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I live in the definition of a purple district—one of the few in the country that was genuinely competitive in 2022. At the same time almost every week, I spend some time at a local bar, pecking away at my laptop. And I overhear a lot of conversations with the friendly, chatty bartender.

Frequently, I will hear a bunch of guys talking about their jobs, after work. They will talk about how much they make, their bosses and, often, some ongoing or upcoming expense like maintaining their house. And, for the most part, it is remarkably positive; far from the "forgotten Trump voter" narrative. They are basically describing having good-paying jobs and being able to afford a high standard of living. Then the conversation takes a turn into what I can only call a recitation of bizarre right-wing conspiracy theories—the kind I read about and think only a hard-core MAGA cultist would believe this stuff. In their defense, they aren't swallowing it hook, line and sinker, but they are often "just asking questions". And none of the answers indicate enthusiastic support for the status quo.

A recent, specific example: the very day that I became aware of the Taylor Swift psyop Super Bowl conspiracy, an otherwise totally normal, average, sensible, thoughtful regular walks in and starts chatting with the bartender about sports. The conversation makes its way to football and... the guy starts spinning an elaborate conspiracy theory (that I could not even follow) stretching back to the start of the season and involving everyone in the NFL. The bartender's jaw literally dropped before he gently pushed the topic to hockey.

My completely unscientific anecdote-based take is that there is a persuadable pool of voters who are adrift, dipping their toes in the MAGA fever swamp, but also consciously aware that things are actually pretty good. And that they are going to vote against, not for one of two bad choices—bad for different reasons, but bad. So bring on the hippie-punching, tough border rhetoric and never, ever stop talking about—and citing contemporaneous examples of—what a deranged lunatic Trump is.

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I am expecting Travis Kelce to get injured with the second last play of the game and the Chiefs needing a touchdown to win. Taylor Swift will come from the stands to tend to her wounded lover... then put on his helmet. Patrick Mahomes will successfully throw a Hail Mary to her with his last throw, and she will storm through the 49ers defence to score.

This must happen.

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Feb 8Liked by Ben Krauss

Never mind scoring the winning TD. I'm reliably informed Ms. Swift will be 35 before inauguration day. Let's think bigger. The Super Bowl is one day. A presidential term lasts four years.

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There's probably a betting line on this on FanDuel.

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The TV screen in my office building's elevator was helpfully informing me yesterday about what odds are being offered on gambling sites about various things Taylor Swift might do at the Super Bowl. (Kissing Kelce on the field and giving a double high-five to someone in the viewing box were the two that I could remember.)

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When does the bald eagle swoop in?

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She is famously quite tall. Definitely an asset on a hail mary.

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”So bring on the hippie-punching, tough border rhetoric and never, ever stop talking about—and citing contemporaneous examples of—what a deranged lunatic Trump is.”

You should be a paid Democratic party consultant. This is spot on and much better than the disastrous ”don’t upset the far left” strategy they are currently pursuing.

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When were they ever doing a "don't upset the far left" strategy?

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When a bunch of interns published a letter against the President and weren't immediately fired. Just for a recent example.

But you could look to Biden's first day in office when he set the mold that is still dogging him. Hard to take credit for unprecedented oil production when you cast yourself as the most anti-oil president in history. Same for the border issue by pandering to defund ICE types.

He made his bed. 2020 feels like 10 years ago.

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Most of Biden's Day 1 EOs and Proclamations read like love letters to the far left.

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/page/121/

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Well, they recently announced a pause to liquefied gas exports or whatever it was.

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"Since day one, President Biden, Vice President Harris, and the entire Biden-Harris Administration have treated climate change as the existential threat of our time."

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2023/12/02/fact-sheet-biden-harris-administration-leverages-historic-u-s-climate-leadership-at-home-and-abroad-to-urge-countries-to-accelerate-global-climate-action-at-u-n-climate-conference-cop28/

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do they wet the bed too?

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Well, look at how much Democrats emphasize climate change as an issue, for openers.

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deletedFeb 8
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Unfortunately Biden has actual tools to address the conflict and affect its course and has to figure out how to use them. Unlike Fetterman who, no shade on Fetterman, has no actual power over the situation and so can just say whatever.

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What exactly is Fetterman's approach?

He was always like that about I/P.

I don't know what TikTok has to do with this at all.

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deletedFeb 8
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This feels like an overcorrection.

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When, exactly, are the leftist weirdos expected to go into hiding? Will they?

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I think what you’re learning is that conspiracy theory is discourse for the masses, honestly.

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I think that is exactly right. My pet theory is that, because mainstream discourse is dominated by liberal* ideas, liberal conspiracy theories like "thousands of black men are killed by police every year" don't get coded that way.

I grew up immersed in right-wing / Conservative culture and my sense is that what started as Rush Limbaugh using course language to poke at liberal hypocrisy has morphed into a furtive sense that everyone is out to get you and only I know the Truth so you'd better tune in before they get to me, too. Ipso facto, right-wing discourse takes on the affect of conspiracy theories and people who consume that media sound like conspiracy theorists.

The net result is that everyone traffics in conspiracy theories—my (younger) self very much included—but liberals get to raise a pinky and scoff at the silly, low-brow theories about pizza restaurants because they read books by professors.

*I mean that in the "we believe in empiricism and debate" sense of liberal

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I don't think "thousands of black men are killed by police every year" is a conspiracy theory. I think people don't know anything about the scale of things they hear about and simply assume the scale corresponds to the frequency of hearing about it.

You see the same thing among conservatives with crime. My grandmother was convinced I'd be dead in a week when I moved to California because of all the crime. And it's true: were Los Angeles a small town in Oklahoma, the amount of violence (at the time) would make it feel like the purge. But it's not a small town in Oklahoma, so it isn't going to happen to you.

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Feb 8·edited Feb 8

"I don't think 'thousands of black men are killed by police every year' is a conspiracy theory."

Facially, it's ignorance. However, in my experience, in almost every case it instantly escalates to a conspiracy theory if you present the proponent with evidence from an unimpeachable mainstream media source (e.g., WaPo. Guardian, etc.) that, in fact, the number of black men (let alone *unarmed* black men) killed annually by police is less than 1000. I have literally NEVER seen a proponent respond with some variation of, "I guess I was mistaken." Instead, about 10% to 15% will respond with some variation of, "I'll need to look into that" and disappear. The other 85% to 90% will *immediately* jump to claiming that you can't trust statistics on this subject because they are all fabricated by police departments to cover up their habitual killing of black men. (This conspiracy theory is also necessarily implicit in any instance in which someone recommends that black men flee from the police or violently resist arrest because of the likelihood that the police will kill them on the spot anyway.)

See also the routine claim from progressives that rates of violent crime in wealthy neighborhoods are *really* no different than rates of violent crime in poor neighborhoods, it's just that the police and prosecutors cover up the violent crimes in wealthy neighborhoods. (As I've discussed here before, this is such a common progressive conspiracy theory that I've had several people independently make it to me IRL!)

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I believe there's a lot of intersection of "conspiracy theorizing" and "doesn't have foggiest idea about realistic quantities."

The same people who think Japan and China are of similar size, or the US GDP is $10 billion, are probably more susceptible to conspiracy theories than better informed folks.

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Saying, "I need to look into that," probably isn't any worse than, "I guess I was mistaken," and certainly doesn't make one a conspiracist. It is perfectly reasonable to have a mistaken impression from an article read months or years ago and want to re-examine things prior to reevaluating your long term assumptions about the world.

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Well, the conspiracy theory about "thousands of Black men are killed by police every year" is that none of the killings were at all justified.

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Sorry, but the bigger conspiracy is very clearly the "thousands" -- you can argue about the justifiability of any given shooting; there's really no plausible dispute about the number of corpses.

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deletedFeb 8
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But it isn't rational on the part of police. Statistically, when Black driver's car are searched they are 49% LESS likely to contain drugs and guns than white drivers and are equally likely to be given a ticket. However, Black drivers are still pulled over 3 times as often as white drivers and have their cars searched twice as often.

That outcomes of those searches shouldn't be surprising since Black American and white American have fairly equal rates of drug use and white Americans are slightly more likely to own guns. Therefore if you search twice as many Black drivers you are likely searching extra drivers without good probable cause and you would be less likely to find something

But it does suggest that there isn't a good rational and credible reason that they are pulled over more often that white drivers other than racism, whether that bias is explicit or implicit.

That is very different than a suggestion that police officers are killing Black citizens for the fuck of it. If folks believe that is happening with any regularity that is a conspiracy theory and I don't doubt there are folks who hold that false view. But being pulled over more does make it more likely that Black drivers will be killed and that being unacceptable isn't inaccurate.

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"why would they do that?"

Because racism?

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The lack of a sense of scale flows from the conspiracy, though. It is unarguable that police kill some number of black men every year and that there are cases of straight-up homicide. It is also true that there is some voter fraud and there are cases of straight-up ballot stuffing. Inflating the former necessitates a racist conspiracy theory involving cops. Inflating the latter necessitates a left-wing conspiracy theory involving poll workers.

I am not trying to draw a moral comparison here—I am probably choosing fraught examples. One is in service of a just cause and the other is in service to an aspiring authoritarian. I'm just saying that both involve conspiratorial thinking, but only one gets coded that way and I think that is largely a function of who is promulgating the conspiracies.

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Feb 8·edited Feb 8

Here’s what you are missing “the police kills Black people in particular” or however you want to phrase the blm rallying cry that got the whole country (it seemed) to the streets in 2020. That’s one big conspiracy (or libel). Even the horrifying but anecdotal case of Floyd may perhaps be a wrongful conviction as is now argued convincingly according to black intellectuals like Loury and McWhorter (I’m personally agnostic on this latter point).

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Yearly, cops kill half as many blacks as whites (on average). One eighth of the population is black. It seems unlikely that 50% of traffic stops are black. So it seems likely that blacks are disfavored in police confrontations. This seems likely to be a largely combination of Cops' expectations of resistance and Blacks' expectations of danger. Either way, it seems unreasonable to write-off the whole thing as delusions of, "police kill Black people in particular," because it seems like. to some extent, they kinda do.

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I think your analysis is flawed.

You are assuming all traffic stops are equally dangerous, which is almost certainly not true. You can't just jump from traffic stops to deaths. What about % of people who carry guns in their vehicles? Likelihood of having committed a crime in the last 24 hours?

We don't have perfect statistics on these and I'm not implying we do, but I think your framework is very limited here.

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Isn't this what Roland Fryer looked into a few years back? And he concluded that when normalized by the number of interactions with police, black people were a little less likely to be shot than white people.

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Regardless of what the proximate cause of George Floyd’s death was, the fact of the matter is that the police have a duty of medical care immediately upon detaining someone, and so they’re guilty of at least extreme neglect.

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I'm not going to debate the specific case . My position is that the court ruling is the truth unless proven otherwise by an equal process (i.e. a re-trial), hence as far as I am concerned Floyd was murdered. The point however is that this case, horrible as it was, was anecdotal. That the impression of a general problem is a lie, based on confirmation bias reporting that often reports completely false facts, but then under reports or ignores completely the true facts once they come to light (e.g. complete exoneration of the cops, "unarmed" men turning out to have been armed etc). It also ignores the more common cases of police killing white people etc. The Floyd case is exceptional in that it did end up in a conviction, but even under the assumption that this was the correct judgment it remains the exception that doesn't prove any rule. As I understand it, when you look at the data overall there is no empirical basis for the notion that the police is more inclined to kill Black people. There are problems with quality of policing generally, but at least insofar as wrongful killings are concerned, there is no racial angle to it, and that's the crucial point.

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If you watch the body cam, they call EMS before they even get him into the car the first time, then they call again to ask where the ambulance is. I'm not sure what more they are obligated to do.

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A lot of right-wing conspiracy theories are correct if you take their scale to be an order of magnitude or two lower than what is being claimed.

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Yes. It is actually true that the ways in which the elites and the State work are opaque to almost everyone, and yet we are wired for pattern recognition. There are hundreds of interesting stories that are completely true and totally fit the model of 'conspiracy theory', because people in power actually do conspire quite a lot. Most of it is banal though.

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I was actually a Federal bureaucrat at one point, which I think immunizes me from this completely.

Never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence nor to incompetence what can be explained by the Paperwork Reduction Act.

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Feb 8·edited Feb 8

Conspiracy theories are basically the same thing as folk legends. people making up stories about goblins, fairies and wee folk are now just deep state feds, Chinese spies, and corporate shills.

Jeffrey Epstein is pretty much a modern Rumplestiltskin.

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It's also a hig thing that sociL media algorithms habe been pushing. They've been shown to slowly onramp people from reasonable questions about their baby's health, to vaccine skepticism, to vaccine conspiracies, to rhe whole wide conspiracyverse. Basically slowly onramping people to it step by step. There's a great book about it called The Chaos Machine that talks about it and gives many examples where Facebook and YouTube were the primary drivers in getting people in to a conspiracy theory rather than the algo being lead by the conspiracy nuts.

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Here’s a great explanation of what’s going on there with the bizarre beliefs (just posted yesterday)

https://www.conspicuouscognition.com/p/people-embrace-beliefs-that-signal

How to convert this knowledge into a short-term political strategy? Keep the focus on the real day to day issues for these voters rather than try to refute the crazy stuff? I don’t know.

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I’ve long believed that my relatively good conceptual hygiene comes principally from being antisocial.

I don’t buy the fifth point in that post, though. I believe people adopt conspiracy theories because, as social animals, they seek social angles to things. The core of conspiracy theories is generally the (often imagined) actions, motives, and relationships of readily identified people.

The average person spends a lot of their time, seemingly, on gossip about other people. Conspiracy theories give them a way to make gossip into discourse, big picture issues converted wholesale into rumors about celebrities.

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Feb 8·edited Feb 8

Yes to hippie punching, lots of it.

https://imightbewrong.substack.com/p/hippie-punching-is-great-politics

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Hilarious that you mention the Taylor Swift thing because when I popped into my local watering hole in Vegas that was randomly a topic of conversation from two working class guys who seem to own some kind of father-son contracting business. The superbowl will be hosted here and he just said unprompted "I'm not excited for it this year cause of all that Taylor Swift media bullshit they are trying to do"

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I am curious about the median income where your local pub is. Feel free to round or give a range. In my area, the cost of food items has gone up by anywhere between 50-80 percent depending on the item. I make the same meal every Friday so I have a good baseline, and receipts.

Try to imagine how people who rarely indulge in the luxury of paying a bartender huge markups for commodity beverages will have very different ideas about their quality of life since Biden became president. No amount of messaging is going to fix that.

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The two counties in our congressional district: $75k and $90k

I hear you, but also as Matt points out, Trump is running on a platform of making everything more expensive, so… poetic irony all around?

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>>My completely unscientific anecdote-based take is that there is a persuadable pool of voters who are adrift, dipping their toes in the MAGA fever swamp<<

What makes you think they're persuadable and not hardcore MAGA? I know you say you live in a purple area, but there are hardcore MAGA folks in such places (as well as plenty of very liberal Democrats).

I think the Fox News-watching crowd (which is what these folks sound like) is mostly unreachable. Persuadables generally don't obsess over political scandalettes and minutiae. They're not political hobbyists, and they tend to get their news from mainstream sources.

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Well, plenty of cars out here are decked out with Trumparaphernalia and (often homemade) signs conveying their thoughts about the importance of dispatching Democrats and Liberals. And I'm pretty sure the people with "Thank You Jesus" yard signs are about as persuadable as the ones with "Thank You Science" signs further down the street. But the people conversing in the bar do not sound like brainwashed cultists. They sound like pretty normal people who are exposed to right-wing conspiracy theories via the MAGA cultists in their social (media) and professional circles. It's not obsessive either; the guy talking about the NFL conspiracy quickly moved off of it and pivoted to lamenting the slowing metabolism that accompanies aging. I think normal, non-cultists are all inherently persuadable because they are capable of understanding that Trump is a crazy person who is proposing crazy nonsense policies and that Biden is a pretty normal guy with pretty normal policies that have worked out pretty OK so far.

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They tell us we're fighting for save American Democracy, but they're acting as if this is a just a nice-to-win election.

Where are the emergency measures?

At this rate, Joe will earn his loss and we'll all be hating ourselves for letting him walk us into it.

Two things I want to see:

- Replace Kamala with someone younger (and liked) and run as a tag-team ticket

- Go strong on closing the border

The border has been an obvious problem since day 1 of his term, and there's no evidence he's willing to do anything except blame Republicans. Zero swing voters are going to believe this.

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Feb 8Liked by Ben Krauss

If you don’t think his willingness to sign a Republican-wishlist immigration bill that had nothing in it he wanted was going strong on the border, you aren’t paying attention. Now it IS the Republicans’ fault and he’d better make that point every chance he gets, while touting his own willingness to shut it down when necessary. That’s not sufficient, I agree, but it’s an important part of the story.

If he replaced Harris he would invite a civil war inside the Dem party. There would be no recovering by Nov. We can’t afford that. All the armchair critics who seem to think it would be as easy as erasing one name from the yard signs and writing in another know nothing about Dem politics. Biden will keep her on the ballot and wishful thinking otherwise just actively keeps people from making the affirmative case for the ticket.

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I don't actually think replacing Kamala would make a big difference at this point, but doing things that piss off the kind of person that would be angry about that is exactly what the Dems need to do. Aversion to that sort of intracoalitional "civil war" is precisely the problem.

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How could starting a civil war in your own party drum up support or voter enthusiasm?

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Not start a civil war, but stop worrying about appeasing those whose views on climate and immigration alienate the persuadable electorate. The degree of overlap of that group with the people who would go bonkers if Kamala was dumped is very high.

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Huh? The people who are threatening to not vote because Biden is too far right on immigration and climate generally hate Kamala Harris.

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They hate her even though she’s Black and female?The knee-jerk lefty intersectionalists?

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Christine -- I hear many people say "Others will be angry if Kamala is pushed off the ticket", but I've never met such a person who would themselves be angry.

Are you one?

Suppose you find a middle-aged woman (her assumed key demographic), and ask these questions?

- Is Kamala doing a good job?

- Do you think Kamala could beat Trump on a debate stage?

- Do you think Kamala could beat Trump in an election?

- Would you be upset if Kamala was replaced by someone who appealed to swing voters?

What answers do you think you would get?

* By the way, you might want to listen to "The Run-Up" from NYTimes where the host goes back to his (black) family and talks to the middle-aged women and find they all think Kamala has failed.

Anything that sounds like "Kamala is a great VP, and we just need to tell people this with more frequency" sounds like denial to me.

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I am not saying she’s been a great VP but she hasn’t been horrible. Much of the criticism I hear of her is weird and strikes me as vaguely misogynistic. What’s the hard core case against her besides being “unlikeable?” Seriously?

You can point to all kinds of anecdotal evidence of Black voters unhappy with Harris but Black women are the core of the Democratic coalition and unless you have significant data showing that they AS A GROUP are disillusioned with the person they embraced in 2020, then I think you underestimate the seismic impact that pushing her off the ticket would have. And no, Warnock would not be seen as a fair swap. Geez Louise. You folks have no idea of the crap women put up with in politics and the media. Harris hasn’t had a chance.

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Personally, I learned all I needed to learn about Kamala in that first debate when she jumped on old Joe for "opposing busing". This told me three things. First, that she's stupid, because how much of the electorate even knows what busing was? Second, that's she's incompetent; she thought this gambit was so good, she had all the t-shirts printed up and everything, and didn't seem to see coming the "you weren't bused, you rode *on* a bus." rejoinder. Third, that she's unscrupulous, in being willing to stir up racial division for small selfish reasons. I've seen nothing since to modify this impression.

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So the woman who worked to become the 1) District Attorney of San Francisco; 2) Attorney General of California 3) Senator from CA (population 39 million people); and 4) Vice President - is stupid and incompent? And you learned that from one debate?

Got it.

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This is a woman who slept her way into politics, which gave her the connections to get fast-track nominations to high-profile positions, in a state where she had no real other-party opposition, and whose electoral performance was lackluster. She was quickly bounced out of the Presidential primary race (with very low ratings) in spite of being one of the few "moderate" candidates and she has had very poor approval ratings as Vice President (understandable to anyone who has heard her word-salad speeches). In the "feelings" department, I sense arrogance and entitlement, and I bet others do too. The Democratic Party is a shambles right now, but we've got to have someone better than this.

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Feb 8·edited Feb 8Liked by Ben Krauss

The amount of attention she gets as the VP is completely disproportionate to her actual role, not to mention the historical attention paid to VPs. And yeah yeah, Biden is very old, but it's perfectly clear that voters are voting on Biden v. Trump, not "what about Biden's potential replacement in 2 years if he passes away?" The VP choice is like "the environment"- people say it matters all the time, but when they actually go and vote they vote on their pocketbook and other kitchen table issues. Biden will win or lose on his own merits, not because of Harris. It's absolutely bonkers to me how much people think the VP matters, and it's awfully hard to escape the sense that they criticize the VP as much as they do because it happens to be a black woman filling the role this go around. If some generic 55 year old white guy hadn't accomplished anything in Biden's first term nobody would be sitting around lambasting him. Instead, people would a) never think about him because we never think about the VP very much, or b) when we do think about him we'd all shrug and say "he's the VP. Of course he's not doing anything. It's a role designed to do nothing."

Lastly, the notion that replacing her now is a good idea is ludicrous. It would look desperate, and feed into the narrative that Biden is flailing and knows he'll lose. Republicans would use it to show how clueless and desperate it is, and the media would hammer it. The SB commentariat needs to let this go. If Biden had done it a year ago then we'd be in different waters, but replacing the ticket 9 months before the election would be a horrific decision.

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When the president is 80 years old and appears to be losing it, the VP is going to get a lot of attention. If Biden were a one term president, I don't think she would be that big of a deal. But since he decided to run again as an 80 year old, part of that calculus should have included whether she would be the right running mate if anything were to happen to him.

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Right, this is the thing; frantically replacing the vice president simply out of fear (rather than like, a specific scandal) *reinforces* the idea that Biden's too old and not really in control of things.

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But he is too old, and he is not in control of things. It's a fact, and it's obvious. He can't control the progressives when it comes to the running sore that is the border (if he loses the Presidency, this will be why) and he can't get a good vice president because he owes too much to James Clyburn. For God's sake, dozens of his own staff (and interns!) publicly rebuked him for his support of Israel, an important ally in a very delicate situation. And he did nothing. In any corporation or other organization, those staffers would be on the street with their last paycheck the very next day.

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Feb 8·edited Feb 8

I generally agree with you about switching Kamala not really having an impact, but I also think we should be clear that Black women are not the core of the Democratic coalition. Blacks in total make up about 13% of the US population, and Black women make up maybe 7%. ANY group that small a percentage of the population cannot be the core constituency of a majority party.

edit - to be clear, that doesn't mean the Democratic party should ignore them, but also 1) they aren't going anywhere else; 2) you can't base your politics around their specific preferences.

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I think what you have is a very self-conscious group for whom the "black woman" thing makes them disproportionately influential within the *party*. I suspect that they feel that Kamala is their ticket to the glory to which they are entitled, and this is why she wasn't dumped years ago.

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The Republican Party has really reshaped itself around a small, core group of it's base, and it's kind of been a disaster for them. Not sure why it would be any different for Democrats, especially when the group they are centering is really not geographically distributed in an advantageous way. The mean state has a black population of about 7-8%, which is half the national average. You can't be a national party if that's really your base.

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"The Republican Party has really reshaped itself around a small, core group of it's base, and it's kind of been a disaster for them."

They haven't! Its incredibly depressing to me, but the Republican party via Trump has actually expanded the segment of the population that is their base going from a reasonably well educated and wealthy base to a much broader and more blue collar base. I think they have sacrificed most of their principles along the way, but let's not kid ourselves about what they are doing.

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>What’s the hard core case against her besides being “unlikeable?<

The hardcore case is A) she's been marginally successful politically in California an a total dud outside California, and B) she hasn't generated a compelling political brand or strong team of loyalists and supporters in DC. I personally admire the Vice President (she was my initial choice for the nomination, way back when), and I wish the above weren't true. But it seems true.

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Feb 8·edited Feb 8

"marginally successful politically in California" - the state has a population of 39 million people. If you become one of the two people out of 39m that is elected Senator, I would say you are more than marginally successful politically.

As for "total dud" outside of CA - I would think VP candidates who are on losing tickets (Lieberman, Edwards, Kaine) would better bill for 'total dud' outside their home state. If you're a VP on a winning ticket, I'm not seeing the case for "total dud."

(I'm not saying VP's determine the outcome, just saying their impact is greater than zero - otherwise we wouldn't even be talking about changing VPs.)

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Harris has been successful at beating other Democrats, sure. That's undoubtedly true. But once you're in the general election, having a "D" next to your name tends to make winning a foregone conclusion statewide in California (or in San Francisco), and there have been multiple elections where her vote totals have failed to match other Democrats running for office. Again, I said marginally "successful" not marginally "unsuccessful." And she badly underperformed expectations in her brief presidential run. I remember this acutely, because she was my early choice for president in 2020. That's what I meant by "dud."

As I've said repeatedly, I think it makes zero political sense to choose another running mate. And I'll go one further: I believe there's a pretty strong chance she's president a few years from now because I think it's likely indeed that Joe Biden won't serve a full second term if he wins. I think Kamala Harris is eminently well-qualified, and might well make an excellent president*.

But no, Kamala Harris doesn't strike me as the party's best option for top of ticket in a general election. I'm not sure there's a single example of "fizzles early in her nomination quest and drops out before Iowa but becomes a powerful national standard bearer in a future cycle." But maybe I'm forgetting one.

*Though sure, all bets are off if she succeeds to the office and then runs as an incumbent to secure a whole term; it's hard to predict how things would unfold in such a scenario.

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"she hasn't generated a compelling political brand or strong team of loyalists and supporters in DC."

She's the Vice President, man. *Had* she done those things, those would be compelling reasons for her boss to drop her from the ticket. Veeps are supposed to be subservient and wait their turn.

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Say what? Undermining the president might get you dropped. But simply having your own, credible, influential coterie doesn't do that. Al Gore, Dick Cheney and Joe Biden didn't get dropped. It's possible to be an important power center in one's own right as Vice President while *simultaneously* being a supportive asset the president can count on.

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Sue, did the President call?

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I can't emphasize enough that the VP, the VP pick and almost anything about the VP generally has basically negligible impact on elections. It makes for good fodder to fill column inches but beyond that it's electoral impact is almost certainly nothing.

Decades ago Presidents chose VP(s) to "balance the ticket" when electoral coalitions operated differently. But nowadays? Yeah not so much. And I include Palin and Pence with this. Palin generated a lot of news coverage and indeed was a canary in the coal mine for where GOP was heading, but actual practical impact? Yeah Obama's victory was much more about a) Thermostatic opinion change after 8 years of GOP in the WH b) charisma and political acumen of Obama himself and c) the Wall street crash in September 2008. As for Pence. Lots of commentary written how choosing Pence shored up Evangelical support for Trump. Um, what is the actual evidence for this? Much much more likely the answer is evangelical voters were going to "come home" by the election regardless of whether Pence was on the ticket or not.

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Palin personally changed my vote away from McCain because I couldn't stand the thought of her being president.

That said, I don't think that changing Kamala Harris does the same thing - she hasn't been so bad in office that people can't stand the thought of her being President, she's just lackluster.

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Feb 8·edited Feb 8

The "column inches"* thing does terrify me. We're facing eight months of a campaign with the same candidates and the same arguments as 2020. This is the most horrifying prospect political journalists can face. I tremble to think how they'll fill the time. Constant VP speculation (for both candidates). Intense dissection of every damn poll from here on out. Hyper-inflating speculation on every move Biden makes as President as to what it means for his prospects.

We would all be a lot better off if political journalists and pundits took a five month vacation, came back refreshed and ready to treat the election seriously.

(* I'm interested if anyone under the age of 50 here knows what a "column inch" is.)

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RE: Pence. Further evidence for this is that the evangelicals are clearly in the Trump bandwagon today, and have cast aside Pence. If it was his values that really made much of a difference then you'd see those voters shifting in the same way Pence did. They didn't, and they supported Trump because they liked Trump, not because of his VP.

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Easy to say in hindsight, but I don’t think that automatically tracks. Things actually were different in early 2016…Rs of all factions were looking for excuses to be ok with Trump, Pence gave the evangelicals a permission structure for evangelicals to tell their friends at church they could roll with him. Do we know now that they are all value-less hypocrites? Yes, but we didn’t at the time (and neither did they!)

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That was absolutely the theory, but the advantage of hindsight is that we can see if that impact actually occurred. I think it's very obvious that it didn't. Sure, if Trump had nominated a lunatic or something that might have made an impact, but the reality is that any generic replacement republican would have been fine. Trump won in spite of all of his anti-evangelical behavior because evangelicals didn't actually care about all of that. And the ones who did didn't support him even though he chose Pence.

"Rs of all factions were looking for excuses to be ok with Trump"

I feel like it's only those of us who hate Trump who think this. Actual republican voters were fine with Trump, and had been the entire time. They loved the guy. We hate him so much that we refuse to believe it.

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Lots of assertions in there, Colin. Allow me to counter-assert.

From my perspective, there are some notable exceptions to your point. Maybe Pence didn’t matter but I suspect Kaine did. Trump beat Clinton by a few thousand votes in a handful of rust belt states. Putting a folksy midwesterner on the ticket instead of (ugh) Virginian zero Tim Kaine would have signaled that Clinton was listening to the frustrated blue and gray collar crowd that flipped to Trump that Election Day. Kennedy beat Nixon by a handful of votes in 1960 - you think the outcome would have been the same in West Virginia if he had put another liberal Northeasterner on the ticket instead of a conservative Southerner?

I think you’re right in many cases (eg Reagan’s choice of Bush probably didn’t affect the outcome in 1980 or 1984) - but in elections won by a whisker (as 2024 is likely to be)…I think *everything* matters. And in an election where there’s an actuarially elevated chance of the VP assuming the top office? I have no data - but would assert - that Harris’s popularity assumes special importance in how - and more importantly whether - people vote.

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I have to say your choice of Kaine as VP pick that mattered is kind of bizarre to me. Until you mentioned his name I had actually completely forgotten he was even on the ticket. In fact he was chosen precisely because he was so milquetoast.

I'd say the burden of proof is showing something did impact an election rather than the opposite. Forget just VP picks there's a lot of things from past elections that pundits assert as impactful that really weren't. My favorite example is Dukakis in the tank. It's the thing possibly brought up most from that election. And yet, what proof do we have it effected the election at all.

Speaking of 1988. See Dan Quayle. He was the butt of a zillion late night jokes and had one of the more famous "owns" in the VP debate. And it meant...square root of f**k all.

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Since LBJ almost certainly was involved with manipulating the counting of votes in Texas in 1960 then, yes, there's a case that the choice of him as VP made a difference.

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JFK wins that race 294-243 even without Texas.

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This is correct. The fact of Biden’s age just makes it all a little more fraught.

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Right. The actual weak part of the ticket is Joe, not Kamala.

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And if he swapped Harris out for Whitmer* how long would it be for journalists to be asking, "Shouldn't the ticket order be switched?"

* I know people are pushing for Warnock. That's crazy. Keeping a Democratic Senator in Georgia > marginal impact as VP nominee.

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🙄

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"I can't emphasize enough that the VP, the VP pick and almost anything about the VP generally has basically negligible impact on elections." But this year is a special case, given that Biden has quite a high chance of dying or becoming incapacitated before his term ends. Given the polls on Bidens' age, the electorate is well aware of this. This means that the quality of the candidate for Vice President is actually as significant as the candidate for President, and the Democrats are in a very poor position on that score.

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At 80, actuary tables suggest a 4.7% to 7.5% chance of dying each year over the next 4 years. Presumably, given Biden's quality of medical care, he should be a bit safer. Nonetheless, ignoring that, he has about an 22% chance of dying. Not sure I would call that "quite high," but it does make me glad I am not 80.

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Here is the thing, though.

If she were pushed off the ticket, there would be people who would be privately fine with it, but would feel like they couldn't be okay with it publicly, and those people would be extremely vocal about it.

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The weird thing is, I don't think she wants to be president. Even when she was campaigning for the office, her staff complained they couldn't find her or reach her, and many quit before she dropped out of the race.

I was living in California, so I was watching Harris, but I was Elizabeth Warren all the way.

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Playing devil's advocate, Nate Cohn found some "Harris but not Biden" voters in some of his previous polling. If I remember correctly, those people tended to skew younger and more left-wing. And while younger, left-wing folks need to suck it up and vote for Biden anyway, I can't imagine that removing Harris from the ballot would be helpful in achieving that.

Would be curious to know how Black Americans would feel about replacing Harris, but ultimately I think it's too late.

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It would create unnecessary drama and would only serve to feed a negative media cycle that could potentially be spent on lambasting Republicans.

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I think there are things Biden could maybe do differently, but yes, I'm mostly in agreement with you on Kamala Harris. That's a move he shouldn't make.

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Maybe you’ve never met one in person but you know they exist right? These would be the people who claimed racism over Claudine Gay’s resignation. Think Joy Reed on MSNBC saying things like a white man is blaming his problems and scapegoating a black woman.

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To continue your analogy, though... How would you expect Kamala to fare in a VP debate with Elise Stefanik? Worse than Claudine Gay -- and her Snotty Kamala "That little girl was me" delivery would be even less effective than Charlene's attempt to blame her Harvard ouster on racism.

Some black women might stand by her, but that ain't worth the trade-off. Heck, even John Fetterman (speech impediment included) would be a better foil.

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How does Biden replace Harris without the message being, "Biden is a bad judge of talent" and have that reflect poorly on him?

And what confidence do you have that veep choice #2 would be a surefire thing? There's no obvious name beyond Whitmer and who knows how Whitmer would perform for the first time on the national stage?

Presidents don't replace their VPs. Heck, even Eisenhower kept Nixon. Yes, it was smart of FDR to replace Wallace and it was unfortunate for Lincoln to replace Hannibal Hamlin but we're talking ancient history here. (Rockefeller in 1976 wasn't elected.)

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Nitpick I guess but Ford replaced his VP when running for "re" election.

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Isn’t “I’ve never met…” exactly the kind of reasoning Matt warns against in this post?

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I think one thing you’re missing is who the replacement would be.

Would people be mad in the abstract if Harris was replaced with “someone else”? Maybe not a lot of people.

Would people be mad if the first non-white VP is replaced by a white person, and 2024 is an all white ticket? Yeah, a lot of the Democratic base and key groups would be upset.

Would people be mad if the first female VP was kicked off and it was an all-male ticket? Yeah, a lot of people would.

But if you wanted to replace Harris with another black woman, who are the candidates who would be better on the ticket than her?

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Hispanic woman - Catherine Cortez Masto.

Hispanics are more numerous than Blacks, more likely to be swing voters than Blacks, and are not seen as White (even though Cortez Masto basically is)

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If Biden replaced Harris with Warnock, I think all would be forgiven.

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Oh ffs.

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Some comments simply can't be improved upon.

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We need every Senator we have.

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Why would the Democrats tip the senate back to GOP control just for maybe an extremely marginal benefit to the popularity of the VP candidate?

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"Liked," but does Georgia law preclude Warnock from running for his Senate seat simultaneously with running for VP? (Lloyd Bentsen in 1988 ran for both VP and re-election for his Senate seat in Texas at the same time.)

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Feb 8·edited Feb 8

He's not running in 24 (having just won a full term in 22). But if they won, Kemp would appoint his replacement (until a special election could be held, presumably in 26).

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Do you know many middle aged black women?

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There are things he can do about the border chaos with his presidential powers. He should use them and then blame Republicans and Trump for keeping the borders open in order to play politics.

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Such as?

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Restart remain in Mexico, remove domestic violence from asylum claims. Stop fighting Texas. There’s a lot.

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Thanks for bringing up these details. I want to add another point to *why* he isn't doing this. One reason Biden liberalized asylum and parole policies is he cannot deliver for his party's interest groups in Congress. Congress is more anti-immigration than it was in 2013; there was never a chance of getting a bill like comprehensive immigration reform through the senate in 2021-2022. So he's stuck using these executive levers to increase legal immigration even as it pisses off American voters, including some of his own voters in major cities like Chicago and NYC with municipal budgets straining further.

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Supreme Court shut down remain in Mexico.

But you really think it's good policy to dump battered women back out on the other side of the border?

Or that people won't find another claim to make before their day in court?

And you really think Texas won't keep endlessly escalating the conflict for media points?

What exactly are your motivations here?

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No they didn’t. They gave Biden permission to end it. A few states

sued to stop him. He won the right to end it, he can absolutely implement it.

I think anyone who wants to help economic migrants from other countries should go to their country to help them and stop trying to release them here. Mexico is a fine place for them to wait. More americans live in Mexico than anywhere else in the world and it’s one of the few places Americans travel to.

The only reason why it started is because Biden reversed Trump policies that reduced illegal migration. Most of these people do not qualify for asylum. They are hoping to be released, because the chances of deportation are low once they are, even when they lose their claim.

My motivation is to keep economic migrants out and allow high skilled immigrants in. Also neutralize republican attacks and win so democrats can replace alito and Thomas. What’s yours?

https://www.texastribune.org/2022/06/29/supreme-court-migrant-protection-protocols-remain-mexico-biden/

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Punching back against an out of touch Supreme Court is great politics and also great policy. Let them enforce their stupid word games

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Stop fighting Texas? I live in Texas and i don't think he's fighting our scumbag insurrectionist Governor hard enough.

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Abbott won his election handily. Ted Cruz will handily win too.

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What should Biden do? SOMETHING! Right now his brand is "I'll be nicer than Trump" and folks have plenty of reasons to think nice isn't working.

As to specific steps, NBC News had a LOL article today. Excerpts:

"The Biden administration is considering taking executive action to deter illegal migration across the southern border, according to two U.S. officials.

...

The plans have been under consideration for months, the officials said...

The unilateral measures under consideration might upset some progressives in Congress, the officials said, but they noted that Democratic mayors who have asked for more help from the federal government to handle the influx of migrants in their cities would be pleased. The measures are still being drafted and are not expected to take place any time soon."

Do let me emphasize "not expected to take place anytime soon".

What's this, the Hakuna Matata staff effort? No hurries, no worries chaps.

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/immigration/biden-administration-weighs-executive-action-border-migrants-rcna137804?taid=65c43b6c8b17820001a58e0e

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Could he send American troops to help enforce it, or is that illegal?

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It's too late. He could have done that two years ago, but at this point the Republicans can (justly) criticize his proposals, and just run out the clock until they can get a President who will give them everything they want.

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I think it will be enough in a close election, and he doesn’t have to persuade Republican voters only swing voters who voted for him before

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If those swing voters want something that can only be gotten by a bipartisan agreement, and Joe can't deliver it because the Republicans won't play ball, then it will matter significantly.

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The "Yes, but..." is that this immigration compromise was a progressive cave-in with nothing for Dreamers or a pathway for the undocumented. It was only on offer because Team Biden is desperate.

If Biden wins this fall, this bill won't be revived. And if Trump wins (and, as is likely, Reps control the Senate), Team Red won't have 60 votes in the Senate. Trump won't have better luck next time than he did getting funding for the Wall when Reps controlled House and Senate in 2017/18.

All that said, Biden's message seems to be "I was set on fixing the border but the Senate Majority Leader and I were blocked by Trump."

C'mon, man, who's in charge here? WEAK!

Trump's message is a lot simpler and avoids a level of nuance most voters won't follow anyway: To fix the border, start by electing a guy who wants to fix the border. Biden let it run out of control for three years. Now he's promising to get tough, and he might even stay tough until the polls close on the West Coast next fall if his party lets him. With or without new powers, Biden wasn't and isn't going to deliver.

Despite Matt's exhortation, I'm kind of freaking out. Trump blew up the Rep party in 2015/16 with his immigration message, and this time around he seems to be on track to blow up the country.

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I think an underrated reason for allowing in so many asylum claimants is to decrease inflation which has clearly worked. We needed the labor and they delivered

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Feb 8·edited Feb 8

It wasn’t a republican wishlist, it was a chamber of commerce and democrat bill. Free Lawyers for minors paid for by tax payers, catch and release for minors and families, billions for ngos and a bunch of other non starters. The goal was to make an offer the republicans couldn’t refuse, this bill wasn’t it. Biden is the reason there are so many people being released into the country. Until democrats understand that most Americans do not want unlimited economic migrants arriving at our doorstop, they’ll lose on this issue.

They both should step aside. Too much ego to do that though. He can win, but he is going to have to make serious changes starting with the border and not doing interviews.

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I'm sorry but the first paragraph is just a full blown Fox News lie. The writer of this Substack just recorded a podcast where he actually carefully explained the situation. I'd say maybe give that a listen first.

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Feb 8·edited Feb 8

No it’s not. Chris Murphy admits it. All of that stuff is accurate. Which one is a lie?

I tried linking Chris Murphy’s tweets, but it won’t let me link. He made an entire thread and even responded to Josh hawley admitting it.

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Feb 8·edited Feb 8Author

Nothing your saying is inaccurate, it's just your framing that comes across as Fox Newsy.

Minors with asylum claims are of course gonna need lawyers paid for because they're minors. Catch and release is an inevitability of how hard it is process and house migrants at the border, and even though Trump tried to end it, migrant surges in 2019 forced him to go back to releasing migrants into border towns. NGO's play a huge role in guaranteeing humanitarian conditions at the border. Supporting that work is something a developed and moral country like the United States is entitled to do.

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It's kind of insane we're encouraging people to send their kids alone or with paid strangers to enter the US. Similar to Defund the Police, this is one of those ideas people get after seeing a really unfair or brutal news event, without thinking about the broader incentives this will change. Of course, back in the ancient years of 2014, major Democratic politicians understood exactly this problem and weren't afraid to point it out.

https://www.newsweek.com/hillary-clinton-immigration-children-daca-661952

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I'm with you except for the NGO's part. Why should NGO's need to pay a huge role in guaranteeing humanitarian conditions?

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"Humanitarian conditions at the border"? In other words, if an intruder (aka "migrant") dies while trying to scale a razor-wire fence, it's the razor wire's fault? You'll have trouble getting a majority of voters to accept that!

As for "asylum"? If someone has fled from Honduras, they could be looking for work in Mexico City. They have no business being at the US border (let alone trying to scale a fence or ford a river) in the first place. That goes double if, in the process, they're putting their own children in harm's way!

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This is not correct. I’m not sure where you are coming from, but Biden is very popular in the Dem Parry and they aren’t going step aside. You’ll need to take that fantasy somewhere else.

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The fantasy is thinking he can win with just democrats.

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Nobody thinks that. Nobody. But Dems control who the party nominee is going to be and they aren’t going to outsource that. If that’s what it takes to win, they will lose. Fortunately, it’s not. It’s a Biden/Harris ticket. Get used to it.

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You do understand however that high prices, ie inflation, ARE, the cost of getting everything you want here, right. They can't just be counteracted with a Presidential price-reducing button.

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author
Feb 8·edited Feb 8Author

I think Biden already pushed the big red lower inflation button.

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Feb 8Liked by Ben Krauss

Ben - I've got another treat for you. Probably showed up in your push e-mail feed. I answered a question you asked me about how I applied my knowledge to speaking persuasively with swing voters.

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Feb 8·edited Feb 8

Inflation has lowered to a manageable level, but I don't think we have (or want!) deflation.

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True! Mispoke and editing.

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Swingable D to R, R to D voters do not know that or think that.

Nor do even partisan well-wishers of Joe Biden and the Democratic Party like Stan Greenberg know or think that.

Even if we accept as a valid conclusion that some Biden policies have increased some industrial supply with some price controlling/limiting/constraining effect, it certainly was not a pushbutton act, nor mere force of will, but via multiple policy processes requiring some external cooperation and having to work against some real friction.

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Well inflation is now down and real median wages have grown since July of last year. The main problem is there's no promise Democrats won't increase inflation again, since most of their party operative class believes ARPA was a big success and Larry Summers is a giant meanie head. If they get another trifecta, you can expect them to behave exactly as they repeatedly tell us they will.

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Is there a promise that we will be saved from Trump's inflationary massive retail tariff tax by his own laziness or Senate or House GOP lack of cohesion on fiscally related bills?

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GOP Congress will not stand for a massive increase in prices for consumer goods across the board. They already shot down a non-tariff consumption tax idea not unlike a VAT in 2017, and that was less disruptive than what Trump is suggesting due to monetary exchanges balancing out.

Of course, their lives would be easier if they had another public leader of the party...

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Why is it that democrats passively “agree” to do something about the border as concession to the gop? If they can’t reach consensus why not advance their own border bill, daring gop to sink it ? The very fact that Dems position themselves as needing gop to force them to do something about the border is the best evidence that they are de facto the open borders party. It’s disastrous. Protecting the borders is at the top of the president’s most basic jobs.

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>If you don’t think his willingness to sign a Republican-wishlist immigration bill that had nothing in it he wanted was going strong on the border, you aren’t paying attention.<

Most marginal or persuadable voters in fact *do not pay attention* to the detailed ebb and flow of legislative battles and policy struggles. They just see "border chaos."

In other words, the intersection of A) events and B) voter perceptions is unfair, capricious and uncaring—just like our cosmos.

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That's what I typically think too. I'm not so sure in this case. It's campaign season and people will soon be paying more attention to politics than they typically do. And the President has a big bullhorn. He has a chance to make the case that Trump and the Republicans are undermining attempts to fix the border while the Democrats are trying to fix the problem.

If he doesn't make a big deal of this in the State of the Union, with Democrats standing and cheering fixing the border while Republicans sit on their hands and stare stonily forward, then *that* would be political malpractice. But he'll knock it out of the park, the media will make it a leading story (fingers crossed) and I suspect some of that will seep into the body politic. The border is typically a losing issue for the Democrats, but it's possible that the Republicans scored an own goal here.

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Biden's ability to "knock it out of the park" is suspect. The fact that he is sitting out the Super Bowl and is essentially an invisible President bodes poorly for him giving a SOTU speech that will have any impact. I hope I'm wrong.

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His 2023 State of the Union received widespread praise and was viewed by over 27 million Americans.

His speech next month will be viewed by many people who've been told that he's demented and drooling. We'll see how he does. I bet he does great.

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27 million Americans < 10% of the population. And what percentage of these viewers were Democrats/already in Biden's camp? (I'd guess above 90%.) Meanwhile, in 2023, 115 million watched the Super Bowl.

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I agree with everything you’re saying with one exception: Biden isn’t TALKING about going strong on closing the border! He’s not saying “I agree with my Republican colleagues, the border is in chaos and must be fixed.”

This is of course a consistent pattern, that MY has pointed out: Biden pursues normie policy and puts out normie ads but his public presentation is almost entirely oriented towards pro-Palestine protestors blocking highways, and their equivalents for other issues. It’s more than a little bizarre. The constituency for “illegal immigration under the guise of asylum must be allowed to continue because immigration is a form of charity we provide to the less developed world” - I mean it’s gotta be a small fraction of even the Democratic Party right? And yet who else would Biden piss off if he showed up to a speech tomorrow and said “I am instructing the border people to shut down any illegal activity at the border, it’s a crisis”?

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"but his public presentation is almost entirely oriented towards pro-Palestine protestors blocking highways,"

Where are you seeing this?

Or is it some jerk is virally asserting, maybe with an AI bot, and nobody's as virally, displacing it with something else?

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Pass the republican house immigration bill in the senate, then DARE the house not to ratify it

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What do we want? More hippie and sjw punching. When do we want it? Now.

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“ If you don’t think his willingness to sign a Republican-wishlist immigration bill that had nothing in it he wanted was going strong on the border, you aren’t paying attention. Now it IS the Republicans’ fault and he’d better make that point every chance he gets, while touting his own willingness to shut it down when necessary. That’s not sufficient, I agree, but it’s an important part of the story. If you don’t think his willingness to sign a Republican-wishlist immigration bill that had nothing in it he wanted was going strong on the border, you aren’t paying attention. Now it IS the Republicans’ fault and he’d better make that point every chance he gets, while touting his own willingness to shut it down when necessary. That’s not sufficient, I agree, but it’s an important part of the story.”

You think anyone believes Biden actually wants to get tough on the border when he waited until an election year to figure out there was a problem? I doubt he’ll be able to stick it to Republicans on the matter.

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Ok so tomorrow he announces he’s asking the Vice President to step down so that he can appoint her to Secretary of State. Then he says he’s appointing Amy Klobuchar or Stacy Abrams or name your preferred running mate to be his VP.

Why would that cause a ‘civil war’ within the party that we’d never recover from? What does that even mean? Which bloc of voters is going to go running into Trump’s arms?

(Doesn’t matter because it’s not happening in a million years…LOL)

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I'm not sure what he has to do exactly, but totally agree he's gotta start doing things that at least look big as demonstrations of agency. Trump always *felt* like he was doing stuff and he was master at setting the narrative. I think Biden's patience is why he's gotten a surprising amount of policy done, but it's time to get loud.

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Correct, showing fire and energy would be the best way of looking not washed up. But does he still have the energy? Could he walk a mile in 15 minutes? 18? 20?

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Last I heard he rides his bike a lot, which seems like a good sign that his physical fitness is sufficient.

But I have to say that Biden's gaffes over the last couple of days have me questioning his mental fitness more than ever. He does need to be out there more, and I'm sure he will be in the coming months, but I'm genuinely concerned that he's going to look completely unfit out there. And sure, Trump's mental fitness is worse imo, but voters will see it as a wash and vote for Trump because of immigration or because his term is perceived to be more successful or just because they are more entertained by him.

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I think that when normies see the crap trump has actually been saying, many of them will swing towards biden.

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I think Biden will likely surprise people by how lucid he is.

That said, his skipping the Super Bowl interview does give me a bit more concern.

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Or Trump has been saying weird stuff for ever, it's not "new" for him, but being too incoherent might be "new" for Biden (he has a little bit of a gaffe reputation which should cushion a bit, but not forever)

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Confusing Macron for François Mitterrand, the former French president who died in 1996, does seem to lean more towards incoherence. It's getting tough to watch.

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Before I googled that in response to your comment I was _really_ hoping it was going to be Trump confusing them (like Haley / Pelosi)

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Feb 8·edited Feb 8

Let's see how he does in the State of the Union. He was pretty impressive last year. If he repeats that this year, that suggests he may do fine during the campaign, at least for big events where people are watching and making judgments.

Could Trump walk a mile in 20 minutes? Trick question! Trump walking a mile, yeah right.

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Bumping December's piece on Kamala! https://www.slowboring.com/p/is-it-time-for-a-second-look-at-kamala

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Yes, the anti-Kamala punditry was always cope among Dem-leaning pundits. While she's not a great politician, she's not that terrible of a politician either. The Democrats have other bigger problems.

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Kamala is not the problem here. The problem is we have an 80 year old who can't really execute a communications strategy on top.

I think if Kamala were the nominee she'd probably do very well against Trump, despite all the people dumping on her.

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Kamala wouldn't do much better vs. Trump, but not really because she is disliked. The problem is that Dems have been in the presidency 3 out of the last 4 cycles, and the electorate always swings away from the president.

This ought to be a "scheduled loss" for Dems. The fact that it is Trump instead of a vanilla republican is the only thing giving Dems a prayer.

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I don't think she's the problem with the ticket. I agree 100% with that. Running mates seldom if every cause ticket much of a problem.*

The problem with Harris as I see it is there are blinking neon signs she'd make a poor nominee for the presidency. As long as she's not the nominee, she's not a problem.

*Not that it would ever have happened in any imaginable universe, Hillary Clinton being what she is, but I do think there's a case to be made that the obvious move in 2016 was for her to run with Bernie Sanders. So, in this one instance, although I don't think Kane qua Kane actively harmed the ticket, I do think there was probably a missed opportunity there. But we'll never know.

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Touché! In retrospect, 2016 played out as "Tom Sawyer vs Nurse Ratched." Having Bernie on the ticket might've helped.

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“Congress won’t act, so I am deploying the military to protect the border. They’ll interdict some terrorists while there. Wink.”

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I think that would be a mistake. You can't convince people not to vote for Trump by behaving like Trump--they will just vote for the real thing, rather than the ersatz copy. Biden has to handle the border issue in a "Biden" way, which probably means some kind of bipartisan deal making.

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>You can't convince people not to vote for Trump by behaving like Trump<

Says who?

Serious question. Also, your "behaving like Trump" is loaded language. Is a muscular use of military power to defend the border something only Trump would do? I think Eisenhower did it, too. And some earlier presidents (around the time of the Mexican Revolution?).

I personally don't believe the border situation is a crisis. I think it's a problem. But it doesn't matter what this particular Slow Boring reader thinks. What matters is what a middle-aged non-degreed food service worker in the exurbs of Detroit thinks.

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>Says who?<

Ron Desantis for one.

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They think it’s a problem.

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Yes, politics is perception.

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except Rs won’t deal because they want Biden to fail.

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Aren’t we talking about Sister Souljah moments, basically? Those have a history of being effective, right?

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Then let’s go with “Trump is wrong about immigrants. Immigrants are great. Immigrants are America. Blah blah blah. However border chaos is unacceptable. That’s why I’m demanding republicans give me emergency powers to shut down asylum claims until the border is under control.”

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Is using the military to protect the border trumpy now? Isn’t protecting the country’s borders the military’s first and least controversial role?

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I guess I'm confused by your language. It sounds like you are positing that the people surrendering to CBP are actually some kind of fifth column intent on overthrowing the US government by force of arms and occupying its lands on behalf of a foreign power, and that seems...highly unlikely to me.

But if you and I agree that we are talking about refugee / immigrant flows, that's just kind of a different problem than the sorts of problems that you solve with a modern combined-arms military, which is what the the United States military is. Admittedly you can treat the military as though it's just a spare source of human labor--there are a lot of humans in the military--but that is going to create a lot of downstream problems for precisely the reason that you would predict when you use a group trained for one thing to do another thing.

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The military first job is to protect the territorial sovereignty of the country. A border out of control open to all and sundry (including some on the terrorist watch list) is a security issue. Using the help of the military under this emergency situation is not a priori some kind of trumpian constitutional aberration. That’s all I’m saying.

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I think you are talking yourself into a hyperbolic stance, here. The border is not "out of control [and] open to all"; if the Canadian government decided to try and capture back Maine, or if the Mexicans decided to mount a surprise invasion of Texas, they would struggle to achieve their objectives. Red Dawn is a movie, rather than a plausible future outcome of Sino-American competition, and if you get those confused, it takes you to some weird, expensive, and ultimately non-optimal places.

I think it is fair to say that more refugees and illegal immigrants are crossing the southern border than is optimal, from a policy standpoint. This is clearly not our preferred way to get to One Billion Americans. But the things that the American military does best--information-assisted precision bombing, high-mobility land warfare utilizing mechanized infantry in combination with heavy cavalry and standoff fire support, that sort of thing--are not great ways to interdict refugee flows.

So that kind of leaves you with this question which is, "what, precisely, are you expecting the big green machine to DO at the border?" I assume your answer is some version of "roll out razor wire and start shooting migrants." And I'm saying that is going to be 1) very expensive, 2) capacity intensive since the border is long, and our number of soldiers is finite, and basing + logistics is complicated, 3) very likely a PR disaster, and 4) probably not sustainable for any length of time because of 1, 2, and 3.

And you don't have to take my word for it; you have seen, quite recently, what happens when we use the military for stuff other than land warfare. Neither Iraq nor Afghanistan in the post-invasion period was regarded as some kind of major shining moment for the United States.

Like, I get it: the uniforms and the guns and stuff look incredibly tough and cool, and "defend the border" rhetoric sounds awesome. Insert gif here of eagle with talons extended superimposed over MLRS launch.

But tools and organizations are built for specific missions and purposes, and people are trained for specific jobs. If you want to solve a problem that is, "I feel that too many refugees and immigrants are crossing the border and surrendering to CBP under false pretenses," the answer to that problem is never going to be, "so I think we should hit them with some JDAMs."

We need more CBP agents and asylum court staff, not the military.

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This would instantly win him the election

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How does that work with the asylum law provisions?

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It doesn't.

But if you can get some big headlines and make a critical % of people -perceive- that he's fixed the problem, then you can win.

And then you can stop the pretense on Nov 8th.

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But if people don’t believe you, lying to them isn’t going to work, it will just confirm their belief that you are not to be trusted.

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You only have convince a relatively small % of still undecided voters.

And given the media ecosystem being favorable/predisposed towards Democrats overall*, they can probably control the narrative long enough make the necessary impact.

*except explicitly right-wing media, which undecideds are probably not tuning into.

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"You only have convince a relatively small % of still undecided voters."

Untrustworthiness causes defections, and then that percentage needs to increase to compensate.

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The idea that the VP choice affects the election is a continuing fantasy. Maybe the really egregious choice, like Sarah Palin, might have a small effect. Is Harris as bad as Palin? I'm not seeing it.

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author
Feb 8·edited Feb 8Author

I think Palin is a good example of how the Trump effect has dumbed down the expectations the electorate has for our politicians. There's an endless list of things Trump has said that are more ignorant than "I can see Alaska from my house."

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You do know that that is what Tina Fey, playing Palin, said on SNL?

Her actual words were "They're our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska."

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There were/are plenty of things to criticize her for, but lets at least make them accurate!

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author

Yeah I was paraphrasing the SNL version. But I can see Russia from the state I govern was still essentially her response to the question, and she didn't actually come out as being some whiz on the US/Russia relations.

Point being, some people kind of credit Palin with dragging down the whole ticket. Trump was rhetorically way worse! And won.

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You're correct, but the fact that a large percentage of people believe Palin said it still proves Ben's point about Trump.

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Feb 8·edited Feb 8

I don't think there's much daylight between those two statements. In fact, you might say that they're as close as Alaska and _______.

(The Yukon, obviously.)

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