Photo of the day

Atlantic with a gallery of Australia fire photos.

A koala receives water from a cyclist during a severe heatwave that hit the region, in Adelaide Hills, South Australia, on December 27, 2019. 

Instagram user @BIKEBUG2019 via Reuters

2020: It’s the economy (and the climate), stupid

Very good stuff from Brian Schaffner and Sean McElwee in the NYT about Obama-Trump voters and the lessons from winning back some of them in 2018.  Short version: Democrats need to run an economic message, not identity politics (i.e., they need to make twitter liberals unhappy):

To understand the potential ramifications of Obama-Trump voters in 2020, it’s worth understanding how they voted in 2018. Among those who voted, three-quarters stuck with the Republican Party. But Democrats did win back about one-fifth of the Obama-Trump group in 2018, which would amount to a net swing of about 1.5 million votes. While the idiosyncratic governing style of Mr. Trump may have been one key factor in bringing Obama-Trump voters back into the Democratic fold, it wasn’t the only reason. It’s true that most Obama-Trump voters who stuck with the Republican Party in 2018 strongly approved of the job Mr. Trump was doing as president, but interestingly even half of those who flipped back to the Democratic side at least somewhat approved of Mr. Trump. Democrats won back a significant share of Obama-Trump voters not because those voters disliked Mr. Trump, but in spite of the fact that many actually approved of him.

Instead, these voters appeared to be drawn back toward the Democrats by some of the party’s bread-and butter-issues, and in spite of others. On issues like gun control, health care and the environment, these voters look remarkably like the Democratic Party’s base — those who voted for Obama in 2012, Hillary Clinton in 2016 and a Democratic House candidate in 2018. Eighty-four percent of Obama-Trump voters who voted for Democratic House candidates in 2018 want to ban assault rifles, compared to 92 percent of the Democratic base. By contrast, 57 percent of Obama-Trump voters who stayed with Republicans in 2018 support an assault weapons ban (which has far less support among the Republican base).

Medicare for all is surprisingly popular among all Obama-Trump voters, but especially those who voted for Democrats in 2018. Eighty-three percent of those who switched back to the Democratic Party in 2018 support Medicare for all, nearly as high as the 93 percent support the policy achieves among the most solidly blue Democratic voting bloc.

These patterns show that Democrats can win back Obama-Trump voters by focusing on issues that also appeal to their base. Another such issue is climate change. Seventy-three percent of Obama-Trump voters who came back to the Democratic Party in 2018 oppose the president’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement; among those who stayed with the Republican Party in 2018, 74 percent support that decision.

Notably, the Obama-Trump voters who returned to the Democratic Party in 2018 look less like the Democratic Party base in other ways. A majority support building a border wall and Mr. Trump’s ban on immigration from predominantly Muslim countries. At the same time, two-thirds of these voters support Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allows undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children to receive deferred action on deportation. [emphasis  mine]

They also have less progressive attitudes when it comes to race and gender. For example, less than half of these voters agree that whites have advantages because of the color of their skin, and an even smaller share think that feminists are making reasonable demands of men. These are your classic cross-pressured voters, aligned with Democrats on many policies that are part of the progressive wish list but likely to be turned off by the party’s rhetoric on identity politics.

The key takeaways in chart form:

And their conclusion:

Following the 2016 presidential election, the Wesleyan Media Project reported that Mrs. Clinton’s campaign aired fewer issue-based ads than any other presidential candidate since they started collecting the data in 2000. Perhaps Democrats learned a lesson from 2016: In 2018 the Wesleyan researchers found that Democratic campaign ads were “laser focused” on issues, especially health care, which was the focus of more than half of the advertisements run by Democratic candidates. Our data suggests that this approach helped bring many Obama-Trump voters back into the Democratic column while also remobilizing many Obama voters to turn out and vote Democratic again in the midterm election.

Though there is a temptation to focus on Mr. Trump’s personality, if Democrats continue to learn from these elections, they will focus this year’s campaign on their plans to address issues like health care, wages and the environment, lest the Obama-Trump voters become Obama-Trump-Trump voters in 2020.

Of course, maybe their conclusions about the implications of their data are wrong, but, I want to see a good case otherwise before I disagree with Schaffner on anything.

My Iran “war” prediction

I haven’t read a ton of stuff on Iran yet, and there’s many and many tons out there, but, nonetheless, I do think this Drum take strikes me as basically sound:

In the New York Times, Susan Rice writes about Iran and concludes with this: “It’s hard to envision how this ends short of war.”

I’m not making a prediction one way or the other, but it’s pretty easy to envision how this ends short of war. In fact, the most likely scenario is that both sides continue to launch periodic “retaliatory” attacks, but they slowly wind down and we end up right where we started. That’s how things like this usually go.

I’m not saying that’s what will happen. President Trump could do something stupid, or he could goad Iran into doing something stupid. Who knows? But if I had to put my money on something, it would be another few weeks of bluster and low-level strikes, followed by everyone getting exhausted and deciding to call a nervous halt to things.

Of course, that “President Trump could do something stupid” is quite the caveat.  But, I do agree on this as the most likely outcome, for whatever that’s worth.

Meanwhile, an actual foreign policy expert writes, “Iran knows how to bide its time. Don’t expect immediate retaliation for Soleimani.  The regime wants to stay in power. Escalating the conflict with the U.S. even more would threaten that.”

So, yeah, bad results from Trump’s action.  But, “war” in any meaningful sense?  I suspect not so much.

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