Monday Miscellany, 10/2/23

Monday Miscellany, 10/2/23 October 2, 2023


Americans who don’t believe in freedom; sacking Philadelphia; and the “persuadables” who may turn the election.

Americans Who Don’t Believe in Freedom

We are told that our democracy is in peril,  But democracy is not enough for a “liberal”–that is, free–society.  Democracy alone does not insure freedom.  There can be authoritarian, even tyrannical, democracies.  A liberal form of government must also include individual rights that ensure each person’s liberties.

But today a substantial percentage of Americans just don’t believe in individual freedom.  Here are some results from a recent RealClearPolitics poll:

  • Republican voters (74%) and independents (61%) believe speech should be legal “under any circumstances, while Democrats are almost evenly divided. A bare majority of Democrats (53%) say speech should be legal under any circumstances, while 47% say it should be legal “only under certain circumstances.”
  • Nearly one-third of Democratic voters (34%) say Americans have “too much freedom.” This compared to 14.6% of Republicans. Republicans were most likely to say Americans have too little freedom (46%), while only 22% of Democrats feel that way. Independents were in the middle in both categories.
  • Although majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and independents agree the news media should be able to report stories they believe are in the national interest, this consensus shifts when it comes to social media censorship. A majority of Democrats (52%) approve of the government censoring social media content under the rubric of protecting national security. Among Republicans and independents, this percentage is only one-third.
  • Poll respondents were read this statement: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Only 31% of Democratic voters “strongly agreed” with that sentiment, compared to 51% of Republicans.
  • Fully three-fourths of Democrats believe government has a responsibility to limit “hateful” social media posts, while Republicans are more split, with 50% believing the government has a responsibility to restrict hateful posts. (Independents, once again, are in the middle.)
  • Democrats are significantly more likely than Republicans to favor stifling the free speech rights of political extremists. Also, Republicans don’t vary by the group: Only about half of GOP voters favor censorship — whether asked about the Ku Klux Klan, Nazis, or the Communist Party.

Sacking Philadelphia

Last Tuesday and Wednesday, shops and businesses throughout Philadelphia were looted and vandalized.  The large-scale pillaging began after a court refused to charge a police officer who had shot a young black man.  But his family, supporters, and Philadelphia officials denied that the property violence had anything to do with protesting the court’s decision.  The looters were called “criminal opportunists” who did not participate in the protests.

It turns out, the looting was organized on social media, with a call on Instagram to “go ‘shopping'” [quotation marks in the original post] and one “influencer” directing a caravan of cars filled with looters from one shopping district to another.  In the meantime, other copycat groups started breaking windows, stealing merchandise, and trashing interiors in other parts of the city.

The plundering went on for two nights.  Police arrested 61 people, most of whom were young people between 18 and 22.

The “Persuadables” Who May Turn the Election

Most political polling features a horserace between candidates.  But a new Wall Street Journal poll [behind a paywall] zeroes in on likely voters who haven’t made up their mind what they will do and are “persuadable” either way.

It turns out, 26% of Americans–over one fourth–are in this category.  That would be more than enough to determine the outcome of a close election.

They don’t like either Biden or Trump:  70% disapprove of the current president, thinking him too old, with few accomplishments, and presiding over a weak economy.  They do think he is more likable than Trump and cares more about ordinary Americans.  Trump scores slightly worse, with a disapproval rating of 74%.  The persuadables give him credit for accomplishing a lot, but they dislike his personal qualities and his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. They also don’t like the way Republicans are trying to impeach Biden.

Interestingly, the persuadables care less about Trump’s indictments and the Hunter Biden scandal than most Americans.

What doesn’t bode well for Republicans is that these undecided voters also tend to be big supporters of abortion.




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Monday Miscellany, 6/17/24

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