Dem 51
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GOP 49
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The Word Cup: We Have a Winner

The race was very, very close; for quite a while the gap was less than a dozen votes. But then the ultimate winner opened up a small, but steady, lead. And so it is that "A New Deal for America" (51.8%) defeats "We Shall Overcome" (48.2%)

Here are some reader comments on the finale:

We know that some readers find these sorts of competitions silly or otherwise distasteful. But, as anyone who has been a teacher will tell you, it is very helpful to find new and interesting ways to look at information.

And this little competition tells us something, beyond "'A New Deal for America' is the best slogan in U.S. history." The two finalists are both hopeful, optimistic slogans. If we had not forgotten about the fact that the World Cup also features a third-place game, then the two competitors in that match—"Give Me Liberty of Give Me Death" and "Hope"—are in the same class. We do not think this is a product of the political slant of the readership, nor do we think it is coincidental. It is very difficult to rally people around hope. But when it happens, that is when we see real change and real accomplishment.

The alternative is to rally people around hate (or other negative emotions). This is much easier to do, but it's a short-term play. It's very hard to sustain, long-term, and the only leaders who keep it going for more than a few years tend to be those who don't have to worry about getting reelected. One also struggles to think of long-term accomplishments that can be attributed to demagogic leaders, either in the U.S. or in other nations.

That brings us to the 2024 presidential contest. Joe Biden might not be as inspiring as Franklin D. Roosevelt or Martin Luther King Jr., but his message is hopeful, and he's already gotten elected on it once. That is no small advantage. And even if he steps down, and some other Democrat runs in his place, that Democrat will likewise run on a hopeful message (and a non-insubstantial record of accomplishment by the Party in 4 years leading up to the election).

Donald Trump, for his part, looks to be running on fumes. He's bled off all but the loyal members of the base, and even those folks seem to be considerably less excited about him than they once were. He's not raising as much money, his rallies aren't attracting as many people, and the response to his allegedly imminent arrest has been considerably more tepid than he hoped and expected. This is what happens with demagogic types.

And then there's Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). Given the relatively short shelf life of demagogic politics, he faces a daunting challenge in trying to wrest the movement away from Trump and then to keep the momentum going. It does not help that, like many demagogues, DeSantis appears to be preternaturally incapable of coming up with an original idea. Trump, at very least, somehow figured out that the thing that people wanted was a border wall (despite the fact that the U.S. already had a border wall). DeSantis' playbook, by contrast, is a "greatest hits" of demagogic techniques and Republican wedge issues. There's no imagination.

It's not too hard to predict that history will not look kindly on Trump, DeSantis and their ilk. But we think it's also correct to say that the window for their kind of politics is closing, at least for now. Maybe the Republicans squeeze one more presidential win out of the current moment, but the odds for them are not great. And the more time that passes, the harder it's going to be to win nationally with Trumpism (or DeSanity or whatever). Will the Republicans reinvent themselves, as they've done several times in the past (1950s, 1980s)? Or will they just spend a generation or two in the wilderness? On that point, your guess is as good as ours. (Z)

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