Brad R. Torgersen

Trumpocalypse: hoist by their own petards

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Nobody was more stunned by the Trumpocalypse, than Big Media. Like most of us, Big Media assumed Donald J. Trump was simply too absurd to be taken seriously. Also, following the deflation of the Romney challenge to Obama (in 2012) what force in the universe could possibly hold back the long-dreamt-of progressive permanent majority in America? There simply weren’t enough people in fly-over country to thwart the urban liberals. Every poll said Hillary Clinton would win. The secular god of statistical prognostication, Nate Silver — who gained world-wide fame in 2012 — said Hillary Clinton would win. Many opponents of Hillary Clinton (myself included) also said Hillary Clinton would win. She had every single strategic advantage that Obama had, in 2012. She faced a preposterous Republican challenger. Her rise to the Oval Office was essentially a foregone conclusion.

It was, as they say, in the bag.

Well, we all know how that turned out. 🙂

It’s now been three whole weeks since the Trumpocalypse — 21 days, during which a great deal of analysis (and shatbit nuckingfutz commentator insanity) has been expended.

Most interesting — to me at least — has been Big Media’s reaction to being hoist by their own petards. By now, everybody knows about Newsweek’s recall of the quickly-made-apocryphal Madam President special issue. But there’s a lot more to it than that. Examining a quick Newsweek roundup of aborted-release Clinton victory missives — from Big Media notables — shows us precisely the kind of tunnel-vision and identitarian hubris that ultimately sabotaged the Clinton campaign.

CADY DRELL (editor for Glamour magazine, formerly Newsweek):

But what we really want to tell you is that this is only the beginning. The glass ceiling isn’t shattered until women’s success is no longer news in and of itself. The history of feminism in this country has never been for the benefit of the trailblazer in question, just as any women who today voted for Hillary Clinton didn’t do it for their own gain. Women like Clinton, and the women who led the fights for racial equality in this country, and the suffragettes before them, and the countless women whose names we don’t even know before them endured what they did so that things would be a little bit easier for the women who followed them. We don’t celebrate the election of a woman tonight for our own sakes, but because we recognize that the fact of her election means it will be a little less shocking, a little less unlikely, the next time a woman is elected president. Maybe it will be one of you.

The irony of this statement centers on the fact that it wholly dismisses or ignores the possibility that anyone not voting for Hillary, did so because she was evaluated on her record, versus her vagina. Thus, at the same time passionate Big Media feminists cry for an era when women won’t have to “fight” on an uneven playing field, they miss out on the fact that Hillary Clinton entered the contest (with Trump) enjoying all the political, social, popular, and material advantages that should have secured her the victory, yet her record of Washington D.C. career climbing — replete with instances of flip-flopping, back-stabbing, rule-breaking, and outright dishonesty, if not treachery — were simply too glaring for even some former Obama fans to ignore. In simpler language, Hillary Clinton enjoyed bountiful home field advantage, and she lost the home field crowd — and the game — due largely to her inability to wave off half a century of political conniving. It wasn’t about gender. It was about the character of the person with a (D) next to her name. Next time, I suggest Democrats line up a better candidate. Surely there are more principled women in the Democratic Party? Hillary was bottom of the barrel, in this aspect. And voters noticed.

JONATHAN CHAIT (writer and columnist, New York magazine):

Sparing the Republic from the whims of a twisted maniac is no small triumph. Clinton’s skeptics have already been denying credit for her expected victory by noting that she benefited from facing the least popular major party nominee in history, and that a normal Republican could have defeated her. This misses the extraordinary nature of the opposition that produced this unpopularity in the first place. Clinton has absorbed 25 years of relentless and frequently crazed hate directed at her husband, compounded by her status as a feminist symbol, which made her the subject of additional loathing. Her very real missteps were compounded by a press corps that treated her guilt as an unexamined background assumption. She is almost certainly the first president to survive simultaneous leak-attacks by both a faction of rogue right-wing FBI agents and Russian intelligence.

I find it curious that a “press corps” — which is overwhelmingly progressive and votes Democrat 90% of the time — supposedly went to war with its own straw self, in the form of a “press corps” that eternally tried to hamstring Hillary. Uhhh . . . okay. Sure. But Chait is right: Trump’s net drag was huge. Which makes Clinton’s stumble at the finish line all the more impressive, just because you really, really have to fumble the ball, when you’ve got home field advantage, and everyone is proclaiming your victory ahead of time, and your opponent is not even on the other team’s second string; he’s some loud-mouthed walk-on who inserted himself into the lineup at the protestations of the coaching staff. Again, I ask: is it not even remotely possible, oh ye of Big Media, that Americans did precisely as they should, and looked at what Hillary Clinton has done, versus canonizing her simply because she’s a woman who wanted to be President? There would be nothing for the FBI to examine if Clinton had not operated as if she were above the rules. Many Americans are tired of Washington D.C. lifers who operate as if they are above the rules.

I am not going to fisk Katie Halper’s more expansive commentary, simply because Halper (in the article linked above) sees correctly who Hillary Clinton is, and doesn’t seem ready to have a spontaneous orgasm over Madam President’s historic (now alternate history?) win. And while Katie seems to wish for an even more alternative Bernie Sanders victory, her diagnosis of Clinton’s flaws seems essentially correct to me. Merely the longed-for end result is flawed. Perhaps as much as Trump himself, given the fact Sanders still wants to run the country according to the same playbook Fidel “I impoverished a whole nation!” Castro used.

MARIN COGAN (contributing editor, New York magazine, but this piece was prepared for Vox.com):

And yet: Hillary Clinton’s victory is historic—a triumph that should not be overlooked. It marks the end of centuries of exclusion of women from the nation’s top job. Even more remarkable was the way she won it: by running as a woman, who championed policies aimed at women, against an avatar of reactionary sexism. She won under politically tainted investigation, in spite of plenty of legitimate criticism, and in the face of an incredible amount of sexism. In voting for her, Americans rejected Donald Trump’s old, macho vision of leadership and embraced a new paradigm, one that values not only a new style of leadership but also a policy outlook that prioritizes women and children.

Once again, Big Media’s feminists rush to proclaim Hillary’s victory as a victory for women against sexism, yet this analysis is utterly blind to the idea that it was Hillary’s track record that did her in. To paraphrase Bernie Sanders, merely being a woman is not enough. The great failure of identitarianism is that it scuttles qualification in favor of demographics. Millions of Americans believed Hillary was uniquely unqualified for the job. Not because of her vagina. But because she had a broad-daylight history of self-interested, maneuvering, palm-greasing, dirty pool. It wasn’t just a single scandal that dogged Clinton to the finish line — and her collapse just short of the tape. It was an entire career of occasionally concealed and even sometimes brazen shenanigans. That she was too able to intimidate or buy off people who might actually put her in jail, did not stop millions of Americans from pressing the NOPE button on November 8, 2016.

Big Media feminists would do well to realize that the end of sexism in politics, also means the end of using the specter of sexism as a bluff, when any woman’s track record (for office) is called into question.

CHRIS CILLIZZA (writer, “The Fix”—taken from this piece published on the Washington Post’s site):

Clinton’s path to the presidency—much like her last two-plus decades in public life—was not an easy one, defined more by her relentless drive forward than any sort of soaring movement like the one that propelled Barack Obama into office in 2008. And even in victory, Clinton survived rather than overwhelmed. Expected to cruise to an electoral vote victory, Clinton squeaked by—with Democrats fretting deep into the night about her prospects.

In short: It was a uniquely Clinton campaign—with all the good and bad that connotes.

Cillizza seems much more level-headed. Indeed, the Clinton drive for the goal was not the epic passing game many would have preferred. Hillary’s march to the Oval Office was a dreary, time-consuming display of short-yardage runs, occasional pitch-backs, very little in the way of forward throwing, too many tape and chain checks, not to mention penalty flags, all finally terminating with Hillary and her fans doing a victory dance in the end zone — with the clock still running, and the actual ball sitting on the grass at the 3; to be promptly scooped up for a spectacular 97-yard touchdown run by Trump and Co.

ALEXANDRA SVOKOS (political writer, Elite Daily):

Clinton was the first First Lady to have had a full-time job outside of her husband’s career before moving into the White House. She was the first First Lady to get an office in the West Wing.

Clinton was the first female senator from New York. She was the first First Lady to be elected to a public office.

Clinton was the first woman to clinch a presidential nomination and the first female presidential nominee for a major party.

Now, Clinton is set to become the first female president of the United States.

Again, Big Media feminists have to grapple with the fact that an end to sexism in politics (or any other arena) necessarily entails an end to using sexism as a raison d’être for putting somebody in office in the first place. Demographics are not enough. Oh, we’ll see a woman in the Oval Office eventually. Maybe Elizabeth Warren in 2020, assuming Trump blows it? Or, if he doesn’t blow it, maybe that woman will be a Republican? I know, I know, firsts are never allowed to be firsts, when the person making the first, plays for the wrong team. If Hillary Clinton were replaced with Condi Rice, and the (D) with an (R), the meteoric rise of a woman to coming within an inch of the White House would have been met with scowls and scorn — from Big Media — not euphoric adulation. If Hillary set precedents, they were mixed at best. Does a woman really have to be a serially dishonest schemer, who cheats and lies her way through life, to become President? Lord, let’s hope not! (C’mon Condi, get in the game. Your country needs you. Again.)

NEWSWEEK/TOPIX STAFF (prepared for a special commemorative edition):

On Election Day, Americans across the country roundly rejected the kind of fear- and hate-based conservatism peddled by Donald Trump and elected the first woman in U.S. history to the presidency. The culminating election of a career in politics spanning three decades and arguably more experience than any other incoming president, 2016’s was not an easy race to watch, comment on or be a part of—but when the dust cleared it revealed a priceless moment in American history. The highest glass ceiling in the Western world had finally shattered.

More end zone partying, while the ball is still sitting on the grass at the 3. Big Media feminists can’t resist the urge to subtly parrot Clinton herself, with her (now infamous) “deplorables” line. As if Democrats and Hillary apologists were not peddling their own brand of hate and fear, while evicting half of the country from the human equation. When you stop trying to persuade, and can only deride, you run the risk of painting yourself into a corner of irrelevance. Democrats — Big Media being a subsidiary — bought into their own prophesied dream, of manifest destiny: demographic permanent majority. Since those silly old white Republican assholes in fly-over country were dying off, the future was going to be a Democratic rainbow of eternal progressivism. Only . . . no it wasn’t. Demographics is not a political destiny. People change their minds over time. People also have the ability to distinguish issues that affect them directly — the un-recovery recovery, during the Obama years — versus a very distant and ultimately cerebral issue, like putting a woman in the White House purely for the sake of her being female. I said it above, I am sure we’ll get a woman in the Oval Office eventually. It will be interesting to see how Big Media reacts, if she’s a conservative. Five will get you ten, they will be largely silent; about shattering glass ceilings.

JON SCHWARZ (senior writer, The Intercept):

Okay. Okay. The 2016 election is over, and Donald Trump is not going to be president of the United States of America.

We’ve all hugged our children, husbands and wives, parents, siblings, neighbors, dogs, cats, parakeets, ocelots and so forth. Some of us may have cried with relief.

Now we have to figure out what to do next.

Top Democrats, top Republicans, the corporate media and big business all have overwhelming incentives to pretend, as of this moment, that the last year never happened. Maybe there was a small glitch in the matrix, they’ll say, but the update we just pushed has patched it. The system worked! Thanks for voting. We’ll handle things from here.

For everyone else, all of America’s regular people, it’s a matter of life and death to stop that from happening.

The fact that a Tang-colored monstrosity like Trump came this close to the Zero Halliburton aluminum suitcase is by itself a terrifying catastrophe. The U.S. has had several presidents who might have destroyed humanity on purpose, but Trump is the first serious contender who could easily have done it by accident.

In any functioning democracy Trump’s campaign would have sputtered to a halt in the fall of 2015 because all of the other Republican candidates refused to appear on the same stage as him.

Instead he tore through every barrier except the very very last like it was wet toilet paper. And in the end Trump wasn’t beaten by anyone but himself. Hillary Clinton was backed by two-thirds of the U.S. establishment, and much of the rest stayed out of it, yet Trump could easily have won if he were a tiny bit less stupid, lazy and vile.

If we look back over the last 15 years of American history and its culmination with Trump, we can see that U.S. elites have built a political system that’s like a killer robot that’s malfunctioning to the degree that even they can’t control it anymore. Working normally it murders African Americans and pregnant women and opioid addicts. The Iraq war was a minor hiccup that caused it to obliterate a country, several thousand Americans and hundreds of thousands of foreigners. The housing bubble was the result of a more serious bug that liquidated hundreds of thousands more from the poorer half of the rich world.

But with Trump, for perhaps the first time, the robot totally ignored the commands of its creators and put everyone in its crosshairs.

This time it missed. It might miss the next time, too. But if it’s not dismantled, you better believe it’s going to get us all eventually. It’s not trying to kill us because of specific bad people whom we can replace, but because of America’s deep, structural problems.

This one’s long, but it does a lot to reveal the minds-behind-the-faces of Big Media. Trump most probably does not represent imminent global doom, any more than the Presidents who have preceded him. Already, Trump appears to be doing a reasonable job of assembling a staff who will reasonably advise him on reasonable policy. Maybe not policy to make progressives smile, but hardly an immediate pushing of the Big Red Button, precipitating World War 3. But for Big Media progressives, Trump has become the avatar of everything they detest and loath in the world. So much so, it’s not even Trump the guy they seem to hate, it’s a curious straw effigy of Trump who is deranged, maniacal, as absurdly stupid as he is fiendishly wicked, and determined to bring woe and pain to the whole universe. In other words, hang that effigy next to similar effigies of Romney, Bush, Dole, Bush’s dad, Reagan, etc. In so many ways, Big Media has been crying wolf. Looks like it bit them in the ass this time, finally.

He’s right about one thing, though: the elites have built a political system that acts robotically. Jon would just be shocked to realize he’s part of that system, and his response to Trump is as precisely robotic as the lining-up-behind that occurred with Hillary Clinton — despite her own mountain of disfavorabilities that followed her around like a squall of abandoned, unhappy children. Again, had Clinton been Condi Rice, with an (R) next to her name instead of a (D), Big Media’s reactions would have been startlingly different.

Really, it’s hard to blame Big Media, since they are more of a symptom, than a disease. As someone who voted for Clinton in ’96 and then Gore in ’00, I’ve watched as the shine’s not only worn off the Big Media apple, the apple has shown itself to be infested with worms! Behind the cracked, shabby patina of neutrality, Big Media is a wholly political apparatus which works at the strategic and the granular level to dispense a “proper outlook” to U.S. citizens, whether it’s pedaled soft, or pedaled hard. But Big Media would have no influence in our lives if we did not accord them that influence. We allow them to shape our perceptions: how we think, how we react, and how we interpret events in our world. When we the citizens actively pay someone else to spoon-feed our paradigm to us, we get the Big Media we deserve.

But that’s a whole other Oprah.

For now at least, it seems the script has been derailed.

Big Media was left — with the rest of us — standing goggle-eyed and open-jawed in the end zone, their colorful “I’m with her!” pom-poms dangling limply at their sides, as President-Elect Donald J. Trump and his team took the ball all the way back, and properly won the game, according to the way it’s supposed to be played. Maybe Hillary’s team did have more yards in total, but it’s not the ground you gain, as much as it’s the points you lose.

Every time Big Media perpetuated the concept of demographic permanent majority, Hillary’s team lost points.

Every time Big Media hyperventilated about Trump’s aberrant character and unfitness, they inadvertently cast a reverse spotlight on Hillary’s even more obviously aberrant character and unfitness. More lost points.

Every time Big Media lapdogged their way through an “analysis” of the Clinton campaign — having previously humped Obama’s leg, twice — they sent a very loud message to Middle America that Big Media had taken a side, and therefore could not be trusted as a non-biased source of information. Still more lost points.

If the job of Big Media is to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable, Middle America shook its head in knowing disgust, as Big Media lined up for tony caviar parties with Madam Millionairess, while Middle America got called names, and was left out in the cold. Huge, gaping chasm of lost points.

As I have stated before in this space, Trump may be a peculiar or even terrible kind of champion, but he was the only guy — other than Hillary’s husband, ironically — to have said that Middle America was still worth a damn. Big, titanic points for Trump’s column.

Lessons learned, folks. Lessons learned.

What’s needed now — and no, I am not holding my breath either — is a wholesale Big Media cleanup. Enough with newsrooms that swing 90% Democrat. Stop coddling the corrupt who have a (D) next to their names, simply for the fact that they are (D). Washington D.C. can’t be fixed if the objective is to solidify one-party (D) rule. If ever a true permanent majority — of any kind — is achieved, the amount of corruption and abuse of power will dwarf anything we’ve yet seen. It won’t matter who has a (D) next to her name, if most of the (D)s are liars and schemers of Hillary Clinton’s cloth. Stop taking sides. Stop being a publicity machine, for either party. Hold the bastards accountable. All of the bastards. Not just the ones with an (R) next to their names. Big Media is an immensely powerful weapon, against sclerotic establishment rot. But not when Big Media is itself part and parcel of that sclerotic establishment rot.

Alas, a cleanup seems doubtful, at best. A few Big Media people have clued into the fact that they got caught up in their own mass hallucination. Those analysts and reporters who go full John Stossel — and don’t promptly return to the ways and modes of propriety (cough, progressive idea-pushing and personality-promoting, cough) — will be exiled to City Journal, Fox News, The National Review, or even (gasp) that nasty den of Faustian misogynist transphobic KKK evil Nazi sturmtrumper deplorable hate-baddery, Breitbart.

So, we know without even having to think about it, that the majority of Big Media will mercilessly hound Donald Trump. His every peep of tourettes-style thinking-out-loudness — as witnessed on Twitter — has become cause for international Big Media calamity. (One almost suspects Trump and Co. are trolling Big Media. For the lulz. Did I just see Trump tap his finger to the side of his nose, with a small smile on his face?)

But what about the next time there is a (D) sitting in the White House? Will the sweeping calls — by Big Media, for a “return to the traditional role” of Big Media — suddenly fall silent?

Moreover, Middle America might not give a damn either way.

If Big Media worry about relevance — and they should — they need to take a long, hard, overdue look in the mirror.

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