Why a focus on Project 2025 could work for Democrats

Why a focus on Project 2025 could work for Democrats

As the storm grows over whether President Biden should stay in the 2024 presidential race, Democrats have responded with a laser focus on something else: Project 2025. Project 2025 is a detailed and aggressive plan by top allies of Donald Trump to push the U.S. government far to the right and give Trump more power.

Trump is now trying to distance himself from the project, even though it overlaps with his own priorities and he has many ties to it. (A CNN review found that six former secretaries of Trump’s Cabinet were involved, as were at least 140 people who worked in the Trump administration.)

A new poll examines the reasons for the behavior of both sides – and shows how important the escalating conflict could be for the final phase of the 2024 election campaign.

It suggests If the Democrats succeed in creating the impression that Trump will be even more authoritarian in a second term, they could alienate the most important voters of 2024, the “double haters”.

These double haters – about one in five voters who dislike both Biden and Trump – are usually the the least precisely the authoritarian voters.

The Monmouth University poll is one of the most comprehensive studies to date of Americans’ attitudes toward authoritarianism. And like other polls before it, it shows that Republicans are significantly more inclined toward the idea.

After asking a series of questions to gauge voters’ authoritarian leanings, the poll found that 7 in 10 voters who liked Trump scored “above average” on the authoritarian beliefs scale. By comparison, 3 in 10 voters liked Biden.

(Questions included whether we should “get rid of the bad apples that ruin everything,” whether we need “a strong, determined leader to crush evil,” and whether it is “the duty of every patriotic citizen to help root out the rot that is poisoning the country from within.”)

But the double-haters were even less likely to support such ideas than the Democrats. Overall, only two in ten were above average in their authoritarian views.

While Trump’s authoritarian views were rated as “low” by only four percent of voters who like him, this was the case for a double-double majority of Trump haters at 56 percent.

Such a scale is only as good as the questions used. But to get a sense of the specific differences between double haters and Trump supporters:

  • Only 23 percent of double-haters strongly agree that we should “get rid of the bad apples that ruin everything,” compared to 63 percent of voters who like Trump.
  • Only 19 percent of double haters strongly agree that we need “a strong, decisive leader to destroy evil and return us to our true path,” compared to 75 percent who like Trump.
  • While even Democrats tend slightly toward this second idea, opponents of this idea (45 percent to 36 percent) are against it.
  • A majority of 53 percent of double haters strongly disagree with this statement: “This country would function much better if certain groups of troublemakers would just shut up and accept their traditional place in society.” Only 16 percent of voters who like Trump do not agree at all.
  • While Trump opponents are against this last opinion by a margin of 68 to 16 percent, they support this opinion by a double-digit percentage.

It is questionable to what extent these attitudes apply specifically to ideas like Project 2025. Perhaps double-haters reject authoritarian ideals in theory, but support strongman policies like mass deportations when the issue is close to their hearts. And the fact that double-haters do not support these strong statements may simply reflect that they are less engaged and have less strong feelings about the situation – something that generally applies to swing voters.

But Project 2025 is clearly a useful shortcut for Democrats. In short, it embodies the politically potent idea that powerful people are working behind the scenes to push things in a more extreme direction and give a former president a lot more power, which, it should be stressed, these double-haters don’t like.

While the official Republican Party shies away from a detailed program that could alienate voters, Project 2025’s detailed proposals are available for anyone to view – possibly through Democratic attack ads – and to evaluate.

The fact that Trump is now trying to distance himself from Project 2025 is telling. The trick for the Democrats is to tie it to themselves.

Of course, one of the many problems with Biden’s performance at the debate two weeks ago was that he did not mention Project 2025 once.