Wednesday Edition



Around the world, citizens feel increasingly letdown by democracy, and that at least partly explains why we’ve seen the rise of “strongman” type leaders. (AP)

The public is still high on democracy, but support is falling, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

  • Majorities in the 24 countries surveyed by Pew favored it.

  • The share of people who think democracy is a good way to run a country dropped considerably in 11 of 22 countries since last time Pew asked about it in 2017.

  • A median of 59% are dissatisfied with how democracy functions.

Meanwhile, more and more people want authoritarian government. According to Pew, “support for a government where a strong leader can make decisions without interference from courts or parliaments has increased in 8 of 22 nations where data from 2017 is available.”

  • 26% of Americans want a strong leader system.

  • That’s higher than half the countries in Pew’s survey.

Over the past decade or so, many countries have elected strongman leaders who talk tough, rule with a firm grip and are less deferential to democracy. A partial list includes Viktor Orban (Hungary), Jair Bolsonaro (Brazil), Rodrigo Duterte (Philippines), Xi Jinping (China) and Narendra Modi (India).

  • In the U.S., we’ve got former President Trump.

  • A new CBS News poll found President Biden and Trump are basically tied when it comes to who voters think will “save democracy.”


Even though mega-banks like PNC are buying up smaller ones and there are fewer banks overall, local banks and credit unions are doing well. (WSJ)

Chart: The Wall Street Journal

From Q3 2022 to Q3 2023, community banks and credit unions grew deposits by about 1% and loans by around 10%, outpacing the broader banking industry.

  • The number of banks in the U.S. fell from 9,144 in 1997 to 4,135 in 2022, but community banks still hold about 12% of all bank deposits.

  • Some Americans prefer smaller banks for better customer service, face time with bankers, higher earnings on deposits and lower fees.

Certain industries and parts of the country are seeing a renaissance in businesses that can provide the authentically personalized experience massive corporations can’t. Craft cocktail bars, pop-up shops and independent bookstores are thriving in Texas. In media, there’s been a trend toward niche newsletters operated by small teams of independent journalists. The share of Americans starting their own businesses soared during the pandemic, and by some estimates is higher than ever.

Research suggests there’s an appetite for companies that offer a human touch. A 2018 study by Epsilon found 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with brands that deliver personalized experiences.


The rise of giant mega-corporations like Walmart and Amazon was supposed to signal the death of mom and pop shops everywhere, but at least in some industries, it’s looking like there may be a way for the whales and small fish to coexist.


Democratic critics of President Biden say he risks losing the election if he doesn’t listen to his base’s concerns, but new evidence suggests his real vulnerability is with swing voters. (Silver Bulletin)

Recent headlines have focused on the threat of Biden alienating progressives, nonwhite and youth voters (in other words, voters that are already in his coalition). Some progressives in Congress have called on Biden to tone down his support for Israel if he wants to keep Democratic voters.

Screenshot/ABC News

But, a new New York Times/Siena poll suggests it’s not Democrats Biden should be worried about.

Electoral data guru Nate Silver zeroing in on a key nugget from the poll: “10% of Biden 2020 voters now say they're going to vote for Trump in 2024, as compared to <1% of Trump 2020 voters who now say they're going to vote for Biden.”

The voters who are turning on Biden don’t come from his own party, for the most part. According to the poll, Biden is retaining 91% of Democrats who voted for him in the last election. But of the 2020 Biden voters who aren’t loyal Democrats, only 75% would consider voting for the president again.


There’s no love lost between former President Trump and the mainstream media, but did that play a role in slanting coverage of the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling that Trump is constitutionally disqualified from seeking reelection? (Washington Free Beacon)

After the Colorado Supreme Court ruled in December, much of the news’ commentary made it seem like the case for keeping Trump off the ballot was uncontroversial.

  • Legal expert and frequent MSBNC guest Elie Mystal in December: “By a strict textualist or originalist understanding, [the Colorado Supreme Court ruling] is a slam dunk.”

  • ABC News contributor and law professor Kimberly Wehle: “The [Colorado Supreme Court] applied the plain language of the Constitution, doing its job with clarity and fidelity to the rule of law.”

  • CNN guest and retired federal judge J. Michael Luttig in December: “This was a straightforward application of the 14th amendment in plain terms."

Some commentators said if the Supreme Court rejected the Colorado ruling, the court’s conservative majority would be to blame.

  • MSNBC host Joy Reid in December: “I view the Supreme Court conservatives as politicians who are seeking conservative-Republican outcomes, not so much textual adherence to the Constitution. They just find what they want to find in there.”

  • Harvard Law Professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos to The New York Times: “I … doubt that the court’s conservative justices want to start a civil war within the Republican Party by disqualifying the candidate whom most Republican voters support.“

On Monday, all three liberal Supreme Court justices joined the rest of the court to unanimously rule that states don’t have the power to keep a presidential candidate off the ballot.


A new Gallup report finds that since 2021 (when President Biden took office) public satisfaction is down on a slew of key issues. (Gallup)

Satisfaction with…

  • The military: down 12%

  • Immigration levels: down 11%

  • Gun laws: down 11%

  • The amount we pay in federal taxes: down 9%

  • The quality of our medical care: down 9%

  • Abortion policies: down 8%

  • Education: down 6%

  • The role of women: down 5%

On the bright side, satisfaction with race relations and the size of the U.S. government have ticked up.


Maybe it’s a post-COVID hangover, maybe it’s all the political upheaval we’ve been having since Trump’s 2016 election win, maybe it’s smartphones — whatever it is, there’s a deep sense of dissatisfaction in America today, and the data proves it.

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