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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

The Permission Ramp

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well under  way.  

At The Washington Monthly, Nancy LeTourneau writes about anti-Trump Republicans:
The ranks include the Lincoln ProjectRight Side PAC43 Alumni for Biden, and Republican Voters Against Trump. The proliferation of these groups strikes me as unprecedented in modern political history, so it deserves our attention. Here is something Republican strategist John Weaver said about the goal of the Lincoln Project.
“Republicans are hierarchical,” Weaver said. “So what’s not getting a lot of attention right now is the structure we are building — the permission ramp for Republicans so that they will have some comfort that they are not alone in doing the right thing.”
The fact that Republicans are hierarchical is an astute observation. But that’s not the only reason why building a permission ramp is important. As Andrew Levison wrote, conservatives have actually built a three-level ideological cocoon that these kinds of efforts could puncture. The first level is a national media structure headlined by Fox News. Behind that are local news sources such as Sinclair TV stations and talk radio. A permission ramp is more likely to affect the third level, which Levison describes as the most significant.
Jeff Zeleny at CNN:
"It's not that Donald Trump just gives us material for the ads," said Sarah Longwell, strategic director of Republican Voters Against Trump. "It's about Donald Trump not being fit to be President, and everybody is seeing that now."
Longwell, a longtime Republican strategist who has been working to defeat Trump since before he was elected, has conducted focus groups with hundreds of Republicans who supported the President. Those conversations led her to believe that many voters are looking for a permission structure -- or, perhaps, in need of a little like-minded nudging -- to abandon Trump.
"In 2016, he got nominated, everybody sort of panicked and we all tried to beat him and obviously we failed," Longwell said. "One of the things we did at the time was a bunch of elites from the Reagan and Bush era signed letters, talking about why they didn't like Trump, but so much of the support for Trump was an anti-elitism play. So our focus in 2020 is really thinking about real people and real voices and how they're thinking about Donald Trump after seeing him be President for the last four years."