Opinion | Trump Was a Gift That May Not Keep Giving


Both Begala and Celinda Lake, the Democratic pollster, stood firmly opposed. “We should leave this to Republicans to nominate their own Trump,” Lake said by email.

Begala gave three reasons for his opposition.

First, “it undermines President Biden’s powerful message that Trump leads a mega-MAGA fanatical fringe that is a clear and present danger to our democracy.” Second, “Trump is still a massive, major force in American politics — especially in the Republican Party. I don’t want Trump anywhere near the White House.” Third, “while I respect the political success of governors like DeSantis, Youngkin, Hogan and Christie, if the Democrats can’t beat them, we don’t deserve the White House.”

Daniel Hopkins, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, was adamant in his opposition to the tactic:

If Democrats truly worry about the fragility of American democracy, they should not take any steps that would facilitate Trump’s return to office, even if that means a higher chance that they lose the presidency. The slightly higher probability of holding the presidency with Trump as the G.O.P. nominee is surely outweighed by concerns about the threats to democracy should he win election.

In an email, Hopkins suggested that Democrats should not view the outcome of the 2022 election as a clear victory:

Republicans are likely to have won significantly more votes for their U.S. House candidates than Democrats, but the Democrats benefited from the geographic distribution of their support and the strength of several of their House incumbents in hard-fought races. Turnout in cities like Philadelphia was down relative to elsewhere, and the Democrats have not returned their strong showings with Latino voters from 2012 and 2016. The Republicans’ strength in Florida as well as New York was remarkable — and those are two of the largest states in the country. So absolutely, both parties have outcomes to celebrate and liabilities to watch.

One of Hopkins’s political science colleagues, Matthew Levendusky, noted in an email that

There is not one narrative to come out of this election. While we usually think about nationalization, in this election, we saw quite significant differences across states. Pennsylvania and Michigan — and even Wisconsin and Arizona — ended up somewhat better than the pre-election polls suggested (in some cases, quite a bit better). From this perspective, Democrats should be happy. But they did much worse than expected in Florida and New York. So which lesson is the right one?

Levendusky pointed out that there “seem to be two trends that might be working against Republicans’ recent advantage in translating votes into seats”:

If Republicans are doing better (at least in some areas) with Black and Latino voters, that erodes Democrats’ edge in urban districts, but not nearly enough to put those seats into jeopardy. But if they’re also strengthening their support with rural white voters, then that means they’re ‘wasting’ more votes in those districts (shifting heavily rural parts of the country from R+20 to R+30 does not help them win more seats). So shifting demographic and geographic…



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