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On The Accept-No-Responsibility, Blame-Everyone-Else Posture

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Amazingly, Glenn Greenwald has gone back to this well a second time:

It is not an exaggeration to say that the Democratic Party is in shambles as a political force. Not only did it just lose the White House to a wildly unpopular farce of a candidate despite a virtually unified establishment behind it

I mean, Paul has already been through this, but this assertion couldn’t possibly be more wrong. It is astoundingly wrong. It’s so obviously wrong that when I tweeted about this after Paul’s first post I was accused of arguing against a strawman. Perhaps you’ve heard of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell? They’re the Republican establishment, two of the three most powerful elected officials in the United States. They supported Trump. And they will have very wide latitude to gut the Great Society and New Deal because most of the Republican conference supported Trump, with any opposition melting away as the campaign proceeded. (He called Ted Cruz’s wife ugly and accused Ted Cruz’s father of conspiring to kill JFK. He endorsed Trump anyway, and please spare me the bullshit about how a public official announcing who he plans to vote for isn’t an “endorsement.”) And if we extend this beyond elected officials, the American establishment is firmly in support of Trump — he was sent to the White House by rich white people.

And even among the parts of the American establishment that nominally opposed Trump, we have to question how serious and effectual this opposition was. Yes, virtually every newspaper op-ed page came out against Trump. But far more important than this was their coverage of the candidates, and here their obsessive focus on EMAILS! to the exclusion of discussions of public policy were a huge benefit to Trump. Trump did receive a fair amount of negative coverage, but because his scandals didn’t receive the kind of sustained attention Clinton’s pseudo-scandals did, the result was at worst a wash for Trump that allowed this to play out essentially as a fundamentals-and-partisanship election. And it was possible for him to win that election…because the Republican Party was united behind Trump.

…and not only is it the minority party in both the Senate and the House, but it is getting crushed at historical record rates on the state and local levels as well.

There’s something rather important being left out of the analysis here — namely, that the Democratic candidate for president won the popular vote by a margin likely to exceed two million votes, and Democrats also got far more total votes for the Senate. The Democratic Party certainly has serious problems, particularly in relatively low-turnout state elections, but they also have to deal with the fact that the Constitution massively over-represents the conservative rural and suburban interests represented by the Republican Party.

We then get to a monocausal explanation for Clinton’s defeat:

Quite the contrary, Democrats have spent the last 10 days flailing around blaming everyone except for themselves, constructing a carousel of villains and scapegoats – from Julian Assange, Vladimir Putin, James Comey, the electoral college, “fake news,” and Facebook, to Susan Sarandon, Jill Stein, millennials, Bernie Sanders, Clinton-critical journalists and, most of all, insubordinate voters themselves – to blame them for failing to fulfill the responsibility that the Democratic Party, and it alone, bears: to elect Democratic candidates.

I do agree that it’s wrong for the DNC to focus solely on external factors as a way of ducking responsibility for mistakes they made. But this cuts both ways — it’s equally wrong to deny responsibility to other actors who affected the election results because you want to make the strategic decisions of the DNC the One True Cause of losing the election. The idea that we shouldn’t criticize James Comey’s massively inappropriate intervention into the election is absurd. The idea that we should ignore Comey’s intervention even though Clinton lost a substantial amount of support after the letter was released is absurd. (And if you want to say that we should ignore this because we can’t prove to an absolute certainty that any of Clinton’s accelerated loss of support was caused by the extraordinary amount of coverage given to Comey’s letter about nothing, OK, but then you certainly can’t turn around and make inherently unfalsifiable assertions about how Clinton lost because of “bad messaging” or whatever other Halperinism.) It is absurd to say that we shouldn’t criticize the media for treating Clinton’s EMAILS as more important than Trump’s racism or to deny that this had a significant effect on the race. I agree that Stein probably did not materially affect the outcome in the end, although how much of a pass she deserves because her campaign, whose only possible effect would be to put Trump in the White House, failed to be consequential because she failed to attract enough support is questionable.

But of course, the key people Glenn asserts have to be preemptively cleared of any responsibility for the catastrophe are “Julian Assange” and “Clinton-critical journalists.” The Intercept, during an election campaign between a competent, moderate liberal and an unprecedentedly unfit and corrupt candidate who ideologically represents a cross between George Wallace and Calvin Coolidge, devoted a substantial amount of resources to analyzing hacked emails from the campaign of the former. And rather than admitting that they had been sent on a snipe hunt by an Australian libertarian who was plainly trying to throw the election to Wallace/Coolidge, they decided to hype up inane trivia (“Hillary Clinton’s campaign has a PUBLICIST!” “Candidates say snarky things about opposing candidates in private emails!”) as if they were revealing the Pentagon Papers. And, as Paul says, they did this in the context of media coverage being dominated by the coverage of Clinton non-scandals that revealed no significant misconduct, drowning out coverage of the countless examples of Trump’s actual misconduct. I can’t blame Glenn and his publication for wanting to be preemptively absolved of any responsibility, but it won’t fly. It is absolutely true that The Intercept — like mainstream publications — also published coverage critical of Trump. Both Sides Do It was perfectly good enough for Trump, and while that it helped Trump in itself doesn’t condemn the press coverage the fact that this effective false equivalence is utterly ludicrous certainly does.

And, appropriately enough, we finish with Glenn being far more generous to the Republican Party than is remotely merited:

This Accept-No-Responsibility, Blame-Everyone-Else posture stands in stark contrast to how the Republican National Committee reacted in 2012, after it lost the popular vote for the fifth time in six presidential elections. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus called Mitt Romney’s loss “a wake-up call,” and he was scathing about his party’s failures: “there’s no one reason we lost. Our message was weak; our ground game was insufficient; we weren’t inclusive; we were behind in both data and digital; our primary and debate process needed improvement . . . So, there’s no one solution: There’s a long list of them.”

The RNC’s willingness to admit its own failures led to a comprehensive 1oo-page report, issued only a few months after its 2012 defeat, that was unflinching in its self-critique.

Whoa, whoa, are you shitting me? The RNC is getting credit for its SEARING SELF-EXAMINATION about its perception of being too close to plutocrats and unfriendly to racial minorities before the election in which they nominated Donald Trump? Fortunately, Glenn saves me the trouble of further critique:

One irony of 2016 is that the candidate who won the GOP nomination, and ultimately the presidency, not only ignored many of the autopsy’s core recommendations but embodied everything it warned against.

Uh, yes, that’s one hell of an irony — indeed, one can say that it completely destroys the underpinning of Glenn’s entire take. But to a lot of the media, Both Sides Do It But Democrats Are Worse is always an essential truth irrespective of the facts.

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