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What Joe Gets
Plus: Some cognitive dissonance in Florida.
Catching up before the weekend:
This is the season of progressive discontent.
Which is odd, since Joe Biden just unveiled a budget blueprint jam-packed with progressive goodies, including big spending increases and tax hikes on the wealthy.
Progressive Democrats worry that President Joe Biden’s team is swerving to the right on crime and immigration….
Some members are also complaining about a lack of communication, with some saying they were caught off guard by the White House’s announcement it would sign a measure overturning a D.C. crime bill and recent reports it was considering detaining families at the border.
What’s happening here is pretty obvious.
Biden is choosing the ground he wants to fight on. He’s willing to fight on a robust expansion of government spending and power; he seems to relish a fight on Medicare and Social Security, and tax hikes on the rich, including a 25 percent minimum tax on billionaires (it almost sounds like . . . populism).
But he also understands where the political landmines are. He gets that Democrats are vulnerable on both crime and the chaos at the border, and is moving to dilute two of the most dangerous GOP talking points for 2024.
What Biden gets is this: He can move to the left on tax/spending, as long as he moves to the center on the other hot-button issues where Democrats have been shedding support.
“This is the Joe Biden of 2020 who was the most centrist candidate in the field and romped to victory,” Jim Kessler, executive vice president for policy at the moderate think tank Third Way, told Semafor. “Democrats have to be where voters are on crime and immigration. Biden gets that.”
Other Democrats seem to be following his lead, at least on crime. This week, the vast majority of Senate Democrats voted to overturn the D.C. crime package that lowered the penalties for carjacking (among other things).
It’s almost as if the administration is learning from its mistakes. Writes Nick Catoggio:
[Biden has] begun to tiptoe toward the center lately on another major Democratic liability, immigration. The ongoing fiasco at the border leaves him vulnerable to a Republican opponent whose political calling card is building a wall. Centrist analysts like Ruy Teixeira have warned Biden and his party that their political viability depends on escaping the left-wing “cultural bubble” in which an unsecured border is treated as a civic good. Lo and behold, on Tuesday morning the New York Times reported that the White House might reinstate Trump’s policy of detaining immigrant families who enter the country illegally, a strategy Biden ended after taking office. That would complement another new rule requiring asylum seekers from far-flung countries to seek refuge in nations they pass through instead of in the United States, another Trumpish initiative.
The new asylum policy brings Biden further into line with the balance of public opinion at the expense of crossing his own party. Among Democrats, a plurality want to see the number of asylum applicants increased rather than reduced. Among the overall public, it’s the opposite. Biden is tilting toward the latter.
Biden also seems to have been listening to Ruy Teixeira, who has been urging Democrats to get tough — or at least credible — on crime.
Democrats are hemorrhaging support among Asian voters, alienating other nonwhite voters with their lax approach to public safety and losing many formerly loyal white liberals and moderates who are “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore”. What to do?
The answer seems clear to me. It’s time for Democrats to adopt former UK prime minister Tony Blair’s felicitous slogan: “Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime”. Conservative outlets like Fox News may exaggerate but voters really do want law and order—done fairly and humanely, but law and order just the same. Democrats still seem reluctant to highlight their commitment to cracking down on crime and criminals because that is something that, well, Fox News would say.
This has got to stop. Weakness on crime damages the Democrats’ brand and especially hurts some of their most vulnerable constituents.
As London Breed, the Democratic mayor of San Francisco who will appoint Boudin’s successor, put it:
It’s time the reign of criminals who are destroying our city, it is time for it to come to an end. And it comes to an end when we take the steps to be more aggressive with law enforcement. More aggressive with the changes in our policies and less tolerant of all the bullshit that has destroyed our city.
Biden (or some other leading Democrat) should say something like this, as recommended by Charlie Sykes at The Bulwark:
We must continue the fight for social justice, but it should not come at the price of public safety. In some of our biggest cities we have folks who think that we shouldn’t put criminals in jail or downplay the dangers of violent crime. They are wrong. We have to protect our families and our neighborhoods.
And then name some names. I think you know who I have in mind….
The New Anarchy
ICYMI: great discussion on yesterday’s Bulwark podcast with the Atlantic’s Adrienne LaFrance about her latest deep-dive into our epidemic of political violence.
You can listen to the whole thing here.
Mixed verdict in Florida
Some good news and some bad news for Ron DeSantis in this new University of North Florida poll.
The good news is that he is personally quite popular. In a Republican primary, he wallops Donald Trump in the state 59-28.
The bad news? Florida voters are not quite so jazzed about some of his hot-button culture war issues.
Sixty-one percent of Florida voters oppose proposals to ban state colleges and universities from teaching CRT or promoting diversity, equity and inclusion.
“Despite elevated support among Republicans, many voters we spoke to are not so thrilled about some of DeSantis’s most recent proposals in his war on ‘woke’ culture, this time targeting Florida’s public colleges and universities with HB999 and SB266,” stated Binder. “A notable chunk of Republicans (38%) don’t like the restrictions, but the 56% in support reflects the likely outcome in Florida’s Republican controlled legislature.”
An overwhelming majority of voters — 77 percent— also oppose a recent bill that would allow Floridians to carry a concealed weapon without a permit or license.
The majority of respondents were opposed across party affiliations, with 93% of Democrats opposed, 77% among Independents, and 62% among Republicans.
“Not only is there bipartisan opposition to this ‘constitutional carry’ bill, but folks seem to feel passionately about it with the majority (67%) saying they strongly oppose the bill,” commented Binder. “Even among Republicans, most people are against carrying weapons without a permit.”
And, on abortion, 75 percent of voters — including 61 percent of GOP voters — said they opposed legislation that would ban abortions after 6-weeks. Even GOP voters opposed the measure that may come to DeSantis’s desk.
Exit take: The numbers are a warning sign that the DeSantis agenda might not scale up well on a national stage.
1. Jim Jordan’s Weaponization Subcommittee Keeps Firing Blanks
Whatever credibility Taibbi retained prior to yesterday’s hearing imploded when he stated that this “Twitter File” story was “by far” more “serious” and “grave” than the 2008 fiscal crisis that deflated as much as 40 percent of the world’s wealth:
The lengths to which Jordan would stretch his conspiratorial thinking were on full display. He suggested that merely because the Aspen Institute, a nonprofit think tank, receives government funding and Aspen once ran a training exercise including a hypothetical scenario regarding Hunter Biden and Burisma, he could infer that the government somehow caused suppression of adverse stories about Hunter Biden.
Again, no evidence was presented to make such a connection.
2. The Truth About the New Consensus on American Education
Surveys of both the U.S. general public and Gen Z Americans specifically (that is, those born between 1997 and 2012) indicate broad agreement that K-12 education should not be primarily thought of as a step along the way to “college for all,” but should instead help young people learn practical, tangible skills that can be used on a variety of vocational paths. Reconceiving K-12 education to align with this consensus entails a renewed emphasis on both fundamental educational skills and character building. It also involves “opportunity pluralism,” which means promoting a wider array of pathways to opportunity and life success instead of assuming that every one of today’s kindergarteners is destined to pursue a bachelor’s degree.
Revealing this hidden consensus about the purpose of K-12 education among Americans across generational divides is an important step toward ending the singular focus on the college degree that prevents young people from seeing the full spectrum of opportunities available to them, including those that exist off the college-bound track. College will still be a significant milestone for many, of course, but embracing a paradigm of opportunity pluralism requires many additional routes to adult success.