287 Comments
Mar 21Liked by Ben Krauss, Liam Kerr

Winning in a R+3 district is neat, winning in an R+40 state is extremely impressive - which is exactly what Joe Manchin has managed by holding West Virginia. In 2024 he won’t run, and the very progressives who complain about him being right wing will find out what his replacement - A Republican in an R+40 state actually looks like.

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Great op ed in the Washington Post from Manchin. Biden campaign would do well to copy the messaging here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2024/03/18/manchin-energy-independence-biden/

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As a progressive, most smart progressives (as opposed to randos on Twitter and podcasters whose income depends on being anti-Democratic Party) were far more annoyed with Sinema, who was opposing popular things (like min. wage hikes and such) and supporting unpopular things (like tax cuts for rich guys) as opposed to Manchin, who as annoying, but was also the only guy who could win in West By God Virginia, and along with his annoying ideas, actually supported good stuff like raising taxes on rich people.

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VORP, Value Over Replacement Politician, is a concept everyone that wants to opine on politics should have drilled in their head.

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Mar 21·edited Mar 21Liked by Liam Kerr

I feel like my sports fan background really helps me with this shit sometimes. Also helps me understand that the entire take economy is incredibly fatuous and vacuous.

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author

I political scientist should figure out a political equivalent to baseball's Win Above Replacement (WAR)

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Mar 21·edited Mar 21Liked by Ben Krauss

My buddies have! Called it WAR and everything! split-ticket.org

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Mar 21Liked by Ben Krauss

That's why I've read Nate Silver's work for so long, he hit that nice sports/politics intersection that appeals to me.

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Mar 21·edited Mar 21

Don't forget that Sinema was doing this as senator for Arizona, where a perfectly orthodox moderate Democrat can win.

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Yeah, Sinema might've survived if Mark Kelly didn't ask, being a perfectly normie Democrat with fine approval ratings. Now, being an astronaut helps, but that doesn't explain all of it.

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You'll miss her when she's replaced by Kari Lake.

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Nowhere near a given, it should be a winnable race for democrats now that Sinema has said she won't run as an independent. Whereas if you gave me 30:1 on a democrat winning Manchin's seat, I would not take that bet.

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Mar 22·edited Mar 22

Gallego is leading basically every poll, including ones showing Trump winning the state, and here's the thing, if Lake is winning, Trump is winning, so we're in trouble anyway. Putting that aside, if Lake wins, it's a six year rental. Arizona isn't going to be more right-wing in 2030, most likely.

But, you're an odd duck whose gotten super fixated on one issue and think it's the end of the world. But, you aren't the first person to get fixated on a singular issue, and suddenly change their political valence.

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Well, we do know a Republican US Senator looks like in West Virginia. Her name is Shelley Moore Capito, and while she is obviously worse than Joe Manchin, she has by far the highest "Biden +/-" for an active Congressional Republican (per 538) and the fourth-highest in the entire Senate (behind Manchin, Tester, and Brown). This means she votes with Biden way more than one would expect based on WV's political demographics.

Jim Justice, again, is much worse than Manchin, but he also strikes me as somebody who is not going to legislate as far to the right as one would expect from a US Senator from WV. (It's worth noting Jim Justice used to be a Democrat and switched parties during Trump's presidency.)

To be clear, I don't disagree with the overall point you're making and I don't disagree with the author's piece. But it is not quite as salient of a point as one would think.

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founding
Mar 21Liked by Liam Kerr

I think we have to see how Shelley Moore Capito changes once she’s not the junior senator to nice guy Manchin, but is the senior senator to another Republican. Manchin didn’t just get us one vote on a lot of close things - he got us *two* on some of them.

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West Virginia is odd. It was heavily Democratic relatively recently (in the 1990s) and had two Democratic senators up until Capito. So while it voted overwhelmingly for Trump (and strongly but not quite as overwhelmingly for Romney) the electorate there is very heavily the kinds of voters who were once Democrats or whose parents were once Democrats. Not the same as Utah or Wyoming.

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Agreed. Per Wikipedia, Democrats had a supermajority in the WV Senate less than 10 years ago. Now they only have 3 out of 34 seats. So a lot of people have recently turned into Republicans, but perhaps not in a way that's made them completely hostile to the Democratic Party

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It's the Democratic Party that's made itself completely hostile to West Virginians with its relentless pursuit of race-based rather than class-based policy.

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Mar 21·edited Mar 21

I think this is tough because Shelley Moore Capito and Jim Justice aren't what you'd expect from an R+40 state from a policy point of view - There's been a ton of luck that these are the two who've become WV Senators. In 10-15 years when they're out of office, their replacements likely won't be as reasonable.

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To steel man the argument that a Manchin type politician is bad for a party: it dilutes the message and identity of the party and makes it harder to draw a clear distinction against the other party, and also makes it harder to blame the other party when things go wrong. ”Republicans blocked goodie X” is a stronger message than ”Joe Manchin and Republicans blocked goodie X, yes he’s from our own party, he’s a closet Republican, no we are not in disarray even if it might look like it…”

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But who is that *for*?

Manchin's own voters LIKE that he blocks Democrats' things. It's the only way he's kept winning in WV.

At some point, the party simply has to embrace the suck and strategically work around Manchin's limitations. You give him nice big show votes to bring back to his voters, and he helps you enact the rest of your agenda.

If you take that (admittedly difficult!) strategy and replicate it x10, then now you're talking about a filibuster-proof majority*. Sure, it narrows the agenda for that majority, but at least you're getting shit done. And if you actually care about getting shit done, the filibuster makes it so that the narrow path is basically the ONLY path -- not unless you're a Magic Senate Grandpa like Joe Biden who can make Secret Congress do what he wants.

[Ed: *Which is literally how we got Obama's majority. The failure to get the base to understand the kayfabe back then is also why Dems express sentiments like Joachim's -- they weren't expecting to have to compromise and play kayfabe, so all the hemming and hawing and backsliding was _real_ to them, and they've been Big Mad about that ever since. The reason we haven't run enough moderate Dems in purple states over the last decade is because the DSCC remains _convinced_ (misguidedly) that a 60-seat majority with 12 Manchins is no majority at all.]

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But voters outside of Manchin's state might either be dejected or angry and decide not to vote at all (leftists) or think that the Dems are in disarray and ineffective who can't get anything passed because of their internal disagreements (moderates).

We should have nuked the filibuster rule a long time ago, it's undemocratic and terrible in every way.

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Mar 21Liked by Liam Kerr

I think this dynamic would also be less severe if we had more than two viable parties. A "left-aligned centrist on policy, West Virginia on vibes and some policy" candidate like Manchin doesn't need to be in the same party as The Squad, and polarization would be less severe if the Blue Dog Democrats and Left Democrats could agree that, while usually allies, they did not have to be the same thing.

Alternatively, the USA functioned well with ideologically heterogeneous parties, but they are more polarized now. I think separate parties might offer more clarity to voters. And it's a widespread phenomenon in democracies -- I think most countries with real elections also have more than two meaningful political parties.

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We already seem to have three distinct factions - the MAGA and Progressive ecosystems have all the elements of a coherent political faction (financial/revenue model, membership base, talent, policy clarity, language, norms, etc), and then the "Good/Moderate Republican" thing is a thing (look at all the Biden district Republicans and GOP govs in blue states) ... we're only missing one organized faction, and its the center left

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So, well I do personally prefer a PR or MMP type of system, I think the ways both my fellow lefties and centrists think it'll help with polarization is highly overrated.

Yes, it allows center-left and center-right parties to be a bit more boring, staid, and committed to long-term governance and working together instead of being polarized against one another. But, that working together in many cases has led to rising support for more extreme parties, who are now gaining power to affect things in ways that you could argue are worse than if there were just two big parties who had to slowly adjust to changing views.

At the current moment, that has mostly only meant big jumps in support for right-wing parties, as Europe is currently going through it's reactionary decades since non-white people in decent numbers are around for the first time with any political power, and voters are reacting in many of the ways white voters did in the US in the 60's through the 90's. Ironically, there's a decent chance that by 2040, the Democrat's are actually to the left of the center-left parties in Europe on several issues.

Anyway, to get back to my point, if the population are truly polarized on a topic, like is happening worldwide due to education polarization, that's going to be affected in whatever voting system a country happens to have.

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I think it’s pretty obvious that the US equivalent of AfD would be more electorally successful than the US equivalent of the CDU.

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The heterogeneous parties in some ways was more like a "two parties, four regional factions" system.

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I am in VICIOUS FUCKING AGREEMENT about the evils of the filibuster. Inshallah, may it die with extreme prejudice and not a blessed day too soon, my brother.

But RE "dejected or angry voters", that sounds like an "us" problem that I'd much rather have while we're still Getting Shit Done, vs. simply being out of power and having to deal with relentless and pointless GOP shutdowns. Case in point, I present Exhibit A: Biden's entire first term, both before and after the midterm.

The voters don't always listen to us, but they KIND OF do, especially the base, and it needs to be clearly explained to the base that they need to go along with a certain amount of kayfabe WRT the Manchins of the world, because Shit Just Be Like That Yo. If they don't like it, they can go kick rocks while the rest of us continue building and maintaining the Coalition To Get Shit Done.

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Re the filibuster. If I could convince you that the filibuster means that federal government policy more closely adheres to the public's preferences, and that removing it would mean that federal policy was actually less responsive to the public, would you still want to get rid of it?

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I'd be curious to hear you out, but I'd still remain quite skeptical that any benefits you could extol would outweigh the severe costs and distortions the filibuster inflicts on our broader political environment.

Proceed...

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If you could convince me that it was more responsive to the public's preferences, that would help, although I'd also wonder - is it more responsive to popularist(short-term) preferences or good governance(long-term) preferences?

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If the Shit you would like to Get Done continues to include race-based rather than class-based policy, and denial of women's right to single-sex locker rooms, prisons, and sports (said denial being favored by Biden, Harris, and EVERY Democrat in Congress, INCLUDING Joe Manchin), then you can count me out. And I've been a registered Democrat for 50 years.

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My point was, regardless of how annoying I find your social views, I’d take a dozen senators with your opinions if it meant a filibuster-proof majority.

Because each YOU in that caucus can be bargained with, and it coming from a roughly similar place of basic values and principles. To the extent that you might ever be persuaded out of your social views, the best, most proven mechanism for that to happen is by osmosis from remaining inside my big tent. We make the progress we can make, together, and that’s better for America than fucking fascism.

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So how many states would Democrats just have to abandon if they embrace a plan to not run red state Democrats who make blue state Democrats feel bad? 20? 25?

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Mar 21Liked by Liam Kerr

>...it dilutes the message and identity of the party and makes it harder to draw a clear distinction against the other party...<

This doesn't ring true to my ears. The identity of the Democratic Party to a depressingly large number of voters is "People who'll make fun of me if I use the wrong pronouns between Defund rallies."

If Manchin really had some measurable impact on the party's identity, it would be a Good Thing.

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I don't know if a "Manchin type" politician is bad for the party but *Manchin* was great for passing Biden's agenda given that he was from WVA and was the deciding vote. Would I want a Manchin representing California? No, of course not. But I sure was appreciative of him while he's been there.

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One challenge for centrists in the Democratic Party is that people like us - who "were appreciative of Manchin" - have no real way to show our appreciation or incentivize more people like him to win in red states. There are lots of outlets to express appreciation for progressives (or MAGA). Not many for moderate dems, even when those Dems winning red districts are so clearly those most in need of appreciation!

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Something we need to take into account is that the Democrats' message is actually rather poor. Democrats could not win a senate seat in Montana with a more popular candidate who had already won statewide, even though most voters tend to agree more with the Democrats' positions on most issues. A 'weaker' message in this sense would be better for the Democrats. We need more Manchins to weaken it further and benefit the country.

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It will not be interpreted as Dems being more moderate but rather that Dems are in disarray and can’t govern. You need a majority of Manchins to create the impression of being a centrist party.

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True and since WV is solid R now shifting the Senate to 50/50, and there is no Republican seat that is rated any more blue than Likely R, the Dems, to hold the majority will need to sweep the three tossup seats- OH, MT, and AZ, hold the Lean Dem seats - NV, WI, MI - and win the presidency.

So far Sherrod Brown is slightly ahead as is Gallego in AZ thanks to the GOP putting up their MAGA clown act, but Tester and Biden are in a bad spot. Tester, unlike Manchin, did not solidify his bonafides with the GOP voters who gave Trump a +16 in 2020, by challenging Dem orthodoxy and people who saw Manchin as the devil incarnate dont realize that nobody out of WV will vote as liberal as him for the next dozen years.

The way for a Dem to stay alive in a red state has to be to push back on the unpopular policies that the Dems have- crime, immigration, white guilt. Tester won by 3.5% in 2018 but that was a blue wave election and now the electorate is leaning R.

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And none of them will ever apologize, or admit to missing him when he's gone.

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My guess is that giving off moderate vibes is more important than your de facto voting record, which 1. most voters don’t know or care to find out about, 2. can be framed in a positive way by clever PR, 3. will be attacked and lied about by Republicans no matter how you vote.

Be a normie, down to earth, folksy, patriotic. This works especially good in swing districts but will pay dividends in most districts outside of Brooklyn regardless of voter composition. Especially so for Democrats who already have a the high IQ/high information vote locked down. Keep the activist and pointy headed, elitist types far away from voters (spoken as an elitist myself, I would never dream to become a politician for precisely that reason).

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It's relatively hard to find people who are able to give normie, down to earth, folksy vibes, who are also crazy enough to want to be a politician.

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America is a big country

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It contains multitudes.

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It’s worth noting that a fair number of folksy-talking candidates are secretly pointy heads— Obama and Bill Clinton are the most famous examples, but among the Dems, AOC, Bernie Sanders, John Fetterman, and MGP all seem to fit the bill if you look closely, and on the Republican side you have JD Vance and his ilk.

I think that success in politics in democracies generally requires not just tactical preference falsification but tactical vibe falsification— the average person and the average person who’s cognitively qualified to govern just tend to think and communicate very differently, and people in the latter group generally need to fake some stuff to seem relatable to most of their voters.

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Mar 21Liked by Ben Krauss, Liam Kerr

This ties nicely into some of the ideas Hal Machow talked about in the recent Politico profile. In today's polarized day and age it's more important to change your party's vibe and image, since it's harder for an individual candidate to stand out from the party brand.

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Great point. Would love to have asked him about faction and party sub-brands. Looked at testing this in a race (on the five point partisan scale) and haven't gotten to, and didn't get to meet him. RIP.

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I agree with this 100%. This is why it’s so damaging for Democrats with leftist party members arguing for super unpopular ideas such as open borders, abolishing the police, transgender surgery on demand for kids etc, even if these members are a minority (as they are). In multi party system center left parties can push the more extreme members to leftist fringe parties but in the US they are forced to somehow contain them within.

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Some Dems have successfully pulled off being less moderate than their vibes (e.g. Jon Tester & Sherrod Brown), but they have long electoral histories with their state. Actually being a moderate is a huge shortcut to cultivating moderate vibes compared to the strategy of first being the president of Montana's senate, or being Ohio's Secretary of State.

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But it's also hard to "actually being a moderate" and doing so with authenticity when you don't have a long electoral history to point to.

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Mar 21Liked by Ben Krauss, Liam Kerr

As Yglesias has said, the dems have a talent retention problem with moderate candidates. If a moderate dem loses a close election in a red district, the party should be finding a place for them to either develop their image for voters, or in party strategy for future elections. Instead these candidates often don't have a future with the party and their knowledge and talent is lost.

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"Finding a place for them" what exactly does this look like?

Parties are extremely weak in the United States. There's not a lot of just random patronage jobs lying around at the DNC or DCCC. There are, sometimes, administration jobs. Joe Biden has helped some defeated moderate candidates:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2023/02/15/president-biden-announces-xochitl-torres-small-as-nominee-for-deputy-secretary-of-agriculture/

https://www.washingtonblade.com/2023/05/12/sean-patrick-maloney-nominated-ambassador/

And he's raised the profile of people like Mayor Pete.

And Obama did the same post-2010.

But it's not like there's a lot that can be done.

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Mar 21·edited Mar 21Liked by Liam Kerr

There are think tanks, democratic consultancy firms, lobbying firms, state and federal commissions that require some level of bipartisan membership, etc.

These networks exist, what a losing candidate needs is to have people higher up the food chain pushing for them to be hired or placed in these jobs as a matter of course.

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author

It is true that the parties are weak, but the progressive faction is strong - when Bernie and Warren lost, it was pretty clear where the thousands of people who worked for them could go to (which candidates, consultancies, "Groups") - but not as clear where Pete-type people would go.

When we started WelcomePAC we literally went to the people who were the biggest overperformers to be like hey where are all the people flocking to learn lessons and replicate what you do and ... not a lot there! Way more money and jobs doing progressive nonprofit stuff or working for blue district/state campaigns

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Mar 21Liked by Liam Kerr

For the first campaign, vibes matter a lot with little record, but you can also make some promises. Trump made lots of promises about Medicare that helped him win over moderates.

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But you need SOME examples to campaign on

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Maybe one or two but mostly political campaigning is about creating and pushing fictions - in times of intense polarization and low info voters deciding elections.

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Mar 21Liked by Liam Kerr

Have you been part of any campaigns? I have, and what you say simply isn't accurate. Below, say the Senate or Governor level, campaigning is really intensive retailing work. You are constantly out meeting people, at specifically political events but also at tons and tons of community events: every local community organization's fund raising chicken dinner, monthly meetings of various civic organizations, ethnic day celebrations, fairs, church festivals, etc. It's a constant grind of meeting and greeting and engaging people.

And people aren't actually morons, they come up and ask you questions, and more importantly, you are trying to approach them and get them to ask you questions. If you try to use fictions as opposed to actual verifiable instances of when to did a thing or took a stand on a thing you'll get called out.

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author

"People aren't actually morons" is an underrated point! All the hyping of polarization and underinformed voters goes on amidst moderates who win over tons of swing voters, and even top of ticket in polling tons of voters shifting towards Haley in a Biden v. Haley matchup

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Mar 21·edited Mar 21

Aren’t moderate voters unusually likely to be low-information, though? In GSS data their WORDSUM scores are the worst by a decent margin.

EDIT: to be clear, I think that running moderates in R+6 type districts is good strategy; I just also think that we need to be realistic about the fact that “appealing to moderates” often means “appealing to the least-informed ideological block” in practice.

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Independents tend to be "low-information" voters if the information in question is politics. The NY Times had a good article interviewing folk who run polls and once you remove the folks who say they are independent but haven't voted for one of the parties for several cycles, you end up with folks who don't tend to tune into politics until late in the cycle and don't have much detailed political knowledge. (Note: these people might have tons of useful substantive about many other things that are actually relevant to policy making and problem solving.) I don't think that is very surprising. Folks who don't have a favorite baseball team watch less baseball. Folks who don't define themselves by party are going to be less interested in politics, especially the horse race stuff.

I don't know that moderate equates with independent. Frankly, I think moderate is a bit like middle class. It seems like it should have a consistent and meaningful definition like the middle 50%. But when asked, only 10 percent of Americans said they considered themselves lower-class and just 1 percent thought they were upper-class. My guess is that if you asked people if they were moderates you would see something similar. Perhaps 10% of the population would eschew the moderate label in favor of defining themselves a progressive extremists and perhaps 5% as right wing extremist. Moderate for most people means "reasonable" and the vast majority of people think they are reasonable.

Even if we could define moderates at the middle 50%, I think it would be almost impossible to define what issues would be used to define that -- social justice, gun control, public safety, immigration, reproductive rights. I would guess that most of us are more moderate on the issues that matter the least to us but all of us vary on what that would be.

I suspect that moderates are probably lower information voters in the sense of knowing less about politics because folks with more extreme views tend to hang with other folks with extreme views and they talk ALOT about politics. Of course, in today's political climate, less information might also mean less misinformation which might not be so bad.

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I base this off national and state wide campaigns where it’s obvious that truth and facts means nothing these days. Republicans just make things up and their base doesn’t care. If they have a favorable tilt in the electorate they will win, and gerrymandering often ensures they do.

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So, I've got no problems with running moderate candidates in R+ districts, but I think we also have to be honest about why these people all won, and it's not just because they're more moderate.

As you noted, all of these races are not under straight FPTP, which is the first thing. But, I don't think RCV or Top 4 or Top 2 would be quite the fool proof way to put moderate candidates into office that it's thought of.

Jared Golden has always been helped out that Maine's a weird ticket splitter state, and even though he's moved off of this in recent years, he was originally pro-gun and pro-Medicare for All. So, yes, moderate, but not in the usual way people claim candidates need to moderate over Trump voters.

Pelota basically got an non-endorsement endorsement from Sarah Palin, who she seems to be close friends with, and was also helped out by a GOP Civil War and a Trumpification of the party pushing a lot of non-aligned voters toward a pro-choice pro-gun pro-fish candidate. Again, Pelota talked a lot about her support for reproductive rights, without moderating her view by supporting restrictions, in a way that even out host here thought was a good idea after Dobbs originally.

MGP has now gotten lucky twice in a row that her opponent will be an absolute crazy person named Joe Kent who is weird even to a lot of MAGA-types. I'd also point out while Top 2 was at help in MGP's initial win, it's probably not going to do much in her releection, as there's no moderate GOP candidate running really, only Kent.

But again, in both the case of MGP & Pelota, if the GOP runs a normal candidate, they win pretty easily, no matter how perfectly the Democratic candidate moderates and punches left. Golden's a more specific case.

I'd also point out that another issue is the vast majority of money in politics is coming from small donors, and those small donors are going to be pretty hesitant to support somebody they think may not support or care about the things they care about. If you're a woman who cares deeply about reproductive choice, why would you donate to somebody who might vote for restrictions? If you care deeply about immigration rights, why donate to somebody who will vote for a Trump-lite immigration package, and so on, and so forth.

Again, run all the moderate candidates you want, and good luck to them, but the reality isn't these people who were elected have some secret sauce, but it was a lot of luck, and in many different worlds, they ran the same exact campaigns that are being praised right now, and are back in Maine, Washington, and Alaska doing their old jobs.

As far as underperforming candidates go, that's the point of running in a deep blue or deep red district. For ideologues to push candidates who will shift the party on various issues, in a seat where you can bleed the votes of moderates. Yes, in a closer seat, you need to squeeze out every vote you can, but you don't have to do that in Brooklyn or on the other side, rural Georgia. You don't actually need the most efficient candidate in every seat.

After all, even Boebert's issue at the moment is more that even pretty right-leaning voters basically think she's more interested in being a conservative influencer, in a way that makes MTG look serious and professional, somehow.

But in the end, after all,, you know what they call Tilab and AOC that they don't call a lot of moderate candidates? Congresswoman. They'll also both likely be around in Congress shaping things long after a lot of moderates have lost reelection fights, just like prior Overton Window pushers like Pelosi did, who survived and rose to power while every Blue Dog all but pretended they weren't even in the same party as that black guy, and still lost.

Probably because, you do actually need the leftmost 20% of the party motivated to vote, and despite what some people here so desperately want to do, you can't actually just abandon that wing and win. Not that MGP, Pelota, or Golden have done that in any real way, but there are a lot of "centrists" who seem to want a bunch of hippie-punching Congresspeople who attack AOC & Omar more than they do the Republican's.

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founding

You make some really good points, Jesse. Particularly about how it is normal and rational that the safest districts (D or R) elect people who will push their respective Party to a further-from-the-center position, making it harder to win the middle in other districts.

I'm becoming more and more convinced there should be a ban on all gerrymandering. Let a computer algorithm create House districts that are required to be as compact as possible. Yes, we've all seen from Google Gemini that politics can creep into computer algorithms, but I'd rather see districts that are compact and contiguous rather than ones that snake through a region searching for partisan voters.

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I like that you acknowledged that algorithms still have bias from the humans that bui,t the algorithm.

The only way to truly end gerrymandering is to implement proportional representation, as highly unlikely as that will be.

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If you make the algorithm at a national level with a mutually agreed upon prior goal (e.g. - maximally compact, following county lines) then I think the opportunities for inadvertent bias to sneak in from the builders of the algorithm are pretty low.

I mean, it's possible that that statement "maximally compact, following county lines" accidentally gives a benefit overall to either R or D - and it's probably impossible to make this suggestion "blind" (that is, at least some people who make a reasonable-sounding suggestion will have tried to precalculate the outcomes) but it may minimize it enough.

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Or, allow gerrymandering, but require states to make as many moderate districts as possible. Would be more difficult to do in smaller states (and impossible in single-district states). Admittedly this is a half-baked idea, but I think we need as many moderate Members of Congress as possible to outvote the crazies

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The old 538 Atlas of Redistricting has an option to maximize highly competitive districts: https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/redistricting-maps/#Competitive That’s probably what you’re looking for (although it was pre-2020 census).

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Mar 21·edited Mar 21

Hilariously, when you ask the program to "gerrymander Illinois to favor Democrats" ... it only shifts 2 districts vs. the current map. IL Dems got the message.

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founding

Really cool tool. I especially like the "compact while following county lines" districting approach.

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Mar 21·edited Mar 21

Yeah, it’s one of my favorite tools for this type of thing. It’s interesting that the algorithmic compact districts often don’t match expectations. In particular, they tend to crack cities (at least if they’re in the interior of a state), which people think is inherently partisan. However, cracking is also an effect of making maximally compact districts!

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The main problem I have with this is that you'll have insane turnover rates, resulting in D/R +25 district Representatives being the only ones with seniority.

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Ah yes, thank you! I remember when they originally made it but had forgotten about it

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There’s no need for a district-drawing algorithm to be as opaque as an AI program. The principles of fairness and neutrality have been worked out in the political science literature.

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founding

Compact districts will likely produce just as many extreme districts as we currently have, if not more. Gerrymandering tends to dilute the most extreme districts.

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I would like to see some states experiment multi-member districts.

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Yeah gerrymandering is a scourge. Can you imagine how different Congress would have been this cycle if a 1/3 of Republicans actually feared losing instead of like 10?

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I'm for a national anti-gerrymandering bill, but compactness is kind of overrated. In some cases, compactness can lead to results that don't match the population. Like, a lot of the WI legislative lines didn't look that bad, but it still led to the situation where they held a 2/3 majority with less than half the vote.

I'd rather have ugly district lines that lead to results that match the actual partisan lean (accounting for candidate strength) than perfect districts that lead to off results.

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Mar 21Liked by Liam Kerr

The fact that they won against 'crazies' is also evidence _for_ this though. Yeah it made their job easier, but "if their Republican opponents had been more moderate, they might have lost " is also evidence for the value of moderation.

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Sure, again - run moderates in these districts. But, I just think winning depends a lot more on luck, and in open seats, the actions of other Republicans. If Herrera is 10% less moderate, and embraces Kent as the nominee, I think MGP probably loses.

Like I said above, if instead of Pelota, another random Alaskan state legislator with the same exact views of Pelota, who didn't have a long standing relationship with Palin runs, is Palin focusing more on attacking the Democrat as a Joe Biden Democrat instead of randomly appearing in kind of endearing Tweets and Instagram stories with Pelota and going to war with parts of the Alaska GOP?

Moderation matters, but luck matters a lot, if not more.

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Mar 21Liked by Liam Kerr

Yeah running the moderates doesn't guarantee wins, but if you compete in 10 Trump+4 districts and manage to win 4 of them with moderates, that's the U.S. House of Representatives right there.

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"Probably because, you do actually need the leftmost 20% of the party motivated to vote"

One of the most important lessons that both parties have forgotten is that every voter on their edge that they trade for a voter in the middle is a loss for the other party.

The difference between capturing the edge and capturing the middle is the difference between being the California Republican party and the Pennsylvania Democratic party.

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So, I'm all for moderation, but I think we still don't know, with some exceptions, on what moderation people care about.

For instance, Republican's love to pull out polls showing non-white people, sometimes just specifically black people are actually less liberal on various social issues than liberal white people. Depending on the intelligence of said conservative, they'll either make a 'What's Matter with Kansas' argument to an argument Republican's should focus on these issues to win some of these voters over to something dumb about Democratic plantations.

Now, putting aside that this actually makes sense - if you win an outsized portion of a group that's varied by age, socioeconomic status, and geographic location, without much accounting for political values, that group is going to have more varied views than a group (white people) already separated by political issues.

Plus, even if they're less socially liberal than white libs in deep blue areas like me, they're still more socially liberal than white conservatives.

My point is, sometimes, there are arguments that Democrat's should moderate on issue x or y, because minority voters are actually less liberal on issue x or y. But, my pushback would be, is there proof those voters care about those issues, or is part of the reason they're a Democrat is because they don't really care about issue x or y, and care more about issue z, that they're normie Democrat's on.

For instance, there are a lot of 75 year old African-American grandmas in the rural South with less than 'woke' views on LGBT people. But, the reality is, those grandmas are never voting Republican. Now, maybe, there's an argument about younger minority voters and their viewpoints, but as I've argued w/ Milan here, I think basically, the polling on black voters (and white seniors) is off the rails this year and that while there might be a slight shift to the GOP among black voters, it'll be 13%, not 23% like we're seeing in some polls.

But, it's understandable that conservative minorities with conservative views on things they care about will eventually become Republican's eventually, as seen with people like Mark Robinson. The problem is, it appears to be kind of an open question on whether polling actually captures who these voters actually are, as even self-description of liberal, moderate, or conservative among minority, especially African-American voters seem less connected to the normal descriptions of liberal, moderate, and conservative and more toward personal temperament.

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Mar 21·edited Mar 21

"So, I'm all for moderation, but I think we still don't know, with some exceptions, on what moderation people care about. "

That's true about Progressives true! Most people don't have uniform progressive, moderate or conservative beliefs, they tend to be all muddle up in a mix - and that's assuming they even have a position on things. Most "normies" don't think about politics that way at all and unless they are deep into the kool aid, will have heterodox views on something.

The question then becomes, does the public feel like a candidates approach to things represents what they want. This is how most politicians get elected. They often don't make any sense and are even outright deceptive in their policy opinions, but people feel like they will at least approach things the right way. The key is to be able to do that for moderate voters who might consider voting for either party. Can you get the persuadable voters to say "I might not agree with them on everything, but I think they are close enough that I can still vote for them because they seem to be like me."

A big part of that is to enable representatives in close districts to say that "I'm not like that crazy righty, or this crazy lefty, I'm like you. A reasonable, sensible person."

The Squad could be very good for the Democratic party if a bunch of Democrats would say their too extreme and use them as a contrast to demonstrate their moderation.

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I agree people have heterodox views, but I also think a lot of people may disagree w/ something, but they don't really care, but since that's not shown well in polling, a lot of triangulating is done chasing after people who don't care about the issue you're triangulating on.

Again, I'm not talking about immigration or crime, but rather smaller bore issues.

"The Squad could be very good for the Democratic party if a bunch of Democrats would say their too extreme and use them as a contrast to demonstrate their moderation."

The problem with this idea is that even in swing districts, there are going to be a lot of Democratic voters in your district who care and like AOC more than you - for example, in the latest Harvard/Harris poll, among Democrats last month, AOC has a 51% approval, and Joe Manchin has a 31% approval, and among liberals, the only thing more approved of more is MSNBC, Biden, Kamala, MSNBC, and BLM, and that's probably low considering the Harris poll is kind of has some weird results at times.

The funniest thing in the results is more Republican's than Democrat's actually recognize AOC by name (74% vs. 67%).

AOC isn't some random left-wing minor celebrity like Sister Souljah or whatever you can basically freely get a shot in - she's a well-loved political figure among many Democratic voters, no matter how much that annoys you. I'm not saying you have to embrace AOC, but you can't attack her as too extreme.

Also, it seems to be a skill issue that these moderate representatives can't get as much online attention as progressives. Maybe if they were going after witnesses AOC (and Adam Schiff, who is no leftie), they'd be more well known.

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“It seems to be a skill issue that these moderate representatives can't get as much online attention as progressives”

It’s not skill, it’s opportunity cost of time.

If you are running in an R+5 seat, you can’t take the Acela down to DC while tweeting and coast to re-election. You drive from your often rural district to an airport to get to work while also fundraising and campaigning to get re-elected.

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I think people like AOC are actually just as busy as people in R+5 districts, just in different ways, but even putting that aside, OK, then moderates will continue to be outshined then, no matter how much money you raise, because AOC answering questions on Instagram will seem more real than any ad you make.

But also, it's not just true. Jeff Jackson is in NC, and has found time to do very popular as hell TikToks and well he's not a centrist, he's not a squad member. He's a pretty normie Democrat, with I'm sure plenty of stuff he has to do.

Why can't moderates do some entertaining 15 second TikToks to explain themselves to young voters and gain some mindshare, instead of just complaining the youths like AOC more?

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Perhaps our strongest disagreement is that I think that most of the Democrats who like AOC more than a moderate will vote for the moderate regardless once it comes time to actually vote. Let me ask you directly, would you vote for Cuellar in a race against either of the potential Republican nominees, despite progressives having spent large sums of money trying to unseat him in the primary over the last couple cycles? Or would you stay home and allow a greater potential for Johnson to remain speaker over Jeffries? I think there are very small numbers of progressives who actually stay home in that situation.

My second point is that you triangulate on policy issues only if there are very strong differences with the party - e.g. gun control being a good example. Otherwise, you want to triangulate on the "vibes." Say that your not one of the extremist, but a reasonable moderate who just wants to get things done for the district and country.

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I think people who like AOC in a swing district will be happy to vote for a moderate if they're in a swing district, even if they disagree with them on some things.

What they might not do, is vote for a moderate who attacks the Squad as they campaign, especially if it seems they're attacking AOC more than actual Republican's (and no, BSDIng by making MTG and AOC equivalent isn't going to work either).

As you said, outside of stuff like guns and immigration in specific seats, it's more about vibes than performatively attacking AOC or Omar.

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Mar 21Liked by Liam Kerr

Very thoughtful commentary, but still begs the question – why not try? Costs seem minimal, and the benefit seems massive. If mobilization was the answer, we would have the evidence, but instead, it seems that the Democrats are about to revalidate the definition of insanity

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Mar 21Liked by Liam Kerr

I think the observation that a lot of the moderate wins depend on GOP candidate quality and lightning striking, including unique Democratic candidates, is why "why not try?" isn't as easy as it sounds. Why don't NFL teams draft better quarterbacks? They are trying! It's hard.

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NFL teams only get 7 draft picks, and they use all of them even though 7th rounders often don't work out.

NBA teams draft 2nd rounders, even though they rarely become starters - sometime you get Jokic!!

Democrats are basically ceding their 5th, 6th, and 7th round draft picks every year because the marketplace is not rational enough to allocate $1m towards supporting candidates in R+5 districts.

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It's hard stuff. But also as many, many comments keep highlighting, it's very different to throw all R+5 districts together, versus pointing out the more specific cases where you have open seats/special elections, alternate voting mechanisms, and/or extremist candidates. That's a smaller fraction.

And since it's not just about electing moderates but keeping them around, I'd love more discussion on why some moderates haven't managed to stick around. Joe Cunningham in South Carolina was another perfect storm, a somewhat red district that had an open seat caused by a more extremist Republican defeating the incumbent. He won, but then lost in 2020--at a time in which most pundits gave him the benefit of the doubt in winning. What went wrong?

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Yup - like, why is Adam Frisch being talked about as somebody people should get behind, while we're told sending money to MTG's opponent is pointless?

I don't think there's that big a difference in quality of opponent, it's mostly just luck, and how much crazy swing voters in those districts put up with, and it turns out, people are more OK in these red districts with Jewish Space Lasers than vaping and acting like a horny teen at a play.

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Boebert is in a R+7, MTG is in a R+22.

If it were almost any other Republican, the Colorado seat would be pretty safe and even a moderate Democrat would struggle--outside of wave year.

Even with MTG, the Georgia seat isn't competitive.

Even without Boebert, the Colorado seat is open now so that's worth a try.

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I'll be honest - forgot it was that big a gap between the seats. Thought Boebert's was more rural and outlying - maybe her original seat was or I just was totally mistaken.

Anyway, I'm totally fine with Firsch running again this time around.

In that case, the reality is well-known ideologues will get lots of financial support against them from the opposite site in an era of small donors, regardless. Like, AOC opponents get more funding than they should in a D+ infinity seat, so it's not a partisan thing.

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On the one hand, sure each race has its own elements.

On the other hand, a bunch of rando non-DC people pulled together a due diligence process that found the races that were the most undervalued - and there were way more of them!

I'm sure all of the 18 Republicans who won Biden districts also have their own stories and quirks.

We think another Jared Golden is worth $100m, but nowhere near that expected value is seen in what's invested to get more Jared Goldens.

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Agreed. I think that there then might be another level of analysis that looks at each of those seats and figures out what Dem issues a majority in that areas either agree with or don't care much about and which are deal breakers and find candidates who authentically embody that mix. I think just going for a moderate is likely going to pay off as well.

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"But in the end, after all,, you know what they call Tilab and AOC that they don't call a lot of moderate candidates? Congresswoman."

That's a bar.

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Thanks for adding the specifics of each candidate. None seem to be centrists on every issue but actually have both Right leaning and Left leaning views that track well with the area they serve. That seems pretty logical to me. I think that there are very few real centerists in American and most people who say they are moderate just mean that they think of themselves as reasonable. I would guess 80% of people think they are moderate. But in reality most of us have views that fall along different points of the spectrum on different issues.

I have a couple of Bernie Bros in my local dem org that are so upset that I voted for Hillary rather than Bernie in 2016 that they have tried to primary me in the race for Precinct Officer for my 9 block area to prevent a "moderate" from representing a progressive area. I don't consider myself a moderate and I don't think anyone would who looked at my positions on racial justice, reproductive health, poverty, or the environment. I am more moderate on issues involving economic development - particularly housing development. I didn't vote for Hillary instead of Bernie because he was too progressive for me but because he was less progressive on issues that I cared about the most.

It sounds like these guys were not moderate on all things, they were liberal where their voters were liberal and conservative where they were conservative and that lined up better with the Dems than the Rep but not perfectly in either camp. I think we can all get behind the idea that the Dems would do well to support such candidate in close districts. They might lose their votes on some things but they would have lost those votes with a R in that seat and would win on others where they align.

But I think it is a different message to say, we should support candidates who break with the party on issues of special interest to their area where there the voter opinion on that issue is very different than the norm in the party than it is to say we should support candidates whose positions are "moderate." In Maine's case a moderate position on guns and the moderate position on access to health care might be a lot less appealing than pro-gun, more medicare for all.

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Yeah this is a very important point. Here's how Jared Golden described it:

"I think of the Blue Dogs as “progressive conservatives” — fiscally responsible Democrats who care more about getting things done than about partisan point-scoring. Perhaps most importantly, Blue Dogs are Democrats committed to representing their districts, whether or not doing so bucks the official party line. If we could pull the parties back from perpetual polarization, we could turn them into vehicles for the conversations and solutions"

https://jaredgolden.substack.com/p/what-is-our-vision-for-maines-future

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Thanks for pointing out Joe Kent. I mentioned that in my comment. I know a lot of JHB -> MGP flippers.

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I hate what the GOP has become and still want to kick every hippie in the teeth.

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Wow, what a charmer.

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😃

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Okay, I'll bite. I see a bunch of people on here advocating and/or dreaming of kicking hippies in the teeth. Not my jam. But I am curious how you even define hippie, how other than literally you would kick them in the teeth, and to what end.

I get that it seems like the flip of a punch a nazi. I wasn't a fan of that slogan either but I at least knew what they meant by "nazi," that they largely really meant punching them in the face, and that the justification was in part that racist extremists won't respond to anything but force and that violence is necessary and justified to prevent them from doing harm.

I don't know that many people who self identify as hippies. More than nazi's but not a lot. They tend to be older, have vague issues with capitalism and "the man" but typically are not that politically active and are as often NIMBY activists as anything else. But I sense that the people who are supposed to get kicked in this theory are folks like AOC and her supporters who don't identify are objectively not hippies.

I can't imagine any definition that I am going to agree with but when I hear this I imagine you going to my local farmers market finding a man in a beret who smells like patchouli and talks a lot about how much drugs he did in the 1960s and that one anti-war march he went to and beating the shit out of him. I know guys like that. I find them very annoying. Kicking them would seem of limited effectiveness toward any goal.

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Seems less “punch a hippie” than “fight back against the Ivy League alums whose foundation-funded job is to harass you online and/or in person for not passing their unpopular litmus test”

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There's a lot of MAGA and libertarian "hippies" out there voting GOP.

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It's also worth noting that the other campaigns mentioned play into this. Frisch was running against Boebert! And Van Orden is an extremist too.

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"Probably because, you do actually need the leftmost 20% of the party motivated to vote, and despite what some people here so desperately want to do, you can't actually just abandon that wing and win."

Mmm. Good point that this often gets forgotten here.

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Obviously you can't abandon them, no. But if you want to win elections you have to create the biggest possible tent, and it's important to remind people of that. AOC may be a congresswoman 10 years from now, but who cares if she's just a member of the minority party and can't achieve anything.

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I would be really interested in seeing the reverse. Pro-Ed, Pro-Nuclear, Pro-Building Republicans from safe D districts

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Every single day I pray for a Charlie Baker/Phil Scott Republican Party. They would win 40 states lmfao.

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People say this sort of stuff a lot, but the fact that nobody has actually done it is fairly strong evidence that this isn’t the case. Charlie Baker and Joe Manchin could run together on a No Labels-type ticket this year if they wanted to, or just do something similar in statewide elections.

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Unfortunately, polarization in the US is highly asymmetric and there are very few D+6 jurisdictions where the Republicans are likely to pick somebody sane. Since the mid-aughts, they’ve generally shot down even popular statewide politicians with sterling electoral records. (Delaware’s Mike Castle losing to Christine O’Donnell is probably the purest example of that phenomenon.)

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founding

Don’t they often do it in New Jersey and Long Island? We don’t hear about those people much, but they have been in congress.

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No, the Long Island Republican Congressional candidates really aren't moderate.

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Hogan in Maryland Senate

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Maryland has a D+14 PVI.

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former Governor Hogan (R), is ahead by double digits in his Senate race. He knows his state.

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Man I wish. Trump destroyed any possibility of that in my lifetime though.

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Mar 21·edited Mar 21

I basically agree with most of this, but it's worth noting that Democrats used to have a lot more moderate, rural representatives- it's just that they all lost in the 2010s as the parties polarized. Here's a lot of Dem Senators meeting that description who all lost re-election as incumbents in that decade:

Claire McCaskill, Heidi Heitkamp, Mary Landrieu, Kay Hagan, Joe Donnelly, Kay Hutchison, Blanche Lincoln, and Russ Feingold (I guess you could argue Feingold was progressive). And Manchin is retiring because there's no way he can win as a Dem.

I think the large majority of voters are voting for the party, not the person- and voting for a Democrat in some states is unthinkable. It's not like 1,721,244 Georgians really thought Herschel Walker was the most qualified Senate candidate possible, they just voted for the guy with an R next to his name. Anyways, I think Dems should run & support independent candidates in red states that they have no chance of winning anyways. There's literally nothing to lose!

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Mar 21·edited Mar 21

I do think in very red states, there should basically be independent candidates that aside from being more pro-gun and more pro-border enforcement than the median Democratic candidate run on basic Democratic positions (pro-choice, pro-Social Security, pro-tax hikes for rich folks), and all are all either pastors, veterans, or local high school coaches. I'm only mostly kidding about the last qualifier.

But yeah, a lot of those candidates ran very good races, moderated against the party, and still got curb stomped because people in their state did not want to vote for anybody allied with the Other, whether the Other was feminists, black people, immigrants, or whatever, and now they knew Democrat's were allied with the Other in a way they didn't know even in the relatively modern times of say, 2000.

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I know for myself the people doing the most othering are the far left against white males.

I know it’s an unpopular call but it’s literally the only group where it is at all socially acceptable to be openly and publicly hostile purely based on immutable characteristics. I’m not self-hating enough to be part of a political movement where this is acceptable behaviour.

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As a rapidly nearing middle aged white male living in one of the most liberal cities in the country whose income has ranged from relatively comfortable middle class to near poverty, I've never felt any kind of actual hostility toward me as a white dude.

What's actually happened is there are more women, minorities, and LGBT people, and as white men got to talk openly for decades about their issues with women, minorities, and LGBT people, well, now everybody can talk about everybody, and yeah, it turns out, some white guys have been bastards.

Since I've not done the things described on Twitter, and feel no need to protect the honor of my fellow white guys because maybe some women said some mean things on Twitter.

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I think both of these things can be true. The only (remotely high status) group where it's acceptable to be "publicly hostile based on immutable characteristics" is the far left, but in practice the vast majority of hostility is directed to women, minorities, and LGBT people. It's just done indirectly or by low status people.

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I just wonder how effective this can be. Once they caucus with Democrats, they'll be painted in just the same negative terms that Democrats are. Definitely worth a try even with my concerns, though.

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Feingold losing to the dumbest man in the Senate was a dark time.

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When did Feingold lose to Tuberville?

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He and RonJon are like the Magic/Bird of brain worms.

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Mar 21·edited Mar 21

"Kay Hutchison" ? Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison(R-TX)? Not a Democrat.

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Probably meant Kay Hagan.

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Ahh thanks

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If she were a Senator today, she would be!

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I can't agree with this advice enough. I wish Republicans would take it to.

We need two sane parties

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Mar 21Liked by Ben Krauss

Superlike™️. I'm *so* nostalgic for the good old days when very few normal people paid attention to politics outside of election seasons (which were much shorter), and more normal people ran for office.

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Jeff Maurer has a great piece on his Substack: “I miss the Republican Party, and I don’t even like the Republican Party.”

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It should be noted, though, that what this DOESN'T mean is that we should pour money into "RiSiNg DeMoCrAtIc StAr!!11" races or viral longshot challenges to people we hate like MTG.

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On the other hand, Frisch, mentioned explicitly in this article, was running against Lauren Boebert.

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Mar 21Liked by Liam Kerr

It's very challenging to preach a nuanced message to small donors that's "Send money into challenges to crazy Republicans in R+6 districts but not R+35!"

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Boebert is in the overlap of the Venn diagram between "People We (Democrats) Hate" and "Vulnerable Because She Got Redistricted".

The general principle is that we don't ONLY go after people because of the former.

But we ALWAYS want to go after Republicans in the latter situation, regardless of whether they're also in the former group.

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The only upside of this is there's so much money sloshing around that I don't think it actually effects things on the margin, and there's no real way to control individual donors in our current media environment.

Like, yeah, maybe Mandela Barnes would've been a Senator now if he'd had an extra million from Resist Libs, but it's not like the DSCC and DNC didn't waste a million dollars themselves on unwinnable races like Val Demmings in Florida against Rubio.

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Beto dislikes this comment.

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Eh, given how TX has shaken out in the past few cycles, Beto was pretty clearly an electoral overperformer and helped his Dem colleagues out downballot. Not an insane investment to make; definitely not in like the Amy McGrath tier of total waste of money candidates.

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Yup, again, I get why ironically, both leftists online and centrists don't like Beto, but the dude helped lay the foundation for the future Blexas.

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Beto sucks. I may be a prog, but I like progs who WIN.

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Amy McGrath Syndrome.

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Mar 21Liked by Ben Krauss

Not really directly related to the article– I met Marie Gluesenkamp Perez at the Slow Boring happy hour and she's cool!

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author

Thanks for coming by!

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MGP 2028!

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Where was this? In DC?

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Mar 21Liked by Liam Kerr

Great post. Another thing I'd add is the incentive structure for a lot of the institutional funders like the DCCC or donors in The Groups orbit isn't great. Political directors and such tend to be judged by their "win rate" that is how often the candidates they decide to back win the election, not if there overall strategy can lead to broad success in the long run. It's not as clear cut as giving people a batting average but it's the same principle.

The upshot of this is that money tends to follow money and so people who excel at fundraising (usually do to a personal background and networks like say a trial lawyer etc) tend to get the most institutional funding as well. That's all well at good for political directors who can point out how smart they are for future consulting gigs but it's the opposite of what you need collectively as a party in order to maximize the number of seats you win because of the law of diminishing returns on the extra campaign dollar (that extra 500k won't change much in a 40 million dollar air war, but could have made someone else viable) and the tendency of the Dems middle class donor base of political hobbyists to throw dump trucks full of money away on unwinnable races because they think a candidate can "own Trump."

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Very good point. Should have included that.

Can confirm - I ran a state-based organization where stakeholders would ask for “win rate”, not adjusted for likelihood of winning.

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In honor of March Madness here's a sports metaphor: a coach keeps one of their new promising players largely on the bench because they are inexperienced, thus insuring they will never get much game time to actually become experienced. When asked they respond "But we won the game!" when the problem of course is what's the plan for the whole season, or next year?

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Mar 21Liked by Liam Kerr

Tiny origins correction: I don't think the Matthew Effect is named for the biblical character for whom interest compounds (i.e. a tax collector). I think it's because of the verse in Matthew that says: "to those who have more will be given. And to those who do not have, even what they have will be taken from them." Still illustrates the idea well since Golden seems to have gobbled up the rest of the 2018 cast's margin and they're all gone.

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Mar 21Liked by Liam Kerr

"Catchphrase enthusiast Malcolm Gladwell"

-chef's kiss

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Mar 21Liked by Liam Kerr

+1 for the footnote on electoral reform. It may not solve polarization instantly but it lays the groundwork for a longer term change in culture.

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A couple things:

- Of course we Slow Borers are into cultivating a higher tolerance for intra-coalitional ideological diversity, probably for both parties.

- As a Democrat, I am extremely open to having candidates in stretch districts (R+3-6) holding some views very out of line with party standard, or at least being comfortable expressing those views (ie, unapologetically personally opposed to abortion, but wary of using state power to coerce people)

- Biden is not "losing Maine by 20 points", that's probably his net favorables in the survey you cited

- I would be much more convinced by this column if we had a Congressperson from a traditionally deep red area - as you note, all three blue dogs are from areas with alternative electoral procedures, and also from areas with well known independent streaks.

Totally agree that we need to run candidates everywhere and dial down the stridency with which we hold candidates to certain positions, especially in stretch districts. We need to allow people to run in ways that let them win if on net they agree with us. I think overall it's just a bit more complicated than "Dems have moved left and The Groups are shouty" because it's in some ways The Groups and the more left Democrats that were going to have to convince to play along here and keep their fire focused away from the moderates and on the actual right.

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Unfortunately, that kind of runs against The Groups' incentive structure. They're incentivized to make the biggest, splashiest progress as fast and cheaply as possible, in order to capture attention and bootstrap their revenue growth quickly without wasting resources -- think like a startup.

And the easiest way to do that is to target some vulnerable Dem who has the power to do something they want. Doesn't matter what it will cost that Dem, it just matters how much clout is to be gained.

We need to change the incentives. Go after their money, stop them from getting rewarded for hounding Dems to do stupid things. If I were the DNC chair, I'd start by creating a web platform for Democrats to coordinate campaign donations, and I'd make it so efficient that it'd be irresistible for them to adopt. It'd be a trojan horse, though: ostensibly appearing to be an open platform, but in actuality centralizing all small-dollar and other donations under my own control. So when some Group starts acting up, the money spigot goes off. Eventually, the entire Democratic ecosystem develops a Pavlovian immune response to The Groups' bullshit antics.

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Might have been a good idea a couple decades ago, but ActBlue already exists and most nonprofit organizations have their own fundraising capabilities too.

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I dunno, I think there's still a space for "making it *irresistible*". Not sure exactly what the carrot is, but it strikes me as a more viable approach than simply openly browbeating them or just always lobbying the same politicians they lobby but in the opposite direction.

Like, sure, directly opposing them like that might feel good, but probably won't accomplish much, for the simple fact that there's only ONE Matt Yglesias who has THOUSANDS of issues to potentially care about, while there are THOUSANDS of Groups who only care about ONE issue at a time, and also reflexively back each other up.

I mean, in order to combat that kind of power, you need a countervailing power base. Otherwise, you're just grinding out thousands of uphill battles with them, bleeding yourself dry of resources. Better to concentrate resources into standing up one single platform, make them dependent on it, and THEN institute discipline.

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Mar 21·edited Mar 21

This might've worked in a pre-Citizen's United world, but there is really no ways for parties to restrain it's members, other than say, removing them from committee's or whatever, but I don't think removing AOC from committees for staying w/ ActBlue will make the party leaders look more in touch with the party's voters.

Also, all The Groups need is a couple of rich people who agree with them to outweight the Party. Again, it's easier to have strict party control in a small population country like I don't know, Finland, where all the powerful people actually do know better, as opposed to the US.

Plus, as was noted, there are lot of individual liberal-minded people who care more deeply about their issue, more than they ever will about the Democratic Party.

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The closest thing to the strategy that you’re talking about that makes sense in the actually existing landscape of nonprofit funding would be convincing the big foundations to re-prioritize away from the most polarizing advocacy orgs— maybe by getting them to focus more on direct-impact material charities.

But ultimately, these orgs will keep being able to raise funds because they appeal to the priorities of a very politically engaged slice of the electorate which is willing to fund them and provide volunteer or below-market-rate labor. To combat them, you need to do your own organizing, advocacy, fundraising, etc. There’s no One Weird Trick to getting out of doing politics.

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Figure out a way to tighten up this question more succinctly David, and audition it for the Monday-Friday questions.

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I found this article a bit frustrating, because it lacks a clear thesis in the way that Matt is often cautioning against. What should be done to help candidates in R+4 districts? Why are those races often uncontested?

It feels like the actual thesis of the article is that progressive organizations should be less mean to the three named members, and that big Democratic donors should give money to the PAC, but that's a message aimed at a small number of people and made quite esotericly here.

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author

Initially we looked at “why don’t Democrats contest R+4 seats” and - like many other things in our “hollow parties” era - part of the answer was just that there was not sustained investment by outside groups. So we are trying to do that.

We spent a chunk of Fall 2021 asking “why is there no credibly funded challenger to Lauren Boebert, but there is for MTG in an unwinnable seat” and there’s not a single reason. It’s a small part of many people’s job. Not the focus for any one org. One org can’t solve it, will need hundreds of millions of dollars over many years.

Don’t care if The Groups are mean. It’s often worse if The Groups try to help!

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Liam,

Would you be kind enough to tell me what you mean by "The Groups"?

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author

Hi Alan, Previous Slow Boring post on The Groups linked and excepted below. It’s basically progressive nonprofit advocacy organizations.

“The groups and the narrative

People sometimes ask me where “the groups” get their power, given their demonstrated inability to actually drive votes or deliver constituencies.

It’s a complicated issue, but one important source of power is epistemic. Organized issue advocacy groups are very involved in shaping media narratives and conventional wisdom.”

https://www.slowboring.com/p/how-we-got-here-ce8

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Thank you, Liam!

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If the goal is a big tent ... The big question I have is what makes a Democrat competitive again in Iowa. Harken won 5 races as recently at 2008 but Biden is down vs. Trump by 15 points r/n. I still can't believe how sudden Democrats became this uncompetitive.

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The electorate is always evolving. California used to be a pretty safe Republican state.

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This is a myth - California was a purple state for a while but never really red. We had 16 straight years of GOP governors which made us look red but overall we were purple, closely matching national votes or a bit to the left

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The Republican candidate won the California presidential vote in six straight elections, 1968 through 1988. It took Bill Clinton to break that pattern, and the Democrats haven't lost here since.

If the national vote is Republican and you match that vote then, yes, you're a Republican state.

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Speaking of tough races, you lot may be interested in this new analysis of Biden defectors and Haley voters: https://drive.google.com/file/d/11AYZZhSYhBHOQt7neaNMz3eeNLlCZthq/view

Tweet summary here: https://x.com/milansingh03/status/1770827356535472523?s=20

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Looks like the Haley voters should be very winnable for Biden— but is that mostly because a lot of them are Dems and independents who tactically voted in the R primary this cycle?

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Some of both. I don't think Rs have bottomed out in the suburbs yet.

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That's the dream.

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Well, I mentioned this yesterday, but it depends HOW Democrars win the suburbs. If they win by just not being crazy, that's good. If they win the burbs by embracing regressive policies like NIMBYism and upper-middle class goodies like the SALT deduction and MID and stuff like that, then warm it over with progressive virtue signaling, that's a pretty cursed coalition.

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I'm a Haley voter, but no way I'm voting for Biden

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May I ask why not?

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He promised to be a moderate, but he's let the hard left run most of his administration

Afghanistan,

immigration,

pushing for huge spending plans (build back better etc)

His support for racist policies like affirmative action

His support for child abuse AKA "gender affirming care"

Note none of this means I'm supporting Trump

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author

Thanks for stepping outside your political preferences a bit and reading Slow Boring!

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I try and read good faith arguments from the other side. I think it's important to get out of the echo chamber

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You seem pretty set in your convictions and I doubt that I'll be able to persuade you. But I think you should consider the most important reason to hold your nose and vote for Biden, if you live in a swing state: I believe that as Americans we have a duty to uphold our Constitution, the other guy tried to violate the most important part of it—popular sovreignty—and so we have duty to prevent him from returning to office.

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Agreed that's a pretty important reason.

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Student loan forgiveness pisses me off to no end.

It's blatant vote buying. Almost as bad as bailing out the Teamsters pension fund.

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I think it's bad politics and bad policy but, like, everything politicians do is vote buying! That's part of the argument for democracy: it leads to a more equal allocation of material resources. Many such cases: Trump's farm subsidies, corporate tax cuts, Rx price controls, all of the politics around Social Security, etc.

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Mar 21·edited Mar 21

It's on a spectrum, but I think there is a substantial difference between 'structure things so that my political clients can indirectly benefit' and 'directly give my clients money/forgive their loans'.

I strongly suspect that when the populace at large starts to directly look to the government for unearned/unjustified handouts in exchange for votes, things will start to rapidly fall apart.

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Difference in degree maybe. The farm subsidies were money given to farmers. Social Security is literally a check. The difference is that I'm guessing that you're somewhat more personally sympathetic towards farmers or the elderly than college students. That's fine, but these are all the same sort of thing.

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