175 Comments

Make Smoke Filled Rooms Great Again

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Vape. Filled. Zoom Calls. (pounds on table, getting increasingly louder). Vape. Filled. Zoom Calls! Vape. Filled. Zoom Calls!!

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Whitmer & Clouds! Whitmer & Clouds!

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Here in Colorado not all smoke is the same....

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My common room is great already bro

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I thought about you when I saw this the other day Milan

https://www.youtube.com/shorts/OBfHBOtOfeo

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I must make hajj to this holy site

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America would be better if being a nonsmoker disqualified one from office

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"You didn’t have unanimity among members of congress about legislative sequencing, but everyone agreed that a choice had to be made and when the choice was made, it stuck."

In other words, Nancy Pelosi was the last great leader of the Democratic Party.

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"Nancy Pelosi was the last great leader of the Democratic Party."

Nah, you've got this all wrong -- or worse, non-responsive.

I'll grant you she was a great leader of the Dem. Congressional Caucus, and of the Dem. House Reps.

But that has nothing to do with the claim that "the Party" has lost power, because the Democratic Party is not and has never been the same thing as the House Dems. At its peak, there were nigh on 100 million Dem voters. There were never more than 300 or so House Dems. Keeping a caucus in line is very different from persuading tens of millions of voters by working down through the state-houses to the counties to the electorate.

So, your praise of Pelosi is just not any kind of counter to the claim that the national party is moribund.

Try to keep up, man!

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I’m glad that both of you are, well, *you* this time around.

Nonetheless, might wanna see a shrink about reintegrating you 2.0.

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Jan 15·edited Jan 15

A decent stab at analysis of the situation. But (IMO), still overthinking it. Also, far too kind to Nate Silver.

(Nate Silver, though a great poker player and a historically important pollster/analyst/android-brainlike persona, has developed an obvious grudge and chip on his shoulder against a lot of the world that is badly throwing his judgement and sense of reality out of whack. Being (mistakenly, IMO) fired from your main job by ABC and being called all kinds of names by liberals on Twitter over your pandemic thoughts will emotionally mess you up, but still. No excuse for the somewhat-delusional figure he's becoming now.)

One other thing, though. You hit on it briefly, but didn't connect the dots:

Democrats are sticking with Biden because, like you, they think he's done a great job.

That's really the main thing going on here, not the notion that "the party's weak" (though it is, by historical standards).

Klobuchar, Bullock, Whitmer, Shapiro, and Howdy-Doody (okay, I made up that last one) all genuinely like Biden, and want him to serve a second term.

More than any other reason, that's why they're not considering challenging him.

More broadly, they think if Democrats can't win the election with Biden's record, then we're all fucked and lol, nothing matters.

Beyond that, there's also the fact that parties in general tend to believe that a successful primary challenge to their incumbent president discredits not just that president, but his agenda--and the party's agenda--writ large.

Notably, at the depths of their unpopularity, neither Bush nor Trump nor Clinton nor Obama were ever seriously considered for a primary challenge. Three of those four won re-election, and the fourth nearly did, so *shrug emoji*.

P.S.: Also, in the specific case of Biden, there's a strong possibility that him bowing off the ballot, or being primaried off of it, would boost Trump's false contention that he is a "usurper" and that the 2020 election was "rigged"--which would have uncountable collateral damage far beyond Biden or Trump. But that's perhaps a little too much specific context for a general topic.

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founding

That is exactly Matt’s point. If this were a different political system, where nominees weren’t chosen by primary but were chosen by the party in a closed room, I think Matt is totally right. The Democrats would be nominating someone else, and Biden would say publicly that he’s stepping down to spend more time with family (maybe getting his son through rehab).

But since the only way to change nominees in the current system involves a public primary process, it’s not happening.

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Jan 15·edited Jan 15

Would they?

I'm not convinced.

Again, said closed-room elites seem to like Biden and think he's done a good job--and likely, think he would continue to do a good job in a second term, all things being equal. (Given the prosperous, yet knife's-edge state of America at the moment, and the premium given to experience in the world at the moment, that makes sense.)

Beyond that, there is a certain fuck-you quality in sticking with the president, given that both of Trump's impeachments were over his abuse of power directed at Biden, and given that most of red America literally thinks of him as "illegitimate".

Sure, if those of us (relatively young men) on the Slow Boring comments page were suddenly the smoke-filled-room elites, none of that would be front of mind and we'd be thinking purely in terms of what the polls told us about Biden's age.

But I don't think it's clear at all that Democrat party elites are thinking like that--nor, if they had the power, would they act accordingly.

(I'm biased, of course, and projecting my own position, stated in paragraphs three and four here, on said elites. But still.)

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founding

I think Matt’s claim is that, in a closed room, the question facing the elites wouldn’t be “is Biden doing a fine job, and how can we best say “fuck you” to a certain swath of the voters?” Rather, the question facing them would be “who would do the *best* job, and how can we invite in the widest range of voters?”

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Jan 15·edited Jan 15

Likely they are coming to the Biden conclusion as well, on both those counts.

Again, I'm sure many Democrat voters disagree. Most of my politically-minded friends certainly do (though they have raging debates over the political/policy optimality of "Whitmer" vs. "Bullock" vs. "Warnock" vs. "Klobuchar", and so on and so forth). I'm guessing you might as well.

But as far as those running the Democratic party go, they've likely concluded no one could realistically do a better political or policy job than the current guy. Which, given the current polls and the stakes, is a tough, deflating conclusion to swallow, and one many pundits and politicos can't abide. Hence (IMO) the ongoing effort to fantasy-football it away.

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founding

I would be surprised if they conclude that Biden would be the best candidate right now if we were starting with a fresh slate. They've obviously concluded that there's no one better to run through the primary system. But that's precisely the point at issue here.

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I am unaware of any presidential system where the party can remove the incumbent from the ballot! The president is always at least the nominal head of the party

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founding

It seems common enough in parliamentary systems, where the connection between being Prime Minister and being the nominal head of the party is even tighter.

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The difference seems pretty straightforward to me. The PM receives their mandate from the party, the president receives theirs directly from the voters. The PM could be removed from serving at any time during their tenure. The president is not reliant on their party at all and cannot be removed, except during exceptional circumstances (and would require multiple parties working together in order to do so). This is the key difference between the two systems.

As a practical matter, if a president received a mandate from a majority of voters, it is very very unlikely that a political party is going to defy 50%+1 of the voting population and kick the guy out

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Re Nate Silver: word.

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Every time I see people here diss today's Nate Sliver, I'm baffled. It sounds like they're talking about a transformation on the scale of James Lindsay.

While I could see people disagreeing with stuff on his substack, calling his writing there "delusional" seems to me like it could only really be projection. Is it Twitter? If not, can anyone provide examples of what they're talking about?

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I definitely don't think he's delusional. I don't think he's transformed at all either. He just seems like someone who benefits from adversarial criticism and without it his writing has seemed kinda half baked lately. More like "Nate before coffee" than "bizzaro Nate" is how I feel.

I actually feel similarly about Perry Bacon Jr. who I also thought was a stronger writer when he worked for 538.

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Jan 15·edited Jan 15

One example: Him going on at length about how "the media is silent" about Biden's age.

I do not know what media he's talking about, or what universe he lives in when he says that.

Perhaps he thinks, since Biden hasn't gotten Nate's memo and dropped out to spend time with his grandchildren, the media hasn't been loud enough. Or he thinks there's some media/Democrat pooh-bah who could force said old man out of the race and jump-start a fun exciting primary, giving him more invigorating things to write/pontificate about besides basketball statistics. Or who knows.

Also, he has gone beyond sincerely disagreeing with some people and started publicly declaring that they have foul, integrity-less motives. Seen that before, in many lesser human beings; I would have thought that beneath the Grate Nate.

(That said, I kind of admire the work of both him and Ben Collins. Perhaps it's best they settle their differences via a good old-fashioned Celebrity Boxing fisticuffs.)

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I know it wasn't your main point, but what exactly do you like about Ben Collins? He seems like the ultimate caricature of lefty journalists these days. Everything that supports his politics is just and good, everything against it is Misinformation and should be banished.

My exact problem with Nate Silver is that he is trying to be the reverse Ben Collins now.

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Fair enough about the age issue. I don't pay attention to visual news media at all, and I admit I usually take his representations of them at face value.

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Jan 15·edited Jan 15

I will also admit, his continual soft-praise for Elon's transformation of Twitter does rub me the wrong way.

Twitter is/was a major force for political dissent, democracy, and genuine free speech outside the United States and Europe; it's much more than generic "social media" or "public square" that we see it as from our little bubble in the West. Genuine tyranny (not "tyranny", in the sense of politically-incorrect dudes forced by HR to go to diversity training) truly does see that as a threat.

Elon, at the very least, has de-prioritized that aspect of the platform, if not eliminated it entirely. To him (by his own admission) better to accommodate tyrants threatening to ban Twitter than actually stand up to them on principle.

To Nate, that isn't just okay, that doesn't even warrant a mention. For a guy who likes to think he prizes free expression and open debate, I consider that, at least, purblind.

But again, he's likely not in the best emotional state right now, and (IMO) isn't seeing the forest for the trees.

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I feel like Nate Silver is someone who really needs someone to challenge his views. Now that Nate doesn't have someone to call him on his bullshit it just kinda sails straight through unfiltered.

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No wonder "many people apparently incredulous that Trump is going to be the Democratic nominee"

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On federal holidays, Matt gives the proofreaders a day off.

The commenter drones down here in the sweatshop? Hah! Not a chance. We still have to make our numbers, holiday or no.

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I like to think of finding the MY typos as a fun game provided as free bonus, like Highlights hidden pictures for grown-ups.

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Big if true!

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Missed opportunity to go with, "Uuuuuge if true!"

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It will be fascinating to see how both sides do a 180 on trump should that happen.

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Thirty years ago, when I was a young college president at Trinity, I acted as host for Tony Lukas, who came to speak on politics, including the decline of bosses in places like Hartford. Lots of us had read Common Ground, his book about the tortured politics of desegregation in Boston.

I was stunned that evening to hear him say that America's political parties were dead and dying. Hartford was of course a Democratic town, and his theme seemed to me patently, blatantly false. He placed much of the blame on what we might call McGovernism--down with the bosses, the big shots, the super-delegates and up with the primary voters.

No doubt lots of forces were at play, then and now, but it's worth nodding his way for the foresight to say what was coming our way. Tom Gerety

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"Common Ground" is one of the great books of the last half century. What a privilege!

Similarly, I was a colleague of Marty Wattenberg at UC Irvine, who gained some notoriety with his book "The Decline of American Parties." First published in 1984.

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Jan 15·edited Jan 15

"people incredulous that Democrats are set to renominate an unpopular incumbent."

Sure is shocking that the incumbent President would not be denied renomination. I mean, it just happened the other day, with Franklin Pierce being rejected in 1856.

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founding

It also happened in 1952 and 1968, though in both cases the incumbent pretended they decided not to run.

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Was it a given that LBJ would lose the nomination fight in 1968? It would have been ugly, to be sure, but I bet he still would have beaten RFK (and as the Ambassador Hotel event showed, sometimes things just happen in a campaign).

I may grant you Truman. His approval rating in February 1952 was 22%. Though 1948 shows that crazy things can happen.

If Biden gets down to 22% then his running again may prove to be a mistake.

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founding

It wasn’t a given that LBJ would lose - but the early stages of the process made him decide to save face and quit, and I think that counts as the process leading to the incumbent not being renominated.

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There is some dispute about his reasons for not running. His health; his family's position; his stated desire to focus on Vietnam.

Maybe those were bogus and he really feared losing the nomination fight (especially to the hated Bobby!) but they are out there so I don't think the "fear of losing" case is a slam dunk.

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Are we really sure the party isn't "deciding" here with Trump? Here's the thing that I think people like Rubio (who just endorsed Trump) know or have been told by their advisors; Trump is very likely the most electable GOP candidate.

Now that likely seems crazy to people to this Substack. And there is a decent amount of data (heck just results of 2022 midterm) that say there are a whole lot of right leaning voters out there who are voting Democrat lately because of Trump. But it's also true that Trump is uniquely able to juice turnout for both parties, including GOP. There are clearly a small but significant cohort of voters out there who are maybe soft GOP or previously "swing" voters who are uniquely enamored by Trump. And these voters are disproportionately in "swing" states. There's also the problem (that people like Rubio know) that if Haley were to win the nomination, Trump would happily blow up the GOP's chances precisely because he doesn't actually care about the GOP as institution (or the country) at all (goes back to the adage that the person in a relationship who cares least about the relationship has the power).

But here's the other issue with this thesis. The thing that made parties both here and abroad moderate their views was electoral blowout. Labour put Neil Kinnock in charge only after having "the world's longest suicide note" as a party platform in 1983 and losing a general election in a landslide. Heck now, Labour is finally maybe able to win because Jeremy Corbyn was so unappealing and they've tacked to the center with Kai Starmer. I bring these examples up because Labour party is an example of a "strong" party and yet here are two examples where party insiders likely knew they put out unappealing "top of the ticket" faces and yet were powerless to stop it. To bring closer to home, Democrats tacked to the center because of the blowout in 1984. This is why the Tipper Gore hearings happened and why DCCC came to prominence.

One issue with this thesis is that it sort of ignores the insanely unique circumstances of 2020 that's put us in this position. It's been famously pointed out that if just a "handful" of votes are different in GA, PA and AZ, Trump is President today. It's weird to me that the opposite isn't pointed out as well; if Biden's national vote share is only a little bit higher, NC is likely Dem (with a Dem senator), AZ, PA and GA are called possibly election night and TX is a nail biter (Trump likely wins but TX actually being competitive instead of kind of close to becoming competitive becomes a real story). In this scenario, Trump is extremely likely gone from center stage because it would be much easier for GOP to make the case Trump is an albatross around their neck. But right now? It's really not all that clear this is the case.

Point being, I'm not actually sure the dynamics that have Trump and Biden as nominees is all that different than in the past. Biden just won and Trump barely lost. Makes a certain degree of sense they are still standard bearers. And I'll continue to remind you that in 1983 there was still tons of news stories about whether Reagan would run again and calls for him to not run again because (drum roll) he was too old. Heck in 2011, there were definite calls for Obama not to run again and claims he would definitely lose. https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Elections/President/2011/1107/Does-Obama-deserve-second-term-One-year-out-half-say-no

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Biden is being renominated because incumbent Presidents who want to be renominated always are (since 1856 at least). Trump is being renominated because he is wildly popular in the Republican party.

This really isn't that complicated.

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Both parties are essentially running incumbants. We don't think of it that way because the last time this happened was 130 years ago.

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founding

Failures to renominate occurred in 1952 and 1968 as well.

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It's funny you bring up 1968. I had a professor in college who kind of blew my mind with a presentation he did about Johnson dropping out in 68 that actually is in part what's informed some of my posting today. He made an extremely convincing case that Johnson dropping out was an incredibly stupid and short-sighted move. This is where the fact that the hippies kind of won the long-term culture war (or at the very least have had their story over romanticized through music and movies) is actually clouding the historical record. This professor made the argument that where Johnson was weakest was with people who supported the war. That while the primary process would likely have been bruising, he likely would have won the nomination and actually likely have won the 68 general election.

Now it's been years since this presentation, and I think even this professor would say his contention Johnson would win the 68 general election is maybe bit too speculative. But his bigger point was that Johnson was not nearly as in much trouble as he thought in the primary and made a pretty bad strategic decision. I bring it up because these calls for the incumbent to drop out are either implicitly or even explicitly invoking Johnson's decision. It's like, the Democrats lost the 68 election! How is this a good example to prove your point the incumbent shouldn't run again.

One more point to this. I don't think it's a mistake Matt specifically highlighted Nate Silver's tweet. One thing that's happened in last 20-25 years is there has been a lot more rigorous data brought to election analysis and the number one figure in this turn is Nate Silver. And he's been on a pretty pompous crusade recently* saying Biden should drop out. I honestly think this post from Matt is a bit of a subtweet to Nate saying "you're supposed to be a data/evidence guy. What the heck is your evidence that there is this easy lever Democrats could just pull so Biden isn't the nominee. And oh, by the way, what is your evidence is a smart idea?"

*Silver's reactionary pompous turn is kind of sad. It's clearly driven by the fact that he started noting that we we're too quick to dismiss the "lab leak" hypothesis and the subsequent vitriol from the far left he got as a result. And you know what, he probably did get too much push back (as Matt noted, someone who thinks "lab leak" could be true is Biden). But man, it is driven him to be a pretty reactionary ass and quite frankly I think kind of lose his marbles. I felt like a really instructive moment was when he kept making extremely basic errors when reading graphs about wages that multiple people pointed out to him where he was wrong, and he just kept digging in.

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Maybe. If he blows Haley away in South Carolina, then I'll stick with "wildly popular."

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What makes you believe that Marc Robbins isn’t an important internet person in his own right?

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founding

Labour putting forward Corbyn was largely because of a recent move to a more American primary system.

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Right, but we're still talking about rank and file Party members putting Corbyn as party leader in the first place. Not UK population at large.

But to your point, it's why I brought up the 1983 general election. There was a whole "Trotskyite" wing of the Party. I'm sure if you had interviewed various members of the Labour party in Parliament in 1982, a number of them would have told you that this wing is leading them down the wrong path. But they couldn't stop it. It took a wipeout in the general election that basically cemented Thatcher's legacy for Labour to turn to Neil Kinnock.

In fact, the dynamic Matt describes is really something that's been observed since the French Revolution. There can become this tendency for increasingly extreme elements to oust the people in charge only for that extreme element to themselves be cast aside for not being committed enough. You're actually kind of seeing this now with the GOP House. Thankfully in current circumstances there is no chance of the Democratic party turning into the Directorate. But I don't think it's that far a leap to see Trump and people's attraction to Trump as a version of what happened with Napoleon and how he was able to gain power in the first place.

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And Corbyn is an alienating, out of touch, pro-Putin, Antisemite.

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founding

But he triggers a core of strong supporters, which is how he won the nominating contest, even though the party apparatus would absolutely never have done it.

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There are no shadowy Republicans working behind the scenes to control Trump. No one controls Trump. The old Republicans shadowy elites are not the Illuminati. Republican voters want Trump because of their own preferences (however horrible those preferences may be).

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Here's a summary of the top ~20 or so comments from the previous discussion using ChatGPT:

The debate revolves around the challenges and complexities inherent in democratic political systems, particularly focusing on the nomination processes of political parties and the consequences of increased democratization in politics. Key commentary highlights the notion that while parties could reform their nomination procedures, such as reintroducing powerful superdelegates or changing voting methods, these changes would not impact immediate political challenges but could potentially be steps toward longer-term solutions. The Democratic Party, specifically, faces scrutiny for allowing candidates like Bernie Sanders, who don't formally align with the party, access to its nomination process, raising questions about the value and exclusivity of the party brand.

Further discussion centers on the difficulties politicians face in modern governance, hindered by social media distractions and proneness to rhetoric without substantive policymaking. Examples from the UK, Israel, and the US indicate a broader failure of officials to navigate the complexities of government leadership. Additionally, observations note that political contenders who stand out on policy issues, such as Barack Obama, are currently lacking, and that the trend toward democratization within party nomination processes has correlated with an increase in less popular nominees. Comparisons are drawn with the UK and other European countries, where the importation of primary systems has led to divisive party leadership selections and a decline in traditional mainstream parties.

A portion of the commentary delves into the concept of the phrase “the exception that proves the rule,” discussing its proper usage and the principles underlying its use in legal interpretation. This reflects a broader concern with precise language and the need to avoid misunderstandings in political discourse. Concerns about President Biden's age, thoughts on dropping Vice-President Harris for a more popular running mate, the perceived decline of center-left political power, and the complexity of holding political figures accountable in a system flooded with elections and candidates also weave through the debate. The trade-offs between democratization within party structures and the effectiveness of top-down candidate selection by party elites form a central thread, suggesting that greater internal coordination and control may lead to more competent and palatable political leadership.

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This summary tells me you should run this again in about 18 hours when there are a lot more comments. This reads like a "brainstorming" session of a coherent response to Matt's post, but ultimately still a bit all over the place. Which makes sense given how few comments are currently posted. Give it another 18 hours and I suspect ChatGPT is spitting a pretty decent take based on comments.

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This is a summary from the last time it was posted.

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Matt, thanks for the summary. This is definitely a case where one misses the trees for the forest. An overarching summary of the richness of an SB set of comments is like summarizing the Bible in a paragraph or two.

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I like ideas to come with personalities

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I'm kind of the opposite. I want ideas to stand on their own merits and not have a pretty face or a polished voice or fancy rhetoric making them more appealing than they should be

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If an idea is truly original, then it should stand on its own merits. But most of our ideas are variations on well-known themes and, frankly, kind of boring to me unless I can speculate on the peculiar characters, mindsets, backgrounds etc. of the interlocutors. And even when someone has an intriguing, original idea I want to know how it came about.

(“Peculiar” in its dated meaning - One's own; belonging solely or especially to an individual; not shared or possessed by others - synonyms currently in use are hard to find; “idiosyncratic” maybe. Adjectives expressing personal uniqueness seem to end up as derogatory in our conformist-loving society.)

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I have not verified this, but I heard from a relative last night that if you threaten yourself with personal violence (like saying you were going to chop off your hand if the answer is wrong) that ChatGPT is more accurate

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>The parties barely exist as institutions, but beyond that, even to the extent that they exist as a loose constellation of related entities, those entities lack social legitimacy and can’t steer events.<

The parties may not have social legitimacy, but they have legal legitimacy, right? Like, imagine GOP poohbahs had gotten together after the insurrection and said "Gee. That wasn't good. It's probably not desirable for the country or for our party to have that guy running four years from now. What if he wins the nomination?"

And them imagine they went on to change party bylaws or something. I dunno, established a presidential vetting committee of the Republican Great and Good. And set it up so that Donald J. Trump wasn't eligible for their 2024 presidential nomination. That would be "steering events."

I know that's not how it went down. But the official GOP (the RNC?) does possess this basic legal authority, doesn't it? Or not? I'm not an elections lawyer. Or any kind of lawyer. My take is that Republican leading lights haven't made a move against Trump because of fear of political losses. Full stop. They *could* do something about Trump, but it would lessen or indeed imperil their ability to kneecap labor unions, eviscerate environmental laws, and lower rich people's taxes.

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There would be rebellion in the party. Most states have rules or customs against putting a thumb on the scale in primaries anyway.

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No, they don't. Parties are private organizations and have a constitutional right to select their nominee as they see fit. There was a literal Supreme Court case over this exact issue.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Democratic_Party_v._Jones

Dean Phillips has sued multiple states over being blocked from the ballot and has lost every time, most recently in Florida. The state has no power to compel a private org to hire or nominate someone

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I meant most state parties have rules against those things, sorry for being unclear. E.g. in most states (that I'm knowledgeable about in New England and the Mountain West anyway) party officials can't endorse, let alone disqualify, a candidate.

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AFAIK the stopgap mechanism parties can use—in cases where blocking ballot access doesn't work—is to rule that a nonqualified candidate's delegates won't be seated at the convention. This is how the Democratic Party dealt with one David Duke (KKK bigwig) back in the day.

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Specifically, it would lead to an exodus that would cripple the party for a good 10-20 years.

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I don't think it would. Currently, most people don't vote for someone, they vote against someone. You could have plenty of Trump supporters dislike Haley, but enough ads run about how Biden is going to outlaw pants and make everyone where kilts/skirts and 99% of Republican voters will back the person with the R next to their name - that's how Trump won in 2016!

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founding

The national parties can’t even manage to overrule the state parties on the order they occur or whether they are open/closed caucus/primary. They definitely can’t manage to do what you’re suggesting.

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If they were going to do that.... they would have just convicted him on impeachment him, right? Much easier path to doing the same thing. I'm not sure why this would be preferable.

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Much easier? How many Republicans in the Senate voted to convict Trump? I'm suggesting precisely the opposite: lay the onus on "party officials" who don't face primary challenges. Just. Rule. The. Bastard. Ineligible. (Change the rules if you have to).

Matt describes this in terms slightly more complicated than need be IMHO. Republicans can prevent Trump from vying for their nomination. They're just afraid of the political consequences.

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Excellent point. People keep approaching this as an "if-only" kind of analysis. But that's NOT the point of the analysis. The point is to identify trends and fight them, not to feed our hopium with endless "if-only" theorizing.

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I'm not engaging in "if-only" analysis or trying to feed "hopium." I'm simply trying to clarify the issue at the heart of why one of our two parties is willing to nominate a stone authoritarian who has engaged in insurrection.

It's political expediency, plain and simple. They. Have. The. Legal. Authority. To. Block. Him.

Yes, parties don't have all the structure, sway and granular control they had fifty years ago. But they can absolutely declare a candidate ineligible for a nomination.

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>>They. Have. The. Legal. Authority. To. Block. Him.

So you're NOT implying the very next sentence to be "If only they WOULD."

Because it strongly seems like you ARE implying that. No shade here, it's just that I find it difficult to draw any OTHER implication from it.

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After re-reading this article and thinking about it: I think Biden would benefit from a primary challenger. Not because I want someone to challenge Biden and beat him, but I think Biden would benefit from a challenger specifically from the left. Many independents think Biden is too left wing, while in 2020 they viewed him as more moderate. Biden suffers from being the incumbent (so people are now annoyed that things changed) but I think part of it is because Biden beat Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, two genuinely left wing candidates to Biden's left. If someone ran to Biden's left I think Biden still wins and he can benefit by showing off his more moderate bona fides.

So run for the nomination Bernie. For the good of the country.

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Jan 15·edited Jan 15

Doubt Bernie would be game for that. His life's work after 2020 seems to have shifted to protecting democracy from Trumpist tyranny above all else, much to his former staff's chagrin. Running for president himself isn't in line with that priority. He's perfectly fine with challenging the Establishment powers-that-be in the meantime, but through the Senate and the platform that gives him, not through presidential politics.

Also, one thing I'm learning about Bernie voters is that they often don't fall onto a neat left/right dichotomy. He won West Virginia, for example, by a ridiculous margin. More of an Establishment/outsider dichotomy. Many of his most stalwart supporters were libertarian-ish people who liked his antiwar stance, and just the cut of his jib in general.

A third Bernie defeat, in 2024, especially given America's state--prosperous, at peace, but with wars and crises erupting abroad, in other words low-stakes general irritation--would likely just underline to those people how "rIgGeD tHe sYsTeM iS", and motivate them to vote for Trump, Howdy-Doody, or some other third partier.

Bernie, to his credit, seems to get that--though he'll never say it out loud.

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Bernie is extremely based

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Oh no doubt he wouldn’t

Tongue firmly pressed to cheek

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Bernie understands that he lost because his overall political platform is not popular. That doesn't mean he's substantively wrong, but he is aware that he operates on the margin of mainstream politics. His supporters engage in constant cope, insisting that everything is rigged, everyone is brainwashed, or both.

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"There were some savvy electability options like Steve Bullock. . . , but nobody cared what savvy people thought."

Matt's humor is on fire today!

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Jan 15·edited Jan 15

Matt writes: "But I can’t for the life of me identify any bad decisions that have been made that are attributable to [Biden's] age."

While I recognize that the leadership of the Democratic Party is still overwhelmingly pro-Israel, I think Biden's extreme age (and particularly the fact that he was a senator for so long) is why you see his obsession with repeatedly telling stories about Golda Meir and also his pathetic bromance shtick with Netanyahu, as well as a complete inability to recognize that, aside from being a disaster for most Israelis and Palestinians, Bibi is absolutely the political enemy of any Democrat to the left of Joe Lieberman (logically so, since Netanyahu is in a can't-lose medium-term position if Trump, Haley, DeSantis, etc. get elected, and resisting American requests, in the absence of any concrete pressure/conditions, also strengthens his right flank).

I think a skilled politician could be functionally almost as supportive of Israel's long-term interests without infuriating the left and Arab-Americans to a degree that may prove dangerous in November (in part by demonstrating more than the most superficial concern for Palestinian civilians).

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To be fair to Matt, he wrote those words in September, before the Hamas attack, when "shit happening in Israel was like number 50 on the problems we face in the world list.

Maybe the situation could be handled with more finesse, but broadly speaking most American voters and even most democrats are still in support of Israel, and importantly don't actually give a shit about Palestinians. Young democrats and Arab-Americans are the small notable exception to that.

I think mostly Biden is just playing the shitty hand he was dealt. His strategy is support Israel in the hope that they'll then take some advice. I'm not sure there's a better play. I don't think Israel, Netanyahu in particular, could be persuaded to do anything differently. Israel is still deeply in mourning and traumatized, their society is small enough that there is a personal connection with virtually every victim of October 7th, and that is what they see and feel every day. They don't see things as the world is seeing them, which right now is entirely a story of massive civilian death and destruction uncoupled from October 7th. We could cut off all aid tomorrow, and I don't think Israel would cancel a single bombing run.

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Jan 15·edited Jan 15

Without going into detail on munitions expenditures, if we cut off all aid tomorrow, Israel would absolutely have to seriously curtail bombing runs, especially with the possibility of escalation in Lebanon (which is their off-the-record justification for using so many dumb bombs in Gaza, and even those don't grow on trees). The administration has waived Congressional review of multiple recent arms sales to Israel post 10/7 precisely because of the argument that expediting munition resupply is time-critical.

Edited to add:

Since Israeli bombs have almost certainly caused the majority of civilian casualties so far, I think the significant and expedited resupply of JDAMs that we've provided to the IAF post-10/7 would credibly give us the leverage to require that they only use PGMs for deliberate strikes and follow DOD guidelines for mitigating civilian casualties, with post-strike reports for anything larger than, say, a Hellfire, provided to our Defense Attaches at the classified level (or directly to the US IC), as a condition for any further offensive aid.

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Sales are not aid. We sell arms to all sorts of countries. Israel sees this as an existential matter and will find those arms elsewhere if it needs to.

Americans have enormous main-character syndrome when it comes to the Mideast. We flatter ourselves a lot of influence that we don't really have.

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Jan 15·edited Jan 15

Certainly you're right that Israel can procure arms elsewhere if they truly believe that Hamas is an existential threat; however, without a guaranteed and virtually unlimited supply of munitions, the IAF would also likely have to be more discriminating in their target selection (not necessarily in terms of avoiding civilian casualties per se, but simply not being able to bomb every one of the thousands of targets that their new AI-linked Gospel system generates with limited human review, e.g. the apartments of low-level Hamas operatives: https://www.972mag.com/mass-assassination-factory-israel-calculated-bombing-gaza/).

I would also note that it's not exactly a buyer's market for munitions globally right now (certainly for 155mm shells, and I suspect for PGMs as well), so I think Israel would be significantly constrained in the short-term. It's also important to understand that a lot of our arms sales to Israel are on terms much more favorable than anything they could hope to obtain commercially, especially with some munitions coming out of the War Reserve Stocks for Allies-Israel (WRSA-I), or else flown over on USAF transports (i.e. immediate or incredibly expedited delivery compared to normal arms procurements, and the financial terms are also often uniquely favorable). Another example is that the IAF is not only allowed to make modifications to their F-35s that are permitted to no other customer in the world, but in fact they actually have the freedom to avoid the dysfunctional, Lockheed Martin controlled, integrated logistics system that even the USAF is stuck with! (https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/10665/israel-is-getting-a-single-f-35-test-jet-unlike-any-other) If we ever imposed conditions that Israel didn't want to accept and they decided to go the only other serious supplier of stealth fighters, I doubt China would offer them a greater level of access than the PLAAF itself...

I think you're right that some activists fantasize that we could make Israel agree to an equitable two-state solution overnight and I think that's incorrect, but sustained U.S. pressure could still make a substantial difference (look at what Eisenhower, Regan, Bush 41, etc were able to do in just a matter of months regarding the Sinai withdrawal, curtailing specific Israeli actions during their invasion of Lebanon, and loan guarantees for settlement expansion, respectively).

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founding

I was not aware that Biden had mentioned Golda Meir recently, or praised Netanyahu.

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I'm not sure how you are defining 'recently," but Biden talked about Golda Meir in his post-10/7 speech: https://www.jpost.com/international/article-767782

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Jan 15·edited Jan 15

Regarding praise for Bibi, there's a long track record pre-10/7, and Biden is famous for undermining Obama when he was sent to deliver messages to Netanyahu, but the most recent cite I found is Biden repeating his longstanding routine of "Bibi, I love you but..." (https://www.israelhayom.com/2023/12/12/bibi-i-love-you-but-i-dont-agree-with-a-damn-thing-you-had-to-say/). I would argue that it's pretty clearly perceived on all sides that the "I love you" is worth a lot more than the "but..."

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I hadn't realized that Biden was our first openly bibisexual president!

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To your first paragraph, I would add that Biden's age seems to play a role in how slowly federal marijuana policy is changing. It's a pretty broadly popular issue that could serve as a wedge issue against the GOP, but the Dems aren't leading the charge, I think because Biden doesn't "get it" personally.

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"It’s a weird one, with many people apparently incredulous that Trump is going to be the Democratic nominee.."

I think we would all be incredulous if this were to happen.

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" o Joe Biden voluntarily steps aside and is swiftly replaced by Josh Shapiro.

I think it’s pretty clear that Shapiro would win that ballot."

And that might well happen. But it would be insane. Shapiro would be the ultimate pig in the poke. He beat a total wackjob for governor of Pennsylvania; otherwise, he's a total newbie. Yes, he rebuilt a bridge quickly. (You know who else just did that? Gavin Newsom. Big whoop.)

There's the meme cartoon of the blob character saying, "I want things to be different" and then breaking everything in the room and then saying "Oh no." Biden, obviously, is far from a sure thing, to say the least. But to put a completely untested and unknown person forward as your nominee because Biden is slightly behind/maybe tied with the presumptive opponent? Sheer madness.

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But Shapiro is tested—not only did he win the governor's race in 2022, he won his two AG races in 2016 and 2020 with Trump on the ballot.

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Jan 15·edited Jan 16

Meh

By which I mean, running as the incumbent in 2020, he got 50.9% of the vote.

About what Biden got. So, nice win, but no evidence of being a powerhouse.

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Biden won PA by 1.17pp; Shapiro won his 2020 AG race by 4.6pp and got more raw votes.

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I shouldn't drag this out because it's really not that important, but Shapiro beat an absolutely nobody lawyer from Pittsburgh by an underwhelming <5 pp as the incumbent. Biden won narrowly, true, but let's remember that Trump *won* Pennsylvania in 2016.

All I'm saying is, why should we consider Josh Shapiro that impressive and someone we might have wanted to be the Dem nominee instead of Biden? I'm just not seeing it. Go be a great governor and win a huge reelection and then we can talk.

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"The point is, it’s only recently, as the system has become increasingly democratic, that the nominees have gotten increasingly unpopular."

I think I made this point in the original posting, but this observation is completely ahistorical. The more popular nominees Matt cites were picked under the same, and equally democratic, system that we have now. If candidates are increasingly unpopular it may be idiosyncratic to the pool of possible candidates, or it may just be that people are increasingly dyspeptic and just hate everything.

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founding

Remember that even as recently as 2008, Obama was chosen as a result of basically every caucus state going for him, while the more democratic primaries generally went for Clinton. At this point, there are no more caucus states left for the democrats - not even Iowa! Back in the 1990s, I believe a lot more of the primary states had closed primaries that required a bit more commitment to the party to participate in.

The system hasn’t been static since 1972 but has continued getting more democratic in these ways.

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As I understand David Ploufe's "The Audacity to Win," Obama ground out his victory because the brain dead Clinton campaign neglected to figure out how to win the most delegates and so barely competed in campaigns where the Obama campaign could roll up more and more delegates.

So it wasn't that Obama won because of "less democratic caucuses" but rather because the Clinton campaign made fatal mistakes by not competing through acts of indifference.

Hillary Clinton a bad politician who surrounds herself with incompetent people. Man, that 2016 result was such a shocker.

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Mark Penn was unaware primaries were proportional, something I had known since the 2004 primary as a college student.

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But would the party have picked Obama over Clinton? Not the activist types who tend vote in caucuses, but the proverbial men in smoke filled rooms? Bernie Sanders was also disproportionately popular in caucuses, but The Party would never pick him.

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founding

Good point.

Maybe the right thing to say is that the caucuses actually were the leading edge here, being dominated by grassroots activists rather than the party officials.

But still, it is evidence that the structural landscape has changed in the past 16 years.

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It may superficially be the same system but the claim is it doesn’t work the same way as it did when “The Party Decides” was written, it terms of the party’s ability to control (or strongly influence) donations, endorsements, and the media narrative.

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I seriously question several of the assumptions in this piece. First, the notion that challenging Biden is most likely to both “light your own career on fire” and “massively help Trump win” strikes me as total BS. Unfortunately, I think it’s exactly this type of thinking which has prevented alternative candidates from stepping forward. But do we have any evidence for this? Why would challenging an unpopular incumbent who looks likely to lose (to Trump!) light your career on fire? It doesn’t pass the sniff test. Likewise, do we have any historical evidence that a primary battle hurts candidates in the general election? And if we do, is that ALWAYS the case, or just sometimes? Additionally, you suggest that a challenger couldn’t attack from either the left or the right (unelectable in the general, unelectable in the primaries, respectively), but you also say that what voters seem to want is someone that looks just like Biden but is much younger. So run on similar positions to his...long story short, this is clearly the sort of flawed thinking that has prevented challengers from entering the race, and the most likely result is to get us Trump for another 4 years. Not good.

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You have to reckon with the fact that Biden is actually still quite popular with actual Democratic voters like me. Reality is, even if a bigger name candidate does oppose Biden, they likely get crushed.

Also, I've noted this before but "bed wetting" about the current president being the nominee a year out from an election is actually quite common. Says more about the need to fill "column inches" than anything. https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Elections/President/2011/1107/Does-Obama-deserve-second-term-One-year-out-half-say-no

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As for Biden’s age: it takes awhile for an increasingly healthy population to adjust its notions about the decades of aging. The more we see interviews of active 90-year-olds and obituaries for well-known people who made it to the 100s and died with their boots on, the “younger” Biden looks. Plus I can’t help contrasting his trim figure in tucked-in shirts vs. Trump’s billowy suit jackets.

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True. I don’t agree with Biden in Gaza and think he could’ve handled Afghanistan and the economy better, but I can’t think of any president I agree with everything on. If polled I would say I approve of Biden.

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I'll just say with the economy one, call me naive or too half glass full, but I suspect history is going to treat Biden's first term economic record quite well. Maybe this is because in 2009-2010, I struggled to find any full time job I'm a bit biased here, but I'd much rather have this recovery than one where stimulus is undercooked. Take a look at growth rates of most other advanced economies and Biden's record looks a lot better.

I really think the Biden team took the correct lesson from 2008-2012 even if we want to argue a) the February, 2021 stimulus was maybe stimulus too much or at least too large and b) Fed was probably too slow to act to raise interest rates which meant inflation got higher and lasted longer than it probably should have (should note, this is something that not only does Biden have little control over, we really don't want to the President to have control over).

Now some of this projection of Biden's record is extremely dependent on what happens this year (I mean duh I guess). All the signs are that inflation is continuing to come down (last CPI report was a bit high but PCE which is much more important was actually pretty good) and there should be rate cuts this year. I mean if I truly 100% knew where inflation and interest rates are heading, I'd start a hedge fund tomorrow and be a billionaire. But I'd say there is 75%-80% confidence that inflation will remains low and interest rates drop (the real variable here I think is Putin or MBS. What if the former expand his war. What if MBS seeing that Trump may lose decides to temporarily slash to the bone oil production to create a temporary spike in oil). If inflation and interest rates are lower and Biden (likely as a result) is re-elected his economic record is going to look pretty good.

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2021 stimulus wasn’t too large. It was fucking $1600. Like half my mortgage payment. It was only too big in that it caused projections of inflation. But business leaders were always going to try to crash the economy for a Democrat. I said it the moment Biden won.

The problem was that he didn’t impose price controls on food and gas and use the bully pulpit to keep rates low and production levels the same. Even if he’d failed at this, people would have seen him fighting for them. And this is America, we’re a net exporter of food and gas, I believe. To the extent shortages would occur I think they’d be minor.

But noooooo instead we’re getting the Safeway Kroger merger shoved down our throats

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"price controls on food and gas". Yeah, that's a recipe for disaster. And we should know because we tried this under Nixon in the early 70s and only helped fuel inflation further. You know what would have been even worse for Biden's standing? Stories and videos of lines for gas and lines at grocery stores and empty food shelves as people complain the food they wanted to buy is out of stock before they got a chance to even enter the store.

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"Why would challenging an unpopular incumbent who looks likely to lose (to Trump!) light your career on fire?"

Because Biden would almost certainly still win the primary and then whomever the challenger was would be blamed if Biden lost the general election.

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Why would he most certainly still win the primary? He’s incredibly unpopular, most democrats don’t want him to run again, and he can barely string a sentence together. And even if Biden did manage to get the nomination, why would the primary challenger be blamed for his eventual loss to Trump? Seems like his atrocious favorability ratings (not to mention Kamala’s, given the risk of her taking over), would be a more logical culprit.

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“he can barely string a sentence together.” MY addresses this essentially arguing that what you are saying isn’t true (he’s right) but also that a campaign that focuses on Biden’s supposedly age related infirmaries would definitely help Trump and the primary candidate would still lose.

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Given the number of people who have *actually* watched a family member drift into senility, I am constantly surprised at how little social stigma is attached to making claims about a politician's mental well-being that are just obviously false.

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What's funny about the debate about Biden's age is the ages of all the likely candidates running against him:

Trump 77

RFK Jr 69

Cornel West 70

Joe Manchin 76

Jill Stein 73

"It's time for a New Generation of slightly younger Boomers to pick up the torch of leadership!"

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Cornel West is only 70?!?!!? Is he smoking two pack of unfiltered cigarettes while lounging in a tanning bed for several hours each day?

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RemovedJan 15
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Well, logic does always carry the day when it comes to blaming politicians for things.

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It’s actually encouraging that ostensibly democratic voters like yourself are repeating this “he can’t string two sentences together” stuff. It means your opinion of him is based on easily refutable claims and so when he’s actually out campaigning and you can see it’s not true, the fence sitters get moved.

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founding

Can you name one candidate that would have had a good shot at beating Biden in some particular state’s primary?

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The polls mirror people’s dislike of high prices and the “he’s too old” narrative about Biden, but last time his competitors were generally weak general election candidates. Most of the Democrats who are unsatisfied want a more lefty candidate, but they would be unlikely winners of the primaries when it came down to a real choice.

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I think Dean Phillips' chances of rising in the hierarchy of the House Dem leadership aren't looking too good these days.

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I mean, there is polling on this. The only person who beats Biden 1-on-1 is Michelle Obama, and that's still only 55-45, I think. He beats people like Whitmer 70-30, partly due to name recognition, and partly due to the fact that normie Democrats still like him.

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Fine, but that’s based on the state of the world today. Polling done before candidates have had a chance to introduce themselves to a national audience should be taken with several giant grains of salt.

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Sure, but who will do that, instead of just waiting until 2028, when they're not going to have to run against a still popular (among Democratic primary voters) incumbent?

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