dave karpf Profile picture
14 Sep, 11 tweets, 3 min read
There’s a tension in election coverage that is going to become increasingly jarring in the weeks ahead.

We’re going to read stories about business-as-usual campaigning, alongside stories of structural voter disenfranchisement.

The two storylines don’t easily coexist. (Thread)
Here’s a business-as-usual example:

Florida is an important battleground state. Polls show a close race. Whose message is resonating/what strategic choices are the campaigns making/who will win?

It’s a genre of reporting that we’re all used to — horse race reporting.
But then there’s this alternate storyline:

The courts have just effectively barred 770,000 Florida citizens from voting. This is part of a multi-year disenfranchisement effort that FL Republicans launched after FL voted to restore voting rights for ex-felons.
Also in that latter storyline is coverage of Trump urging his supporters to vote twice, and Trump sabotaging the USPS to undermine vote-by-mail, and John Ratcliffe refusing to brief congress on foreign electoral interference.
It’s jarring, seeing these stories side-by-side in a Twitter feed.

The 1st story is one in with familiar characters playing familiar roles in a time-honored ritual of democracy.

It’s a story where, if Biden loses, it is because of choices he made and the “will of the people.”
The second story is one in which democracy itself is under fire.

It’s a story where, if Biden loses, it’s because he couldn’t prevent Trump and his appointees from completely undermining the democratic process.
Biden’s visit to Florida today only *matters* to that first story!

Biden underperforming with non-Cuban Hispanic voters only *matters* if the campaigns are the central players in our electoral narrative.

But ads and campaign stops don’t prevent electoral interference.
Traditional campaign reporting just isn’t geared for structural attacks on the democratic process — particularly attacks-from-inside!

So it ignores those attacks, leaving them to be covered in the alternate universe of other stories by other journalists.
This will get even more jarring once the debates happen.

We’re going to behave as though these are normal-times.

We’re going to be tempted to act like the debates *matter*, because they help voters make up their minds.

We’re going to want to talk about who won/who lost.
And while we talk about whether Biden/Trump “connected” with the right voters, Trump campaign operatives will also be attempting to invalidate the votes of huge swaths of the electorate.

The latter story is what ultimately matters. But it renders the horserace drama irrelevant.
I don’t know who will win on Election Day.

But that’s mostly because there are serious questions about whether we will have a free and fair election.

That’s the story of 2020—President Trump’s attempt to undermine electoral democracy itself.

That’s the story that matters.

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More from @davekarpf

13 Jul
Man, I just listened to @ezraklein interview @Yascha_Mounk on his podcast.

For a political scientist who writes a ton about American politics, Mounk *really* needs to reread his E.E. Schattschneider.
(1/2 or 3)
The central insight from Schattschneider is that politics is not like an intercollegiate debate where the rules, norms, and boundaries are agreed upon in advance.

Politics, rather, is about the mobilization of bias. Politics is about about power.
(2/3)
As far as I can tell, Mounk’s new publication/newsletter/community is constructed around the premise that politics *should be* like an intercollegiate debate.

He wants to gather some wonderful debaters to show off just how nice that would be.
(3/4, I guess)
Read 6 tweets
6 Jul
Okay, look, bottom-of-the-page, let’s talk about where this is all heading.

If COVID isn’t contained, then campuses currently planning in good faith for in-person or hybrid instruction are going to all have to switch to online courses. There will be no other alternative.
(1/x)
That’s going to lead to these stark discrepancies: near-full tuition for a radically reduced college experience.

Students and parents will rightly be outraged.

But the ways we currently finance university education leave no other alternatives.
(2/x)
This is one of the MANY ways that the Trump administration’s “lets all just deal with it” plan is not actually a plan.

Huge chunks of the economy don’t function if the virus is still running rampant. That’s not just retail/entertainment/dining.
(3/x)
Read 9 tweets
4 Jul
Bret Stephens thinks that progressives on twitter engaged in counterspeech are more powerful and more dangerous than president Trump.

Bret likes to invoke Socrates, but his notion of free speech can not withstand an ounce of Socratic inquiry.

(Sigh.., 1/x, I guess)
Stephens asserts that Trump is not dangerous because he is incompetent.

With over 120,000 Americans dead of COVID, he might consider that Trump’s incompetence is itself a clear and present threat to the country and all its traditions.

(2/x)
But let’s set that aside. Stephens warns that the real danger is that statues will come down, and that advertisers will pull advertising from hateful content, and that people will be held to account for racist speech acts when they only meant them ironically.
(3/x)
Read 17 tweets
21 Jun
Thinking more about the Tulsa/TikTok thing...

I don’t have my copy of Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals handy (it’s in the office. The office is closed), but it’s pretty spectacular how many boxes this checks in his list of what makes for a good tactic.

(1/x)
(Paraphrasing, of course)
-A good tactic stays within your comfort zone, while going outside your target’s comfort zone.

-Ridicule can be an activist’s most powerful weapon.

-A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.

(2/x)
-a good tactic threatens your target’s actual source of power.

-a good tactic should be fun for the people engaging in it.
Read 7 tweets
13 Jun
Bret Stephens's latest NYT column reads like an underwhelming fare-thee-well.

It is half-hearted, poorly researched, and poorly constructed. It defends the indefensible by lazily changing the subject.

It ought to be his last column.
nytimes.com/2020/06/12/opi…

(1/x)
Stephens weighs in on the aftermath of Tom Cotton's brutal "Send in the Troops" Op-Ed.

It was an Op-Ed so bad that it led to open revolt from New York Times writers and editors. (That doesn't *ever* happen.) It was so bad that it prompted James Bennet to resign.
(2/x)
Without Bennet, Stephens has to know that his days at the Times are numbered.

Bennet has been Bret Stephens's patron editorial protector. He has been Bret's Audience of One.

So Bret rises in defense of Cotton, but really in defense of a Times culture that let Bret be Bret.(3)
Read 18 tweets
25 Apr
Oh Bret.

Why do you do this, Bret?

Why do you make me do this?
Bret Stephens is not an epidemiologist.

I am also not an epidemiologist.

But Bret Stephens likes to start from his preferred conclusion and then work backward.

I was taught in school not to do that.
(2/x)
Bret explains in this week’s column that COVID-19 is really just a New York City problem, so the rest of the country should return to normalcy.

He says that’s because NYC is such a dense city, and the rest of the country is not-so-dense. So it’ll all be FINE.
(3/x)
Read 8 tweets

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