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    Pritzker Is Among Democrats Making Case for Biden in Iowa

    All the political action in Iowa may be among Republicans, but President Biden’s campaign sought on Monday to get a piece of the action, sending three top surrogates to Des Moines to promote his agenda and trash his potential opponents.Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, Senator Tina Smith of Minnesota and Jeffrey Katzenberg, a Hollywood megadonor and a campaign co-chairman, all made their case for re-electing Mr. Biden before a dozen TV cameras and a gaggle of journalists in a conference room at the Iowa Events Center.Mr. Pritzker said there was no difference between former President Donald J. Trump and his G.O.P. rivals, Ms. Smith warned that Republicans would ban abortion nationwide if they won back the White House and Mr. Katzenberg did a victory lap on the campaign’s latest fund-raising announcement.“Tonight’s contest is simply a contest of whether you like MAGA in its original packaging or in high heels or with lifts in their boots,” Mr. Pritzker said, jabbing at Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor who quipped during a debate about wearing heels, and at Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who has been suspected of wearing lifts in his shoes.Beyond cracks about the Republican candidates’ footwear, the Biden surrogates did not share much new information about the re-election campaign or the president’s thinking. Mr. Pritzker fended off questions about immigration policy and the Supreme Court case concerning Mr. Trump’s eligibility to be on the ballot, while Mr. Katzenberg declined to engage in a debate over whether the Biden campaign is too focused on coastal supporters.Instead, they sought to convey their argument that the future of the nation would be at risk if Mr. Trump were re-elected.“The campaign is running an operation like our democracy depends on it,” Mr. Katzenberg said. “Because in some respect it does.” More

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    Biden and Democratic Allies Announce $97 Million Fund-Raising Haul

    President Biden’s re-election campaign said on Monday that, along with two allied committees, it had pulled in $97 million during the most recent fund-raising period. Together, they entered 2024 with more than $117 million in cash on hand, the campaign said.The Biden operation’s $97 million haul is significant, but its cash on hand number is just $27 million more than it had at the end of September, a function of the campaign’s significant spending on new personnel and more than $25 million in advertising it bought in general-election battlegrounds, where Mr. Biden’s poll numbers have been weak.The Biden campaign released its fund-raising data more than two weeks before it was required to do so, a clear attempt to distract attention from the Iowa caucuses on Monday, the first nominating contest for the Republican presidential candidates aiming to oust Mr. Biden from the White House.“The Team Biden-Harris coalition knows the stakes of this election and is ready to win this November,” said Julie Chávez Rodríguez, Mr. Biden’s campaign manager. “These numbers prove that the American people know the stakes and are taking action early to help defeat the extreme MAGA Republican agenda again.”Former President Donald J. Trump, who has a large lead in polls of the Republican race and is widely expected to win in Iowa, has not yet released his year-end fund-raising numbers. The Trump campaign had $37.5 million in cash on hand at the end of September, the last time filings were reported, and Mr. Biden’s campaign had $32.2 million.In January 2020, Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign committee alone had $102.8 million on hand — a function of a cash bonanza that followed his first impeachment.Of the other top Republican candidates, only former Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina has revealed her end-of-year fund-raising totals. This month, she announced she had raised $24 million in the fourth quarter for her campaign and its two associated committees. The campaign said it had $14.5 million in cash to begin the new year.The Biden campaign offered few useful details about the money it has raised. The campaign pointed to 520,000 individual donors during the three-month period that ended Dec. 31, but did not reveal how much of its money came from donors who gave less than $200, the typical measuring stick for grass-roots enthusiasm.Small-dollar donors are vital to a campaign’s health because they can be tapped for repeated contributions, and they are a sign of grass-roots engagement with a candidate.It is not clear yet how much of the cash raised by the Biden operation is in the campaign account that can accept contributions of $6,600 per person or other accounts to which donors can give nearly $1 million. How the money is divided won’t be known until Jan. 31, when all of the federal campaign committees are required to file fund-raising reports with the Federal Election Commission. More

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    How, Where and When to Caucus in Iowa on Monday

    The Iowans who will brave frigid temperatures Monday for the first test of support for Republican presidential hopefuls will be caucusing — a process that’s distinct from other ballot-box affairs.Unlike in other elections, Iowa’s Democratic and Republican parties, not the state’s government, organize and run the caucuses. And members of the two parties will conduct business a little differently.What happens during a caucus?Once participating Republican voters arrive at the caucus precinct, they must check in with precinct workers, who will verify that they are eligible to participate. (Only registered Republicans may participate in G.O.P. caucuses, but party rules allow unregistered voters, Democrats and independents to register or switch their party affiliation at the caucus site.)Then, the caucusgoers will elect a chair and secretary to preside over the event. Supporters of each candidate will speak to the caucus, pitching their peers on why they should support their preferred candidates.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber?  More

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    Democrats Fret That Biden’s Power Players Are Not at His Campaign Base

    President Biden has a re-election campaign with two distinct centers of gravity — the White House and his Delaware headquarters — and advisers who are juggling two jobs at once.With less than 10 months to go until the 2024 election, the nerve center of President Biden’s bid for a second term is stationed not at his campaign’s headquarters in Delaware but within feet of the Oval Office.The president and his chief strategist, Mike Donilon, have repeatedly discussed when to move him over to the campaign — perhaps after the 2022 midterm elections, then after the 2023 off-year elections and again at the end of 2023. Each time, no move happened after the president told aides he wanted to keep Mr. Donilon within walking distance.Anita Dunn, the longtime Democratic operative who stepped in to help revive Mr. Biden’s fledging operation four years ago, is devising the re-election message again, even as she oversees communications at the White House. Jen O’Malley Dillon, Mr. Biden’s deputy White House chief of staff and former campaign manager, is also splitting her day job with her role as one of the most powerful voices in the campaign.So far, almost none of the people in the president’s inner circle have left for campaign headquarters in Wilmington, Del., prompting some donors and strategists to worry that too much of Mr. Biden’s team remains cloistered inside the White House. Less than a year before Election Day, the president has a campaign with two distinct centers of gravity, advisers juggling two jobs at once, and months of internal debate about when to consolidate everyone in one place.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber?  More

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    Manchin Stirs Chatter of 2024 Third-Party Bid in New Hampshire

    The attention-seeking West Virginia senator, who has teased a late third-party presidential bid, tried to keep up the suspense at a Friday appearance in the state.During an eyebrow-raising visit to New Hampshire on Friday, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia name-checked friends who are elected officials in the Granite State and complimented the discerning nature of its voters.He paid homage to the state’s first-in-the-nation primary tradition and swiped at President Biden’s decision to undercut New Hampshire’s power in this year’s Democratic contest.And when pressed on his own ambitions, the conservative Democratic senator offered a message that would-be candidates have often deployed as they flirt with this historically influential early-voting state: He declined to rule anything out.“How would you feel if a bunch of Democrats in New Hampshire wrote in ‘Joe’ — not Biden — but wrote in ‘Joe Manchin’?” an attendee asked as Mr. Manchin kicked off a “listening tour” at Politics and Eggs, an event series at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics that has long hosted presidential candidates and potential contenders.“I cannot prevent whatever you want to do,” Mr. Manchin replied to applause from the audience in Manchester, N.H., before insisting that he was “not here campaigning.”The question of what Mr. Manchin wants to do has long infuriated and confounded many of his Democratic colleagues in Washington, who have often seen him as a roadblock to their legislative agenda, even as he has played a pivotal role in eventually passing key priorities.Now, Mr. Manchin — known for a love of the spotlight that stands out even among U.S. senators — is stoking new questions about his next steps.Speculation has grown about whether he might embark on a late, long-shot presidential bid this year, and he has attracted interest from No Labels, a centrist group that is searching for a “unity ticket” to mount a potential third-party bid. Democratic allies of Mr. Biden are trying to stave off such efforts.Mr. Manchin, who announced in November that he would not seek re-election in his deep-red state in 2024, has teased a potential third-party run for the presidency.Charles Krupa/Associated Press“He really deserves most serious consideration from No Labels because he is part of our movement” if he is interested in a third-party bid, said former Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, the founding chairman of the group. He said he had spoken with Mr. Manchin after the senator announced in November that he would not seek re-election. “He’s walked the centrist, bipartisan, problem-solving walk.”(Mr. Lieberman has also talked up a run by former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who dropped out of the Republican presidential race this week. But he said on Thursday that while Mr. Christie had many fans at No Labels, the last time he had personally spoken to him was probably “at a Mets game last summer.”)Mr. Manchin did not offer a ringing endorsement of the group’s plans when asked on Friday about the electoral potential of such a bid.“It’s admirable what they’re trying to do to provide an option — OK, they’re working very hard towards that, and their best intentions are to bring people together,” he said, noting his longtime involvement with the group. Pressed again on the question of viability, he replied: “I don’t know. I mean, you have to — the people decide that. I think by Super Tuesday, you’ll know what’s going on.”Mr. Manchin, with his daughter, has started an organization called Americans Together, designed to elevate moderate voices — the “responsible, sensible, common-sense middle,” he said on Friday — whom he casts as often politically homeless. The New Hampshire swing was the first stop on what his team has called a listening tour, but he emphasized that his group was “completely different” from No Labels.Throughout his appearances — at the breakfast, in speaking with reporters and at a diner where he was trailed by climate-focused protesters — Mr. Manchin denounced the far right and the far left (though any notion that Mr. Biden falls close to that category is risible to his many left-wing detractors). And at times, Mr. Manchin seemed to slip into overt campaign mode, even as he insisted at other points that he had made no decisions about a run.“Everyone says, ‘Well, are you running for this, or running for that?’” he said on Friday morning, adding that, no, he was “running” to “bring the country together.”“I want you to know there’s hope,” he continued. “Nobody can win up here unless they get the independent vote. Nobody can win unless they get the center left and center right.”He also repeatedly declined to say whether he would support Mr. Biden over former President Donald J. Trump in a November matchup, though he has said in the past that he will not back Mr. Trump.“I’m not picking anything right now until we see what we have,” he said, though he later allowed in an interview that he was “absolutely comfortable with Biden’s character.” He added: “Do I agree with the politics? Not all of the time.”He also nodded to recent polls that have shown Mr. Biden struggling, calling them “alarming,” adding, “The whole thing is alarming, from a standpoint, how close it can be again, how it might even flip to a different direction.”Democrats worry that third-party bids could siphon votes from Mr. Biden and hand the election to Mr. Trump if he is the Republican nominee. Matt Bennett, a founder of the center-left group Third Way, who has been engaged in efforts to block third-party and independent candidates, expressed optimism that Mr. Manchin would not go that route. Mr. Manchin, for his part, has insisted that he has no interest in being a “spoiler.”“Joe Manchin is on a listening tour to talk to voters about the value of moderate ideas, and we think that’s fantastic,” Mr. Bennett said in a text message. “We think it’s smart for him to have started in N.H. and get the attention from the giant political press corps there. We know he hasn’t made a final decision on running for president, but we’re confident that he won’t.”Mr. Manchin suggested on Friday that the country was interested in more options, but he seemed uncomfortable directly engaging in talk of a third-party bid himself, saying vaguely at one point: “There might be more choices. There might be different choices. We just don’t know yet.”In an interview, he said: “I’m looking for, how do you bring the country together, how do we get people involved? And if that’s a decision to make, I’ll live with whatever decision.”As he wrapped up glad-handing at the diner in Derry, where he told a Republican fan that he did not know if he would run, a reporter asked if he could name one thing that appealed to him about a third-party bid and one thing that would give him pause.The usually voluble senator smiled, declared that he was there to bring Americans together and walked away. More

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    Biden Campaign to Send Top Allies to Iowa to Spread Democrats’ Message

    Iowa is dominated by Republicans right now. The events by presidential candidates are for Republicans, the voters who come to see them are Republicans and the main event, Monday’s caucuses, will feature Republicans.But Democrats will try to get in on the action on Monday, when President Biden’s campaign is expected to dispatch some of its biggest surrogates to Iowa to make the party’s case in the hours before Republicans gather to vote.These allies include Jeffrey Katzenberg, the Hollywood mogul and a co-chairman of Mr. Biden’s campaign; Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, who is a member of the campaign’s national advisory board; and Senator Tina Smith of Minnesota. They are planning to appear at a news conference in downtown Des Moines on Monday afternoon shortly before the caucuses begin, according to two people familiar with the campaign’s scheduling.Mr. Katzenberg is a longtime Democratic megadonor who has taken on his largest political role to date with the Biden campaign, serving as a conduit to big donors while assuming a role of publicly calming worries about Mr. Biden’s fund-raising, staffing and political vulnerabilities.Mr. Pritzker, America’s wealthiest elected official, is organizing this summer’s Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Ms. Smith, who represents a neighboring state, is in her first full term as senator.“Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans’ all-out assault on democracy and Americans’ personal freedoms will be front and center as Iowans begin to caucus Monday,” said Ammar Moussa, a Biden campaign spokesman. “The Biden campaign will be on the ground, talking directly to voters and reminding everyone that President Biden is fighting to ensure MAGA Republicans’ extreme, out-of-touch agenda continues to lose at the ballot box.” More

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    Caucus de Iowa: esto es lo que puede esperarse la noche del lunes

    Quien se impone en las primarias republicanas de Iowa no siempre gana la nominación presidencial del partido. Los candidatos intentarán derrotar a sus oponentes y superar las expectativas.Pareciera haber pocas dudas sobre quién probablemente ganará el caucus presidencial republicano en Iowa el lunes.Pero en Iowa, lo inesperado puede ser lo esperado y una victoria no siempre es una victoria. El resultado podría moldear el futuro del Partido Republicano en un momento de transición, así como el futuro de los caucus de Iowa después de una década difícil. Podría ayudar a determinar si Nikki Haley, quien fungió como embajadora de Estados Unidos, representa un obstáculo serio para el regreso de Donald Trump al poder o si Ron DeSantis, el gobernador de Florida, se verá obligado a abandonar la contienda.A continuación, una guía de algunos resultados posibles y lo que significan para los contendientes:Una victoria de TrumpTodas las suposiciones que anticipan una gran noche para Trump significan que el mayor contrincante que el expresidente tendría que vencer podrían ser las expectativas y no sus dos principales rivales en las boletas, Haley y DeSantis. Trump y su campaña han puesto el listón muy alto. Trump se ha postulado como si fuera el presidente en funciones, sin siquiera debatir con sus oponentes. Sus asesores dicen que creen que puede establecer un récord para una contienda abierta si termina al menos 12 puntos por delante de su rival más cercano.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber?  More

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    Trump Has Ushered in the Age of the ‘Great Misalignment’

    The coming election will be held at a time of insoluble cultural and racial conflict; a two-tier economy, one growing, the other stagnant; a time of inequality and economic immobility; a divided electorate based on educational attainment — taken together, a toxic combination pushing the country into two belligerent camps.I wrote to a range of scholars, asking whether the nation has reached a point of no return.The responses varied widely, but the level of shared pessimism was striking.Richard Haass, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former director of policy planning at the State Department, responded, “So is the U.S. at a critical juncture? And is this juncture qualitatively different from previous difficult moments in our history?”His answer to his own question: “I lean toward yes, as one of the comparative advantages of this democracy has been its ability to reform itself and correct mistakes, and our ability to do so now is much less certain.”What worries Haass most isthe decline in a common American identity. Americans lead increasingly separate and different lives. From “out of many one” no longer applies. This is truly dangerous as this is a country founded on an idea (rather than class or demographic homogeneity), and that idea is no longer agreed on, much less widely held. I am no longer confident there is the necessary desire and ability to make this country succeed. As a result, I cannot rule out continued paralysis and dysfunction at best and widespread political violence or even dissolution at worst.In an email, Pippa Norris, a political scientist at Harvard’s Kennedy School, described the complex interplay of cultural and economic upheavals and the growing inability of politics to give voice to disparate interests as key factors driving contemporary dysfunction.Some developments, Norris wrote,are widely documented and not in dispute, notably the decades-long erosion of blue collar (primarily masculine) work and pay in agriculture, extractive and manufacturing industries, especially in unionized and skilled sectors which employed high school graduates, and the massive expansion of opportunities in professional and managerial careers in finance, technology and the service sector, in the private as well as in the nonprofit and public sectors, rewarding highly educated and more geographically mobile women and men living in urban and suburban areas.These developments have, in turn,been accompanied with generational shifts in cultural values moving societies, and in a lagged process, in the mainstream policy agenda, gradually in a more liberal direction on a wide range of moral issues, as polls show, such as attitudes toward marriage and the family, sexuality and gender, race and ethnicity, environmentalism, migration, and cosmopolitanism, as well as long-term processes of secularization and the erosion of religiosity.What kinds of political systems, Norris asked, are most vulnerable to democratic backsliding when voters become polarized? Answer: two-party systems like the one operating in the United States.In this country, Norris argued,Backsliding is strengthened as the political system struggles to provide outlets for alternative contenders reflecting the new issue agenda on the liberal-left and conservative-right. The longer this continues, the more the process raises the stakes in plurality elections and reinforces “us-them” intolerance among winners and especially losers, who increasingly come to reject the legitimacy of the rules of the game where they feel that the deck is consistently stacked against them.All of which lays the groundwork for the acceptance of false claims.Norris continued:The most plausible misinformation is based on something which is actually true, hence the “great replacement theory” among evangelicals is not simply “made up” myths; given patterns of secularization, there is indeed a decline in the religious population in America. Similarly for Republicans, deeply held beliefs that, for example, they are silenced since their values are no longer reflected in “mainstream” media or the culture of the Ivy Leagues are, indeed, at least in part, based on well-grounded truths. Hence the MAGA grass roots takeover of the old country club G.O.P. and authoritarian challenges to liberal democratic norms.These destructive forces gain strength in the United States, in Norris’s view,Where there is a two-party system despite an increasingly diverse plural society and culture, where multidimensional ideological polarization has grown within parties and the electorate, and where there are no realistic opportunities for multiparty competition which would serve as a “pressure valve” outlet for cultural diversity, as is common throughout Europe.Jack Goldstone, a professor of public policy at George Mason University, sees other factors driving intensified conflict. In an email, he wrote:If the Democrats manage to win another term and can control the Congress as well as the White House after 2024, they may make an even larger turn in the direction of F.D.R.-style government support for general welfare. But if the G.O.P. wins in 2024, or even wins enough to paralyze government and sow further doubts about the legitimacy of our government and institutions, then we drift steadily toward Argentina-style populism, and neither American democracy nor American prosperity will ever be the same again.Why is the country in this fragile condition? Goldstone argued that one set of data points sums most of it up:From the late 1940s to the mid-1970s, output and wages moved together. But slowly from the mid-1970s, and then rapidly from the 1980s, they diverged. By 2023, we’ve had 40 years in which the output of the economy has grown enormously, with output per worker hour growing by 126 percent, while compensation per worker has grown only 27 percent.In short, Goldstone continued, “a majority of Americans today are more pressured to get life’s necessities, more unsure of their future, and find it far more difficult to find avenues to get ahead. No wonder they are fed up with politics ‘as usual,’ think the system is rigged against them, and just want someone to make things more secure.”Isabel Sawhill, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, wrote in an email that pessimism has become endemic in some quarters: “I find that many of my friends, relatives and colleagues are equally concerned about the future of the country. The worst part of this is that we feel quite helpless — unable to find ways to improve matters.”That the leaders of one of our two major political parties “would support a corrupt, self-interested, and deranged former president,” Sawhill continued, “is certainly part of the problem but even more concerning is the fact that a majority of the public currently says they would vote for him in 2024.”The biggest challenge, she wrote, “is what I have called ‘the great misalignment’ between the institutions we have and those we need to deal with most of these problems.”The framers of the Constitution, she wrote:understood human frailties and passions. But they thought they had designed a set of institutions that could weather the storms. They also assumed a nation in which civic virtue had been instilled in people by families, schools or faith-based congregations. Over the coming year, those assumptions will be sorely tested.The difficulties of institutions in prevailing under such concerted duress is becoming increasingly apparent.Greg Conti, a political scientist at Princeton, in an essay published in December in Compact magazine, “The Rise of the Sectarian University,” describes the erosion of national support for the mediating role of key institutions:The real peril to elite higher education, then, isn’t that these places will be financially ruined, nor that they will be effectively interfered with in their internal operations by hostile conservatives. It is, instead, that their position in American society will come to resemble that of The New York Times or of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Which is to say that they will remain rich and powerful, and they will continue to have many bright and competent people working within their ambit. And yet their authority will grow more brittle and their appeal more sectarian.If universities continue to operate as they have been doing, a similar fate will be their destination. From being de facto national institutions, a valued part of our shared patrimony, pursuing one of the essential purposes of a great modern society, they are coming to be seen as the instruments of a sect. Public regard for higher education was falling across the ideological spectrum even before the events of this autumn. Without a course correction, the silent majority of Americans will be as likely to put any stock in the research of an Ivy League professor as they are to get the next booster, even as Ivy League credentials receive great deference within an increasingly inward-looking portion of our privileged classes.Steven Pinker, a professor of psychology at Harvard and the author of “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress,” is the most optimistic — or, perhaps, the least pessimistic — of those I contacted for this column. He replied by email to my query:One can always think one is in an unprecedented crisis by listing the worst things happening in the country at the time. But this is a non-random sample, and selecting the worst developments in a given year will always make it seem as if a catastrophe is imminent. It’s good to remember the apparently existential crises of decades that you and I lived through, including:the 1960s, with the assassination of three of the country’s most beloved figures, including the president; urban riots in which dozens of people were killed and neighborhoods burned in a single night; an unpopular war that killed 10 times as many Americans as died in Iraq and Afghanistan; fears of annihilation in an all-out nuclear war; a generation that rejected the reigning social and sexual mores, many of whom called for a violent Communist or anarchist revolution; a segregationist third-party candidate who won five states.the 1970s, with five terrorist bombings a day in many years; the resignations of both the vice president and the president; double-digit inflation and unemployment; two energy crises that were thought might end industrial civilization; “America Held Hostage” in Iran; a sitting president almost unseated by his own party; etc.the 1980s, with violent crime and homelessness reaching all-time highs; new fears of nuclear escalation; a crack cocaine crisis.the 2000s, with fears of weekly 9/11-scale attacks, or worse, attacks with chemical, biological and nuclear weapons; plans for the surveillance of the entire American population; widespread ridicule and hatred of a president who led the country into two disastrous wars.Pinker has repeatedly made his case in recent days on the X platform, posting “177 Ways the World Got Better in 2023” on Jan. 2, “From David Byrne’s Reasons to Be Cheerful” on the same day and “No, 2023 Wasn’t All Bad, and Here Are 23 Reasons Why Not” on Jan. 4.Pinker, however, is an outlier.Larry Kramer, who just retired as president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and is set to serve as president of the London School of Economics, wrote in an email that several major contemporary trends are negative, including:(1) Fragmentation of media, coupled with loss of standards, disappearance of local media, and degradation of journalistic norms; (2) weakening of parties through well-meaning but misguided regulation (e.g., campaign finance) that shifted control from professionals to private, wealthy ideologues; (3) policy regimes that wildly exacerbated wealth inequality and left overwhelming numbers of Americans feeling worse off, reducing life expectancy, and disabling government from addressing people’s needs; (4) a shift in the left and the right to identity politics that reduces people to their race, gender, and political ideology — sharpening the sense of differences by minimizing what we share with each other and so turning a shared political community with disagreements into warring camps of enemies.A number of those I contacted cited inequality and downward mobility as key factors undermining faith in democratic governance.Allen Matusow, a historian at Rice and the author of “The Unraveling of America: A History of Liberalism in the 1960s,” wrote by email that he belongs “to the school that believes that our democracy has not been in such peril since the Civil War, and the easy explanation is Trump. But the real question is why such a despicable demagogue commands the support of so many.”Matusow specifically cited “income inequality and “the cultural resentments of those left behind.”Trump’s contribution “to the left-behind,” Matusow wrote,is license to focus its resentments on minorities and to make the expressions of prejudice acceptable. Since WW II we have had two other notable populist demagogues. Both exploited a moment to attack elites, though neither was a threat to win the presidency. Joe McCarthy was careful not to stir up prejudices against racial and ethnic minorities, and for all his faults, George Wallace was not a serial liar. Trump is in a class all by himself.Bruce Cain, a political scientist at Stanford, shares Matusow’s concerns over the detrimental impact of inequality. Cain emailed me to say:The recent growing dissatisfaction with democracy is a reminder that people judge the fairness of their political system by how they are doing in it. Downward mobility and the loss of political and social status leads to alienation from democratic norms and distrust in government. We believe that democracy is a better form of government because it will produce better policies by being accountable to the people. But when it does not perform well, democratic legitimacy erodes across the political spectrum.These factors, Cain continued, work in tandem withsocial and political instability due to globalization, automation, and social media. Much has changed in recent decades such as the country’s more diverse racial and ethnic composition, job opportunities more strongly defined along education lines, and expanded gender roles. MAGA anger and anxiety about replacement stems from the simultaneous loss of social status, economic opportunity, and political power due to these significant economic, social and demographic trends.Dissension between Democrats and Republicans, Cain argued, feeds a vicious circle:The progressive left wants changes to happen more quickly, which only feeds right-wing fears and fervor. The cycle of political tension continues to build. Trump stirs the pot, but the tensions have been building for decades.In the short term, Cain is not optimistic:We can’t have effective government until we have sufficient consensus, and we can’t have consensus unless the people in government aim for effective policy rather than notoriety and a media career. Barring one party running the table and winning trifecta control, we will wallow in a polarized, divided government for another term or two. That is the design of the Madisonian system: stay in neutral until we know where we want to go.Perhaps the most trenchant comment I received was from Theda Skocpol, a professor of government and sociology at Harvard, who replied to my inquiry at the height of the controversy over the former Harvard president Claudine Gay:I have thought for some time that America was suffering multiple elite-driven institutional breakdowns across the board, opening the door to a national and global maelstrom. But now I find myself so overwhelmingly distressed by it all, including the collapse of core values at my own university, that I cannot write coherently about it.The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.Follow the New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, X and Threads. More