Transcript of Conference Call on the 2024 Presidential Election Outlook with Michael Podhorzer

Mar 13, 2024

On March 7, The Capitol Forum hosted Michael Podhorzer, the former political director at the AFL-CIO and current Board Chair for the Analyst Institute, for a conversation about the upcoming presidential election. The full transcript, which has been modified slightly for accuracy, can be found below.

TEDDY DOWNEY:  Good morning, everyone, and welcome to our Conference Call today on the “2024 Presidential Election Outlook”. I’m Teddy Downey, Executive Editor here at The Capitol Forum. And our guest today is Mike Podhorzer, former Political Director of the AFL‑CIO and current Board Chair for the Analyst Institute. He’s worked on electoral strategy for the past 25 years and is an experienced election analyst. He’s Co‑Chair of Catalyst, Founding Chair of the Analyst Institute, on the boards of numerous progressive organizations, including America Votes and Committee on States.

He is one of the world’s gurus on U.S. elections. I am always amazed at the depth of his knowledge on elections and polling. We did a call with him eight years ago, and then four years ago, I think. And he was more concerned with Trump winning the first time. And he was, pretty really accurate the past several elections on pointing out how MAGA candidates have been a drag on the Republican Party in terms of winning elections. So, I am super excited for him to do this today. Thank you so much for doing this, Mike.

MICHAEL PODHORZER:  Yeah, of course. Thank you. And good to be doing this. So, I know this is happening in the shadow of yet another weekend of New York Times polling confirming that the sky is falling, and we just have to wait for November for it to hit the ground. I don’t think that that’s exactly where we are. I’m going to walk through a way to think about where we are. And then I’ll come back and talk about how to think about the polls.

So, this is, of course, like every election, the most important one in our lifetimes. That’s actually a feature of American elections now. I’m going to walk through the Electoral College pathways. And then, as Teddy was saying, talk about the anti-MAGA majority and then what it will take.

So, there’s no way that Biden can be reelected if he doesn’t win either Pennsylvania or Georgia. And 85 percent of all the electoral votes, we can be almost 100 percent confident are going one way or the other. And with those allocated, Trump is up 235 to 226. But, of course, last time Biden got 303. So, most all of these states that are up for grabs are states Democrats won before.

And this just goes through the nine different pathways. And you can see that they have to start with either Pennsylvania or Georgia. And that sort of concentrates the mind because it sure makes clear that Pennsylvania’s going to be probably really crucial in this election.

For all the attention that the presidential race has gotten, I think it is about as serious in the Senate as well because of how disproportionate the representation is and how much states are no longer sending Senators from the opposite party. And this just takes us through what I call the MAGA era from the 2010 election on. And you see that there are 25 red states or 50 senators, and Republicans have all but three. There are only 19 blue states. Democrats have all but one of the Senators there. Susan Collins is literally the only Senator to have won a state in the year that the opposite party president won in this period. You can see that we’re heading towards an alignment where the Senate matches the presidential electoral map. And that means basically to stay at 50, Democrats have to run the table and get all or almost all of the purple states Senators. Obviously, with Manchin retiring, that brings the margin for error for Democrats in the Senate to zero. They have to win in Montana and Ohio to stay at 50. If Biden wins, that’s not impossible. But obviously, more likely not.

In the House, it’s going to be very dependent on what happens in the presidential. Over the last several cycles, the number of House seats have pretty much matched the number of districts carried by each candidate. So, if Trump wins, then we’re pretty much almost certain to be looking at a Republican trifecta. And if Biden wins, the most likely scenario is a Democratic House majority, and no better than 50/50 in the Senate. All of which—and we can talk about that later – creates a very, turbulent, post-election, as we had four years ago.

So, I’m going to spend most of this time just talking about a different way of thinking about the electorate. If you’re following in the news or commentators, you hear a lot about non‑college voters or women or different kinds of demographic groups. And I think that confuses the picture. In a way that’s unprecedented in American history, we’ve had four elections now about essentially the same thing, whether to be voting for Trump and MAGA or not. And over these last four elections, 178 million people had voted—94 million voted for Democrats and 84 million had voted for Republicans. And really more important than demographics is how those 178 million people line up on this.

So, as you think about the terrible polling that’s out there right now, I’m just going to run through how that polling has not materialized when people actually went out to vote. We have the last two presidential elections. And what this shows is in the five states that decide the Electoral College, the circular, empty bubble is what the 2016 vote was for Clinton. The dark red bubble is how voters who voted in 2016 voted in 2020. And then those blue dots well above the zero line are how people who didn’t vote in 2016 voted in 2020.

And you can see that’s what I call the anti‑MAGA majority. It’s that when Trump ran, it just brought a lot more people out to vote. And among that extra set of voters, there are certainly new MAGA voters. But there are many more new anti-MAGA voters. And so, you see in each of those states, Biden won because of the big margin among those new anti‑MAGA voters, not because there was any real change in how people who voted in 2016 voted. In fact, overall, if you remember, Clinton won by about two points. Biden won by four and a half. Biden won the people who voted in 2016 by the same two points. It was the margin among the 30 percent of the electorate that hadn’t voted that put him up to four and a half.

Then we have two midterms. And what we saw in this really hard to get your head around historical 2022 midterms was really two different elections happening at the same time. One, in those key battleground states where it was clear to voters that this was another election about MAGA and Trump or not. And in those, the Democrats did even better than they did in the blue wave 2018 election. And in the rest of the country, which unfortunately included California, New York, New Jersey, where the media really did not make clear that those House races were really voting for Kevin McCarthy or not, Democrats lost the House. And remember, everybody was talking about red wave, red wave, red wave.  The red wave just did not hit any place where voters understood that this was about MAGA or not.

But—and this is kind of interesting because if you go back to 2018, it was kind of the reverse. We think of it as a blue wave, but there was a red undertow. In the places that were moving MAGA, the Democrats lost four Senate seats, which is four more, pretty much, than any president’s party has lost in one of their midterms. It just doesn’t happen. But we have this realignment going on around this Trump MAGA, not in the country, even when—and people really were not commenting on this in 2018 because of being excited about all the wins. But it’s really the flip of what happened in 2022 where Democrats did well when that was what was clear.

We had two Virginia elections to look at. So, the first one went really well for Democrats. And then the second one, the Youngkin election—which I guess this audience is very familiar with and probably voted in, many of you—is if you remember in 2021, the whole environment was, oh, Trump put January 6th in the rearview mirror and voters didn’t care about that. When McAuliffe was running and trying to make an issue out of abortion or any of those kinds of things, it didn’t get any traction. In fact, when he did his anti-abortion ad, the Post gave him two Pinocchios.

Things look a lot different in November a year later when the campaign that he ran won pretty much everywhere. Because at that point, we had the six hearings and Dobbs. And so, where in 2021, Youngkin didn’t have to say where he was on Dobbs or say where he was on what Trump was doing, it was like a normal election. In 2022, it became a MAGA election.

The Supreme Court races in 2023, again, Democrats did really well in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania because the issue was MAGA and in the special elections. So, what this sort of showed was kind of just how much post‑Dobbs energy there is. The idea here is that in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, you see Democrats are outperforming Republicans, which is typical for a party of a president out of power. And then 2021, like I was just saying, looked exactly, for them, like 2017 looked for Democrats. But then after that, after Dobbs, you see it’s changed. Because voters don’t know they’re supposed to act thermostatically when their freedoms are at stake, right? That they realize that there’s a lot at stake. So that wraps that up. And I think later I’ll come back a little bit to how to reconcile it with the polling.

So, the first thing is just ignoring the polling. And I think you’ll put it in the links to what I write. But the polling just tells us what we knew to begin with, which is that it’s going to come down to those five or six states and it’s going to be an incredibly close race. And it’s going to be closer than polling can tell us. And that would be true even if Biden were up by one or two in these polls. The states, as I said, 178 million people have voted on this at least once, and it’s really hard for people to change. So, these are all going to be at the 50-yard line in those states for quite some time.

And the reason is that when Trump came on the scene, turnout just spiked in the way I was talking about, the anti‑MAGA majority. If you look, this goes back to 1880, and you see that the sort of top set are presidential and the bottom set are midterms. And you see how tightly the turnout rates are year after year after year. If you’ve been doing politics since 1972, which is a long time, the turnout rate in any of these elections didn’t change by more than two points. And after Trump, you see those three dots on the right are just literally off the chart. Because many more people understand how much is at stake.

The other thing that’s been true in the 21st century is that people really are unhappy, just chronically. This is net, right track minus wrong track. Basically, people have thought the country’s going in the wrong direction for the last 20 years. And so, for that reason, it’s not surprising that presidents—no matter how old or young they are, no matter whether Democrats or Republicans—sit in this period, have spent almost all their terms underwater, right? With the exception of the bump Bush got after 9/11. Basically, just getting close to zero has been an achievement. Voters are sour about both parties. They’re sour about what the political system can deliver for them. So, don’t over read Biden’s approval ratings because it’s true for the whole century so far and true around the Western world.

But we can see here that in these key states, between 2012 and 2016, there were big changes because of Trump. But then when you look at 2016 to 2020, you see there’s almost no change. As I said, it’s like people are, again, that’s where they’re going. When you go from 2020 to 2022, from the presidential to the midterm, same thing. This is stasis[?]. We’re having the same election over and over again. They’re going to be close. And it’s going to come down to what happens in those states.

So, to come back, what you see here is those 178 million. And in the midterms, slightly more Republicans came out, which means that among the people who didn’t vote, Democrats have a big advantage. But, as you’ve been reading in the polls, many of those voters have soured on Biden and Democrats. But the best strategy, the best hope Democrats have, is to bring those voters back. And we know what brings those voters back—I’m just going to go here—is making sure that, once again, voters understand exactly what the Trump agenda is. And probably most of you are at least aware of the Heritage mandate for Leadership Project 2025 project. The agenda is so profoundly unpopular for most Americans and most Americans are unaware of any of it at this point. Only 31 percent even know that Trump said he wanted to be a dictator for a day. So, the outcome is really going to come down to whether or not Americans understand, again, exactly what’s in store for them if Trump wins. And I’ll stop there and take questions or however you want to do this.

TEDDY DOWNEY:  Yeah, if people have questions, you can enter them into the chat on the control panel or email us, and we’ll get to them. One of the questions was—we already went through the Senate. So, we’ve already gotten through one question. You talk about mad poll disease and basically ignore the polls. But then you did mention that the voters are souring on Biden. What’s the way to think about—is there any utility to these polls? Or is it more just that we just won’t know how people are thinking until we get closer? Because right now, it’s just a referendum on what Biden’s doing. And people don’t like Gaza. People don’t like high prices. But as you get closer to the election, it becomes a choice of like, well, what would Trump be doing in Gaza? Or what would Trump be doing on food prices? How we should think about polls and how things will change between now and the election?

MICHAEL PODHORZER:  Right. So, there is value to the polling in terms of giving you a good idea of which segments of the electorate need to hear from Democrats or Biden, whatever. The thing that I really want people to stop doing is thinking that the polls are predictive, or that they’re telling us something about what’s going to happen in the election with the precision that they get reported.

So, if you go back to, June of 2022 and 538, which does the most rigorous public job of forecasting things, when they did their first Senate model for 2022, the midterms, they said that Republicans had a 60/40 percent chance of having a majority in the Senate. Then around September‑ish, they said Democrats had 60/40 chance of keeping the Senate. And on Election Day, they said Republicans had a 60/40 percent chance.

So literally, if you checked in any day there, you really didn’t learn anything, but you felt like a sense—as humans, we have a sort of sense of inevitability when we look at a number, and it just isn’t real. But it obviously is the case that what’s right in the polling is that young people, for example, are not thrilled with Joe Biden. And that’s a diagnosis of what needs to be addressed. But to become either fatalistic because of them or become overconfident, that is the problem.

And if you go back to 2016, The New York Times did what I think is the most important data journalism story on elections ever, which is that they did one of their New York Times Siena surveys of Florida and about 850 interviews. And what they did was give those 850 interviews to four other respected pollsters, not party hacks, whatever. So, there were five different—and asked them what they thought would happen in Florida. And one of the five came back Clinton was going to win by four. One of them came back, Clinton was going to win by three. Two of them said Clinton would win by one. And one came back saying Trump would win by one. These are exactly the same 850 interviews. But because each pollster had a different opinion about which ones of them were going to vote, they could have a five-point spread, right? That’s happening all the time in these polls. Because they’re no longer representative. They’re no longer based on, random probability when, you know, 20, 30 years ago and there were phone polls. All of them have some science, but they also have opinion about who’s going to vote. Which is why they don’t all agree with each other.

And so, if you really live with that, literally the same interview. So, we’re not talking about methodology. Like did they do it online or by phone? Like literally the same 850 interviews came out from Trump by one to Clinton by four among people that are respected. So that’s sort of the margin of pollster opinion. And if you layer that on all the polls you read, you realize that you shouldn’t look for precision. But you should look for direction and that kind of thing.

TEDDY DOWNEY:  One of the other things that comes up a lot is money. Who has a money advantage? Or there’s going to be a lot of ads. There’s going to be a lot of money spent on ads, education, get out the vote. Is there any difference in the Democrats get out the vote operation? I imagine money will just be a wash. Because maybe Biden has more money, but money has its kind of, you know, just because of dark money and PACs and stuff like that, super PACs, money. There should be plenty for Trump too.


TEDDY DOWNEY:  Is that the right way to think about it? Or how do you think about those things?

MICHAEL PODHORZER:  I don’t think that this is going to be decided by which one of them raises more money. In 2020, the total federal elections were over $14 billion of reported money. And I’m sure it’s going to be much bigger now. But what isn’t counted in that is media coverage. And there’s so much more media coverage now of this than there’s ever been, that, in a way, if you sort of put a dollar value on all the coverage of the election, it really just explodes in terms of how much is being devoted to this.

TEDDY DOWNEY:  And what about like on the ground, get out the vote?


TEDDY DOWNEY:  Any difference there? Or they’re basically a wash in terms of competency and strategy?

MICHAEL PODHORZER:  Probably kind of a wash. One of the things that’s really changed in all of this is how much more sorted America is geographically. Remember at the beginning I was saying that the election’s already decided in 85 percent of the country. So literally no amount of money in those states is going to change where they are.

And then within each of the battleground states, almost the same kind of proportion is divided by geography between, say, Phoenix and the rest of the state, or Milwaukee and Madison against the rest of Wisconsin. And there are very few places where that is an issue. Get out the vote is much more important for Democrats than for Trump. I mean, one of the paradoxes of this era is that—and this is backed up by really rigorous Pew polling after 2016 and 2020—is that the proportion of Americans, if everyone voted, who would vote against Trump is much bigger than the actual election margins. Because a much higher percentage of people who want Trump come out to vote than people who don’t. And so, each of these elections comes down to whether Democrats get enough of those folks who don’t really like Democrats but become activated to oppose Trump. And that’s the anti‑MAGA majority.

TEDDY DOWNEY:  You mentioned Dobbs, pre‑Dobbs, post‑Dobbs, we have this IVF stuff going on. How big of an issue is that going to be in this election? And is that kind of outcome determinative in some respects as well? Like if people are so up in arms about that and money and get out the vote, it’s basically a wash. You’d expect everyone coming out to vote basically if that’s kind of a deciding factor. Everyone’s going to know that that’s on the line effectively. How do you think about that?

MICHAEL PODHORZER:  Right. That basically like the Trump program is the Democrats GOTV program, right? It’s making sure that people understand how they’re going to be hurt by his agenda. And that is what gets people out to vote.

TEDDY DOWNEY:  Are there any other issues besides abortion, besides Dobbs that get to that level of like determining the outcome of the election? Or that’s been just by far the way most important issue?

MICHAEL PODHORZER:  So far, that’s been the one that’s been most important. But it’s such a rich environment of other things that could be out there. I mean, for example, you remember that when Republicans had the trifecta in 2017‑2018, they came one vote in the Senate short of repealing ACA. So that repealing ACA and people’s preexisting coverage was wildly unpopular in 2017‑2018. That could be just as big or bigger than Dobbs. You probably read there’s been a big article in the Times, the Post and The Atlantic about the specifics of their deportation program. If that became more visible, then that almost certainly changes the calculus about where Latino voters are. And you just go one after another in terms of the things that are on their agenda. And they’re all huge issues.

TEDDY DOWNEY:  Just looking at everything and taking a step back, just looking at your presentation, it seems like it’s going to be super close. But if you just look at the trends of the recent previous elections, and you ignore the polls to your point, it kind of seems like Biden is a very slight favorite or slight favorite. The Democrats are kind of slight‑ish favorites to win the House. And then the Senate seems totally up for grab, unpredictable. Could be 50/50, 49/51, either way.


TEDDY DOWNEY:  Is that the right way to kind of assess what you’re saying?

MICHAEL PODHORZER:  I think I really resist talking in those terms. Because if we were talking about, say, the French elections, that would make sense. But we’re talking about an election that we all get to vote in and participate in and try to affect the outcome of. And it really depends on what all of us do, what is going to happen. And if you let yourself detach yourself from the fact that this is our country and you’re trying to figure out what the rest of the people are going to do, that’s actually a recipe for losing. You just have to remember that in 2020, the margin in the states that decided it were like 10,000, 20,000, something like that. So, to try to be all savvy eight months out and say what the trend is misses the point that like we can’t know, and it’ll be decided by whether we want it more than they do.

TEDDY DOWNEY:  I get it. I mean, I get if you’re participating in it, you can’t detach yourself. But at one level, there wasn’t Dobbs the last time they matched up. And so, I have a hard time—like, I get it. It’s a big election. But I don’t pay much attention to the polls either, because they seem pretty unpredictive when it comes down to it. Like the red wave. I mean, every single time it had Hillary up big. I mean, I just kind of ignore them. But then I kind of watch the elections when they come out. And basically, since Trump, the Democrats have done like way better than everyone said they were going to do, which I found pretty shocking actually, very surprising. And I don’t have a specific, oh, it’s like 70/30, 60/40, 55/45. But if you had to bet, if you really had to bet, it just seems like, you know, barring Biden really screwing it up or barring—I know you’ve written about the media kind of just trashing Biden and kind of glorifying Trump in like kind of weird ways or not holding them to any kind of reasonably similar standards—barring that continuing indefinitely in some kind of like weird way, the sort of winds seem very, very, very modestly at the back of the Democrats when it comes down to actually winning these elections, just based on what has happened. And I’m actually interested, are there any kind of other things that we should be paying attention to that actually refute that kind of trend analysis?

MICHAEL PODHORZER:  The thing to watch for is just by the summer and fall, as we get into it, do people know what the Trump agenda is? I mean, there’s a way in which there’s a casual comparison made to the increasing success of right-wing politicians in Europe. But it’s very different from what’s going on here. Because there, those right-wing politicians are actually popular. And here, Trump isn’t, right? MAGA isn’t. People don’t want the religious right agenda to be taking away their reproductive freedom and all the other things, right? And so, I’m really confident that if that if voters understand that it’s the same election as the last four, we’re going to get the same result. Because we don’t see voters rushing and suddenly thinking, oh, my God, Trump really does have a good idea of what we should be doing, right? So. I’m one step removed, confident that the Democrats will win if that gets done.

TEDDY DOWNEY:  We have a question here. It’s kind of about Gaza‑ish. There’s been a lot said about dis‑satisfaction among the Arab community in Michigan, specifically Dearborn. Michigan Democrats did well without the Arab vote in 2022. Based on this, is this portion of the electorate being overrated in terms of their ability to swing the election? I kind of have a follow up here, which is like I think there’s one compelling thing which is like not getting a ceasefire in Israel risks some kind of, you know, especially with young people, potentially depressed turnout, little pockets of voters not coming out in the way that Biden might want. Is that something that may, obviously probably not like Dobbs. And also, I think there’s also this question of like, well, what would Trump do to these Arab communities? I mean, it’s not like that seems very compelling that you would punish Biden to get Trump realistically. But I’m curious to get your thoughts on that demographic situation and sort of election impact of the Gaza, Israel situation.

MICHAEL PODHORZER:  Yeah. And the way you phrased it, it would be a human catastrophe of unimaginable proportions if there’s not a ceasefire pretty soon. You know, it already is. That’s just too horrible to contemplate. So, the situation on the ground is going to change. And as you said, Trump, on right wing media, has already been really critical of Biden for not supporting Netanyahu enough. But that’s not part of anybody’s calculus right now. And, of course, he was for the Muslim ban and still is. And for no fly and all the other kind of stuff. But that’s really like that community has to make that decision. I’m not in a position to say what that’s going to mean for the future.

TEDDY DOWNEY:  One thing you’ve been critical of is Democrats talking about threats to democracy as not being an effective rhetorical strategy. I wonder if you could go into that. I think that’s really interesting just because, like, people basically don’t like how things are. So why would you say the system that we have is under threat? I mean, I get that. I would suggest we don’t really even have much of a democracy right now anyway. And so, it’s kind of like more talking about a democracy that we could have, you know, almost aspirationally seems more compelling. But I want to get your thoughts on this idea that actually talking about democracy doesn’t really work very well.

MICHAEL PODHORZER:  Yeah. So, for most people who are doing well in their lives—like probably most of the people on this webinar—democracy means sort of why we’re doing well. But for the other 80 to 90 percent of America, it’s kind of associated with why they’re not doing as well as they would hope. And when you take just this very abstract word, it doesn’t feel threatening. And it doesn’t really convey the threat to their personal lives. It makes it sound like the threat is to an abstract ideal. But when you say Dobbs and taking away your reproductive freedom or your preexisting conditions, what it actually means to them in their lives, that’s what’s effective. And I think a lot of the sort of commentary world and people who are doing well have sort of lost touch with how empty the word democracy has become for average people.

TEDDY DOWNEY:  What about kind of the flip side? Which is, like you mentioned, Trump has kind of said he wants to be a dictator. And there’s just like a lot of behavior that suggests his sort of autocratic tendencies. Is there like polling that people don’t want to have a king? I mean, they don’t want to have an autocrat. I mean, that seems like kind of central to the identity of being a citizen in the United States. You think that that would work, but again—

MICHAEL PODHORZER:  But even there, people are—I mean, this is sort of the paradox to understanding what’s going on that you have to get your head around, is for 85 to 90 percent of the population, that is 100 percent true already, right? That’s why the country is so divided, right? But we have this sliver of Americans who are doing their best not to pay attention to politics and who maybe have three jobs and don’t even have time to look at it and are struggling to get by. My dad is kind of the person you need to have in your head when you ask is democracy a good thing to talk about? Or is autocracy? Picture that person and it should be clear what I’m saying. It just has to come down to how is it going to change your life in very specific ways? Because anybody who thinks autocracy/democracy is in that 85 to 90 percent who’ve already made up their mind.

TEDDY DOWNEY:  Yeah, seems like people don’t want a king.

MICHAEL PODHORZER:  No, we’ve done focus groups with people you’d really—like young people of color and so on, and they’ll just out and out say, like, I don’t care. I’ve got a good job.

TEDDY DOWNEY:  Yeah, it makes sense. I think we’re out of questions. But you’ve been very critical of the media. I obviously run a niche media publication that’s very—sort of tries to focus on evidence as guiding our coverage of topics. But most media—and I would say the New York Times is like kind of the gold standard for media, but woefully inadequate. You mentioned the data journalism, which can be excellent. But the political journalism, which is sort of like this silly, you know, sort of horse race exercise among very, you know, sort of like I would say uninformed almost. I don’t know if they’re uninformed, but like unsophisticated or just sort of not compelling evidence-based journalism. And I’m curious to get your take on what you see of the journalism landscape and just kind of why it’s been sort of swinging so heavily with each poll. You know, you’ll see just huge reactionary pieces to one poll. What’s your kind of take on the overall media landscape heading into the election?

MICHAEL PODHORZER:  So, because people may not be familiar with where I’m coming from generally, I want to say I don’t think it’s the media’s job to elect Democrats. I think we’re in a time of crisis like Germany in the early 1930s. Thomas Jefferson said the reason the First Amendment was the most important one is that a free press is necessary to guarantee all the other freedoms we want. And the purpose of the press is to defend the democracy—sorry, but in the way we’re talking—against those who would take it down.

And so, this is exactly why there’s a First Amendment. So that they perform the job in this year of making sure that voters are fully informed about what the consequences are, not that they’re doing sort of sports talk radio on the two candidates and making it into a kind of entertainment. And that’s what I’m critical of is that the reason there’s a First Amendment is for them to show up at times like this and inform the public of threats to our basic society and our values.

TEDDY DOWNEY:  You’ve been associated with the labor movement, labor organizing, for a long time. As a last question, I wanted to get your take on how labor—and this is one thing I was a little surprised at your answer on get out the vote. And just that labor—Biden has been President over kind of an historic sort of energy around the labor movement, rules on misclassification and appointing people at NLRB.

MICHAEL PODHORZER:  Since the 30s, yeah.

TEDDY DOWNEY:  And the conversation around labor has totally changed as well. A lot more union organizing success. But are you seeing that translate into enthusiasm? Or is there still kind of a big MAGA—not MAGA, but is there any kind of—has that changed how labor is thinking about this election and with labor membership?

MICHAEL PODHORZER:  Absolutely compared to 2016. And I think we’ll see real movement among union members and how the unions themselves mobilize for this election.

TEDDY DOWNEY:  And then I wanted to get your take. You mentioned people not having time to even pay attention to politics. And you mentioned Thomas Jefferson.


TEDDY DOWNEY:  You know, the quality of a job, the types of jobs that people have, the way they live their lives, the amount of leisure time they have, over time should the job market improve, should things improve—this isn’t for this election. This kind of just like a thing I’m curious to get your take on. Is that something people should think about as, you know, hey. Having enough time to actually be a good citizen, to participate in voting. You know, those voter rates are still pretty kind of low. You know, given that these are the most important elections of all time. Do you see those two things as connected? That these people, the way they live their lives actually is not conducive to participating as a citizen because they’re just so overwhelmed?

MICHAEL PODHORZER:  Yeah, absolutely. But I’d reframe it a little bit. I’m sure people in this audience have read all the stories about the economy’s doing great. Why don’t people know it? And I think it’s because even if the kind of aggregate statistics about, say, wages are up, it is blind to how much more precarious it is working in the United States now. About how not just in terms of will I have the same job six months from now, but the way outside of the union work force, companies are super optimizing worker hours to both make sure that workers don’t work enough to get benefits and to match the number of people on the job to what the demand is that day. And it just throws people’s lives into chaos. And so, getting another even 10 percent salary doesn’t compensate for every week trying to figure out how you’re going to do childcare because you’re not sure what your hours are, and that sort of thing. And that’s, I think, more than sort of different people’s lifestyle choices, the barrier. And why so many of them don’t have time to pay attention to these things.

TEDDY DOWNEY:  And I promise this is the last question. You talk about media. You probably have addressed this, but I haven’t seen it lately. What is your take on the ability for unregulated social media platforms to put their thumb on the scale, when it comes to deciding an election, Facebook, Google? Obviously, they have a huge incentive to have a Trump election—I mean, I don’t know about a huge incentive, but probably, I mean, Trump put in place much more laissez faire regulators than Biden. They have financial incentive for Trump to win in some respects. Do you see that as a threat or as a possible way that outside of the Democrats control of doing their best on get out the vote, on messaging that? You know, look, if YouTube and Facebook, if they really wanted to just inundate people with messaging that is outside of the party’s control, they can do that.

MICHAEL PODHORZER:  Yeah, I think that there’s huge danger there. And I think it’s most real with Musk and X, because he’s like clearly headed in that direction. I think for a lot of the other tech firms, it’s a much more complicated picture, which we really saw in 2020. Because remember that most of the people who work at those companies are living in deep blue cities and provided enormous internal pressure on the platforms in 2020 not to go to the incentives you were just talking about. And Facebook, in particular, started losing key staff in 2020 because they felt that it was embarrassing to be working for people—that a lot of the workers felt it was embarrassing to be associated with it. And most of the advertising dollars and all of that is aimed at blue voters. And so, it isn’t just a slam dunk on the factors you are just talking about. And, in fact, more tech money goes to Democrats than Republicans.

TEDDY DOWNEY:  So let me ask you the flip side. Do you think the Republicans have a legit beef with that?

MICHAEL PODHORZER:  No, I don’t think they do. I think that the result—outside of X—is a kind of stalemate. And when corporations have pain on two sides, they don’t move. And so, I think for the ones especially that are publicly traded and that have a lot of other kinds of constraints on them, it’s less of a danger either way. Right. Although I do think that it is still problematic that especially YouTube algorithms are radicalizing people, which is different from necessarily affecting the election per se.

TEDDY DOWNEY:  Well, to say you’re radicalizing, you become radicalized for conspiracy theories and that type of stuff is more associated with a Trump voter. I mean, that seems relevant on the margins at least.

MICHAEL PODHORZER:  Yeah, but it’s more on the margins than it is—like as they’re just going to divide the thing. I think it was much more important in 2020 om why there was a January 6th than what happened in the election. Because those algorithms were helping them recruit people to come to the D.C. And sort of telling a bubble version of what would happen that was just not true. Which is different from the environment around the election where there’s just so much information from so many different places.

TEDDY DOWNEY:  Well, as always, an amazing conversation.


TEDDY DOWNEY:  Thank you so much for sharing your expertise and time. And I can’t thank you enough for doing this.

MICHAEL PODHORZER:  Yeah, thanks for having me.

TEDDY DOWNEY:  All right. And thanks for everyone for joining the call today. This concludes the call. Bye‑bye.

MICHAEL PODHORZER:  Thanks. Take care.