Is Removing Trump from the Ballot Good for Democracy? - BCB #82
Also: Red has a talent pipeline problem, and journalism is expected to come under fire.
Unsurprisingly, Red is furious that courts in Colorado and Maine have removed Trump from the ballot, as more than a dozen other states are considering doing the same. It is much more interesting that there are dissenting voices on the Blue side as well.
Red is accusing Blue of hypocrisy, because Blue so often called Red “anti-democratic” for their reaction to the 2020 election outcome. However, many Blue voices believe this could set a dangerous precedent for democracy.
Democrats who are unequivocally unified around defeating Trump in November are now also cautioning that diminishing voters’ ability to decide who represents them is a slippery, even potentially dangerous route at a time when democratic norms are fraying across the country.
The Washington Post editorial board pointed out that the legal caveats as to whether or not Trump engaged in insurrection are not necessarily objective enough to disqualify him for president. This could easily backfire in the future as it normalizes a legal tactic that can be used against Blue.
What’s to stop a Republican politician from seeking to bar his Democratic opponent because the opponent attended Black Lives Matter protests, claiming that those protests, some of them nominally in service of abolishing the police, qualify as insurrection?
Blue-dominated California put this into practice by outright rejecting the proposal to follow Colorado and Maine. Gov. Gavin Newsom said, “We defeat candidates at the polls [...] everything else is a political distraction.”
These dissents are interesting because they are an example of something that many talk about but few practice: putting principle over party. Or perhaps it’s just that the dissenters realize that when you create a weapon, there’s no way to prevent your enemy from using it too.
In a provocative essay, TracingWoodgrains argues that because most professions skew Blue, there’s no longer enough human capital for Red to effectively govern — even when they win elections. With stark partisan divides in age and education, Red folks are disappearing from public institutions at all levels other than electoral, a trend that TracingWoodgrains thinks can’t be reversed any time soon.
People want to say young and educated people have always leaned left, but that simply is not true. Not like this. The leftward skew is a recent, and accelerating, phenomenon. Democrats have gained more and more ground among young and educated people alike, and the rightward shift people are used to seeing just isn't happening as it did before. Among young, educated professionals, the salient political divide is no longer between Republicans and Democrats, but between liberals and various stripes of socialists.
What's the conservative coalition? Truckers, farmers, business owners, construction workers. Don't get me wrong: these are useful, socially valuable, necessary professions. But they have nothing to do with the day-to-day of governance on the ground. About the only governance-related profession they remain influential in is the police force, which tells you all you need to know about the current reputation of the police force among educated, young professionals.
To put this into perspective, TracingWoodgrains shows where Trump and Biden’s donations came from in 2020. More Red workers donated small amounts to Trump, while wealthier, Blue-educated professionals donated to Biden.
This divide is not likely to reverse as these young professionals age, as millennials don’t seem to be going Red as they age, unlike previous generations.
TracingWoodgrains notes that Red may still win elections since they represent roughly half the country, control key political institutions like the Supreme Court, and have support from demographics that are “increasingly old, rural and less educated.” However, he cautions that winning elections won’t be enough for Red if they lack the human capital to accomplish anything significant.
In a year where more than half the world’s population will vote, Niemanlab predicts that populists will attack the media who hold them accountable. The first goal will be for news organizations to defend themselves.
The best news organizations will have to find ways to cope with heightened anti-media populism — politicians’ cynical tactic of inciting hate against outlets that try to provide the essential service of exposing candidates’ dishonest, deceptive, and hateful words and actions.
But defense will not be enough – denouncing the enemy will only increase polarization and further divide audiences along political lines. We need, instead, a different kind of journalism that responds to conflict with something other than an attack. Small news outlets may be much more likely to find ways to bridge divides and tackle polarization.
Successful innovations may not emerge from brand-name news organizations, simply because in polarized contexts big media’s every move is greeted with cynicism. Instead, look out for interesting experiments by lesser-known journalistic ventures and civil society groups that share professional journalism’s interest in bridging us-them divides and building more inclusive and deliberative democracies.
Quote of the Week
Attempts to disqualify demagogues with deep popular support often backfire.
Image prompt: A simplified cubist style depiction of a local voting station, focusing on a few individuals from diverse descents including Caucasian, Hispanic, Black, and South Asian. The people are abstractly represented with fewer geometric shapes and a more restrained color palette, emphasizing their forms and expressions in a less busy composition. The background is minimalistic with subtle cubist elements, including abstracted 'Vote Here' signage, to maintain focus on the act of voting.