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My theory of the case for 2024 has been that Biden is a reasonable favorite so long as the current economic trends hold steady. 10 or so months from now of steady real income growth, relatively stable prices, and maybe a drop in interest rates, plus (God willing) the Israel-Gaza war being just about over for at least six or so months prior to the election should do a lot to stabilize Biden's position.

That, plus a re-orientation of the public with an every day in your face DJT should remind people why they hated him in the first place.

I have already noticed a shift in media coverage. Headline of the NYT today is another story about how radical Trump's second term can be, and I have seen more The Economy is Good, Actually stories lately, as well as the media explicitly calling out the gap between people's assessment of their own economic situation and their very negative assessment of the national economy.

All the above just takes time. This is simply the winter of Biden's discontent.

Please tell me why I am wrong

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Dec 4, 2023Liked by Ben Krauss

DJT has accidentally stumbled into talking about actual policy via Obama Care, the more he does that the better for Biden.

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Dem oppo researchers work hard but GOP candidates work harder

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Most of what Trump talks about is based on feedback he gets from his rallies. He tries out different applause lines, keeps the winners, and discards the losers. Likely his focus on Obamacare followed that process. I think that shows something Matt talks about, people want it to be 2019 again. Overthrowing Obamacare is a nostalgic call back for his followers, akin to the Rolling Stones playing Satisfaction on their latest tour.

Trump and his followers, especially his followers, really believe that a vast majority of Americans feel the way they do, and the unpopularity of this position doesn't even cross their minds.

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Agree. It's a strong message Democrats know how to hammer and hammer well. Very useful to have in the messaging toolbox.

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And the more that Biden (or preferably, the newly-appointed Biden Spokesperson Pete Buttigieg) goes to multiple events and contrasts Trump’s record with Biden’s EVERY DAY for the next year, the better his chances.

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author

Has Trump publicly taken a stance on abortion policy in the 2024 cycle? Right now, he's still pulling the wool over voters' eyes with the moderate vibe, but if he is somewhat forced into adopting an unpopular position at the GOP convention, the above math will shift further into Biden's favor.

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Dec 4, 2023Liked by Ben Krauss

Ah, but Trump won't be forced to adopt an unpopular position at the GOP convention, because I'm willing to wager that the GOP will not adopt a platform at its convention. If it does, it will simply read "Whatever Trump wants."

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It's the Democrats' job to make sure that Trump is carrying the abortion policy albatross no matter what he might say from time to time. He is his party's voice and his party's stand is perfectly clear.

Do you have any doubt that, no matter what he says, that he would sign a national ban if a Republican Congress sent one to his desk? I don't.

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And that's what Dems need to make sure voters know!

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Regardless of his personal opinion, he’s the architect of overturning Roe.

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I think he wouldn't have it come to his desk. He might even pocket veto it and then claim the deep state did it. But he wouldn't sign it.

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He acts randomly so who knows

But of course he might sign it

Why wouldn't he? Think of the coverage and the attention!

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Trump has a strong ability to find the popular positions and meander there (we'll repeal ACA and pass something better, we'll make Social Security even stronger, etc). Will he do unpopular things like pass a tax cut that benefits him - sure. But would he do something unpopular that doesn't benefit him? I can't think of when he has.

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Trump has no interest in policy, beyond (1) the desire to erase any evidence that Barack Obama was ever President and (2) the belief that tariffs are direct payments to the United States by foreigners. The House of Representatives has no interest in anything that doesn't get Republican members booked on FOX News. That means in a Trump Administration with a GOP Congress, the policy agenda will be driven by the senator who cares the most, and that means Mitch McConnell, and that means tax cuts, deregulation, and right-wing judicial appointments. Trump will sign any bill the last person to flatter him tells him to sign. All you have to do say "It's a big beautiful bill, the best bill, people who say how strong and decisive your leadership is."

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In 2022 Democrats in states where reproductive rights were clearly in doubt did a great job hanging Dobbs around the necks GOP candidates. I expect they will hammer the Trump clip saying he's responsible for the end of Roe.

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I agree with you. I'm done moping about having to vote for 81 year old Biden again. It's time for us all to let it go and support Biden because the alternative (any Republican, not just Trump) is so much worse.

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founding

I agree that any Republican is much worse than Biden for the years they are in office. But it seems to me that for the long run, it might be better if some non-Trumpy Republican like Haley actually wins the election, and shows Republicans they do better on that path than on the Trumpy path.

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If Haley directly beats out Trump for the nomination next year, yes. But if Trump is nominated and the Dems “steal” the election again, the competition for the 2028 nomination, assuming Trump is done, will still be very Trumpy.

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“And then if he sees his shadow, there will be four more years of Democratic Presidents.”

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Eh, nobody likes losing. At some point, even if you believe the other side is cheating, if Trump can't over come that, you need to find someone who can. *Especially when the major selling point for Trump is that he is a fighter who won't back down! If he's a fighter who loses, you need a new fighter*

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Good thing more than half the GOP base thinks Trump won in 2020, and will think the same about 2024.

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Ehh, they could just lose on the Trumpy path and presumably at that point come to the same conclusion anyways.

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founding

No, at least some of them will have the conclusion that the election was “stolen by the elites, just like 2020”.

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There's something here. As soon as possible for the sake of the country the current iteration of the GOP needs to collapse or change radically. Haley winning could be a path towards changing. Trump losing could be a path towards collapsing.

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Sure. In four years. Maybe.

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You have listed all the things that should break right. That’s an awfully low combined probability for a bunch of uncorrelated events. They can also break wrong. Plus there are as always unknown unknowns out there that would hurt the incumbent

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This is a good critique. Taken separately all factors seem more likely than not to go as described (except maybe foreign events) but yeah, running the table on 5-6 factors with even a 90% chance of happening isn't great odds.

Also just made me think of a couple things that could go sideways - a high profile border surge beyond what we even see today, some kind of spectacular terrorist attack, another ill-timed SVB style financial event.

Makes kind of obvious what Biden should do to shore up his position - some kind of high profile border security maneuver, plus jamming all the buttons to get prices to go down wherever he can.

Thanks! Good add.

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> running the table on 5-6 factors with even a 90% chance of happening isn't great odds.

We're really over-quantifying things here, but just to be clear, a 90% chance for five independent events still gives 59% overall and 53% if it's six. Being above 50% a year out seems pretty good, particularly if there are things one can do to increase these odds even more.

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>All the above just takes time. This is simply the winter of Biden's discontent.<

My take, too. I keep getting the vibe that the last 3-4 years have more or less been one, long, vivid illustration of the strong penchant for impatience evinced by homo sapiens. It's an attribute that mostly has served our species well, mind you. But it ain't fun to be a politician on the receiving end of it.

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I don't blame voters for being royally pissed by inflation, even if their purchasing power hasn't declined (or not much at any rate). It was a shocking, near-unprecedented event. It takes a while to get over your fear that it will happen again.

Give us ten more months of very moderate inflation and I believe people's fears will decline and inflation will be far less of an incendiary issue.

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I also think that, even if Biden ends up running below replacement for the Dems, the GOP is likely also going to run a below replacement candidate in Donald Trump, so we have to see how the rematch is going to go relative to each of them.

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I'd tell you why you're wrong except you're not. Well said. Too much political journalism has the feel of "the election is today! or if it's not, there's no way anything will change! or if it changes, we journalists are not capable to conveying to the reader that today's snapshot means far less than our stories pound home."

We truly live in an era of journalistic goldfish memory.

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There needs to be a tremendous amount of the economy is good, actually, type articles because people kind of want to believe it is bad, economics are confusing, and a progressive habit is to promote the need for making things better in part by highlighting what is bad, including the economy. Couple that with the republicans also wanting to promote that things are bad to blame Biden, and their huge more conservative loyal information distribution network, and it is tough to counter.

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My hope is that the herd mentality of the press corps leads to their becoming bored with "despite the numbers, people feel they're suffering" trope and will start moving en masse to "we may be seeing another 'Morning in America."

The most important thing about journalism is "the story always has to change -- that's why they call it 'news.'"

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I don’t think you are wrong per se, but it would help if the passage of time were coupled with some visible deregulation efforts that will quickly or slowly reduce inflation. Biden needs to be seen working on this, at Matt argues.

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I'd put money on it that any deregulatory action Biden could take at the executive level would have an 0.1% chance of affecting inflation in a way that voters would notice over the next year.

Other than opening the taps of the SPR and bringing the cost of gas way down.

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Dec 4, 2023·edited Dec 4, 2023

I think you're generally correct, but would like to use your comment to drill a bit deeper.

I think many are making a mistake by focusing on national averaged statistics and then poo-pooing anyone who thinks the economy is bad. The thing with averaged statistics is that they are averages and hide a lot of variability.

So while it's true that the economy is - so far - recovering well when looking at it from a high level, once you drill down there are still a non-trivial number of people who are not doing as well as 2019. They may be a minority, but are still somewhere around 30-40% according to polling. As a matter of promoting Biden's reelection, I think it isn't smart to shove averaged national statistics in their face and tell them, in essence, they are ignorant or stupid. It's like telling someone who is going through a nasty divorce how wonderful it is that the divorce rate has gone down.

Additionally, the most important trends are what's happening in the swing states. How does the averaged national picture compare to what's going on in these states? What demographics are not doing well in those swing states? What can Biden and his allies do or say to address those demographics?

That would be useful to know but there seems to be a surprising amount of incuriosity on this point.

My advice to Democrats and the Biden campaign would be to stop sending the message that the economy is good and anyone who complains doesn't know what's going on. This presumes - incorrectly in my view - that the principle problem is just convincing ignorant people that the economy is better than they think.

The problem, of course, is that the economy is not better for everyone, and so it's critical to understand who is not doing well and then do what FDR did and mention - yes - that things have improved and trend lines are positive, but focus on those who've been left behind and are at the bottom end of those averaged national statistics. This is especially the case if those people are among critical demographics in swing states.

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In an absolute sense, the economy is always bad for some part of the population. What we have to understand is how the public's perception of the economy compares to how they felt in the past under different conditions. Things are out of kilter now compared to earlier both good times and bad times, and the question is why. My belief is that it is a hangover from a truly unusual event (the inflation spike) and that may self-correct over time to bring public perceptions more in line with economic realities.

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I think there are two things to consider - one is what you state here, and I tend to agree that perceptions take time to change.

The other thing is the effort to improve Biden's chance for reelection. That is more what my comment is about. Yes, it's true that the economy is always bad for some people. But in this case, a strong majority blame Biden. That's a problem, and telling people for whom the economy is bad - whose votes Biden likely needs to win - that they don't understand how good the economy is and it's just about misconception and the vibes, is not a constructive message to get them to vote for Biden - quite the opposite IMO.

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I'm not sure about Biden being the favorite.

The Republican/MAGA coalition is more ideologically/culturally homogenous. The Democratic/Anti-MAGA coalition is larger, but it's also more fragmented and diverse. You have everyone from the AOC wing to NeverTrump Republicans, you have moderates who think Biden has been too left-wing and progressives who don't think he has been left wing enough.

In 2020, Biden was able to mobilize the democratic coalition on the strength of being not Trump. In 2024, he'll have a record to defend and some people won't be happy- you can see now that Arab/Muslim voters are threatening to abandon Biden, which could really hurt in Michigan. You risk a situation like in 2016, where Trump wins with a plurality after many democratic voters stay home or vote third party.

The hope has to be that as Trump becomes the nominee and gets more attention, that it reminds enough people why they couldn't stand Trump and the Democratic coalition turns out despite misgivings about Biden.

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Say more? I suspect Gaza will be less of an issue in November 2024 or other events will overwhelm any lingering dismay among those particular Michigan voters, but how do you see it as being overhyped? They do seem very mad and/or concerned.

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Kagan’s piece was an exceptionally persuasive and well-described Trump scenario that hopefully helps tilt things your way https://wapo.st/3R61yZ0

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Let's hope the winter of Biden's discontent is not made inglorious summer by the son of New York.

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I've already given a good bunch of money to the Biden re-elect and am trusting his professional team knows how to run a campaign. I'm not sure what the ordinary Democrat should do and how this "apparent complacency" manifests itself. You can react with alarm right now, and you can also burn yourself out months before the actual election.

What should Democrats be doing right now instead of being complacent?

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I grudgingly accept that Haley as the R nominee would be much better for the country, even if it hugely increases the chance of the Republicans winning. But I think the chances of that are pretty close to zero and in any case, it's not something that Democrats can really affect.

My own preference is for Haley to consolidate the non-Trump wing and for she and Trump to rip each other apart so savagely over the next five months that the ultimate winner is a bleeding carcass just ripe for a Biden coup de grace.

Except I know that Trump is going to win the nomination easily.

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Oh God, you again.

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I'm snagging your quote re: Caesar for my English class this afternoon. We're reading Shakespeare's Caesar right now, and this lil' nugget of a juicy quote will do well to show how the subject of Caesar and the concerns bound up within his story crop up time and again. Thanks!

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>Until last night, I really couldn't understand the apparent complacency of Democrats in the looming face of Trump<

We must be living on different planets. Complacency? Most Democrats I know are well aware Trump could very conceivably be our next president. He might even be a modest favorite.

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One implication of this is that Trump is an enormous albatross around the GOP's neck. Starmer and Poilievre are on track for landslide victories and Trump is tied with Biden. If Haley or some backbench senator was likely to be the Republican nominee, 2024 would not be close.

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I'm not sure about "not be close." Haley would still be running on an agenda that would repeal the ACA and a six week abortion ban. Voters don't like that stuff!

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Yeah but look at her polling lead https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/06/us/politics/trump-biden-times-siena-poll.html.

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true, Haley is definitely a bigger messaging lift for Democrats. Not impossible though

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I think Haley is a seen as a "generic Republican" who isn't Trump. That would change if she became the actual nominee.

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You’re being imprecise Ben. She said she would have signed a six week abortion ban. I know you’re a Democrat and want to shout that from the mountain top (just like the White House) but that doesn’t mean it’s her preferred position or she’s “running” on it.

She actually signed a 20 week ban in South Carolina. That’s aligned with where many people are at. I’m not sure of her preferred position.

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Dec 4, 2023·edited Dec 4, 2023Author

My party registration is Slow Boring Editorial Assistant!

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Dec 5, 2023·edited Dec 5, 2023

Title is “as Governor.” What she said in the debate is that she is pro-life, but would let states decide barring 60 senators agreeing, which she said won’t happen. Saying that practically it is up to the states is a GOP candidate testing how to moderate messaging and avoid the issue without losing the base.

Here she takes the extreme ban at 6 weeks position "as Governor" for the base, but what she'll say in a general election is the same thing she said in the debate, which is that the only thing that matters federally is what 60 senators can agree on and that ain't much. That line has the virtue of actually being true, which allows a candidate in a GOP primary to say look I'm true believer just like you, but unfortunately we will never have all the votes general election voters who want abortion to be legal.

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Yes I believe she has.

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People complain about the errors Democrats make all the time, some forced and some unforced, but the GOP has committed a series of own goals on their own side as well.

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Remember, only Democrats have agency. The GOP dousing themselves with gasoline and then jumping into a volcano is apparently our fault because we didn’t stop them.

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I earnestly believe that the "cool" and "serious" opinion in this comment section is not that indistinguishable from the above. The Dems do have a lot of issues and we should examine them and recommend course corrections. That shouldn't blind us to the fact that there is no reasonable opposition. Nominating Haley would certainly be a step in the right direction, but it would still be a party untethered to reality in terms of rhetoric and policy.

I hate that the response to this is then "ugh, all these weirdos believe in 'no enemies to the left' or 'no punching left.'" No, that's not it. You can punch left and have enemies to the left but punch left in a way that tries to persuade them to adjust their tactics to lead to better outcomes.

Wokeism is very damaging and annoying. Progressives can also be very annoying. But I think Derek Thompson said it best on his podcast a month or so ago that "I refuse to make the fact that the left can be really f***ing annoying the centerpiece of my political perspective" I almost drove off the road when he said that because it's so spot on to what I believe but could never properly articulate!

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Murc's Law!

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Dec 4, 2023·edited Dec 4, 2023

I'm seething over the fact that a critical mass of my fellow conservatives really do seem to want Trump to be the nominee.

We have two decent alternatives just sitting there, but they still want to force a choice between Biden and gottdamnTrump.

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And while Trump may be the root of the problem, he's not the only problem: GOP primaries went to way too many below replacement clowns like Herschel Walker, Mehmet Oz, Kari Lake, and on and on. I'll be curious if they still have problems with this downballot in 2024.

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You have the GOP always double down and then go on fidelity/purity purges with ever more bizarre and deranged litmus tests. This is why the pool of competent people willing to run in GOP primaries is drying up.

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They have lost my fiancé! He was initially hoping to convince our state GOP to support the young economically-conservative pro-LGBT cohort, but that hope has utterly withered. Genuinely a loss for them: I’ve never met anyone that doesn’t like my fiancé. He has so much charisma and a solid head for policy too.

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Trump appeared to finally fire a shotgun at the head of zombie Reaganism, but when it comes to governing, most Republicans are still coming from that place.

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There was an interview with Tim Walz, who was just elected chair of the Democratic Governors’ Association, where he said, with delightfully subtle Midwestern shade, “These guys are weird.” These guys = Republican candidates or incumbents.

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Outside of very red states, the only candidate who can get away with acting like Trump is, well, Trump. In Georgia, Herschel Walker, a weirdo in the Trumpian mold, lost, but Brian Kemp, who presented as a boring normie Mitt Romney-type Republican, won. In Arizona, Blake “Norman Bates” Masters and Kari the Lake Mess Monster lost, but treasurer Kimberly Yee, a strait-laced McCain Republican, cleaned up. (In the 2022 midterms.)

And George Santos, who managed to out-weird Trump and the late James Traficant put together, did get expelled…though he seems to still be milking his weirdo schtick for all it’s worth.

I think you are right that Trump is going to steal all the Republican thunder, and the wanna-be Trumplets will run behind the normies of both parties.

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Who do you consider your fellow conservatives? I'm not sure most of the Republican voter base could pass a screening test for "conservative." They could certainly easily be considered anti-progressive or just anti-democratic party, but what I understood to be the core values of conservatism through most of my life are no longer the driving force in the Republican party or what passes for the conservative movement. Most disturbing is the tact taken by the evangelical movement. I've always disagreed with them on almost all issues, include their theological interpretations of the Bible. But today they seem to have gone off the deep end in ways that truly frighten me, because they now believe in some faith that I find wholly unreconcilable with Christianity.

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"Critical mass" seems to be around 60% or so. If not more. I.e., a dominant majority. But I feel your pain.

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In a two party system his pain is all of our pain…

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I miss the days when there were Republicans that I would be ok voting for.

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I’m sure that’s true to some extent, but I think the GOP elites - politicians and conservative media - really drove the base to their present location of Crazytown. The rank and file kept a lot of “forbidden” thoughts to themselves until Fox and Trump gave them license to air racist, anti-democratic, xenophobic, etc. ideas.

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No, because it took Trump and media to activate and direct their anger. Otherwise we would have heard the majority of Republicans talk that way 20 years earlier.

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I agree. I also cannot decide on the exact moment the GOP jumped the shark. There are so many moments you can point to and say this was the point of no return.

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That's true, but one shouldn't plan on winning by hoping an opponent makes enough errors to lose.

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Agreed, control what you can control.

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There’s much less Democrat fatigue than there is Tory or Liberal fatigue in the countries they’ve been running for many years.

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True. Biden's current low numbers with Democrats strikes me as their venting of frustrations prior to next year's hard work of consolidating the coalition and taking it to Trump and the Republicans. I have to believe that next year when faced with the reality of the Trumpist return they'll come home except for the fringe voters who yearn for Jill Stein or Cornel West.

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"Tied" in national level polling. Biden is at a significant deficit in 6 of 7 swing states, which will likely decide the election.

I really think Democrats need to start focusing in on those states and figuring out what they need to do to improve the numbers there.

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Agreed but my point still holds: he’s behind by less than other incumbents

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Ok, but also the other incumbent parties cited in the article have been in power longer than Biden, so it’s not particularly surprising. Justin Trudeau has won three consecutive elections already and the UK Conservatives have been in power for over 13 years. Anti incumbency bias is bound to take a toll on them at this point.

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Haley would win easily if the election were today. It's not today, so we'll see.

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Would going after the hugely lucrative car dealership sector be a popular move?

Musk is a dick but cutting out dealerships and offering transparent pricing is great for consumers in my book, and if other manufacturers were free to do the same nationwide it would be a good thing.

I have no idea how legally feasible it might be. Would it be a political win?

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founding

I yield to nobody in my disdain for the cartel-like behavior of car dealerships. Other than perhaps a novel anti-trust theory, though, I don't know how the federal government intervenes on state-level regulations. Like all sorts of regulatory capture situations, the solution lies in the states.

I'd love to be wrong on this. Car dealers, Realtors, hairdressers all deserve to have their power knocked down.

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Unfortunately, I agree. And has been noted in many times, car dealership owners are sort of secretly the most powerful lobbying force in America; forget congressional districts, there isn't a state legislative district that doesn't have a car dealership in it. As powerful as oil and finance are, the big players are still centered in a handful of places. Creates perfect stew to help influence and block state level policy.

Two perhaps hopeful avenues. First, could a case be made that car dealerships are engaged in cartel/monopolistic behavior? Could a consumer bring a suit arguing the cost of their car was overpriced due to cartel behavior? Not a lawyer, but I would love to see a commentator who is one tell me how feasible or not feasible this is.

The other more fruitful avenue is precisely the fact this is a state level issue. While car dealership owners definitely lobby and give donations to both parties, I think I'm safe in saying this a right leaning constituency. Point being, I think the gambit is to find a state with a blue trifecta that doesn't have their head up their own asses (so definitely not New York, my home state) and try to organize a campaign to deregulate car selling. I'd say right now Minnesota seems like a good place to try to start organizing and lobbying; government there has seemed more willing lately to be forward thinking then almost any other state with a blue trifecta.

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"car dealership owners are sort of secretly the most powerful lobbying force in America"

I would have guessed lawyers since for somewhat obvious reasons they tend to be massively overrepresented in the different layers of government.

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Not necessarily. Law has no shortage of more or less nakedly protectionist restrictions and rent-seeking aspects to it (e.g, unauthorized practice of law vagaries that don't even make nominal sense for people practicing federal law, pro hac fees for individual federal courts) but by now they're all pretty long in the tooth (and the absolute worst ones were actually gotten rid of because they were antitrust violations masquerading as ethics rules in a way so naked as not to even have a fig leaf of cover). But the overall goal of the bar is to self-regulate enough to avoid having formal legislative oversight make practice harder, so there's something of an emphasis on minimizing rather than maximizing the legislative footprint of the profession.

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Can you tell me a single protectionist thing that car dealerships do that lawyers don't do more of?

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Dec 4, 2023·edited Dec 4, 2023

I think you're interpreting me to be arguing a point I'm not actually trying to make. I'm specifically just claiming that lawyers don't as a class do a ton of profession-specific lobbying.

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This is just straightforward price-matching, though. Cravath (or occasionally Milbank or some other top firm) announces a raise, and everyone else just jumps on the bandwagon to stay competitive in recruiting, because the salaries paid are public information. These top-level lawyers are 100% not all getting in a room together to violated antitrust law by coordinating some kind of price fixing. It's the salary-raise version of Target or whoever doing price matching.

Also, because these associates make bank, frankly no one's complaining that much...

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Twenty law firms met in a room to set prices?

I dunno, man.

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No, but the most perfect place in America to be turned into an apartment complex was recently turned into a Lexus dealership near where I live.

Not joking about this. There was an old abandoned art deco building sitting on about half an acre of dirt (not a park. Dirt) right next to the Freeport, NY Long Island railroad stop. No worries about ripping up trees. No displaced low income renters. Not a nice park families like to use. Dirt. They paved potential paradise and put up something worse than a parking lot.

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Just re- the first avenue ... Consumers would have to show harm and all prior analysis indicates the brand-aligned franchise dealer maps are narrowly enough defined to create liquid competition. Said differently your town might have a single Honda or Ford dealer but an average consumer's shopping radius includes like 2.5 brand aligned dealerships (NOTE: I don't remember the real number and can't find it right now).

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Dec 4, 2023·edited Dec 4, 2023

Right. Even rural areas, even if there is only one car dealership in your town, you can drive your beat up Honda (I'm giving that example because I'm assuming you're buying a car for a reason) to car dealerships in towns 10, 20, 30 miles away that affiliated with other car companies, which means there is enough competition for your dollar.

I guess then what would be needed is some sort of leaked emails or texts where the car dealership owners all agreed to tack on a "finder's fee" and all agree not to waive so they can all benefit from this "rent seeking" fee. In that case, you would have clear evidence of collusion to keep a price artificially high. Do I have this right?

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beat up Hondas never die though

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I put 310k on my last one.

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I can't really follow the second part -- but just to share my experience working with different franchise dealerships groups (e.g., Group 1, Sonic, Bob Rohrman, Pohanka, etc.). They all fucking HATE each other. I mean -- they're selling the exact same product. Their only point of differentiation is service. It's a nightmare business. Nothing is being kept artificially high.

If someone wants to the really help consumers ... they need to go after the Buy Here Pay Here (BHPH) segment. That's an all out scam. I've seen $2000 vehicles "sold" for > $10k. Sucks.

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founding

At least in Florida, yes they compete. But they ALL charge a document fee that is either $999 or $1099 per car. Every dealer does it. It beggars belief that this isn't due to collusion. Add to that the fact they successfully block direct-to-consumer sales by requiring a service network (I.e, dealer network) and I conclude that they are competitive, but only within a narrow (and very profitable for all) band.

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Right, so well functioning markets are ones where the various competitors probably should hate each other. Feel like that's exactly the scenario to help the consumer.

To maybe clarify my point I was trying to make. If you found out Group 1, Sonic, Bob Rohrman, Pohanka had emails leaked that showed they agreed to keep some fee or price artificially high, that's where grounds for anti-trust case could be made.

I guess, the real takeaway is that the legal avenue is probably not particularly feasible which is probably why it hasn't happened and real solution is to just reform state laws so that car manufactures can legally directly sell you vehicles.

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“…could a case be made that car dealerships are engaged in cartel/monopolistic behavior?”

Of course, but it’s not *illegal* behavior.

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Just to be clear here ... Franchise dealers make 50% of gross profits from their parts and service department. The rest is split between new vehicle sales, financing, used vehicle sales, and used vehicle wholesale. Agree of the consolidation point tho ... it would be a terrible outcome for consumers.

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Dec 4, 2023·edited Dec 4, 2023

Right. The average net profit margin for a franchise dealer is 1-2%. It's a tough business. There's no shot the OEMs could run a better model direct.

Re-auctions ... you probably went to Manheim but ADESA is / was the other major player and ADESA bought the company I started back in 2017 - so I worked for them for like a year. Sadly, that's also a tough business now.

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The dealers make money selling the cars too but often it's not big gross profit relative to purchase price -- there is some of that but often less than consumers think (at least before pandemic "market adjustment" mark ups made things weird due to restricted supply). Instead AIUI the manufacturer (which *is* making meaningful gross profit on unit sales, since that's their primary business) will indirectly split some of the new car unit-sale profits with the dealership in the form of volume incentives to move X units of Y car in Z time period.

(Plus financing / captive finance arm stuff which AIUI is also largely volume- based at the level of dealer incentives.)

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“Car dealers make money on financing…”

And on extended warranties, and dealer-installed options, and on service that they push at frequencies much shorter than is recommended in the manufacturers’ manuals. And they make a boatload of money on trade-ins.

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Congress could just write a law preempting state law. Supremacy Clause, baby!

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What are the hairdressers doing?! Occupational licensing?

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Ridiculous and unnecessary occupational licensing.

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For those with more basic hairstyling goals I recommend a pair of clippers. Stand up to Big Hairdresser!

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It doesn't require 1500 hours of training, though. That is 18 months at 20 hours/week. And 1500 hours is the average across the country.

https://occupationallicensing.com/occupation/cosmetologist/?gad_source=1&gclid=CjwKCAiAjrarBhAWEiwA2qWdCMjImdXcxWsD9sOHydKUxOuwUValHMbA2H1BNjH3A6IVRpC1HMsl7xoCfmYQAvD_BwE

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In many states, hair stylists are required to have more hours of training than EMTs.

I say this is a former hairstylist who was incensed by the entire process of schooling and board certification.

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I think it makes more sense to have very strong licensing requirements for things like bleach and color and curl and other chemical treatments, where you really need to understand a lot about how these things work and interact.

But there should be legal room for low-requirement or even fully unlicensed braids and extensions and probably cuts too.

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“…very strong licensing requirements for things like bleach and color and curl and other chemical treatments…”

You mean the stuff you can buy in CVS?

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Licensing by merit can be fine, as long as everyone has a fair and equal chance to gain it. Licensing by quota is always bad, and it can often turn into that.

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I'm a "registered florist." 🤣

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Update, I lied, and have now been cited for unauthorized practice of floristry.

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Franchise dealers only "power" here is a set of negotiated franchise agreements. No different any other commercial agreement. The incremental state level regulations only came about after the OEMs attempted to break the agreements. I can't imagine a scenario where the federal government could individually target franchise car dealers without putting ~ all other franchise agreements at risk.

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I think dealerships are a fun combination of super unpopular among consumers, but very well connected at the state GOP level. Here in CT we can't even change state law to allow direct sale of Teslas to consumers because of the dealership lobby.

I really can't think of a more fully GOP constituency and they donate lots to state level candidates.

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I'm not sure about this. It might be like one of those situations where everyone hates Congress but loves their own congressmembers. Car dealerships in general have a bad reputation, but then everyone knows the one dealership who sponsored your kid's little league team, and if that one starts telling sob stories on the local news, watch out.

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I think there's a lot of truth to this, but it's also easy to get sour on the actual purchase of a car if they make the experience too miserable.

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Yeah, like Carmax isn't so bad (if you can afford a car that new), but mom n pop dealers pretty much suck across the board

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What's so interesting is how effective CarMax's branding has been. They pay the absolutely lowest offer on trade-ins because they operate trade-ins as a separate wholesale channel rather than a sourcing model for their retail inventory and people absolutely *pay* for the convivence of selling to CarMax - just with much lower offer prices.

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Do they still offer you a week to take back your car no questions asked or penalties? I totally did that to teach myself stick shift lol

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Very good point.

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That's not a bad idea. Plus, I've always gathered car dealerships are one of the most Republican-leaning constituencies under the sun, so probably not a lot of lost votes by picking this particular fight. I strongly suspect if addressing out-of-control car prices is the issue, a big part of any real solution is importing some of shit-ton of EV capacity being produced by the Chinese. But for obvious reasons neither party is going there any time soon.

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To be fair, the current overlap between the EVs produced in China, and the cars Americans buy, is not as great as you might hope. I mean, the BYD Seal and the MG4 are both reportedly excellent, but one is the size of a VW Golf and the other is the size of a Model 3.

Giant SUVs and pickups are almost exclusively an American phenomenon. Yes, the rest of the world drives SUVs now too, but they tend to be much smaller.

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It's lower salience but I think the Jones Act is the right play here assuming you were to pick only one of two oxen to gore. People hate car dealership bullshit but as Colin observes they're actually an electorally-powerful constituency that's well-connected and widely dispersed across the United States and in various Congressional Districts. Conversely, AFAICT and especially outside of Hawaii, the absolute number of people enjoying Jones Act pork is objectively tiny--like, not even just relative to the number bearing costs rather than enjoying benefits, there literally just are not even many direct beneficiaries of the Jones Act, period.

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Does it actually provide electoral benefit? Outside of PR(which doesn't get a vote) and Hawaii - which voters actually suffer much from it?

How much would it lower lower-48 shipping costs since we have so much freight rail anyway?

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"There is currently no Jones Act compliant LNG tanker, and therefore, no LNG tanker can move LNG between U.S. terminals—for example from the Gulf region, where many LNG plants are located, to regions where there is a need for LNG, such as Puerto Rico or New England."

https://www.shiplawlog.com/2023/11/30/new-cbp-jones-act-ruling-prevents-release-of-vapor-from-lng-loaded-at-1st-u-s-port-during-loading-at-2nd-u-s-port/

This raises the cost heating in the NE significantly. Its also bad for the environment in case that matters.

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Alaskans! Do some deregulation that helps a very libertarian state and hope for the best in future senate elections

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Dec 4, 2023·edited Dec 4, 2023

I'm a huge Tesla fan. I follow the company very closely. I have an older Model S that continues to require a lot of service - so I get a lot of up close experience. I just think we have to acknowledge that Tesla deciding not have a franchise dealer network -- while offering a lower cost structure -- is a tradeoff for services and capabilities. Their dealership network has been much slower to build out otherwise. Their authorized repair network is still 2-3 years behind the demand curve. They don't know how to value a used car and trading in a vehicle is a huge pain point. I know Tesla's two prior GMs of pre-owned pretty well ... it's just not a focus for the company and Elon specifically. They will eventually have to solve this.

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That's so interesting to me. My folks have traded in 2 Teslas in the past 10 years for newer versions and have reported the experience to be super straightforward and pain free. They also LOVE the maintenance experience (the ability to schedule a repair on the app and have them show up at your house seems to be especially pleasant to them). I actually kind of roll my eyes at how much they fanboy a car company, and their love of the maintenance process seems disproportionate to the actual experience (an aside- my Dad once GUSHED over how amazing it was that Tesla was able to change out his spare tire in only like 4 hours while he waited in their shop. In my experience, getting one tire changed can frequently be done in about an hour, so taking 4x that didn't seem like the salutary experience my Dad made it out to be ;)). It's interesting to hear your perspective of the issue.

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Dec 4, 2023·edited Dec 4, 2023

Just two quick points here ...

(1) They have absolutely innovated on the service side. Their app and remote repair options are the clear market leaders. It's the total type of first principles innovation that their known for (e.g., unibody castings, modular software). Their pricing is shockingly transparent and fair. For example, I just had to replace the low voltage battery. They charged me straight list price and like $35 to come out and change it. It was an awesome experience. Any other dealer would have marked up the part price and rounded up the 10 minute repair to 1 hour of labor.

(2) The trade-in process - can sometimes work if you're trading in a Tesla ... but even then they're offering below market prices. Where it really breaks down is on brand-misaligned cars (e.g., Honda, Ford). They have to wholesale them so they're not at all price competitive with their offer.

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I think most of the regulations are state law rather than federal. Now, obviously, it's under the interstate commerce clause, so they could override that, but that would very definitely need an Act of Congress, and there's no way to get through a Republican House.

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Maybe the issue is to "get caught trying,"

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I of course agree with you, but sadly agree with all the replies to you below as to how futile it is, which just gets me more sour about state governments as a whole.

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Seems to me that the grand majority of those jobs would just shift to being offered directly by the manufacturer.

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Should we bring back horses and carriages too? Those people are out of work. How rude of you if you don’t agree.

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Please stop exaggerating for effect and avoiding a real discussion. Going after monopolies and rent-seeking is proper and has nothing to do with "uprooting" the poor. (lol)

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But as we see in this subthread, entrenching that capital and ownership into car dealers that end up highly influential in state and local affairs has its own problems.

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They only do that charity to ingratiate themselves in the community and insulate them from people asking why their cars cost 20% more than they should.

Comcast does the same thing. Hm, I wonder why.

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Those are fine desires, but they shouldn't be ones that are mandated by government policy.

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Dec 4, 2023·edited Dec 4, 2023

This is a comically stupid take and trivializes the actual genocide of Ukrainians carried about by Soviets. You should be ashamed of yourself.

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Dude. Car dealerships need government protection to stay in business. It’s a jobs program. They aren’t necessary and make cars more expensive for the middle class (the people you pretend the care about)

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Needlessly acerbic; you can and should make your points more politely.

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deletedDec 4, 2023·edited Dec 4, 2023
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Comparing companies that build cars to dealers which.... move a car from one place and then sell it is ... rich.

Are you a troll account? This has literally nothing to do with left/right champ. It's called rent seeking, look it up.

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You are really going “geraffes are so dumb” on this hill?

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deletedDec 4, 2023·edited Dec 4, 2023
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This is, to put it mildly, ridiculous. Banks are highly regulated; whenever the government tries to limit overdraft fees or crack down on predatory lending, they scream bloody murder. Lawyers are subject to strict ethical standards and can lose their license for anything that brings the profession into disrepute; that's a sword of Damocles over their heads. Car dealers are everywhere and, like any group, seek to maximize their own profit at the expense of people who buy cars. Wanting to pay less when buying a car has nothing to do with having it out to get noncollege people.

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Dec 4, 2023·edited Dec 4, 2023

Literally nobody is saying these things because of who works at dealers. In fact, you have no evidence that dealers employ the people you are supposedly advocating for. And nobody here wants to hate on non-college educated people. You want that to be the case because...reasons?

Hint: the only conspiracy is the massive lobbying effort the dealers do to protect their millions. Not a conspiracy with all liberals hating on someone selling an F-150 at a 20% markup.

Again, this has to be a parody account. Right?

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I disagree pretty strongly with Graham on this subject, but he is not a parody account, and he gives us good challenges from a different point of view.

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Eh, he's not arguing in good faith in this exchange. The attacks and exaggerations are distracting.

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I have been saying for years that expectations have become decoupled from material reality in our abundant society. We live in an era of post-material politics, where people will assert material conditions are worsening while their standards of living increase. So many people dismiss political actions that bring material improvements in the quality of people's lives and assert nothing is being done.

I think this is part of the nihilistic contrarian loop where people get validation from victim narratives or opposing the current "bad thing." Lying has always been easier than knowing.

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I think people care more about their relative socio-economic rank against others, moreso than their absolute level of economic wellbeing. And there are lots of people who see themselves as relatively worse off than before.

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"... reality influences how the media covers things."

I love this line. So reassuring to know there's a correlation of some sort.

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I feel like you are getting close but still missing the larger point, which is this: the global ruling class, by which I mean everyone from academia to mainstream churches to cultural institutions to education to medicine to politicians and policy wonks, has just utterly lost the trust and confidence of ordinary people.

From the "let them eat cake" attitude towards inflation, to the transgender debacle, to COVID everything, to declines in our schools, to the awful state of movies and fiction publishing, to aggressive efforts to address climate change without giving AF about how it effects regular people, to the dishonesty in our media ... people are done.

It doesn't matter if the economy improves, or that schools have reopened, or anything else

What matters is that the chattering class openly didn't give a sh*t when it was bad.

There is just a wide spread sense right now that all our institutions are just bullsh*t run by self serving bullsh*ters and posting a bunch of stats and graphs at this point just gets eye rolls as more bullsh*t.

And I think the situation in the Middle East is the last straw for a lot of people.

Polls show that overwhelming majorities of ordinary people support Israel and are horrified by Hamas. We have zero illusions about who the good guys and bad guys are here. People understandably feel threatened by the mass immigration of other people from a culture whose literal foundations are the brutal murder and conquest of everyone else in the name of God.

And yet our media carefully crafts narratives to not make Palestinians look bad, the UN can't bring themselves to codemn a terrorist group, and the elite crows about "global pressure on Israel" because of "protests", as if a bunch of child radicals hostile to civilization represent - or have ever represented - an actual mass movement.

Most people aren't "progressive activists" but we - the people who work real jobs, have real families, the actual grown ups in society - are constantly held hostage culturally and politically by a bunch of juvenile activists and their ridiculous, anti social posturing.

And then we are told to pony up to pay off their college loans.

Institutions have become so unresponsive to normal people that we have lost all investment in them, and the only way to make ourselves heard above the noise of the chattering classes is to vote for whoever promises to burn it all down.

Which is probably why the establishment is so keen to cast opposition as being vaguely "against democracy" as an excuse to exclude it from democracy.

No, populism is democracy. It's democracy striking back.

This is what is happening. Yes, it is scary. I didn't vote for Trump either time, because I was unnerved by the 'burn it all down" mentality. I voted for Biden as the "return to normal" candidate.

Instead he empowered the worst of the left to just carry on.

When people inside our president's own administration are protesting that the president isn't nice enough to TERRORISTS who are still holding children hostage and torturing them, I'm done.

The rot is so deep.

I will probably vote for Trump this time. Our institutions appear unsalvageable.

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When you’re this far into nihilism there’s really no effective reply. I’d just ask whether for “ordinary people,” “the actual grown ups in society,” all roads should necessarily lead to “burn it all down.” Because that’s all that’s on offer here. Life will be better post-Armageddon? Yeah, I don’t think so.

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It's not nilhilism. Not at all. I very much believe in something real - God, family and community life, my country. I believe in my friends and real relationships, in the great Classical cultural tradition and passing it on to my children, in my local organizations and in charity work. I believe in professionals - doctors, teachers - that EARN my trust through their demonstrated wisdom and respect for my dignity as a free citizen rather than demand it via credential.

What I don't believe in anymore are our large institutions, because they have proved themselves so untrustworthy.

What I am experiencing is not nihilism.

It's disgust.

And that disgust is widely shared right now.

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Dec 4, 2023·edited Dec 4, 2023

There is little that the classical tradition abhors more than the twin evils of anarchy and demagoguery. The US, built by people steeped in that tradition, was constructed to do the utmost to prevent both outcomes. Trump is precisely the classical political villain which Pericles and Polybius would have recognized just as much as Madison and Jefferson. They’re all spinning in their graves when people claim to be voting for Trump in the name of the Classicla tradition.

And let me emphasize- I sympathize with many of your frustrations and share them. But I have zero empathy or sympathy for the idea of cutting off your nose to spite your face. Or put simply for throwing away the liberty you were given by the blood and toil of generations because, make no mistake, that’s precisely what you’d be doing by voting for trump, and you’d rightly earn the extreme contempt and anger of all posterity if you do so.

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“…throwing away the liberty you were given by the blood and toil of generations because, make no mistake, that’s precisely what you’d be doing by voting for trump…”

I’m not here to suggest that anyone vote for Trump, but this seems really overwrought. I’m sure that a second Trump Administration would implement some bad policies, and that those bad policies would be, in many ways, different from the bad policies we would get from a continuation of Biden’s tenure in the Oval Office. But I didn’t notice any diminution of my freedom as a result of Trump’s presidency; why should I expect different the second time around?

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I am genuinely baffled how anyone can say that following the trump term esp Jan 6. The man literally tried to steal the elections. How is that not a diminution of your freedom? I just don’t know how to answer people who look at trump and are like “seems like a standard gop president to me”.

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“The man literally tried to steal the elections. How is that not a diminution of your freedom?”

How is it? My life is no different now than it was on January 5th, 2021.

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Well for one thing, Trump attempted to overturn the election results. He failed, but not for lack of trying. The freedom to choose your own leaders is a pretty important freedom in a democracy. He clearly has a *willingness* to take away freedoms, so if he's back in office you're betting on others successfully thwarting him, which is a pretty contingent thing to bet on.

Maybe the real reason why you don't fear Trump is that you know you are his political ally so of course he won't come after you, and you don't mind if he comes after those you disagree with.

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> Maybe the real reason why you don't fear Trump is that you know you are his political ally so of course he won't come after you, and you don't mind if he comes after those you disagree with.

I might be naive, but I stopped fearing a Trump return for a few reasons. First, absent a few specific groups at a few specific points in time, life under Trump wasn't *obviously* worse than under Obama or Biden. Most people just weren't affected by his actions. Second, his attempts to overturn democracy were clumsy at best, nor can I see a real path for him to have done so even if better executed. And finally, there's really nothing I can do to stop it other than my one vote (which has never been in question). So instead of worrying myself sick as I did for a while post 2016, I'll just focus on what I can control in my own life and those around me.

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“He failed, but not for lack of trying”

Right: He failed because the president is subordinate to the law.

“Maybe the real reason why you don't fear Trump is that you know you are his political ally so of course he won't come after you…”

Sure, sure. I never voted for Trump, won’t vote for him next year, but I am “his political ally.”

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You and I can accurately say that our freedoms didn't materially decrease as a result of the Trump presidency, but millions of women can't say that.

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Oh? How did Trump enslave millions of women?

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I simply think Trump will be ineffective at making any of the changes you would like because his constant desire and need for self aggrandizement is greater than any policy focus or discipline.

Trump has demonstrated a total failure to enact radical change for a more free and egalitarian society in his first term, what makes you think a second term will be different? All he talks about on the campaign trail is enacting revenge on his enemies, he’s going to spend down a lot of power on petty political stuff he could be using to save the American family.

Trump just seems like a bad choice. Voting for someone like Trump because you are angry will neither assuage your anger after you step out of the voting booth or result in an elected official who will make the changes you would like to see.

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Me nodding my head and tapping the sign that says, "Trump's style of authoritarianism is sultanism": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sultanism

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I'm decidedly not on Team Burn It All Down, but at the very least I wanted Biden to grow a set and tell the progressive activists to shut up and sit the F down. They don't represent the values and beliefs of normie voters. Not by a long shot.

Anonymama is not wrong on many of the points she raised in her comment.

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You do that by participating in and donating to dem primaries to help politically destroy the far left idiots and put those now pandering to them back in line. That’s how American democracy works and that’s some of the work we need to be doing right now. Fight the far left and the far right (Trump). They are the two evils endangering American democracy right now and they feed off of each other and empower each other. Both must be overcome if there is to be a future of freedom and prosperity in this country.

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> to the awful state of movies

Finally, someone who gets it: the MCU fall-off under Biden is the cause of his political woes.

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Dec 4, 2023·edited Dec 4, 2023

NGL, presuming Biden is re-elected, if Marvel brings out a first-rate Fantastic Four movie there will be discussion about repealing the 22nd Amendment.

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The last guy who even implicitly dissed my taste in MCU movies got banned within 24 hours, so don't test me, sticky fingers. ;-P

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MMGA...make MCU great again!

(In all honesty though I'd rather Disney et al just abandon ship and start trying to make new creative output.)

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You should write on this topic Milan. I saw The Marvels over Thanksgiving and was so disappointed

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Unfortunately even The Marvels was an echelon above Antman: Quantumania and The Flash, which were supposed to be the two big blockbuster superhero films of the year. Mediocrity abounds.

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Matt: the UK is about to elect a labor government because voters dislike almost all incumbents.

Comment: the backlash is about movies and fiction publishing(!). Also unlike progressives other people have “real families”(??)

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Yeah, I'm sorry I found the above comment to be increasingly ridiculous. I actually thought the initial sentiment has merit; there is clearly a declining trust in existing institutions in things like church, media and elites generally. But as soon as the commentator said "transgender", I started going "uh oh". By the time it got to the stuff about "movies and fiction publishing" I was like, yeah this is just a big Fox News watcher.

And that comment "unlike progressives, people have 'real families'" was veering into some pretty gross and untrue stereotypes. As Matt has himself alluded; it's precisely the upper middle class progressives who are most likely not to be divorced. It's actually in fact exact opposite; it's more likely downscale GOP voters who are likelier to be divorced.

Yeah the entire rant started veering into just really sneering "real America" garbage that yes I'm sorry, has had some real ugly overtones.

Oh one very important riposte. GOP has lost the popular vote 6 out 7 last Presidential elections. Remind me again which party is out of step with "real" america?

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Dec 4, 2023·edited Dec 4, 2023

I stopped at "global ruling class." That is, shall we say, a tell.

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I have to assume the reason it got any upvotes at all is because most people stoped reading and assumed it *didn’t* go in that gross direction

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normal people may be trans-skeptical but they also do not care about it the way overly online rightists do. fox news watchers and guys who follow based accounts on twitter are a fairly tiny fraction of the american population.

if you just go and talk to random people about politics youd have to go a while before anyone brought up trans issues. people overwhelmingly care about the two years of rising price levels we have just lived through, and secondarily they care about crime.

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do you believe that all of the PR catastrophes engineered by left over the past ten years were reflecting the deep engagement of the mass public? i certainly dont. i believe instead that certain companies occasionally have exposure to highly motivated and ideological consumers. but corporate america continues to broadly support trans people because the broader public does not care very much!

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