Time for Democrats to think logically about the white vote

Coming off yet another off-year election debacle for Democrats both in Florida and nationally much of the narrative has focused on what Democrats can do differently. The discussion after three weeks has fallen into some lazy assumptions –  The Democrats either need  to shift en masse to the middle of the political spectrum or simply more aggressively own liberal positions; Democrats need to recruit better candidates and Democrats need to raise more money. While each of these theories has some validity (though the one about money quite frankly has the least relevance since Democrats and allied groups are not as badly outspent by the opposition as some of the spinmeisters would like the public to believe). But one thing stands out – Democrats in this state have consistently during off-year elections since 1994, been struggling to gain white votes. This is a trend that is similar to other southern states, though it arguably started slightly earlier in Florida. While I believe the failure of the President to address immigration before the election likely cost Governor Crist victory, the inability to properly connect with white voters left the Democrats with no margin for error among the minority communities in the state. When fewer Hispanics than hoped turned out to vote and 15% of the African American and black voters went with the Republican or Libertarian, Crist was beaten.

The efforts to micro-target minorities and newly minted immigrant groups is laudable and thanks to these efforts  and the party’s policy positions, Democrats certainly represent a bigger tent than the Republicans do. With demographic shifts occurring each day, the party is well-positioned to win the future. But in the present day, Florida’s Democrats are struggling to win white votes and thus are losing election after election. The situation is not entirely hopeless as it is in neighboring states such as Georgia where the Democrats limited white support in statewide elections now comes from DeKalb and Fulton counties almost exclusively, or South Carolina and Louisiana where the once economic-based populist appeal that kept coastal whites and Cajuns respectively in the swing column has given way thanks to social issues and immigration among other things. But this situation must be addressed.

Democrats have made efforts discussing how to court every minority group under the sun, even extending efforts at a localized level to the likes of Chinese-Americans, Arab-Americans and Indian-Americans in recent election cycles. These groups represent a small part of the electorate though it must be noted Bob Buckhorn is Mayor of Tampa largely because of his outreach to the Muslim community. However, no larger program to try and cut into losses among the largest segment of the electorate has been pursued by the party.

Charlie Crist received just 37% of the white vote on November 4th, and the other Democratic candidates for state office earned an even a lower percentage per exit poll data. If you were somehow able to break-out Jewish-American voters from the white percentage, chances are Crist got about 30% of the white, non-Jewish vote. While long-term demographics shifts favor the Democrats minority-oriented approach, it is fraught with risk in current times which may explain why Florida Democrats have lost 17 of the last 18 races for state offices, a percentage I will remind our readers that seems statistically improbable in a purple state like Florida. Despite constituting a declining percentage of Florida’s electorate, white voters still cast 69% of the ballots statewide in 2014. Receiving this low a percentage of the most reliable portion of the electorate means you are always going to start at a major disadvantage.

Despite massive efforts by outside groups and Democratic affiliated entities to rally white women, particularly younger white women concerned about reproductive rights, education and environmental issues, Crist won just 39% of the white female vote, a percentage that is quite frankly beyond belief and unacceptable. Given the Democrats efforts on issues that matter to females both economically and socially, an evaluation of whether this messaging needs to be fine tuned is critical. This effort needs to be undertaken as soon as possible.

For example, on Reproductive Rights, for years polling data has shown consistent numbers or even a declining support for a women’s right to control their own medical decisions.  This has happened at the very same time as social attitudes towards same-sex marriage, use of cannabis and racial attitudes have all swung to the left in some cases dramatically. Why is this, and how can we be saying things differently to where they make sense?

Economic populism which could be advocated by former Senator Jim Webb if he seeks the 2016 Democratic nomination could be a potential route back for the party in rural and exurban areas throughout the south. In recent years, the Democrats have lost a remarkable amount of county commissioners and county constitutional officers in rural and exurban counties. These loses have seemingly gone unnoticed by the powers that be and no attempt has been made the arrest them. The same trend that took place at the national level in the 1980’s and 1990’s and then at the state level in the 2000’s now has spread to the local level in 2010’s – white flight from the Democratic Party outside urban and suburban areas.

While creating an appeal around social issues that potentially compromises the Democratic brand in the state’s largest urban areas is unwise, economic and environmental/quality of life issues can be stressed to try and cut some of the massive margins the GOP is carrying out of the state’s medium-sized counties. The failure to connect properly with white voters, particularly females will continue to cost Democrats going forward. That is why the critical questions need to be asked now and a plan of action should be formulated with the 2018 cycle in mind.

As we go forward, reader input is important on this matter. Given the stakes we’d love to hear from activists and thinkers across Florida about how to win back enough white votes outside of large urban areas in order to win statewide elections again. What issues need to be targeted in order to lift the Democrats white vote into the low to mid 40’s in off-year cycles? How do these issues need to be couched to electorate as a whole?

Feel free to leave any suggestions in the comments section.

50 comments

  1. This is an embarrassing and borderline racist posting.

    Whites have all the advantages and all the access to information and resources. That is why a special effort does not need to be made for them. You are a racist if you feel like we should be white out reach programs the way there are African-American or Hispanic outreach programs!!!

    Have you not seen ferguson and trayvon?

    You might as well switch parties if this is your attitude.

    Many whites vote republican based on race and hating minorities but you don’t give a shit about that do you???

    But this is not surprising coming from someone who on the record in the sun Sentinel talked about how Andrew Jackson and Thomas Jefferson both slaveholders and both racists need to be honored by the Democratic Party into 2014. You sir might just be a racist

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    1. I stand by my views of Jefferson and Jackson both of whom were great Americans and in Jefferson’s case a great intellectual.

      I do not see where any of this is racist. Please point out specific phrases and ideas in this piece which are “racist.”

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  2. You continue to ignore the fact that 200,000 Democrats voted for Nan Rich in the primary. The party refused to let her speak at the dinner. This depressed the female vote of all ethnicities. Do you think ignoring this major affront to women was not a factor?
    Also, the selection of Taddeo gave us not one, but 2 ( incl. Christ) top of ticket candidates who had not spent time with grassroots in our party. Who were those people?
    Why did the party ignore its long-time of all races? Charlie Christ had too long a record of attacking Democrats. Taddeo had almost no record at all.There are a lot of us who worked for Davis,Sink or McBride when Charlie was on the other ticket. It is as if the party thought there were no long-time Democrats at all.

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    1. It’s a party that has little or no institutional memory in critical places. That starts with a lot of the legislators thanks to term limits and the lack of intellectual curiosity they have.

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  3. Tampa Bay Demo · · Reply

    I’m as progressive as they come but calling this post racist shows exactly why you and others are taking our party down. This is a discussion that must be had. Kudos to Kartik for putting it on the table.

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  4. Gordon Gecko · · Reply

    Great just what we need! A KuKluxKlan caucus.

    Go back to India Kartik with your racist ideas.

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    1. Pot. Meet kettle.

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    2. Actually was born and raised in USA and been living in Florida since I was four.

      And India is very racist and insular so I don’t really associate with many Indians from India quite honestly.

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  5. Lee Dunkel · · Reply

    I think the fear on the part of the Democratic Party to stand up for the issues we believe in, to run away from the president and the Affordable Health Care plan, to stay silent on immigration, raising the minimum wage, extending Medicaid, making public education a priority made us appear weak, We need to vigorously support what we have passed and want to pass. Clearly trying to hide behind the curtain of saying little to nothing about the issues is not working. We should be shouting out about raising minimum wages, supporting Medicaid expansion, going after corporations who can defray paying taxes by putting money into vouchers that go to private religious schools who then claim they are helping the halt/lame/poor to a better education. These are just some of the issues that can energize people if they are done loudly and with a sense of commitment. And linking all of these issues to a raising the living standards of everyone. The fault of the Republicans is that they are raising the quality of life and the living standards of the few and We Want It For All…..

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    1. Silence on immigration in particular killed us this cycle in Florida. The President selfishly was thinking about Senate seats in Louisiana, Arkansas, North Carolina and Georgia when he choose inaction over doing the right thing.

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  6. The Hornets Nest · · Reply

    Abortion is a political minefield and getting less popular as technology emerges showing real life at a younger age. At the very same time our party has become more dogged on this matter. Nobody can have even a moderate view on abortion and win a dem primary anymore. You cannot reasonably dissent on the funding of
    abortion or say that you oppose it for religious reasons. So we discriminate against religious people also as a party.

    I think continued emphasis on this issue will continue to cost us. You see it hasn’t had any impact to get more votes from white women. The efforts of all the women’s groups flocpped badly this cycle. Think about how much $$$ Planned Parenthood, NOW and other women’s organizations spent!!! It was all wasted. The issue is set and if anything this issue will get worse and worse for Democrats.

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  7. Abortion and guns are proven losers.

    Time to think about other issues. The Environment could work. Economic security and education we should own.

    Nail the republicans on their coziness to the insurance industry!

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    1. This is where I disagree with Kartik. I think the environment is a non-issue, at least for now. Nobody cares about it. And if they do care about it, they are already voting Democratic or Green Party. The Democrats have failed to “mainstream” the environment.

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      1. A voice of reason · ·

        No one cares what you have to say trotter. What state are you in now? Or what country?

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      2. I disagree. It has to be couched correctly. National Democrats have been successful in Florida previously using this as a critical issue.

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      3. Wow, voice of reason, that was a great comeback. Can I borrow it sometime? 🙂

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      4. Kartik, maybe the environment is big in south Florida, but not the rest of Florida. So, basically, it will be big in areas were Democrats already win.

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      5. Um no Dave…totally wrong. The places polling consistently shows it is the biggest issue is where REPUBLICANS win. The Space Coast, Treasure Coast and SW Florida. It’s a non-issue in South Florida for the most part.

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      6. In fact Crist’s surprisingly good showing in Sarasota County was largely down to the work of NextGen and other green oriented groups. That was the place Crist overperformed the most in the state compared to Obama’s 2012 performance. Sarasota has shown this tendancy over and over as has St Lucie. If Dems talk about green issue, they get a bump in those counties. Margins gets cut potentially in Indian River, Brevard, Manatee and Martin also thanks to these issues. But I understand why the party doesn’t push them. Too dependent on certain sources of funding to really push it.

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      7. Alright, I need to see the polling data to believe that.

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      8. Much of it is internal data…where did you get the impression it is an issue in Sofla? If anything, South Florida is the most anti-environmental part of the state.

        You also may want to read some of the post-election analysis from 1996 and 2008 about these issues specifically.

        Also Pinellas County has many environmental based voters. Exit polling in 2012 showed that those issues were key for Obama in the Tampa Bay area. This time not so much for Crist though. But it really helped him in Sarasota and St Lucie as I said earlier.

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      9. But how can you say that the “green issues” are the casual reasons for the increase in votes for Crist? I mean, you have to show me that this is casual, not just coincidental.

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      10. Because the major emphasis in the turnout efforts there were by NextGen setting up shop on the New College campus and working Sarasota County because that county has voted on environmental issues before. Also NextGen’s ad buys in the Sarasota sub-market and in the Tampa Bay media market helped. Dave, Southwest Florida is very environmentally conscious. Naples and Ft Myers also. In the past some of the reduced margins for Republicans out of those counties have been due to Dems hitting this issue though this cycle the Ds didn’t play down there at all and the margins showed- it is after all Scott’s “home” base. But Scott was smart and sought to moderate on these issues just enough to not stir the pot too much at “home” (home is really another state).

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      11. Well, I always here from people that a lot of people down there are anti-sugar. I will admit, sugar is not an issue I know much about, or care about.

        Still, people can be pro-environment, but that does not mean that it is a salient issue. Again, I don’t see the casual relationship between the environment and votes for Charlie Crist. Also, what post-election analysis should I read, since you are specifically mentioning those years?

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      12. Start with Michael Barone’s analysis in the Almanac of both 1996 and 2008 and the relevance of the environment in cutting Dole’s and McCain’s margin in tier 2 counties like Sarasota, Brevard and St Lucie (which Obama won). Also several SP Times and PB Post articles after 2008 about it.

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      13. Or maybe the Democrats did better in 1996 and 2008 because they were landslide years for the Democrats and it had nothing to do with issues? So, by default, their vote totals would go up in those counties just due to the nature of the national election?

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      14. That is possible. Then what issues do matter? I can tell you that internal polling shows the environment polls high in those specific areas and the swing of votes towards Ds, albeit small percentages tend to happen when those issues are emphasized.

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      15. You guys are both wrong. Kartik less so. The environment certainly is a big issue in Southwest Florida but if you think NexGen had anything to do with it you’re wrong and just spinning to justify the in targeted mindless spending. It’s because local environmental groups pushed Crist hard on water issues and anti-Sugar.

        Dave again like other people mention you don’t live in the state and maybe know Central Florida really well ( though we all myst wonder) but you don’t know Southwest Florida at all if you think the environment is not a huge issue perhaps the biggest issue for Democrats down there. And Kartik what do you base the environment not being a big issue in South Florida on? It is a big issue and as Dave does correctly say there are a lot of anti-sugar people down there. Granted it is a bigger issue in Southwest Florida and in the treasure coast as you mentioned but it is still a big issue in South Florida.

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      16. Were those local green groups on TV and had major canvassing efforts? I know NextGen wasted a TON of money just like Planned Parenthood and the unions. But to claim they had less impact than the other groups is plain silly.

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      17. Also the environment is a MUCH bigger issue on the Treasure Coast than in south Florida proper. Patrick Murphy went left on this and won crossover votes. That would never happen 25-50 miles south. Murphy is a good case study for Dave also about the Treasure Coast. It is the one issue he stayed hard left on and it actually helped him in an R leaning district.

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      18. Dead on! What issues matter? None really. Did issues matter in the Democratic primary for governor? Nope. It is just a popularity contest that is, usually, built on dislike for the other party’s candidate for turnout. Politicos who look at “issues” are trying to find some sort of reasoning as to why voters vote the way that they do. They refuse to realize that the electorate are just sheep. That was why VO Key Jr. wrote The Responsible Electorate, in response to The American Voter, which basically argued that voters are, essentially, just sheep. So yeah, I argue that issues don’t matter, unless it is a whopper, like Bush tanking the economy.

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      19. If issues don’t matter, what does? Just personalities?

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      20. Basically, or some major issue such as Vietnam, the Depression, or something like that, which just can’t be ignored, or possibly voter fatigue. Voters already know where they lean and already have their minds made up. Voters are also mostly straight-ticket voters, so don’t really pay attention if there is variance in issues from same-party candidate from top to bottom.

        Of course, people who read this blog think that issues matter, because they are usually emotionally invested in a progressive issue. And if someone is emotionally invested in an issue, they are probably already likely to vote, and probably already know what party they support. So, of course, you are going to say that the environment matters in elections because you have an emotional investment in the issue. I say it doesn’t matter.

        If it isn’t about popularity (or in the case of Florida, unpopularity), the explain these two words…..Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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      21. I tend to agree with this, but I am saying that if one issue does get some crossover votes it is the environment. Murphy has proven that among others in the past. It’s a very Florida issue. But for the most part issues aren’t drivers of anything unfortunately.

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      22. Broward Voter · ·

        Kartik sorry but environmental issues do move the needle in south Florida. I know it defeats your narrative about lobbyists and consultants controlling the area but if green issues are played well they make a difference. They just aren’t being played.

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      23. This thread illustrates the problem with Dave. Why many of us stopped paying attention to him during the FDP Chairs race two years ago.

        He is a smart guy but has some faulty assumptions and can never let go when proven wrong or questioned. He will never concede a point even though he does not live in the state and really knows little about the political developments besides numbers and what he reads online.

        Still he has a unique perspective that would be better received if he was not always so angry, personal and defensive.

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      24. Yes, my faulty assumption of Tant being a horrible Chair and that Crist would lose to Scott were, well, faulty, right?

        I think when you make pot-shots at people behind a veil of anonymity (as well as going back to Rawls veil of ignorance), you lose any legitimacy in your criticism.

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      25. hancockross · ·

        In my opinion a pro-environment platform is perceived as a positive character issue for candidates that bridges partisanship. (But Kartik, when you are talking about Patrick Murphy being “left” on environment, explain how he ended up being the only Florida Dem to vote yes on Keystone Pipeline.)

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    2. The Republican ties to the Insurance industry HAS to played more strongly.

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      1. Two asshole racists fighting.Neither a Floridian. One a socialist soccer-loving Indian scum the other lives in Canada. Yet we are letting these people talk to us about our party?

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    3. Let’s just use Charlie’s plan and put everyone in Citizens and then Florida will be in the insurance industry more than in the past. Oh right you Democrats don’t believe in free market enterprises. Let’s have all insurance and healthcare run by the government.

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  8. Kartik, this is the same kind of backlash I received. After the election, I wrote a post about the Democrats having a “white people problem”, and, of course, the liberals automatically scream “racism”, which is EXACTLY the problem. Self-promotion below:

    http://thepoliticalhurricane.com/2014/11/10/lets-be-honest-democrats-have-a-white-people-problem-in-midterm-elections/

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  9. Rita Press · · Reply

    Kudos to Lee Dunkel and her on target comments. Let us not discount the part gerrymandered districts and special interest money played in this past election. And, where
    was the Democratic State Party’s support of candidates? Non-existent!

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  10. KKK - Ku Klux Kartik · · Reply

    This blog should be subject to hate crimes legislation. This is a vile and disgusting blog coming especially from a so called progressive of color. Well you have shown your true colors Kartik! Bleach yourself white you self hating bastard! You’ll never be a white frat boy insider type biiiitch and still you seek that you fucking tool! Black lives matter also if you have noticed in ferguson but you are probably saying democrats shouldn’t say anything for fear of offending the “majority.” The same majority that kept slaves and Jim Crow.

    How would you like it if we called you a terrorist Indian wearing a towel on his head? But maybe you buy into the white man’s burden talk and think of yourself as inferior. Go join your countrymen Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley in the racist party.

    This bullshit blog shpuld end your career of the Democratic Party and if I have anything to do with it it will.

    – Dem insider

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    1. I am approving this just so some people see how reactionary some self proclaimed party insiders are. If you actually read the post you would realize it is not racist at all. And you are the one race baiting with references to “towel heads” (I don’t wear a towel on my head by the way, but I have when I played tennis in the extreme heat when I was younger) and implying all whites were responsible for slavery and Jim Crow. The civil rights movement was so beautiful because of its multi-racial and multi-ethnic components. Those of us who believe in interracial democracies like the United States reject this type of rhetoric.

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  11. This piece today from George Bennett proves what Kartik writes is accurate. Additionally, it shows that the FDP wants to continue their losing streak by having members on their LEAD committee like Terrie Rizzo, whose failures are specifically mentioned here.

    http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/news/state-regional-govt-politics/looking-for-clues-to-how-scott-won-gop-turnout-in-/njHQg/#11720a6c.3603894.735567%23__federated=1

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  12. Blue Dog Dem · · Reply

    Spot on article.

    Start with gun control as an issue killing democrats. That’s the worst issue for the party among white folks.

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  13. From abortion to guns to environmental protection to the economy voters favor the “democratic” positions by simple majorities to super majorities. Democrats need better candidates for EVERY office out there making the case to voters. I know it’s a cliche but you can’t win if you don’t play.

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  14. It is not hard to figure out what is going on. Obamacare was a great shift of wealth from Medicare ($500 billion going to ACA) which benefits a population 77% white to the uninsured which has a population less than 50% white. Every social program comes at the expense of taxpayers (again, over 75% white going to a population under 50% white). The democrats policy, in effect, represents a shift of resources from White America to non-white America. This has been going on for, at least, 50 years. I grew up in Detroit and watched it in action. If it worked, it would be one thing. But, all it does is shift money from white America to buy a few votes and depresses economic activity which hurts everyone.

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  15. J. Scott Gaillard · · Reply

    “The Democrats don’t need a majority of white working-class voters to come over to their side. But they do need to deny the Republican Party the supermajorities of white working-class voters that Republicans successfully mobilize today….For starters, it’s imperative that progressives begin framing their economic and social agenda in class-based terms that allow white voters to feel that they, too, are part of a movement to use government action to support working people. ”

    http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/junejulyaugust_2014/features/beyond_identity_politics050650.php?page=2

    Like

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