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The business we’ve chosen


“In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.”


Glenn Greenwald’s election postmortem concludes that the election of Donald Trump was a failure of “the elites” and the Democratic party:

THE PARALLELS BETWEEN the U.K.’s shocking approval of the Brexit referendum in June and the U.S.’ even more shocking election of Donald Trump as president last night are overwhelming. Elites (outside of populist right-wing circles) aggressively unified across ideological lines in opposition to both. Supporters of Brexit and Trump were continually maligned by the dominant media narrative (validly or otherwise) as primitive, stupid, racist, xenophobic, and irrational. In each case, journalists who spend all day chatting with one another on Twitter and congregating in exclusive social circles in national capitals — constantly re-affirming their own wisdom in an endless feedback loop — were certain of victory. Afterward, the elites whose entitlement to prevail was crushed devoted their energies to blaming everyone they could find except for themselves, while doubling down on their unbridled contempt for those who defied them, steadfastly refusing to examine what drove their insubordination.

I can’t comment on the parallels with Brexit, since I know hardly anything about British politics, but the claim that America’s elites unified to oppose Donald Trump is plausible only if by “elites” you mean David Brooks, Ross Douhat, and George Will, as opposed to, say, the Republican party.

And just to be clear, by the Republican party I mean that party’s entire leadership class, almost every one of its elected officials at the federal and state level, its money, its many and various propaganda outlets, etc. etc.

Moving right along:

Put simply, Democrats knowingly chose to nominate a deeply unpopular, extremely vulnerable, scandal-plagued candidate, who — for very good reason — was widely perceived to be a protector and beneficiary of all the worst components of status quo elite corruption. It’s astonishing that those of us who tried frantically to warn Democrats that nominating Hillary Clinton was a huge and scary gamble — that all empirical evidence showed that she could lose to anyone and Bernie Sanders would be a much stronger candidate, especially in this climate — are now the ones being blamed: by the very same people who insisted on ignoring all that data and nominating her anyway.

Put even more simply, “Democrats” here means the vast majority of the people who voted in the Democratic primaries.  Unless you subscribe to the theory that the critical causal factor producing this outcome was the moment Donna Brazile gave Hillary Clinton a heads-up that a debate in Flint, MI, would feature a question about lead in the water supply, this electoral outcome suggests that Democratic voters — not some cabal of shadowy cosmopolitan elites — chose Hillary Clinton, despite her immense unpopularity (attentive readers will begin to detect some possible contradictions in this narrative), and despite all those “scandals” (which consisted of what again exactly?).

I think I have a little bit of cred on the questions Glenn’s essay is addressing.  I was arguing sixteen months ago that Trump had a very real shot at both the GOP nomination and the presidency, because he was a skilled populist demagogue, who was already successfully exploiting the intersection of racism and economic anxiety.

I supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries.  I criticized Hillary Clinton sharply on numerous occasions for her far-too-cozy relationship with banksters and war criminals. I deplored the combination of greed and extreme tone deafness that led an already very rich person to take many millions in speaking fees from financial interests during the short time between her tenure at State and the formal beginning of her presidential run.

So yes I agree, wholeheartedly and without reservation, that Hillary Clinton was a flawed candidate. But there’s an extra word in that sentence. It’s the extra word that would still be in that sentence if you replaced the name “Hillary Clinton” with any other name in the recorded history of the world.

I’m too tired right now to give this topic the attention it deserves, but you really don’t get to avoid soiling yourself with the dirty business that is and always will be the business of politics by calling yourself a journalist.

If you helped bring about the election of Donald Trump by doing the best you could to publicize every sordid little detail of the Wikileaks data dumps that tumbled into your lap, then that’s what you did.

That’s what you did when everything was on the line. That’s how you decided, freely and consciously, to use your time and your very considerable talents. That’s what you chose to do at a moment of supreme moral and political crisis.

And that in its own small or perhaps not so small way is a tragedy.

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