Wednesday, April 17, 2024

IF TRUMP HAD REALLY MADE IT IN MANHATTAN, HE'D BE JUST AS INSUFFERABLE

In a New York Times op-ed, Elizabeth Spiers gives us the conventional wisdom about Donald Trump's relationship with New York City, where -- fittingly, as Spiers sees it -- Trump's criminal trial is taking place:
It feels uniquely appropriate that Mr. Trump will have to endure the scrutiny on his old home turf.... He rose to fame here, but was never truly accepted by the old money elites he admired. The rich and powerful sometimes invited him to their parties, but behind his back they laughed at his coarse methods and his tacky aesthetic. His inability to succeed in New York in quite the way he wanted to drove much of the damage he did to the country as a whole, and arguably his entire political career.

... Mr. Trump couldn’t make it here — at least not the way he craved — despite being born here and being one of the few people who could afford it.

So it’s easy to understand why he bashes his hometown as a crime-ridden hellscape, and why the Oval Office appealed. Washington offered him political power but also something he may have wanted even more: the respect New York denied him.
Spiers doesn't have much respect for Trump, and doesn't suggest that Trump deserved more respect than he got from New Yorkers. But the obvious impliction of this argument is that if New York had somehow been nicer to Trump, if the real swells had invited him to more parties and if Spy magazine hadn't called him a "short-fingered vulgarian," he might not have sought the presidency as a fascist-wannabe.

I don't buy it, because I've watched the career of Trump's doppelganger, Rupert Murdoch.

Murdoch was also the son of a wealthy, successful man. Keith Murdoch was a major figure in Australian media, just as Fred Trump was a major figure in outer-borough real estate. Donald Trump pursued deals in Manhattan; Rupert Murdoch attended university in England, where, as this sympathetic piece argues, he was mistreated by British snobs:
As a brash Australian arriving in the 1950s at Oxford – the university that was then still the British political elite’s finishing school and a custodian of the English class system – Murdoch was always going to be seen as an arriviste or parvenu.

It must have rankled that despite his intellect, confidence and wealth, there would so often have been a side sneer at this upstart colonial – the “cataclysmic chauffeur from the Outback”, as the Oxford student newspaper called the car-owning undergraduate.

So when he took control of the News of the World, The Sun and later The Times, he turned them into battering rams against the self-satisfied smugness of the English establishment elite.

The day he walked into The Sun’s offices, the paper ran a leader column stating the mission that has defined him for decades: “We are not going to bow to the establishment in any of its privileged enclaves. Ever.”
Murdoch won, in a way that Trump didn't. Murdoch became the dominant figure in the British media, and then became the most politically influential media mogul in America. He had the power to tip elections on three continents. He owned a major movie studio, and on television he gave us The Simpsons and The X-Files. He became staggeringly wealthy.

But he never stopped feeling resentful. Last year, when he resigned as chairman of News Corporation, he wrote this in a memo to employees:
Elites have open contempt for those who are not members of their rarefied class. Most of the media is in cahoots with those elites, peddling political narratives rather than pursuing the truth.
Trump could win the presidency again, terminate all his legal cases, remake America in his own image, and become a Putin-level kleptocrat and he'd still be angry and resentful.

Spiers thinks the New York trial will diminish Trump in the eyes of his admirers:
There is some relief for New Yorkers who are witnessing the prospect of his comeuppance, though. The rest of the country is seeing a side of Mr. Trump that New York City residents have always been familiar with: the guy who’s angry that he hasn’t been accepted in the elite circles he admires and is outraged that others have.
But that's what his admirers like about him. They find his resentment of "elitists" relatable. They feel mistreated by the people he says are mistreating him. This trial may damage him in the eyes of middle-of-the-road voters who've been supporting him in this election without actually admiring him, but it won't hurt him in the eyes of his superfans. A guilty verdict will be proof of what they already believe: that elitists hate them and hate him, and being hated this way is a mark of virtue.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

JUST ANOTHER REMINDER THAT THE PARTY OF REAGAN AND THE PARTY OF TRUMP ARE THE SAME PARTY

Many commentators and politicians -- mostly but not exclusively on the right -- tell us with great sorrow that the Republican Party has suffered a takeover by forces hostile to its true purpose. What once was the noble "party of Reagan" is now, alas, the "party of Trump," an entity that would repulse the Gipper and his allies.

A story in The Guardian reminds us that that's a lot of malarkey:
Two powerful conservative non-profits have donated millions of dollars to a number of pro-Trump groups led by key far-right allies Stephen Miller, Charlie Kirk and others that have promoted election denialism, extremist anti-immigrant policies and legal challenges to bolster the Maga movement.

Based in Wisconsin, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the Bradley Impact Fund in 2022 separately doled out six- and seven-figure checks to groups such as Miller’s America First Legal and Kirk’s Turning Point USA, and other Trump-friendly bastions such as the Heritage Foundation and Michael Flynn’s America’s Future....

The biggest checks in 2022 were written to Trump-allied groups by the dark-money Bradley Impact Fund: America First Legal received about $27.1m, Turning Point USA roped in close to $8m, and the Conservative Partnership Institute pulled in $712,310. America’s Future also received $500,000.

Meanwhile, the Bradley Foundation ponied up $425,000 to the Heritage Foundation, which has worked with many other pro-Trump groups to assemble a 1,000-page plan for a new Trump presidency with an authoritarian agenda to expand executive-branch powers and curb key agencies such as the US justice department.
The Bradley groups seem to combine the worst of both the old and new GOP:
The Bradley foundation’s board includes the well-known rightwinger Art Pope, a North Carolina multi-millionaire who used to chair its board and is also a director of the Bradley Impact Fund. Pope has deep ties to other conservative bastions such as the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, where he has been a board member too.

The board of the Bradley Foundation also boasts the rightwing lawyer and Trump ally Cleta Mitchell, a senior legal fellow at the Conservative Partnership Institute.

Mitchell founded CPI’s self-styled “election integrity network” in 2021 after participating with Trump on his 2 January call to the Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, who Trump beseeched to “find” 11,780 votes to help overturn Joe Biden’s win in the state.
The Bradley Foundation was once known for its ties to foreign-policy neoconservatives such as Irving and Bill Kristol. It has honored Reaganites such as Ed Meese and Ed Feulner. And it was deeply involved in the mainstream right in the post-Reagan era, funding The American Spectator's attacks on the Clintons during Bill Clinton's presidency, bankrolling Charles Murray's work on The Bell Curve, and underwriting union-buster Scott Walker's rise to power in Wisconsin. As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted in 2011,
The list of major recipients reads like an all-star roster of conservative think tanks: millions of dollars directed to well-known groups such as the Hudson Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, and the Federalist Society - all trying to put their stamp on three branches of government.

Millions more have gone to just about every major conservative publication, including such magazines as Reason, Crisis, First Things, National Affairs and FrontPage Magazine.
And now Bradley is giving to the likes of Mike Flynn, an Alex Jones fan and Christian nationalist whose ReAwaken America group preaches Holocaust denialism and QAnon theories, as well as Charlie Kirk, Cleta Mitchell, and other right-wingers whose fringe ideas, we're told, would never have been tolerated in Reagan's day.

But one of the biggest money sources is the same. It's all the same party.

Monday, April 15, 2024

I WISH WE LIVED IN A SOCIETY WHERE STORMY DANIELS COULD TRULY HUMILIATE DONALD TRUMP

The only Donald Trump criminal trial that's likely to take place this year starts today in New York. Trump is charged with falsifying business records in order to cover up an affair with porn star Stormy Daniels. Amanda Marcotte thinks that testimony from Daniels will be "devastating" for Trump, largely because, as Daniels told Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes in 2018, their sexual encounter was not fully consensual and was miserable for her:
Stormy Daniels: And I was like, "Ugh, here we go." (LAUGH) And I just felt like maybe — (LAUGH) it was sort of — I had it coming for making a bad decision for going to someone's room alone and I just heard the voice in my head, "well, you put yourself in a bad situation and bad things happen, so you deserve this."

Anderson Cooper: And you had sex with him.

Stormy Daniels: Yes.

Anderson Cooper: You were 27, he was 60. Were you physically attracted to him?

Stormy Daniels: No.

Anderson Cooper: Not at all?

Stormy Daniels: No.

Anderson Cooper: Did you want to have sex with him?

Stormy Daniels: No. But I didn't — I didn't say no. I'm not a victim.
Marcotte believes that women do more damage to Trump's reputation than men do:
While plenty of men ... have spoken out about their negative experiences with Trump, women have generally been the most compelling witnesses against him. Former journalist E. Jean Carroll testified in two civil trials about how Trump sexually assaulted her and then defamed her. Juries found her persuasive enough to award her nearly $90 million. Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson wasn't sexually abused by Trump ... but became the most striking witness in the Jan. 6 hearings during the previous Congress. Her accounts of Trump as a petulant child who throws ketchup and flails impotently at Secret Service agents rang true in a way that was difficult for even the most delusional MAGA heads to deny.
Really? Carroll won both her cases -- I think Trump will lose the Daniels case as well -- but Trump doesn't have a lot of admirers in Manhattan. Hutchinson's allegations were also persuasive to Trump haters. But in the country at large, the proceedings in which these two women participated coincided with strong poll numbers for Trump, and his easy triumph in the Republican primaries followed. Trump still appears to have a slight lead in general election polls. If he's slipping at all now, it's probably because he's more visible than he's been for the past few years. He's the most damaging witness against himself, not his female (or male) critics.

Marcotte thinks the specifics of Daniels's story will make the Trump myth harder to believe:
Trump's conduct with women makes clear that he's both a bully and a coward, who victimizes vulnerable people in situations where they have no real way to fight back. It also undermines his lifelong effort to portray himself as an irresistible Lothario and sexual dynamo. The ladies don't swoon over Donald Trump. They spend every minute wondering when it will be safe to wriggle free from his stubby fingers.
To people who are paying attention and are willing to accept what the evidence says, all this is obvious, and has been obvious for years. To most other people, the legend of Trump's studliness prevails, just as the legend of his business prowess prevails in the minds of many Americans despite overwhelming evidence of his ineptitude as a CEO. Too many people want to believe that charismatic figures are as special as they tell us they are -- think of the Elon Musk cult -- so they deny what's right in front of them. Also, Trump must be special because who among us has ever been in a position to browbeat a porn star into sex in the first place, all while married to a fashion model wife?

Trump will probably lose the case, and maybe the trial and verdict will damage his polling. But many voters will continue to believe that he's a ladies' man who "doesn't need to" be a predator. Or they'll believe that everyone does it, or at least every male in power -- look at how Biden massages people's shoulders! Look at Jeffrey Epstein's guests! Trump might make this trial into a politically damaging event for himself if he continues on his usual course of attacking the process and the participants. But in a society that's still sexist, I don't think an adult film actress's words will bring down a potential president.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

NOW, AS ALWAYS, REPUBLICANS HAVE ONLY ONE ENEMY: DEMOCRATS

The Biden's administration has responded to the Iranian drone attack on Israel by offering effective defensive support, accompanied by a message to Benjamin Netanyahu that he won't get U.S. help if he goes on offense and launches a counterattack on Iran.

Fox News, if it were a news organization, would update this headline:


The Iranian attack is no longer "impending." It happened, and Israel rebuffed it with U.S. assistance, despite the doubts expressed here. But Fox is leaving the headline as is, because Murdoch pere et fils believe that any time you can plausibly attack Democrats, you should, and you shouldn't update an attack-on-Democrats story or headline just because it's no longer consistent with the facts. Leave it up for as long as possible, in order to elicit the maximum hatred of Democrats. If anyone questions why the editors you've hired didn't order an update, the way they would in an actual news organization, you can say they just didn't get around to it. (No one will question this decision except me.)

The Fox story is mostly a series of attacks on President Biden, whom Republicans hate more than they hate the Iranians or any other foreign adversary.
Lawmakers reacted after Iran launched drones from its own territory toward Israel late Saturday, calling for the White House to "stand firm" and "stop coddling Iran." ...

"I will continue to engage with the White House to insist upon a proper response," [Speaker of the House Mike Johnson] said. "The Biden Administration’s undermining of Israel and appeasement of Iran have contributed to these terrible developments." ...

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, condemned the Iran attack on Israel, while placing the blame on the Biden administration.

"Iran has encircled Israel and has been attacking our Israeli allies from almost every front for months. They have launched attacks from Syria, Iraq, Yemen, the West Bank, Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon, and of course the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Now they have escalated by launching attacks directly from Iranian territory," Cruz said in a statement. "These attacks are enabled and financed by deliberate policy choices made by Joe Biden and Biden officials, who have allowed roughly $100 billion to flow to Iran since 2021. Americans and Israelis have been made catastrophically more vulnerable by these policies."

Fight the real enemy!

It's an inexact analogy, but can you imagine if Democrats had responded to 9/11 this way, by immediately attacking President Bush? (Though I've always assumed that this is how Republicans would have responded if 9/11 had happened on Al Gore's watch. I assume Gore would have been impeached over 9/11. At the very least, he'd have been attacked starting within days of 9/11 if he expressed any hesitation about attacking Iraq rather than just Al Qaeda.)

Who else is blaming America first right now? This guy:
Giuliani: Reagan Would Have Hit Iran Before the First Missile Got to Israel

Saturday on Newsmax2, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani argued the correct response to Iran’s attack on Israel would have been to hit Iran at the earliest stages of the strike as possible.

Giuliani argued that was what former President Ronald Reagan would have done if he were facing similar circumstances.

“I really do think we’re missing an opportunity, a historic opportunity here — if we had a president like my old boss in the White House,” he said. “Every time [when] I was mayor and I had to make a difficult decision, I would say, ‘What would Ronald Reagan do?’ I know what Ronald Reagan would do right now. He would have hit Iran before their first missile got to Israel. And he would have taken out every nuclear facility he could. He would have been trying to look for an opportunity to do that for years.”
Yeah, that approach couldn't possibly have adverse consequences, could it, you old drunk? And hey, remember when a Marine barracks was bombed in Beirut and Reagan withdrew all U.S. troops from Lebanon?

But describing everything bad that happens in the world as Biden's fault...


... might be an effective strategy for Republicans:


Having a 24/7 "Biden bad!" media firehose is paying benefits.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

BIDEN WON'T REALLY BE TIED WITH TRUMP UNTIL HE'S LEADING BY 5, BECAUSE THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE SUCKS

The 2024 presidential election now looks like a tie. According to the Real Clear Polling average, Donald Trump's lead had been cut to 0.2% in a two-candidate race. And today Joe Biden gets good news from the polling unit of The New York Times:
President Biden has nearly erased Donald J. Trump’s early polling advantage, amid signs that the Democratic base has begun to coalesce behind the president despite lingering doubts about the direction of the country, the economy and his age, according to a new survey by The New York Times and Siena College.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump are now virtually tied, with Mr. Trump holding a 46 percent to 45 percent edge. That is an improvement for Mr. Biden from late February, when Mr. Trump had a sturdier 48 percent to 43 percent lead just before he became the presumptive Republican nominee.
Oliver Willis has a point:


Maybe Trump will continue to sink his own candidacy. Maybe the Biden campaign's attacks on Trump, particularly on reproductive rights, are working and will continue to work.

But even though the race is effectively tied, it isn't really tied. Trump is still winning. I'll regard the race as tied only when Biden has a persistent 5-point lead. The reason is simple: the Electoral College.

We know that Biden won the popular vote in the 2020 election by 7 million votes -- 7,059,526, to be precise. (All 2020 election data comes from Wikipedia's 2020 election page.) But that entire victory margin was in just two states: Biden won California by a margin of 5,104,121 votes and New York by a margin of 1,992,889 votes. That's a total of 7,097,010 votes.

To put it another way, Biden won California by 29.16% and New York by 23.13%. But those huge margins were wasted. Biden would have won California's 55 electoral votes and New York's 29 electoral votes even if he'd won the states by much smaller margins.

In fact, Biden won five states by margins of more than a million votes: California, New York, Illinois (20 electoral votes, 16.99% victory margin), Massachusetts (11 electoral votes, 33.46% victory margin), and Maryland (10 electoral votes, 33.21% victory margin). By contrast, Donald Trump didn't win any states by more than a million votes. The most populous, electoral-vote-rich states he won were Texas (38 electoral votes, 5.58% victory margin), Florida (29 electoral votes, 3.36% victory margin), and Ohio (18 electral votes, 8.03% victory margin).

What this means, for the purposes of the Electoral College, is that Trump's votes were distributed much more efficiently than Biden's. Trump could add these three large states to the many smaller states in the middle of the country, the South, and the Mountain West and nearly win the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote by four and a half points. (Trump would have needed a little over 40,000 votes in Georgia, Arizona, and Wisconsin to score a 269-269 tie in the Electoral College, which would have been resolved in Trump's favor in the House of Representatives, because each state's delegation would have cast one vote, and 26 state delegations were majority Republican.)

If Biden is tied in the polls, that means he's approximately 4 or 5 points weaker nationwide than he was in 2020, at least for now. It suggests that he'll struggle to win the swing states that gave him his Electoral College victory in 2020. Swing-state polling suggests he's struggling in states such as Arizona and Georgia. If Biden could beat Trump in one of Trump's Big Three states, it could decide the election, but polling in Texas, Florida, and Ohio suggests that they are, if anything, somewhat more Republican now than they were four years ago -- not as Republican as California, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland are Democratic, but Republican enough to suggest that they're safe Trump states.

I don't think Donald Trump's Electoral College win in 2016 was a black swan event. I think 2020 suggests that Republicans can routinely win the Electoral College while losing the popular vote, if they lose it by 4 points or less. In 2020, Biden needed to be four and a half points stronger than Trump to eke out an Electoral College win in the swing states. I think the same will be true this year and in years to come, unless Democrats can finally find a way to flip Texas, or can regain the ability to win Florida or Ohio.

So, yes, Biden needs a significant popular-vote lead in order to be tied in the polls. Maybe he'll get there. But he's not there yet.

Friday, April 12, 2024

IMPERFECT MESSENGERS? WELL, YES AND NO.

On social media, many people are criticizing this New York Times story:


I don't think the critics are reading past the headline, although even from the headline I could see where the story was going. It's not judging the rightness or wrongness of Donald Trump's and Joe Biden's approaches to the issue of abortion and finding a false equivalence. It's merely saying that people with strong Democratic leanings tend to be passionately pro-choice, while Biden, over the course of his career, hasn't been, and that people with strong Republican leanings tend to be passionately anti-abortion, while Trump used to support abortion rights and is now hedging on anti-abortion rhetoric, even though he's the guy who killed Roe.
In the summer of 2019, as a crowded Democratic primary was picking up speed, Joe Biden was on the defensive, pummeled by abortion-rights groups and his opponents for his support of the Hyde Amendment, a measure that prohibits the use of federal funds for most abortions.

He reversed his position, but the episode underlined his wobbly standing in the eyes of abortion-rights activists as he faced off in 2020 against Donald Trump, who became a hero of the anti-abortion movement by using his presidency to appoint Supreme Court justices who appeared likely to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Now, in 2024, the tables have turned.

This week, it was Trump angering abortion opponents as he sought to wash his hands of the matter and leave it to the states....

Trump’s allies on the religious right ... were deeply disappointed with what they see as a flip-flop. Their alliance with Trump had always been uneasy — Trump called himself “pro-choice” in the late 1990s, but by 2011 had reversed his position entirely, calling himself “pro-life.” He won over evangelical support during his 2016 presidential race by promising to appoint anti-abortion judges.
The story isn't really about the issue of reproductive rights. It's about the two candidates and where they've previously stood on the issue, which is not where party stalwarts wish they'd stood. The story is fine for what it is.

But if there's a problem with the story, it's that it overestimates Republican dissatisfaction with Trump's abortion posturing. I don't think Amanda Marcotte and David French agree on much, but they agree on this: Republicans are fine with what Trump is saying.

Marcotte writes:
But most telling is the muted response on the Christian right. The anti-abortion group SBA List said they were "disappointed," but promised to "work tirelessly" to elect Trump in 2024 and that "he will get there" on a national ban. Alliance Defending Freedom, which argued the Dobbs case before the Supreme Court that ended Roe, completely ignored Trump's statement. Americans United For Life, Family Research Council, the Heritage Foundation, Turning Point USA: All loudmouthed fundamentalist groups, all angrily anti-abortion, and all responded with either silence, or in some cases, eager support to Trump's video. Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America, a longstanding anti-feminist group, seemed confident Trump will stick by the forced childbirth cause.
French writes:
And how did the pro-life establishment respond? With mild criticism, but also with immediate support. As Politico reported this week, “Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, Students for Life, the Faith and Freedom Coalition, the Family Research Council, National Right to Life and CatholicVote reiterated their commitment Monday morning to electing Trump.”

Charlie Kirk, the founder of Turning Point USA, one of the largest right-wing student and faith outreach organizations in the country, immediately posted his support, calling the statement “masterful” and said that the pro-life leaders he’d talked to were “very happy.”
To French, this is a sign that the movement is waffling on absolute opposition to abortion; to Marcotte, it's a sign that Trump is a liar who intends to ban abortion the first chance he gets. Either way, the movement seems content with Trump as a messenger.

My belief is that Trump, as a former young and middle-aged fuckboy, is still instinctively pro-choice. But he's also viscerally Republican now, as well as entirely self-serving, so he'll say whatever he thinks will get turn out enough Republican and Republican-leaning voters to get him elected. On abortion, he thinks he's a better political strategist than the Republicans who ran as no-exceptions abortion opponents in 2022, and we know he always likes feeling smarter than people who have more experience or knowledge than he does.

I don't think he'll prioritize banning abortion if he's elected -- but I also don't think he'll try to stop anyone who has a plan to do it. I think he'd sign a federal abortion ban into law. More likely, he'll sign any executive orders drafted for him that curtail or ban abortion, and he'll appoint whomever he's told to appoint to the federal bench -- and all of the recommended appointees will be anti-abortion zealots.

So he's a perfectly acceptable messenger for the GOP on abortion. As for Biden, he's doing fine for our side, despite any concerns I expressed on Tuesday. Maybe he's putting aside his concerns about abortion because he knows it's what he needs to do to beat Trump, but it's fine. He's stepping up.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

INFREQUENT VOTERS PREFER TRUMP -- COULD WE DISSUADE THEM?

Democrats have been doing well in off-year elections, but Dan Hopkins, a political science professor at Penn, says that might not carry over to the presidential election:
Between Feb. 20 and March 18, 2024, Gall Sigler and I oversaw a survey, fielded by NORC, of 2,462 English- and Spanish-speaking adults living in the U.S.

... when we broke out respondents by their voting history, we found dramatic differences in whom they support for president in 2024. President Joe Biden performed much better among frequent voters, while Trump had a large lead among people who haven't voted recently. Specifically, among respondents who voted in the 2018, 2020 and 2022 general elections, Biden outpaced Trump 50 percent to 39 percent. But among respondents who were old enough to vote but voted in none of those three elections, Trump crushed Biden 44 percent to 26 percent.

... these results are a cautionary tale for those who would extrapolate Democrats' strong performance in 2022 or recent special elections ahead to this November. The 2024 election will almost certainly have turnout far higher than those races.
This is why I'm still pessimistic about November. Sure, President Biden is slowly gaining on Donald Trump, and now trails Trump by only 0.2% in the Real Clear Polling average. But turnout is always higher in presidential elections than in midterms or special elections, so it really might be Republicans who are being underestimated in this race. And I suspect that Hopkins and Sigler would also have found a Trump skew among voters who stayed home in 2018 and 2022 but did vote in 2020 -- based on the hero worship we see, Trump is undoubtedly the only politician some Americans care enough to vote for. This wasn't enough to get him elected last time, but Biden's victory in the Electoral College came down to a few very close states.

Democrats may need to give very infrequent voters a reason to stay home if they won't vote for Biden. If I were running the Biden campaign, I'd be ordering up ads that are montages of Trump presidential utterances and headlines, edited in a way that's as visually and sonically abrasive as possible. The goal would be to remind voters who have begun to believe that the Trump years were actually pretty good that the Trump years were, in fact, an exhausting shitshow.

I'm imagining ads that work on a visceral level, not on a policy level -- not Trump appointed the justices who overturned the Roe decision or Trump said nice things about Nazis but, rather, Trump was an obnoxious, headache-inducing troll every day for four years. Ads like this could include praise for Nazis, for instance, but they should emphasize Trump's blowhard nature, and the climate of national outrage it inspired. They should be seek to be a visual and auditory representation of how it felt every day to have Trump as president.

I think ads like these could work on even habitual voters, if they're among Trump's "soft" supporters -- the non-cultists who nevertheless prefer him to Biden. For many Americans, a nostalgic haze now surrounds the Trump presidency, or at least the first three years of it. Prices were lower! There were no wars in Ukraine and Gaza! And so on. It's possible that Trump will dispel that haze every time he opens his mouth. But I think Democrats should give him a push. He's wrong on policy, but he's also obnoxious. We might need to remind voters just how it felt to have him in office.