Friday, June 14, 2024

THERE'S AN OBVIOUS REASON WHY BIDEN SEEMS TO BE DOING BETTER AMONG OLDER VOTERS

Axios reports that President Biden seems to be doing surprisingly well among older voters.
The most recent New York Times/Siena poll shows that Biden has a 9-point lead in a head-to-head matchup against Trump among likely voters aged 65 or older.

In a Quinnipiac University poll released last month, Biden is beating Trump by 12 points with the 65+ set.
This is unusual.
Republicans have — with the exception of 1992, 1996 and 2000 — won the senior vote in every presidential race for the last half-century, according to exit polls.
Why is it happening? Here's a possible reason:
Preserving democracy has emerged as one of the clearest dividing lines between younger and older voters.

When asked by Quinnipiac to identify "the most urgent issue facing the country today," 10% of registered voters aged 18-34 said democracy.

For those 65 and up, that number rose to 35% — higher than any other single issue including the economy and immigration.
Also:
Biden campaign pollster Geoff Garin pointed to two key factors going for the president with older voters:

"First, older voters strongly support what Biden has done to lower drug costs for seniors on Medicare," he told Axios.

"Second, older voters pay much more attention to the news than any other group, so they are the most aware of any group of how unhinged and extreme Donald Trump has become."
I think there's more to it than this. Older voters who succeeded at attaining middle-class or upper-middle-class status are doing okay financially now. They may have been too young to participate in the remarkable economy of the 1950s and 1960s, with its broad middle class (at least for white people), but their parents did, and some of that wealth was passed on. The economy of the Reagan and post-Reagan eras wasn't quite as good for the middle class, but inflation was low and housing prices weren't as awful as they are now. If you're in this age group and you were able to put a decent amount of money away for retirement, things probably look pretty good for you now. You have the money to do the things you want to do, and you can afford to pay higher prices for groceries and other items.

I'm not saying that this is a generation of "greedy geezers" who are backing Biden because they like their privileged status and don't want anyone to take it away. I think many older voters want the sense of prosperity to be extended to younger Americans, who, after all, include their own children and grandchildren. But these are the voters for whom the economy actually feels strong. That must be helping Biden with voters of this age group.

By contrast, polls suggest that young Americans might vote for the authoritarian-populist candidate, Donald Trump. Albena Azmanova, who teaches political and social theory at the University of Kent, writes in The Guardian that similar things are happening all over Europe, though not, she argues, because young people embrace the ideas of authoritarian populism:
In both European and national elections, voters under 30 have given their support to far-right parties such as Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in Germany, Rassemblement National (National Rally) in France, Vox in Spain, the Brothers of Italy, Chega (Enough) in Portugal, Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) in Belgium and the Finns party in Finland.

... In Germany, the ultra-right AfD enjoys unrivalled popularity among the young, gaining the support of 17% of 16- to 24-year-olds who voted.... 32% of the French youth, irrespective of gender, supported National Rally....

Rising support for the far right is all the stranger because surveys indicate that the left’s trademark themes of social and economic justice are now more important for voters than the far-right’s flagship issue: immigration....

What ails the young is ... economic uncertainty, or rather “livelihood insecurity”. If older people are living in fear of job loss, younger generations fear they will never land a job, no matter how many master’s degrees they might invest money, effort and hope in. Authors of the 2024 study Jugend in Deutschland (Youth in Germany) established that fears about future prosperity (rather than cultural chauvinism) were driving a shift to the right....

For now, all we can glean from the populist revolt of the young is that the political mainstream is not providing satisfying answers to their grievances.
I don't know about Europe, but America's authoritarian party won't be able to lower prices, make housing more affordable, or create more good-paying jobs for young people. Unlike the Democratic Party, the GOP doesn't even want to do any of those things. And the GOP will be godawful on every other issue young people care about -- the climate, racism, LGBTQ rights, abortion rights, Israel and Palestine, you name it.

But I'm afraid the only way young people will learn how awful Republicans are is by helping to elect them. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

IF TRUMP WINS, LET'S HOPE WE HAVE A SHARK-ANECDOTE PRESIDENCY AND NOT A PROJECT 2025 PRESIDENCY

As you probably know, Donald Trump said some bizarre things about boat batteries and sharks at his Las Vegas rally over the weekend:
Sharks, Donald Trump claimed, were attacking more frequently than usual (not true) and posed a newfound risk because boats were being required to use batteries (not true), which would cause them to sink because they were too heavy (really, really not true...)

... Trump, undeterred by truth or science, invoked his intellectual credentials by mentioning his “relationship to MIT.” (Trump’s uncle was a professor at the university, pioneering rotational radiation therapy, which seems a somewhat tenuous connection for conferring shark- or battery-related expertise to his nephew.)

This is pure Dunning-Kruger-ism -- Trump doesn't have any expertise on these subjects, but he thinks he does. He's been like this for years. Plus he thinks this is tremendously entertaining.

I don't see this as a sign of dementia. I see it as a sign that Trump's happy place is being an amateur observational comic, the wittiest guy at the dinner after the country club's senior golf tournament.

Trump's happy place is not policy. It wouldn't have been policy if he'd been a serious candidate for president thirty years ago. Tom Nichols writes:
... Trump’s staff tries to put just enough policy fiber into Trump’s nutty verbal soufflés that they can always sell a talking point later, as if his off-ramps from reality are merely tiny bumps in otherwise sensible speeches. Trump himself occasionally seems surprised when these policy nuggets pop up in a speech; when reading the teleprompter, he sometimes adds comments such as “so true, so true,” perhaps because he’s encountering someone else’s words for the first time and agreeing with them.
I fear that Trump will be elected in November, but this is what gives me a small glimmer of hope.

We know that one of the things that rankled Trump during his presidency was the fact that aides and underlings sometimes wouldn't do exactly what he wanted them to do. J.D. Vance talks about this in his new interview with Ross Douthat:
I first met Trump in 2021. One of the stories he told me was about how some of our generals were changing the timings of troop redeployments in the Middle East so that they could tell him that the troop levels were coming down when in reality they were just changing the way in which troop levels jump up and down in the short term.

... The media has this view of Trump as motivated entirely by personal grievance, and the thing he talked the most about — this was not long after Jan. 6 — was “I’m the president, and I told the generals to do something, and they didn’t do it.”
We've been told that he's solved this problem -- everyone in his second administration will be a Trump loyalist. However, we're also told that the underlings will be ideologues committed to the mad schemes of Project 2025.

We think it will be a sign of loyalty to Trump if his aides and underlings relentlessly pursue the Project 2025 goals. But what if Project 2025 isn't what Trump wants? Remember, his people have a boilerplate answer whenever someone in the press writes a story based on the assumption that he shares his advisers' and allies' goals:
Campaign managers Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita said in a statement, “Unless a message is coming directly from President Trump or an authorized member of his campaign team, no aspect of future presidential staffing or policy announcements should be deemed official.”
What if, this time, he decides that being a religious-right policy zealot is what constitutes disloyalty to him, because the zealots' priorities aren't his priorities? What if he just wants freedom from legal troubles, a little racism (mass deportations, a Muslim ban), and money flowing into his bank accounts? What if he doesn't care about advancing the cause of Christian nationalism or dismantling the administrative state? What if all that bores him, because he just wants to be America's emcee, telling shark jokes while taking bribes and getting revenge against an enemy or two, with a Get Out of Jail Free card thrown in?

If Trump wins, I think that's the best-case scenario.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

SADLY, AFTER THE HUNTER BIDEN VERDICT, THE GOP'S JUSTICE-SYSTEM PARANOIA IS STILL ALIVE AND WELL

Hunter Biden has been found guilty on all charges, and now journalists and headline writers are trying to outdo one another in describing the damage they say this verdict has done to GOP theories about a justice system rigged against Republicans. Politico says, "Hunter Biden Verdict Throws ‘Sand in the Gears’ of GOP’s Attacks on Legal System." Jonathan Chait of New York magazine asserts that the "Hunter Biden Conviction Blows Up Republican Conspiracy Theories." According to The New York Times, the "Hunter Biden Conviction Undercuts a Trump Narrative, and a Fund-Raising Pitch." Raw Story cites "critics" who say, "Hunter Biden Verdict Puts a Nail in Coffin of Trump's Weaponized DOJ Claim."

The Hunter Biden conviction does none of these things.

Once a conspiracy theory is accepted by a segment of the population -- something that seems to happen on the right a couple of times a week -- it can't be dislodged by contrary facts. Remember the 1990s, when conspiracy theorists concluded that mercury (thimerosal) in childhood vaccines was responsible for a rise in autism? And then the Food and Drug Administration ordered thimerosal to be removed from vaccines -- and the conspiracy theory persisted anyway, even after scientists ruled out mercury as an autism trigger? And now conspiracy theorists don't talk about mercury all that much, but they still insist that something in vaccines must be bad for kids (and adults as well), and now a vaccine conspiracy theorist might have enough support in the polls to qualify for the upcoming presidential debates?

That's how much good facts do when you're fighting a conspiracy theory.

You'll say, "But this makes it impossible for Trump to tell swing voters he's being legally persecuted by Democrats." Trump is saying that, but the message isn't intended for swing voters. The swing voters who are leaning toward Trump are doing so because they think he'll magically lower grocery prices, and because they think he's more vigorous and sharp-witted than President Biden (a perception that derives as much from their Apprentice memories as from anything he's actually said or done recently). The "Trump is a victim of lawfare" conspiracy theory is meant strictly for the superfans, and it's not going away.

You probably already know the Trumpists' message since the verdict:
Incredibly, they are declaring that this guilty verdict slapped on Biden’s son also proves that the system is rigged against Trump. Which reveals something essential about how dependent the MAGA worldview is on elaborate fantasies about the movement’s alleged persecution.

“Hunter Biden guilty. Yawn,” tweeted MAGA thought leader Charlie Kirk. “The true crimes of the Biden Crime Family remain untouched. This is a fake trial trying to make the Justice system appear ‘balanced.’ Don’t fall for it.”

“The gun charges are a giant misdirection,” added Stephen Miller. He added that the verdict is an easy opportunity for the Justice Department to hoodwink “a pliant media that is all too willing to be duped. Don’t be gaslit. This is all about protecting Joe Biden and only Joe Biden.”
Trump's reaction was this:
This trial has been nothing more than a distraction from the real crimes of the Biden Crime Family, which has raked in tens of millions of dollars from China, Russia and Ukraine. Crooked Joe Biden’s reign over the Biden Family Criminal Empire is all coming to an end on November 5th, and never again will a Biden sell government access for personal profit.
The message of every conspiracy theory is that the "official" story is wrong. That's why you can't debunk a conspiracy theory with new information -- that information is also "official," so it also has to be wrong. In fact, efforts to argue that new information definitively disproves the conspiracy theory just prove that the conspirators are trying even harder to lie to you.

This verdict would damage Trump if Democrats could persuade more swing voters that no matter what the price of eggs may have been under Trump, he's a crazy conspiratorialist and so are his fellow Republicans. The Democratic base is fully on board with that idea, but I don't think middle-of-the-road voters are. If Democrats can sell that idea, maybe Trump's "weaponized justice system" complaints will backfire. In the meantime, we have sentencing decisions to look forward to -- Trump's and Hunter Biden's. If Hunter gets a lighter sentence, Trump gets grievance points -- and even "mainstream" Republicans will say he's being subject to "lawfare." So this aspect of the campaign will be with us for some time to come.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

I GUESS WE KNOW NOW THAT ALITO PLANS TO RESIGN AND LET LEONARD LEO PICK HIS REPLACEMENT

I can't really get excited about the mask-off conversations Samuel and Martha-Ann Alito had with documentarian Lauren Windsor -- obviously the Alitos have acknowledged that they're right-wing partisans, but Senate Judiciary Committee chair Dick Durbin is too conflict-averse to hold hearings on Alito or Clarence Thomas, and no other elected Democrat will even make noise about them.

In the midst of what should be a massive judicial legitimacy crisis, the front page of Durbin's Senate website makes clear what he regards as the real burning issue of the day:



Dick Durbin -- fighting for you!

But there's a small newsbreak in the story about Windsor's conversation with Justice Alito's wife:
Referencing her husband, Mrs. Alito says, “He’s like, ‘Oh, please don’t put up a flag.’ I said, ‘I won’t do it because I am deferring to you. But when you are free of this nonsense, I’m putting it up and I’m gonna send them a message every day, maybe every week, I’ll be changing the flags.’ They’ll be all kinds...."
When would Samuel Alito be "free of this nonsense," i.e., public scrutiny of what he and his wife say and do? Unless Martha-Ann thinks the day is coming when journalists, documentarians, and people on social media will be afraid to subject them to public scrutiny because of the likely legal (or extralegal) risks, she's undoubtedly referring to the years of Alito's retirement. Which means that he doesn't intend to stay on the court until death, like Ruth Bader Ginsburg.


And when would he resign? Maybe in the last year of Donald Trump's second term, when he'll be 78 and Trump can outsource the job of picking his forty-something replacement to Leonard Leo. Or he might wait until some other Republican president can outsource the job of picking his forty-something replacement to Leonard Leo. It's unimaginable that he would risk allowing a Democratic president and Senate to choose his replacement.

I think Alito and Thomas (who'll be 79 at the end of the next presidential term) might step down in Trump's second term if he's elected. That would mean a majority of the Court would be Trump appointees. In a better world, the thought of that might give one-issue pro-Palestine voters pause, but I'm sure it won't. And while you might argue that it will be a tall order for Leo to find two jurists as vile as Alito and Thomas, I'll just point to Matthew Kacsmaryk and Aileen Cannon and say that I'm sure he'll manage it.

Monday, June 10, 2024

I HOPE YOU'RE SITTING DOWN FOR THE SHOCKING NEWS THAT RICH PEOPLE WANT TRUMP TO WIN


He made them love him. According to Politico, they didn't want to do it:
Never mind: Wall Street titans shake off qualms and embrace Trump

Wall Street executives spent three years doing everything they could to distance themselves from former President Donald Trump. Now they’re busy coming up with reasons to vote for the guy.

Many high-dollar donors at banks, hedge funds and other financial firms had turned their backs on Trump as he spun unfounded claims that the 2020 election had been stolen and savaged the judicial system with attacks. Today, they’re setting aside those concerns....
Did Wall Street executives really spend "three years doing everything they could to distance themselves from former President Donald Trump"? Let's take a look at Politico's three examnples:
Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman — who once labeled the U.S. Capitol insurrection that followed a Trump speech on Jan. 6, 2021, “an affront to the democratic values” of the country — is once again one of the former president’s most important allies on Wall Street.
Yes, Schwarzman issued a three-sentence press release on January 6, 2021, that included those words. But as a New York Times story noted less than two weeks later, Schwarzman "stuck with President Trump ... and stopped short of criticizing him even after the Capitol attack." The January 6 statement never mentions Trump, and its insistence that "there must be a peaceful transition of power" seems like nothing more than the typical Wall Streeter's usual call for "stability."
Top financiers like hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman, who called on the then-president to resign over the riot, and Citadel’s Ken Griffin, who dubbed Trump a “three-time loser” in elections, are considering offering their support.
Griffin backed Ron DeSantis for a while, then considered shifting his support to Nikki Haley. He's a Republican. Is it a surprise that he's backing the Republican nominee? And there's been friction between Ackman and President Biden since 2017, when they had words at an investor conference. Ackman set a million dollars on fire by giving it to Biden's hapless primary challenger Dean Phillips. That was after he called on JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon to run for president, and also after he gave money to Robert Kennedy Jr.'s campaign. Is it safe to say that Ackman doesn't want Biden to win again? These guys may have kept their distance from Trump when he didn't seem like the best candidate to beat Biden, but now that it seems he actually could beat Biden, they're on board.

The Politico story makes clear that rich guys' support for Biden is for the most obvious reasons:
... Wall Street firms and Silicon Valley venture capitalists have grown increasingly antagonistic toward Biden as appointees like Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan and Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler move to tighten rules around markets and mergers.
This, by the way, is why we can't have nice things: For the first time in this century -- perhaps for the first time since the 1960s -- we have a president who wants to stanch the flow of money upward to the superrich. He hasn't made a lot of progress, largely because he's been blocked by Republicans and also by the pro-plutocrat (ex-)Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Yet even though he'll never be a Roosevelt, it's still too much for the Masters of the Universe. They won't tolerate a threat to even a tiny fraction of their current or future wealth.

Does the potential for fascism scare them? Nahhh.
Kathy Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, a nonprofit organization that represents the city’s top business leaders, said Republicans have told her that “the threat to capitalism from the Democrats is more concerning than the threat to democracy from Trump.”
I'm pretty sure we had capitalism in post-World War II America, even though tax rates on the wealthy and corporations were much higher than they are now. But the plutocrat class thinks otherwise. Meanwhile, as long as fascism doesn't threaten them, I'm sure they're fine with it.

And here's another reason why these guys might be embracing Trump:
... many Republican donors ... claim Trump’s conviction in New York, along with the cases brought by special counsel Jack Smith and Georgia prosecutors, were politically motivated and damaged the rule of law.

Eric Levine, a longtime GOP fundraiser and former Treasury official who had said he would never vote for Trump after the Jan. 6 riot, told POLITICO that the criminal cases brought against the former president were a factor in why he changed his mind.

Shaun Maguire, a partner at Sequoia Capital and former Hillary Clinton supporter, pledged $300,000 to pro-Trump efforts minutes after the verdict. His examination of the charges Trump faced had been a “radicalizing experience,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Trump and his supporters have argued that his indictments and recent conviction should make him more appealing to Black people. Maybe that's true -- not of Black people, but of plutocrats. After all, plutocrats regularly engage in skeezy behavior and use a lot of non-disclosure agreements. They generally think they should be above the law, and in this country they usually are. While Balzac didn't exactly say, "Behind every great fortune there is a crime," there's quite a bit of truth in that aphorism.

I think rich people feel for Trump because the sight of a rich guy in a suit actually being held accountable for his misdeeds horrifies them. Didn't The Wall Street Journal recently run an editorial arguing that, in effect, everybody has committed a crime that Alvin Bragg or someone like him could prosecute?



Actually, most of us don't commit crimes. But it may be accurate to say that our elites -- i.e., the Journal's target audience -- constitute a criminal class. Maybe, in addition to greed, that's why they're flocking to Trump again.

Sunday, June 09, 2024

A SECOND-TERM TRUMP WILL HELP MURDER MEDICARE AND SOCIAL SECURITY -- EVEN IF HE NEVER CUTS THEM

Here's what "the party of the working class" intends to do to the tax system:
Republicans in Congress are preparing to not just extend former president Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts if they win control of Washington in November’s elections, but also lower rates even more for corporations....

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) lowered rates for individuals of nearly all income levels, though it cut taxes most for the highest earners, and slashed the maximum corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. The individual portions of that law expire in 2025, but Republicans who wrote the law made the business tax cuts permanent.

Now GOP lawmakers and some of Trump’s economic advisers are considering more corporate tax breaks — which could expand the national debt by roughly $1 trillion over the next decade, according to researchers at Stanford University and MIT....
That $1 trillion is in addition to the cost of extending the 2017 tax cuts. Brookings says:
An important effect of extending the 2017 tax cuts is that it’s estimated to cost an extra $3.8 trillion over the next decade. Without significantly cutting services, the federal debt would balloon to 211% of GDP by 2054, compared to about 100% of GDP right now.
But don't worry, fellow elderly people! We're told that the programs you rely on are safe:
... the Trump campaign has ruled out cuts to the Defense Department, as well as to Social Security and Medicare, programs for the elderly that are the main drivers of the nation’s rising spending. The debt grew by more than $7 trillion during Trump’s administration.
I genuinely believe that Trump intends to reject Social Security and Medicare cuts in a second term -- it's a popular promise, it's easy for him to understand, people have probably told him that he succeeded in the 2016 election where folks like Mitt Romney and John McCain failed because he made the promise -- and, of course, he's a guy who loves getting personal benefits from borrowed money.

Republicans want to push America into a debt crisis -- a real one, not the phony one they declare every time there's a Democratic president -- so they can achieve their decades-old dream of gutting Social Security and Medicare. Trump might be our president the next four years, and he might do so much damage to the system that he's allowed to be president after that, possibly for life, but he has to die someday. When he does, Medicare and Social Security are in the crosshairs.

They might be in the crosshairs very soon, if Trump wins and then dies in office, and President Burgum or President Rubio or whichever Koch errand boy Trump chooses as his running mate ascends to the presidency. Or maybe the GOP will wait until a Democrat is in the White House again, assuming that ever happens, so they can yell and scream and blame the Democrat for risking the fiscal solvency of America by refusing to slash these programs. (Tax increases on well-off people will, of course, be off the table.) It's going to get ugly. Trump could someday be known as one of the murderers of these programs, even if he never cuts a dime from them.

Saturday, June 08, 2024

DO VOTERS WHO AREN'T COMMITTED PARTISANS REALLY CARE ABOUT TRUMP'S REVENGE PLANS?

Greg Sargent is appalled by the way Donald Trump's revenge plans are being presented in the media:
During just this week, two of Donald Trump’s friendliest interviewers handed him big prime-time opportunities to unequivocally renounce any intention to retaliate against Democrats for his criminal conviction by a jury of his peers in Manhattan. Both times, Trump demurred.

“Sometimes revenge can be justified,” Trump told Dr. Phil McGraw, after he suggested that seeking retribution for Trump’s criminal charges would harm the country. Though Trump graciously said he was “open” to showing forbearance toward Democrats, he suggested revenge would be tempting, given “what I’ve been through.”

Trump voiced similar sentiments to Sean Hannity after the Fox News host practically begged him to deny he’d pursue his opponents. “I would have every right to go after them,” Trump said. Though Trump nodded along with Hannity’s suggestion that “weaponizing” law enforcement is bad, Trump added, “I don’t want to look naïve” ...
Sargent doesn't like the framing:
Whereas Trump is being prosecuted on the basis of evidence that law enforcement gathered before asking grand juries to indict him, he is expressly declaring that he will prosecute President Biden and Democrats solely because this is what he endured, meaning explicitly that evidence will not be the initiating impulse.

You might think this distinction is obvious—one most voters will grasp instinctually. But why would they grasp this? It’s not uncommon to encounter news stories about Trump’s threats—see here, here, or here—that don’t explain those basic contours of the situation. Such stories often don’t take the elementary step of explaining the fundamental difference between bringing prosecutions in keeping with what evidence and the rule of law dictate and bringing them as purported “retaliation.” Why would casual readers simply infer that prosecutions against Trump are legally predicated while those he is threatening are not?
But do persuadable voters care why Trump wants to get revenge on his political enemies? Those of us who loathe Trump find this alarming, and his base thinks it's wonderful -- but I'm not sure other voters care. I've made the argument in the past that many voters think Trump's presidency, at least for the first three years, was fairly normal, for the simple reason that while Trump said and did terrible things, they mostly didn't affect average voters. A suburbanite in Iowa wasn't being subjected to family separation, and wasn't under attack in Charlottesville. COVID happened, but voters don't blame Trump for that. These voters remember lower prices and less war, so the rest of it was just noise.

If I'm right about this, these voters won't care about Trump's efforts to prosecute his political enemies, whether or not there's any evidence -- they're not being prosecuted, so why should they care what happens to Joe Biden or Alvin Bragg?

It would be nice if swing voters concluded that Trump's priorities are skewed -- he should prioritize lowering grocery prices, not getting vengeance on his politcal enemies! (Of course, he doesn't have a plan for lowering prices, and some of his policies -- deporting immigrant workers, imposing huge tariffs -- could very well raise prices.) And maybe that will happen. Maybe on-the-fence voters will conclude that he's unhealthily obsessed with vengeance. Let's hope so, but let's not be surprised if stories about his vengeance plans are shrugged off by voters.