Best in the Big Tent: April 2023
Highlighting the Democrats who welcome voters in, young voters are more moderate than you think, Republicans move to defund federal law enforcement, and more.
Highlighting the Democrats who welcome voters in and win the middle.
Democrats must compete in more center-right districts to win a sustainable governing majority and hold beatable authoritarian Republicans accountable.
Centrists should throw in with the moderate faction of the Democratic Party, not split up the center and threaten to spoil elections.
Far-left "Squad" politics doesn't align with many Black and Hispanic voters.
These big-tent themes will be familiar to readers of this newsletter — and they were the focus of WelcomePAC co-founder Lauren Harper’s recent interview with Semafor’s Dave Weigel.
There are a handful of vocal figures on the far-left who want Democrats to be a smaller tent, but mainstream leaders are welcoming in voters to win the middle. As Lauren points out, it’s high time they get the attention they deserve:
AOC has literally said Democrats are “too big of a tent.” We’re trying to highlight members of Congress like Abigail Spanberger, and Greg Landsman, and Shontel Brown. There's so many incredible centrist leaders on the Democratic side that don't necessarily get the same airtime as the Squad.
Young voters are more moderate than you think.
One of the most overhyped stories in the aftermath of the midterms was that droves of progressive young voters turned out en masse and near-single-handedly saved the Democrats from the expected red wave.
This narrative was wrong on at least two counts: young voter turnout did not surge. But even more importantly, young voters are not as progressive as advertised.
As WelcomePAC’s Lauren Harper and Hugh Jones explore in The Liberal Patriot, the narrative that young voters saved Democrats in 2022 is not only misleading but serves to bolster a series of misperceptions about the 18-29 year old demographic:
With every new headline, readers are left with the impression that young voters are a demographic silver bullet just waiting to be unleashed against Republicans in every passing election. But as readers of The Liberal Patriot are aware, demographics are not destiny—and voters are more varied and volatile than the media tends to acknowledge. Contrary to the dominant media narrative, young people are a mainstream cohort, have nuanced perspectives on major issues, and should not be taken for granted by Democrats.
Despite the dominant media narrative, public opinion survey data shows:
Not only is the median young voter a self-identified moderate, but more young Americans identify as moderate than the general public (fewer identify as conservative).
Young voters have far more varied views on issues ranging from climate to immigration to crime to religion than we tend to hear about in the news.
With the weakest partisan affinity of any generational voting bloc, young voters are not a “Vote Blue, No Matter Who” cohort and are certainly not a shoe-in for Democrats.
“Pragmatic Progressive” is not a bad label for a generation that, in aggregate, skews center-left:
The bottom line is that some of us are on the left, many of us are in the middle, and just a few of us are on the right. This means that, in aggregate, we are a center-left generation. Most of us want to see lasting social progress made—after all, we stand to lose the most if America continues backsliding—but we are at least as pragmatic as we are progressive when it comes to how we get there.
Republicans move to defund federal law enforcement.
Third Way’s Kylie Murdock is out with a hard-hitting new post on Republican Efforts to Defund Federal Law Enforcement.
While President Biden has called on Congress to “fund the police,” prominent figures in the MAGA movement from Donald Trump to Marjorie Taylor Greene have called for the defunding of the FBI. As Murdock notes, these outlandish calls have moved from the sewers of Trump’s Truth Social platform to the core of the GOP’s debt-ceiling negotiation package:
Speaker McCarthy has released debt limit legislation that would freeze Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 federal spending at FY 2022 levels. This would mean a 22% cut to non-defense discretionary spending, meaning a 22% cut to federal law enforcement funding. The bill would gut $10 million from federal law enforcement investments and result in the loss of 28,500 officers.
But McCarthy’s cuts would trickle down to the local level, too:
And these cuts don’t just affect federal law enforcement. Local law enforcement agencies receive federal support through Byrne grants, which would decrease by an average of $30,000 per department if the bill were to pass. That means every local police department in the country would be hurt by this directly.
As Republicans move to further escalate the culture wars in 2024, it will be up to savvy Democratic messengers to counter with the facts.
Tweet of the Month
Mainstreaming the Mainstream
Check out highlights from the past month in essential big-tent outlets.
Best of The Liberal Patriot
The Ticking Time Bomb in Democrats’ Blue Wall States by Michael Baharaeen:
Democrats’ struggles in these three heavily black urban areas are a microcosm of national trends: their margins with black voters have steadily declined from 93 points in 2012 to approximately 69 points in 2022, while their advantage among non-white urban voters went from 71 points to about 47 points. This period notably coincided with a very clear leftward shift among Democrats on racial justice issues… There is evidence that the party—driven by a growing white, college-educated bloc that has amassed more influence in recent years—may have gotten out ahead of even black people on some key issues, and that taking strong progressive stances on those issues has not necessarily generated more enthusiasm.
How Identity Politics Aids the Right and Divides the Left by Sheri Berman:
Not So Black and White is a plea to the left to recognize the dangers of identitarianism. While this worldview may stem from a creditable desire to fight racism, it fundamentally misunderstands its origins and function and is unable to effectively combat it. Throughout modern history racism has served to justify inequality and exploitation while dividing its victims. That a political right which aims to protect an unjust and unequal status quo has an interest in promoting racial or cultural group distinctions makes sense; for a left that ostensibly wants to promote justice and equality, it does not.
Dispatches from the Heartland by former Rep. Tim Ryan:
If we want the political coalition and support to continue this progress, then workers must see themselves as part of the bigger picture and instrumental to a larger national purpose. They need to see their union jobs as more than just a paycheck or economic security. At the very heart and core, they need to see their work as an expression of their love for their children and a deep commitment to their future. We will know we have succeeded when workers in Ohio are driving with their children, listening to their favorite Springsteen song, and can point out the window and say, “You see all these electric vehicles? I built those for you.”
The Working Class Isn’t Down with the Green Transition by Ruy Teixeira:
An energy abundance approach would recognize that, in fact, Biden has done the right thing by greenlighting the Willow oil-drilling project in Alaska. Of course, the climate activists and punditocracy are furious and denunciations are pouring in. But this is exactly what working-class voters do want: an “all of the above” strategy that pushes forward renewables while continuing to use a mix of energy sources including fossil fuels. And what they want corresponds to the most practical course in pursuing a clean energy transition while assuring a reliable and secure supply of cheap energy.
Best of Slow Boring
More courage, less fear by Matt Yglesias:
In my experience, the average Biden-voting journalist has several heterodox views he or she is keeping under his or her hat out of an all-around desire to avoid contentiousness. But my belief is that giving in to that desire is actually a form of career self-sabotage, and the people in this situation would be better off being a bit bolder. And that’s what I tell people, encouraging them to do the work rather than endorsing their worst fears. So I wish the anti-cancellers would chill out a bit, do a bit more helping and a bit less warning, and also try to be more precise and accurate in the claims that they are making.
Biden made the right call on Willow by Matt Yglesias:
I think Biden made the right call on Willow. It annoys me when climate group leaders put forward the IRA as an example of how they know how to win, even as they themselves reject the IRA approach. But the actually existing Inflation Reduction Act energy provisions — an effort to achieve emissions reductions in a way that Joe Manchin can live with — represent a good approach. The administration is trying to advance global decarbonization at an acceptable price rather than obsessively pining for the destruction of the American fossil fuel industry.
Best of The Bulwark
No Labels ‘Would Serve as a Spoiler Benefiting the Republican Ticket’ by Mona Charen with Matt Bennett and Bill Galston:
The reason that we’re so worried about this is not because we think that their ticket, no matter who’s on it, could actually win the election—they absolutely, positively cannot win the election. No third-party candidate has won a single electoral vote in fifty years, and no third-party candidate, including one who is chiseled into Mount Rushmore, has ever come close to winning an election.
Swing Voters: Still Not Into the Anti-Woke Stuff by Rich Thau:
In January, I wrote about the confusion over the term “woke” in focus groups with Trump-to-Biden Florida voters. We found that these moderate constituents of Gov. Ron DeSantis were “meh” on his declaration that “Florida is where woke goes to die.” They weren’t paying much attention, and when shown videos of what he had been saying on the topic, didn’t respond well to his attacking large corporations over “wokeness.”
Best of The Welcome Party
“If you are at all willing to be a swing voter — if you are at all willing to consider voting for someone outside of the party you would normally vote for — the person you are most likely to do that for is your next door neighbor who you know well and like. So, like, be that person to the extent that you can, right? To me, that's like the top of the pyramid for the most persuasive possible candidate — the one who you sort of regard similarly to your friendly, helpful, knowledgeable next door neighbor.”
We are inundated with a barrage of stories about how the blue are getting bluer, the red are getting redder, and our democracy lacks meaningful competition. This democracy “doom loop” manifests in a number of ways. Not only does it make voters and political practitioners alike pessimistic about the future of our politics, but it can distract from actually practicing democracy in potentially competitive stretch districts like those highlighted in our “Conceding Democracy” reports.
“My recommendation is to stay off of Twitter and focus on what you actually hear in conversations with people in real life. Social media in general pulls folks into these conversations around things with language that won’t resonate with the majority of voters. And if those conversations are resonating, they’re definitely not using that Twitter language. When you use that language, people feel left out or excluded and get the sense that you’re not truly part of their community.”
Biden’s union with the voters who ultimately put him in the White House has had its ups and downs. Support for the president among that key swing bloc has waned through much of the last two years, giving way to headlines like “Independents have turned on Joe Biden,” “Why independents have cooled on Biden,” and “Biden Has Slipped With Independents, Can He Win Them Back?” The answer to that last question — whether Biden can win independents back — will determine if a moving company will replace rioters in January 2025.
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