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But it feels to me that the Groups have changed? I remember the gay marriage fight, and I remember them highlighting, I don’t know, cases like two elderly lesbian librarians living together instead of a couple of 30-something males wearing assless chaps and tank tops saying “Die Breeder!” on them. They seemed to know that the librarians were a much more sympathetic example to highlight. Am I misremembering this?

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This is something I, as somewhat older gay man, have tried to explain to trans activist types. Like, maybe try to be sympathetic and likable and not present yourself in the most off-putting ways possible. To no avail, of course. Not that loud, fringe activists never play any role in furthering a cause or moving the window. But I think what really changes hearts and minds on an operational scale is being relatable and likable and reminding other people how you are like them rather than radically alien to them.

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There was a terrific ad a couple of years ago from HRC with a cute kid that just wanted to play hockey with her friends. That's the message that they were trying to put out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yf9MfYZ-Bl4

I think a big chunk of the problem is that it's the unintended messages that dominate over the intended ones.

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Yeah, that seems like a more effective ad strategy for sure. Of course, people are also seeing the less sympathetic side whenever, say, Libs of TikTok content appears in their feed with the most comically unhinged TRAs. So maybe it's just also the case that unhelpful fringes are simply more visible and accessible nowadays, especially since social media amplifies the most extreme and divisive content. I can't imagine what the fight for marriage equality would have been like if people were constantly circulating clips during the late 90s and 00s of bug chasers and polyamorous gays and fist-f*cking advice rather than lesbian librarians with an adopted kid or a dorky professional gay male couple.

I think the other thing that happens is that identity "causes" now seem to be stacked with a host of other political stances. It's the difference between just being gay and being "queer": the latter insist on being, like, anti-capitalist and pro-BLM and whatnot.

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Re your second paragraph:

Yeah, I think the backlash to Andrew Sullivan is bad: he really did play an important role in gay marriage. He's also a conservative and likes the whole Bell Curve stuff too much for me to be wholly convinced he is 0% racist.

But that doesn't make him wrong on gay marriage, doesn't make his role insignificant, and doesn't mean there aren't lessons for the future about how you can ally with people on a single issue when you'd oppose them on other things.

Linking everything together runs the danger of driving out anyone who disagrees on one thing. And then you create an alliance in opposition to you of people who mostly agree with you but feel there's no place for them in your alliance because they each have a different "But just one thing"

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Yeah I see this linking thing happening more and more. Among my friends there are people who think I’m a conservative right now just because I don’t back the furthest left position on trans issues or Palestine. One of them kept sending me crazy leftist tik tok videos and I asked them to stop. They then stopped texting me all together and are giving me the silent treatment. It’s weird.

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I don't have anyone like this among my close relationships, and so I have to wonder, how do folks who have genuine friends like this come to know these people?

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This is depressing to me. Can we not be friends with people who have differing political views? And what about people like my parents, whose views changed significantly over their lifetime? Would all their old friends have to ditch them? (Luckily, this did not happen. My mother reveled in political debate, so being around everyone who believed the same thing would have been painful to her.)

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Agree. I lean progressive on most issues, and I think abortion should be legal, but I can never run for office because I cannot fully embrace "my body, my choice." This is what also keeps me from being very active in the Democratic party beyond some donations.

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Yeah, I think my position would annoy enough people who are pro-choice that I'd have problems on it: my position is that women should have the right to abortion until viability, but that after that, provided a doctor takes the view that this would not be significantly more dangerous than an abortion, her right to end the pregnancy means she has the right to an early birth (through induction or c-section), even if that would create some risk for the premature baby (as it now would be, after being born).

But also: viability isn't a gestational age, it's fact: if the specific foetus isn't viable because of a medical condition (of either foetus or mother), then it isn't viable and the right to not be pregnant grants the right to an abortion, not a birth.

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I think a big part of it is that YIMBYism is a culturally moderate view: letting builders/developers work reads as culturally right-wing and allowing density reads as culturally left-wing.

The really obnoxious/off-putting people cannot deal with such a combination.

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I hear less from YIMBY groups about how all the NIMBYs are inveterate racists and have to be ground into the dust. And that's all to the good. Maybe the legislative victories they're getting are making them a bit more generous of spirit.

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It further doesn't help that the groups refuse to separate themselves from the fringes, whether because they actually support it or because of solidarity. Over and over, the message is "that's not happening, but if it is, it's actually a good thing".

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I'm just gonna say I don't think armchair speculation about other people's sexuality is super-productive.

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Figuring out the factual situation presents challenges, and I can understand not speculating on specific people's sexuality, but in a universe where this is happening, wouldn't it be significant?

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I would agree when it comes to idle blabber about specific individuals, but the map (what people call themselves) is not the terrain (what people are/feel), and attempting to find alternative maps to better understand the terrain is sensible.

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The fracture I increasingly see is between LGB and TQ+. There are a lot of "regular" lesbian, gay, and bi people (myself included) who are suspicious of and uncomfortable with gender ideology. As "affirming care" for youth gets more attention, plenty of us gays see ourselves in these allegedly trans kids who, in many cases, are probably just femmy boys or tomboyish girls and who would probably just grow into gay or lesbian adults who are perfectly happy with their biological sex (vs taking drugs with serious effects and removing or adding body parts). Some of us have also had bad experiences with expressing that we are not interested in dating or having sex with trans persons. Many gay men aren't interested if you have a vagina, regardless of how you dress and behave. And that's a verboten position to hold when facing the rainbow mafia. Daring to question all this makes many TRAs -- that's trans rights activists, for the uninitiated -- downright apoplectic. There is special hatred reserved by the really activist TRAs for gay men and lesbians and especially for white gay men and lesbians who are seen as -- you guessed it! -- oppressors. It's definitely a thing here in the US, but I see a lot of these debates and tensions coming from the UK too. In a nutshell, when you think about what LGB is and what TQ+ is...there are real contradictions that lead people to ask why these are all lumped together.

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I mean, it’s a delicate balance, and if parents were better it would be a non-issue. I’m gay and completely accept trans folks but I wish they would pick their battles more strategically. If I had a kid that thought that they were the opposite of their biological sex I’d let them present however they wanted but I would counsel them that literally everyone feels like an alien in their own body when they’re going through middle/high school and wouldn’t let them do anything irreversible while they were a minor. Life is frankly a lot harder for trans folks bc they’ve become a political target (in large part due to shitty battle picking, but regardless it’s usually better in the long run to figure out a way to accept what you have). I confess I don’t know as much about the hormone blockers as I should, I don’t have much of a problem with it if they’re reversible and treatment happens after serious counseling and under a doctor’s care, but if they are irreversible I wouldn’t support it for a minor.

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Well, I think there's also a big generational gap within the LGBT community, speaking as a young gay, that might be more prominent.

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My understanding is that “queer” just means you are under 30 and progressive. It doesn’t say anything about your personal sexual partners.

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I don't know that this is a super-productive line of inquiry

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"My understanding is that “queer” just means you are under 30 and progressive. It doesn’t say anything about your personal sexual partners."

In fairness, I often do find those people queer, in the old-fashioned sense unrelated to choice of sexual partners.

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>>you now have more people identifying as “queer” or “bisexual” even though they are basically straight and outside of maybe a bit of college experimentation do not engage in non-heterosexual sex.

I wonder what is the evidence for this? And to the extent it's happening, it seems to be parallel to "person of color" phenomenon. The category has some justification but is also apt for greater abuse (an edge case being e.g. white south americans with recent ancestry in spain or italy or not so recent ancestry all the way back to the conquistadors!)

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I suspect this reflects the fact that the primary support for gay activism came from the people whose rights were on the line. Sure, you had to win support from the larger public but both the energy, funding etc came from gay people whose lives were affected by the legal changes.

My sense is that, while there are certainly plenty of trans individuals involved in trans-rights activism lots of the money/support doesn't come from that community and even to the extent it does the interests of a trans professor at liberal university just aren't the same as that of a trans sex-worker or trans person struggling with the law in a red state.

As such you have the usual principle-agent problems. The people doing the activism don't bear the costs of not reaching compromises or passing laws but do gain support and encouragement in their left-wing circles from taking uncompromising positions.

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Trans activism suffers from this too. Back in the mid-2010's all of the Trans on TV (aside from Caitlyn Jenner) were attractive passing people/teens who just wanted to live their lives. Now we get Dylan Mulvaney and other people who come across as wierdos, and right wing media is more than happy to use these examples for their agenda.

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FWIW, I think Mulvaney is genuine, albeit still incredibly silly. The real failure though is by those who chose to highlight her as an exemplar for some bizarre reason. There are trans people who have just been living their lives for years and probably would have useful things to say about their experiences, but Mulvaney is the one who gets invited to the White House after, what, 100 days?

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I feel like the vitriol aimed at Mulvaney is weird and gross.

I also feel like the adulation aimed at her is also kinda weird (but nonetheless benign).

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Disgust threshold difference.

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Upvoted for the last sentence. (I'm not certain Mulvaney is capable of being "genuine" in any capacity.)

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You know, and you know that I know, and I know that you know I know.

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Are you suggesting some of these internet people stop playing Magic the Gathering and use deodorant?

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I play Magic _and_ use deodorant.

I'm just annoyed that MTG now refers to a member of congress.

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That confuses me too. I am like “wait, are we talking about Congress or weebs?”

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Authoritarians tend to reject "respectability politics" because they don't believe in dialogue, compromise, or democratic values. They want to make such things impossible to justify violence.

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OTOH, I was talking with a Turkish guy about Turkey's problems a few years ago.

It ended with him grinning and saying: "Yes, Turkey has problems. Big problems! But, praise Allah and our ancestors, no big -Armenian- problem."

Which is true, when you think about it.

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I think a lot of this is social media blurring internal messaging and external messaging.

The guys wearing assless chaps and "Die Breeder!" tops were always there, they were always in the internal messaging - that's always what ads for gay club nights looked like, and even at the more political end, you'd see that as an ad for a certain kind of fundraiser, the "in the community" sort, rather than the "getting the rich normies to pay for things" sort.

But there was a much bigger separation between the internal and the external messaging back in the days you had to pay to get the message out.

I wrote this and then decided to actually do it:

"I bet if you went to Human Rights Campaign's YouTube channel, and looked for the ads they ran, they'd be much more the sorts of things you remember."

So I did, once I'd scrolled past a bunch of speeches (that they clearly only put up there as an archive), the first actual ad I saw was, guess what? Elderly lesbians: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJTV9qJATMM

Groups don't have so much control any more over where their different messages go as they did in the days of paid adverts and press releases. Hostile people will take an internally-focused message and blast it out as if it was the main public message of an organisation.

It's true on the right as well. In 2012, Mitt Romney, at a private fundraiser, said things about the "47 per cent" (that don't pay income tax and therefore won't vote for him). I'm entirely certain that similar things were said at private fundraisers by both George Bushes, by Bob Dole and by John McCain, but they weren't recorded, and even if one person spoke up, they could just deny having said it ("I don't recollect using those words") and kill the story. That was really a harbinger of what was to come.

It's no longer possible to have internal messaging that is different from your public messaging. This means that you either have to be totally boring all the time - and drive the more radical people away, into another group that will then have much more energy and be more attractive to volunteers (which is fine if you want to build your powerbase on donors, but now you're not an "activist group") - or you have to take some risks that your internal messaging to motivate volunteers will get seized upon and turned into external messaging by your opponents.

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Exhibit 7,381,560,844:

Social media is *still* bad.

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"Social media is *still* bad."

Yes, but the part where it makes it harder for politicians to give contradictory messages to distinct groups is not the bad part.

The world was not better when the Mitt Romneys could pretend to be fake populists by hiding their contempt for regular Americans and only sharing it with their rich billionaire backers.

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On the other hand, those old smoke filled rooms allowed more room for things like compromise with the other side.

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Was the world better when Obama had to defend "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them" or Hillary had to apologize for "To just be grossly generalistic, you can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables."

There hasn't been a real populist president in...ever? Trump or Bill Clinton are probably the closest we've come and they're not what I would consider to be examples of our best.

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People seem to have largely forgotten how much Harry Truman rivaled or in some instances even exceeded Trump in projecting an image of downmarket crudity. At one point, while serving as President, Truman threatened to beat up a music critic who'd negatively reviewed a performance by Truman's daughter, a professional singer. This sort of thing was not out of character. He also filled his cabinet with old poker buddies who neither had any conventional qualifications nor agreed with his policies, but with whom he felt more comfortable than with members of the Eastern Elite.

Unlike Trump, though, Truman's populism was consistent with his personal background. After finishing high school, he took a few classes at a business college, then dropped out to go work on the railroad. Later he started taking night classes at law school, but dropped out once he got elected as a local judge. That was the extent of his formal education.

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Also too, Truman was a pretty great president (and it’s not just my opinion, lots of historians agree according to The Oracle (Wikipedia)). Represented a lot of what was good and decent about the US in my opinion. He was a little corrupt, but he had a good heart and great instincts about the right thing to do.

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Also, wasn't Truman a big part of why presidential pensions were created? Having lived before the heyday of the influence-peddling business, he was unable to monetize his presidential status, leaving him basically broke in later life. The pension was created to avoid the unseemly spectacle of a former president selling pencils on the street.

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"There hasn't been a real populist president in...ever?"

Andrew Jackson?

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Oct 30, 2023·edited Oct 30, 2023

Knew I was forgetting someone. Good call out.

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Roosevelt, the second, somehow managed to cultivate the image of a populist president while being as much a part of the upper crust as possible.

That oft-cited quote about him understanding the boss is a sonofabitch is just amazing. That'd be completely impossible now.

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Was it not?

Really?

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I think a lot more of the internally-facing stuff for people in their teens and twenties is on Discord now, which is at least semi-private.

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I’m of the opinion that it should be a rabidly enforced death penalty offense for anyone to network two computers together. Smartphones should get the same treatment.

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Which particular flavor of ban would you prefer? Butlerian Jihad, successful Resistance, Battlestar post-Exodus, Matrix Zion?

:-)

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I need to read the rest of the Dune books, I only read the first one. One of the best sci-fi stories out there, but all those endnotes really?!?

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The endnotes really can / should wait until the end (although they provide more context for what's going with respect to the acquisition of the Water of Life, which is one of the instances where I think it genuinely is better presented on film rather than in Dune's typical tell-rather-than-show prose).

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I think this is true, but doesn’t explain why Democratic politicians feel the need to adhere to the most extreme version of the messaging; you’d think it would be the opposite where you’d make a point if moderating to separate your message from such groups

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PSA: All. Chaps. Are. Assless.

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I think the point of the phrase “assless chaps” is to indicate that one is wearing the chaps without any assful pants underneath.

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Yes! I’m the person who started the thread with the phrase and that was my intention.

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Chaps with asses are just leather pants, right?

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Yep. But for some reason everyone feels the need to add "assless" in there.

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it's a super interesting word, actually.

"Chaparejos" from apparejos de chaparral, i.e. equipment for country filled with scrubby bushes and thorns. This is an early instance of the kind of portmanteau formation ("infotainment", "televangelist", "fanzine," etc.) that became extremely common in the late 20th century, but is relatively rare before that time.

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That's 100% true, but at the same time the popular expression is indeed, "assless chaps."

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I am straight but worked as an LGBTQ+ activist in the 1990s (back when that was orginally GBL and then later GBLT). One of my roles was as the co-media relations director for the successful movement to get domestic partnership rights to health care and other benefits for same sex couples at the University of Washington, the first public university to grant those rights. My co-director was a gay male. We most totally engaged in what would now be considered respectability politics. We hand picked students and faculty couples who were attractive and engaging. We ideally wanted them to have appealing career or career goals (medical students, engineering professors, etc). We wanted them to be stable long term relationships, ideally with children or expressing an interest in children. Some of those "spokespeople" have gone on to hold office in local and state goverment at high levels. Our slogans were "love is love" "family is family" "the time for equality is now." We staged silent sit-ins at board meetings and actively worked to get endorsements from every potential coalition partner we could, intentionally sending the person within our group most connected or like that other group as possible. At that point, no one questioned the wisdom of respectability politics. Every decision was strategic. There were folks working with us who were absolutely relegated to working behind the scenes making signs or doing polling, etc because we knew they would be less palatable to the decision makers we were trying to influence. There was no push back to that. The understanding was that we were trying to take baby steps toward the ultimate goals of legalized same sex marriage, full legal protection against discrimination for both LGB and T people, and widespread social acceptance. It was just accepted that some folks were going to be better at getting their foot through the door but that everyone was going to be benefited by getting that door opened. We also had a pretty complete separation between external and internal messaging. I was absolutely referred to as a breeder both jokingly and seriously. I was 100% partying with folks in assless chaps. People were 100% free to be themselves in internal discussions and meetings. Social media has really erased the distinction between internal and external messaging. Its is all available publicly. Not only are opponents motivated to share the most extreme versions, the platforms themselves swamp any moderate messaging with extreme messaging. I could never run the kind of tight and successful campaign now that I did then. I would also get heavy push back for being a straight person in a leadership role and for enforcing respectability politics. I have done some soul searching on both fronts. I think I didn't fully think about the idea that I was taking a decision making role for a community that I wasn't fully a part of or the emotional toll of respectability politics both on the folks we put front and center and the ones that we kept behind the curtain. But we won. We got rights granted that no other public university had ever granted put in place in less than 9 months and in the face of incredible backlash from Republican lawmakers. The fight to defend those rights at the UW helped to launch the move to make those rights available to all citizens statewide and then to help Washington become one of the earlier states to adopt same sex marriage. The UW granting those became an example that was followed by universities across the country. It worked.

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I really liked the way you put this: “It was just accepted that some folks were going to be better at getting their foot through the door but that everyone was going to be benefited by getting that door opened.” This is the key! The assless chap folks will get the rights too if you win, but if you lead with them then there is a significant risk that nobody gets anything.

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I think the key is to remember that the assless chaps guys are often represent a kind of unique bravery in terms of being out and out in ways and times when it was more dangerous. Without them, there wouldn't have been a space for others to find a community when they came out and start organizing. They may deserve the rights the most. I feel like it is more a case of their earning the right to use normies to pry the door open for them than their needing to feel grateful too them. But, yeah, as strategy, some representatives just do better than others.

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And the opposition has changed, too. They promote the wildest version of whatever cultural war issue as THE thing to pin on proponents. There needs be more normie/centrist R&D on better versions of all sorts of "wokeness."

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The hard-line activists created some local spaces to let the normies build their lives outside of the closet. The normies then said, "thank you, we'll take it from here" once they became established. Before that, they just had a lot of "good friends" and "roommates."

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I know that's how activist groups like to portray themselves, as an Overton Window pushing vanguard, but I think the debate was really won by, I dunno, Ellen DeGeneres and Andrew Sullivan, convincing the mass public that there was no actual threat to mainstream society.

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Oct 30, 2023·edited Oct 30, 2023

I lived in the Bay Area in the '90s so knew plenty of openly gay people who had moderate tendencies. Getting Ellen on TV was the thing. Keep in mind that her sitcom was how she originally became popular and her character was heterosexual until both she and her character came out many seasons in.

The vanguard thing is real, but only in specific places under specific circumstances. It doesn't scale upward.

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My impression -- and if you were in the Bay Area in the 90s you can correct me where I'm wrong on this -- is that it was a little more complicated than that. What happened was that the AIDS crisis produced a serious normie/hardliner split over how to view the social spaces created by the existing gay subculture. The normies thought the bathhouses and other sites of gay male promiscuity were both bad on the substance in terms of public health and terrible optics in leading the public to see AIDS victims as irresponsible hedonists who deserved their fate. The hardliners worried that AIDS was being used as a pretext for closing down the few established institutions of gay political consciousness and social solidarity at the very moment when they were needed most.

In the early 1990s the normies basically won with the increasing public acceptance of images of AIDS totally disconnected from whatever was going on in the Tenderloin. That coincided with the beginnings of a shift in gay activism from trying to protect a minority subculture to challenging gays' exclusion from mainstream institutions. (E.g., military service.) So it wasn't so much a matter of the normies free-riding on the spaces the hardliners had built, but rather of the normies prevailing in a fight over whether those spaces were a net positive or negative in terms of gays' quite literal survival.

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That seems accurate. You basically had "team responsible" and "team reckless." I think everyone came to party at first, but the normies were the ones who matured and, ultimately, won the battle.

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I haven’t finished reading this, because I need to stop at the very first question. You, Matt, say that “keep things the same” is the clear winner, when it’s actually the loser according to the data you provide. Could you explain what you mean?

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Oct 30, 2023·edited Oct 30, 2023

Liking this comment to similarly ask for MY's clarification, explanation, or edit...

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I think he means that the median respondent favors keeping things the same?

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That might make sense if you only ask “more drilling” or “less drilling,” but when you include “stay the same” and that polls lowest, there’s a problem.

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Oct 30, 2023·edited Oct 30, 2023

I don't think that makes any sense; by that logic it'd be the "winner" if it was 49%/2%/49%. I think it's just a typo or the graph is mislabeled or something. If it's not a mistake I think that wording is a dishonest summary of the data

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My read, though it threw me too, was neither other group can win, they lack a majority, but stay the same wins by, well keeping either other group from having a majority. They aren't the largest group, but the result is what they want. I don't know that that tracks with the larger point about votes though.

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Also, independents somewhat favor decreasing oil production over increasing. The only reason "increase" wins overall is Republicans' highly skewed preferences, but obviously independents are the marginal voters here that Biden should mostly be targeting with messaging. Huge omission that frankly looks like motivated reasoning

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people simultaneously want less oil production and lower energy prices

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Of course, but what's your point? Am I wrong that MattY's interpretation of the poll results for those first two questions is off-base? If you're not going to take the results seriously, why even bother doing the poll?

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I’m pretty much a moderate on just about every single controversial issue out there.

A few issues I fall to the left, a few to the right. But even on those issues, I still like the moderate message.

Well, I just want to talk about an observation I have about abortion.

I live in Boise, Idaho, which, as many of you know… Idaho has pretty much banned abortion . But Boise itself, it’s a pretty blue city. Home of Boise State, and all kinds of YIMBYs.

Oh, and through whatever quirk, I know quite a lot of young childbearing age women. Basically all of my daughters, and my nieces.

All of these young ladies are pretty much… Go out and have some fun types. Yesterday, I don’t know a single person that went to church.

Demographically, these are exactly the side of women that you would expect to be up in arms about abortion. But I’m here to tell you… It’s a big meh.

People are not leaving Idaho in droves.

And I know that some of your reading this are pretty passionate about the issue. But I think you guys are bigger outliers then it might feel to you.

Which leads me to the theory that people don’t really care about a lot of things, if the subject is about something like that happens very rarely.

I just wonder how much this phenomena that I am observing, has to do with the preference for moderate views.

On a completely unrelated issue. Has anyone else noticed how the antifa resistors from the Trump era have become the vocal pro Hamas from the river to the sea anti-Israel, and antisemites? It’s almost like antifa wasn’t actually anti-Nazi… And just pro. “Give me something to protest about anarchist”

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"Which leads me to the theory that people don’t really care about a lot of things, if the subject is about something like that happens very rarely."

Until it happens to them.

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That is a problem with most even good Progressive issues; they are about minorities. Only a few million people were uninsured to be helped by ACA. Not many women ever expect to need an abortion. Almost no one in this generation will be made better off by reducing CO2 emissions. Who cares if school children don't learn about non-cisgender people because of vague "Don't say Gay." The benefits of merit-based immigration are so broad and difuse as to benefit only "others."

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People may notice if enough Ob-Gyns leave the state.

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Is there really any evidence of that happening beyond anecdotal instances of someone leaving in a huff and there being some CNN or NPR piece about them? I imagine the number of folks who would leave a settled life and career over that would be pretty small, especially since their leaving wouldn't change much...other than making it even harder to find a sympathetic doctor who can quietly guide you to resources for getting to WA or OR to your abortion.

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Oct 30, 2023·edited Oct 30, 2023

"I imagine the number of folks who would leave a settled life and career over that would be pretty small, especially since their leaving wouldn't change much"

It changes potentially getting investigated or charged with a crime for an abortion if the life of the mother is at risk and/or the fetus is non-viable. Which will have personal repercussions for the doctors as it will always be something they will be explaining to licensing and hospital boards, even if they beat the charges, every time they have to recredential.

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I would also imagine it having an effect over time as people choose not to move there. One thing to leave the place you already are, another not to go there in the first place.

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Maybe. It just hasn’t happened yet.

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True. I think it is worth noting that if and when “regular” people start to care a lot more I won’t notice it. Everyone around me already cares a lot!

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I think that’s very much true - most people stand where they sit and do not “care” about issues that don’t directly affect them. Andy by “care” I don’t mean in the abstract, but care in some concrete way.

And so I think if one of those young women you mention found themselves in a situation where they needed an abortion, the salience of that would increase dramatically as they faced the reality of Idaho’s laws.

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Yeah, but I think one of those young women who found themselves in that situation might quietly drive one hour with a friend to Oregon to have the abortion performed.

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Abortion isn't particularly rare, for what it's worth. Something like 20% of pregnancies are intentionally aborted. (In 2021, the US had 3.6M births, vs 930K abortions in 2020.)

Unless you'd consider pregnancy itself a rare condition, I guess, what with affecting only 1% or so of the population per year...

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Oct 30, 2023·edited Oct 30, 2023

To you antifa observation- I’m blissfully not in a position to say one way or the other but it does make sense. What is the “antifa” argument? That fascism is so bad we need to use violence. On the face of it two types would be attracted to it- 1. people with a real understanding of fascism who got convinced that, reluctantly, we are in such an emergency that this is justified, and 2. People who like violence and seek an excuse for it

Clearly type 2 is likely to be much more common de facto, and the drift to supporting Hamas is natural if the goal is simply to find socially acceptable violence. In a different time these same people would have celebrated lynchings.

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"a rea understanding of racism"

Sorry, I generally don't comment on typos after making the mistake of doing that once early on here, but I can't actually figure out from context what you are saying here. A "real understanding" or something else?

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Rea=>real racism=>fascism. Not for the first time my phone’s autocorrect seems to have its own agenda! Thanks for spotting it!

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Thank you!

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That’s what pisses me the fuck off about these people. Yeah, you really stuck it to Mr. Chowdhury, exemplar of raciocapitalist cissexist settler-colonial heteropatriarchy.

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I haven't seen any particular anti-fa folks advocating for hamas or against judaism now.

I see similarities in the milieu, but who exactly are you talking about?

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Look at DSA statements. The essay was basically the political wing of the antifa crowd.

But there was a YouTube video yesterday that was filmed at one of the protest, that showed Antifa types acting as “security” for the protesters.

It’s not large scale yet, but give it a couple of weeks.

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Antifa were always fascists just based on the way they act.

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Were there ever like more than 5 antifa?

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I was on Peaks Island, Maine, a few weeks ago and saw a car plastered with Antifa stickers, and at least 5 or 10 black mask people were 'providing security' at a Pride parade locally. This is in a very Blue city of 60k pop. I think it depends, but there are probably at least two dozen 'will show up' Antifa types in any given major metro area, maybe more in big cities. But who knows, maybe it's the same 10 taking the bus from place to place.

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I mean I’ve never seen any and I live in Seattle, though I’ve heard they exist. It just seems like a big nothingburger compared to right-wing militia groups

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But I did have a resist bumper sticker on my car for a while lol. Granted, it was on the car when I bought it; but it was the Trump years and I supported the idea (from the comfort and safety of my cozy house). I don’t know if you can really infer that leftist bumper stickers and Pride event security dressed in black and trying to look intimidating are the scary Antifa the right constantly projects about. Man, driving around my mom’s in Desoto County, MS I see trucks covered with racist and threatening right-wing shit pretty regularly and I know them mfs are armed.

And even 95% of those guys are probably fine if you talk to them, bc it’s just fucking signaling. It’s bumper stickers.

Btw Pride events these days fucking need intimidating-looking security! Increasingly, these events are becoming threatened by people threatening violence.

If we ever laugh about dems in disarray, antifa’s in worse than disarray bc it barely exists if at all outside, like, Seattle and Portland, and I’ve never seen anything like it here in the 6 years I’ve lived here. Liberals are, to our disservice these days, pretty conflict-averse in the real world (except for Twitter)

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But isn't that true about most politics most of the time? Question is what decides how they vote. You don't have to be super worked up, just worked up enough to go to the polls and pick A over B.

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> Which leads me to the theory that people don’t really care about a lot of things,

This is in fact the case and very well-known. Most people in the world aren't going around thinking about politics all the time. Arguably they do so even less now as modern media allows you to opt out entirely in a way that you couldn't when there were 3 TV channels 1 newspaper. Everything Matt talks about RE public opinion is on the margin

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Yet we all belong to our political tribes. Its really weird.

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RemovedOct 30, 2023·edited Oct 30, 2023
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You know... this analysis feels right, except I doubt the foot soldiers have put this much thought into it. I imagine their actually thinking is more like... this tribe good... this tribe bad... rahhhhhhhh, break things. Then layer justification on top of it to hide the cognitive dissonance.

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On the second example you say Democrats like the moderate message more but that’s not what your data says. Democrats are +9 on Biden’s actual wall message but +0 on your moderate alternative.

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I’m pretty sure it was your old colleague Ezra Klein who pointed out first that what issues get elevated in an election is more important than the actual policies being discussed. If 2024 is about immigration than Biden will lose even if he announces the building of a Maginot line at the southern border at the cost of hundreds of billions of dollars.

In other words to the move to make is a quietly as possible try to make moves that improve the situation; try getting “e-verify” enforced, see if immigration courts can be expanded. Then basically not talk about it at all so that hopefully there is less footage of border crossings on people’s television. Biden himself elevating the issue, even if it’s to tout how “tough” he is on illegal immigration seems like a loser. He’s not convince swing voters he’s more cruel than Trump is on this issue.

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Oct 30, 2023·edited Oct 30, 2023

I don't see the conflict between what you wrote and what Matt wrote. The Biden administration is going to be asked about the border and the wall. Matt would say that when answering those questions, its politically better to have a moderate message. That's a separate issue from what issues the Biden campaign should highlighting and bringing up, though Matt would say that on those issues its politically better to also have a moderate message there.

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They are going to be asked about the topic, but they can still basically do everything they can to minimize the attention that is drawn to it.

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Yes. But that's why having a very moderate message is good for those. Make it as mild and boring as possible so people move on to what you want to talk about. Not answering, or providing a more radical answer will draw people's attention to it.

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"They are going to be asked about the topic, but they can still basically do everything they can to minimize the attention that is drawn to it". Sort of what I was trying to say.

I'll emphasize again that the administration working behind the scenes to try to get e-verify more strictly enforced and to expand immigration courts is sort of what I was getting at with your response. It is an issue, and downplaying talking about it on the campaign trail doesn't mean a) Biden should do nothing to try to improve what's clearly a real issue b) Biden shouldn't have a good moderate response to the topic. I'll be honest, I don't actually know how much the Biden administration can do on this absent Congressional action. And I don't see the GOP House doing anything.

Which is actually quite important to note. To me it always made sense that the best way to deal with illegal border crossings is e-verify or more broadly going after companies that employer illegal labor. It's really instructive to me GOP doesn't make "e-verify" more central to their message for a variety of reasons. Also, I think we really need to grapple with the fact that GOP has a strong incentive to not only not doing anything to solve border crisis or crime but has a strong incentive to make things worse. Precisely for the reason Ezra cited. GOP is seen as the "tough tough tough, grr, grr grr manly man" party. I think wrongly. But my opinion doesn't matter, swing voters opinions matter here and the GOP as the "daddy" party and Democratic party as the "mommy" party is a really hard heuristic to shake in voters minds. Elevating immigration and crime as an issue is a trigger for "we need tough dad to sort this out".

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I'm a bit of an immigration maximalists which colors my thinking, but I'm much less an e-verify booster than I used to be. I think there is a good case that one of the biggest reasons that Europe has more issues with its immigrants than the US is that we make it so much easier for immigrants to work. E-verify COULD make that much worse. Might still be worth it, but I would want to make sure we don't toss the baby with the bathwater.

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That and we really don’t need the price of food and construction to rise even more

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Europe makes it hard to work and reasonably easy to survive while not working. The US would simply be making it impossible to survive, period. Which would certainly reduce migration at the southern border, sure.

But given how dependent our economy is on having illegal immigrants in the workforce, we'd need then to provide most of the folks who are already here with provisional legal residency in exchange for certain concessions and commitments from them, and I just can't see that happening.

It's very likely that we'd need to see the GOP fuck up a healthy economy by beefing up e-verify without any increase in legal immigration so that the Democrats can step in and unfuck the mess in the backlash, because otherwise the former will never actually help to *fix* shit.

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Colin, you're exactly right that what issues become salient have the greatest impact on the election. Matt talks about how Trump moderated in 2016 by not parroting the usual Republican line on Social Security/Medicare. But I don't think he got "credit" for that because it simply wasn't a salient issue (Trump himself, Hillary and her emails, immigration) were far more important.

But how does a candidate define which issues will be more salient? I don't think even savvy campaign types know the answer to that. It's like the old William Goldman saying about the secret to successful movies: "No one knows anything." That overly long, fairly dull movie "Oppenheimer" has grossed almost one billion dollars and is the third highest grossing movie of the year. Had "Barbie" not existed, it might have made one-tenth of that. It was just how the stars aligned in some weird, unpredictable, and totally unreplicable way.

I wish all luck to the Biden team in their efforts to define 2024 and I'm so glad that's not my responsibility.

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I mean trying to discern which issues will swing elections last minute is always problem. This time in 2019, COVID was not a word 99% of people even knew yet. The housing and wall street crash didn't happen until 2 months before the 08 election*.

Honestly, there are two things right now that I think will be biggest impact on the election, both of which are outside of Biden's control. The first and probably most important factor is Fed policy next 12 months. Will there be a rate cut in 2024? Even a modest 25 bps cut in say May/June of 2024 could be gigantic. Would be a huge signal to the market that Fed thinks we've beaten back inflation which could have huge positive economic consequences. Or inflation remains sticky, Fed increases again in 2024 finally throwing America into recession and Trump waltzes into the White House from his jail cell.

Which is the second big variable Biden has no control over. Is Trump actually in prison in 2024? 6-12 months ago I was skeptical it will actually happen. But now, every time someone has flipped (latest one Jenna Ellis) I think it becomes more likely. Reality is depressingly Trump could announce he's actually going to start randomly shooting people on 5th Avenue and would get 35-40% of the vote. But are swing voters really going to vote someone who is sitting in prison? I really believe a lot of swing voters a) don't really pay attention to the news closely so may not really be aware how much trouble he's really in and b) think "let's see what happens in court. Maybe he'll be fully vindicated" and aren't ready to say they won't support him yet.

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Oct 30, 2023·edited Oct 30, 2023

Given lag effects, I don't think a 25 bp increase in May would have any effect.

Two things could possibly be disastrous for Biden and the Democrats:

-- a recession beginning early in 2024 (due to earlier Fed rate increases)

-- Biden falling and breaking his hip

Other bad things *could* happen. Inflation could spike again, but I kind of doubt that. We could get involved in a shooting war with Iran, but I kind of doubt that. But the two above are the ones that worry me the most.

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The reason I think even a small 25 bps increase in 2024 could have bigger impact than we think is because so much of Fed policy is about signaling as it is actual effects of higher interest rates. It's why Jerome Powell has been so "tough" sounding last 12 months even if Fed isn't raising rates; it's all credibility so inflation doesn't become imbedded. A 25 bps increase is a giant signal that inflation is "sticky" and that high rates could be a reality for years. I suspect that could be absolutely devastating for anything real estate, tech or business growth in general.

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I think the ~500 bp increases over the past couple years are a pretty damn big signal. High mortgage rates are an even bigger signal. And yet the market churns along pretty happily.

Fed rate increases are clearly a very blunt tool that, if at all, take a long time to have an impact on such a big complicated economy. Light feather touches, like a 25 bp increase, are like a fly landing on an elephant's back.

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Yep. Shor-ism 101.

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Oct 30, 2023·edited Oct 30, 2023

I doubt it. No American troops on the ground. Neither a huge flag-waving victory to celebrate or bodies coming back to Dover Air Force Base.

Absent either of those, nothing will break through.

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Oct 30, 2023·edited Oct 30, 2023

Let's hope things don't escalate. It's not inconceivable that the US is directly involved in war either in the ME (American troops are already being attacked by Iran on a daily basis, a fact strangely under-reported) or the Pacific before the elections. I find China's unprecedented anti-Israel into anti semitic stance very worrisome.

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I'm not sure who a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would help in the presidential race (Trump has "Tough on China" as a brand, but "Don't switch horses in midstream" has been viewed as a pretty effective reelection argument for almost 200 years worldwide), but it will be qualitatively different than the Russian invasion of Ukraine because the PRC has to massively telegraph the exact timing of its invasion plans in way Russia did not.

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I think if we were in a shooting war with China, with vast destruction and uncounted American casualties, yes, it's possible that would be an issue in the election.

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So, is there a body of literature on "polling ethics"somewhere, that says that it is okay to lie to members of the public about what someone said, and leave them with the false belief that this person said X when they have never said X?

I mean, this looks like push-polling in the extreme.

Congressman Mike Johnson recently said, "I eat kittens with tabasco sauce." Do you approve or disapprove of Congressman Johnson's eating kittens?

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I was surprised to see statements attributed to Biden that it seems like he didn't really say about Willow. For the abortion question they made it a hypothetical which seemed more in line with how I thought this was usually done.

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This is stuff that campaigns do all the time in testing which messaging works best...

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I'm sure that campaigns try out different messages. But do they do it by claiming that people said things that they did not say?

It's one thing to poll-test by asking

"which comes closer to your own view, "kittens are gross" or "kittens are delicious"?

But Matt's question says:

"President Biden said about the Willow project that "my administration's top priority is lowering gas prices. It's the first thing I think about when making decisions about energy policy etc. ...."

In fact, President Biden never said this at all.

How does "testing which messaging works best" license blatant misrepresentation of the facts?

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Can't speak for this poll but i have taken polls in the past that have some kind of disclaimer up front to the effect of "you will be viewing a number of possible statements that X person may or may not have made...." etc. Either that or there is a debrief afterward where any deception is disclosed as being part of the study.

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I've also been called for polls where the questions were phrased as, "If John Smith said, 'X,' how would that make you feel about John Smith," and things like that, where there is weaselly wording about whether it's a real statement or not.

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Would your concern be alleviated if the pollster corrected any false statements before concluding the interview?

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There *is* a body of literature on the durability of false belief even after correction.

Tell people:"Congressman Johnson eats kittens: how does that make you feel about him as a person and a pet-owner?"

The result is that their views of Congressman Johnson take a steep downward turn.

Now tell them, "actually, Congressman Johnson does not eat kittens; that was only a hypothetical."

Their views about him bounce up a bit, but still stay far below the baseline. The damage has been done. People's updating is not frictionless.

There's a reason why campaigns spread smears. They work, even if they are later proclaimed to be false.

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In principle, this is fine. In practice, there's clearly a possibility that human cognitive biases don't allow a complete "cure" of this kind of misinformation -- the answer is presumably going to be based on what the empirical likelihood of screwing with the electorate is.

And yes, unfortunately this *is* very much a sort of heckler's-veto-adjacent situation that constrains polling in ways that people may reasonably feel are illegitimate due to frustrating reasons.

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No, adding the tabasco sauce is an absolute deal breaker.

It's like the parents in the Far Side cartoon who hired the witch babysitter and were furious that she wasn't satisfied with eating just one of their kids but with eating *both* of them (https://www.pinterest.com/pin/180707003782091770/)

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Tabasco sauce is an inferior kitten-condiment. Disapprove.

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Forget it, Jake. It's Louisiana.

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Yes, you need a thicker sauce like Sriracha for kittens.

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"Tabasco sauce is an inferior kitten-condiment."

I think E.G. misplaced the hyphen, i.e inferior-kitten condiment. The point is that tabasco is the sauce for inferior kittens -- the really stringy, flavorless ones. If the kittens are prime, plump, Kobe kittens then Sriracha is the better choice.

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I dunno, the Chipotle Tabasco is quite flavorful.

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I feel like in any situation where you would consider Tabasco, Cholula is a better choice. That includes the chipotle offerings.

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I admit my bias as a Louisianian.

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I prefer nekoyaki.

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It's a small number of people, not enough to make a difference. They also might explain after the poll.

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"It's a small number of people, not enough to make a difference. "

I've never murdered more than a small number of people, either, so it's a relief to learn that it didn't make a difference.

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sure Johnson is from louisiana but i have a hard time believing he likes tabasco sauce

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Come on now, what’s with all the Tabasco hate today? I assure you Johnson likes Tabasco on his red beans and his gumbo (and that might be all that we have in common).

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he seems like a guy whose opinion of seasoning his food is adding a modest pinch of salt

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In addition to the ethical concern, it also potentially clouds the result in assessing people's reactions to the counterfactual. How many people who disapproved of the fake Biden quote did so because they've heard Biden say the opposite and the sudden pivot seems suspiciously two-faced?

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It only recently occurred to me to keep the media’s role in mind on this topic. The only media from which Biden has any hope of positive coverage at all seems fully in thrall to the groups. Moderating might perversely generate negative coverage while failing to spread his message.

I think something similar may have occurred with Afghanistan. The relevant media (on the national security beat) is so aligned with the security state that Biden did a politically popular thing and got overwhelmingly negative coverage.

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Politically popular until Russia and Iran took advantage of his clumsiness. Good thing voters don't care about foreign policy.

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What did Russia and Iran do in Afghanistan to take advantage?

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This. Also while I think the U.S. should have handled the pull out differently (particularly with respect to interpreters), I've always assumed that as a descriptive matter the signaling / credibility aspect of it is pretty limited: "you, too, can exhaust the patience of the mighty United States at the low low cost of a 20-year-long insurgency" isn't exactly a pitch for fucking around finding out.

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To this day I don't understand what was "disastrous" about the Afghanistan pullout. Twenty Marines were killed by a suicide bomber, which is tragic, but is also the whole point. There was no reason to have American troops in danger that way any longer, period.

I cannot think of a single way that the US is not better rather than worse off for us getting out of Afghanistan then rather than later.

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Yes, anyone claiming the Afghanistan withdrawal was "disastrous" or "clumsy" or "flubbed" or whatever needs to be clubbed into the f*****g ground, IMO. Not even kidding or exaggerating. It's complete BS to claim that. Tell them to go watch "Last Days in Vietnam" for an actual flubbed withdrawal -- the US had months there to try to get people out; the Coalition-backed regime in Afghanistan imploded in literally days.

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We left hundreds of thoudsands of Afghan allies in the country to be killed by the Taliban. I highly doubt Americans believed it was possible to get every single one of them out, but the Biden administration didn't make a serious effort to get even just a lot of them out. And now Guy Ritchie's The Covenant is out showing how bad the exctraction went.

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Yes, I go to movies to understand the details of a challenging policy execution during a moment of extreme crisis.

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If Hollywood made an entire movie criticizing one specific policy of a Democratic president, something went wrong.

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That was really shitty for them, but we were never going to get thousands out, probably barely hundreds if we started really early.

And awful as that was for them, it's net affect on us was zero.

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For the “personally opposed”/“safe, legal, and rare” messaging, I think one of the benefits is the voters can extrapolate it out a bit.

For people who are not religious fundamentalists or ideological libertarians or leftists or some other identification with a strict ideology hearing a politician say they are willing to go against their "beliefs" on an issue and follow what is "best" or the "will of the people" can seem pretty appealing.

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Also I wouldn’t underestimate how many left-leaning Catholics genuinely share that position. Half of all Catholics vote Democratic despite church teachings, and it doesn’t mean they have no moral qualms about abortion, they just don’t think it’s their place to impose that belief on others. I’m willing to bet this describes a large portion of older Hispanic voters.

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>This reflects a broader set of messaging decisions that I find somewhat odd. My sense is that traditionally, politicians try to make themselves sound more moderate than they are....why not put forward the most moderate possible face?<

Why not indeed.

I think the answer is: much of the time, too many Democratic politicians—the President and (especially) the Vice President included—are stuck in a hard left intimidation bubble. Maybe that's simplistic, but it's the only explanation I can think of.

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I don't think the "we're being bullied" narrative holds much water when we're talking about the most powerful institutions in the world.

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It’s like moneyball where they’re like just get on base. Dems need to just win the election. Good to be right good to let the young folks know u are with them on climate change good to be on the right side of the abortion debates but most importantly just say and do whatever wins the election (obv within reason). So I agree with that in the article though I must say I didn’t find todays article or the polling that interesting.

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Suggesting that Joe “Shoot them in the leg” Biden isn’t moderate and is somehow being intimidated by the “hard left” is a misreading of the situation.

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Oct 30, 2023·edited Oct 30, 2023

When Biden uses his own words he isn’t intimidated. However he is old and super busy and most of the time he uses word other people give him, and THEY may be intimidated.

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I'm not suggesting Joe isn't a moderate. I'm suggesting that, on some issues, he allows his core, moderate bonafides to be obscured by suboptimal communications strategies.

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I certainly agree with that.

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I’m going to repeat something here that I noted recently because it’s quite relevant. This idea that GOP as a whole is more malleable and willing to tack to the center than Democrats is a bizarre myth you’re repeatedly espousing.

You (correctly) noted previously that Trump running in 2016 against slashing Medicare and social security is an underrated reason he won. But what indication do you have that GOP as a whole has moderated on this issue? And as far as I can tell Trump’s “issue” is that he actually won in 2020 and to therefore remind voters of January 6th. Lastly, what about elevating Mike Johnson to speaker screams moderation to you on policy.

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I think a lot of what Matt presents as greater tactical discipline on Republicans' part in framing their agenda in more popularist terms really just reflects the pronounced asymmetry in the role the Groups play within the two parties.

Of course there are exceptions, but in many areas, especially on issues where industry-related Groups aren't a factor, there are simply many fewer Groups on the Republican side exercising much weaker influence. And where GOP-aligned Groups do wield some clout, they tend to be more easily recognized as conduits for communicating donor preferences and not some sort of fount of insight into the broader electorate.

Sometimes when Republican voters decide some topic is salient for them, there turns out not to be any Group in the field. So when Republicans started treating Trump allegedly having won the 2020 election as an important issue, messaging on the subject came from elected politicians on the one hand and an ad hoc collection of freelance randos like the MyPillow guy on the other. You didn't see the National Coalition to Prevent Democrat Election Theft offering soundbites or putting out press releases, because to a first approximation no such entity exists.

That has some real negative consequences for the GOP. But it does offer GOP politicians more operational flexibility in crafting messaging to track the base's apparent preferences without having the Groups exercise a gravitational pull in some less popular direction. Sometimes -- as with the 2020 "election theft" narrative -- that will result in taking stances that are more extreme than what a hypothetical set of Groups would've come up with. But in general it tends to result in Republican messaging that's more moderate than the party's agenda, which is the reverse of the dynamic Matt's criticizing on the Democratic side.

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Interesting and plausible take. I’d love to hear Matt’s thoughts on it in a mailbag.

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I think this analysis breaks down when we talk about social issues. I feel pretty certain that GOP strategists never actually wanted Roe vs. Wade overturned. The status quo where debates were happening regarding partial birth abortion or 3rd trimester abortion was an electoral winner as even people who may be more pro-choice feel 'icky" about these edge cases for lack for better word. Made Democrats seem like the extremists and GOP seem "moderate" to swing voters or anyone who doesn't take deep look at the rhetoric and stated positions of various social conservative groups who have lots of sway in the GOP.

Matt actually alluded to this in his post, but I feel like his really underplaying how unpopular the GOP's moderated position is on abortion. Tons of states are still trying to pass completely ban on abortions. Even 6 week abortion bans are pretty unpopular nationally (state by state analysis is a different matter. Suspect full ban is not going to cost GOP electorally in a place like Louisiana). Also, just because the issue is not on front pages right now because stories like the Israel/Palestine conflict are hogging all the oxygen, doesn't mean this dynamic holds spring and summer of 2024. Are we really sure that social conservative groups aren't going to pressure Trump to advocate for a national abortion ban? Or the very least a 6 week abortion ban? Still think there is a lot of time for social conservative groups to flex their muscle on this.

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I agree that abortion and to a lesser extent guns are the major exceptions to my generalization above. Abortion in particular is the one instance of organization around a socially conservative goal that looks recognizably analogous to social movements on the left, with well-heeled pressure groups, sophisticated mobilization strategies, and cadres of professional activists. But I suspect the visibility of anti-abortion Groups -- which, if not quite living rent-free in liberals' heads, at least have an option to purchase a timeshare there on points -- leads some to overestimate the degree to which that symmetry extends more broadly to other issues.

There was a period of time when more broad-spectrum socially conservative Groups had more pull in the GOP than they do today. That was the Clinton/Bush II era when Republican politicians and operatives thought it was super important to say the sorts of things that the Christian Coalition and Focus on the Family wanted to hear. My sense is that actually did lead the party to do a fair amount of politically dumb shit that badly damaged the Republican brand with moderate voters, in a preview of the sort of dysfunction Matt sees on the left-liberal side today.

Incidentally, that dynamic in the GOP circa 1995-2005 was in part a response to a credible "murder-suicide" threat from conservative Christians in the wake of the failure (such as it was) in Casey of a Republican-appointed judicial majority to overturn Roe. Evangelicals had within relatively recent memory gone from largely avoiding electoral politics to coming in en masse on the Republican side. After Casey, GOP politicians felt they had to be much more aggressive in assuring such voters that voting Republican really did have some upside for them and they shouldn't go back to sitting elections out.

That threat still plays some part, though I think a much-diminished one, in Republican politics. But the Groups that once acted as enforcers have lost influence for a whole host of reasons, not least the realization that letting them dictate the party's messaging was a disastrous mistake.

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This is an intriguing hypothesis but I worry that I don't know enough about Republican-aligned non-individual-donor-vehicle groups outside the well-known examples like the NRA or Club for Growth to assess its accuracy. Do the Republicans really just not have much in the way of "Groups" at all rather than merely fewer because it's less of a big-tent coalition?

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Oct 30, 2023·edited Oct 30, 2023

Moderate in word, no. Moderate in incoherence yes.

My theory on the Republicans in the House is that they have spent the last couple of decades getting elected by telling the base they would cut government spending on entitlements. They get elected and realize that cutting entitlements is incredibly unpopular and so they don't do it. The base feels sold out, calls them RINOs and then elects a new crop of people who do the exact same thing. This will go on until they finally elect people who do actually cut benefits, the public hates that, and bounces them from office. Its why a good number of Republicans would rather be in the minority - there they can talk all they want without actually having to be responsible for the thing that will lose them their seats. Its also why every Republican Speaker gets tossed at some point.

edit - at some point that will change, is that now - I don't know. I wouldn't bet on it either way.

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One thing that is clear for both parties is that it's easier to be the "out" party. You don't really need to take responsibility for actually passing a budget and can therefore spend your time criticizing a whole bunch of spending decisions you may not actually disagree with (famous and sort of related example is how the "debt ceiling" vote used to work. It came up under Obama's presidency that he voted against raising the debt limit as Senator. It was obviously long term a bad decision as it was used as cudgel against him 2011 (going back to Matt's post about why crying hypocrisy is not always helpful) but in the moment it was pretty banal thing to do; know that a bill is going to pass so take a strategic "no" vote so as to tout your fiscal moderation in a future presidential run).

I think you're "moderate in incoherence" is a good line and good description. Trump being the obvious avatar of this. Precisely because he's a lunatic who doesn't have a worldview other than feeding is bizarrely fragile ego, it leads to policy incoherence that works to his advantage; voters can just imagine that he's supportive of some moderate policy position in part because it's actually hard to discern what he's even talking about half the time.

I actually will disagree about "The Base" though. I feel like one thing that was made very clear post 2016 was there was a clear divide between your typical GOP primary voter and the elite/donors of the GOP as far as policy. You're National Review writers, you're Reason writers, you're GOP staffers are people who seem sincerely believers in cutting entitlement spending. But I think made clear is a lot of GOP primary voters weren't against spending per se as much as "spending" is code for "my money going to 'those people'". I know Matt has done a lot of pushback in saying to the left not everything is about race. But a lot of it really is (and I suspect Matt would agree) including where a lot of base support in GOP against spending comes from.

Also, something that Matt has pointed out repeatedly last 5-7 years that it's quite clear the only policy GOP elites actually cares about is cutting taxes. Donor class it seems supported cutting spending if only because of the "starve the beast" theory; cut spending means less revenue needed which in theory means high end tax cuts. For last 15 years, there was no trade off and it was clear donor class didn't actually give a crap about spending if they could get their tax cuts. If higher interest rates are going to remain a more permanent part of our landscape, I wonder how this dynamic changes*.

*for the record, I've staked my claim to the idea that while cutting spending is probably a decent idea, I don't think it will be as necessary or draconian long term as people think. Market is still pricing in that rates will be lower 12-18 months from now. I think the ZIRP environment that existed 2008-2015 and 2020-2022 is probably not coming back, but rates lower than they are now in 1-2 years time does still seem likely to me.

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I think Republicans controlling the Senate while not controlling the House or President is best for them politically. They can block most of what they don't want, and the Senate is typically moderate enough to not do anything to politically risk. McConnell is very good at that.

I actually think the base holds losing against the Democrats much more than Republicans. Many/most of the Republican base would rather be right than win. The Democratic base actually wants to win - e.g. Biden winning the primary in 2020 despite not being almost anyone in the base preferred candidate.

Regarding the difference between the base and elites - I would say that my experience is that the non elites have very little understanding of how the federal budget actually works. They often believe that you can have low taxes, great entitlements and that most of the budget issues are corruption and foreign stuff. I'm not saying that there aren't some "other" issues like racism, etc. involved, but I don't think its anything close to the dominant issue it once was. Conspiracy theories really boosted that kind of thinking as well IMO.

Republican elites have a much better understanding of the trade offs involved and are willing to trade off lower entitlements/higher debt for lower taxes.

I think some spending cuts are inevitable, similar to how I think significant tax increases are going to be needed just to maintain the status quo - unless we're actually able to maintain read gdp growth of 4.9% for the next 5-10 years. If we can do that, then we should go full Daffy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YZNXwjfq6g

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>I will be the first to admit that all this just confirms what I thought all along, so I’m genuinely interested to hear whether others find it persuasive<

I personally find it (the case for moderate Dem messaging on abortion) pretty intuitive. The GOP's policies in this area have become so shockingly extreme that it's hard to imagine many abortion-rights-first voters abandoning Democratic candidates because of insufficient zeal or ideological purity on the issue. They'd really prefer Donald Trump's court picks to Joe Biden's? They'd really prefer that a GOP Congress be in charge of national reproductive healthcare legislation?

But, via the use of strategic, appropriate messaging moderation, it's *not* hard to imagine Democrats bolstering their strength with the nontrivial number of voters who would be open to voting for Democrats save for their perception (justified or not) of the party's hard-left extremism on abortion.

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A related question is whether there's a net benefit of publicly antagonizing the progressive wing. That is, punching left and being "aggressively moderate" vs. being "positively moderate." I don't see being "apologetically moderate" as a few of his statements winning an A/B/C test.

As the incumbent president, Biden won't have to fight through a primary so he can message how he wants to message. So I'm not sure why he's choosing the squishiest option.

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Adjusting my prior about abortion messaging accordingly.

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Is it possible that the administration has a mental model similar to the “voter activation” thing and is convinced that there are large number of “unlikely voters” that do not appear in these surveys but will turn out if the administration takes a sufficiently progressive stance? Several of my more DSA-y friends had a similar response when I shared the earlier post about polling.

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There are 3 theories I can see.

1) Non-voters aren't that reliable so you have to convince actual centrists.

2) Moderates, as a whole, are a bigger group. Squeezing a fraction more juice from a big orange is the more efficient play. Turnout is up on both sides so I'm not sure how much more there is.

3) There is a huge number of anti-moderates just waiting to be catered to.

(3) seems to be the DSA model and I don't think that's held up well. The tension is between (1) and (2) and the combination of small margins and a messy system (i.e., not a simple national popular vote) makes it a tough call.

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Indeed. They may be the most chaotic and heterodox voters of all.

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The other thing about getting a reliable voter to pull the lever for you, rather than the other party, is now the other party doesn't have that vote either. It's very "efficient."

Convincing a non-voter to turnout is a good thing, but if they weren't a vote for the opposition to begin with, and now they might randomly swing for them, spending the energy on that might not pay off.

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Isn't this 'strange' messaging really just a smart play given that people who pay more attention to politics also tend to have more extreme views.

If I'm Biden, I know that the moderates won't parse my press conference on the Willow project. They'll mostly react to the fact that my administration approved it. OTOH the more extreme green activists in the party will pay careful attention and this way I play to both groups.

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If even 3% of Americans can identify the Willow project, I'd be very surprised.

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Probably 5% of Americans thought, "Wasn't that one of the shows pulled off of Disney+ for tax avoidance reasons?"

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Right, so with those comments he pleases those liberal advocates who do pay attention and doesn't really alienate anyone.

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This is really possible.

We tend to fall prey to a mechanistic model of politics where all citizens are deeply engaged in every political event and utterance and respond to them based on deeply-based, clearly-understood political positions.

This . . . may not be how the world works.

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(1) Great to see empirical results reporting on this!

(2) I think the chief issue with the "safe, legal, and rare" type messaging is that it's exactly what you'd say if you had no particular commitment to defending abortion rights and were willing to stay the course *until* you got a supermajority who shared your personal moral convictions and were wiling to ban it. This position is at best tolerable in contexts where the status quo is acceptable and the likelihood of shifting political demographics changing it is very remote. Many issues are like that (presumably the majority of issues, since the space of issues *not* campaigned on is basically arbitrarily large), but as a *relative* signal of allegiance and policy orientation to voters who rank the issue as high-salience, it's a net negative if you think that "don't rock the boat" isn't going to cut it.

That isn't to say that it isn't the correct message for a general election, just a note that it seems impossible in principle without additional information than the message itself to distinguish between "strategically moderate messaging in favor of policy positions I endorse" and "strategically moderate messaging because this isn't really something that I expect the candidate to fight for rather than merely begrudgingly tolerate."

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Oct 30, 2023·edited Oct 30, 2023

If your position is: abortion is now illegal in many places, but I want to make it safe, legal and rare (nobody *wants* to have to get an abortion after all), vote for me and I codify Roe, you aren't supporting the status quo you are calling for expanded abortion rights.

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