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Former Obama Adviser David Axelrod Discusses Possibility of Second Trump Presidency at IOP Forum

Former Obama adviser David Axelrod, right, spoke about the 2024 presidential election at a Monday Institute of Politics forum.
Former Obama adviser David Axelrod, right, spoke about the 2024 presidential election at a Monday Institute of Politics forum. By Yahir Santillan-Guzman

David Axelrod, former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, discussed what he described as the “most fateful election” of his lifetime at a Harvard Institute of Politics JFK Jr. Forum held Monday evening.

Jonathan Martin, an IOP resident fellow and politics bureau chief for Politico, moderated the event. He opened by asking Axelrod to comment on the prospect of a rematch between incumbent President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.

“Live with it, America, because I think that’s where we’re headed,” Axelrod said.

Even as Trump remains plagued by over 90 indictments, Axelrod believes these legal troubles have only strengthened the former president’s influence.

“Donald Trump has a very strong grip on the Republican party,” Axelrod said. “I think that his grip on that party has been probably strengthened by a series of indictments.”

Axelrod predicted that Trump will be the Republican party nominee, citing his belief that Trump’s indictments generated increased support.

Axelrod added political opponents intended indictments against Trump to serve as obstacles to his campaign, equating them with “bricks,” but he said he believes this strategy backfired.

“Those bricks, instead of kryptonite, turned out to be battery packs,” he said.

He described the relationship between the renominations of both Trump and Biden as a “weird codependence.”

“Republicans feel like, well, anybody could beat Biden, so we might as well go with a guy that we want,” he said. “Democrats believe Trump’s going to be the nominee, and Biden may be the only guy who can beat him — whether that’s true or not.”

Martin agreed with Axelrod’s assertion.

“As long as Trump poses the threat he does, that effectively creates a sort of protection around Biden from other Democrats,” he said.

Axelrod added that Trump’s election would endanger the constitutional legitimacy of America as a country.

“On the one side, we have a guy who is not just a convicted felon, but convicted of trying to overturn the free and fair election and seize the power of the presidency,” he said. “I can’t think of anything more violative of constitutional principles than that.”

Axelrod compared political polarization to silos, explaining how social media advertisements and cable television target certain audiences and alienate groups from one another.

“Your views are always affirmed, but not always informed,” Axelrod said.

In a separate interview, he added that social media-driven polarization leads to a perception of an opposing party as “ominous.”

“It has driven us into these oppositional silos in which we don’t see other Americans as opponents on political issues, but as enemies.”

Axelrod said gerrymandering is one of several elements that contributes to political polarization.

“Another is the sorting and gerrymandering that we’ve done that basically has made most of our general election campaigns for the Senate, for Congress uncompetitive,” Axelrod said. “Even in presidential races, the races have been reduced to a handful of competitive states while the rest of the country sort of watches.”

Axelrod also discussed during the interview the potential consequences of a convicted felon becoming president. He said Trump has already threatened the concept of a free and fair election when he questioned election results in 2020.

“Trump 2.0 is the equivalent of the Delta variant of democracy. It’ll be 1,000 times more virulent than the first and harder to control,” he added.

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