Clinton's Campaign Tactics Just Aren't As Excitingly Disruptive As Racism And Magical Thinking
Credit: DonkeyHotey
September 24, 2016

David Brooks thinks Hillary Clinton's campaign is drab and old-fashioned:

Her donor base and fund-raising style is out of another era. Obama and Sanders tapped into the energized populist base, but Clinton has Barbra Streisand, Cher and a cast of Wall Street plutocrats. Her campaign proposals sidestep the cutting issues that have driven Trump, Sanders, Brexit and the other key movements of modern politics. Her ideas for reducing poverty are fine, but they are circa Ed Muskie: more public works jobs, housing tax credits, more money for Head Start.

Trump's ideas for reducing povery make no sense -- wave a magic wand and suddenly America will be great again, with millions more jobs and taxes slashed -- but never mind. We know the wall won't work; we know the trade war with China won't work. But Trump is nationalist at the top of his lungs, so it's exciting:

We have an emerging global system, with relatively open trade, immigration, multilateral institutions and ethnic diversity. The critics of that system are screaming at full roar. The champions of that system -- and Hillary Clinton is naturally one -- are off in another world.

"Screaming at full roar" is really the point here. Trump is keeping this close not just because a lot of white Americans are racist, but because a lot of other white Americans who aren't racist (or aren't very racist) find the "disruptive" nature of the Trump campaign bracing and sexy, and thus are willing to overlook what they find distasteful about Trump. They like the fact that Trump is competitive despite doing everything you're not supposed to do as a candidate. Older college-educated whites, as much as (or perhaps more than) millennials, think it might be cool to see everything blown up.

At BuzzFeed, Ruby Cramer notes that the Clinton campaign made a strategic decision in the spring to stop linking Trump to the GOP and portray him as a person who's beyond preexisting bipartisan political norms. I assume this was done after a lot of focus groups and a lot of poring over data: the members of Team Clinton who favored this approach must have concluded that there was a statistically significant likelihood of winning more votes this way, because one approach led to X response and the other approach led to Y response.

But this is Clinton being a careful nerd, and much of America will vote for a guy who just tosses all the paperwork in the air and decides to go with his gut, even if his gut is the gut of a bigoted simpleton with narcissistic personality disorder.

That's why Trump is likely to be declared the winner of next Monday's debate. Paul Krugman wants him to be called on his inevitable lies in the debates, in real time:

Will the moderators step in when Mr. Trump delivers one of his well-known, often reiterated falsehoods? If he claims, yet again, to have opposed the Iraq war from the beginning -- which he didn’t -- will he be called on it? If he claims to have renounced birtherism years ago, will the moderators note that he was still at it just a few months ago? (In fact, he already seems to be walking back his admission last week that President Obama was indeed born in America.) If he says one more time that America is the world’s most highly taxed country -- which it isn’t -- will anyone other than Mrs. Clinton say that it isn’t? And will media coverage after the debate convey the asymmetry of what went down?

But that's unlikely, and not just because, as Krugman says, pointing out the fact that Trump lies far more than Clinton would seem like an act of partisan bias, even if it's objectively true. Trump won't be called on his lies because there's quiet admiration in the media for his unmitigated gall, and for the fact that it works. We'll get this instead:

One all-too-common response to such attacks involves abdicating responsibility for fact-checking entirely, and replacing it with theater criticism: Never mind whether what the candidate said is true or false, how did it play? How did he or she “come across”? What were the “optics”?

To some extend, I understand why the Chuck Todd's of the press will respond this way -- much of the public just likes it when Trump gets away with stuff. But much of the media does, too, and Trump may be covered that way just because some in the media simply admire him for being such a clever rogue. I don't know how Clinton will beat that.

Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog

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