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Biden’s emphasis "Personal freedom" The GOP takes aim in the primary campaign

WASHINGTON – When President Biden announced his re-election bid In a video this week, the first words out of his mouth were “freedom” and “personal liberty,” adding that “there is nothing more important.” He cast the 2024 election as a choice between “more freedom and less freedom”.

Mr. Biden’s emphasis on upholding “freedom” was a direct challenge President Donald Trump and other potential Republicans who emphasized the importance of upholding individual liberties to resist government overreach. And experts say it’s a tried-and-true way to stir patriotic sentiment among a broad swath of Americans by casting policy positions in a more favorable light.

In his announcement, the president said “MAGA extremists” are trying to take away “bedrock freedoms,” including “cutting Social Security that you pay for your entire life, tax cuts for the very wealthy, what health care decisions women can make.” That said, banning books and telling people who they can love all makes it harder for you to be able to vote.”

On the right, Trump campaign emails warn that the “left” wants to “take away your guns,” “persecut Christians” and “push transgender religion on your children.” Last week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis blasted other states’ “COVID authoritarianism” during the pandemic and insisted Florida will continue to protect educational freedom.

John Aldrich, a professor of political science at Duke University, noted that both Mr. Biden and Republicans generally emphasize “freedom from something” rather than “liberty.” And what they need from “freedom” is different for both sides.

John Krosnick, a social psychologist and professor at Stanford University, said Republicans have been relying on the word “liberty” — and the emotions and associations it invokes — for a long time.

“Republicans have been doing this for a while, and Democrats are now going to catch up,” Krosnick said.

Invoking the word “freedom” can also have more subtle implications. Krosnick was one of the authors of a 2021 paper examining cultural values ​​and words. The researchers found that in countries like the United States, the word “freedom” becomes “an important trigger signal in cultures” that frequently invoke it — playing the national anthem at baseball games or saying the Pledge of Allegiance at school.

This “freedom phrase” is useful for those on the right and the left, Krosnick noted.

“Any use of the word ‘liberty’ can be helpful if you portray a policy as designed to increase people’s liberties,” Krosnick said.

Given how strong emotional freedom is among Americans, Krosnick said politicians from both parties invoke such phrases because “they kind of have to.”

“If politicians on the right and the left want to invoke freedom to support the policies they want to support, they are forced to express it differently in different policies,” Krosnick said. “The more voices on both sides can invoke freedom as a justification for what they are doing, the more successful they will be in persuading and mobilizing the public to sympathize with their agenda.”

Aldrich explains two reasons why Mr. Biden and Republicans may be focusing on policies that voters want “liberty” rather than “liberty.”

“One is to portray those on our side as currently suffering under the yoke of some kind of unruly power. It’s easier to say ‘feel for those who are suffering now’ than to imagine future timers,” Aldrich said. “The second is that it depicts a specific opponent, so that it is easier to rally the troops to defeat them.”

“A different world is one where one can rally people around a plan to make things better for a brighter future,” Aldrich added. “But the very nature of appealing to people to do things they don’t want to do makes it easier to have an enemy among us.”

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