Proud boys, polls, and other thoughts

by | Sep 6, 2023 | Editor's Blog | 11 comments

As usual, there’s a lot going on this week. We’re finally supposed to get a budget from the legislature, but I’m not holding my breath. They need to get that out of the way so they gerrymander themselves supermajorities again and make our Congressional Districts an 11-3 split or so and then argue that their maps are fair. I can’t wait. 

On the sedition front, the Proud Boys have had a rough couple of weeks. Trump-appointed Judge Timothy Kelly (who also went to Duke, so that’s two strikes against him) is handing down stiff sentences to guys who thought they had overthrown the government. They’ll all be doing at least a decade in federal prison and the chairman of the group Enrique Tarrio got 22 years. They’re all counting on Trump to pardon them. 

The sentences probably have Trump and his co-conspirators more than a little nervous. In sentencing Tarrio, the judge read the seditionist’s own words. “Make no mistake,” Tarrio posted on social media during the January 6 attack. “We did this.” Before the 2020 election, in the wake of Proud Boy inspired violence, Trump told them to “Stand back and stand by.” Tarrio’s lawyer says his client and the Proud Boys were following Trump’s orders. The prosecutor in the case said, “These defendants saw themselves as Donald Trump’s army, fighting to keep their preferred leader in power no matter what the law or the courts had to say about it.”

Make no mistake. Trump and Republican leaders knew who these people were. They refused to condemn them and made excuses for them. These people, the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and other armed right wing organizations, were unabashedly the paramilitary wing of the Republican Party. That’s what fascism looks like. 

In other news, Democrats on social media and cable news are shitting themselves over a Wall Street Journal poll that shows Trump and Biden even in a head-to-head matchup and indicates a large portion of voters believe Biden is too old to run. The poll comes on the heels of a Nate Silver article blasting Democrats for not taking Biden’s age seriously enough and a piece by a Never Trumper that says Democrats need to dump Biden and Harris for a Gretchen Whitmer-Raphael Warnock ticket. 

Everybody needs to chill. We’re still more than a year away from the election. What people are saying now has almost relation to what they will say next summer. Polls are not very predictive. They measure the population at certain point in time. That’s it. Right now, the vast majority of people aren’t thinking much about the presidential election. 

Political observers have gotten to be too poll obsessed. Polling these days is hard and what respondents say not always corresponds to what they mean. Gallup has a poll out right now that shows people’s opinions of public opinion is in the gutter. Only 36% are satisfied with the state of public schools. However, 76% are satisfied with THEIR kids’ public schools. That reminds me that most polls show that people’s opinion of Congress is always remarkably low, but their opinion of their Member of Congress is usually considerably higher. 

Similarly, polls show that people have pretty dismal view of the economy and yet their behavior shows something different. Consumer confidence dropped a little in August but is still high. People are also spending money, something they don’t do if they’re worried about their finances. 

My point here is that reading too much into a few poll questions is folly. It’s hard to understand what people really believe. When they answer a poll question, they’re usually reacting, not thinking and, right now, they haven’t thought too much about 2024. 

As for Biden’s age, I don’t know any Democrat who isn’t concerned. However, I don’t know any that have any answers, either. Most people on my side of the aisle believe Biden has had a remarkably successful presidency. He’s passed significant legislation that’s putting more money in people’s pockets and may well be reversing the trend of rising income inequality. The economy is chugging along at a steady clip. The job market is strong and the labor market is improving. Wages are up and unemployment is down. He’s rebuilding our infrastructure to move toward a greener future. 

There’s no indication that he’s slipping mentally. He’s making the same gaffs that he’s been making his entire career. He has an innate instinct to engage his mouth before he does his brain. He likes to tell war stories, some of which he embellishes. But he can still deliver zingers off the cuff and he enjoys sparring with Republicans. He can also rattle off policy proposals and what he wants to accomplish. 

Is 82 too old to run for president? Maybe, but nobody is going to challenge him. There’s no cabal of Democratic insiders who could edge him out. The party is loose a coalition of interest groups, not a small group of power brokers. The infighting in the party is legendary and often leads to Democrats getting defined by extremes that actually have little power but get a lot of lip service. As Will Rogers famously said, “I’m not a member of any organized political party. I’m a Democrat.”

A primary to Biden would be fool’s errand. He has all of the advantages from organization to name recognition to money to his track record. And losing to him in a quixotic attempt could end presidential aspirations for good—or not. But it’s a hell of a gamble. 

Maybe Biden reconsiders, but at this late date, Kamala Harris would be the odds-on favorite and, even at his age, he’s a better candidate than her. She might be a competent running mate, but she’s shown no ability to put together her own organization. Remember, she never even made it to the primaries in 2020. As vice president, she’s struggled with staff turnover and criticism. The White House is always a bit a revolving door because of the pressure and commitment, but Harris saw more people bailing on her in the first two years than she should have. In campaigns, that’s usually a reflection of the principal. 

No, Democrats need to just get on board. The train has left the station. They need to focus on remarkable accomplishments and the post-Reagan Revolution paradigm he’s building. He’s building the economy from the middle out, as he says, and it’s working.  Democrats need to be protecting his legacy, not worrying about polls.


  1. Keith P.

    While Biden is a HUGE preference over Trump, we can’t count on Biden again. He is a corporate Democrat who will do the will of the corporate elites. The 2 biggest issues facing our country today is getting money out of politics and raising the national minimum wage. We know republicans won’t do it, and corporate democrats won’t discuss it either. We need a young progressive to run who won’t take corporate money and actually wants to help the American people.

    • cocodog

      Corporate elite, really? Biden sided with striking autoworkers, not exactly something a corporate elite would do. Moreover, he has backed unions as a vehicle to bring working folks into the middle class. Again, not something a corporate elite would consider worthwhile!

  2. walter rand

    Thomas, do you think there is any chance Biden will have a different running mate than Kamala Harris? I’m thinking it would be beneficial to put someone in the VP’s seat who has a chance at winning the presidency in 2028. I do not think that Harris is a good bet for a 2024 victory. I’m not trying to bash Harris; I just don’t think she would win.

  3. cocodog

    The leadership of and many of the Proud Boys learned the same lesson Trump’s attorney Michael Dean Cohen learned. Trump only thinks of Trump. He demands others to do his dirty work but drops them like hot potatoes when they get caught. Just like Trump’s now infamous statement about John Sidney McCain III, he likes war heroes that do not get captured. The attorneys who backed Trump’s big lie have suffered disbarment, and face incarceration. Trump rewarded them by refusing to let them in on the benefits of his legal fee grift. They are paying their own way. Release bond fees are about 10% up front, Attorney fees can run into the millions. These folks will be destroyed financially and spend up to 22 years in prison because of their mistaken loyalty to a guy who dyes his hair orange and plasters his face with pancake makeup. A guy who tells folks he has this magic Jedi power to just think about converting classified documents to unclassified. However, even if Trump had this extraordinary power, he did not have the power to retain custody of these documents. The presidential Records Act clearly states, all documents the president acquires while in office are public documents. The president only has temporary custody. When his term ends, custody automatically reverts to the national archives. Many of the documents Trump stored in the restroom and storage facility at his plush golf courses were read out loud to or allowed uncleared others to oversee involved highly classified military plans and nuclear secrets. Federal Law makes it a crime to share classified information with folks who are not cleared. It was meant as a safeguard against those who mean to do harm to this country by acquiring knowledge of our vital secrets. Currently, we have no idea the damage Trump has done by his alleged acts of disloyalty. A substantial percentage of Republicans want this person to be president! Others believe he will pardon their crimes of sedition against the United States. This is not the picture of a party that believes in patriotism and conservative values This is a cult that worships a false god.

  4. Rick Gunter

    Our culture is too wedded to youth. I venerate age. His name is not mentioned or written much these days, but Konrad Adenauer served as German chancellor until he was 90! He served during pivotal Cold War years, too. Every situation is different. I watched Biden speak off the cuff the other day. He was superbe. I would rather have Joe Biden in the White House in his 80s than a the fool Trump if he were 40.

  5. Greg

    Biden is good his backup could be a problem. But you know we are sitting on the best either Biden replacement or an alternative VP ole Governor Roy. Or is he thinking Senator? What you thinking?

  6. mclaurinm

    Why not stress TRUMP’s age? and health? Why is it always Biden?

  7. mclaurinm

    Why dont you guys EVER stress Trump’s age? And health?

  8. Ted Fillette

    All good perspectives on the limitations of polls and the virtues of Biden.
    As to Judge Timothy Kelly having a strike against for going to Duke, are you serious? Did Judy Woodruff and Grant Hill suffer the same strikes?

  9. Carolyn B Guckert

    Your thoughts and those of Simon Rosenberg keep me optimistic. His attitude about polls is similar to yours. Did want to point out that Biden is “only” 80. He will be 81 in Nov, so that will be his actual age for the campaign. If his health remains good, he is our best choice; just look at his record. Now we need only to win back the House and keep the Senate. If those gerrymandering cases in court go our way, we could achieve House majority again. Fingers crossed!

  10. Danny Lineberger

    I like Biden. He has been a steady force in troubled times. I think historians will remember him as some one who at least gave us a chance to remain a democratic republic.

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