388 Comments

One easy thing Biden (or Harris) could do is have some bolder and more angry (and hopefully viral) reactions to crime. And not just severe gun crimes like murder or mass shootings, but also things like car theft, looting, and retail theft. The videos of these countless incidents spread like wildfire all over local news and social media DAILY and it seems like the administration is pretty silent about it?

When gettable non-progressive voters talk about urban chaos and disorder, this is a huge part of what they mean. Even though murder is obviously worse, most regular, law-abiding people in my metro area (Milwaukee) are more likely to have their car stolen or be run off the road by a reckless unlicensed driver than they are to be shot. This whole issue is pretty personal to me because I ended up leaving the city I otherwise love and moving to a pleasant suburb because the day-to-day quality-of-life crime and disorder just go to be too much.

And then the issue of theft in a retail setting is one that gets at the very heart of fairness in a moment of economic recovery from inflation. People work hard and play by the rules, juggle their paychecks, and then they see others just breaking into stores and arrogantly taking whatever they want (or plan to sell) and I cannot stress enough how maddening that is even though it's not usually dangerous. And then some progressive voices are like "but people are hUnGrY and sTrUgGLinG" and "why do you feel bad for evil corporations like Target?" and so on. The tepid or absent mainstream Dem response to this whole thing gets lumped into the residual Defund narrative, which is obviously bad for Dems.

I am obviously not a campaign consultant or anything, but showing some outrage about the things normal, decent Americans are seeing daily and frustrated about seems like a very cheap way to potentially move the needle and help more centrist or swing voters feel "seen." End rant.

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I think this is important. It’s a great opportunity to take shots at Newsom. “No, the entire country isn’t going to turn into California. Everyone pays for what they get and items on the shelves aren’t under lock and key.”

I know it seems trivial but it’s like creeping dystopia.

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What would it take for someone in the administration to say, "Kamala's task force is going to work to effectively address violent crime, instead of merely launching petulant attacks on the judiciary by signing performatively unconstitutional gun control bills."?

That would really be something.

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Sep 27, 2023·edited Sep 27, 2023

Reference: https://twitter.com/CAgovernor/status/1706756476625469816?t=TR6Q2EPO4S4yw4Bfm_OEOA&s=19

The microstamping thing especially just got laughed out of court by the 9th circuit panel in the argument in Boland v Bonta.

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So try something else, but making firearms traceable would help urban policing a lot.

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I hate saying it, but having an illegal gun on your person needs to be treated like a much more serious crime. There’s a very short list of reasons why a person would have one.

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Why do you hate saying that? I think this is probably a very popular position and we should own it rather than couching it in hand-wringing!

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Sep 27, 2023·edited Sep 27, 2023

I actually agree. It might surprise people familiar with my posting on the issue, but it should in fact be a serious crime to illegally possess a gun.

The problem is all the states taking wild steps to make as many guns as possible "illegal" in vague, unconstitutional, and petty crime kinda ways. Serious enforcement demands serious, constitutionally sound, statutes.

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I suppose, if you ignore all the mechanical hurdles, and presume that you could make a gun that reliably embeds the DNA of the trigger puller into the shell casing or something, and you could replace all the existing guns with these new ones, you would probably recover enough shell casings at the scene of shootings to marginally improve conviction rates on homicides committed by people without sufficient forethought to retain their brass, but that's so far into the realm of dystopian sci-fi it's probably easier and more cost effective to impose some sort of universal surveillance regime first.

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The thing all of this stuff has in common is that it plays really well on college campuses (and, needless to say, amongst professional activists) and falls absolutely flat when it reaches people with anything worth protecting, such as a nice job, a spouse/family, etc.

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Which, I think the retail theft wave in San Francisco is only partly on any policy -- a big chunk of it has to do with store employees doing really little to stop retail theft (and I'm pretty sure thieves have figured this out) and the relative ease of offloading stolen goods via Facebook Marketplace, eBay, etc. But it doesn't help that there's also a policy element to it, both in terms of criminal statutes (which often don't allow police and prosecutors to stack multiple related thefts -- so one guy can walk out of ten different stores with a cart full of laundry detergent and get hit with ten misdemeanors, assuming he even gets charged at all) and in terms of police/prosecutors doing anything about it.

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I know when I worked retail, you weren’t allowed to do *anything* to stop a shoplifter. You weren’t even allowed to call the cops unless they were off premises.

This, I imagine, is a consequence of our heavily armed country. Walgreens didn’t want to be liable for a shootout occurring if a situation escalated, I imagine.

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That's exactly what it is.

One reason why the biggest targets are stores like Walgreens and CVS is because those are the stores with the loosest loss-prevention policy that allows thieves to get away with it a lot more often. Stores with dedicated loss prevention (Wal-Mart) tend to have fewer problems with this kind of brazen theft because they know the greeter will stop you at the door and check your receipt.

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Solution: store greeters with AR-15s

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but really -- the actual safety issue is probably lower than they think.

If you're a serial shoplifter fencing goods on eBay, and you get caught taking $200 of merch out of an individual store, you're better off taking the light jail sentence than turning it into an armed robbery (which the police WILL devote real resources to solving and where the penalties are more than a "cost of doing business" type of thing.)

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“a big chunk of it has to do with store employees doing really little to stop retail theft”

That corporate policy has been in place for decades and has no explanatory power.

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I do think there is actually a social media contagion element here. It's one thing to hear "the stores won't actually stop you," it sounds like an urban legend like "you have to tell me if you're a cop." It's another thing to see video after video of people filling garbage bags with stuff and walking out unencumbered.

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There definitely is a social media component to this, both from making store policy more widely known and enabling the organization of flash-mob-style, large scale shoplifting attacks.

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At a corporate level, sure, but in the past that was (a) less widely-known and (b) more just there for liability reasons (as in, they didn't REALLY care if an individual store manager wanted to stop a thief, they just made clear that he was assuming the risk.) And it's more recent that they've extended it as far as "you can't call the cops while they're still in the store" or "you can't go take pictures of the car they left in."

Probably more salient now is that a lot more stores (and specifically CVS/Walgreens) are chronically understaffed and definitely don't have dedicated loss prevention.

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“they didn't REALLY care if an individual store manager wanted to stop a thief, they just made clear that he was assuming the risk”

That’s absolutely wrong. They really did care because, with a few exceptions,* the value of what was being stolen was below the threshold of the cost of intervention.

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*E.g., the jewelry counter at Saks’s flagship always had armed security, at least back in the day when I dealt with Saks. They also had a small force of well-trained loss-prevention security officers who would effect a citizen’s arrest under certain circumstances, and they even had a holding cell in the basement for the shoplifters.

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deletedSep 27, 2023·edited Sep 27, 2023
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They are acting like the progressive left and Cornell West are their biggest threat versus orange man bad. Instead of trying to capture swing, middle of the road voters they seem to keep going after pleasing the furthest left flank of the party, many who hold policy positions far out of step from most of America. Mandela Barnes did this in Wisconsin and it failed rather miserably.

Totally agree on the crime piece. It’s the retail theft, car jackings, break ins that are really adding up. I live in a safe Milwaukee suburb but we’ve definitely had an uptick in stuff like this as of late.

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Right? Ron Johnson was such a vulnerable incumbent and I like to think someone like Sarah Godlewski could have beaten him. Not sure how her campaign would have gone, but I imagine it would have been more prudent than Barnes'.

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Assuming she didn’t post a picture holding an Abolish ICE t-shirt and didn’t make an appearance on Russian TV I would say her chances would have been better!

Frankly anyone but Barnes likely would have won that race. He had several factors that made him a weak candidate out of the gate.

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Barnes would’ve probably won if the DSCC gave him some more money.

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The diminishing marginal utility of campaign dollars above the minimum viability threshold is pretty high and Barnes raised plenty of money. I'm very skeptical that a couple million more was going to do the trick.

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Jamie Harrison, Beto O'Rouke, Amy McGrath, and Sara Gideon each raised a bajillion dollars and none of them won. Senate races are much more about personality, appearance, and actual political opinions than money.

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They’re overwhelmingly about partisan lean, except maybe Gideon.

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This is an important point that gets glossed over in the "small-donor money cannon" age of campaign finance: nobody is truly underfunded, and there is a lot of diminishing marginal utility to extra campaign cash.

OTOH there are probably a ton of state legislative races with truly underfunded candidates that would probably be more winnable with more funding, but nobody wants to hear this (largely because nobody cares about state legislative races beyond maybe their own state and maybe even their own legislative district.)

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I know several left leaning independents who didn't vote for him, and no about of money was going to change their stance on him. He was too far out of step on several key issues and performed poorly in key suburban areas. No amount of money can fix that.

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Barnes outraised Johnson. This from Business Insider "According to OpenSecrets, Johnson raised $31.5 million, spent $28 million, and had $3.5 million in cash on hand, as of October 19. Barnes raised nearly $34.6 million, spent $32 million, and had almost $2.6 million in the bank, as of October 19."

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Lasry was second in polling.

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I remember thinking Barnes was going to fail miserably but he ended up coming much closer than I expected! Not quite as good as Katie Hobbs in Arizona, but almost.

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Yea sorta but like on the ground you could tell he was going to lose. When people in Madison are not real enthusiastic about a Democratic Senate candidate, which was the case, you’ve got a problem. He got 48,000 votes less than the Democratic governor who is about the least exciting person ever and he won. That sounds like a little but it’s a lot of votes.

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But on the ground you could tell Katie Hobbs was going to lose too, and yet she won. People really need to pay more attention to the actual results of an election, as in the actual numbers, and not just the vibes and the binary yes/no.

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Good and fair point. Johnson was an incumbent so that likely helped where Lake and Hobbs were not. Lake was like the craziest person you could find (coin flip between her and Mastriano). Johnson when he was campaigning tried to come off as a more "normal" person and in a race where both candidates had a laundry list of unappealing opinions to middle of the road voters, he likely won because he was the incumbent.

And yes, people need to look at numbers and data a lot more!

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Eh, I think you can pretty solidly pin RoJo's win on the riots in Kenosha. Obviously this made Barnes' playing footsie with "defund" much more politically salient.

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I try not to think too much about that benighted cheese-munching pseudo-Canadian province-state, but the Mandela Barnes election seems to be a great example of this maxim: “people who personify Madison, WI are unelectable.”

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Most people don't want federal law enforcement? Law enforcement in this country is, and probably should be, almost exclusively local. Let mayors and governors run on it, then when Trump says something dumb, Biden can say "I thought we didn't want the FBI storming our neighborhoods."

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There was looting in philly last night (after a judge dismissed some tough charges against a cop, more appropriate charges were refilled immediately) that would be such an easy layup for Kamala to come criticize. Even if she only just lays out that destroying black neighborhoods is not an appropriate response, and maybe a small thank you to the cops that broke it up before it got to 2020 levels.

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Yeah, it's really underrated how much the median voter experiences "crime" only in the form of car break-ins and retail theft. It's great to have a low murder rate, but the murder rate rarely impacts the median voter -- the car break-in rate does.

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"It's great to have a low murder rate, but the murder rate rarely impacts the median voter."

The murder rate rarely impacts the median voter *because* it's low.

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A high murder rate would still rarely impact the median voter because the high murder rate would still be concentrated among a group of people (poor inner city residents) that doesn’t include the median voter.

Put differently, it’s not like middle class white folks are regularly getting killed in New Orleans or St Louis, despite those cities’ very high murder rates.

Meanwhile the victims of car break-ins tend to be diffuse.

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I don't necessarily disagree with your overall sentiment regarding rhetoric (nor at all with the notion that condoning shoplifting makes paying customers into suckers), but I would question how much of this is really a federal concern or within the ambit of Washington to address.

Normally I'm a big believer in the idea that virtually no one actually cares about federalism anywhere near as much as their terminal goals, but in this case it really is true that policing is dominated by state- and local-policymaking and budgets rather than by Congress and the Presidency.

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I don't think there is that much that the federal govt can (or should) do here, but they can at least make noise.

That would come at very little cost and would draw a strong distinction between themselves and the left-wing nuts.

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The president very frequently is called upon to comment on issues of state and local rather than federal law.

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And we've learned over the last couple of decades what a negative impact on those issues presidential involvement has.

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That's true with contentious issues, like Terry Schiavo, or the racial angles of Skip Gates being arrested or Trayvon Martin being killed. I don't know if it would be the case with uncontroversial stuff like shoplifting being a problem.

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Yes, a little demagoguing about giving police and procedures the resources they need. Get caught trying.

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Agreed. I live in the UK, where we are also experiencing an epidemic of shoplifting that mostly hurts small business owners and adds to the not-totally-incorrect perception that a lot of “high streets” (rough equivalent of an American downtown) have been totally consumed by anti-social behavior.

Of course, the political situation is quite different here: you do have the odd lefty “think of the cost of living crisis!” hand-wringer, but they are not in power; it’s been the Tory show for more than a decade.

Which, I suppose, goes to show that you can arrive at trivializing petty crime either via the defund/abolish route or the decade of austerity route. Occasionally Suella Braverman will make a gesture towards taking it seriously, but it doesn’t seem anything like a high priority (current Conservative priorities: “Brexit opportunities” kabuki, “austerity _did_ work, you just don’t appreciate it enough” gaslighting, and performative anti-migrant cruelty that does nothing to actually discourage migration).

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And yet the deep blue cities where all of this huge shoplifting crime wave is supposedly taking place* are very likely to be overwhelmingly for Biden next year. So a "Biden pivot" (whatever that means) is mostly about symbolism to appeal to people who don't like blue cities. I dunno; sounds kinda sketchy to me.

* I read recently that almost as much of the retail "shrinkage" is from employee theft as from people coming into the stores. But, sure, what drives many people is just the sense of things falling apart.

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Downplaying the issue or pretending it's not happening is not going to get Democrats anywhere.

The retail theft problem right now is that it's shifted from teenagers hiding a shirt they like in their purse to career criminals pushing carts full of Tide pods out the front door in broad daylight while the employees don't even try to stop him. The latter is problematic because people see this happening and think "WTF?"

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I think it was Obama who said the President cannot be a pundit commenting on the day's events.

So Biden rails at the surge in shoplifting. And it continues unabated. What has he gained? What's his policy and what's he going to do about this local issue?

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Even worse, it raises the salience of an issue people prefer his opponent on. Good strategy involves making the political fight be about the thing people dislike your opponent for.

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I guess I see crime as an issue that already has high salience among the few hundred thousand voters in a handful of states who are most likely to decide the election.

Also, if what you say is completely true, why would Biden try so hard to own the economy and "Bidenomics" when (I believe?) people still say they prefer the Rs on the economy? I'm all for Biden talking about all the negatives of Trump on democracy, foreign policy, etc. But people generally liked the economy under Trump, with the caveat that COVID obviously screwed it up.

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Nailed it.

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I buy that to a point, but:

1. "the day's events" have become "daily events" in this case.

2. there's no shortage of occasions where POTUS weighs in on "the day's events." Remember when the President talked so much about Tyre Nichols that he literally brought the family to the SOTU? And that was fundamentally a one-time local policing issue in Memphis.

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"High Street" in American is "Main Street" — in case you are interested.

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Yeah, I agree that they are equivalent in some cases (e.g. when “Main Street” is used as a metonym for “small businesses”, or as a generic term for the principal commercial drag), but the way the word is often used here seems to me, at least, to have a bit more of a zonal meaning that would also mean something more like “downtown”. At least, that’s my American-living-in-the-UK take.

We need Richard (can’t think of his last name offhand!) to weigh in here.

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Total agreement. A “tough-on-crime” Biden pivot would jump 15 points in the polls overnight.

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I'm not even sure Joe Biden personally leading a Seal Team Six style raid that successfully captured Putin would give him an overnight 15 point bump in the polls.

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Great visual.

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Obviously I don’t know about the 15 points part per se, but if he suddenly became a “tough on crime” president with real receipts, he would be very very tough to beat. Plus as others have pointed out, there’s the opportunity for to pull out Kamala’s old record as a prosecutor and use that as a real asset.

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Problem is pronouncements lag support. The reason that Biden has lost 15 points in approval from inauguration, and has lost 9 points in head to head with Trump, now vs Nov 2020, is that he ran moderate and governed left. The voters have seen that, and it is not always easy to reinvent yourself without appearing calculating.

I still am hoping somebody else challenges Joe. As unpopular as Trump is, it is crazy that he is trailing the patron saint of sore losers in head to head polling. And Harris is a liability. People never liked her

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I think it would be a good move, but the benefits would be blunted by the “if crime is so bad why aren’t you doing more about it” thing--it’s risky to increase the salience of an issue you’re less trusted on.

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Yes, of all the issues in polling when asked which issue you favor Ds or Rs on, the Republican strength is crime and immigration just as the Ds are favored on healthcare and environment.

The time to have adapted a "tough on crime" attitude would have been during the disturbances after George Floyd, and that does not mean not advocating police reform, but Biden's tepid response to riots make it hard for him to pull off a policy shift now.

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How many percent of GDP goes not shoplifters? What is the true scale of the problem? Would reducing shoplifting by a significant yet plausible amount tame inflation?

Yes, shoplifting is annoying. But blaming social problems on the moral failings of the unmoneyed is conservatism at its worst.

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Your litany of questions is missing the point. People aren’t mad about legalized shoplifting because it’s harming the economy, they’re mad about it because it’s absolutely nuts.

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i find the distribution of wealth far more nuts than people in the bottom half taking stuff

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Why is it one or the other. Economic inequality is bad. Stealing is bad. And if you care about the poor, theft effects them most adversely as lower cost large markets will not locate in high crime areas, so poor residents pay inflated prices.

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There's no macroeconomic solution to the fact that some people will just steal shit as long as they think they can get away with it.

Breakdowns in public order are also something that disproportionately affects people who don't have a Tesla and a home in a subdivision.

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Goodness, I don't think anyone is making the claim that shoplifting has some noticeable effect on inflation, and I have no idea how you read my comment that way. The problem is that, at a time when people are adjusting to higher prices, this highly visible surge of massive-scale, shameless shoplifting is something people find extra insulting and they take it as a further indication of social decay and a signal that Dems are out of touch or not on the side of normal people.

And here I thought that a basic respect for property rights and the lowest possible bar for personal responsibility (don't do crime; pursue an honest living) were the best of conservatism. I mean, we are talking about ideas that even most low-income people agree with. Sometimes they are even among the most offended by retail theft because they're already the ones successfully making hard choices.

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The impact of the wildfire spread of videos of rampant shoplifting goes far beyond the actual economic consequences. This argument isn't about the economics of shoplifting, it's about messaging. The White House condemning shoplifting, car break-ins etc won't do much to mitigate the problem, but it would strengthen their chops on crime.

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Store theft amounts to about 1.6% of total sales, which might seem low, but on the retail level profit is in the range of 3-5% so that can be a 30% loss of profit.

Why some conservatives or liberals like myself are concerned is that we believe in rule of law not just gdp. Crime is harmful to criminals who sooner or later get caught and it weakens the fabric of society.

If you ever lived in a high crime area the food deserts and lack of affordable stores replaced by very high priced convenience stores is a burden on those neighborhoods.

It is more than annoying, and judging by Eric Adams success in NYC as a law and order campaigner where his strongest support comes from poor neighborhoods, it is hardest on the poor. Rich people will have the Whole Foods down the block where poor people cant find a store to buy bread beyond very high priced convenience b/c larger markets will not locate in high crime neighborhoods.

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This is all true but methinks it might be too late. I agree with Mathew that there is a need to pivot center and not being "tough on crime" is a big weakness in the Dem party. Crime and immigration are the two issues where voters favor Rs more.

The problem with a pivot is that people already make their mind up and their electoral support stabilizes. His failure to address crime and immigration is already backed into his low approvals and a major policy shift may not be believable.

The fact that in head to head with Trump Biden is at -1% compared to +8% before the 2020 election is about him pivoting Left in his two years in office.

Part of that loss of support, strongest with Independents is that he ran moderate and then governed left, unlike say Bill Clinton.

Perhaps, he can regain the middle.

Although, a long shot, I still think the best bet for Dems is to run somebody else, but somebody needs to step to the plate. Roy Cooper is my hope.

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Hippie punching is underrated as a Dem political strategy. I know there are now more hippies, they wear suits, work as staffers, and use fancy language, but from the perspective of the swing voter, they are still hippies that need punching.

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As a middle aged guy, I’m predisposed to hippy punching. But then I remember the 90s-00s, a time when the Democratic establishment was reflexively dismissive of its left flank and the twin catastrophes of the Iraq war and financial crises democrats enabled as a result, and it gives me pause. The rise of Bernie didn’t just happen because the kids watch Ferngully one too many times, it happened because of the failures of the centrist Democratic establishment.

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Agreed with your take on the 90s-00s. I'd add that the failure to meaningfully prosecute any of the real perpetrators of the financial crisis greatly contributed to the nihilism that enabled Donald Trump to win. Why vote for the party that promises effective government when even they failed to effectively govern during (arguably) the biggest disaster of our lifetimes? Screw it, might as well pick the entertaining guy! There wasn't a true cult of MAGA back then.

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I honestly think Obama feared a Atlas shrugged/ France in the 80s style Capital strike if he started jailing bankers, plus the actual legal cases would have been very difficult to prosecute. It still leaves a bad taste in my mouth, though.

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I get the Iraq war comment, but how did ignoring the left lead to the financial crisis?

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Two ways. First, Clinton signed the financial deregulation bill that allowed for the creation of mortgage backed securities and for the repeal of Glass/Stegal. Second, the Democratic congress was unwilling to provide enough fiscal stimulus in 2009 to prevent the long stagnation of 2009-2016. A robust left at that time could have pushed back on both mistakes.

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Mortgage-backed securities were first created around 1970 and were popularized at Salomon Brothers in the 1980s, long before Clinton was on the scene.

Repealing Glass-Steagall allowed investment banks to merge with commercial banks, which had little if anything to do with the financial crisis. Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, the poster children of the financial crisis, were investment banks that were not merged with commercial banks when they failed.

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Normie dems don't need to be Kendiite abolitionists, but it'd be great if they embraced some policies derived from class analysis.

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Or just a little more skepticism of deregulation, stronger antitrust and outsourcing government functions to private/nonprofit organizations in the 90s-00s. I’m not asking to nationalize Microsoft or anything, but a more Mondale like Democratic Party in the 90s would have been better.

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What is this thread, South Park circa 2009?

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Sep 27, 2023·edited Sep 27, 2023

Some truths are eternal...like "a hippy is necessarily in need of punching".

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That’s what a hippie would say!

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Hey, as an old hippie, punch me not.

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Let's admit it -- Kamala has remarkably little talent at this, and she is not repairable.

I could throw a rock out the window and likely hit someone with a better chance in a general election.

If I woke up from a coma in mid-2024, firmly believing that Trump is a existential threat to the US, and saw that Democrats picked a rapidly decaying Biden and Kamala to fight this fight for us, I would likely fall dead from shock.

It would be unfathomable.

I would think I was reading The Onion.

Kalama must be swapped out.

If Joe take a fall, or has a senior moment, and people perceive it as Kamala vs Trump, it will be a bloodbath, and an entirely predictable disaster.

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>Kalama must be swapped out.<

Not one voter in 80 is going to choose MAGA over Joe Biden because they'd prefer a different Vice President. The choice facing the electorate next year will be even starker than the one in 2020.

I agree Democrats would likely be in deep shit were she at the top of the ticket. But she's not. And Matt's right: dumping Kamala Harris is very risky.

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It’s not Vice President Harris people don’t want. It’s if Biden can’t continue as President or has to drop out of the race next year people are worried about. There are risks either way.

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What about Trump being old? There is a world where the Dems neutralize this issue by pointing out that Trump is also very old and prone to senior moments.

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The GOP will put her at the top of the ticket though in their ad campaigns. It will be Biden will drop dead in office so Harris is de facto the top of the ticket. It pretty much writes itself.

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Democratic strategists might themselves drop dead with glee if the GOP thinks they should focus on who the VP is rather than "it's the economy, stupid".

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Elections are never single issue and Harris wont decide the election, but having an unpopular VP, and Harris seems to be the only one lower in approvals than Biden and Trump is a drag on the ticket. It doesn't outshine the economy which is a Dem weak point, but it doesn't help the ticket.

People are choosing between an anarchistic, angry Republican Party and a fossilized Democratic party that refuses to respond to what their own voters want (69% of Dems do not want Joe Biden to run).

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Did they do that in 2020 when she was also on the ticket? Did it work?

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They weren't unpopular incumbents in 2020

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Biden has lost 15% in approvals since 2020. Votes are decided on 100s of components. VP is not primary, but it has an effect, particularly if the P is 81 years old.

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Exactly.

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"Not one voter in 80 is going to choose MAGA over Joe Biden because they'd prefer a different Vice President."

Next year's election margin may well be smaller than ⅛₀=1.3%.

(I have no real opinion on the Kamala controversy, because I don't think there's enough time for a new VP candidate to substantially shift the needle. But it's my personal mission to fight innumeracy.)

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>Next year's election margin may well be smaller than ⅛₀=1.3%.<

Zero question. Which is why jettisoning Kamala Harris from the ticket would likely on net hurt Biden. In a very close election, Biden's margins with Black voters will probably be decisive (larger than the tiny universe of voters who would opt for him over Trump except for the fact they don't like Harris).

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1 voter in 80 is enough to lose PA, GA, and WI. Actually 1 in 160.

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Now do a 5 point drop in support for Biden among Black voters and compare them.

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True though would choosing another black candidate ameliorate that. I preferred Val Demings to Harris, police chief, not California.

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Well, that is one of the elephants in the room that's seldom mentioned. Corey Booker comes to mind as well. I like Val Demings, too. Karen Bass seemed to be in the running before Harris. I dunno, I just think the bang for buck factor in swapping out Kamala Harris for a different running mate is very unlikely to be worth it in political terms, no matter what approach is taken.

The other exotic possibility folks are now raising, of course, is that Harris goes back to the Senate to fill the California vacancy. Which is another thing that's not going to happen.

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I still can't get over that bizarre and repetitive answer she gave on restoring Roe a couple weeks back where she had multiple opportunities to make the Dem position seem reasonable and coherent but she failed utterly. And then stylistically she also did one of those "nuh nuh no no no" corrective phrases to the reporter which had offputting supervisor-at-the-DMV vibes.

It's just one example, but I feel like I am always seeing her underperform even on pretty straightforward stuff. I never followed her primary campaign too closely but I can see why it failed.

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Her inability to articulate a response to an easy policy question is really remarkable.

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It may have been careful editing when she seemed like a competent prosecutor in the Senste, but I don’t think so. Where is that person? She seeems almost drunk or high. All of a sudden, her closest comp to me is Dan Quayle. What happened?

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The Peter Principle happened. She may have been a decent State AG, but she was promoted above her level of competence, and she's been flailing since the 2020 campaign. She doesn't know how to be VP.

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Not a fan of KH, at all, but she was a Senator.

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I thought her answer was fine (about "restoring Roe"). Political interviews aren't university seminars. You want simple messages that stick in people's minds. "The Republicans trashed Roe; we want to restore it" is a very simple message. Contrast that with, "we want no restrictions on abortion for most of the pregnancy but during the last trimester or so we can see some restrictions, as long as the rights of the woman to life and health are preserved." Sounds reasonable but the more words you use, the more you open yourself to attacks.

Kamala did just fine.

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If they dumped Harris, and even if she complied, it would be a story about how Dems/Biden are anointing a VP, because they want them to take over without having a fair election, etc.

"Biden's going to rig the election, and then retire in December, just to give away the presidency."

It really has to be the two of them together, or not.

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If you were Trump, which would you fear more? Biden keeping Kamala on the ticket? Or swapping her out for Big Gretch or Josh Shapiro?

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Neither one, because he's got a built in narrative to say it's all corruption, and the sign of a failing administration that couldn't get anything done, and Joe already knows he's going to kick the bucket anyhow. He can even start saying Dems are the real racists or whatever.

It's probably even better to just leave the two of them in their respective states to bring home the bacon and get MI and PA to shift blue.

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Sep 29, 2023·edited Sep 29, 2023

I'd fear the former more. A lot more. Trump (and the GOP in general) have made inroads among working class voters, including Black voters. If Biden drops Harris for Whitmer or Shapiro or Pritzker, I absolutely HAMMER him on this issue if I'm Trump ("Frankly, it's very sad how the Democrat Party takes African-Americans for granted"). Maybe it doesn't work. But maybe it does. Elections in 2020s America are won or lost on the margins. And how.

Meanwhile how big is the group of voters who think "Wow, giving the White House back to Trump would be a disaster, but I'm going to vote for him anyhow because I hate Kamala Harris even more"?

People are way overestimating the importance of running mates. Democrats were high-fiving when "shrewd" Michael Dukakis chose white Southern centrist Lloyd Bentsen (and Bush chose the highly mock-able Dan Quayle). Didn't matter. It rarely does. I think 2016 may be an exception, but that's a case of HRC failing to take advantage of Bernie's draw among a significant swathe of voters; it wasn't a case of people voting *against* Tim Kaine. Mostly they were indifferent towards him. Which is par for the course in presidential elections.

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If it's Trump vs Biden, it's going to be Trump saying this:

"Do you really think you're going to get Joe? Have you seen him talk? Have you seen him walk? One stiff wind and you're going to have president Kamala. Go ahead and vote for Joe, but get ready to kiss him goodbye."

And every ad will be Biden making gaffs, looking dazed, looking tired, walking slowly.

And these points have a lot of truth to them. He's aging visibly. The way he speaks today is worse than it was 6 months ago.

* If you ordered an Uber and it arrived and someone like Joe was the driver, would you feel confident? Or would you say "Hey guy, why don't you sit in the back and I'll do the driving"

And he's the leader of the free world!

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>it's going to be Trump saying this:<

Sure. Presidential candidates *try* to make the running mate an issue. It just never works. And in any event, we're all spending too much energy on this because dropping Harris from the ticket isn't going to happen.

(Joe Biden bowing out at the last minute is a stronger possibility than getting a different running mate.)

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Harris is a lot like a younger version of Biden, not gifted in political aptitude but also a weathervane for the middle of the party, just like he was for many years. See her maneuvering to and from the Medicare for All slogan, which she pulled off with less controversy than Buttigieg. Yes, she has a glass jaw and was immediately slammed by Tulsi on her AG record (anyone should've seen that coming a mile away). She's below average, but similar by Trump, not terribly below average. She knows ways to survive and maneuver.

But she was picked to solve the problem that Biden has; the younger voters in the party don't like him that much. It's unclear to me that replacing her would be easy, given younger voters in the party is also the same liability for the general election if Biden is challenged in a Democratic primary contest. If the problem were different from the problem with trying to replace Biden, he'd have better odds of pulling off a VP switch. But it's the same problem, and it's too late for Dems to meaningfully alter any of the choices or pandering they've done in time to alter that.

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Very good thoughts. I think not so much that it is too late for the Dems as much as nobody is being brave enough to step up to the plate other than the wingnuts. I have a FB group Roy Cooper for President, but nary a bite. Andy Basheer, Sherrod Brown, where are the Dem .300 hitters now with the duffer coming to bat.

I think Harris was not so much about being young but that he promised a black woman, which imo was very limiting, and if he had chosen Val Demings he might have earned some clout on the law and order (though she fared poorly against Rubio).

To drop her now the biggest danger would be to offend blacks and women who might see it as a betrayal. Maybe get her to resign. Even better get him to resign.

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If I had my way he would have never picked her. That being said he also didn’t give himself a lot of good options. I don’t see him doing it but I’d rather not see a Whitmer or Shapiro or others like them. I think you need your hang on to all options for 2028 and having them or someone like them as your VP pick makes them damaged goods out of the gate.

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I personally like K. Harris (she was my initial choice in 2020) and think she'd probably make a fine president. But in retrospect I can't disagree with you: Democrats would probably be better off at this point had Joe Biden gone with a different choice three years ago.

But I believe the above not because of my fears of her effect on the ticket's chances in 2024 (I strongly suspect they'll be minimal either way) but because it puts her in the catbird seat for the 2028 nomination, and, at this juncture, she doesn't appear to have much national appeal. Relatedly, there's obviously a decent chance Biden doesn't complete a second term. Again, while I don't doubt she'd capably execute the duties of the presidency, it would be nice to have a Vice President who has such abilities AND possesses wider political appeal.

Water under the bridge now, though...

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I am actually really worried that the Democrats are going to repeat 2016 in 2028. Just like Hillary was the anointed one, I am worried they will do the same thing with Harris and anyone who dare runs against her or brings up valid points on why she’s not the best candidate will be shunned. I think there is a zero percent chance she can win a general election. President Vivek is not real appealing to me so Democrats can’t be asleep at the wheel!

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I’ll be interested to find out in the inevitable insider book why Biden allowed his admin’s middle level to be staffed almost entirely by Warren types. It’s not like she was this huge force in the primaries who needed to be brought on board.

I think the extent to which mid level staff drives a lot of messaging and tactical communication is underrated. Especially for Biden who is both old and accustomed to relying on his staff heavily as a busy senator. And yet a lot of his staff doesn’t seem to agree with his actual beliefs.

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Yeah, I'm sure I'm not the only one who is more than a little annoyed at voting for Biden and basically getting Warren.

But, a lot of the reason for this is simply that the mid-level staff are almost inevitably people in their 20s and early 30s and if they had to pick from that group, they'd rather have Warren people than Berners.

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How did we get Warren from a policy perspective? Or are you talking about optics?

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Off the top of my head, efforts to discharge galaxies worth of legitimate student debt.

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I don't know what "galaxies" means, and I don't think you're helping yourself with ridiculous exaggeration. How do you tell the difference between legitimate and illegitimate student debt? Does one of them have a birth certificate saying their parents were married?

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There is something like 100 billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. Biden’s illegal student loan forgiveness plan was estimated to cost $300 billion, or three galaxies of dollars.

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I assume "illegitimate" student debt means student debt incurred at a shady for-profit online "university."

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Credentialism.

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I'm reading Franklin Foer's superb book on the Biden White House. I don't get this sense at all. What's your evidence for your second paragraph?

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Sep 27, 2023·edited Sep 27, 2023

I mean, if you are trying to recruit young Democratic staffers in their 20’s or 30’s who have a Bachelor’s or preferably a Master’s Degree in something related to policy, you are going to end up with an overwhelming number of people who share Warren’s general politics.

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They should go recruiting in STEM grad programs.

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What does have an engineering degree tell you about governing? What does an applied math degree tell you about policy? Comp Sci does not prepare you for producing policy analysis, knowledge of what's been tried before, how the pieces fit together, etc. There really is useful knowledge that is not derived from STEM grad programs.

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Sep 28, 2023·edited Sep 28, 2023

They can learn that stuff quicker and without being bogged down by as many preconceived notions. You want smart people who haven't been through an ideological finishing school.

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There is a problem with groupthink in academia, but “ideological finishing school” is a pretty ungenerous caricature.

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This makes literally no sense.

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"I’ll be interested to find out in the inevitable insider book why Biden allowed his admin’s middle level to be staffed almost entirely by Warren types"

Yes!

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If Joe wants to pivot to the middle, why not change his border policy?

In a Reuters/Ipsos poll, his border policy is 26% in favor, 60% against.

Would he be willing to take Trump's Remain in Mexico policy and make it his own?

If we're trying to save Democracy, maybe it's ok to start by giving the public what they want?

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What are the changes he should make?

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Expedite “asylum” processing, which mostly should be rejected. This isn’t persecution people are fleeing, they’re moving here for a better life.

Which I’m for, except doing it this way means as a legal asylum claim, they can’t work. So now they come here immediately as a charge of the state. The entire asylum migration hinges on large groups overwhelming the system.

So now you have tens of thousands of migrants completely the responsibility of local governments, often in the same cities with large immigrant populations who are/were illegal in the past and managed by working/living all on their own (not living in haphazard government shelters and panhandling).

Which builds up even more resentment to these migrants.

So they either come here with an expedited approval (and a work permit) or they’re rejected immediately.

This situation where cities are flooded with non-working migrant camps doesn’t help anyone and will be an electoral disaster.

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Yeah -- I mean let's be frank and point out that a whole lot of the "asylum" claims that are being made are bullshit and it should not take long for an immigration court to determine that someone fleeing a generalized fear of violence is not what "asylum" is meant to address.

There is also the side issue that anyone presenting themselves at the Laredo border station crossing the bridge from Nuevo Laredo has quite obviously come through Mexico and did not make an asylum claim there, and the "safe third country" designation should easily process most of these claims out.

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"Reelect Biden -- he expedited asylum processing."

I'm not sure what he should do either; it's a tough problem.

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If they are rejected at the border by an expedited asylum process, then they aren't bussed all over the country to sleep in tent cities/police stations/buildings otherwise meant for the public for months/years while the asylum claims rot in the system.

So its 'Re-elect Biden - he solved the border problem'.

He should also look into easing more of the Trump era sanctions on Venezuela - they didn't seem to do any good except expedite the economic disaster there.

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And if the only answer is to say "we are no longer going to play by international asylum rules that benefit everyone but us", I feel like he would win in a landslide. I really can't believe we still let ourselves be hamstrung by this.

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Hamstrung? Population growth carries significant benefits.

The last census revealed the United States experienced the slowest decade of population growth in its history (yes, even slower than the 1930s). We've entered a period of demographic stagnation (not outright shrinkage yet, but give it time). That's not good for the country's long term growth prospects nor its new Cold War struggle with authoritarianism. We. Need. More. People.

The international rules you blithely dismiss are helping us avoid a grim fate. But sure, we need to build more housing, and yes, it's possible Democrats will pay a political price. We shall see.

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Marc I think it is similar to the crime thing. Sure, there may be little policy wise that is going to give any very immediate effects, but it is about public perception.

The fact is that the asylum system, something initiated to prevent situations like in WW2 where Jews were returned to Europe and their murder, is now just a gimmick for the majority to get over the border. Anybody would wisely say "I want asylum" rather than trekking through deserts in 100 heat.

Biden is hampered by certain judicial rulings against eg splitting up families, but he must have a remain in Mexico position and fight for it.

I say this as somebody who has sponsored refugees and I support higher refugee quotas, but the refugee system is not a mad rush at the border which freaks out the American public but a careful vetting of people in difficult circumstances and allowing a set quota into the country.

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>Expedite “asylum” processing, which mostly should be rejected.<

The issue is capacity: we need a big increase in the number of magistrates who hear these cases. That can't be done without Republican House votes. Non-starter.

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I've made this point multiple times now, but Congress has repeatedly authorized more immigration judges in a bipartisan fashion. That they aren't getting hired is (1) on DoJ and (2) due to the fact that it's hard to hire for a lot of jobs. On top of all that, it can't keep up with demand regardless, which has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years.

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I thought he was already trying remain in Mexico

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It's so complicated. The Biden admin tried to officially ended the policy last year, but it's bounced back and forth in the courts. However, they did implement a new policy this summer that bars asylum claims from those who cross between ports of entry, which was then quickly blocked by a judge. The biggest problem though is that the administration is not especially vocal about any of this.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remain_in_Mexico

https://www.politico.com/news/2023/07/25/biden-asylum-policy-immigration-00108074

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The real problem is that Biden feels like he has to placate the left, who are quite clearly insane on this issue.

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In fact, they’re so insane on it that it feeds into conspiracism. If you fundamentally distrust the blue tribe, the idea that the left wants to import a revolutionary army sounds more reasonable than the actual truth, which is that they legitimately do not think that a serious problem would result from throwing the borders open to anyone with an even moderately credible asylum claim.

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The issues where voters favor Republicans most have consistently been crime and immigration.

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Lol, every time Matt talks about this topic and I look at the top ten comments I begin to understand the leftist critiques of MY’s audience.

See you all tomorrow.

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AFAIK the main critique seems to be “they’re not genuine leftists” which… yeah? Most of MattY’s readers are center-lefts or moderates with centrist messaging and policy preferences. What’s the objective issue there?

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Yeah, like I never claimed to be a leftist?

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A fair number of commenters (not necessarily a high proportion of readers) are actually center-right here, I think. There are a lot of disappointed Republicans in the readership here.

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I think the number of Republican subscribers to this substack rounds to zero.

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You're a Republican, so it definitely rounds to at least one.

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I’ve been many things in my life - even a registered Democrat. But I am not, and have never been, a Republican.

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I doubt it’s that low – I’d guess somewhere around 3-5% are Republicans (or identified as Republicans as recently as 2016)

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Hippy punching hippy punching hippy punching hippy punching

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No, it would be that it's exhausting watching people contort themselves into giving "progressives bad" as the reason for every problem

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Jonathan Katz is a guy who is capable of good and insightful writing, even when I don’t agree with him. He has also done some genuinely risky but important work like loudly pointing out that Richard Hanania routinely says and writes things that are plainly racist while trying to pass himself off as some kind of dispassionate centrist.

All of which is to say that I am often nonplussed when he loses his mind over MY and treats him as some sort of crypto-fascist.

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I'd love to hear what those are. No need to be coy.

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That we're all like obsessively radical centrists? So centrist it hurts?

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He's getting raked a bit on left Twitter for the abortion part of this, when the current D abortion messaging is winning elections in such liberal enclaves as Kansas and Ohio. It's a fair criticism!

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If Harris is canned, then who’s supposed to replace her? Is she supposed to go gently into the night? How would you even do this without a colossal amount of bloodletting?

You go to war with the army you’ve got so figure out a way to put them in the best position to win.

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I don’t think Kamala being on the ticket gains or loses anything for Democrats.

I do think getting rid of her and replacing her wastes unnecessarily energy and attention, creates uncertainty, and risks blowback among Democratic voters. It’s one thing if she say stepped down to run for governor of CA and he appointed someone else. It’s another to boot her.

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Kamala is a coalitional choice. She brought the K-hive into the Biden campaign and burnished his reputation as not racist at a time when everyone had lost their minds a bit on race.

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That was 2020. In 2024 those factors are less relevant unless you suddenly sack Harris and then start of big controversy and spectacle.

Those folks saying get rid of VP Harris tend to be Berners and the types who don’t care if it hurts Democrats electorally.

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Yeah, and the whole point of putting Harris on the ticket was never to groom an eventual replacement for Biden, it was to throw a bone to the party's most loyal voters (Black women) by putting one of them on the ticket.

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Just replace Kamala 1.0 with Kamal 2.0 "Crimefighter in chief."

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Val Demings, ex police chief. Not from California. Not going to happen. Bad choice to begin with.

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I'm convinced Booker or Bennet are the sleeper normie candidates from safe blue states that are being under utilized right now.

Even a Booker/Bennet 2024 ticket would be so lit.

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That’s because alliteration is powerful

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Alliteration’s always awesome, you mean.

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"alliteration's always awesome" isn't an example of alliteration. Alliteration is based on a repetition of consonant-sounds at the beginning of words. Like, "the teacher's torturous tautologies tanked Tanner's desire to learn."

"Alliteration's always awesome" is closer to an example of assonance, or the repetition of vowel-sounds at the beginning of the words.

I have three classes working through Beowulf right now thanks to the divine gift that is Baldur's Gate 3 for inspiring teenagers desire to learn where some of the references are coming from. I've been living in alliterations and kennings for the past month, hence the pedantry.

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Well, I appreciate the pedantry. This was a “d’oh!” moment for me: I once knew the distinction between alliteration, assonance, and consonance, but had forgotten.

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I actually looked this up, because I was going to have a pedant moment of my own, and it turns out that some do consider repeating vowel sounds _at the beginning of subsequent words_ as in your example to be alliteration.

Language is fun!

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You can't argue with the awesome success both had while running in the primary in 2020.

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founding

They placed 15th and 17th or so, which is pretty impressive given how many people were running!

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You can't argue with the awesome success Joe had in his presidential campaigns!

Both in '88 and in '08! Really spectacular stuff!

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Same argument can be said about Kamala.

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If Booker hadn't gone all Bernie Sanders in 2019 and just been himself he would have won the primary. And then the general election.

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There are plenty of at least .275 hitters in the Dem bullpen who are below the age when you can no longer get life insurance. I like Booker/Bennet. Klobuchar/ Buttigieg. Cooper/ Kelly Who is going to have the cajones to run? What is there about my Democratic party where 69% of Dems polled don't want Biden to run yet it is seeming inevitable.

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Please indulge me in a moment of pedantry. I don’t get how are you can talk about the batting average when you’re discussing people who are in the bullpen. Having that kind of average is any event nice but you need a few other points in your favor to justify benching the guy who won your team a championship.

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Ted you have me on that. Let me amend it to say in the dugout.

The reason I would bench the 2020 winner is that in 2020 he was four years younger, 15 points higher in approvals, and 9 points higher in head to head polling with Trump.

In the current he has 69% of his own party feeling he is too old to run (ABC/WAPO). Can we not find a candidate that at least a majority of our party want them to run. It is the Democratic party and democracy implies that the will of the people is heard.

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Someone needs to convince Harris to run for CA Gov in '26

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It's the most elegant solution, assuming Newsom bows out (has this been confirmed?).

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Newsom is term limited

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Gotcha. Thanks.

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Wallace didn’t cause many problems when he was dumped for Truman nor did Hamlin when dumped for Johnson.

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There was a drastically different national media environment when those changes happened. The Afghan withdrawal pile-on would look like a love letter compared to the coverage if Biden was to dump Harris.

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founding

Those were the days when people *expected* the ticket to be chosen in a smoke filled room. It’s different in the era when voters hate the party controlling the process.

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But we haven’t ever had primaries for VPs, they’re always chosen by the nominee.

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True, but I think there's a difference between 'presenting voters with a slate of President and VP for their consideration' (every campaign does this) and 'changing the slate halfway through' (basically nobody does this) so voters' reactions will be different. Hard as it may be to believe, some people actually *like* and *are invested in* Harris.

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I think the other thing is that if Biden swapped Harris with either a man or a white candidate, it would look really really bad.

Like, an old white guy President kicking the first woman VP and also the first non-white VP off the ticket?

He’d have to find another black woman if he went that route, and almost all of the suggestions people have for an alternative are either white or are a man.

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I don’t think that’s technically true. Stevenson in ‘56 “allowed” the convention to select a VP nominee from among a variety of people including Kefauver and JFK.

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Surely 1944 & 1864 are not relevant parallels to 2023-4?

And Wallace certainly caused problems once FDR was no longer at the top of the ticket.

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Er . . . Wallace didn't, or couldn't, cause FDR any meaningful problem because, well, he was FDR, and the war was still on in 1944. Wallace certainly did cause Harry Truman problems in 1948 - the fact that in the event it didn't keep Truman from winning (though it cost him New York when that was 47 electoral votes) is 20/20 hindsight, as the Truman campaign spent lots of time and energy on the risk of a "missing" left-wing vote. The point is that there is no example in the modern era of an elected president/vice-president ticket (so Ford/Rockefeller/Dole doesn't count) where the VP was replaced and the president went on to win reelection.

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Those were historically popular and effective Presidents

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I think you're looking at Lincoln through a historical lens on that one. There were serious challenges to his re-election, enough to where Lincoln privately predicted losing and even had his cabinet sign a pledge to work with the new President-elect to save the union before inauguration. He chose Johnson precisely because he needed to appeal to Democrats due to his weak prospects. Timely major victories by the Union (including capturing Atlanta) changed his fortunes, but there was no reason to think when Lincoln switched to Johnson as his running mate that he was going to waltz into a second term with ease.

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