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What To Do When You're Stopped By Police - The ACLU & Elon James White

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Know Anyone Who Thinks Racial Profiling Is Exaggerated? Watch This, And Tell Me When Your Jaw Drops.

This video clearly demonstrates how racist America is as a country and how far we have to go to become a country that is civilized and actually values equal justice. We must not rest until this goal is achieved. I do not want my great grandchildren to live in a country like we have today. I wish for them to live in a country where differences of race and culture are not ignored but valued as a part of what makes America great.

Wednesday, March 06, 2024

If They Can’t Make a Federal Case Out of Trump …

If They Can’t Make a Federal Case Out of Trump …

The Supreme Court building in Washington sits to the left of a tree in the rain.
Damon Winter/The New York Times

“By Thomas B. Edsall

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C., on politics, demographics and inequality.

While the Supreme Court ruling on Monday that states cannot bar Donald Trump from appearing on their presidential ballots garnered a lot of attention, the more politically consequential decision came on Feb. 28, when the court seta hearing on Trump’s claim of presidential immunity for the week of April 22.

That delay is both a devastating blow to the Biden campaign and a major assist to Trump’s multipronged effort to minimize attention to the details of the 91 felony charges against him.

It increases the likelihood that neither of the two federal indictments against Trump will come to trial before the November election. A failure to hold at least one of these trials before Nov. 5 would undermine a key Democratic goal: to expand voters’ awareness of the dangers posed by a second Trump term.

Those trials, should they occur, are very likely to produce a flood of daily headlines and television broadcasts describing Trump’s role in the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection and his sequestering of classified government documents in his Mar-a-Lago home — a media onslaught reminiscent of the Senate Watergate hearings, which stretched out over 51 days in 1973.

“Early on, I called the federal election subversion case potentially the most important case in this nation’s history,” Richard L. Hasen, a law professor at U.C.L.A., wrote on his electionlawblog. “And now it may not happen because of timing, timing that is completely in the Supreme Court’s control. This could well be game over.”

Whether or not the trials are held before the election is crucial to the outcome, for at least two reasons.

First, a surprisingly large segment of the electorate either has no idea or slight knowledge of the charges against Trump. Increased knowledge of these charges can only work to Biden’s advantage.

Second, a key element of the Biden campaign’s strategy is to mobilize what political strategists are calling the “anti-MAGA majority.” Many anti-MAGA voters cannot be relied upon to turn out unless the threat of a Trump-MAGA victory is put squarely before them — something the trials would help accomplish.

Jan. 30-Feb. 1 YouGov survey asked voters whether they knew a) that Trump has “been charged with falsifying business records to conceal hush moneypayments to a porn star”; b) that he “has been charged with taking highly classified documents from the White House and with obstructing efforts to retrieve them; c) that he “has been charged with conspiring to overturn the results of a presidential election”; and d) that he “has been charged with attempting to obstruct the certification of a presidential election.”

From 20 to 25 percent of those surveyed said they did not know, and another 20 to 25 percent said they were “not sure,” what the charges against Trump were — in other words, nearly half of those surveyed had little or no comprehension of the array of allegations against Trump.

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separate Jan. 25-29 YouGov survey asked a different question — “how much have you heard about” each of the indictments. In this case, independent voters, who will play a large role in determining the outcome of the 2024 election, were far less familiar with the charges than either Democrats or Republicans.

More than half of Republicans (55.5 percent) and Democrats (50.75 percent) told YouGov they had heard “a lot” about the indictments, compared with 41.75 percent of independents.

These poll findings pose interesting challenges to political analysts. While political professionals differ in the details of the strategies they believe Biden should adopt, the Supreme Court decision to postpone adjudication of Trump’s immunity claims is a genuine setback.

Nate Silver, founder of FiveThirtyEight, argues that Biden needs to adopt a persuasion strategy to convince voters who supported Biden in 2020, but now support Trump, to return to the Democratic fold.

“Democrats usually assume that they win elections though turnout rather than persuasion,” Silver writes in a recent Substack posting. “It’s not a crazy proposition, by any means. But it looks like a losing approach for 2024.”

As recently as 2012, according to Silver, putting resources into increasing turnout proved effective in large part because the overall electorate was decisively more Democratic than Republican, 38-32.

Since then, Silver writes, “Democrats have lost their edge on party ID in many polls. In Gallup polling throughout 2023, for instance — in contrast to the Democratic edge in 2012 — the same percentage of Americans (27 percent) identified as Democratic and Republican, with 43 percent identifying as independent.” Recent Gallup polling found that when asked whether they lean to either party, independents now split evenly between voting Democratic or Republican.

Silver analyzed details of the recent Times/Siena poll to show “the potential dangers for Democrats of the base-turnout focus”:

The poll asked voters who they voted for in 2020 as well as who they plan to vote for in November. This produced a big gap; Biden actually led by 12 points in the recalled 2020 vote, but he trails Trump by 5 points in 2024 voter preferences:

2020 recalled vote (excluding nonvoters): Biden 53 percent, Trump 41 percent.

2024 vote (including leaners): Trump 48 percent, Biden 43 percent.

This is, Silver continues, “a bad data point for the White House. In the poll, only 83 percent of voters who say they chose Biden in 2020 plan to vote for him this year, whereas 97 percent who voted for Trump plan to vote for Trump again.”

More important, these Biden defectors are not part of the Democratic base, Silver argues:

If Biden is retaining only 83 percent of his 2020 vote overall, that implies he’s doing quite poorly with people who voted for him in 2020 but who are not loyal Democratic primary voters. Only about 75 percent of this group say they’ll vote for Biden again.

Silver’s conclusion?

If they want to maximize their chances of winning in November, Democrats ought to focus on this group of vote-switching swing voters first, and the base second.

Adam Carlson — a former Democratic pollster who still aggregates data on voting trends among key subgroups from multiple surveys — has gathered material supportive of Silver’s argument that Democrats need to restore loyalty among past Democratic voters now considering voting for Trump.

In a Feb. 28 posting on X, Carlson wrote: “The seven subgroups that are paying the least attention to the 2024 election are the same seven subgroups that are swinging the most toward Trump in the polls.”

Specifically, after combining data from polls conducted Feb. 1 to Feb. 27, Carlson found that 17 percent of independents were paying attention to the election and that this group had shifted 26.3 points toward Trump compared with their actual vote in 2020.

Similarly, 27 percent of Hispanics said they were following the election, while their vote intentions had moved 16 points toward Trump since 2020. Carlson described similar trends for low-income voters, young voters, Black voters and moderates.

Michael Podhorzer, former political director of the AFL-CIO and founder of the Analyst Institute, makes two basic assumptions in calculating effective Democratic strategies this year.

The most important premise underpinning Podhorzer’s analysis is that anti-MAGA voters make up a majority of the electorate. The second assumption is that this anti-MAGA majority is made up of two parts, the first being reliable voters who consistently turn out on Election Day, the second made up of low-turnout, unreliable voters who need to be repeatedly warned in detail of the dangers posed by the election of Trump and his allies.

“The ‘anti-MAGA majority’ is the most important dynamic in our elections today,” Podhorzer writes in a Feb. 28 posting on his Substack, “Democracy Is Not a Spectator Sport”:

When the question is called, most Americans don’t want a MAGA future. Of the 178 million Americans who have voted at least once beginning in 2016, about 94 million have voted against MAGA, and about 84 million have voted for MAGA.

The “dangerous mistake” Democrats are quite likely to make going into the November election, Podhorzer argues,

is to take for granted that the ordinary voters who will decide this election will invariably make their decisions based on whether they judge Biden or Trump better able to perform the presidency, rather than on what they and their families have to lose if Trump and MAGA win. The evidence of voter behavior since 2016 tells us that people will do the latter, as long as these stakes are made clear to them. But if we treat this like a normal election — just another round of single combat between two individuals, Joe Biden and Donald Trump — Trump and MAGA could win.

A crucial bloc of voters, according to this view, is composed of “newly engaged voters — those who only entered (or rejoined) the electorate in 2018 or later — and who have been driving historically high turnout, and have been breaking dramatically, and consistently, for Biden and Democrats when the stakes have been a MAGA future.”

In support of his analysis, Podhorzer points to the 2022 midterm elections. Those contests are “best understood as two different elections — one in the key battlegrounds, where voters understood the stakes and turned out in droves to reject MAGA; the other where voters did not understand the stakes and turned out at low levels more typical of a midterm, allowing the predicted Red Wave to occur.”

Podhorzer provided data to back up his claim: in 2022, turnout nationwide fell by four points, to 46 percent compared with 50 percent in 2018 — which was widely perceived as a referendum on Trump. Democrats suffered a net loss of nine House seats in 2022.

In the states where Republicans ran MAGA candidates in competitive races for statewide office — Arizona, Wisconsin, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Michigan — turnout from 2018 to 2022 remained constant at 53 percent, and Democrats gained four House seats.

The bottom line: “When people don’t recognize those stakes, they stay home,” which then “leads us to the unacknowledged problem with the anti-MAGA majority dynamic for Democrats,” Podhorzer writes. “Their majorities in the Electoral College battleground states depend on sustaining ahistorically high turnout and support from people who were not regular voters in 2016.”

Not only are these voters “alienated from partisan politics” but they “lack confidence in Democrats’ governing ability.”

At the same time, Podhorzer adds, “Not only are most voters now not paying attention to Trump’s legal troubles, they know next to nothing about what he’s said on the campaign trail about what he will do if elected again, let alone the very specific and chilling agenda his allies have assembled in the event he wins a second term.”

Because so many of the anti-MAGA voters are not enthusiastic about Biden, Podhorzer writes, Democrats need to make the case that “in November, we are not choosing a leader; we are choosing the nation we will become.”

The federal trials that now appear as though they may be deferred until after the election — possibly permanently deferred — may well have persuaded hesitant voters that American constitutional government was on the ballot.

Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster, argued in an email that in the drive to mobilize low-turnout voters, it is not so important whether Trump goes on trial but whether he is convicted: “It’s not trials but convictions that matter. If Trump is convicted of a criminal felony by a jury, of plotting to overturn or steal the election, that will matter.” Lake added that “A Trump conviction would increase voting among low-turnout Democratic men, and it would come second to abortion in mobilizing low turnout Democratic women.”

In a Dec. 26 Times guest essay, “A Trump Conviction Could Cost Him Enough Voters to Tip the Election,’ Lake, Norman Eisen, special counsel for the 2019-20 impeachment of President Trump, and Anat Shenker-Osorio, a political consultant, write:

Why do the polls register a sharp decline for Mr. Trump if he is convicted? Our analysis — including focus groups we have conducted and viewed — shows that Americans care about our freedoms, especially the freedom to cast our votes, have them counted and ensure that the will of the voters prevails. They are leery of entrusting the Oval Office to someone who abused his power by engaging in a criminal conspiracy to deny or take away those freedoms.

Why is a conviction so much more important than an indictment?

Lake, Eisen and Shenker-Osorio write:

Voters understand that crime must be proved. They recognize that in our legal system there is a difference between allegations and proof, and between an individual who is merely accused and one who is found guilty by a jury of his peers.

Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster, described in an email the cross-pressures on voters, particularly Republican voters in the event of a trial and, possibly, a conviction:

The exit polls for G.O.P. primary voters asked if voters would consider Trump unfit for office if he is convicted of a crime, and the numbers were significant: 31 percent in Iowa, 47 percent in New Hampshire, and 36 percent in South Carolina. But that tells you nothing about how these people would vote in a Trump-Biden race, because they also likely consider Biden unfit because he’s too old to run again.

Another key factor, Ayres wrote, is “which trial we are considering. If I were designing a case that would be easy for Republicans to dismiss as a partisan witch hunt, it would be the Alvin Bragg-Stormy Daniels-hush money case in New York.”

Conversely, Ayres continued, “the Jack Smith indictments — classified documents and the Jan. 6 insurrection — are far more serious, and could conceivably change some voters’ minds if they come to trial before Election Day. But recent events and the current calendar make that highly unlikely.”

Overall, Ayres was dismissive of the potential of the trials to determine the outcome of the election: “If Democrats want to defeat Trump, they need to get Biden to step aside and nominate someone who would be truly competitive with Trump, which Biden is not right now. Putting their hope in trials that haven’t happened yet is a pipe dream.”

Ayres’s last point about Biden’s age raises the question: Can the Biden campaign somehow lessen or mute concerns about his ability to perform the tasks essential to the presidency? Can it shift public attention to the broad range of Trump liabilities and to the threats, coming from Trump himself and many others — that a second Trump administration would pose to American democracy, its constitution and the rule of law?

These doubts as to Biden’s competence have remained a dominant public concern — despite a significantly improving economy with average annual G.D.P. growth for the first three years of the Biden administration at 3.4 percent, outpacing the 2.6 percent during the first three years of the Trump years, declining rates of inflation and an unemployment rate of 3.8 percent.

The Biden campaign will not be lacking in one crucial resource: campaign cash. Biden’s campaign committee has raised $107.6 million as of early February, according to Open Secrets, compared with $85.3 million by Trump’s committee. The pro-Biden SuperPAC, Future Forward, has, in turn, announced plans to spend $250 million in the current election cycle, much of it in the weeks before Nov. 5.

No matter the size of Biden’s cash advantage, campaign spending will be most effective if the campaign has concrete material to work with — something a timely Trump trial would provide.

In 2000, the Supreme Court, with a Republican-appointed majority, decided a presidential election in the Republican candidate’s favor. There is something very wrong with our democracy if this happens twice in less than a quarter century.

Thomas B. Edsall has been a contributor to the Times Opinion section since 2011. His column on strategic and demographic trends in American politics appears every Wednesday. He previously covered politics for The Washington Post. @edsall

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