This Harold Meyerson column is excellent. Two points in particular are worth emphasizing:
Sanders skeptics have been eyeing him apprehensively since he announced, fearful that he would become this year’s Ralph Nader. Nobody who actually knew Bernie, however, ever believed he wouldn’t support Hillary Clinton in the end. In fact, he did much more than that. By shifting the discourse in the Democratic Party to one more appropriate to an age of inequality, and by pushing the party in its platform to commit to causes from which, at best, it had been laggard in embracing, he was showing his people precisely what focused progressive activism can yield: tangible victories in the arena of real politics.
All of Bernie’s Sighted supporters understood this. Virtually every one of his endorsers who has a track record in the give-and-take of real politics—union activists, elected officials, environmentalist leaders—has proclaimed, as Bernie has, that the revolution succeeded in moving the party and its nominee to the left, and that a Hillary Clinton presidency, whatever it shortcomings, would create the possibility of significant progressive organizing and victories, while a Trump presidency would be a reign of repression.
I said this as it was unfolding, but people panicking about whether Sanders would endorse Clinton just didn’t understand him. He’s never been a risk to become a new Nader — he’s not obscenely self-centered and he understands the value of compromise. There were things he could have handled better towards the end of the campaign, but you can say the same and arguably worse about Clinton in 2008 and there’s was never any risk that she would abandon the party or refuse to endorse Obama.
And it’s also worth noting that Sanders’s supporters are if anything coming around more quickly than Clinton’s did in 2008:
Bernie’s messaging, the presentation of the platform and rules in a way that made clear just what he’d won, and the progressive—and in the case of Michelle Obama, brilliantly humane—presentations on Monday were plainly calculated to open some of the Bernie diehards’ eyes. So did the presentations from children of undocumented immigrants and other speakers to whom it would be hard to argue that the difference between Clinton and Donald Trump wasn’t really all that great.
As the convention began, a new Pew poll showed that 88.5 percent of voters who’d consistently backed Sanders throughout the primary season now favored Clinton. A majority of the Sanders delegates in the hall in Philadelphia also back Clinton, but a loud Blinkered minority has managed to command disproportionate media coverage, which ever favors the loud. This disconsolate fringe—not just delegates but also the demonstrators lined up outside the convention area’s fencing—is almost entirely white and non-immigrant, people, that is, with less reason than some to fear a Trump presidency will overturn their lives. Nor are the demonstrators I’ve talked to preponderantly local, but rather have come from across the country to shout their rage and discontent. In short, the Blinkered are a fraction of the left, the Naderites come again. They are people who wouldn’t normally be involved either in Democratic politics or real-world progressive organizations, who hitched their wagon to Sanders’s star while many more experienced progressive activists failed to grasp Sanders’s potential for moving the world further in their direction than any political phenomenon in years.
My hunch—no more than that—is that if the election stays close, many of the Blinkered will reluctantly succumb to a very rational fear in the last two weeks of the campaign, and Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein’s vote will plummet just as Henry Wallace’s did in the final stretch of the 1948 campaign. The prospect of a Trump presidency will finally strike dread in all but the most hermetically sealed mentalities.
Even though they’re over-represented at the convention and MSNBC seemed determined to track down and interview each and every one of them, #BernieorBusters are a small, shrinking, figuratively and sometimes literally flatulent minority of Sanders supporters. People indifferent to the outcome of the election, or who (like Jill Stein*) are actively working to throw the election for Trump aren’t representative supporters and definitely aren’t representative of “The Left,” as much as they’d like you to think otherwise.
*Here is one BLISTERING hot take for you:
— Dr. Jill Stein (@DrJillStein) July 26, 2016
I was going to say that Jill Stein is to political commentary as Skip Bayless is to sports commentary, but that’s not really fair to the latter — Skip’s shitty takes aren’t actually part of a campaign willing to risk the the infliction of massive suffering on some of America’s most vulnerable citizens in exchange for no upside whatsoever.
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Donald Trump, racist whoopie cushion, appeared this afternoon in my hometown of Roanoke, Virginia, where I’ve relocated my insomnia for the past few weeks. Because I’m pathologically incapable of avoiding cheap and writable discomfort, I stood in line for several unwhiskeyed hours in 100-degree heat to experience the least-amusing civic joke in recent American history. At this point, one could assemble a pretty decent anthology of “I Went to a Trump Rally” narratives, so there’s nothing particularly special about the experience or about anything I might offer here. But today’s event was goddamn predictable and boring in a way that I actually found somewhat horrifying. There’s no question that the Trump campaign remains an ambling shitshow, and his “speech” reminded me of a somewhat less-cranked Spud from Trainspotting, but the normalization of Trump’s weirdness strikes me as more deeply troubling than what we all witnessed earlier in the year, when he was simply tugging his dick and yodeling while career patrons of the local Kum & Go punched hippies and black people. Adding to what Erik observed earlier, conditions like these underscore the horror of recognizing that Trump might actually win.
The two-hour wait outside the Hotel Roanoke was for the most part innocuous. It was hot and humid as Lucifer’s taint this morning, which might explain why no one in line near me was particularly chatty. My companion and I spent most of our time getting to know “Austin,” a 20-year-old future alimony delinquent from a nearby town who — if his odyssey was to be believed — had worked a 16-hour shift at a tire factory before driving several hours to spend time in the same room with Donald Trump, a humanoid pimento cheese tub. We talked about his family for a while before detouring into an extended review of his achievements on Call of Duty, interrupted by his occasional hoots of “TRUMP!” and “BLUE LIVES MATTER” when the local constabulary generously rolled by with another cooler of bottled water. When I asked if his parents shared his enthusiasm for politics, he ruefully shook his head, paused for a moment as if to relive an angry moment with Pop over the burn barrel, and explained that his folks preferred Ted Cruz. During a lull in the conversation, he showed me a recent match he’d earned on Badoo; “Scarlett,” as it turned out, was transgender, a deal-breaker for the young rake Austin.
While everyone waited for the hotel doors to open, journeymen plied their trade along the line. Every single one of them was a person of color, engaged in a secondary grift layered atop the primary grift that had drawn people like Austin to Roanoke in the first place. For $20, vendors offered shirts emblazoned with Elizabethan insults like “If you don’t bleed red, white & blue take your bitch ass home” or “If you build it, they won’t come” (featuring Trump waving through the fissure in a nearly-finished brick wall — an image that incongruously puts the shirt’s observer on the other side of the wall from Trump, implicating all of us as Mexican rapists and drug dealers.) In any event, I didn’t know what to make of the fact that literally the only black people in sight were fleecing white folks and selling them new church clothes; it’s difficult to cheer the continued circulation of dumb Lewinsky blowjob jokes (e.g., “Hillary sucks, but not like Monica”), but at least the proceeds were flowing away from the Trump campaign.
After gaining entry at long last to the air-conditioned hotel ballroom, we lingered for another two hours before the event began. During the last half-hour, the listless Trumpkins distinguished themselves mostly by failing to sustain any of the predictable chants — “USA,” “Build the Wall,” and “Lock Her Up” — for longer than about ten seconds. It’s been years since I spent much time in Roanoke, and while it may be somewhat less amped than the irate cornholes that seem to populate the campaign’s itinerary, I was mildly surprised that the self-assigned pep-squad deputies scattered around the room were unable to whip up some stiffer peaks of fury before the arrival of TrumpPence. Alas.
While the millennials in front of me Tweeted and Snapchatted and swiped left and right, the Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” played unironically in the background. The song reminded me of The Big Chill, which reminded me of how much I hate The Big Chill, before I remembered that the song plays during the opening scene of The Big Chill, which involves the dressing of a corpse who had filleted his goddamn wrists so his friends could come to his funeral and smoke dope and fuck each other for a few days. It’s not the first tune that would come to mind if I were assembling a “Make America Great Again” playlist, but no one asked me.
Finally, the Indiana tube sock known as “Mike Pence” emerged to introduce Trump, who apparently developed his “big heart” toward and “understanding” of Americans by building things with them — “skyscrapers and skylines,” Pence explained, which Trump completed by “standing shoulder to shoulder” with the people he employed. No, really. After some armpit fart noises about how Trump would get better trade deals from other countries and how we need a president “who digs coal,” Pence welcomed the man that the better-liberals-than-you in your Facebook feed regard as a threat no more worrisome than Hillary Clinton. It took Trump all of about five seconds to mention all the beautiful property he owns in Virginia and how he signs lots of paychecks in the commonwealth, before he proceeded into a distracted, 45-minute vortex that consisted mostly of scattered commentary on the sectarian drama unfolding within the Democratic Party. He cracked wise about Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, made fun of Tim Kaine for being a “weird little guy,” invoked BENGHAZI! and Pocahontas, and accused Clinton of being a “low-energy” candidate who needs to take lots of naps. I wasn’t aware that this was a thing with Clinton, but evidently Trump believes napping is detrimental to national security, a point he ought to take up with Ronald Reagan someday. The entire speech was an incoherent mess, as if Donald Trump’s brain were a Firefox window, and he sits at his desk every day shuttling between various Breitbart sites, YouTube, and Craigslist Casual Encounters, never bothering to wonder how he managed to wind up with 75 open tabs.
But the audience today didn’t care. In his own distracted way, Trump is a genius who understands that his supporters are simply bundles of dopamine receptors. All he needs to do is invoke BENGHAZI!, or the Second Amendment, or the importance of repealing the Johnson amendment, and he earns a room full of ecstatic eyerolls and jazz hands. During the “town hall” portion of the event — which consisted of three questions and a prayer — someone asked if Trump would promise to support Israel “100 percent” (whatever that means). Trump simply nodded and said “yes,” and the entire room went fucking bazonkers. He barely even needed to mention The Wall, except to promise that it would keep heroin out of New Hampshire and that it would be “as good looking as possible.” His biggest applause line, in fact, came when he griped about the fact that an enclosed hotel ballroom packed with 1200 bodies might get a little warm after two hours. Because he evidently doesn’t understand physics, Trump blamed the hotel itself for being inept — blurting out that he didn’t even know its name — before announcing that the owners “should be ashamed of themselves” and that if he were staying there, he’d skip out on the bill. That’s right: A man who aspires to live in the White House is now trying to earn Bad-Ass Points with his supporters by fantasizing about something equivalent to a dine-and-dash. And at the moment, this is a man who stands a 40 percent chance of winning in November.
I bring these examples up in light of the new WikiLeaks revelations about staffers of the Democratic National Committee and their attitudes toward this year’s Democratic nomination race. The disclosed e-mails have been depicted as showing a rigged system that systematically undermined Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign.
But even if you believe the worst interpretations of these e-mails, the evidence is pretty mild. What we see is DNC staffers trying to spin the media in favor of Hillary Clinton and to complain to each other about Sanders. One certainly does not get the impression that the DNC staff was impartial between Clinton and Sanders — they appear biased and unprofessional — but there’s hardly evidence they materially manipulated the contest.
Wikileaks’s tweets conjured dark and menacing conspiracies, but these are not borne out by the emails themselves. Take the group’s claim that the “DNC knew of Hillary paid troll factory attacking Sanders online.” The highlighted email isn’t some secret communication laying out nefarious plots. It’s a summary of a panel discussion on Fox News Sunday.
But forget the emails for a second. The main problem with the notion that the DNC rigged the results for Clinton is that it requires one to assume the improbable. The DNC had no role or authority in primary contests, which are run by state governments. Clinton dominated the primaries. The DNC, through state parties, had a bit more influence over caucuses … where Sanders dominated Clinton.
None of the thousands of leaked emails and documents show the DNC significantly influencing the results of the nomination. Furthermore, if it is true that last fall Clinton campaign chair John Podesta tried but failed to have DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz sacked, the underlying premise of the entire WikiLeaks dump—that Wasserman Schultz machinated to deliver Clinton the nomination—is hard to believe.
The main direct consequences of the WikiLeaks dump have been the resignation of Wasserman Schultz—which will probably relieve the Clinton team as much as satisfy Sanders supporters—and tut-tutting from the press, which sees something nefarious in the DNC strategizing how to get favorable press or grousing about a campaign accusing it of corruption.
When the best evidence you have of a conspiracy is a not notably influential staffer making a dumb and offensive suggestion that was not acted on because it was dumb and offensive…there’s no conspiracy.
Here a few Monday links for your evening perusal:
- OK, we may never completely solve the mystery that is the text on the sides of the Dr. Bronner’s soap bottles…but do we really want to?
- My longtime internet pal and all-around awesome guy, Big Bad Bald Bastard talks about the scammier side of Trump and his supporters. They’ll cure your butt cancer! Oh no, wait: they are butt cancer.
- Somebody has proven that “Atheism has failed!” Is there anything feminism can’t ruin? I mean, first Ghostbusters, now an entire philosophy? Bitches be busy.
- The Republican convention boosted biz for a Cleveland dungeon. Lemme show you my shocked face. Oh no, that’s not my shocked face, that’s my resting smug and world-weary face. Let’s Make America Kinky !
- I’ve got two new pieces up, “Defiance Creek” and “Menu.”
I agree with Scott that polls taken a couple of days after a convention mean almost nothing in regard to predicting who will win an election that’s still more than three months away. I also agree with him that Clinton should still be considered a solid to heavy favorite because Trump appears to be both a uniquely awful and incompetent candidate (he still has nothing resembling a normal campaign organization, nor is there any evidence that he’s raising real money).
Still, we now have several recent polls which show Clinton and Trump essentially tied in regard to the national popular vote. And although this fact has in itself very little predictive significance, it’s still plenty depressing for other reasons.
There’s a famous garbled anecdote, misused by right wing pundits as a supposed example of out of touch left wing intellectuals failing to predict elections, regarding how Pauline Kael said she couldn’t understand how Nixon beat McGovern when everybody she knew voted for McGovern. OK, but . . . Donald Trump??? How is it possible that he’s polling even with Clinton at present? Potential explanations, from least to most disturbing:
(1) A general anti-establishment mood in the electorate, that’s hurting uber-establishment candidate HRC. To the extent this explains Trump’s popularity, then it’s like that somebody like Warren would be killing him.
(2) Low information partisan responses. Relative to the average person who posts or comments on political blogs, most people pay essentially no attention to the details of day to day politics, or the actual positions espoused by particular candidates. On this account, Trump’s support has little to do with anything about him other than that he’s not the Democrat Party’s candidate.
(3) Hatred of Clinton specifically. Part of this is a product of 25 years of GOP hysteria with its endless fake scandals, etc. Part of it is no doubt old fashioned misogyny. Part of it is that Clinton has shown poor judgment/a political tin ear on a number of issues, such as taking millions of dollars from banksters for giving a few speeches on the eve of her presidential run. I think one reason people swooned for Kaine so much on Saturday was simply that he wasn’t Clinton, and a lot of people are suffering from Clinton fatigue, for both bad and good reasons.
(4) Ethno-nationalist nativism, soft version. “I’m not a racist but . . .” (I hate PC, immigrants are taking our jobs, I hate the bilingual signs at Home Depot, yeah Trump says some bad things but Hillary” etc etc).
(5) Ethno-nationalist nativism, hard version. “I believe in white supremacy. If that makes me a racist then I guess I’m a racist.”
Obviously all these things are factors in the astonishing fact that at the moment nearly half the American electorate (and fully half of the electorate once you toss out votes for Gary Johnson and Jill Stein) is made up of people who say they’re going to vote for Trump. The extent to which the factors at the top of the list predominate determine whether something other than deep pessimism about the overall political situation is warranted. What that extent actually is I have no idea.
Yes, I know that the fundamentals are against Trump, like they are against any Republican candidate. But if there’s one thing we should take from the Republican National Convention, it’s that the racist disaster of it did not hurt him at all. The rapidly changing 538 forecast is scary, not because Trump is receiving a major post-convention bump right now, which is expected, but because there is literally nothing he could do that would convince most Republican voters not to vote for him. All the racism, all the complaining among the Republican elite about him, it all means nothing. The New Yorker story about the guy who actually wrote The Art of the Deal exposing what a complete psychopath that Trump is, it means nothing. Trump joking about having sex with his daughter and his history of womanizing, it means nothing to voters who talk about morals and sin.
In the end, I don’t see how this election looks much different than 2012, in that while it is likely that the Democrats will win, it’s far from guaranteed. It’s probably going to rely on the same close states that it usually does. Even an extremist racist unstable candidate like Donald Trump is going to win 45 percent of the vote. It’s going to be a fight to finish, perhaps not only for this election but for the future of the republic given Trump’s complete disdain for democratic norms. All hands on deck.
Watching a few minutes of Bernie Sanders’s speech to his supporters made me very worried about this convention. Not because of Sanders. But because many of his die-hard supporters who are at the convention hate Hillary. When he brings her name up, they still boo. What Clinton needs is a convention that is united and shows stability going forward into the election. I don’t think that’s going to happen. Bernie can’t control these people and they have no intention of being controlled. Some are probably going to jeer Hillary Clinton during her acceptance speech on Thursday. I think we are going to see a really divisive four days with a media narrative about an untrustworthy Hillary Clinton that can’t unite her party, even though the actual Bernie supporters sitting at home watching are rapidly coming around to voting for Clinton. This is very much not good news going forward to the last three months of this horrible election year.
Trump has eked past Hillary Clinton in the polling averages. This has led my Twitter feed to light up with consternation. But let’s keep some perspective, shall we? The Monday after the RNC should be the most favorable point for Trump. John McCain had a narrow lead in the Gallup tracking poll after the RNC and Dukakis had a double-digit one.
I wouldn’t say don’t panic, exactly, because any chance that Trump could win is pretty much a reason to panic, and it’s possible that he could win. But nothing about these polls suggests that Clinton doesn’t remain a heavy favorite. If Trump maintains this bounce a month from now, that’s a different story, but as of now it doesn’t mean very much.
I guess I am just amazed by Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s determination to address the convention, even though she knows she is going to get booed and shouted down. I imagine she sees herself as a righteous figure and I’m sure she knows this is the pinnacle of her political career, but why would you put yourself through this for nothing? And why would the Clinton team be OK with this?
We’ll be down for maintenance for the next couple of hours.