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"It is obviously true that Obama and his allies took some tough swings at Romney, and I’m sure it’s true that some of these swings were unfair. But that’s politics."

The treatment of Romney during that campaign was very influential to my political views of today. And it has nothing at all to do with anything Obama or Biden said. It was, rather, the way the media (which Matt claims doesn't exist, but c'mon) almost uniformly coalesced behind Obama. Candy Crowley (as moderator) interjecting to "correct" Romney during a debate -- a correction she had to later retract since she was wrong. The "binders full of women" joke that was repeated and amplified by the media. Mischaracterizing his time at Bain. But I'm not going to convince anyone with anecdotes, and won't try.

I get it. Obama was his generation's JFK. Young, educated, professorial, mixed race, global. He represented The Future most journalists, bloggers and young college grads yearned for. He beat the mistrusted and feared Clinton machine. His 2008 quote was, for them, accurate: "We are the ones we have been waiting for." His vision was inspirational and it moved people. And a group of people it particularly moved were the journalists and staffers at most media operations.

The reason the Mitt experience was formative for me was I saw the Democratic Party, the media, Hollywood and the "establishment" broadly defined as being aligned more clearly than I had ever noticed. With the passage of time, I think the 2012 campaign set the stage for the class and education realignment we see today.

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Everyone can think of campaigns when they have personally found media coverage disappointing or off-putting or infuriating. I thought the media was absolutely awful to Hillary Clinton during the Democratic primary in both 2008 and 2016. And yes, there's its treatment of Al Gore (and its pathetically impotent vetting of George W. Bush) in 2000. John Kerry wasn't exactly helped by media coverage in 2004, either, come to think of it.

More often that not, it seems to me, media coverage tends to magnify the underlying fundamentals of a campaign: so a fairly effective candidacy en route to the eventual victory appears (especially in hindsight) to benefit from favorable coverage. And just the opposite impression is made from a candidacy destined for defeat.

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Yeah I don't know how you can be upset about the media treatment of Romney and not Kerry. And you compare the two parties' responses to basically humiliating defeat: The D's have a primary between two respectable and historical candidates, and the R's have an insane primary leading to the least respectable politician in history. And what the media does is swing left after the D triumph in 08, and stay there after the R's embarrassing victory in 16.

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"its pathetically impotent vetting of George W. Bush"

There are a lot of criticisms of Bush's presidency that I understand, but not this one. What vetting by the media do you think would have changed the election?

I actually think Bush was a fairly weak candidate in that he barely "won" the election despite the general thermostatic nature of the electorate after 8 years of Democratic presidency.

And now I'm interested in exploring the alternate universe - does McCain win against Gore? If he does, is that better or worse?

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George W. Bush was pathetically unprepared for the presidency. I'm not a Bush basher—his father was one of the best prepared and most substantive presidents we've ever had. But the son? Basically a party boy whose connections and last name got him a sweetheart sports franchise deal and then the (weak) governorship of a large state. He possessed little in-depth knowledge of domestic or foreign policy upon entering the White House. It's not all the media's fault, for sure. It's mostly the constitution's fault. In a parliamentary system, he'd have needed to spend at least a few years in the national legislature, demonstrating a reasonable grasp of policy and politics—likely serving in a cabinet post or two—before he'd have had a shot at the party leadership. In other words he'd have been vetted.

W. Bush's presidency was when I first realized our Madisonian order is highly vulnerable to the "man on a white horse" danger: the lack of robust gatekeeping to the White House. We saw that even more spectuarly eight years after Bush left office.

Anyway, his lack of competence and preparation showed: the W. Bush presidency was a legitimate disaster. With the possible exception of Trump, it was likely the most damaging (to the national interest) presidency since Hoover's.

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"Basically a party boy whose connections and last name got him a sweetheart sports franchise deal and then the (weak) governorship of a large state. He possessed little in-depth knowledge of domestic or foreign policy upon entering the White House."

Honing in on that point, I remember that being the general criticism labeled against Bush and was broadly reported. There was a big kerfuffle about his national guard experience and Dan Rather that was specifically about him skipping out, reports about cocaine usage in college, etc.

I guess my question is what more would you have wanted major media outlets to do to provide vetting?

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I would say 1988 was a formative experience and far more nasty than anything that happened in 2012.

Does anyone recall the idea that Dukakis being in the ACLU was "pro-child pornography?"

I mean I HATE HATE HATE this weird rewriting of history of eternal victimhood for the GOP.

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Their Federal-level policies and proposals are and for the foreseeable future will continue to be a disaster for the well-being of the country, they've either caused or exacerbated basically every major crisis we've had in the last three decades, and they are utterly incapable of conceiving of a positive version of patriotism in which Americans actually give a damn about one another despite that social fabric and societal trust being, in the main, the reason the country is so damned well-off.

All they've got is a narrative whereby they whine incessantly about how terribly they're treated; that it's now taken on enough of a life of its own to get a wide swathe of low- and middle-SES folks believing it applies to them is mostly down to how profoundly stupid the Democratic Party's left flank actually is with its hipster/indie politics.

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What is the substance of hipster politics?

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What substance, lol?

Something Sharty said the other day got me thinking on the topic; I don't believe most young woke folk have any real commitment or even understand the content of the "ideology".

It seems much more likely that they've applied the sort of fast-moving cultural paradigm they grew up with around music, hobbies, and urban amenities to politics; hence the phrase "hipster/indie": It's only cool until everyone else turns up. So conventional liberal ideas on race-neutrality, equality under the law, and economic investment and gradual convergence are, by definition, unattractive because they're now widely held.

Unfortunately, while this is fine for a band; there's always something new out there for you to migrate to once they become too well-known, it's not so great for political views.

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1988 still burns in my memory too.

But to be fair, I believe it is a truth universally recognized that both sides in an election feel they're being unfairly treated by powerful institutions.

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I think it’s pretty clear that the media is just broadly irresponsible, unprofessional, and counter-productive in politics.

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My first political memory is being in the school bus in 1988 as a first grader, and another kid told me Dukakis “wants to kill babies”

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I went from a libertarian to a liberal during the Obama era when it became apparent to me that libertarians mostly cared more about defeating democrats than they did about principles of freedom. Also, legalizing weed and getting out of foreign wars was important to me and it seemed like the Democratic Party was the only group serious about either at the time.

My time on the far right gave me a similar perspective on the media but I also thought that this was counter balanced by things like the military industrial complex and the police state. While Hollywood and “the media” could tell me some specific person was bad, Brad Pitt wasn’t pulling me over for no reason to hassle me or making alliances with authoritarians that could jeopardize my children’s future to sell military hardware.

It’s also true that there is solidly conservative media that has existed in a popular form since at least the 1990’s (my fathers hours of Rush Limbaugh listening being formative to my later more libertarian ideals).

All in all, “the media” criticism seems overweighted on the right and totally ignores all the other things that get weighted to favor conservative influence on culture and politics. (There is a lot!).

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I think Richard's point is spot on in that media has influence. But let's not pretend influence isn't important. Most people would recognize that Fox News has had a pretty significant impact on the country. I don't think you can recognize that impact and not also accept that liberal media has had its own impact on the country in just as significant (if not more so!) ways. Not to say they aren't different in important ways, but both are extremely influential.

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That's a fair point and one I hope I come across as at least somewhat acknowledging.

I do think there is a difference between desired effects and actual effect. More people today self report being "less liberal", if the media truly had an organized and effective campaign to make people "more liberal" it seems that campaign is failing based on the available data.

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Do you think Fox is ineffective because more people identify as being "less conservative?"

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Sep 1, 2022·edited Sep 1, 2022

Do people identify as being less conservative? It seems like the trend is going the other direction. I think, given the popularity of "right-wing" media, there is a good argument that they are more effective than what could be considered traditional "left wing" media.

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There was a large upswing in "less conservative" while Trump was president, and since Biden is president, there is a counter swing with "less liberal" increasing. Which leads me to think this poll result is more driven by the thermostatic nature of politics than by media.

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They absolutely do have power and influence in the social realm.

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They have influence. They do not have power. The two are different and it's really useful to distinguish between them.

To be fair, they do have power over people who work in the media (which is why things like substack, which change that power balance, are so controversial over in corporate media world) but that doesn't give them any more power than any other employer. It does give them more influence because the people they have power over are influential people.

To pick a non-news media figure: Taylor Swift can't make people buy a particular brand of clothes, but if she endorses a brand, then her influence will likely improve those sales. But that's not power. Someone could hold power over her, e.g. her record company, and could force her to endorse a particular brand. But if her fans decided that the brand she endorsed sucks and refuse to buy it, then there's nothing she can do about it. That's influence, but not power.

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I think that in the cultural sphere, it is a distinction without a difference.

Yeah, there is no direct coercion with influence, but it leads pretty quickly to a political impact with coercion.

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Of course the “media” has power but surely it’s not a monolith and surely there are plenty of countervailing influences... Franklin Graham quickly comes to mind here

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Not Napoleon, it was Stalin in reply to Churchill when the latter told him what the pope thought of something

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To be totally pedantic pretty sure that’s a Stalin quote.

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If the media didn't have power, it wouldn't be a standard feature of authoritarian government to suppress the media.

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Obama also is just really extraordinarily good at campaigning, even among other politicians. The liberal media consensus (which does exist, I agree) was very late to liking Joe Biden and tried to support quite a few more progressive candidates before resigning itself to the popular nominee in large part because Joe is just, well, less charming and verbose than Obama. The whole "3rd term of Obama" joke in Get Out works so well because a lot of people just liked the guy a lot on a personal level (see: Obama-Trump voters).

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Yes. Obama is certainly one of the most naturally gifted politicians the country has yet produced.

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I think Bill Clinton was just as good, and maybe even better.

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I agree, including with the "better" part. As a human, Clinton is...not great. But as a politician (actually interested in doing some things, I exclude Trump from this category), he is almost or actually peerless in modern times. He had much better in-person rapport with median voters than, I think, Obama did.

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How important is "in-person rapport"? They say that Ted Cruz is the absolute worst person for "in-person rapport", and yet he has a very strong following here in Texas. Maybe in-person rapport was more significant in the 1990s than it is today, and Obama was still catching the tail end of that.

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Ted Cruz is clearly less electable than a replacement level Republican. Cornyn won by 10 points in 2020. You think Cruz will get anywhere close to that?

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I think you might have put your finger on it: political office in the 90s wasn't performative in the way that it is today. I was working in DC during much of this decade; normies didn't pay nearly so much attention to politics but I remember being blown away by Clinton's political skills while thinking at the same time that he was a pretty terrible person. Seeking supporters by being an asshole works a lot better now in the age of social media, I think.

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Sep 1, 2022·edited Sep 1, 2022

The Slow Boring take is that personability and rapport still matter a ton, one reason why Ted Cruz was at real risk of losing to Beto in 2018. Plus all the GOP candidate quality issues happening this cycle, where even a candidate that could pass for being relatively moderate and less dotrinaire conservative like Dr. Oz is just super weird and off-putting, and that is costing him in the polls.

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Bill Clinton was indeed very good. I personally don't think his gifts *quite* reach the level of Obama's. Some of his success was due to background (white southerner) and his era (booming economy). I do put him in the pantheon of "presidents with outstanding public speaking skills" along with FDR, JFK, Reagan and Obama.

But yes, I was and remain a fan of Bill Clinton, and some of the revisionist thinking with regard to his presidency (especially or mainly on the Left) is misguided.

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I've never known a successful CEO who wasn't kinda an asshole. And I suspect the same can be said of a successful politician.

The question for me is: would I invest $$ in this person to be successful? And for me, I'd put money on Bill Clinton over Obama. But either one is almost guaranteed to make me money.

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I do think avoiding scandal is a mark in Obama's favor. At the end of the day we're all flesh and blood beings, not machines, and succumbing to temptation is all-too-human. Bill Clinton, I think, wasn't born with quite as much personal self-discipline as Obama. In some ways there's a cosmic "unfairness" to this, in that a lot of this effect no doubt flows from, well, DNA—at a base level. But that's partly what I meant by "naturally" gifted: not everyone possesses iron discipline, but it seems a very powerful tool in most walks of life. Politics very much included.

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Clinton was better at some things, Obama better at others. Larry Summers actually had a good analysis some years ago of the differences between the two.

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Obama, Clinton, Reagan, JFK are the top tier among Presidents since WWII. You can add Martin Luther King to that list, obviously; not many more outside of electoral politics; I can't think of anyone else who did try for President. There are probably a few Senators/Governors who never did try for the White House that I'm forgetting, but not many.

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Eisenhower was a better president than JFK. Maybe JFK would have gotten better over time but as it was, no contest.

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/260656.The_Hidden_Hand_Presidency

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I meant in terms of charisma, not in terms of the quality of their governance.

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I think it's very difficult to judge the JFK administration, given its brevity.

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Sep 1, 2022·edited Sep 1, 2022

One of the most gifted orators and campaigners in our lifetime, absolutely. Natural talent to be sure, but also much hard work I'd imagine. That it looks so effortless just shows that. However that's not the sum of a politician. I think he was a good-ish president, but far from a great one. Remains to be seen whether being stuck between a normally-bad and an abnormally-horrifying presidents will ultimately help his legacy, or whether the perception that he "allowed" Trump to be elected will tarnish him. My guess is that if the country survives the Trump crisis and comes out stronger, Obama will be remembered fondly thanks to this sandwich, whereas if it does not he will be viewed much like the weimar republic.

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As culturally liberal as the media was, I think you are forgetting the other half of it.

If you recall in Obama's first term, the media's push was on the budget deficit in a way it never had been for W. Bush.

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Does anyone else remember how the Peterson Institute folks were EVERYWHERE talking about how we need to tackle the deficit the minute Obama got into office?

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Yep!!

How many times did you hear about “Greece?”

This is why I always thought the media was “liberal” was a simplistic take.

Yes culturally liberal, but certainly not economically.

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If a more conservatively aligned media is growing and capturing readers and viewers, and then you exclude that media from your analysis of ‘the media’, of course you find that ‘the media’ is becoming more liberal. And this started in the late 90s. I don’t know which chicken or which egg really starts the move here but it’s not about JFK or even Obama. And I’d say it’s 2000 that really prefigures the coalition shifts, it takes most of the voters a while to catch up but the W team very self consciously (and against their personal history) presented the ‘real America’ vs blue America and pickup truck vs ‘latte’ vibe. Which is again right around the rise of fox, and nothing to do with millennial hope and change.

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I would argue that Fox exists, and has grown, because it is the only outlet for conservative journalists and viewers. Yes, it is the largest single network. But it is dwarfed by the combined effect of all the others.

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If you look at CNN in 1996 and say it’s sooo liberal that fox had to rise in response because there was no where else for conservatives to work, I don’t really know what to tell you. They were chasing some balance between audience and pursuing a conscious political agenda. It was not caused by a glut of conservative journalists forced out of work by dastardly liberal media execs.

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Sep 1, 2022·edited Sep 1, 2022

I think Fox is trash and have thought that since almost immediately after its launch, but yes, American mainstream TV media in the 1980s and early 1990s really was "sooo liberal" that Fox News "had to rise in response." The amount of water carried for Bill Clinton in 1992 made 2008 MSNBC coverage of Obama look like a hatchet job.

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In the sense of audience demand and ‘technological’ change in the media ecosystem I agree 100%

But the demand for conservative journalists was robust. My view is that even today supply struggles despite both demand and distribution channels.

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I always thought CNN was just very status quoy in an annoyingly naive way

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I'm mostly thinking of the broadcast networks in this era. CNN was more status quo from the outset, as I recall it.

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The only outlet, besides NY Post, Washington Times, WSJ, all of talk radio, a significant portion of local tv news, Newsmax, Facebook, the right wing YouTube explosion… I could go on.

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Wasn't his characterisation of "the 47%" disgusting? If that's how you think about half your compatriots, that's serious, IMO.

And it makes you wonder how people can simultaneously think of themselves as patriots and having such a low opinion of their own fellow country(wo)men. But I'm not American.

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I'm sure every candidate says things they shouldn't. The 47% comment was Romney's. I won't claim Mitt was the perfect candidate. But that wasn't the gist of my comment.

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But you can't whine if the media uses against you what you really said?

This is the Mother jones transcript:

Romney: "There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. And I mean, the president starts off with 48, 49, 48—he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. And he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean that’s what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people—I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is ... "

The 47% believe they have a right to food and housing and will never be convinced to take personal responsibility for their lives

(in addition, this is said by someone who described that in his student days, he and his wife would sell shares when in need of cash)

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Like I said, I'm not going to convince anyone with anecdotes. And neither will you.

My point was about how that campaign foreshadowed (for me) the realignment we see today happening around education and class.

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I find this unfortunate, because at some level, Romney does believe in the 47% comment. He made a lot of money destroying people's livelihoods by buying and then bankrupting companies for profit.

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Vulture capital arguably has a role to play in a healthy market ecosystem.

But it isn't a good look.

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This is probably the one really dishonest attack Romney had to deal with in 2016. The companies Bain bought were generally headed for bankruptcy and that's exactly why they got sold to a PE firm like Bain.

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Bain didn't make its money from driving companies to bankruptcy. Bain made its money from buying companies on the cheap because they were at high risk of bankruptcy, and saving enough of them that the wins paid for the collapses-to-zero.

Think about it -- Bain had to buy those companies before it could do anything. If it was going to restructure the company in a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose fashion with the existing shareholders, why would the existing shareholders have taken that deal?

I definitely agree that Bain was optimizing for profits instead of optimizing for rate-of-avoiding-portfolio-company-bankruptcy (ie, it wasn't using healthy companies to bail out sick companies as much as it could have), but that's very different from saying that Bain/Romney "made a lot of money destroying people's livelihoods by buying and then bankrupting companies for profit"

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As I recall it, someone else invented the 47%, it circulated among the right wing, and Romney (unwisely) repeated it.

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Sep 1, 2022·edited Sep 1, 2022

Wasn't that a Paul Ryan thing? "The Makers and The Takers"? There was stuff like that around and I think that Romney was daft enough to use it in what he thought was a private setting. The obvious equivalent is Hillary talking about The Deplorables.

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Also, if it's unfair to use an out of context quote against a candidate, it should be noted that the entire Republican convention that year was themed around Obama's "You didn't build that" quote taken out of context.

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Or Obama and the gun-clinging religious zealots

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The problem I have with this is that I remember when Bush was Hitler in the media. And then he won re-election easily, in part because he obviously wasn't Hitler and the overblown attacks backfired.

Conservatives in their own minds have been giving 'the media' vastly more power than they actually have for as long as I remember (almost certainly longer). It's a mistake.

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Yes! "The Media" is a money making entity, not some socialist radical playpen that disrupts in own economy in favor of left wing agenda items. It not only is inconsistent in its overt support for leftists but it will almost always go for sensation over reason. It's biased to the left a little bit but it's biased toward headlines a lot more (especially when those headlines ding liberals they formally praised, that's the biggest get of all!).

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But why should this be “politically formative” at all if, as you say, it has nothing to do with the candidates’ positions? I get media bias is annoying, but forming your politically views based on that doesn’t really make sense. It’s a meta complaint.

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What do you think of birtherism? How did that influence your thinking?

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The whole birtherism thing was a big formative political experience for me and changed the way I saw the Republican party.

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It was dumb, and a sideshow.

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So you recall the “mainstream media’s” wall to wall coverage of the whole “long form” birth certificate saga?

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Like I said, I'm not going to convince anyone with anecdotes. And neither will you, even if you phrase them as questions.

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It's a little convenient that you keep insisting that no one is going to be convinced by anecdotes, because -- anecdotally -- your argument is getting absolutely savaged.

Socially and culturally, the weight of the media has long been liberal. Fiscally and foreign policy-wise, the weight of the media has long been center-right. When covering horse-race politics, the media has long been generally insipid and I don't think its biases really track ideologically.

You appear to have liked Mitt Romney and therefore didn't like the "unfair" narratives about him. Well, boo hoo. Al Gore and Hillary Clinton would like to have a word with you.

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To repeat myself: I'm not trying to argue media bias, as everyone has their own set of examples to support either position. Instead, my comment was that "...the 2012 campaign set the stage for the class and education realignment we see today."

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John, you've convinced me! Don't sell yourself short. You're doing great!

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I think this is well said and I agree. This was also the first time in US politics that I remember people framing a vote for Romney as morally wrong on identity terms. Romney was homophobic, and there was this “Voting for Romney is denying me my right to live and love so that you can pay lower taxes.” With Bush and McCain I think people would say “You’re wrong and have bad judgement” but there wasn’t this totalizing sense that someone who has wrong and harmful views on an important identity issue should be completely disqualified from politics altogether, and I see that attitude everywhere in progressive politics now. I think Romney is where that started, and I think you’re right to interpret it as presaging class realignment.

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Sep 1, 2022·edited Sep 1, 2022

Did the whole Moral Majority movement just disappear down the memory hole for you? Even today Christians face an existential crisis at the hands of godless Democrats is still very much a thing.

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Me and all of my Liberal friends stopped beating up Christians in dark alleys years ago. They have nothing to complain about any more.

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We throw them to the lions now b/c it gets views on TikTok. Right?

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It was 2016 for me. The media were obsessed with portraying Clinton as unfit to be president because she used a private email server and made it the most important issue of the election. Meanwhile her opponent had an NSA advisor who was a foreign agent and a campaign chair who was a foreign agent. I've never forgiven the media (especially New York Times). And I never will.

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It was 2008 for me. It was sickening to see how the left lionized McCain when he died, but when he ran in 2008 he was so disgustingly demonized by the media. The opportunity to modernize the GOP was lost for a generation. They dragged down McCain, Romney, and Ryan... and the result was Trump. I could never vote for him but I can understand why many sensible people do and why "fake news" resonates so powerfully.

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I wouldn't make what you describe the only reason, but I think 2012 was a more consequential election than 2016 for the trends Yglesias has discussed within American liberalism. I found Yglesias's earlier essay very unpersuasive on assigning this to Hillary vs Bernie. Ferguson, DACA, Life of Julia 2012 ad, etc, there's a clear evolution on how liberal party people talk about race/gender/immigration that was underway before the 2016 primary and general.

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Republicans need to run better leaders to clearly communicate what they think and what they want to do while avoiding being constant entertainers/provocateurs for some right-wing voters and liberal pundits. DeSantis is a real improvement over Trump in that dimension, I'm not sold he'll win the primary, but that's a lot more relevant than Romney.

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I think the thing this analysis misses is that people generally dislike people who get the job because they were "next in line". 2020 was the first time since 1988 that a "next in line" candidate won at all, and maybe the only time one ever beat a "movement" candidate.

Reagan, Bill Clinton, Obama, and yes, Trump, all had "enthusiastic movements" behind them. Going to their rallies were by most reports like going to rock concerts. Contrast Mondale, Dukakis, HW Bush, Dole, Gore, Kerry, McCain, Romney, H Clinton, Biden - all of whom seemed to get in because "well, it's their turn", like you get the job because you put in the time. The only winner of that group, Biden, got in because his opponent was uniquely terrible.

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Technically, HW Bush did win one election, but I guess it's because his opponent, Dukakis, was also on this same list. And Gore and H Clinton came very close to winning (in Gore's case perhaps because his opponent should have been on this list too, and H Clinton had the same awful opponent as Biden).

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It's like that joke about the only French Military Victories only happen when the opponent is also French. (obviously, debunked, don't @ me :) )

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But I would suggest the realization of alignment among "the Democratic Party, the media, Hollywood and the "establishment"" was happening anyway, because of the underlying factors driving that, and at most the 2012 campaign crystalized what was already happening. Because the campaign itself didn't seem especially anomalous by the rough and tumble standards of presidential campaigns.

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This is exactly my point, Allan. The realignment was happening and the way Romney was covered during that campaign was the first time I really noticed it.

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This post seems correct to me. I would add two points:

1) The 2012 election was probably the high point of my lifetime in terms of candidate quality. Obviously their political positions differed but both Obama and Romney were highly capable people with high integrity and strong values. As a result garden variety political attacks seem even more petty than usual.

2) The formula Trump unlocked to moderate on social programs was to go hard right on immigration, nationalist on foreign policy, and make highly transactional commitments to the pro life movement as cover for that moderation. (As a businessman he, like Bush & Romney, didn’t need to worry much about shoring up the low-tax/deregulatory portion of the platform). What’s wild is that as far as I know, nobody in Republican circles thought in 2012 or 2014 that this play could work. It’s interesting to imagine if say Rick Perry or Chris Christie or Ted Cruz had gone down that path--would they have had the success Trump had? More? Less?

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Re: #1 — US presidential elections were *usually* like that, once upon a time. Two conventional highly qualified, very experienced, often rather august figures going at it from Labor Day until the beginning of November...

The good old days before party bigwigs lost their mojo. Sigh...

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Yeah I don’t really buy this. Elections where Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon won couldn’t have had such great quality.

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Ronald Reagan was the governor of our largest state. For two terms. Nixon was one of the most experienced and conventionally well-qualified men ever to win that office (the current POTUS is one of the few who matches up favorably). He had been in national politics for nearly a quarter century by the time of his ascension to the presidency, and had served multiple terms in the House of Representatives, plus a stint in the Senate, plus two terms as Ike's vice-president.

Republicans used to have a robust vetting system in place.

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Reagan still had an astrologer lolol

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Michael Dukakis was an august figure?

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No. I wrote "often" not "always." But Dukakis was indeed "highly qualified and very experienced" in the traditional, conventional sense of that term.

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The story I’ve pieced together is that Republicans were deeply shocked by Democrats’ sweeping victory in 2008. They then interpreted all the right-wing anger about Obama as *the* reason they won even more sweeping victories in 2010.

It convinced Republicans that what the country really, desperately wanted was some kind of severe austerity. In truth, Obama had assembled a coalition that included many unreliable voters and turnout cratered in 2010, exacerbating the thermostatic effects of our political system.

That’s why the consensus on the right was so insane. It’s not dissimilar to how Sanders dominated Democratic politics based on how much he outperformed low expectations. It was insane. Everyone seemed to know, at some level, that people just really hated Hillary Clinton but decided never to focus on that fact.

There’s a deeper problem here that, honestly, cut to the core of Matt’s article: politically engaged people really, deeply, truly, and obsessively like to cast election results in terms of the issues *they* think are most important. That’s... almost certainly untrue but it causes wild ideological swings.

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The "Trumpism without Trump" formulation doesn't work. No one else would have settled in that issue set because that issue set only serves Trump's individual rhetorical approach. It doesn't get you anywhere unless you're already positioned to piss off to no end just the right subset of the left.

And it's real bad. It's not a lane that should exist. It's only opened up because advocating serious policy positions has become a negative return proposition. A lesson '12 taught entirely to clearly.

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I think if you define “serious policy positions” to mean “positions so extreme as to be hugely unpopular” you’re in for a world of electoral hurt. This is something the left does a lot too and they nearly blew 2020 as a result.

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You're saying that Romnet's positions in 2012 were serious? Why? Cutting Social Security is in my mind, fundamentally unserious, both politically and from a policy perspective.

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Sep 1, 2022·edited Sep 1, 2022

The Romney campaign did in fact make a serious effort to demonstrate that it was necessary to enact serious entitlement reforms in spite of significant tradeoffs lest those programs face far more destructive crises in the future. They may yet prove right on that one. Whether you think they're right or not, they at least believed they were serious. Trump never even pretended to think seriously about anything.

Even if they turn out to be wrong, defending policy tradeoffs on the merits is what campaigns are supposed to do. We've now entered an era where suggesting that good policy might require trade offs is totally off the table and the only path is to identify as large a coalition as possible in which it is possible to promise everything to everyone with the understanding that the costs of any possible tradeoffs will be born by the other side.

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founding

It may be that such reforms are needed at some point - but standard economic thinking is that boom times and inflationary times are when you should be engaging in those reforms, while deflationary busts are when you should just let wasteful spending be.

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“The boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity at the Treasury.” Dixit Keynes in 1937

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Which is all well and good, but don't see how the political incentives would ever let it work that way and just never doing it is obviously worse than failing to optimize for the macroeconomic environment.

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Worse for whom, exactly?

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This is an exaggeration, because it's clear that serious entitlement reform is not required in any budgetary sense, particularly if we compare to other countries. The US has a relatively good demographic profile and if we return to immigration baselines it will improve even more. I want to see specifically why you think entitlement reform is "needed", and why I should cut taxes on rich people preferentially over providing a social safety net.

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The SSA itself says that it will not have enough revenue to make promised payments at some point in the 2030s. And this is not a new development. The SSA has been forecasting this revenue shortfall for well over a decade already.

https://www.ssa.gov/OACT/TR/2021/tr2021.pdf

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Short version is that government spending needs appropriate corresponding tax revenue and the old age/health entitlements simply don't have it. Serious politics is about resolving that sort of discrepancy. Neither constraining benefits nor raising the necessary revenue are going to be particularly popular, but that's the point, selling the public on a preferred set of trade offs. Trump era politics is about never defending something unpopular by pretending trade offs don't exist, or at the very least that they can be shoveled off onto the other party's voters.

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What's your preferred "serious politics" resolution? Is it to raise taxes on the middle class and reduce benefits? Because that's what so-called "serious" people have been trying to do since Social Security was created, and yet, somehow, the Republic still stands.

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Remember, this was when the GOP was still pretending that they cared about deficits and when they could still convince a few voters that trickle-down did in fact trickle down.

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I'm sorry, but this was deeply unserious in 2012, and people knew it.

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Peter, I am emotionally with you on point one, how 2012 gave us two fair choices. BUT. BUT BUT BUT! This makes me suspicious that you (like me) are a college-educated professional, perhaps in or near a big city?

Trump innovated by bringing in a big batch of low-education voters, the old George Wallace fans, who wanted a candidate who spoke for the common man. (Who is indeed a man, and commonly a White one!) When was the last time those folks had a candidate who spoke to their concerns & emotions? That's why immigration was such a big point, not a side dish like Matt implies in this piece.

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Yes you have me pegged. But George W Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Lyndon Johnson... all had pretty strong connections to the common man! Trump successfully realigned them out of the Dem coalition (even more than Bush had) but it’s not exactly a novel concept.

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good point. And because I want Democrats to win elections, I am hoping we see more future candidates in that mold... John Fetterman seems to be working that angle, for example.

It's kind of like the old "who would you like to have a beer with" test. Or the way opponents have always been painted as "out of touch with real people". The difference between Georges Bush being such a fun example.

(Though of course, I was endlessly irritated that Dubya would consistently slouch at the lectern. You are a Yale man, dammit - act like one! Can you imagine if Barack Obama had casually draped himself over the lectern all the time? People would have freaked out, like they did that time he wore a tan suit...)

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Biden too, kinda. I’d much rather have a beer with Biden than Trump, who’d buy the table several rounds and dip out right before the bartender brings the check...

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Great point about candidate quality. Wonder how far back we have to go to find candidates like that.

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Great point about candidate quality. Wonder how far back we have to go to find candidates like that.

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I have found the "myth of innocence" of the GOP more galling than any Trumpism.

I have been hearing this for decades.

Does anyone remember Dukakis?

I mean come on...

Realistically the 2012 campaign was bean bag compared to the usual stuff.

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I think Trump also picked up support, and more loyalty, after he was elected because of the reaction to his election. The cultural climate of 2017 already seems like a fugue state.

Our portion of the media, our culture (both Hollywood and the people who cover it), along with any sector dominated by liberals (HR departments, in my part of the world) sort of went insane. We had one hysterical moral panic after the next, with collateral damage that seemed to include values like free speech and due process.

I think in particular of the movie and TV critics that I was reading and listening to. They sort of became a woke hive mind, some from enthusiasm and some just seemed sort of afraid. There were s few critics that I followed who had very distinctive voices until 2017 and then, well, every woke-scold sounds like every woke-scold.

I think that the unified outrage and overnight cultural overhaul served to push more normal Republicans into the Trump camp more firmly.

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Yeah. Bias is not as strong as conservatives think it is in news and reporting. But news isn't the only thing conservatives are referring to when they use the term "media."

They're also referring to movies, scripted TV, cultural analysis (e.g. movie critics in print and on podcasts,) etc. According to the Ad Fontes Media Bias Chart, even Teen Vogue has a strong political bias in favor of the left.

I don't recall much "unfair treatment" of Romney by the news media (apart from a couple of obvious examples, which had their equivalents in right wing media.)

But I do remember a viral CollegeHumor video called "Mitt Romney Style," which basically bashed Romney to the tune of Gangnam Style. I remember a viral Epic Rap Battles video featuring Romney and Obama where, if Abe Lincoln hadn't stepped in at the end, Obama would have been the clear victor.

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"One hysterical moral panic after the next"

Name three.

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I love that that the party of personal responsibility (once upon a time, anyway) is now the party of "you hurt my feelings so I turned mean". Break out the fainting couch.

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"Fuck your feelings" was an actual slogan Trump fans embraced!

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I thought his slogan was, "the media said mean things about me. *sniff sniff*"

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Bethany Mandel's expressed resentment may go only back to Mitt Romney, but the collective right wing resentment of the mainstream refusing to unquestionably accept their most cherished beliefs goes a much longer way back. That's the whole reason Fox News and talk radio date back 30+ years, and that's even despite the long and popular Reagan era. One could even go further back than that: Nixon's fear and loathing, disappointment of Eisenhower's presidency and Goldwater getting crushed, and perhaps going all the way back to the anti-New Dealers. This slice of the right will never be satisfied in this regard.

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You write as if voters are really informed and make decisions based on the issues. Did they really understand that Trump was more economically moderate than Romney? That wasn't my experience talking to voters, and it doesn't seem to be what the data shows, at least according to the book Democracy For Realists.

A lot of people outside elite circles were upset that the government was looking the other way on illegal immigration, and were excited that finally someone was taking it seriously. That's the only 2016 policy issue anyone ever talked to me about. But they didn't know or care that Obama had actually quietly significantly increased deportations.

But also, the election was super close and Hillary was a vastly unpopular opponent. And a lot of baseless attacks (her emails!) seemed more important than any real issues. Probably random chance and partisan groupthink had a greater role than any real issue, or at least that's the argument in Democracy For Realists. Why are you so certain that voters understood the policy stakes of the 2016 election?

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If I recall correctly, voters did consistently say in polling that Trump was more moderate than his Republican counterparts in the primaries and Hillary Clinton in the general election. You could attribute that to a lot of things, but I think if Trump was really elected primarily because of his anti-immigrant stance (in the general election) I would expect voters to view him as a more conservative figure.

Related, I think Matt brings up a good point as well that gay marriage was a very salient topic during the 2012 election and the fact that Trump did not really make that a part of his platform at all probably contributed to this perception of him.

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Is anti-immigration conservative? Being anti-immigrant used to be the labor union stance. Bernie used to be anti-immigrant. Rich conservatives loved illegal Mexican immigrants because they could pay them below minimum wage and treat them like dirt. They bragged about this!

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"Is anti-immigration conservative?"

Not inherently, but realistically in our context? Yes.

And you are conflating being conservative with only being concerned with rich folks bottom line.

Which is definitely the left wing trope of conservatives...

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It is a Left Wing trope for describing Conservative voters. It is absolutely a valid description of legislative goals of Conservative politicians.

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Sep 1, 2022·edited Sep 1, 2022

I think it's possible to characterize anti-immigration in 2016 as at least a *moderate* position due to the fact that illegal immigration is, you know, illegal -- I think that any policy position to the effect of "literally enforcing the laws on the books" has to have an implicit leg-up as far being perceived to be within the Overton window.

Bear in mind that the Democratic consensus shifted between 2008 and 2016 from from vague mumblings of mass amnesty / 'Path to citizenship" with pledges of better enforcement[1] -- a deal the elected Republicans were nominally agreeable to but weren't in any hurry to do anything about given perceived unpopularity with voters -- to DACA/DAPA/the adoption of the term 'undocumented'/the deliberate conflation of illegal and legal immigration paths under the general umbrella of "immigration" to better convey that the actual legality of entry was not a matter of independent concern to the party.

The point being that whatever a 'moderate' stance on immigration looked like at the beginning of the Obama administration, by the end of it the Democratic Party and associated partisan media apparatus seemed to have moved significantly to the left relative to that pole, while the considerable Overton-Window advantage of 'enforcing the laws on the books' limited how far most restrictionist-sounding proposals could plausibly stray from the 'moderate' descriptor even if they were strongly associated with the Republican party -- although I can't opine on whether the actual policies' being coded or perceived (rightly or wrongly) as 'moderate' had any real bearing on voter preferences.[2]

[1] such pledges were, perhaps, not very credible in view of the Reagan era and the next 20-30 years of immigration enforcement resulting in the impetus for the aforesaid amnesty, and further in view of the belief that between a desire for demographic change to favor Democratic electoral chances and as a matter of basic temperament the Democrats didn't particularly *want* very good enforcement.

[2] Also I would agree that Trumps Muslim restriction rhetoric and proposals don't qualify as 'moderate' under this rubric. Seems fair to characterize those as both highly partisan and very much *not* part of the status quo ante.

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Immigration wasn’t clearly defined ideologically for a long time.

Ultimately, the entertainment wing of the GOP won out and hating immigrants is now a core conservative principle.

Don’t question it. Politics isn’t political philosophy, making sense is not a criterion.

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>>You write as if voters are really informed and make decisions based on the issues.<<

I was a bit skeptical of that part, too. But remember, elections these days in the 50-50 US are increasingly won at the margins, and, although persuadable voters may not, by the end of October, have developed *highly detailed* knowledge of a candidate's stances on various issues, they perhaps can—guided by the heavy media coverage of the major party candidates—possess a sense of the broad brushstrokes. So McCain was "ornery conservative who wants a strong military" and Romney was "corporate fat-cat type who wants to help big business" and Trump was "immigrant basher who is friendly to old white people and their pensions and healthcare."

(Something like that.)

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"But they didn't know or care that Obama had actually quietly significantly increased deportations."

They recategorized what counts as a deportation (to include 'send backs' IIRC).

So those numbers were very misleading.

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It's rather nuanced, but it does seem Obama was serious about deportations. This is a pretty even-handed take:

https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/obama-record-deportations-deporter-chief-or-not

Basically, under Obama, more people were formally removed than in past administrations, rather than relying on voluntary returns.

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I feel like it's just as correct to frame the difference between Romney '12 and Trump '16, rather than right vs moderate, as a Romney actually being willing to attempt to articulate and make the case for serious positions and their inescapable trade offs vs Trump having no serious positions and simply saying anything to win. It's an incredibly bad shift that is in fact arguably tied to Romney being so thoroughly attacked on shabby grounds rather than fairly confronting the positions he was advocating. The lesson seems to have been "Don't take public positions. Just say whatever works to take power." Which is a paradigm that Trump is a perfect avatar for.

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I don’t really think Romney’s positions were all that serious. A revenue-neutral but vast rebalancing of the tax code to fuck over the middle class and let the rich off the hook based on a completely reversed understanding of causality as to why the rich pay so much in absolute terms?

Anyway, if we want to talk about elections where people were punished for having policy positions, 2010 would seem to be the better, if not textbook, case; the GOP ran on nothing except blaming their own stupid intransigence and the fragile state in which it left the economy on the Democrats.

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founding

I seem to remember it cost them the chance to take both Harry Reid and Joe Biden's Senate seats (which they could have easily won).

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christine_O%27Donnell

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The persistence of the tax thing as a brain worm among the rich is so gobsmackingly stupid that it totally invalidates any claims of merit in the way normal people actually understand it.

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My single farthest left position is that, if, after undoing the anti-competitive crap shot through the economy through regulatory capture, ineffective legal enforcement, and a lopsided tax treatment of unearned income, we find that Piketty is right and structural factors *still* militate in favor of capital over labor, and therefore towards ever-greater inequality in income and standard of living...

Then we should increase the progressivity of the tax code and jack inheritance taxes *however* far is necessary to keep that from happening, without regard to total revenues/passing the peak of the Laffer Curve, disincentives to productivity, or anything else.

Such a "natural" state of affairs is a surefire path to neo-feudalism and must be halted at any cost.

Whether it's truly the case or not... well we need to undo the rent-seeking bullshit and find out, hey?

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Honestly, I think it’s very odd that you would bother to hold that opinion.

Why hold or express an opinion that is, in essence, “we should do this but only if we can first have conditions which have not and will not ever attain”? What’s the point of even thinking about it?

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I mean, the obvious counterpoint is that this theoretical opinion informs two practical ones:

1. That we should prioritize genuine pro-market (not GOP kleptocracy), pro-competition reforms that change the current captured-status quo, rather than trying to clean up visible ill-effects downstream from it as most American lefty-types seem to focus on.

2. If we cannot ever muster the scalpel necessary to do so with a light touch, it would be better to tolerate the drag of a massively burdensome tax regime than to allow the status quo to proceed to its logical endpoint, in which the great mass of humanity are playthings to the wealthy and powerful.

I fail to see how those opinions are unimportant or not worth "bothering" to hold.

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This is a bitter restatement of Matt’s point and not a rebuttal

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It's definitely not meant to be a rebuttal. The point I'm trying to highlight is that, whatever the full accounting of the causes, the inflection point that was passed between campaigns working to stake out positions vs campaigns that obfuscate policy behind culture war smoke screens is extremely bad. If I want to disagree with anything Matt said it's that characterizing Trump's total lack of concern for policy as moderation is to misunderstand the dynamic.

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But ‘concern with policy’ does not have to equal holding deeply unpopular policies. Given the choice to try to win 2016 with a serious ‘concerned with policy’ politician on a more moderate platform the establishment chose instead to lose the primary to a charlatan with a more moderate platform and then retroactively justify their decision to back the charlatan in the general (hoping to pass their more conservative agenda anyway) as having something to do with people being mean to Romney

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I think the argument is that the R clown show primary failed to exclude Trump because '12 rendered credible seriousness uncompelling to primary voters and that the "establishment" has been stuck trying to herd cats ever since.

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Sep 1, 2022·edited Sep 1, 2022

There’s a big difference between analyzing your primary electorate’s motivations *while telling them that they are incorrect about trumps strength and that Hillary Clinton was just a weaker candidate than Barack Obama*

And ‘trying to herd cats’ by telling your voters they were correct to pick trump and then trying to pass off on them some (potentially more coachable?) trump ‘copies’

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I mean, I think it's an obvious frog and the scorpion situation. No one is getting out of it alive. I guess the question is if the frog is the Republican party or the country.

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Long form birtherism was a serious position? Why? Please explain which positions of Romney's were serious and thoughtful. I'm really curious.

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I agree that “it’s all about Mitt Romney” is whiny and dumb, but the fact that Trump openly hates Democrats is a pretty compelling reason the conservative movement likes him as well. Policy is part of the draw, but it’s giving them way too much credit to pretend that personal resentments don’t play a part in this.

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The fact that Trump "pretends to openly hate Democrats" is a pretty compelling.... Remember, Trump was a Democrat for essentially his entire life. Then he realized how much more gullible Republicans were....

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I mean I think he personally hates individual democrats because they ran against him or said critical things about him, I don’t think he cares about their ideology. He hates Republicans like Romney too for similar reasons!

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This is all true, and you didn't even mention that Romney specifically embraced Trump's birther claims (and Trump himself!) during the 2012 campaign in an effort to court the hard-right base.

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This is why I can't accept it when people say that Romney ran a high-minded campaign about serious issues.

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By "Romney’s 2016 platform was wild", do you mean his 2012 platform?

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Kudos to Milan for 1) being up before 9am in college and 2) poking fun at an Yglesias typo.

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He’s doing ROTC, so he’s probably been up for like 5 hours by now

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I'm really hoping you're kidding about Milan being in ROTC or that it's an abbreviation for something other than "Reserve Officer Training Corps" these days.

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What's wrong with ROTC?

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I find voluntarily exposing one's self to military service extremely "sus" as the young people put it.

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Ah, well hopefully not all of the young people agree with you.

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I mean, I got a full boat NROTC scholarship back in the day. I have no idea if Milan's getting a free ride to Yale, but if he is, good on him, that's worth a lot of dough!

(Zero idea what "sus" means).

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There are two types of people. One group views the world in terms of right versus wrong, the other is concerned more about winning versus losing. Political parties used to have lots of both types in them. For example, Jack Kennedy was a win/lose guy and Bobby was a right/wrong guy.

Political races used to be driven by issues, which right/wrong people love to debate about. My opinion is that the Republicans realized after 2012 that they no longer could win on the issues. “Peace through Strength” and “Trickle-down Economics” had run their course after the Bush years. Trump is 100% a win/lose guy. He simply built a coalition of people who the Democrats deemed “wrong” on issues and turned them into winners in 2016. No party platform, issues be damned. Populism.

Since the Trump coalition has always had a ceiling off about 40%, the best option to beat them is to unite the 60% and run a win/lose battle against Trump (or MAGA). To do this you need Republicans or former Republicans who care about issues (considered “losers” by Trump) to join the Democrats. It worked for Biden. If the Democrats want to win in ‘22/‘24, then they need to embrace Mitt Romney and Liz Cheney rather than shaming them because their views on certain issues. Quit talking about progressive issues and make it a referendum on an issue the 60% can rally behind, like saving our democracy. Or frame them in a way that appeals to all, like Dobbs was bad because it restricts freedom. Seems to me they are starting to figure this out by their actions of the last couple months.

“Duh, winning!”

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"Or frame them in a way that appeals to all, like Dobbs was bad because it restricts freedom."

This right here is the central problem with your plan to unite the 60%, and a big part of why the Democrat's ceiling is 52% and not 62%. Most Republican leaning voters have certain non-negotiables on social issues, the same as Democrats. And while there's a path to accommodating them, that path runs through *embracing* the logic of Dobbs in these areas - supporting abortion laws being tailored by the local electorate and their representatives, not decided by judicial fiat.

If you run on "states will be allowed to set their their own, common-sense rules, like banning abortion after 16 weeks" you may get some real crossovers, even if paired with a limited national floor (e.g. protections to protect women from death or serious injury or rape exceptions, that are quite popular). But if your argument is that Dobbs restricted people's freedom and therefore it's abortion-to-birth or bust, you're not going to convince anyone who wasn't already going to vote for Democrats anyway.

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Absolutely right. I’m saying to avoid culture issues that divide the 60%. That’s what the Republicans do effectively. DeSantis is a master at this. Talk about things that unite them instead. Trump, infrastructure, foreign policy, etc.

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Unless you're in politics for the salary (or ego or graft), you should be concerned with right vs wrong or at least some of the time. If winning office is the only thing ...

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The best politicians were both and could appeal to both groups. “Preacher Obama” was magic on the campaign trail and “Professor Obama” put most of us asleep with long, well-thought-out State of the Union speeches. Same could be said for Reagan and FDR. You are right, win only guys like Trump are dangerous. That’s why the focus needs to be on beating him rather than dying on a hill for a certain issue. Debate the issues after you win, like Biden has.

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This would be more convincing if the majority of the 2012 Obama campaign was built around policy differences with Romney. Of course, it wasn't. In the eyes of Democrats and the media all Republicans and conservatives are racists and fascists bent on destroying America. See Johnson, Lyndon "daisy ad." George W Bush was going to install a theocracy right after he went to war with Iran and canceled the 2008 elections.

I have no use for Trump or his enablers, but the Democrats and their media allies spent years laying the ground work for the politics we have today.

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The daisy ad was fair because Goldwater was a nuclear war hawk. He specifically proposed using “tactical” nuclear weapons on the battlefield without presidential authorization. [1]

> “There is real need for the supreme commander to be able to use judgment on the use of these weapons tactical nuclear weapons more expeditiously than he could by telephoning the White House, and I would say that in these cases the supreme commander should be given great leeway in the decision to use them or not to use them.”

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/1964/09/23/archives/goldwater-says-generals-have-a-nuclear-authority.html

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And famously, it only ran once, I believe: it was the coverage of the ad more so than the effectiveness of the ad itself that hurt Goldwater (although by how much is hard to say: it seems to me in the rearview mirror of history that the fundamentals of that campaign massively favored LBJ).

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My argument isn't that Johnson wouldn't have won anyway. But rather that the long history of Democrats (and the media, and universities, and Hollywood) painting all Republicans as fascist war mongers eventually just becomes background noise.

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But Romney wasn't painted as a fascist warmonger. He was painted as a right winger (which were his positions) who came from wealth and disdained poor people (47%) and made substantial money destroying American companies for profit (Bain capital). That's what I remember from the campaign (remember the America song ad). And as far as I can tell, all those criticisms were broadly accurate. Certainly much more than Hillary's emails.

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Just on 'warmonger', it's probably worth recalling that both McCain and Romney ran on reflexively hawkish positions that embraced every part of Bush-era foreign policy thinking and demanded more. MY doesn't mention it in his post but one other way Trump moderated in 2016 was by acknowledging that there were flaws with the conduct of the Iraq and Afghan wars, even though he obviously did so through a very right-wing framing.

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This is the add: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riDypP1KfOU

An example of mildness, IMO, in an age of the red scare, an age when merely hinting your adversary's gay could be lethal and when "race mixing is communism" was an acceptable political statement (infamous use of this slogan was 1959, Little Rock. And race mixing meant, hold your breath, school integration).

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>>An example of mildness, IMO<<

It was a good ad, all things considered. And a fair one, in my view. Cold War tensions really were incredibly high at that juncture, so a president's temperament with respect to the use of force was a critical issue. Maybe the most important issue. It is a sad irony indeed that the candidate behind that spot went on to to embroil the country in perhaps its very most tragic and senseless disaster. Johnson was a truly Shakespearean figure in so many ways. He came so close—tantalizingly close—to reaching true, historical greatness—only to leave office a widely reviled figure forever tainted in the history books by the legacy of the War in Vietnam.

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The funny thing is LBJ didn't even need to run that add. Due to JFKs popularity and assasination LBJ would have beaten the ghost of Abraham Lincoln.

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There was robust debate throughout the Cold War about nuclear strategy and policy and Goldwater's statement was well within the bounds of that debate given the US defense posture at the time. And, it should be noted, the daisy ad was hardly a nuanced discussion of nuclear weapons policy.

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Nuanced discussion is not really a thing ads can do.

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You are then agreeing that there was nothing wrong with the "daisy" ad, since it was merely pointing out, where within the "bounds of debate" Goldwater was positioned?

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It seems pretty common for people to have had the view that we should treat nukes as just another weapon and, for sure, our nuclear projects suggested that we intended to use them that way if the red hordes came pouring through the Fulda Gap.

Goldwater’s position, that we should use tactical nuclear weapons in conflicts other than WWIII, was extreme but it wasn’t actually beyond the pale.

I agree with you overall though that nothing about the ad was unfair. Goldwater was a terrible candidate and, given that he also wanted to bring back Jim Crow “on principle”, a genuine non-person whose brain had rotted out entirely. But he’s so key to conservative conceptions of themselves for decades that many people believed he had reasonable ideological positions.

He did not and he should have been ashamed of himself.

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I agree with you that pretending the Trump embrace is all about policy is naive, but Republicans were calling all liberals traitors who hate America since at least the GW Bush presidency. And if you want to go back to mid-20th century, calling all Democrats communists has been happening since the McCarthy era.

Yes there’s a lot of hatred on both sides (and I don’t think hating 50% of America is good from either side), but the spiral into mutual hatred has been happening on both sides for a long time.

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I don't accept this bothsideism framing. The Republicans have always been more extreme, and it is getting worse.

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Maybe a little pedantic, but "in my lifetime" or "since the 60's" is a better understanding of the GOP than "always." Both parties represent a much different part of the electorate than they did 100-150 years ago.

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McCarthyism and the anti New Deal ideas were pretty weird.

Eisenhower's domestic policies and outlook were reasonable (and his identification of the military-industrial complex was visionary) but his foreign policy was pretty extreme with anti-communist coups against non-communists who were more or less friendly to the US in Egypt, Iran and Guatemala (apart from the pointlessness of these coups: the first helped Nasser to the throne who turned out to be an enemy; the Shah was a drama as a leader and not a very helpful ally; the second and third coups turned much of the middle east and Latin America against the US)

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Yeah... I really feel like the wheels fell off the Republican Party with Hoover. It was just deeply tied to the business elite, which believed they deserved their wealth in a fairly Calvinist way. The result has been nearly a century of the public essentially rejecting the party’s fundamental worldview.

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Today’s discussion is not one for objective facts or nuance.

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I don't think today's discussion is different than most on this question, either here or other places. When you experience something for your entire life and maybe your parents lifetime too, it's easy to think "it's always been that way."

It's also fair to say that the specifics of the Republican and Democratic coalitions in the late 19th century don't have much -if any- bearing on the coalitions today. That's why I conceded up front that my comments could be considered a bit pedantic. The value of my point is to remind ourselves that party coalitions and behaviors are not etched in stone and could be changing even now.

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What has, “always been that way”?

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It's a fair point. I revise the claim. I mean since the original realignment and the modern party system, so since the late 1950s, early 1960s.

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I agree honestly, I think it’s the dominant impulse on the Republican side and exists but doesn’t dominate on the other side. Still don’t think either is healthy though. And I guess the main real-world implication of liberal dislike of conservatives is that they’re unable to effectively call out racism from their own side (basically the more civilized racism of NIMBYism and keeping poor and often nonwhite kids out of elite public schools), because apparently racism only exists if you vote for Trump.

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founding

Did anyone call Romney a fascist? I recall them calling McCain a warmonger who would get us all blown up, and Romney a 0.1%er who wants 47% of the population to eat cake, but W Bush and Trump are the ones that were called racists and fascists.

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I haven't clicked through them, but just the summaries in the Google search here show what looks like several examples: https://www.google.com/search?q=%22romney+is+a+fascist%22&rlz=1C1GCEA_enUS919US919&biw=1920&bih=937&sxsrf=ALiCzsab8d_GHSNVLBWuy31SkNAg5VsRmQ%3A1662052815588&ei=z-kQY9vMI9arptQP3rqJoAs&ved=0ahUKEwib8K6djfT5AhXWlYkEHV5dArQ4HhDh1QMIDg&uact=5&oq=%22romney+is+a+fascist%22&gs_lcp=Cgxnd3Mtd2l6LXNlcnAQAzoECCMQJ0oECEEYAUoECEYYAFD7FliaNWCjPmgBcAB4AIABYogBiwSSAQE3mAEAoAEBwAEB&sclient=gws-wiz-serp

There was also an article in I think the Weekly Standard some years back that documented literally every single Republican presidential candidate from Wendell Willkie through Mitt Romney being called a fascist and/or Nazi, but I can't immediately find it in my searches.

P.S. McCain really was a warmonger who might very well have gotten us all blown up and he was certainly the closest thing to a genuine fascist who's run on a major party ticket even if Trump is more authoritarian.

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founding

Yeah, I probably shouldn't have implied that I thought there was no use of the word "fascist". The claim that I actually believe is that, out of the past six presidential election seasons, Romney is likely the Republican that got called "fascist" least often during the campaign, and probably had the most criticisms relating to wealth/taxes/not caring about the poor. I don't recall if Trump's net worth is technically higher or lower than Romney's, but the fact that he reversed those two complaints is probably precisely what MattY is talking about in the OP.

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I have wondered why the Republican critics of Social Security and Medicare have not forced their Democratic opponents to take a position on addressing the long term financing shortfalls. The most recent Trustees Report anticipates insufficient funding starting in 2034. [1]

The most straightforward solution is to increase (or eliminate) the current payroll tax ceiling of $147k. But many Democratic politicians have decided that increasing taxes on anyone earning less than $400k is politically untenable. So they might have to propose making payroll taxes progressive or funding out of the general fund. And the recent BBB/IRA legislation fiasco shows how hard it is for Democrats to reach a consensus to raise any taxes.

Regardless of approach, it would require Democrats to champion a substantial tax increase—possibly including incomes below $400k—without any commensurate new benefits. Or they’d have to give ground to the Republicans and propose some benefits cuts such as increasing the retirement age for future beneficiaries.

I could see Republican welfare critics potentially garnering more support when their solutions are contrasted against alternative approaches that will allow the programs to be sustained. Although I personally hope we can just find a way to raise more tax revenue and don’t think we need to be so squeamish about further taxing incomes in the $100-400k range.

[1] https://www.ssa.gov/oact/TR/2022/II_D_project.html#105057

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>>I have wondered why the Republican critics of Social Security and Medicare have not forced their Democratic opponents to take a position on addressing the long term financing shortfalls.<<

If I had to guess it's because they know their Democratic opponents will use the opportunity to claim the Republican wants to cut retirement programs. If you're a Republican, having a general election become dominated by the issue of elderly entitlements is usually very risky territory. On those rare occasions when it is *Democrats* who allow themselves to become vulnerable on the issue (the debate on the Affordable Care Act comes to mind), Republicans are only too happy to step into the breach.

Republicans do in any event (on occasion) bring up what they allege is the shakiness of the big entitlement programs. But the results of doing so usually aren't great for them, politically-speaking.

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It's because there is no political reason for Democratic officeholders to do that. Republicans don't care about deficits (as they have stated repeatedly). They want to cut entitlements. So why should the Democrats adopt unpopular positions and raise taxes when they know the Republicans will slam them for it and then blow any savings on tax cuts for rich people? Asking Democrats to repeatedly "do the right thing" and then lose office isn't a winning strategy.

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Both parties are just waiting until they have absolutely no choice to raise taxes and cut benefits sometime in the 2030s because SS won't be able make promised payments. Crisis mode saving the day once again.

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I think you answered your own question with the words "starting in 2034."

That's like 12 versions of the iPhone from now. IOW, beyond the political time event horizon.

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founding

Also at least 8 iterations of GPT/DALL-E. There may not be humans writing or designing ad campaigns any more by then.

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Raising taxes on families making, say, $250k would be very popular if it kept social security and medicare flowing.

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How are Republican critics going to force Democrats to do this?

They don't have the media clout and influence to do so, and reach anyone beyond their base.

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