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🗣Hit the reset button

June 3 · Issue #1 · View online
The Discourse
Welcome to a refreshed Discourse. All previous issues are here. We’ll start with an essay and end with essential reads and links. Shall we begin?

🗣Hit the reset button
Since the last issue, 538 has started tracking more than 15 candidates in the Democratic primary. And there’s one clear leader: former Vice President Joe Biden, who is routinely doubling the polling of his closest competitor.
There are many reasons this could be the case: name recognition, more endorsements, or a preference for Biden’s policies. But there’s a much more concerning possibility: Biden voters view it as a chance to “reset” and “go back to the way things used to be.” And at times, Biden himself appears to believe that.
Sahil Kapur
In New Hampshire, Joe Biden predicts that once President Trump is out of office, Republicans will have “an epiphany” and work with Democrats toward consensus.
Elections are, of course, referendums. They are reality checks. One of the reality checks we will witness during the Democratic primary will be whether Biden and “reset” voters are correct. Let’s lay out the case:
Reason #1: Social media makes it appear that we are more divided than we actually are.
I was struck by research by the University of Missouri that analyzed 3,000 Twitter accounts over time to find “We are not necessarily getting farther and farther apart – it’s just the people in the middle are becoming more quiet and withdrawn.”
Anecdotally I find this to be true. Those not absolutely obsessed with politics just completely opt out. They also don’t subscribe to this newsletter. Are there enough of those people in the right places who will vote for the candidate that promises a return to “normalcy”?
Reason #2: President Trump has a character problem.
During the 2016 election, there were a series of “character issues” with Donald Trump that would have sunk any other candidate. There was the Access Hollywood tape or the Gold Star family controversy, for example.
One takeaway from Trump’s victory is that character doesn’t matter anymore, so LOL #nothingmatters. But there’s another possibility: 2016 was a perfect storm for character to be ignored as an issue. President Trump’s opponent was viewed as just as untrustworthy. From Gallop:
Democrats can enhance their odds of beating Trump in 2020 by nominating a candidate who is perceived as having a strong character. That is something they did not do in 2016, when Hillary Clinton was the Democratic nominee. She, like Trump, was widely thought to be dishonest and untrustworthy, thus negating one of Trump’s obvious weaknesses and making character less of a factor in voters’ decision-making processes.
Joe Biden’s deep Catholic faith, openness about his personal tragedies, and lack of major personal scandals could be seen as the anti-Trump. And a return to “normal.” (Though his “touchy” nature has caused some stir, it hasn’t been enough to move his polls.)
Reason #3: Barack Obama continues to enjoy favorable ratings.
Meanwhile Obama is the most admired man in the country, besting Trump. An incumbent president has only lost this vote 13 times in 72 measurements.
And Obama-to-Trump voters (the ones that swung the election in key swing states) are cooling on the president, with support falling to 66%.
It’s a good time to be viewed as the closet politician to Barack Obama…
There’s some irony here: Seeking a return to “normal” is another version of “Make America Great Again.” It’s an attempt to capture a past no longer possible in today’s America. But with comfort instead of coal mines.
I’m not sure the three reasons above are true. Or enough to win an election. But it doesn’t matter what we think. The first primary is less than a year away and the first debate is this month. We’ll find out soon enough.
💌Pre-order The Discourse poster
One of the most popular ideas ever published in The Discourse was the 14 rules of staying sane online, being picked up in Kottke and some people even turned the rules into a PDF to hang by their computer.
I’m happy to announce the first-ever piece of Discourse merch: The 14 Rules Poster. It’s a bright, beautiful abstract design that will look damn nice in your office.
The 24" x 36" poster was designed by Jermaine-Louise Boca and printed by Marathon printers in Philadelphia on 12pt card stock
Reply to this email if you’d like to pre-order for $29 + taxes & shipping before I open up to the whole world wide web!
🤷‍♂️Hey, this is different.
You may have noticed The Discourse has a new template. That’s because The Discourse is now being served by Revue. One of the reasons for the sporadic nature of this newsletter was that it would take me 5-7 hours to research, write, and template. This new system should enable the newsletter to come much more reliably—just in time for the 2020 election madness. Thank you for your patience.
🔗 Quick Links
Your guide to brands whose pride-themed merch actually gives back to LGBTQ communities
Self-censorship on Campus Is Bad for Science
The Dark Forest Theory of the Internet
Taboola, Outbrain and the Chum Supply Chain
🐦Twitter Thread of The Week
Zach Goldberg (@ZachG932) on how the language of intersectionality has skyrocketed in the 2010s:
Zach Goldberg
(#7) If you're looking for a job in a booming industry....
Thank you for making room in your crowded inbox for The Discourse. All typos were on purpose. The next issue will arrive fresh on 6/17, maybe. See you then!
— Sean
P.S. Any feedback on the new template? Please reply and let me know!
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