It Follows: Some Thoughts on the “Bernie Would’ve Won” Brigade

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After Labour Party candidate Jeremy Corbyn had a surprisingly good showing in Thursday’s election, I braced myself for the inevitable and it came: The Bernie Would’ve Won coalition, out in full voice. They’ve been everywhere since the election: in tweets, in memes, even in this one very creepy music video. They WON’T GO AWAY. And the tiniest thing—like an election that was a response to Trump and the wave of white nationalism around the globe—emboldens them.

I have a few thoughts on this brigade that I need to get off my chest. First of all, reasonable people can disagree on whether or not Bernie would’ve won the General Election, I suppose.

You say: Bernie was a populist candidate and America was in a populist mood.
I say: Have you been paying attention to what’s going on out there? The rise of hate crimes and racist rhetoric? Do you really think that Trump’s win was all about economic populism? If so, I have some shares in Sears I’d like to sell you.

You say: Bernie is the most popular political candidate in America. The polls say so!
I say: So was Hillary Clinton right before she ran. Hmmm, what could the difference have been? You do realize that not a single negative ad was aired about Bernie, right? There was no Bernie oppo campaign. No mentions of his unemployment until 40, those weird, misogynist essays that he wrote in his 30s, his dalliances with Castro and other communists, his atheism, which even more than his Judaism, would freak the voters out. Quite the contrary, Karl Rove’s PAC bought ads FOR him.

You say: Hillary had so much baggage, she was bound to lose.
I say: Bernie had baggage too, see above. And Hillary’s so-called “baggage” was minor: A (very secure as it turned out) private email server, not completely different from the Blackberry Colin Powell used when he was SoS; some bad optics with Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton on a tarmac (oh, Bill); the Clinton Foundation, which certainly creates some potential conflicts of interest but is inarguably a force for good in this world.  The baggage came because of the excessive mischaracterization of her as corrupt and maybe even murderous, which came from several sources: the right, Russian propaganda, a clueless and compliant news media, and, mostly damningly, FRIENDLY FIRE from Sanders and Jill Stein supporters. (By the way, you played right into the hands of the Russians, who happily helped to widen that divide. Good job, everybody!)

Okay, but enough about that. Like I said, reasonable people can disagree. The question I kept asking myself is, Why are these people harping on the hypothetical of a Bernie win? We have a legit maniac in the White House, a constitutional crisis playing out right before our very eyes, who cares if the guy who lost the Democratic primary by 4 million votes MIGHT’VE won the General Election? He lost. This is the way politics in this country works. You have a primary, the winner of the primary moves on to the General Election. The winner of the General Election moves into the White House (God help us all). Right now, for example, we’re in the midst of the NBA finals, where the Cavaliers are getting thrashed by the Warriors. I haven’t seen a lot of “The Celtics Would’ve Won” memes.

And then it occurred to me: The Bernie Would’ve Won meme grows out of another false and, frankly, dangerous belief: That the primary was rigged.

Correct me if I’m wrong, Bernie Would’ve Wonners: The reason you keep inundating all of our Twitter timelines with this meme is because he think your guy was robbed. In your view, he should’ve been the candidate, rightly, and therefore it’s fair to continue to obsess on this point to punish those who sought to keep Sanders down. Have I got that right?

But here’s the thing: The primary was NOT rigged. It wasn’t. Go back and read the leaked DNC emails. Here’s what they showed: The DNC preferred Hillary. Big whoop. That was their prerogative, indeed, arguably their very reason for existing—to support the candidate they believed was best for the party and had the best chance to win. And it wasn’t just the DNC who preferred Hillary, mind you, it was virtually every Democratic senator and congressperson (and most newspapers, too.) And it’s not even slightly surprising when you consider that Bernie was an independent, who became a Democrat to get the full credibility and financial support of the party. Did you really think the DNC was going to prefer a Democratic carpetbagger?

So what did those leaked emails show? That one numbskull in the DNC wanted to use Sanders Jewish atheism against him—and was roundly ignored. That the DNC was getting impatient with Bernie when he refused to step down from his campaign, even when it was all but mathematically impossible for him to win. That Donna Brazille, in an overabundance of “helpfulness,” gave Hillary Clinton a debate question she surely knew was coming and on an issue Clinton already had mastery of. That’s it. If anything, Hillary was the one who was robbed. Caucuses massively favored Sanders because many of his supporters were young, unemployed and had the time to caucus. Plus, they were a rowdy, spirited group who could intimate other caucusers. In Washington, Hillary WON THE POPULAR VOTE but lost the caucus and that one still went on the ledger for Bernie. RIGGED!!

P.S. Don’t just take it from me, take it from Melissa Byrne, a former Bernie Sanders staffer:Screen Shot 2017-06-09 at 12.38.01 PM

Look, Sanders exceeded expectations in the primary. It was exciting. It was fun. But he still lost by 4 million votes. That’s a lot! For the love of this country, and for your own sanity (and mine), LET IT GO.

 

Things I Blame For Hillary Clinton’s Loss, Ranked

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Here is my response to the Slate article, “So We’re Still Blaming Jill Stein and James Comey, Huh?”

This is a partial list of the things I blame, ranked.
(As always, the opinions on this blog are mine alone and do not reflect my employers.)

1-199. MISOGYNY

This is why they chant “lock her up” and “Trump that bitch,” it’s why people can’t quite put a finger on it, but they just don’t like the cut of her jib. It’s why they see her as shrill and scolding and corrupt; not sufficiently warm, not the kind of person they want to grab a beer with. It’s why, following a tried-and-true pop culture paradigm—from Lady Macbeth to Claire Underwood—they see her as hungry for power and willing to do anything—even murder—to get what she wants. It’s why 2016’s answer to most election-related questions is, “It’s the misogyny, stupid!”

200. BERNIE SANDERS

I know this is going to piss a lot of people off, but so be it. I think Sanders, who fortified the recurring narrative that Hillary was a corrupt neoliberal and part of a rigged system, did more damage than anyone else. He turned millions of young people against Hillary—and countless independents, no doubt, too.

Yes, he ultimately campaigned for Hillary, but did so half-heartedly, through pursed lips and slumped body language, bashing Trump but rarely praising Hillary. One could almost see the thought bubble over his head: “This should’ve been me.”

201.FAKE NEWS

This, like almost everything on this list, is a subset of the misogyny. But these were among the stories that were circulating on the web—and that people believed—about Hillary Clinton during the campaign.

  • She’s got Parkinson’s or MS and is covering it up.
  • She has a body double, whom she trots out when she is too ill to appear in public
  • She murdered a DNC staffer, among many others
  • She exchanged “signals” with Lester Holt from the debate stage.
  • She runs a child pedophilia ring out of pizza parlor in D.C. (No, really!)

I could go on…

202. JAMES COMEY

When FBI director James Comey announced that his office would not be filing charges against Hillary Clinton, he did it in the most scolding, damning language possible. His statement, where he called her “extremely careless,” was unprecedented. Nonetheless, the Clinton campaign took this embarrassing public reproach and thanked him, happy the whole thing was behind them. Oh, if only they had been so lucky. Not content to have damaged her reputation with his public statement, Comey waited until 11 days before the election to announce that he was reopening the case, investigating new emails related to Anthony Weiner. (The Weiner bit was a particularly damning touch, reminding people of Bill’s infidelities.) As the Trump campaign celebrated and gloated— and Americans were essentially told: This is who Clinton is, a woman who will be forever dogged by scandal—a hasty release was issued a day before the election, clearing Clinton (again!) of all wrongdoing (the emails on Weiner’s server were duplicates). This was the biggest November Surprise in the history of November Surprises and it never should’ve happened.

203. RUSSIA/WIKILEAKS

I love how we’re all pretending that Russia didn’t have a clear horse in the race—Trump—and didn’t do everything in their power—hacking the DNC, hacking John Podesta, disseminating fake news—to get him elected. While we weren’t looking, Russia just won an information war against us.

204. THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA

Eventually, they got better at calling out Trump for his lies, incompetence, and corruption, but they continued to act as though Hillary’s emails were an equally big deal (they spent three times as much time discussing her emails as they did on all of her policy proposals combined), and continued to let Trump’s surrogates run roughshod over cable news, assassinating Hillary’s character (remember the handcuffs?) and lying about her, smugly, sanctimoniously, and with impunity. Quite simply, the media failed us.

205. JILL STEIN

That light-weight, publicity-seeking bourgeois hippie gave disenchanted Bernie or Busters a place for their protest vote, and continued the absurd narrative that Hillary was just as bad as Trump.

Yes, this matters, despite snide Slate articles suggesting otherwise:

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205a. You’re on my list too, Susan Sarandon.

206. THE 96 MILLION WHO DIDN’T VOTE

What the hell is wrong with you people?

207. VOTER SUPPRESSION

Some people who wanted to vote couldn’t. Without the protections of the Voting Rights Act, Republicans were able to suppress the vote in several key states.

208. HILLARY’S MESSAGE

Bernie made promises: Free college! Trump made promises: Build that wall! Save American jobs! But Hillary, a policy wonk who understands the nature of incremental change, could never bring herself to spout slogans. I don’t think she should’ve made false promises, necessarily, but perhaps a few concrete soundbites would’ve gone a long way.

209. HILLARY’S CAMPAIGN

They should’ve had her hold rallies in Wisconsin, ffs. They took their eye off the ball.

210. HILLARY’S SUPPORTERS

We took to the corners of the Internet for a variety of reasons—mostly because of (duh) the misogyny. But we should’ve been louder and prouder and worn our allegiance in public, shutting down the narrative that we were unenthusiastic. I was a pretty public supporter. But that being said, I can’t tell you how many times I expressed my devotion to Hillary—and my anger at the unfair, widespread anti-Hillary tactics—in a locked FB group when I should’ve been screaming it from the rafters.

Things I don’t blame:

1. HILLARY HERSELF.

She won every debate. She came up with well thought out, concrete plans to govern. She carried herself with dignity and grace, despite all the endless, misogynist shit that was hurled at her. She was nothing short of heroic.

2. IDENTITY POLITICS

Because seriously, fuck that.

How MSNBC Screwed Over Hillary Clinton (Not you, Joy Reid and Lawrence O’Donnell)

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As always, the opinions in this blog are strictly my own.

Any discussion of how MSNBC let Hillary Clinton down has to start with Joe Scarborough, of course. Before the station made its recent, concerted shift to the center, he was MSNBC’s token Republican, so perhaps it stands to reason that he would support Trump. His co-host Mika Brzezinski, however, was the real disappointment. There was a time when she was a reliably left-leaning, even feminist, foil to Scarborough’s smug, jokey, right wing bonhomie. But something happened in the last year, fueled by her inexplicable hatred toward Hillary Clinton and her starry-eyed adoration of her cohost—she joined Joe in normalizing the greatest threat our country has seen in my lifetime.

This was the most horrifying aspect of Morning Joe. Both Mika and Joe have socialized with Trump and consider him a friend. They believe that the charming (allegedly) man they’ve shmoozed with at cocktail parties is the real Trump, not the bloviating, rage-filled fascist we saw on the stump. In fact, with the smirking cynicism that is their hallmark, they made fun of the people who saw Trump as a global threat. In the primaries, they gloated, because they had pegged him as a serious contender from the start. (This is true.) So instead of being horrified by the fact that this Cheeto-faced con artist could win the presidency, they did a victory lap. Around that time, a rumor began circulating that Joe was a potential Trump VP candidate. His credibility as a “journalist” in jeopardy, Joe got sober for a few weeks, even penning an editorial in the Washington Post calling for Trump to step down. But once he saved face, he went back to laughing over all the “liberal elites” who were wetting their pants over a potential Trump presidency. Meanwhile, the sycophants around the table mostly got in line—taking for granted Mika and Joe’s characterization of Clinton as grim, uninspiring, and corrupt to the bone, and reveling in how wrong the media had been about their boy Trump.

But the lightweights on Morning Joe weren’t the only MSNBC personalities that let Hillary down. The general trajectory of the station went like this. In the primaries, the story was all about Bernie and his youthful revolution, with all Hillary conversation focused on her apparent deficiencies: Why don’t young people like her? Why isn’t she more inspiring? What is she so unlikable? Why can’t she reduce her message to soundbites the way Bernie can?

If you watched the primaries through the lens of MSNBC, you’d be pretty convinced that Bernie was winning. Rarely was it mentioned that she had a substantial lead and, what’s more, there was a bad faith assumption that what support she had was unenthusiastic. There was never an attempt to find her supporters, and ask why many had retreated to the sidelines. (I tackled that a bit here.)

In the general election, the myriad Trump outrages were covered, but Trump surrogates were always brought in to defend their candidate, which generally meant leaning heavily on hyperbolic, anti-Clinton talking points. With a few notable exceptions, their outrageous, mean-spirited claims were rarely challenged. What’s more, the email scandal was never put in context—namely that it grew out of the protracted and partisan Benghazi hearings which were a known GOP witchhunt (and of which she was, again, found to have done no wrong) and that Colin Powell, himself, also used a private email account. (The “private server” sounded nefarious—and was always treated as such—but if you looked closer, you’d see that it had been set up by Bill Clinton years earlier and just happened to be where the Clintons conducted their personal business.)

One of the worst MSNBC offenders was Andrea Mitchell, who relentlessly grilled Hillary about her emails and seriously engaged with absurd conspiracy theories about Clinton’s health. Other offenders included Chris Matthews, who was nominally pro-Hillary during the general election, but couldn’t quite conceal his glee over Trump’s larger than life personality and populist tendencies. Other Hillary foes on MSNBC included Mark Halperin, a known Trump lackey, and Meet the Press‘s Chuck Todd, who routinely salivated all over Trump campaign director Kellyanne Conway. (“Don’t forget to enjoy the moment,” he sweet-talked her the night before the election, after congratulating her on a what a great job she had done.)

The redoubtable Chris Hayes was certainly anti-Trump, but never fully pro-Hillary. (He was a Bernie guy.) Rachel Maddow was a little better on that front, but never as enthusiastic as I might have hoped. Only Joy Reid and Lawrence O’Donnell were committed, enthusiastic Hillary truth-tellers. (I won’t say supporters, they just saw her without the cynicism and entrenched negative bias of their colleagues.) Joy Reid, in particular, was the only MSNBC host who could take on the unfair and transparent tactics of Trump surrogates with facts and the appropriate amount of disgust.
The truth is, Hillary was at a disadvantage across all cable news, even without the help of biased hosts. Her surrogates tended to be reasonable people, who answered direct questions, stuck to the facts, and played by the rules. As I said, his surrogates tended to be blowhards and liars, who never answered direct questions and pivoted to anti-Hillary talking points. (Famously, although not on MSNBC, one of Trump’s supporters brandished a pair of handcuffs mid-interview to demonstrate how Hillary should be behind bars.)

There’s a lot of blame to go around for Hillary’s loss on Tuesday, but I look squarely at the so-called liberal station (it’s really not anymore), which parroted right-wing conspiracy theories about Clinton, gave much airtime to Trump’s merry band of  bullies and liars, and started with a baseline characterization of the Democratic nominee as corrupt and uninspiring. How terribly, terribly sad.

Does Trump Have A Single Redeeming Quality? A Report.

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Does Donald Trump have a single redeeming quality? I’m not kidding here. I actually gave this some serious thought recently and came up empty. His many negative qualities are manifest—Google “text book definition of sociopath” and it will look like his Match.com profile—but even the qualities his followers consider good (strength, straight-forwardness, etc.) are not all they seem.

So, without further ado, I thought I’d list Trump’s obviously unsavory qualities and then briefly challenge the ones people consider positive.

He’s a bully.
Whether he’s name-calling (“Miss Piggy,” “Crooked Hillary,” “Lyin’ Ted”), mocking the disabled, mocking his opponents, threatening to ruin people with law suits, or looming behind his competitor during the debate, he tries to make himself seem tough by intimidating and belittling others.

He’s thin-skinned.
The phrase “can dish it out but can’t take it” was made for this guy. He hurls all sorts of insults at people, but the moment you dare to challenge him, he goes nuclear. This is why he spent a week going after Miss Universe Alicia Machado when his advisers begged him to drop it, why he insists on bashing any newspaper or TV show that dares to criticize him, why he calls Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas,” why he bragged about the size of his penis in the middle of a debate (bet you’d forgotten about that presidential moment, eh?), and why, yes, he attacked a Gold Star family after the DNC. The guy is so easily provoked, it’s terrifying. (“Itchy trigger finger” is not a quality once looks for in a president). Need proof? Check out this damning spread of Trump’s insults in the New York Times.

He’s not generous.
A months-long investigation by The Washington Post‘s David Fahrenthold shows how he never contributes a cent of his own money to charity, and, in fact, uses his foundation to advance his own business ventures.

He’s a bald-faced liar.
He lies so frequently, and so boldly, all the lies begin to feel like some alternate version of truth. First he brags that he has a relationship with Vladamir Putin, then he claims he never met the guy. He denies saying that Climate Change is a hoax, even when his tweets stating just that have not been deleted. He lies about his taxes. He lies about being the leader of the Birtherism movement. He lies about his charitable giving. (See above) He lies about his stance on the Iraq War. He lies about seeing American Muslims celebrate 9/11. He lies, absurdly, about Hillary’s immigration policy. And so on…

He’s a racist.
He claims, with classic hyperbole, that he’s the “least racist person you’ll ever meet,” but, in fact, he is demonstrably racist, from putting out a full-page ad in the Daily News calling for the execution of the Central Park Five, to RTing racist and demonstrably false memes about crime stats, to calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” and drug dealers, to questioning the integrity of a judge because he’s Mexican, to saying that “I think Islam hates us,” to his famous policy of putting a small “c” for “colored” on the applications of African-Americans who wanted to rent one of his properties.

He’s a misogynist.
Even before the now infamous “grab them by the pussy” incident and even before 12 women came forward accusing him of sexual assault, we knew the guy was a misogynist. There’s so much proof, I have neither the time nor the stomach to list it all here, but suffice it to say, “Blood coming out of her whatever,” RTing an insult to the appearance of Ted Cruz’s wife, his “look at that face!” remark about Carly Fiorina, his absurd ongoing feud with Rosie O’Donnell, and his many interviews with Howard Stern where he ranked women’s breasts and physical appearance, were proof enough. Since the accusations came forward, he has merely doubled down on his piggishness, noting that the women weren’t hot enough for him to assault and, finally, depressingly, saying that he was “unimpressed” with what he saw when he loomed behind Secretary Clinton. (It was just a matter of time before he sexually objectified her, wasn’t it?)

He’s boastful.
I mean, do I even have to elaborate?

He’s ostentatious.

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He’s a cheat.
He cheats on his taxes. He cheats on his wives. He cheated the thousands of people who put their faith in him and Trump University, which was a complete fraud. He cheats people who have worked for him by stiffing them. He cheats other people by declaring bankruptcy.

He never admits to being wrong or apologizes.

He’s litigious.
Maybe it’s just me, but 4,095 lawsuits seems like a lot.

Did I mention he’s a sociopath?
On 9/11, he boasted that he now had the tallest building in Lower Manhattan. Scum. Of. The. Earth.

He disrespects his constituents.
This is the one that galls me. There was, of course, the famous “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, okay, and I wouldn’t lose any voters” crack. But more than that, there’s the taxes. Here’s the thing on Trump’s taxes: Everyone knows he’s lying. This excuse about the audit? Total bullshit debunked by numerous tax experts. He’s withholding his taxes because there’s something damning in them—ties to Russia; a total lack of charitable giving; the likely fact that he’s not really a billionaire—he doesn’t want his voters to see. He’s obviously and intentionally deceiving them—calling them morons, essentially—and they don’t seem to care.

Okay, I could go on (and on), but let’s get to the qualities that Trump fans seem to like about him.

He’s strong.
You see, here’s where we disagree. Bullying is the opposite of strength. It’s overcompensating for feelings of weakness and insecurity. People who have high self-esteem and truly feel strong do not need to belittle others. Do you see the similarly boastful and bullying Kim Jong Un (who just endorsed Trump!) as strong, or as one of the most pathetic, child-like, insecure narcissists alive? Yeah, ditto.

He tells it like it is.
Actually, he’s just mean and rude. Again and again, it has been proven that, far from telling it like it is, he’s the biggest liar in the history of politics.

He’ll keep us safe.
How? By cozying up to Putin? By torturing people? By bombing the shit of places he couldn’t identify on a map? I don’t trust a man who thinks more countries should have nuclear weapons, who didn’t even realize that Russia was ALREADY in Ukraine, and who wants to start a war over rude hand gestures to keep us safe.

He loves his kids.
Okay, I’ll give you that. He seems to love his kids, although he had very little to do with raising them. I might argue that loving your children is the bare minimum qualification for being human.

So I know some of you are going to counter with, but…but… Hillary! Allow me to point you to this and this and this and this and this.

So there you have it. On Tuesday, we run the risk of putting not just the worst presidential candidate ever but literally one of the most disgusting human beings alive in the Oval Office. Vote wisely, America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hillary Clinton’s Well-Behaved Women

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There’s a famous saying, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” This is both empirically true and a sentiment I can fully get behind. However, the Hillary Clinton candidacy might be the exception that proves the rule.

Take the debate on Sunday night: Trump was rude. He was taunting. He made threats, he loomed ominously, he called his opponent unspeakable names. And throughout it all, Hillary Clinton kept her decorum. She smiled, perhaps through gritted teeth. She waited for her turn to speak. She quoted Michelle Obama’s now famous “when they go low, we go high.” Not once, but twice she evoked the idea that “America is great because America is good.” She was, in short, well behaved.

Then there’s us, her devoted followers. We, too, have been largely well-behaved. We haven’t worn vulgar tee-shirts or buttons, or chanted gleefully for the incarceration of our rival. We haven’t thrown dollar bills at a motorcade or chairs at a stage. We haven’t bullied or harassed on line. We haven’t roughly thrown protesters out of rallies. Instead, we’ve done the opposite—retreated politely to the sidelines. This is one of the many reasons there is a perceived “enthusiasm gap.” This is on us. But please don’t mistake our politeness for a lack of enthusiasm.

It started, of course, in the primaries. Bernie supporters were not just zealous, they seemed to have an unlimited supply of time on their hands. Some of the young men—the anti-Hillary, pro-Bernie Subreddit crowd—were, in fact, abusive. Most were just relentless. They came out of the woodwork. If you dared to post a pro-Hillary meme on Twitter or Facebook, they always managed to find you. They wanted to argue, they wanted to debate. They never accepted that last refuge of the polite person: “Let’s agree to disagree.” They wanted to CONVERT you. Who the hell had time for these Facebook threads that went on for pages, these fights that went on for hours? Yes, some of us retreated to the sidelines because we were being harassed. But many did so because we had freaking LIVES TO LIVE.

So we found refuge in private Facebook groups, safe spaces, where we cheered on Hillary, shared memes both positive and negative, gushed about Hillary’s outfits (and then chided each other for focusing on the superficial), vented about misogyny and injustice, and, every once in while, proudly shared a public moment where we engaged with our detractors, didn’t back down, chose to roar. (“Represent!” and “You go, girl!” came the inevitable replies.) There were many reasons why we didn’t go public—some of the older supporters, Hillary’s age and older, really did come from a generation where decorum and civility were valued highly; others had family and work and busy schedules to juggle and simply didn’t have time for this shit; a few of us felt triggered or abused by the vitriol that was often hurled our way—but we followed our chosen candidate closely, with pride and admiration, fretfulness (because Hillary supporters are nothing if not an anxious lot), and love.

There really isn’t an enthusiasm gap, but there is a volume gap. We may not be that loud or rude. We may be the last gasp of the well-behaved women. And this is a good thing. Women should be loud, we should demand things, make our voices heard, take up public space. But right about now, in this obnoxious political climate where an orange-faced vulgarian is leading the Republican party and the ugliest side of America’s id has been unleashed, good behavior feels like a kind of grace. It feels like a benediction. And as of today, it feels like victory.