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You are a tRumpling ? (Whatever that is)

Democrats suck at massaging.

They haven't devoted their entire party to building a giant propaganda machine for the last 50 years like the republicans have.

The fact that they still win elections, mostly on policy alone, just tells you how much better their policies are than the competition's.
Wow, just wow.
My guess is that this is boiling down to two pretty simple things: Inflation and his age. Each has a caveat.

No, despite the ignorant ravings of MAGA, Biden didn't cause the inflation. But he's in office, it has been BAD, it happened under "his watch", and that's that. I really don't think much of the public looks any deeper than that. And regarding his age, he's only a little older than Trump but the images of the two are very different. Biden just looks frail, and Trump seems robust when his makeup is on and he's wearing a suit that gives him shoulders. Image matters.

Ask people what they think of Jan 6 and a quarter of the country won't know what you're talking about. Ask people what they think of what Trump has said he's going to do if elected and at least half the country won't know what you're talking about. On and on.

I think the election is Trump's to lose, and since there are no standards for him, that's good news for MAGA.

But you're going to vote for Biden/Harris again.
No, The Hush Money Trial Isn’t Helping Donald Trump
But it is hurting the credibility of people who want it to be helping him

Brian Beutler
May 21

If you spend any time in right-wing media, you’ll learn all about how Donald Trump’s New York hush-money trial is a fiasco for the Manhattan district attorney’s office—that the case is obviously meritless, and (since the prosecutor’s motivation must have been political) destined to backfire politically.

Whether Trump is convicted or not, this is the normal way right-wing media lies to its audience, no difference from past efforts such as “the polls are fake, Donald Trump is winning the 2020 election.” Most ethical journalists who’ve covered the trial from the outset and understand the laws at issue wouldn’t venture to predict the verdict. But they would tell you that the prosecutors have ably painted a damning portrait of Trump—they’ve proven he falsified business records (a misdemeanor) and assembled strong evidence that he did so in an effort to cover up other illegal activity (making it a felony).

As to the political question of whether the trial is making Trump more popular with the voting public, or engendering its sympathy, nobody has to predict anything: Before the trial, Trump was more popular (or less unpopular) than he had been in a long time; through the trial, those numbers have slowly deteriorated.

His head-to-head polling against Biden has also not improved. Depending on which model you consult, it’s flat or slipped a little.

Is that slippage because of the trial? I couldn’t say with certainty. But I am also not a columnist for the New York Times. Ross Douthat, by contrast, ignores the data to muse about how the trial might theoretically help Trump among both low- and high-information general-election voters. “Any political effect from being charged and tried is probably working marginally in Trump’s favor,” he writes. “To a normal observer, if the underexplained version of the trial looks like the Lewinsky affair all over again, the uber-explained version might just look like a partisan prosecutor’s overreach.”

This, factually, does not match the numbers (see above). But if I were a tribune for spirituality, and not just trying to mind-trick Democrats into doubting their political advantages, I’d probably be more concerned about the damage Trump and his retinue of pseudo-holy hangers-on have done, and continue to do, to religious conservatism as a salable way of life.

Lacking Campaign Guidance, Biden Allies Fritter Away Opportunities Against Trump
What we have here communicate.

This story did not appear in today’s New York Times print edition
Here’s a quick Tuesday roundup:

  • Donald Trump got caught signaling to his most fervent supporters that he intends to consolidate power and torment his political opponents by creating a unified American Reich, supplanting constitutional government.
  • After insisting for weeks that he would testify in his own defense at his first criminal trial—and having his counsel insist in court not just that he should be acquitted, but that he’s innocent—Trump’s lawyers rested their case. They called just one substantive witnesses whose testimony turned out to be disastrous. Trump did not take the stand.
  • Several dozen House Democrats signed a letter calling on Samuel Alito to recuse himself from January 6-related cases, but only after Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin foreclosed the possibility of holding hearings on the justice’s overt pro-MAGA partisanship.
  • It turns out Trump’s lawyers found even more stolen classified documents after the FBI raided Mar-a-Lago two years ago, including in his bedroom. Some of them had been scanned on to a private laptop by a political aide.
These are just a few splashy news developments that crossed my transom yesterday. See if you can find reference to them here. Spoiler for those on the move: It’s the New York Times front page, and none of those stories made the cut.

Upgrade to paid
Obviously I disagree with whatever editorial judgment deemed all of these items too unimportant to splash across page one. But it’s worth thinking through one reason why.

Most importantly: Only the first development generated meaningful (though limited) response from Democrats. Joe Biden issued a brief campaign video about it. Vice President Kamala Harris denounced Trump at an SEIU convention. But by then Trump had removed the offending Reich video from his official account and blamed the whole thing on a junior aide.

Sending Justice Alito a letter is a response of a kind, but one of resignation—after all, Democrats don’t control House committees, and Senate Democrats have decided to add the latest Alito offense to a growing pile of under-investigated Supreme Court corruption controversies.

Trump and his unscrupulous allies can be overwhelming. Even with their respective institutions operating at peak performance, journalists would have a hard time not becoming desensitized to constant transgression, and Democrats would lack the time and resources to home in on all of their many scandals.

But I have started to suspect there’s a deeper breakdown here: It’s not just that Democrats are too passive and risk-averse to pounce, but that they lack guidance about where and how to direct their efforts. The Biden campaign has placed excessive faith in the power of paid media, and thus underrates the importance of providing its allies and surrogates basic input on which issues to amplify and what to say about them.


Amanda Litman, the cofounder of Run for Something, estimates that Democrats have spent at least $70 million on TV ads in the past few months, and that it has bought them basically nothing. Biden got a small boost from his State of the Union address—a free media event—but the ads haven’t moved the needle.

And going forward, there’s reason to suspect paid media will yield even lower returns. Biden has enjoyed a huge money advantage over Trump all year. But now Trump is out-raising Biden—he out-raised Biden in April, at least—so the gap is closing, and the marginal advantage of these ad dollars will shrink.

That’s where tactics and surrogates should come into play.
Best political writer out there.

In our system as configured today, particularly within coalitions, real, shut-it-all-down style leverage is a rare commodity. Make or break threats, implicit or explicit, to throw elections to the opposition can’t be a source of leverage in a coherent movement where everyone understands the other party to be worse across all major issue areas. It’s only leverage for those who reject that analysis, or for political hobbyists who treat elections like consumerism, and are happy to say “neither” whenever their preferences aren’t sufficiently met.

In the current era—particularly in the Trump era—we need a new, if somewhat unsatisfying, conception of what it means to be a stakeholder in progressive politics, or the movement will kill itself, and perhaps millions of others, in a murder/mass-suicide.


The term “leverage” doesn’t have to connote a negotiation between adversarial parties, but that’s often the idea it conjures: a unionized labor force demanding higher wages under threat of a work stoppage; a reluctant buyer who makes a best-and-final offer at a fire-sale price, knowing the seller is distressed. Take it or leave it.

If that’s how factions within a political coalition conceive of and wield leverage internally, it’s only a matter of time before one of them miscalculates and everyone in the alliance loses. Striking workers can threaten the viability of a business, greedy counterparties can sabotage a mutually-desired acquisition. But failure isn’t typically the goal, and in the event of failure, everyone can pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and try again. They would understand their bargaining power much differently if failure resulted in death or imprisonment. But that, in an only slightly hyperbolic sense, is the proposition on the table when factions within the progressive coalition try to “leverage” a Democratic president in this way, as fascism looms in the near distance.

People on the broad left understand the distinction between leverage and sabotage quite clearly when they’re on the receiving end or witnessing their opponents descend into self-destructive recriminations.

When Republicans threaten to plunge the economy into a credit-default depression, as they do every couple years, all liberals and progressive activists understand it as both faithless opposition and illusory leverage: faithless in that it’s immoral to extort concessions from anyone of any kind under threat of mass harm; illusory because Republicans presumably don’t want to wreck their own communities or personal wealth. Democrats have not always been steel-spined about calling the bluff, but they have adamantly rejected the tactic.

Likewise, when MAGA activists take aim at popular Republican politicians in competitive states and districts over their insufficient fealty to Donald Trump, most progressives understand it as a form of self-sabotage. Occasionally the far-right Republicans who replace popular incumbents on those ballots win, but more often than not they lose. When a group of Trump loyalists in the House forced a vote on ending Kevin McCarthy’s speakership, the overwhelming consensus on the left was to not interrupt the enemy in the midst of a mistake.


The broad left is susceptible to similar errors, though they tend to manifest in different corners of the political system. Democrats did trigger one (extremely brief) government shutdown during Trump’s single term, but they don’t generally make leverage errors in legislative negotiations with the GOP. If anything, they under-exploit the leverage they do have. Democrats are also much less prone to bouncing popular incumbents in swing seats.

When Democrats are negotiating among themselves, as they did many times in 2009 and 2010, and 2021 and 2022, progressives have some leverage, but no more than their peers in the party’s centrist wing, and in many cases less. President Obama needed every Senate Democrat to support the Affordable Care Act; President Biden needed almost every Democrat in all of Congress to support the Inflation Reduction Act. Under those circumstances, everyone in the party had leverage, and everyone had a claim to be treated respectfully and dealt with in good faith. But conservative Democrats won most of the internal fights over provisions in both bills because progressives are more invested in policy reform than centrists. Progressives would (for instance) claim they’d rather have no health-care reform than lose the public option. But it was just a bargaining tactic. Everyone saw through the bluff. They’d already identified themselves as the eager buyer. Joe Manchin, by contrast, could claim he’d be happy spending $0.00 on Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, and it was at least plausible that he was telling the truth.

In American elections, progressives threatening to withhold their votes for Biden are playing the spoiler just like Manchin—except instead of coming up empty on an infrastructure bill, we’ll get Donald Trump. Some leftists will claim to prefer that outcome and were just waiting for a pretext to oppose Biden. They imagine, wrongly, that they’ll have more clout in the political system if he loses. Others are happy to let Trump burn the whole place down, “after Hitler, our turn”-style. This essay is obviously not for them.

But in unguarded moments, most people on the left will acknowledge that another Trump presidency would be an existential threat to democracy and progressive politics long term. “Leveraging” Biden despite this understanding will sometimes move White House policy, and may thus be a worthwhile, calculated, high-stakes risk in rare circumstances. But it can’t be a permanent condition of coalition-wide politics. If you’ve ever worried that, through serial hostage taking, Republicans will one day blunder the country into default, then you see the problem: Eventually, perhaps just five months from now, the leverage-wielders will hit the brakes too late and drive us off the cliff.


In fairness to the progressives who think this analysis sucks: I agree. Or rather, I agree that the state of affairs sucks.

More representative democratic systems create many more opportunities for factions within coalitions to make demands. In a parliamentary system, progressives could rally to increase the size of progressive parties, and then demand more concessions in power-sharing arrangements when attempting to establish a governing coalition.

In the U.S. system, there is no power-sharing arrangement per se, and the party agenda gets sorted out in the primary. Factions thus have credible leverage during and immediately after primaries. Progressives made solid use of this leverage after Biden beat Bernie Sanders in 2020, as my friends Luppe B. Luppen and Hunter Walker detailed thoroughly in their book The Truce. This year, there was no competitive primary. One of the only viable opportunities progressives ever have to exert leverage thus wasn’t available.

And so they’re left with the nuclear option: The threat to boycott the election and let Trump win. Or, alternatively, the dismaying sense of running out of moves.

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