Wednesday, November 08, 2023


Democrats had a good Election Day yesterday.
Abortion again proved to be a winning issue for Democrats across the country in state and local races Tuesday. Ohio voters said “yes” to enshrining the right to an abortion in the state constitution.... Abortion rights were at the heart of Gov. Andy Beshear’s (D) campaign for reelection in deeply red Kentucky, where he won handily after he championed access to abortion in the state. And Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s hopes to advance his conservative agenda were dashed as voters in his state kept the state Senate in Democratic hands and flipped the state House blue.
I want to remind you that despite my gloom-and-doom reputation, last month I predicted wins for Democrats in Virginia. Glenn Youngkin is personally popular in the state, with a 54% job approval rating (vs. 38% disapproval), but his agenda isn't popular. The mainstream media, which is always in search of a "nice" Republican to rally around, published story after story about Youngkin's deep involvement in the campaign for a GOP legislative sweep, predicting a glorious political future for the governor if the Senate and House of Delegates went red. (Neither did.) As is often the case, political journalists were following the lead of billionaire political donors:
Youngkin’s Spirit of Virginia PAC has raised more than $18.78 million since March according to the Virginia Public Access Project, including $3 million from billionaire donor Thomas Peterffy, who has urged Youngkin to consider a last-minute entry into the 2024 presidential race.
And it wasn't just Peterffy -- Youngkin's PAC received
six- and seven-figure contributions from a few Republican billionaires, including Kenneth G. Langone, Ronald S. Lauder, Bernie Marcus, Thomas Peterffy, Stephen Ross, Stephen Wynn and Jeff Yass.
They like Youngkin because his suburban-dad persona seems to distract voters from his extremism:
Part of Mr. Youngkin’s appeal has been his ability to campaign as a Trump Republican, but on his terms.

He has campaigned with Kari Lake, the Arizona Republican who is one of the nation’s leading election deniers, and he set up a tip line for parents to report complaints against teachers, although it was quietly shut down. Mr. Youngkin’s policy proposals — including the 15-week abortion ban and prohibiting the teaching of critical race theory in public schools — have also animated Trump loyalists in the party.
Youngkin had a plan:
Candidates were encouraged to rally around Youngkin’s proposed 15-week abortion ban, with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother, and not to support a wider ban. The discipline extended beyond the 10 candidates Youngkin endorsed in competitive primaries, so as to keep distractions at bay. At one point, sources say, one delegate candidate posted something rather incendiary on abortion. Within 25 minutes, the post was taken down.
But it didn't work. As I noted last month, polling shows that Virginia voters prefer Democrats to Republicans not just on abortion, but on education and trans issues.

Maybe you think yesterday's results mean we should ignore President Biden's bad polling. I don't. Biden might be more popular than recent polls (not just the New York Times poll) indicate. But he should campaign as if he's many points behind, to be on the safe side.

Biden should do something he doesn't seem eager to do: make abortion rights a centerpiece of his campaign. Biden ads refer to abortion rights, but he's much more comfortable talking about infrastructure jobs. But many blue-collar workers are wary of Biden and of the Democratic Party as a whole. By contrast, talk about abortion -- or book-banning in school libraries -- appeals to voters who are eager to vote Democratic, and who are voting Democratic in state and local elections because they regard Republicans as extreme on these culture-war issues.

Donald Trump embraces some abortion exceptions, but he takes credit for the overturning of Roe v. Wade in every speech and he appointed many abortion extremists to the federal bench. On education, the "1776 Commission" he appointed late in his presidential term embraced culture-war messaging in its final report, which has been described as
a sweeping attack on liberal thought and activism that calls for a “patriotic education,” defends America’s founding on the basis of slavery and likens progressivism to fascism.

President Trump formed the commission in September, saying that American heritage was under assault by revolutionary fanatics and that the nation’s schools required a new “pro-American” curriculum.
If Trump wins again, he promises to continue using education to attack political enemies:
Donald Trump, the founder of an allegedly fraudulent, eponymous “university,” has come up with a novel pitch to reform higher education if elected next year: launching an online, government-funded learning academy to act as a foil to liberal colleges.

The inspiration for the project, he explained in a video shared on Truth Social Wednesday, came from the recent wave of student activism in support of Palestine, which he described as a movement aligned with “savages and jihadists.”

“We spend more money on higher education than any other country—and yet they’re turning our students into communists and terrorist sympathizers of many, many different dimensions,” he said. “I’m announcing today we will take the billions and billions of dollars that we will collect by taxing, fining, and suing excessively large private university endowments and then we will use that money to endow a new institution called the American Academy.”
Biden needs to remind voters of the right's extreme agenda on these issues. He needs to tell voters that a second-term Trump working alongside extremists like House Speaker Mike Johnson could spread culture-war extremism to every part of America. These issues matter to voters Democrats have relied on for many years, voters who continue to turn out for other Democrats who put cultural issues front and center. Biden should learn from those Democratic candidates.

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