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How Bannon Mattered


“Brilliant! Its lack of evidence makes it all the more compelling, and some of the mistakes were corrected in a Kindle edition!” —Doug Henwood

To state the obvious, here was never any chance than Bannon was going to get Republicans to raise taxes on the rich or pass a real infrastructure bill (as opposed to a bill of tax breaks labelled “infrastructure.”) But that doesn’t mean he’s irrelevant to Trump’s raise. As Chait says, his crucial role was helping to create a media environment in which Hillary Clinton was portrayed as the corrupt and dishonest candidate in a race in which her opponent shattered any previous standard of corruption and dishonesty:

As Green explains, Bannon came out of a wing of the conservative movement that was professionally dedicated to discrediting Bill and Hillary Clinton. The anti-Clinton industry had existed since the early 1990s as both a partisan messaging tool and a reliable source of income. Bannon’s key insight was that the anti-Clinton campaign of the 1990s failed. The conservative media ecosystem recirculated lurid fantasies that the Clintons were murderers, connected to a drug cartel, and so on. They whipped their base into a failed crusade for impeachment while destroying their credibility with the mainstream media.

Rather than dismiss the mainstream media as hopelessly biased, as most conservatives did, Bannon grasped both its importance and potential utility. He believed sufficiently credible research could be injected into news organs that potential Clinton voters would read. He helped fund and direct research, such as “Clinton Cash,” which depicted Hillary Clinton as greedy and criminal.

Bannon’s work in the anti-Clinton complex turned out to shape the battlefield for the campaign in precisely the way he predicted. The news media relentlessly cast the Democratic front-runner as secretive and corrupt, to the point where she was almost no longer the front-runner at all. Her favorable ratings were bound to fall when she returned from a non-political role as secretary of State to candidate taking live bullets. But the scope of the fall was shocking…

The unconscionable decision of the New York Times to partner with Breitbart to publish anti-Clinton propaganda was the beginning of the endless pursuit of inane snipe hunts that would ultimately put Trump into the White House.  And the alt-right faction of the FBI was apparently a big fan of Clinton Cash, too. Bannon’s legacy will not be changing the direction of the Republican Party. Rather, his legacy will be playing a major role in electing Trump, which allowed for the advancement of orthodox Republican priorities like the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, the gutting of the EPA, etc. (And as I said about Assange, Bannon’s cleverness as a propagandist hardly lets the journalists who eagerly went along off the hook. They made choices.)

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  • BobOso

    I think we give them too much credit. Bannon’s final legacy will be launching the Trump Network for one final grift after 2020.

    • kvs

      He may do that. But it’s silly to deny how influential news coverage remains. And he contributed to getting fringe propaganda covered by non-fringe outlets. Breitbart’s the latest innovation in that project extending back through Drudge’s geocities-era themed page, forwarded email chains, and Bircher newsletters.

      • Most of t-rump’s associates are incompetent and incapable of starting a business, or making it a success. t-rump himself either bought other people’s achievements (hotels, resorts, airlines) or accepted money to slap his name on someone else’s business. He’s not a builder or a creator. He’s a grabber, a wrecker.

      • Aaron Morrow

        The mainstream press is so influential that *Chait* carried water for Clinton Cash back in 2015 when he clearly should have known better, simply because the WP and the NYT ran with it.

        • humanoidpanda

          I think this a bit too harsh on Chait: the Clintons did money grab on all cilindets, and it was both unseemly and indicative of a very problematic elite culture. The problem is really not how the media covered HRC, it’s how it failed to put her actions on proper context. And the context is that she was running against someone both more corrupt and blatantly incompetent, while a series of hacks of her campaign revealed fay zero nothing

    • CS Clark

      The final grift will be the Caged Wisdom DVD YouTube channel.

      • Dalai_Rasta

        Worst Caged Heat remake ever.

  • Joe Paulson

    confirmation of Neil Gorsuch

    “Justice Gorsuch to speak at Trump hotel next month”


  • Hypersphericalcow

    The “DEBBIE WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ CLEARED THE FIELD” narrative wouldn’t have gotten off the ground if there hadn’t already been a presumption of Clinton’s corruption. I’m not surprised to find out that Bannon had a hand in it.

    • Michael

      I wonder if Greenwald was politically conscious during the 90s he might have been aware of the nature of anti-Clinton and animus and been more credulous. Maybe.

      • Scott Lemieux

        I assume you mean less credulous, because where Clinton is concerned he couldn’t have been more credulous.

        • Michael

          Yes, that is what I meant. For someone who routinely excoriates people for advancing wrong and pernicious media narratives he seems remarkably unable to admit his own failures.

        • Koolhand21

          The NYT was the source of the Whitewater ‘scandal’ and hounded the Clintons thereafter. Bonus was bringing Gore into the liar liar portion of the coverage (obvs see The Daily Howler).
          Bannon hardly qualifies as anything other than an opportunist who recognized a bigger opportunist in the NYT.
          The Wapo seems to at least have changed their tune on the news side although the editorial board hasn’t learned much. The media has failed this country for so long, it is astonishing when they can actually perform their supposed function.

  • Tom B

    I mentioned this already today, but I really want to know how journalism schools today are covering the 2016 election, and how they’re going to in the future. Because as you said, the New York Times bears massive responsibility for Trump and I really hope that’s made unambiguously clear to future journalists.

    • I guarantee that journalism schools have not changed their curriculum one iota in response to the election coverage.

      • Whatever the schools teach they’re all still addicted to clicks, right? Trump and the nytimes latest attempt in concern trolling work so why change?

      • Origami Isopod

        I don’t even think there are journalism schools anymore. It’s all “Communications” now.

    • CP

      Because as you said, the New York Times bears massive responsibility for
      Trump and I really hope that’s made unambiguously clear to future

      I wonder how many people are even aware of this, or would accept it if made aware of it.

      After all, everyone knows that the media is liberally biased. And all the newspapers endorsed Clinton anyway, amirite? So that shows you whose side they were really on. Besides, everyone knows Clinton cleared the field, and how could she have done that if the media hadn’t been helping her.

    • mattius3939

      Why, or how, would journalism school react to the news coverage in 2016? I mean this sincerely. The media failed, but in the same way that the media has long failed: by putting the end goal (sensationalism, stock price, market share) ahead of the means (reliable journalism). The Times et al., focused on clicks and “winning the media cycle”. What is journalism school supposed to do about a business’s, or an industry’s, pursuit of profit?

      I mean this in a sincere and straightforward way: What can journalism school do to change our media environment for the better? Is that the place where change should/could start?

    • cpinva

      the NYT’s also bears massive responsibility for the election/re-election of Bush in 2000/2004. In turn, this led to 9-11/Afghanistan/Iraq/near depression of 2008. the NYT’s culpability in fucking this country up cannot be overstated.

      • mattius3939

        I think this is an important lesson: The NYT, as good as their reporting may be between elections, is as bad an actor as any during election season. The darkness, as they like to contrast themselves to between elections, seems to be their business model during elections.

        Everytime I see some prominent person or institution be critical of the conservative movement in real time, I wonder whether they can learn the pattern and apply the lesson learned to preventing the next debacle. How many times are republicans going to take us to the brink of catastrophe (and sometimes beyond!) before people/institutions (The F*cking NYT!) start using their powers of prevention to warn people – “hey, remember when republicans ran as compassionate conservatives then lied the USA into war crimes, torture, and boom-and-bust economic policies? Remember when republicans ran in 2010 as the champions of medicare despite all past and future efforts to privatize it? Remember when republicans promoted white nationalism to the highest office of the land, then only 17 of 200-some odd republican elected officials called out the ensuing terrorism perpetrated by FUCKING GODDAMN NAZIS!?!?!?!?!?! Remember… etc etc.” I mean, this list could go on for years.

        As we used to say in the military: At what point does learning occur?

        • cpinva

          “As we used to say in the military: At what point does learning occur?”

          a friend of mine worked for DoD. He wrote military training manuals. According to him, those manuals were written at an 8th grade level. Based on that, i’d guess learning never occurs.

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    I have heard Democratic oppo research folks say that the Dems were at a disadvantage against Trump last year because they basically had to start from square one at the start of the campaign; they’d been preparing for years to run against Jeb and even Rubio and Walker. Democrats benefited from this sort of thing in 2008, when Republicans were all prepared to run against Clinton, but got Obama instead. I really do think there’s a huge advantage running a relatively unexpected candidate that the other party has never had to prepare for. Republicans benefitted last year from two decades worth of attacks on the Clintons. The fact that 99% of these attacks were nonsense (and a lot more of the true 1% was true about Bill, not Hillary) mattered little. The narratives were in place. Everyone could stay on message. The media, long in the habit of reporting nonsense about the Clintons, were easily rolled. This is one of the many reasons that I don’t want to spend too much time thinking about the 2020 Democratic nomination right now. When that campaign comes around, I honestly hope the candidate is someone we cannot imagine would win the nomination today.

    • Stella Barbone

      It’s the usual dilemma. A candidate with experience and history has always compromised and made a few bad or out-moded decisions. If that candidate is a D, then they have also been a target of the RWNJ fever swamp. A relatively unknown candidate is a lot harder to demagogue, but you run the risk of a Carter, a Macron, or, uh, worse (a name that doesn’t belong in the same sentence as Carter). “Outsiders” face a steep learning curve and you may not get one who is as sharp as WJC or BHO.

      • JamesWimberley

        It’s premature to write off Macron. His honeymoon in the polls has been short. But he’s been ruthless in dropping allies tainted by scandal, and has handled Trump well.

        • IM

          Macron has a majority and still a lot of time.

    • N__B

      I can't imagine Chelsea Clinton winning the nomination.

      • IM

        It will be rigged in her favor.

        • Hogan

          I’ve already had three calls from Debbie Wasserman-Schultz ordering me not to run against her.

          • efgoldman

            I’ve already had three calls from Debbie Wasserman-Schultz ordering me not to run against her

            They’re obviously scared to death of your fund raising prowess.

    • kvs

      I don’t buy that as an excuse. If they had to start from square one that’s a result of professional negligence and incompetence. Either from failing to act because they didn’t appreciate how likely he was to win the nomination or failing to act because they thought he’d be a pushover in the general election.

      It’s not like Trump was unknown to the world before he announced his candidacy.

      • CS Clark

        Perhaps not so much having things they could use against him as knowing which things were the best to use. For example, concentrating on the fact that he is a shitty person, rather than him being a shitty businessman. A dilemma compounded by the fact that there’s an entire industry, as well as a substantial number of hobbyists, based around telling Democrats that whatever they are doing is wrong (cf reaction to the delorables speech).

        And also, not knowing which attacks will be effective in getting people to switch, or at least vote third-party/stay at home, such as drastically overestimating how revelations of breaking most of the Ten Commandments and boasting of how he would like to break at least one other would play with the ‘Christians’.

        • searcher

          The thing that makes me angry about the way some non-deplorables reacted to the basket-of-deplorables speech is NOW WE HAVE TRUMP-SUPPORTING, TRUMP-APPROVED NAZIS RIOTING IN THE STREETS.

          “Deplorable” is as good a word as any.

          • so-in-so

            Turns out it was too mild.

        • kvs

          Professional negligence and incompetence still describe that. Focus groups and polling exist. And nothing forced them to keep their powder dry until the general election debates in the first place.

      • Cranky Observer

        It was pretty clear after the 2nd or 3rd Republican debate and the first wave of candidates dropping out that Trump had a good chance to take it – at least from my perspective eating lunch in a midwestern factory lunchroom. If Secretary Clinton’s campaign missed that possibility that would have been huge, but I would want to see some evidence that was so. I don’t like Clinton personally but her 2016 campaign was 100x better-run than the 2008 version, seemed pretty competent, and was far better organized than Trump’s. Only thing I would question is the decision to spend so much time/effort in Georgia.

        • kvs

          It’s not debatable that they missed the opportunity to unload on his campaign during the primary. The reason why is debatable but ultimately leads to the same conclusion about their professional abilities. Misreading Trump’s viability in the primaries is as bad as ignoring the risk that anyone who wins a major party nomination might end up as president.

          • Cranky Observer

            Attacking Trump during the primary would have carried the risk of swinging nominally moderate Republicans to his side in charges of “liberal interference in Republican business”. The only campaign I know of to do that successfully was McCaskill’s and she faced a different and specific situation very difficult calculations.

            • lawguy

              How could it have been worse?

              • Cranky Observer

                Benefit of perfect hindsight there, no?

            • kvs

              Democrats wouldn’t have had to attack directly. They could have seeded stories in the press that reporters would then do the legwork to flesh out. As long as the contact didn’t end up on WikiLeaks.

              The most notable thing about this election cycle was that Trump’s coverage during the primary didn’t follow the usual pattern. The usual way that a candidate becomes the front runner is that they get favorable coverage for whatever reason (straw poll, debate, rally, speech, primary performance), rise in the polls, the press does investigative reporting, and barring something to break the narrative the candidate falls in the polls. The press largely avoided the discovery phase with Trump and gave him positive coverage during the primary.

              The usual pattern is backed up by research in The Gamble. The 2016 pattern is backed up by the studies published after the primaries.

              • Cranky Observer

                The mainstream press didn’t accept seedlings from the Democratic side of the aisle.

                • kvs

                  The Access Hollywood Tape and Alicia Machado beg to differ, for starters. Trump did end up getting negative coverage in the general.

                • Cranky Observer

                  Well, a 2:10,000 ratio is not encouraging.

                • kvs

                  Those were hardly the only negative stories. Nor were they 1 day affairs. Trump received plenty of negative coverage during the general election, including stories about self-dealing through his foundation, the scammy Trump University operations, his alleged bribe to the FL AG, and his connections to Russia.

                  But all of that was saved until after he had the nomination.

                  Clinton was dragged for 2 years.

          • Sebastian_h

            The concept at the time, lest we forget, was that Democrats were so sure that Trump would be the easiest Republican to beat that maybe Democrats should interfere in the Republican primaries by voting for him. If the one good thing that comes out of all this is to nail that coffin closed, well it won’t be nearly enough, but…

            • kvs

              Professional strategists are supposed to know better and be more responsible than amateurs.

    • Michael

      Has there been much of an attack machine against Elizabeth Warren? I feel like part of the strength of Bernie and other members of the more progressive wing is they had been effectively marginalized as left wing kooks (like Dennis Kutchnith) which isn’t so powerful a narrative if they get out and talk and well…aren’t.

      • mattmcirvin

        The “Pocahontas” thing is the main attack on her, which is basically a way of riling up racists, while knocking back liberals a little bit because it brings up genuinely problematic stuff about white people’s claims of Native American ancestry, etc.

        There was also some oppo about various unsympathetic clients she represented when she was a lawyer, typical stuff.

        • Michael

          In a normal world, I’d say the Pochantaus thing couldn’t possibly have any lasting impact…but this is not the normal world.

          I wonder if there’s anything Warren could say that would defang it for the liberals. Again, I’d say the fact that’s it a Trump line means it couldn’t have impact, but so many people bought the “crooked Hilary” line. There needs to be a consistent put down against him for the campaign.

          • Guest

            How about the fact that Warren has exactly the same amount of documented Native American ancestry as the current chief of the tribe from which she’s descended?

            • Zagarna_84

              Keep in mind that you’re dealing with racists here.

              The conclusion they’re going to draw from the information you’ve just presented is that the entire tribe is a fraud. Abstract critiques of blood quanta, etc. are not going to penetrate.

            • heckblazer

              Unless something turned up in the five years since this Atlantic article was published, she doesn’t have any conclusively documented Cherokee ancestors, and most especially does not have a direct ancestor on the Dawes Rolls as would be required for tribal citizenship. Then again, she also never used claims of Native American ancestry for career advantage, so the claim that she lied to get affirmative action benefits is just a nasty racist smear.

              • Unemployed_Northeastern

                Yup. She was already a chaired professor at Harvard before anyone asked her about her ancestry (and a chaired prof at Penn before that). And she was, at the time of her Harvard hiring, the ONLY law professor who attended a public law school. HLS has like 150 faculty.

              • Guest

                Well you have some major problems with your article there, like the fact that it’s incomplete. You know, about how the part where the tribe in question has engaged in multiple ‘prunings’ of it’s tribal rolls over the years. Last I heard on the issue was that she has a documented ancestor who was one would expect to be on a purely unbiased purely historical tribal roll but isn’t because ‘reasons.’

                Tribal Rolls are absolutely not the definitive list of who is and isn’t a descendant of Native Americans.

                • heckblazer

                  You are absolutely correct that you can be of Native American descent without having an ancestor on the rolls. The Warren ancestor in the article wouldn’t be on the rolls whatever her actual status because she died well before the rolls were created. Having an ancestor on the rolls is pretty dispositive though, which makes Warren’s situation a bit different from a sitting chief. and therefore a comparison I myself wouldn’t make.

                • I read a very interesting article about her family–maybe in the Globe?–which demonstrated that the family had split about four generations back over what was clearly perceived as a racial intermarriage with half the family pretty much refusing to associate with her half of the family. The family pictures of her side include a seriously non white (i.e. native american) guy as an ancestor. The fact that the supposedly white side/descendants don’t acknowledge it isn’t proof it didn’t happen, its proof that claiming native american ancestry was highly problematic and disfavored at the time that the NA part entered the family tree.

          • stepped pyramids

            I don’t think it has any fangs for liberals, in part because it’s been a right-wing attack line for so long. Trump calls her “Pocahontas” by reflex at this point. Any Democrat who decided to attack her based on that would be inviting comparisons.

            • DonnaDiva

              And let’s not ignore the thick rapey overtone of it.

          • I think the right thing to say about it is it’s completely irrelevant. We’re running for President of the United States, not President of the schoolyard.

      • Stella Barbone

        Made money foreclosing on houses in OK. Lives in a mansion. Harvard professor. There’s probably more, but I don’t want to look at the kind of websites that would tell me.

      • SamR

        I listen to Red Sox games on MLB’s radio app, and there are a TON of anti-Warren ads. The radio app streams the commentary from WEEI, I don’t know if they stream the ads as well or if the ads are specifically contracted with MLB.

  • efgoldman

    That the RWNJ noise machine spent years discrediting both Clintons is hardly surprising.
    That the supposed “paper of record” fell for it and kept front paging garbage assumptions instead of actual factual reporting, should have shocked us, I guess, but didn’t.

    • ColBatGuano

      Conservatives learned the Whitewater lesson: Throw enough material out there and some of it will stick in the Times and Post leading to “troubling reports” or “disturbing revelations”.

      • CP

        In fact, the Times and Post will eagerly jump all over it, as it’s a chance to prove that they’re not as liberally biased as everyone thinks. Never mind that nobody who thinks they’re liberally biased notices, gives a shit, or will ever stop accusing them of that.

    • That the supposed “paper of record” fell for it and kept front paging garbage assumptions

      The paper of broken record.

      • Elizabeth

        My brother once referred to it as “the mealy mouth of the machine.”

    • Sebastian_h

      The noise machine did the same to Obama and never got it to stick. The problem was either a) Clinton was a bad politician at getting it to roll off, or b) that there was a little bit of shadiness there with her political machine that didn’t exist with Obama’s. Or I suppose both.

      Part of the proof will come in the 2017 Clinton Foundation disclosures. If giving (especially from foreign sources) is way down it will tend to be confirming evidence that the Foundation was being used to trade on her theoretical status as possible President, rather than a more acceptable charitable purpose.

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    I had a comment removed from this thread because it was apparently “Detected as Spam” (though it somehow posted long enough to get an upvote). Sorry to go all meta, but it really wasn’t remotely spammy. Could Scott or one of the other LGMers give me a sense of what went wrong?

    • N__B

      I had a pithy response rejected because it had been removed. I haz a sad.

      • Snarki, child of Loki

        I had a truly ingenious comment on all of this, but the comment box was too small to contain it.

        • N__B

          I didn’t get big; the comment boxes got small.

          • BigHank53

            Forget it, Jake. It’s Disqustown.

            • N__B

              I prefer to think of it as decidecathalonville.

    • NewishLawyer

      It just went out the Buttocks of LGM.

    • JDTrust

      Similar issue today, different thread.

      Disqus has decided it’s in Chakram mode recently. Duck, cover, and advance.

    • It really hurts the feelings, doesn’t it? “What did I say?” one wonders sadly.

      • None of my comments have been “detected as spam”. Think of how hurt my feelings are!

    • If one goes to the down-arrow-thingy and selects “Flag as inappropriate”, one gets a menu of possible reasons, one of which is “Spam”. So, apparently, anyone can be a detective! Perhaps the proprietors simply haven’t availed themselves sufficiently of their (I assume) superpower of flag oversight?

  • Cranky Observer

    To a certain extent I prefer to keep my enemies in front of me where I can monitor what they are doing and counterattack. Bannon in the White House was bad. Will Bannon out of the White House be better? Or will Bannon back operating behind the scenes be even worse?

    • Gwai Lo, MD

      He (or at least Breitbart) has declared war on the “globalist Democrats” within the White House. I would like to speak up and correct Bannon on a few things, but my mouth is too full of popcorn.

      • Unemployed_Northeastern

        The irony being that Trump is the very definition of a globalist: has depended on a German bank for his credit for the last 20 years (supplemented by various Russian condo buyers and who knows what else), and has focused far more on licensing his name on foreign buildings, from Panama to the Middle East, rather than building things here in America.

        • kvs

          Give the man a break. We all know you don’t judge someone by what they do but by solely what they say they would do if they weren’t hamstrung by Ryan, McConnell, the failing press, and alt-left protesters.

  • aab84

    I agree with this, but just want to state the obvious: absolutely none of this makes him some sort of secret genius. “Hey, let’s talk about how that accomplished woman is a backstabbing corrupt bitch” is misogyny 101, not some sort of master plan.

    Not that I think you’re suggesting otherwise, but there’s been this persistent belief since the election — even on the left — that every idiotic Bannon move (from the travel ban to the Charlottesville response) is eleven billionth degree chess, rather than the random flailing of a possibly drug-addled neophyte whose only real skill is in stirring up the fever swamps. Even with his ridiculous Prospect interview, which was genuinely fireable rather than just Trump-fireable, the initial spin was that this was a brilliant plot to troll libs or something.

    The guy is a no-talent hack who has read the first 3 pages of the Cliff’s Notes of the Reader’s Digest version of some poorly translated random selections of Intro to Philosophy. Good riddance to one of the most overrated political figures of my lifetime.

    • AMK

      Most political operatives are overrated hacks who get lucky. Bannon’s core insight was that a (1) a guerilla marketing-style digital troll campaign could be extremely effective in mobilizing marginal/undecided/low-info voters with a candidate like Trump, and (2) the Acela-corridor professionals who run the Democratic Party and the mainstream media would be totally oblivious to this until it was too late because of Big Sort social dynamics.

      It doesn’t make him a genius, but it was a better play than Dems had, which boiled down to “algorithms built by the same three guys at Google say Trump can’t win so he won’t.”

      • aab84

        Trump got 3 million fewer votes than his opponent and a significant chunk of his own voters disapproved of him on election day. He also ran behind literally every Republican Senate candidate in a contested race other than Roy Blunt (who happened to be up against an outstanding candidate). And that’s after James Comey,

        I know he won, but let’s not go crazy on the brilliance of the strategy here.

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          the point is more about how stupid the Ds were to not have thrown over every other loyal part of their coalition to chase after white people in the midwest

          • Well, they dumped Gov Dean the minute Obama was elected. And never looked back. Never wondered if the 50-state strategy might be a good one. Nope.

            • jim, some guy in iowa

              the 50 state strategy ushered in a crop of neoliberals, conservadems and centrists who got wiped out in the ’10 and ’14 midterms. Thankfully they got us the ACA and some decent judges but it wasn’t as if Dean had the secret to permanent electoral success

              • nick056

                This is another way of saying Democratic governing majorities tend to have a high share of more conservative MoCs.

                Okay then. Seems like a fact we need to face until the underlying conditions stop being true.

              • kvs

                Dean wasn’t responsible for candidate recruitment. That was Rahm and Israel’s teams at the DCCC along with state and local parties.

            • stepped pyramids

              I guess at least not being DNC chair liberated Dean to oppose the ACA.

          • Zagarna_84

            It’s still unclear to me exactly why it was notionally necessary to “throw over every other loyal part of their coalition to chase after white people in the midwest.”

            Couldn’t they have chased after those people by, you know, proposing policies that would benefit them (and others, presumably) and putting out advertisements about those policies instead of about how horrible a person Donald Trump is?

            • jim, some guy in iowa

              the voters who made the economy their priority voted for Ds. They were outvoted by people who were more concerned about immigration and terrorism. You wanted the Ds to do what, exactly, for *them*?

              • Zagarna_84

                “the voters who made the economy their priority voted for Ds.”

                I literally don’t even know what this sentence means. That people who cited the economy as the most important factor in exit polls voted Democratic at a slightly higher rate than the general populace? So what? Maybe the Democrats could have won by winning that population 55-40 instead of 50-45 (I’m making the numbers up here, obviously, but the point still holds).

                I mean, you could just as well say “the voters who made hating both candidates their priority voted Republican.” Which is true; Trump won a massive majority among voters who disliked both candidates. To me, that suggests that a strategy designed more or less solely around making sure voters hated Trump was a pretty poor strategy.

            • But the problem is that POLICies weren’t the issue–HRC had POLICIES out the yin-yang. Trump’s genius and his success lay in packaging the policies (without specifics) in an acceptable white natioanalist/anti hilary form. Those voters who thought he was going to bring back coal or whatever didn’t care about actual policies. They wanted a white male strongman to shit on their enemies. That wasn’t going to be something the dems could offer.

              • HRC certainly had the policies, but maybe they weren’t emphasized enough by the campaign. Perhaps they thought they didn’t want to have to defend those fairly left-wing policies and thought it would be easier to keep hammering on how grossly unqualified Trump was. And you know, he is grossly unqualified. No question there. But given how unpopular Republican policies are it might have been good to focus more on attacking those.

                Would it have worked? I don’t know. All I know is, what they did, didn’t. It almost did, but it didn’t.

                • drspittle

                  Gee maybe of media reported on her detailed policies many of which benefitted WWC ….,As the latest study from Harvard pointed out media did not. But thinking people didn’t need a study to. tell them that.

                • AlexSaltzberg

                  Trump ran on a policy platform of “cutting taxes will supercharge the economy with a 4% increase” and “repeal Obamacare and replace it with a system that will cover everyone and be cheaper and premiums will never increase”.

                  A critical media might have spent time examining his policy platform and feasibility. An uncritical media might show his empty podium.

              • Zagarna_84

                Did you not read the second clause of the second paragraph of this post? Having notional policies is insufficient; what matters is a. whether people know about them, and b. whether people think you’re actually going to carry them out.

                Most people didn’t know about Clinton’s policies, and the few that did didn’t believe her when she said she was going to carry them out, because they didn’t trust her. Had she actually committed hard to campaigning on a couple of popular policies, she may have been able to overcome at least some of that distrust. (Alternately, she could actually have behaved in a trustworthy fashion to begin with, but that would have required Hillary Clinton to be a completely different person than she is, so whatever.)

                • Mayur

                  AH yes. Here we go again with the “crooked Hillary” bullshit.

                  HRC has been held to a higher ethical standard and subjected to more baseless investigations than any Presidential front runner in history and she came out the other side clean. Other than the Bosnian sniper fire lie, there’s nothing to suggest she’s anything but top-tier trustworthy.

                • Origami Isopod

                  Alternately, she could actually have behaved in a trustworthy fashion to begin with, but that would have required Hillary Clinton to be a completely different person than she is, so whatever.

                  BUTTERY MALES

              • Sebastian_h

                Yes. She had a million and one policies. She had essentially no message for them. She spoke the same job retraining crap that people in the rust belt knew amounted to technocrat lies from the past twenty years. That isn’t all specific to her, but the job retraining thing (as practiced, I have no idea about an ideal world job retraining program) had clearly failed.

          • mongolia

            such a dumb strategic move to go after religiously conservative latinos and pro-abortion slightly right-of-center white women – clearly those groups have no chance of ever switching over to dems

        • Eric K

          I’ve put it this way:

          basically he is a poker player who went all in with an inside straight flush draw and got called, then hit his miracle card on the river and thinks he is a brilliant player now.

          But in reality losing by 3 million votes while getting the narrow wins in 3 states to get the EC win is probably even lower odds than catching an inside straight flush.

          • Zagarna_84

            The exact odds of catching an inside straight flush draw to win a poker hand depend on the game; if you’re talking about Texas Hold-Em, they would be 1/46, or a bit over 2%.

            It’s fairly ridiculous to suggest that Trump went into Election Day with a less than 3% chance of winning. FiveThirtyEight had it at around ten times that.

            If you want to carry the poker analogy forward, it’s more like going all-in with an up-and-down straight flush draw where you only need either the straight or the flush to win (so, 15 river outs out of 46).

            • Eric K

              sure he went into Election Day with a better then 3% chance. But pulling it out with the scenario where he loses by 3 million but manages to spread his votes just right to win the EC has got to be one of the lowest odds ways to do it, better than 3%, sure fine, but put it this way I’d be thrilled if the Reps try to pull it off again.

              • Zagarna_84

                Well of course they weren’t TRYING for that outcome; they were trying for an outcome where they pulled a plurality, or maybe a much smaller deficit, or whatever. But what happened was one of many ways a Trump win could have happened.

                To suggest that Trump “went all in with a one-out draw” is to say that the scenario by which he ended up winning was the only plausible scenario by which he could have won, and that’s palpably wrong.

                • stepped pyramids

                  Well, for one example, Bannon probably didn’t know Comey was going to put the boot in on Clinton on the eve of the election. There’s some evidence that his work on Clinton Cash made that possible, but he couldn’t have expected that exact outcome.

                • Cranky Observer

                  Except that Comey (or his close lieutenants) was clearly in close communication with Guiliani and the FBI New York Field Office was leaking like a sieve to the Trump Campaign.

                • Cranky Observer

                  Thanks for working out those responses, and providing a good explanation of why analysis of politics based on any form of poker (but particularly “Texas Hold”em”) is useless.

              • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

                By all accounts, “keep attaching our shrinking base to ever-larger car batteries of paranoia, racial animus & misogyny*” is still Trump’s strategy (and that of the larger GOP’s) for the foreseeable future.

                * (while we suppress the Dem constituencies’ ability to vote on all fronts)

        • CP

          And that’s after James Comey

          Yes, let’s not forget James Comey.

          To be honest, Trump’s success is a lot less mysterious than a lot of people seem to think. He won this in exactly the same way he’s succeeded at everything else in life: by being repeatedly bailed out by a system that thought he deserved it because he was rich, white, male, and right-wing. First the media went out of the way to “even the odds” for him by glossing over his every fuckup while doubling down on those of his opponent and even making them up when they weren’t there, something they never in a million years would’ve done for her (or any Democrat) if she’d been the one behind. Then, when even that wasn’t enough to put him over the top, Comey threw him a lifeline by unprecedentedly violating every ethical standard of his job at exactly the time when it would have the most impact on the election. There. Election won.

      • DJ

        (2) the Acela-corridor professionals who run the Democratic Party and the mainstream media would be totally oblivious

        What I don’t get about this argument is, what do you think they could have done to stop it? All kinds of Democratic operatives recognized that Trump was a threat. It’s ridiculous to say that they didn’t. And they did all that they could to stop him.

        It’s really easy to sit back six months later in a position where you didn’t have to make any of the calls, acting like the people who did make the calls were idiots. Let’s hear what you would have done to stop him.

        • kvs

          The difference is that Bannon’s project started before the primaries and then moved inside the campaign for the general election. It likely would have had a significant if not sufficient impact regardless of who the Republican nominee was.

          Concerted Democratic opposition to Trump didn’t begin until the summer.

        • AMK

          Maybe there’s nothing that could have been done at that stage. But that’s beside the point because Bannon et al had us where we didn’t even know something different had to be done.

          And there were certainly not “all kinds of Democratic operatives” who recognized Trump was a threat. There were union guys and so forth in the rust belt who kept trying to warn people, but the whole point is that these types were so peripheral to the Dem and mainstream media leadership and so outside our bubble that they were ignored because we have silicon valley guys with algorithms etc etc. I recall just about every person here citing Sam Wang’s Princeton models or whatever as definitive evidence that Trump was a joke and Nate Silver’s model giving him a 30% chance was just Nate trolling for clickbait. It was that kind of thinking from President Obama on down.

          Bannon was able to recognize and exploit that divide. Certainly nobody else in any position of influence on the GOP side did–they were just as shocked.

          • DJ

            Luckily I wasn’t around here during the campaign; I’m sure if I had been, you’d be able to throw a lot of my words back at me now. Because I was convinced that Clinton would win. I’m sure you were too. Hell, I’m sure Bannon and Putin and the Cheesezit himself were convinced that Clinton would win.

            When your opponent doesn’t think he’s gonna win, and doesn’t give a shit about it, either, it’s a very different game.

            As regards the rust belt, I completely agree with arguments that it looks like Clinton dropped the ball, assumed she’d win up north despite what the polls were saying. It was a good assumption, really: those states have been solid Dem for years in presidential races. But still, you don’t drop the ball like that. Period.

            But that’s more just last minute campaign tactics (and all a loser’s hindsight lament). I’m more interested in a bigger question: how did we get to the point, in late October, that a completely incompetent person, wholly unfit to be president, was even within shouting distance of a miracle run at the electoral college? What did Clinton do wrong, that led to this?

            I think she ran a spectacularly good campaign in the face of a whole hell of a lot of shit She absolutely aced the debates. She took as much advantage from Trump’s fuckups as she could. She struggled to articulate a positive message, but that’s always the case in a political campaign where the media just wants to report on the horse race, not the policy.

            So why did she lose? I find the possible answers very frightening, and I imagine you do to. Blaming the “Acela-corridor professionals” is more comforting than admitting that one of our nation’s two political parties is home to people who value incompetence over competence, racial division over unity, entertaining stupidity over quality leadership. The only thing that Trump did that I would truly call “genius” was to glom onto a party that was in a position to be so thoroughly used and abused by people like Bannon. And we all know this wasn’t strategy on Trump’s part, it was just dumb luck. He had no idea what he was doing.

            • JDTrust

              “How did we get to the point, in late October, that a completely incompetent person, wholly unfit to be President, was even within shouting distance of a miracle run at the electoral college? What did Clinton do wrong, that led to this?”

              $.02 worth of speculation supported by anec-data — Clinton didn’t do something wrong. I submit she had to deal with:

              1)the non-zero number of Bernie-primary-Trump-general voters (I am, alas, related to one — of the ‘But her emails!’ kind, no less!)

              2)the “They’re both equally bad” crowd (some overlap with #1)

              3)the tribal allegiances of party voting (those who would vote for Caligula’s horse if it had the right party affiliation)

              and 4) the certeris paribus default electoral setting of “Vote for the white guy” (Obama proving what happens when all else in *not* equal).

              To make a sports analogy, it’s not that she dropped the ball. It’s that the officials swallowed their whistles and said “Let ’em play.” Which is problematic because one candidate was interested in policy/ideas/stateswoman-ship, and the other candidate was interested in throwing mud and scrapping gloriously in the trenches of public opinion for his own self-aggrandizement… and “Let ’em play” usually works to the advantage of the less skilled but more chippy side.

            • sk7326

              Trump was a good candidate – especially in the primaries … it is easy not to give him credit for this, but it is true. The primary was a 18 car pileup and Trump smoked them – on the merits. He was smart enough not to stand behind unpopular ideas (tax cuts for the rich, destroying social security) and behind popular ones (draining the swamp, racism, pro-life). Yeah his commitment to these ideas were nil – but it gave him a real leg up on the primary field. And of course, once you win the nomination you have a hard floor of about 45% of the popular vote the way things are.

            • WinningerR

              A big factor that still doesn’t get enough attention is just how hard it is for one party to win three presidential elections in a row. Our long-term expectations for our politicians are pretty high; even if things are going relatively well at the end of the second term (as they were at the end of the Clinton and Obama presidencies), you almost inevitably get a disappointed faction and some sort of insurgency. (Nader, Sanders, etc)

        • I might, if I could get some of that sweet PAC $. Until then, it’s a secret. Seriously, though, I think things could have been done differently, though in the end it’s all hindsight bias (though I was worried, I essentially ran to Wang’s site to comfort myself in the last days. Boy was I blindsided).

        • They weren’t idiots, but I really hope they could have done better, because if this is the best they possibly could have done we are in worse shape than I thought.

      • David

        People packed up and left reality years ago. Once in awhile in here I’ll mention something that they liked or believed or wanted and I get corrected that it’s not fact.

        Well duh. It. Doesn’t. Matter.

        You don’t need an actual law passed, law broken, change to happen, anything concrete anymore. Look at how his supporters claim he’s doing just great with the economy! No he’s not. He’s done very little. Hillary’s illegal activities? None I can find to be proven.

        This is Facebook world now. You don’t need schemes. 10^nth dimensional chess. Or even something more than an urban legend and an idiot to spread it. The only genius is in realizing you can go all in on lies and as long as you’re loud enough, the internet will turn it into fact. The Democrats stuck to reality.

        No one gives a shit about reality.

        • AMK

          Right, and Bannon’s was the first large-scale political operation* to systematically deploy alternate-reality internet/social media propaganda to exploit this, betting (correctly) that the leadership class from Obama on down and the thinking half of the population would be blind to its effectiveness because we naturally think in terms of objective facts.

          *aside from Russian state and quasi-state actors in Ukraine and elsewhere.

          • CP

            Is this really true? Fox News has been around for twenty years, and the gravitational pull it exerts on the mainstream media has become very well documented by now. It seems unlikely that the Democrats were blind to media lies because they thought only objective facts would matter – probably true in the eighties/nineties, but this isn’t them anymore. It sounds more probable that they were thinking in terms of old school media (i.e. television and newspapers) and underestimating the importance of new media, what you call “alternate reality internet/social media propaganda.” Which is Bannon’s territory.

            • WinningerR

              It’s not just Fox News, though. The right wing propaganda apparatus has grown vastly more sophisticated over those twenty years. Fox, Breitbart, InfoWars, Drudge, the WSJ editorial page, and dozens of blogs each have their own little role in the ongoing effort to construct a parallel reality. Because each of these outlets more or less openly colludes with Republican politicians and power brokers, they act almost in concert. The speed with which a set of GOP talking points can travel through the entire ecosystem and start blaring out of every TV and AM radio is truly breathtaking. The result is a horrifying machine that can almost immediately convince 30% of the country of (almost literally) anything, no matter how absurd. (ISIS is an existential threat to the United States! Sharia Law is already making inroads in America! Billionaires need those massive tax breaks to create jobs! Trump is an evangelical Christian and financial genius! The Clintons routinely murder their enemies!) This is how the GOP maintains support, despite the fact that not a single one of its positions is politically popular.

      • My guess is the Russians had t-rump hire and keep Bannon as a cover up, aka: beard, for their meddling.

      • heckblazer

        A very large chunk of that digital troll campaign was carried out by Russian intelligence, both directly and as a source of anti-Clinton propaganda.

    • I mean, he’s made money. Off a grift, but made it nonetheless, and I suspect that this garners more respect than it’s worth.

      • I feel no respect for a liar, a cheat & thief, even if successful.

        • I mean I’d assume good people think this way, but the general train of thought I see in public is if a person has money they’re good in some sense. Sure there are other factors, but that’s the largest variable.

          • Elizabeth

            I don’t think this applies to everyone. The name of that book, after all, is “Clinton Cash.”

    • Facebones

      Yeah, it’s Karl Rove 2.0. Remember evil genius Turd Blossom Rove? He had the secret plan to win elections that really boiled down to “gin up anti-gay hysteria.”

    • Michael

      I mean, he helped elected Donald goddam Trump as President of the United States and transformed the American political system. His results elevate him beyond mere hack.

      • Bruce Baugh

        Not really, or at least, not necessarily. There’s an observation attributed to a bunch of good commanders over the centuries…

        Say that you define a good general as one who wins ten battles with no losses. Take a bunch of commanders, all about equally talented and supplied, and throw them at it. Inevitably, half win. Fire the losers, resupply the winners, and do it again. Keep this up and you will end up with someone who wins ten battles, even if they do nothing at all differently from the others or, for that matter, don’t actually do anything and let their staff handle it.

        America is a big country and lots of people grab at power. Bannon’s had some good luck (the Seinfeld deal), and some bad (Biosphere 2). He did well at finding evil scumbags willing to throw money at him, but so have others. Even allowing the complications of finding someone so evil and nasty on so many axes, I really think a bunch of people could have ended up in that spot, and that if we could re-run the campaign a bunch of times, he’d seldom or never show up again.

        • Zagarna_84

          So, if Steve Bannon didn’t exist, the vast right-wing conspiracy would have had to invent him?

          • Bruce Baugh

            Dang it, I wish I’d thought of that phrasing.

        • Michael

          This is an argument that basically boils down to “life is chaos and so no one can be said to have true agency.”

          Bannon pursued a strategy that helped Trump become president. Maybe not on Earth-2, but in our universe, that’s what happened.

          • Bruce Baugh

            what I mean to suggest is that there’s nothing very remarkable about his strategy, and that lots of folks are busily doing the same kind of thing. I think he got lucky; I don’t think there are any particular merits to his riffs on the hateful themes.

            • CP

              Yes, exactly.

              What’s more, I think this is a problem we have all throughout society. Most obviously with CEOs, we see people who have succeeded, assume that they’re brilliant, wonder how they did it, and try to figure out what The Plan was so we can repeat it. When in reality, a stupendous amount of success is simply dumb luck and being in the right place at the right time.

          • DJ

            This is an argument that basically boils down to “life is chaos and so no one can be said to have true agency.”

            No, it’s an argument that says, “When the only criteria for judging a person’s skills is success, there is a logical tendency to overrate the skills of successful people.”

            Success might be the result of good ideas or hard work, or it might just be dumb luck. This is exactly the reason that Wall Street says “Past performance is not indicative of future success.”

            As a relatively successful person, I feel the need to remind myself of this regularly.

            • Success might be the result of good ideas or hard work, or it might just be dumb luck. […] As a relatively successful person, I feel the need to remind myself of this regularly.

              Amen. I can only add that (in my case, and I suspect many others’, but perhaps not in yours) at least some of my (demonstrably!) “good ideas” were themselves made possible mostly by luck (or rather it was luck that made them my ideas before they could become someone else’s).

              • DJ

                Having seen many people at least as competent as me, or more, suffer the regular layoffs at my corporation, I am continually reminded how much of my success is “dumb luck.”

                I made some good choices early in my career, choices which I regularly point out to newcomers that I mentor as an example of how to set yourself up for success. But it would be absurd for me to claim that this makes me somehow better than all the quality people who got their pink slips over the years.

                And, of course, that next pink slip may well have my address on the label.

            • Michael

              Past performance is not *solely* indicative of future success, but of course it is a relevant factor. What you arguing is that because political events can not be reproduced ad infintum, you can’t make any claim what was or was not a determining factor. This is precisely the logic used to discount thing like the Comey letter as having affected the election.

    • mongolia

      if the paper of record and biggest cable news channel treated document retention practices between the organizations the two people running for president were the heads of in a proportionate matter, we wouldn’t be in this mess. so yeah, i don’t see bannon as some political or strategic genius, unless you think doing what republicans have been doing for decades – lying to white supremacist evangelicals – to be some genius strategeric masterstroke.

    • “Hey, let’s talk about how that accomplished woman is a backstabbing
      corrupt bitch” is misogyny 101, not some sort of master plan.

      It’s a “master plan” in the sense of “slavemaster”, not “master craftsman”.

  • AMK

    This article almost makes up for today’s delusional Chait piece on how bipartisan agreement on a carbon tax is possible.

  • keta

    Bannon’s legacy will also include bringing the Republican brand into disrepute, very much one of the goals of his major benefactors, the Mercers.

    How much more damage Bannon wreaks from a position at Breitbart, funding/making alt-right propaganda, or any other combination of populist unrest rooted in racism-cloaked-in-nationalism will be funded by the very, very deep pockets of whackadoodle Robert Mercer and his pit-bull daughter, Rebekah.

    These people have unlimited funds, a deep hatred of government in any form, and a sense of self-righteousness that would make Joan of Arc blush. Unlimited money in the game of politics is a fucking cancer, and its reach leaves nobody untouched.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      “Unlimited money in the game of politics is a fucking cancer, and its reach leaves nobody untouched.”

      I’m willing to try.

    • Gwai Lo, MD

      100% true. But it’s nice to see well-funded right-wingnuts specifically trying to trash the Republican Party. The far left has been doing this to the Democrats for free.

    • stepped pyramids

      Oh, Pat Caddell, the man whose soul is a toilet.

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    someday, someone will explain why, if “the Clintons” were such neoliberal sellouts, the wingnuts put *so* much time trouble and money into discrediting them in every way possible

    • N__B

      Because they care about the purity of the Democratic party and don’t want to see it besmirched.


      • hapax

        The purity of the Democratic party? To paraphrase the incomparable James Nicoll;s observation on the English language, the Democratic party — ANY political party — is about as pure as a cribhouse whore.
        A political party is a tool to get things done. Clinton was guilty of being a Woman Who Got Things Done. Obviously, we can’t have that.

    • NewishLawyer

      The Clintons just can’t take a break. They get heat on the left for being neo-liberal sellouts and on the right for being the second coming of Lenin and Trotsky.

    • Because the wingers/conservatives want NAZIs, not neo-libs.

    • stepped pyramids

      One of the foundational memories I have of politics is, when I was extremely tiny, hearing that the Republicans thought Bill Clinton was a pot-smoking draft-dodging commie.

      • Domino

        Can’t remember which article mentioned it, but there was a NY Post reader survey asking who they thought the worst people from the 20th Century were. Hitler was 1st, Stalin 2nd, and Bill Clinton was 3rd. Hillary finished 7th, if I remember correctly.

        It’s been 20 years of this BS.

        • Mellano

          Anecdotal and a little OT, but I remember a story in the Post or Daily News’s sports section from sometime during his second term about Bill Clinton gladhanding in the Mets clubhouse for some reason.

          Al Leiter, a Long Island native, says he’s a Republican (he used to drop a lot of hints about wanting to run for office). Clinton responds by saying something like, “Me, too! I’m a Republican. I’m a Teddy Roosevelt Republican!” And they both laughed and bonded for a minute.

          Even setting aside the nature of surveys, that Post readers could put the Clintons in the company of Hitler and Stalin says a ton about how easily people respond to propaganda.

        • Bill Clinton edged out Mao in the minds of the readers??? I’m impressed.

          • Hogan

            Well, maybe ids rather than minds.

    • mongolia

      because the way people view politics is irrational. it’s about feelz instead of policies. about feeling a part of a group, and about having an enemy to complain about/hate. and competent people who try to improve things piecemeal in this fucked up world are considered the bigeest enemies imaginable

  • LosGatosCA

    The 2016 presidential election is like a commercial airline disaster. Not only did it have multiple causes of the random and poor judgment variety, those causes had to be compounding to negate a 3m vote advantage.

    It starts with the natural tendency of the Democrats to not understand the game they are in or the risks that need to be avoided.

    1. Obama needs to name a Clinton hater to be the head of the FBI. Because as every Democrat knows it’s no better than a coin flip as to whether a conservative Republican or a moderate Democrat should head up the national domestic police agency.

    2. Clinton has to keep on an aide who has flawed judgment in staying with a known walking time bomb who has no judgment. And this was a known problem when Weiner did not pull the plug on his mayoral campaign but even more importantly let the documentary cameras fully document the debacle of public humiliation, well before the 2016 primary season.

    With these two foundational misjudgments, several more things have to happen:

    3. The Republican base has to turn completely rabid and fully embrace every cultish aspect of their tribe going full racist and sexist with the worst possible human being who has a history with the Russians.

    4. The Russians decide to go all in on causing mayhem playing a long game that paid short term dividends.

    5. The mainstream media decide to go all in with Russians, willfully or as useful idiots,

    6. Obama watches Comey lose control of the FBI which plays into the Russian driven leaking themes. Comey, rather than the stern bipartisan driver of justice, shows himself to be a weak leader cowed by political pressure and despite Obama and Comey fully understanding the dynamic Comey aids and abets the corruption while Obama stands by doing nothing of substance.

    7. Weiner continues the pattern of reckless behavior that allows Comey the final shiv in Clinton that surely influenced 100,000 voters in three critical states.

    • kdbart

      You also needed enough gullible useless idiots on the left to buy into the narrative laid out by the right

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        (multiple upvotes)

      • I think the important thing was the media supporting t-rump before and after the election, because he’s great for ratings. And might get their corporations some tax breaks, destroy a few more FCC rules. Shure.

      • Zagarna_84

        The chances of this happening were 100%; anybody who has ever spent any amount of time at all looking at voter behavior will conclude that they do not vote based on hyperrational calculations of maximum expected value, but on gut feels formed by exposure to tiny amounts of information.

    • Tige Gibson

      There’s really only one cause. For decades before the election a massive fortified position was continuously being built against Clinton. Attacking Clinton was just too easy even for a nincompoop like Trump. The Russians, Comey, Weiner, the media, they never needed to release anything new on Clinton, they just had to keep the coals warm.

      The Republicans didn’t change at all, they just no longer feel the need to mask their racism with religion. Trump issued his base licenses to be racist.

    • msdc

      I’m thinking points 3-5 are just a liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiittle more important than Hillary Clinton deciding not to fire an aide because her husband is a dick.

  • AlexSaltzberg

    In related news, sources close to Jared and Ivanka report that they are trying to do good things and were on vacation when bad things happened.

    • FlipYrWhig

      Again? But Bullwinkle that trick never works…

      • AlexSaltzberg


        Here’s a twitter search from Maggie Haberman and how… interestingly the relationship between Kushner and Miller has changed over time.

        • kvs

          And by “over time” you mean “the last 48 hours.”

        • Drew

          So she’s just being fed self-serving information from Kushner. Is she really that credulous or does she not care?

          • humanoidpanda

            Two great flavors that go well together ( I was involved in a twitter tangle in which she really, honestly was shocked that people consider “garry cohn is privately upset” less that a legitimate form of journalism.)

  • NewishLawyer

    Bannon like Martin Shkrielli are odd types to me. They can both claim legit working class upbringings, they both got great educations and largely via public institutions (Bannon more so), and then they both went to work for the Establishment/Swamp while claiming to hate it. Bannon worked for Goldman Sachs when he was out of HBS. Martin S had his own hedge funds. They make no sense to me.

    • kvs

      Capital’s a helluva drug.

    • My father is the same age, was the same class status, was raised in the same city, and went to a rival high school of Bannon’s. He’s seen himself catapulted along a similar trajectory, which has caused him a great deal of consternation since Bannon rose to prominence.

      Just as much as their are pernicious structural forces keeping minorities down there are pernicious structural forces that push up white men. When I look at my position in life at this point, in the context of my decisions and efforts and how they likely would have panned out if my skin were a different color, I can see this process at work.

    • Hogan


  • AlexSaltzberg

    Hey, remember when Trump said he can’t release his taxes because he claimed to be “under audit” for multiple decades? And the media was like “Well, that seems like such a reasonable story that there would be nothing to pursue here?”

    Hey, remember when the media had a ticker for Hillary Clinton not giving press conferences? And then she gave a press conference, but the media decided that since it was to minority journalists it didn’t count?

    Hey, remember when Trump stopped giving press conferences when he asked Russia to hack Hillary? And the media decided that press conferences were unimportant.

    Hey, remember when the New York Times gave a front-page article on Trump’s policy plan for parental leave, without ever front paging any of Clinton’s policy plans?

    Weird how much of 2016 I remember.

    • stepped pyramids

      I dunno, I feel like the media did make a reasonably big deal about Trump’s taxes. They weren’t exactly easy on him, but they were unduly hard on Clinton — I think they might have partially been motivated by wanting to feel like they were being equally tough on Both Sides.

      However, they gave him a LOT of free coverage — so many speeches and rallies were covered as news, while you could count the number of Clinton speeches that were covered on one hand. And, like you imply, every single “real candidate” move he made was covered in utmost seriousness, while Clinton’s actual serious policy platform was just taken for granted.

      I’ve noticed the new version of that in the responses to Trump in the last few months — every single Republican that makes even the most anodyne remark against him is covered in every outlet, while the literal hundreds of elected Democrats who denounce him get basically no oxygen. Even at liberal outlets like Vox. I know “Democrats criticize Trump” is a “dog bites man” story, but it’s amazing how many liberal people I encounter online who have literally no idea how much the Democrats have been speaking out against Trump, offering legislation to challenge him, etc. The opposition gets basically no coverage now — the Both Sides are congressional Republicans and Trump!

      • Lurker

        The story we are trying to see is the development of Trump’s downfall. For this story, the democrats are bit players. They have, at most, the role of chorus, as they are sure to support Trump’s impeachment or Article 25 removal. That requires a true break inside the GOP, though. The drama is the internecine war between republicans, and the personal decisions bringingTrump’s downfall closer.

        However, treatimg news as a chance to retell classical dramas is irresponsible.

      • AlexSaltzberg

        I was able to learn, by watching the campaign, that the media could create stories out of candidates refusing to provide information.

        They did not create a story about Trump’s refusal to release tax returns “raising clouds”. There was one reporter on the Washington Post working on Trump’s charity, and he uncovered a million dollar promise that Trump tried to skip out on. He uncovered tons of fraud and abuse. But it was still just the one person and it never became a ‘narrative’.

        Like, could you imagine anyone going “My taxes are being audited by the IRS.” and the interviewer going “Well, that seems reasonable and I have no followups”? It would be a ridiculous idea before 2016.

    • Abigail Nussbaum

      Clearly some people need a reminder:


      Just in case we were wondering what journalists (OK, Miller is a reviewer, but still in that world) have learned from their failures during the campaign.

      • CS Clark

        So she’s saying ‘we report, you decide.’ Hmm… that sounds familiar. Oh well, as long as they’re fair and balanced I suppose it’ll come down to which are the most watched, most trusted.

        • And it’s really ridiculous. The classic word cloud shows that the mere fact that there was *some* reporting doesn’t determine the neutral effect of the reporting.

        • Abigail Nussbaum

          It goes beyond that. Pretending that the press just reports what happens like stenographers would be absurd in any situation. After 2016, in which the press kept choosing to hammer at Clinton’s emails, and even made stories of supposed corruption out of the Clinton foundation, it’s positively perverse.

      • CP

        “How do you know? Because the media reported it!”

        Jesus. Someone’s got a high opinion of themselves.

        The reason we know Trump said these things is that he said them out loud in public and they were going to go viral one way or another. The news media wasn’t informing us of something we weren’t previously aware of, it was following the bandwagon in order to stay relevant lest the entire story be abandoned to Twitter, Facebook, and the blogosphere. Every time a Trump story broke that dipped his poll numbers, it was because of something he said in a context where it couldn’t be ignored, not the media shining a spotlight on it. In every case, the media picked itself up and went on with its “but her emails!” as quick as it was able.

        • Scott Lemieux

          The media is also how he “know” Clinton was actually more corrupt because of a failure to comply with email sever management best practices.

    • Taylor

      Clinton gave a speech on the alt-right, warning us of Trump’s views.

      Trump called her a bigot.

      The media reported the story as “Clinton and Trump call each other bigots.”

      Fuckers. They made this.

      • Unemployed_Northeastern

        And this is one of the go-to safe spaces for the alt-right: the pathetic whine that being called a racist is just as bad, if not worse, than being a racist.

  • Anon21

    Off-topic, but I know we have lots of Freddie deBoer fans around here. Our good friend seems to be having some kind of meltdown, and just accused a moderately well-known leftist writer, Malcolm Harris, of being a date rapist: https://twitter.com/freddiedeboer/status/898737028778610688

    To this point, Freddie hasn’t provided anything to substantiate it. Lee Fang of the Intercept at first retweeted the accusation, but then undid that; kind of telling, since he has more to lose than Freddie. Stay tuned, I guess.

    Edit: Aaaaaand, he seems to have just deleted all his tweets (like, all of them he ever made), about two hours after lobbing this crazy accusation. What a disturbed guy. Hopefully this is a big step in the direction of Freddie disappearing from public life.

    • stepped pyramids

      Um, this is awkward, but… was the accusation on behalf of a third party, or…?

      On one hand, I sort of feel for Freddie, because I’ve struggled with bipolar as well and I’ve said and done a lot of stuff online I regretted. On the other hand… we all have to be responsible for our behavior at some point, and I don’t feel like he has been.

      • Are we still objectively despicable people?

      • Anon21

        Yeah, sorry, that could have been clearer. He quote tweeted Harris and said “You fled New York because you were accused of date rape.” Followed it with some other accusations of sexual harassment untied to time or person, and asserted Harris has gotten out of trouble his entire life because his father is a millionaire corporate lawyer. So it did not seem like he was making the accusation on his own behalf, and he never named or described who the supposed victim was.

        It seems to have been barely-provoked defamation made up out of whole cloth. Bipolar or no, that’s a really shitty thing to do.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Fang retweeting the unsubstantiated and very serious charges made by someone with a serious mental illness — presumably to score a point in some inane Twitter war — is [chef’s kiss]

  • Bruce Vail

    It is unforgivable that the New York Times fails to recognize that it should be working to elect Scott’s favored candidates. What’s wrong with them anyway?

    • Eh, c’mon man. You’re better than this. Truly.

      • wjts

        Bruce’s previous comments about Clinton and Clinton-related matters suggest that he’s not.

        • I honestly believe he is. Cmon Bruce! Prove me right!

          • C’mon Bruce! Step up! Pull back from the weirdly wrong side! I’m rooting for you!

            Start here! Your comment was clearly bonkers. You know that. Everyone knows that. You were lashing. Own it and retract. It’s the first step!

        • vic rattlehead

          The Vail of Ignorance.

          • Origami Isopod

            Toot toot, he’s a Vailtrain.

      • Origami Isopod

        No, he’s really not.

    • Aaron Morrow

      The NYT worked to elect Trump. What’s wrong with them is that they’re on the Evil side.

    • Scott Lemieux

      This is such a flagrantly dishonest statement of my position it doesn’t even rise to the level of bad faith.

  • First, that that caption is a close paraphase of Henwood shouldn’t have shocked me.

    Second, it gets worse(!)

    Apart from his message, Schweizer’s résumé gets the Hillaryites all bent out of shape. He is a conservative who has advised and ghostwritten for Republican politicians. He also appears to have made mistakes in his research, too, some of which were corrected in a revised Kindle edition. And, as the Clintonites like to emphasize, he found no smoking gun—a point that Schweizer himself concedes, more than once:

    “The Clintons aren’t stupid people. They know the law and take pains to operate within it. Besides, corruption of the kind I have described in this book is very difficult to prove. We cannot ultimately know what goes on in their minds and ultimately prove the links between the money they took in and the benefits that subsequently accrued to themselves, their friends, and their associates. That said, the pattern of behavior I have established is too blatant to ignore, and deserves legal scrutiny by those with investigative capabilities that go beyond journalism.”

    In other words, a mere journalist can’t uncover the smoking gun. You need someone with subpoena power to get to the bottom of it all.

    No, that’s not the other words. The words were “there isn’t a smoking gun”!!! If they operated within the law and what corruption that IS alleged requires what’s going on INSIDE THEIR HEADS there’s no “subpoena” that can do the job.

    Christ, what an asshole,

  • I think we had better be ready to face the same kind of strategies in 2020. If Trump is running for re-election he will almost certainly be quite unpopular. If Pence is running instead he will most likely not be popular, especially if he’s pardoned Trump. Their only hope of winning will be to drag the Democratic candidate into the gutter with them, like they managed to do with HRC. So there will be lots of the politics of slander to deal with, and Democrats had better be prepared.

    • randykhan

      Truth be told, that’s SOP for the Republicans. Think about the Swift Boaters, for instance.

    • Zagarna_84

      Right, I mean, if you think trying to shame the media into doing unprofitable things by appealing to their sense of rectitude is a reasonable strategy, you’ve got another think coming.

    • Origami Isopod

      But remember, we can't stoop to their level!

  • SomeTreasonBrewing

    As others have observed, we are already beyond late-Bush2 levels of public hate. This idiot and his wife can’t even go to the Kennedy Center honors ceremony. Good on 3 of the 5 honorees for saying they wouldn’t attend the reception if the President did.

  • look at how he matters to the right:

    ‘Populist Hero’ Stephen K. Bannon Returns Home to Breitbart


    • SomeTreasonBrewing

      how many of the 17K+ comments originated from the banks of the Neva

  • MariedeGournay

    I will never forgive the New York Times for pimping this shit.

  • jpgray

    The “investigate Clinton in our free time” FBI mooks who drove the entire process of Weiner laptop to Comey memo were obsessed with Clinton Cash, if I remember. Add that to the Bannon ledger.

    But for Trump to win, the following had to happen:

    1. We had to pick a candidate easily caricatured as an inhuman, boring, establishment scold; as a power-grubbing PR-lab-grown unreal android (shades of 2000, as such was our best candidate in the primary)

    2. Policy criticism of Trump’s bar stool demagogue economic fantasies and racist ghost stories had to be superficial enough to be dismissed as the pearl-clutching of a frightened establishment, glamorizing rock-stupid ideas into badass courageous cut-the-bullshit solutions in the minds of many voters

    3. Opposition to Trump’s hatefulness had to be readily identified with the distorted view of identity politics, that it is all about prudishness, virtue signalling, censorship, and ritual shaming of white people

    We can’t change the media, but if you’re some kind of mythical Dem strategy czar, what do you do to avoid walking into this trap again? I think we should assume that once the primary candidates were declared, HRC deserved to win that primary. She certainly had every right to run in it.

    • humanoidpanda

      This is benefit of hindsight, but knowing what we know: HRC sucks at mass rallies. Let surrogates handle those. Send her to a tour of rural areas, talking about opioids, lead in water, etc etc. That kind of thing is her real strength, but campaign ran as though Obama was the candidate.

      • humanoidpanda

        If you are taking about the future: I don’t think we wil ever face a situation where someone runs as de facto incumbent in an open primary

        • jpgray

          Isn’t this fairly common for parties after a two-term incumbent presidency? Gore, GHWB, and HRC all came in at a huge advantage for having the various blessings of the departing incumbent.

          • humanoidpanda

            Good point – but it was the first time that a non VP seizes that ground.

            • kvs

              Depends on how big of a distinction there is between incumbency and frontrunner status. I think more often than not there’s a presumed frontrunner with many if not most of incumbency’s advantages.

      • jpgray

        I think a lot of the reason she “sucks” at them is that in this society our ideals of charismatic mass-rally political speaking are diametrically opposed to our ideals of the feminine. You see a similar thing with comedy, and in business.

        All the widely-imitated US models of the form that come to mind are dudes – put the best, beautifully pitched, emotional, barnstorming rising cadence style speech in a lady’s mouth and I think you’ll always get a large proportion of hearers thinking “what a fake shouty harridan” solely down to this effect.

        • humanoidpanda

          I dunno: I’ve been to rallies by Warren and by Clinton, and let’s say Warren had a much better effect. I mean gender is surely involved here, but some people are just not good public speakers.

          • jpgray

            Definitely – cf. Al Gore. But it’s a huge unfair obstacle to passing muster for women that simply doesn’t exist for men.

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