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Yep excellent point - I was trying to refer to their vote share locally but it was a bad analogy (and wouldn't have made sense in that context, which is why I used it incorrectly).

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Even if all Democrats lived in California, that doesn't mean they should be politically disenfranchised.

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Yes, it does.

If all the other Democrats joined me in California, then we would likely to see factions within the Republican party. The Democrats in California could peacefully negotiate secession* or a Constitutional amendment granting autonomy, but the Republican factions, without a geographic base, cannot. In order to remain a stable polity, the federal government needs to accommodate those without an alternative before it accommodates those who do. If that means disenfranchising geographically-restricted ideas, then so much the worse for those ideas.

* AIUI, the Confederacy's formation was unconstitutional because it was _unilateral_ secession.

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founding

Yes it is. That is the definition of disenfranchisement, when your rules are specifically designed to disempower certain people.

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founding

The Supreme Court is a check that is based on process and law. The structure of the senate and electoral college is specifically something that empowers a *particular* minority, not an anti-majoritarian check in any way. There’s no more good governance motivation to it than an arbitrary decision to give extra votes to the minority who own more than an acre of land to ensure that the majority who owns less never has majority control.

(I don’t think bicameralism is a well motivated check either, unless we made *both* chambers work like the House, only with different districts as an anti-gerrymandering defense.)

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I'd legitimately be willing to just throw out the anti-majoritarian measures and have a Mixed Member Proportional parliament. Some anti-majoritarian structures aren't "checks and balances", they're just stupid sops to what some jerk demanded 250 years ago in order to sign the Constitution.

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The original land grants to Virginia in 1609 and 1611 included all of what's today the US except New England, Florida and parts of Texas. To me, that's not designing a federal republic to prevent large states from dominating small states, but a large state dominating the country by creating new states, each with two senators. The war of independence and creation of the country are a separate issue where we'll all hang separately unless we hang together focused peoples' minds. Rhode Island was the last to come in, but its ratification of the constitution shouldn't be taken as divine writ of the small over the large

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Yes, the voters of Texas, Florida, Ohio and North Carolina are significantly disenfranchised by the electoral college to the benefit of Vermont, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Maine and Delaware.

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Imagine if California were divided into 100 Rhode Island sized states. Then Democrats would have 200 Senators!

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Less glibly yes, Republicans also have a tendency towards only representing a small minority of voters across a limited number of states. The Republican Party is a bad political party with bad ideas.

My only point is that there has been an immense amount of brain power devoted to explaining how America's institutional design has *intentionally* created a Senate/EC skew against the Democratic Party's demographic constituency. It strikes me that this overstates the case & that the Democratic Party hides a lot of its own flaws behind the fact that the GOP has completely immolated in the state of California, in large part due to California-specific political matters (e.g. Prop 187).

Falling back to obvious points about the relative size of different states is not helpful. Did you know that Wyoming is very sparsely populated? Or that there are two Dakotas?!?

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Until we’re ready to seriously push for more states there really doesn’t need to be any more discussion of how “unfair” the senate is for Dems. We have to change the coalition in the short to medium run

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The fact that there is no significant movement to split California into at least two states show that even in the most underrepresented state in the union voters don't really feel disenfranchised by the system. I think progressives consistently underrate how much Americans identify with their states, especially outside the NE urban cores where it seems more common to identify with your city.

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Would you rather fight one California-sized Rhode Island or 100 Rhode-Island-sized Californias?

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You definitely wouldn't be able to divide California into 100 parts that all contained a Dem majority. There are absolutely loads of Republicans in California!

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founding

If by “size” we mean population you’d only get about 25 Rhode Island’s or 11 mississippis.

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Wait…you’re saying California is a duck the size of a horse?

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His critique is more relevant for the EC than Senate.

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If anything, the “Emerging Demographic Majority” seems pretty squarely pointed at the GOP right now.

The Democrats simply cannot govern well when more than half the coalition has economic interests pointing at “don’t govern well and enable rent-seeking.” It is aiming to govern well out of sheer inertia, but the future of the party is woke suburbanites campaigning for cheap service labor and a higher SALT deduction.

The GOP, meanwhile, is governing *badly* out of sheer inertia, and the seeds of change are there as it seeks to respond to the shifting make-up of its electorate.

If the Democrats can get a single, serious climate change bill done before they morph entirely into the party of professional class moralizing and status quoism, they’ll have met my meager expectations.

At which point the country’s future rests entirely on what sort of populism the Republicans come to embody: Fidesz, PSUV, or New Dealer?

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At this point, both parties seem to govern largely to please coalitions of party insiders, rendering themselves steadily more immune to the swings of the actual electorate looking for solutions.

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I don't think you're looking closely enough.

And also, what do you think the Democratic Party looked like in the 1920's?

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founding

Didn’t the democrats also have strong machines in the immigrant cities of the north and Midwest?

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Apr 11, 2022·edited Apr 11, 2022

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1926_United_States_House_of_Representatives_elections#/media/File:1926_House_Elections_in_the_United_States.png

In 1926, to take a random example from the 20s, the Democrats dominated the South and New York City, breaking even in Chicago, and getting crushed in Philadelphia and San Francisco. Plus some wins in smaller cities like Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, and Scranton. So at best I'd say the Democrats had a strong machine in New York City and were 50-50 in other cities (plus odd strength in Nebraska I can't explain)

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founding

They had a few presidential wins in the 1880s and 1890s as well, though I haven’t verified their House representation in urban districts.

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I mean, sure, but that's a natural function of advancing technology and capital accumulation, not something I need to campaign for.

Let's just say that I do not find it coincidental that suburban professional Democrats are focused on facilitating immigration for the poorest/least educated/least capitalized, as opposed to enhancing openness to those who might *compete with them* and upend their verious tidy little professional licensing rackets.

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I don't believe this. On immigration the people who are pro-immigration seem to be pro-immigration at either all skill levels or the highest skill levels.

I agree that they seem to have a blind spot on professional licensing requirements, but they're don't seem to be trying to get only low-skill immigration that doesn't compete with them.

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Have you ever actually *talked* to these folks?

My kid goes to school with a kid whose parents are a doctor+lawyer couple. Both are "pro-immigration". Neither supports reciprocity with even developed world institutions to allow anyone from their professions to easily immigrate here, let alone streamlined testing and certification for inbound professionals from the developing world. I've had the same conversation with folks in professions like accounting, nursing, and teaching.

The only ones who seem somewhat immune to this are in tech and (to an extent) engineering. That's presumably because the talent pools are already between 30 and 60% immigrants depending on specialty, more if you include the first generation born here.

So yes, that last sentence is *exactly* what they're hoping to do, even if they won't admit it.

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Not having reciprocity for doctors is absolutely ridiculous; a language-skills requirement would make sense there (there are lots of doctors who speak some English, think their English is good enough to be a doctor in an English-speaking country, and it isn't). But a Spanish-speaking doctor who qualified in Spain should be allowed to doctor to Spanish-speaking Americans without passing an English proficiency test.

Lawyers, because the law is so different in different jurisdictions, should have to requalify for each jurisdiction - but that should be similar to a lawyer changing from one US State to another, not requiring a full requalification from scratch (legal reasoning and argument, the skills developed in law school are the same everywhere; legal knowledge is different in each jurisdiction but is also much easier to test than skills, so you can just have a standardised test for legal knowledge in each jurisdiction, and skills you can just accept their existing qualification).

I just don't get the idea that Americans have that Europeans aren't properly qualified; I think it partly comes down to the fact that "woke" people think it would be discriminatory to only accept the qualifications of white countries, but they aren't daft enough to accept the qualifications of sub-saharan Africa.

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I thought it was more simply about Doctor's maintaining their status and rent-seeking off of their degrees. That's been around much, much longer than the woke thing, and manifested itself in domestic caps on medical school enrollment, as well.

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I admit I haven't talked directly with many of them about this issue (I have lawyers in my family and I think they're generally pro-immigration but I haven't talked to them about licensing reciprocity specifically)

I'm in tech so I may be extrapolating too much from my own experience.

Sorry to hear that it sounds like I'm wrong.

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I guess my point is, if you're supposedly "blanket pro-immigration" but without supporting licensing reciprocity or streamlining, you're not actually blanket pro-immigration.

You just expect Nigerian, Trinidadian, or Malaysian doctors/lawyers/teachers to come and drive a cab for you instead of working alongside you.

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Idk how many tech workers there are compared to doctors, but we tech workers seem to be generally in favor of expanding the number of H1B visas, even when we'd be competing with that labor.

(By tech workers, I don't mean "workers in tech sector companies", I mean software+QA+ML engineers, UI designers etc.)

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Based on David R's rejoinder to me above, I wonder if it's because we don't have a licensing regime at all, really, for our job.

A doctor/lawyer who went through an expensive licensing system(and may still owe money for it!) may be reluctant to make it too easy for other people feeling (generously) like "their licensing doesn't meet our exacting standards, it's not a good idea". (And with lives/jail time on the line they can argue this is too important for mistakes - although that doesn't apply to _all_ law)

Whereas I mostly just care whether our new hire is a competent programmer, and there's no expensive licensing requirement.

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That might be right. Doctors I've talked to often have insane (from my perspective) rationalizations for supporting their licensing systems and making sure other people can't "compete" with them...aka provide healthcare

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"but we tech workers seem to be generally in favor of expanding the number of H1B visas, even when we'd be competing with that labor."

My perspective as a tech worker who is also a U.S. citizen: I have many coworkers who are here on H1B Visas and view them as colleagues, not competition. Furthermore, if H1B Visas were to suddenly disappear, companies would respond not by replacing them with less-qualified Americans, but by moving the jobs to other countries where the talent is. From my perspective, this means fewer career opportunities, not more.

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“ them with less-qualified Americans, but by moving the jobs to other countries where the talent is.”

Unlikely - the coordination problems are substantial. How do I know? They could have saved money by outsourcing rather than employing H1B.

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I've come around to this view too. It's sort of like how steel tariffs can have lots of downstream effects hurting the economy.

And obviously from a human capital/national greatness point of view, it's win/win.

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“but we tech workers seem to be generally in favor of expanding the number of H1B visas.”

What? That certainly comes as news to me.

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Agree with your distinction between cheap labor and cheap work (ie more productive work). But in the two examples you gave - housing and healthcare - where's the evidence Democrats are actually in favor of higher productivity? Democratic-controlled states have the most expensive housing. And in healthcare, Democrats are the ones constantly bashing the innovative, productivity-enhancing technology side of healthcare (the pharmaceutical and medtech industries), and supporting outdated regulations that stand in the way of reorganizing healthcare labor to be more efficient and productive.

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I hate describing the Senate or Electoral College as "biased against Democrats". They are just not. The rules about winning in both situations have been clearly defined and Democrats, knowing what it takes to win, have chosen to pursue a suboptimal coalition building strategy.

It gives me flashbacks to being a Timberwolves fan in the Flip Saunders 2.0 era. Amongst the many reasons they lost all the time was shooting by far the least amount of three pointers by choice. The team made a horrible strategic choice and paid for it over and over again. At least with them though, the fans were smart enough to realize that they were shooting themselves in the foot and not blame the league for biasing the game against them by introducing the three pointer decades earlier.

As Democrats, we have no one to blame but ourselves for how difficult we've chosen to make it for us to win.

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If the rules said "only white men can vote", would you be fine with that too? And criticise politicians advocating for the disenfranchised as "shooting themselves in the foot"?

The rules are biased against people who live in cities. That's it. It's bad. The goal should be everyone's vote counts equally. At the Presidential level, every other democracy achieves this goal. At the Senate level it can't be done perfectly, but other countries' systems do a better job of that too.

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No of course I wouldn't be fine with that. In fact, I've advocated that the top priority that Dems should have had for their two years in power was to admit Puerto Rico and DC as states, even if PR is going to be more purplish than blue. Anything other than that kind of structural change is going to get washed away.

We are, however, clearly not doing that. And there aren't other real plans to change the rules about the Senate or the EC. Wishing we had another country's electoral system without any plan to move ours to that other system doesn't do anything. Without structural changes, our choices go back to change our coalition building strategy or likely lose.

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Fair enough. I think that's clearly correct. Still OK to appreciate the rules are really bad.

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“The goal should be everyone's vote counts equally”

Why should that be the goal? Why shouldn’t the goal be to maintain a federation of the states?

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Because an unrepresentative government is more easily captured by rent seeking, narrow interests. The governments most likely to protect fair, competitive marketplaces are those which are responsible to all citizens equally. See Acemoglu and Robinson's Why Nations Fail for further details.

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There was this little thing called the Civil War.

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Yeah: The good guys won and ensured the federation of states remained.

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Apr 11, 2022·edited Apr 11, 2022

"The rules are biased against people who live in cities"

But they're not - assuming you're talking about congress the rules haven't changed much in many decades and the bias is a very recent phenomenon that is heavily impacted by ever-changing population shifts. With the rate of continued urbanization if voting patterns hold constant the bias might actually disappear and reverse within a decade or two. To remove geographic bias you'd have to remove geographic representation.

And if you're talking about the electoral college, the bias is even more temporary and subject to whichever small number of states happen to be the swing states. It used to reliably be Ohio and Florida (not particularly rural) - now it's Arizona, Nevada, Georgia and the upper Midwest. I agree it's not ideal, but it's not "biased against cities".

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How exactly do the rules disenfranchise people in Providence or Honolulu?

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founding

“Bias” has a perfectly neutral and technical statistical meaning. The electoral college is “biased” in the sense that the median electoral vote is in a state whose party split is several points off of the national party split. Sometimes you want a biased estimator (for instance, your virus test should probably be biased towards false positives rather than false negatives).

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Apr 11, 2022·edited Apr 11, 2022

This analysis makes Dem leadership's risk aversion and status quo bias all the more frustrating. They're staying the course on a sinking ship. The popularists and progressives disagree on the solution, but leadership doesn't seem to recognise there is a problem.

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The narrow majorities mean they have to keep all members of the coalition happy, and unfortunately the moderates in the coalition simply don’t have the kind of strategic vision we need from them. You could imagine a world where the moderate wing pushed leadership to be more popularist and savvy, but that’s not the world we live in. Manchin is of course individually valuable, but he seems mostly interested in his own political fortunes. Sinema is completely out of touch. The House Democrat moderates meanwhile seem to be very risk averse and offering no positive agenda beyond SALT. So catering to all these people means muddled messaging and risk aversion.

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Sinema is in touch: she needs to build a brand separate from her party to survive. She needs to capture moderate business money and count on Arizona Republicans staying crazy. The out of touch approach is attempting a wholesale legislative grab and surrendering Congress for a decade as a result.

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You're talking about legislation. I'm talking about Dems giving Republicans a pass for their rampant corruption, opposition to same-sex and inter-racial marriage, and incompetence.

Republicans almost never talk legislation. Their legislation is generally toxically unpopular. They just attack Dems with anything they think might hurt them.

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I’m not just talking about legislation but also messaging. Leadership has to cater to moderates on that as well.

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For fear of taking sides, seemingly.

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Apr 11, 2022Liked by Simon Bazelon

Great post Simon. This is basically what I’m trying to tell my Dem friends. The base case is quite bad and we should be worried!

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Apr 11, 2022·edited Apr 11, 2022

Climbing back on my hobby-horse, I'll just note that the weakness of our political parties make any kind of change a very difficult collective action problem.

The "Democrats" are a loose brand/coalition, not any kind of coherent political entity that is capable of coordinated political action when it comes to messaging, policy or setting priorities.

Instead there are a bunch of individual actors and interest groups acting in their narrow interests and trying to argue that success for the party as a whole depends on everyone else in the coalition adopting those narrow interests.

This is also how you get and maintain the structural disadvantage the Democrats currently face. A normal political party would seek to compete in the system as it exists with the goal of being a majority party. What constitutes the Democrat party has no ability to do that. There is no leadership with any authority, much less authority that can force the various factions to play nice for the greater good.

Fundamentally, this is a much bigger problem than the trends discussed in this post and is actually what underlies so much dysfunction in our political parties.

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founding

“But the democratic leadership is the most powerful force on the planet and that’s the only possible reason why my favored candidate didn’t win the nomination in the past two races!” /s

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Seeing as you & I've discussed this a bunch- I'm considering becoming a single-issue pundit on the topic of getting rid of primaries. Let parties internally nominate 2-3 candidates each election, then we either use approval voting to pick the winner, or (even better but more convoluted) approval voting leading to a second round faceoff for a raw majority winner. And then, dear Lord, stop primarying *incumbents from your own party, what is the freaking point of doing that America*. It just pushes both parties away from the center to please fanatic primary voters.

Poasting really can change the world. If I just churned out tons of anti-primary content and worked to persuade elites on both the left and the right, I think that's a feasible decade goal- get party elites to get rid of primaries

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How are you going to do that when small donor donations still exist and anybody shut out can immediately get attention by saying, truthfully, "the powerful and rich Democratic insiders don't want you to have a voice."

You actually want a left-wing 3rd party to gain consistent voting power? That's how you to do it. Same thing in reverse w/ the GOP.

Yes, I know, other countries do it differently. American's aren't going to care if you tell them, "well, in the UK..."

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1. The 2-3 candidates nominated by the party probably have to fairly represent different slices of the party, if they're strong in that particular Congressional district. You probably have to put both a Justice Dem and a centrist/pro-business type on the ballot for a blue district, both a MAGA-type and a country club Republican on the ballot for a red district. Then it's up to the voters which one they want.

2. The US already makes it reasonably difficult for 3rd parties to get on the ballot now, and I'd support making that even tougher

3. If said 3rd party gets enough signatures to get on a ballot (and I do recommend a high number), then they have enough supporters to be taken seriously, and they have to be incorporated in the future re: step 1

4. I (very strongly) support changes to our campaign finance system where donations have to flow to the parties, who then distribute to candidates who play ball. I am extremely opposed to our candidate-driven, 'say the craziest thing possible to get moar donations from ideologues' system that we have at present

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On both sides, activists will immediately agree any Justice/MAGA person who agrees to the new rules in the GOP/DNC Isn't really a Justice/MAGA person. I can easily imagine Donald Trump or Tucker Carlson saying, "no true MAGA Republican would agree to the undemocratic elite Establishment deep state primaries the GOP is creating to block the true voice of the Republican voter..'

What you basically want is a way to shut out wide swaths of the population from having any political power because you dislike the way they do politics.

At a certain point, you actually have to let the actual people in your party control whose in charge, no matter how much it may upset you, personally. Hell, in this position, and right now, I'm a Democratic hack who regularly tries to talk my more left-wing friends into understanding the situation the DNC is in, but if this came to pass, I'd openly vote for a 3rd party and tell anybody I know not to vote for the Democrat's because they are a corrupt organization.

Thankfully, it never will.

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Apr 13, 2022·edited Apr 13, 2022

"Thankfully, it never will."

For a recent real-life example, I point you to the latest Virginia Republican gubernatorial primary. Party Republicans were concerned that a MAGA crazy would win the nomination & lose the general- so they literally didn't hold a primary, they let party insiders only vote in a virtual convention- the way America worked before the 70s. They picked Youngkin, a pro-business type, and were rewarded with the governorship. Neither Trump nor Carlson had much to say about the process.

"What you basically want is a way to shut out wide swaths of the population from having any political power because you dislike the way they do politics."

What I find interesting is how many Americans don't realize how unique we are. There are 160 democracies on Earth- in 159 of them, the parties control who gets the nomination. There is no other country in the world that has ever let any random person run for their party's offices. Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Denmark, the Nordics, Taiwan.... each and every one either does not hold primaries for political office, or they hold a small one with party-nominated candidates. Just to repeat- no democracy, anywhere, at any time, has ever used American-style primaries where the party can't control who runs for their nomination. We are utterly, utterly unique. (And even then- only since the 70s for our present system).

But if your point is 'it will be extremely difficult/maybe impossible to institute reform'- yes, I agree wholeheartedly. It may not be possible to make the changes I want. I still think it's worth it to try. Reform is always hard! In the meanwhile, I encourage you to learn more about how.... every other democracy on planet Earth works.

Edit to include: to counter the argument that it's undemocratic, here's my counter-argument I would use with the general public (i.e not Substack commenters, but how I'd pitch it to ordinary people). Right now, primaries are typically only made up of one-third of general election voters. It's actually *more* democratic to put every candidate on the ballot and let the *whole population* decide. (Yes it's actually it's less democratic because the parties are controlling the nomination- I think 10% less democracy is a good thing, I wouldn't say that out loud though)

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To make a somewhat crass snipe - yes, in the 70's, there were less primaries that locked power away to the elites. Women also couldn't get credit without a signature from a husband or a parent. So, there are a myraid of ways the 70's and before sucked.

But to make a more substantial point, A single gubernatorial primary in an off-year election is different than overturning all congressional and presidential primaries nationwide, plus the convention thing had actual historical precedent in Virginian politics, as opposed to something entirely new to the vast majority of voters.

Also, In most of those other 159 countries, due to the lack of electoral college and other factors, it's much easier to create a competing party if elites within a party lock you out of competing within that party. Even in the UK, with it's two and a half party duopoly, despite never coming close government, both UKIP and the LibDem's have had

The thing you don't mention in your response is you want the worst of both worlds - party elites having basically all power to choose nominees + making it as hard as possible to form a 3rd party.

Give me rule by a fascist chosen democratically over a social democrat imposed by my supposed betters.

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founding

I think the difficulty is that primaries were put in place specifically as a tool to disempower party elites. That might make it difficult for the elites to get rid of them.

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It's certainly *possible* that Republicans will end up with a filibuster-proof Senate majority and the presidency after 2024, but this article is doing a lot of 'extrapolating from recent trends without much acknowledgment that they could go into reverse'. Like, maybe we just see a bit less alignment between Senate and POTUS vote, and in a few years we look back on 94.5% as a high water mark. Or maybe Biden becomes more popular between now and 2024. Equally, maybe everything continues on exactly the same trajectory and it's a complete disaster. But as we should be able to remember from the silly optimism about the 'emerging Democrat majority' a decade ago, trends have a habit of not panning out exactly as they appear they're going to.

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The problem is that the trends I'm extrapolating are longstanding. What's the case for why ticket splitting will suddenly go down after increasing steadily for 30 years? Obviously it's possible, but it definitely doesn't seem like the most likely outcome.

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On the one hand I agree with your position that ticket splitting is unlikely to make a sudden resurgence.

On the other hand, it is worth remembering that age polarization (partisan lean of voters under 30 vs. voters over 65) had steadily increased from 2000-2016 but then partially reversed itself in 2020. In 2016 there was a 39-point gap between youth and senior voters, and in 2020 the gap was 28 points - an 11 point swing.

Even if ticket splitting never returns to the glory days of the mid-20th century, increasing by even a few points could save Democratic Senate prospects from these worst-case scenarios.

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Apr 11, 2022·edited Apr 11, 2022

I think posts like this are illustrative of the mindset of failure of the Dem establishment. You're arguing a "complete disaster" is unlikely, and you're right. But since when has the bar been "a complete disaster is unlikely"? Simon is arguing Dems are about the lose the chance to legislate or appoint judges for the foreseeable future. He labels this a disaster. Correctly in my view. Your takeaway that it's only a regular disaster and not a complete disaster? Like WTF?!

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Apr 11, 2022·edited Apr 11, 2022

I don't think I've ever been accused of having 'the mindset of failure of the Dem establishment' before!

When you say 'Simon is arguing Dems are about the lose the chance to legislate or appoint judges for the foreseeable future. He labels this a disaster. Correctly in my view', all I can say in response is a future in which the Republican party never win any national elections ever again is not going to happen, so that's not a plausible benchmark.

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Apr 11, 2022·edited Apr 11, 2022

Reps never winning elections is nothing to do with it. The point is *Dems* are about to lose the Senate for the foreseeable future. Then they can't pass legislation or appoint judges. Even if they win the Presidency (and the House), all they can do is pass executive action to the extent a 6-3 Reps Supreme Court lets them. That's the disaster.

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Eh? The thing you say is 'nothing to do with it' is exactly the same thing as the bit following 'the point is'. When Republicans win elections, which they are going to do roughly 50% of the time, Democrats cannot 'pass legislation or appoint judges'. Unfortunately, there is not One Cool Trick to stop that.

What you *could* argue is that Donald Trump is so extreme, so beyond the possibility of consideration, that it warrants an emergency coalition against him, in which people abandon their policy priorities and just focus on what an emergency he is. But that doesn't work either, because clearly a huge number of Americans don't see him as beyond the pale, he's literally an ex-president. It doesn't get any more establishment than that.

Your other point, about how circumscribed Dem power is even when they win, is absolutely correct, but the people who want that are Dem politicians - they literally chose not to change the filibuster, and not just Manchin either - so the idea that Dems winning elections is going to lead to that changing is for the birds.

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Apr 11, 2022·edited Apr 11, 2022

You're missing the point. The point is that Republicans are going to win the Senate 100% of the time for the foreseeable future.

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In the short term, Democrats are guaranteed to lose because the maps for the next two cycles are rubbish. But there is no simple way to solve that problem. American politics is highly thermostatic; the more power one party gets the bigger the backlash it faces. That's bad news for Democrats who won a trifecta in 2020, but in enough time it will be bad news for Republicans too.

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That’s ridiculous. It assumes politicians won’t change to accommodate the preferences of voters. They always have and always will.

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We can only hope. Sadly, I think circumstances and the Dems inability to connect with traditional blocks like working class folks will likely spell disaster.

You also raise an interesting question about the “emerging Democratic majority” that we were talking about a few years ago. All the “smart” people were saying the GOP was on the verge of vanishing like the Whigs of old. How could so many have been so wrong about the political landscape?

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Apr 11, 2022·edited Apr 11, 2022

Surely part of the reason is that literally no one could foresee the Trump presidency (not even Trump himself) and the way it utterly transformed the Republican party (and seriously accelerated elitist/woke trends among Dems in reaction). Structural analysis is key in understanding historical developments but individuals and contingent events can also make a pivotal difference every now and again.

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As Ruy Texeira himself has said (one of the authors of that highly influential book) the reason why that was “wrong” is that it had an embedded assumption - that as Democrats continued to appeal more to non-whites that they ALSO wouldn’t lose ground with non-college whites. But that’s exactly what has happened, ever since 2012. Less significantly, but still an issue is that we are also losing ground with non-whites, especially Latinos. Ruy posts on the excellent (and currently free) substack “The Liberal Patriot” - highly recommended: https://theliberalpatriot.substack.com/

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"Less significantly, but still an issue" it feels like this is the more significant issue, because there really are less and less white working class voters and more non-white voters every single year, especially in swing states. Looking at age voting patterns it even looks like the D hold on Black voters is weakening and may reach a tipping point in the next couple of cycles.

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To clarify, when I wrote “less significantly” I meant in the statistical sense in that the white non-college group shift has been larger than the non-white shift, but I agree with that it is also very worrying.

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Gotcha, it makes sense

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The Achilles heal of the Democratic majority of the past 20 years is that it has been dependent on a non-trivial number of *conservative* black and Hispanic voters voting blue in spite of conservatism, due to the perception of the Republican party as hostile to the interests of their race. If the conservative subset of black and Hispanic voters starts voting like the conservative subset of white voters, the Democratic coalition, at least as it stands today, is essentially done for.

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Seems like there are a lot of signs of that happening. For Black voters, one sign is the age pattern: older black voters are still at over 90% support for D, but younger males are down to only 70%. Blacks in the west coast also only voted in the 70%s for D, according to CNN exit polls of 2020, at least.

It's also missed just how much assimilation is happening . Something like 20-25% of black people who have a kid have it with a non-Black partner. If racial identity determines voting it's just as likely that the non-black partner will sway their spouse as the other way around. Same for the kids - will they vote like their white parent or black parent. Btw the numbers above mean that about 30% of kids born today who traditionally would have identified or been seen as black have a non-black parent.

Another avenue for a Black voting tipping point is interracial adoption. I have no stats on that and maybe I live in a bubble but black kids with white parents are a common sight where I live. Each of my daughter's 4 weekly classes of 5-20 kids have at least 1 kids fitting that description in them. Who knows how those kids will tend to vote in the future? If I was a smart D I wanted take their vote for granted, although I suppose it's not going to be a huge number of voters.

Last there's immigration: I wish I could find polling on this but Black immigrants I've met from Africa and the Caribbean are often much, much more politically conservative than most other people I know and often supported Trump. So that's a 3rd segment of the Black vote that might weaken D support.

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The "emerging Democratic majority" thesis basically treated groups of people spread out over the entire country like monolithic, unthinking blocks for voting purposes. It completely ignored factors such as regional customs, historical reasons for immigration, and even just plain old individual choice. Treating Cuban immigrants in Florida, Central American immigrants in California, and Mexican immigrants in south Texas the same way was brazen and cocky, and should have been seen as so from the beginning.

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If Biden's approval is still roughly the same in 2024, and he runs, then I reckon the best chance to win is to have Trump be the nominee and hope the public remembers why he's unacceptable.

I know it bit us in the ass last time to hope he's the nominee, but making the election about him is the only way to make it not a referendum on Biden.

And that's the best case scenario, another Biden term where he's unable to do anything ambitious legislatively. Le sigh.

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I’m not so sure about that. A non-Trump Republican might do worse, especially if they embrace traditional conservative economy positions like entitlement cuts.

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They'd be pretty stupid to do that, though, and unlikely to even win the primary if they took those positions. I'm not sure where DeSantis stands on those specific issues, and my opinion would change if he wanted to cut them, but I think he would win in a landslide whereas Trump may lose to Biden again.

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founding

What are the chances Biden runs if his approval rating is the same as now? What are the chances he runs if his approval rating is worse than now?

I think if his approval is substantially worse, there’s a good chance he chooses not to run.

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There’s a good chance he doesn’t run because he’s not physically capable. The guy is 79, right now!

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I think he probably runs no matter what is approval rating is because Democrats don't have anybody else. So far, opinion polls show Harris doing worse.

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founding

You don't think Governor Stacy Abrams or Governor Beto O'Rourke would run? I think we do have to wait until after this year's midterm elections to know what the potential field would look like.

I think in April 2018, people like Beto O'Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar were mostly nationally unknown, and it wouldn't take that much having gone differently for one of them to have taken off in the 2020 presidential election. If Biden chooses not to run, I think Kamala Harris would be the only already-big name running, as opposed to 2020, when these neophytes had to compete to stand out against Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and even Michael Bloomberg, as well as each other.

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let's not undersell America's thermostatic desire for divided government (not the same as ticket splitting). Assuming the Republicans take both houses of congress in 22, obviously the Democratic agenda will be dead but also it will immediately handicap the Republican presidential candidate in 2024, especially if it's Trump.

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Maybe, but there is precedent in 2008 or 2016 or 2020 for the incumbent President having taken such a heavy beating in the midterms that at the following election, when his party is turfed out of the White House, the other side ends up with Presidency/Senate majority/House majority for the next two years (when it becomes their turn to get beat up). So I would not hold out hope based on thermostatic desire for divided government in 2024, but would hope that in 2026 the law of gravity will kneecap the De Santis administration.

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For sure it’s still possible for the R’s to win the presidency in 2024 regardless, but the chances decrease, perhaps significantly, if winning the Presidency means having the trifecta. I’m convinced that if Trump had been leading in the polls in 2016 instead of seeming like a major underdog, the D’s would have won the House and possibly the Senate that election.

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The way I interpret the "thermostatic" nature of US politics is this:

Both parties have their flaws and extremists, but it's the problems with the party in power that gets the bulk of the media attention and is what voters focus on. On top of this, the party in power always gets the blame for whatever problems may happen that are beyond anybody's control.

The Republicans have been pushing plenty of extreme policies of their own lately, on everything from guns (open carry without a permit) to abortion (Texas SB 8) to transgender rights (gender-affirming care being considered child abuse) to election administration (cyber ninjas, bills to allow legislatures to overturn election results). Yet, absolutely none of this matters because the focus is all about the problems with the Democrats.

If Republicans sweep to power in 2024, everything will flip. Nobody will remember wokeism or overly cautious COVID rules anymore - this time, the problems with the Republicans will be in the spotlight, and the problems with the Democrats will be ignored, leading to another blue wave election in 2026.

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The bigger issue for the Democrats is there isn’t an obvious tactical pivot they can make to fix their unpopularity. Their Left leaning base already thinks they’re shills who will sell them out at the first sign of trouble and believes the solution is to pivot left. I don’t think they will buy into a pivot back to the right (meaning the center). On the flip side of the coin I’m not even sure what pivoting the Dems could do to shore up their support among moderate voters in the first place. Democrats have little credibility.

Democrats simultaneously need to sell their left leaning base on a more moderate agenda while also pivoting to the center in order to fend off defections. The problem is the party is awful on earned media attention and staying on message. The Republicans have done a great job portraying the Democrats as leftist extremists, and there are lots of Democrats who unfortunately ARE leftist extremists. Furthermore they get all the attention and drown out any paid for ads the Democrats can get.

The best thing might be for the Democratic Party to split with AOC leading the leftist part and Joe Biden leading the moderate one. That allows the Democrats to portray themselves as a more viable alternative to the leftist extremists. Basically what Eric Zemmour did for Marine Le Pen in the recent French election. The Democrats and the DSA need each other, and unfortunately the DSA is dragging down the Democratic Party. Their message is actively hostile to the voters the Democrats need to win. On the flip side the Dems can’t govern unless the DSA consents.

It’s a bad cycle just like what we see with Orban in Hungary and Netanyahu in Israel. The only solution is to outlast the populist takeover and we can’t do that unless the DSA agrees to put aside its priorities for generic, boring, candidates. We basically need this coalition to persist until 2028, which just isn’t going to happen IMHO.

It doesn’t help that Biden, while having some good political skills himself, is old and not great at messaging. On the bright side in 2020 you could basically read into him whatever you wanted (which let people build him as a vehicle). In 2024 he won’t have that luxury.

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"The bigger issue for the Democrats is there isn’t an obvious tactical pivot they can make to fix their unpopularity"

Stop spouting, or even better stop believing woke nonsense like you need to be a biologist to know what a women is.

Also, at least pretend like deficits matter. And understand that trillions of deficit spending combined with trillions of money printing can (and did) cause inflation

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Ok drill that down to a 3 second pitch. I don’t think that’s possible. I the problem is the democratic base is not big enough to win on its own and the voters they need to attract are conservative. The Democrats are in a pickle

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>On the flip side the Dems can’t govern unless the DSA consents.

Uh, yeah they can.

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Member of the DSA would eliminate governing majorities in both chambers of Congress so no they can't

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The biggest issue I see with the Democratic Party is branding. On most issues, their points are reasonable... popular... desirable. On the local level, Democrats have plenty of moderate, patriotic candidates, but they don't seem to get the same media coverage as the AOCs of the party.

For instance... I was just in Los Angeles with my Brother and Sister-in-law. They are educated, affluent, west coat liberals (I love them)... they have been talking about buying a house, and my sister in law was telling me how they don't want to buy a house in a neighborhood with "flags" at first I thought she was talking about Trump flags.... but no. She doesn't want to live in a neighborhood with American Flags. Now... she is a Moroccan immigrant, and they have different standards of displaying patriotism. But as a dedicated liberal Democrat, she automatically associates anyone displaying an American flag as "other"

Note: I love her and we have great conversations.

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I find it interesting that even though so many journalists are personally invested in the progressive project, they don't shy away from making journalistic and editorial decisions that actually hurt Democrats. It is not the fault of the Democratic Party that NPR decided to host someone promoting neo-barbarianism, rioting, and pillaging. It is not the fault of the Democratic Party that 60 Minutes aired a deceptively edited, untrue hit piece on Ron DeSantis. Even though it is not true, many Republicans and conservatives view the mainstream media as the comms department of the Democratic Party, so many Republicans believe that anything the mainstream media promotes is the actual view of most Democrats.

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I think that is because most journalists and editors think the most progressive ideas are the best... and most popular. Their peer groups are all fellow liberals.

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