Listen to Trump in New Hampshire
Dean Phillips finally endorsed by former elected official
Dean Phillips is by all accounts a decent, successful, and well-meaning person. And history may even prove his diagnosis of Biden’s re-election correct.
His solution, however, is not just unhelpful. It dovetails with Trump’s re-election plan.
Something that Trump made official last night, by endorsing Dean Phillips for the Democratic nomination. As Dave Weigel reported, “Trump opens his rally by urging Democrats to support Dean Phillips over Biden — ‘send a signal and vote for the congressman.’"
A general rule for members of the anti-authoritarian coalition is “if the would-be autocrat opens a rally by urging support for what you’re doing” then it is time to rethink your strategy.
Why does Trump want votes for Dean Phillips?
Most obviously, it helps Trump: he is faced with a finite pool of highly engaged independent voters who can vote in either party’s primary. Trump got 100,000 votes in the 2016 New Hampshire primary, fewer than the roughly 140,000 independents who chose to vote in the Democratic primary in 2020 (all of whom are eligible to vote in either primary this year). With 300,000 voters expected to turn out in this week’s GOP primary, Trump gains a point for every 3,000 independent voters who choose to cast their protest vote against Biden instead of against him.
Second, Dean votes help Trump by hurting Biden.
The more Haley overperforms in those primaries, even in defeat, the weaker Trump’s pretensions to leading a vengeful popular groundswell against the deep state will appear.
And anything that weakens Trump is good. The more divided and embittered the Republican Party is left by its primary, the harder it’ll be for him to assemble a winning coalition in the fall.
A quartet of referendums when we need a choice
Many sum up Biden’s path to victory in 2024 as avoiding a referendum on his presidency. When you’re polling below 40% approval, a referendum is bad. The election must be a choice between a good man and a bad man.
Biden often frames it simply:
Keeping the anti-authoritarian majority together against the alternative is a strategy endorsed by historians, political scientists, and common sense.
As Ian Bassin, executive director of Protect Democracy, wrote back in 2021, “A united opposition is the best way to defeat an autocrat. And a fractured opposition opens the pathway for one to attain power.”
Voters in New Hampshire looking to preserve our democracy should face two simple options:
Nikki Haley in the Republican primary
Joe Biden in the Democratic primary
Things are, unfortunately, far more complex. There are three notable advocacy campaigns unfolding, which give us an informative look into how different actors are viewing the priorities of the moment.
First, there is an effort to write-in Joe Biden, who is already certain to be the Democratic nominee but is not actually on the ballot due to the rearranging of the primary calendar
Second, there is an effort to write in the word “ceasefire,” with the hope that this will pressure the Biden administration’s foreign policy agenda
These three competing efforts tell us a lot about the priorities of different subsets of the anti-Trump majority.
Progressive Activists continue to prioritize specific concerns above all else - their goal is to threaten Biden in the general election by showing that a significant number of them are willing to abet a Trump Presidency if they don’t get what they want (we discussed this dynamic recently). When given the chance to help stop Trump, some progressive activists once again put their policy priorities first. This has been a consistent theme of progressive rhetoric under Biden’s policy, and it has often been successful in pulling the President’s brand so far to the left he is perceived by voters as distant from the pro-democracy middle that put him in office.
Hyper-partisan Democrats believe a Trump win in the primary would be good, since it maximizes the chances that Biden wins re-election. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) even went as far as mocking Asa Hutchinson, the lone Republican who vowed not to support Trump if he was convicted of a crime. In 2016, Clinton famously wanted Republicans to nominate Trump, believing that it would be easier to beat him - we all know how that turned out.
Anti-Authoritarian Activists are using every lever of power at their disposal to keep Trump from office. Independents and Democrats can vote in many states for the more moderate candidate in the primary. It’s something that happens frequently and it’s an important valve of democracy to prevent extremists from winning primaries. While Haley may be tougher than Trump to beat in the general, the general would be a fight over different visions for policy, not whether the winner of the election should become President.
The headline in a recent POLITICO interview with the founder of Primary Pivot captures that sentiment:
This line of thinking is: if one believes Trump poses a unique and generational threat to our democracy, then act like it. Beating authoritarians requires a broad-based movement, which definitionally means ideological priorities have to be sidelined.
A winning anti-authoritarian coalition will need all of these subsets after the primary. Not just those who act like Trump is a unique threat, but the hyper-partisan Democrats, and the progressive activists too.
We will also need the “Chaos Centrists” we described last week.
Including Dean Phillips. If you’re reading this, you still have 36 hours to implore your independent supporters to damage Trump instead of damaging Biden.