How Seinfeld ruined America

This Bloomberg profile of Steve Bannon is from last month, but it just crossed by electronic transom today.  So fascinating.  Highly, highly recommended.  The scary thing, is that Bannon is pretty much an evil genius who has figured out how to hack the mainstream media.  Here’s a key bit:

To this end, Hall peppers his colleagues with slogans so familiar around the office that they’re known by their abbreviations. “ABBN — always be breaking news,” he says. Another slogan is “depth beats speed.” Time-strapped reporters squeezed for copy will gratefully accept original, fact-based research because most of what they’re inundated with is garbage. “The modern economics of the newsroom don’t support big investigative reporting staffs,” says Bannon. “You wouldn’t get a Watergate, a Pentagon Papers today, because nobody can afford to let a reporter spend seven months on a story. We can. We’re working as a support function.”

The reason GAI does this is because it’s the secret to how conservatives can hack the mainstream media. Hall has distilled this, too, into a slogan: “Anchor left, pivot right.” It means that “weaponizing” a story onto the front page of the New York Times(“the Left”) is infinitely more valuable than publishing it on “We don’t look at the mainstream media as enemies because we don’t want our work to be trapped in the conservative ecosystem,” says Hall. “We live and die by the media. Every time we’re launching a book, I’ll build a battle map that literally breaks down by category every headline we’re going to place, every op-ed Peter’s going to publish. Some of it is a wish list. But it usually gets done.”

Once that work has permeated the mainstream—once it’s found “a host body,” in David Brock’s phrase—then comes the “pivot.” Heroes and villains emerge and become grist for a juicy Breitbart News narrative. “With Clinton Cash, we never really broke a story,” says Bannon, “but you go [to] and we’ve got 20 things, we’re linking to everybody else’s stuff, we’re aggregating, we’ll pull stuff from the Left. It’s a rolling phenomenon. Huge traffic. Everybody’s invested.”

Insidious.  So, what does this have to do with my favorite TV show ever.  In one of his many former lives (truly, a fascinating individual), Bannon bought the rights to Seinfeld syndication royalties when it was only in it’s third season.  Safe to say that paid off handsomely and Bannon has been using the proceeds to fund his right-wing muckraking.  So, in the end, you can blame Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David for President Trump :-).

Quick hits (part I)

1) Love this NYT feature on voter turnout and demographics (from back in September), but it’s been an open tab for too long.

2) Continuing with the theme of clearing out some really good open tabs.  Loved this Lee Drutman on race and identity as a central dividing line on American politics:

For Democratic Party leaders, there are three benefits to maintaining race and identity as the primary dimension of conflict in American politics.

The first reason Democrats want to make politics about race and identity is that they probably hold the majority position, at least if the 2016 election cleavages hold. And going forward, the electorate is only going to grow more diverse and more highly educated, which means that if Democrats get to be the party of tolerance and cosmopolitan social values in a politics organized around these issues, they will be in a strong electoral position.

Obviously, there is danger here. Democrats could go too far in supporting the rights of minority groups to the point that whites completely abandon the party.

A second reason is that Democrats are increasingly split internally along class lines. If economics were dominating this campaign, you’d hear a lot about how Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine are selling out the Democrats by cozying up to corporate elites for money and endorsements. But by keeping the campaign about Trump’s racism, these divisions have been silenced.

And finally, Democrats are more and more a coalition of identity groups, all with their specific policy demands. But all these groups can get behind a politics about inclusion and tolerance and anti-racism, since such a politics serves them all well.

This election (and Republican dominance on the state level) suggests that perhaps such a politics is not serving Democrats well.

3) Yglesias‘ excellent take on Bartels and Achen’s book on the irrationality of the American voter.  I like this part on how it interacts with our presidential system:

Bartels and Achen don’t have Trump in mind in their book (recall that despite its May 2016 publication date, the research is much too old to address him explicitly) and are concerned primarily with academic theory rather than practical reform.

Their message, however, is loud and clear: It is simply much less likely than one would hope that the voters, in their wisdom, will prevent flagrantly unqualified candidates or people with terrible ideas from obtaining high office. Partisan loyalties are largely built up from fundamental group identities rather than based on profound ideological commitments, and swing voters swing in large part for no good reason at all — maybe because of a recession, but maybe because of a swing in global oil prices or because the Steelers lost or almost anything else.

To the extent that democratic political systems work — and they mostly do work — it’s because these electoral impulses intersect with important aspects of elite control. A given state or congressional district may choose to be represented by someone unsuitable for office, but to make a big difference as a legislator you need to be able to collaborate effectively with others.

Most successful democracies have parliamentary governments — often backed by proportional electoral systems — leading to a politics that reenforces this tendency and avoids tipping points. In the American system, small shifts in public sentiment can lead to drastic changes — either Bush or Gore, either Clinton or Trump — whereas the Dutch or German electoral systems ensure that a small change in voting behavior leads to a small change in the composition of parliament. Any given party could put a fool or a knave forward as leader, and he might still win votes. But to exercise meaningful power he would need to negotiate with other coalition partners, which is hard to do if you’re a fool.

The American system has no such safeguard. If a fool or a knave secures the nomination of one of the major political parties, he has a pretty good chance of becoming president, at which point all bets are off.

4) John Oliver’s great post-election take.

5) John Cassidy on Trump’s bait-and-switch.

6) On how the Electoral College was maintained with the 12th amendment in 1803 to serve the interests of slave states.

7) Emily Crockett on how sexism explains Trump’s victory:

To understand how sexism played into Trump’s victory, first you have to understand that there are two basic types of sexism — “hostile” and “benevolent” — and how they work together.

If you have some “hostile” sexist attitudes, you might mistrust women’s motives and see gender relations as a zero-sum battle between male and female dominance. You might agree with statements like, “Many women get a kick out of teasing men by seeming sexually available and then refusing male advances,” or “Most women interpret innocent remarks or acts as being sexist.”

If you have some “benevolent” sexist attitudes, you might endorse positive — but still patronizing — stereotypes of women. You might agree with statements like, “Women should be cherished and protected by men,” or “Women, compared to men, tend to have a superior moral sensibility.”

In the context of Trump, a benevolent sexist might hear the “grab ’em by the pussy” tape and say that he’s horrified because he has a daughter — which suggests that his first instinct is to paternalistically shield his female relatives from harm, rather than to see sexual assault as an objective moral horror no matter who you’re related to.

Meanwhile, a hostile sexist would claim the benevolent sexist is overreacting — that the tape doesn’t actually describe sexual assault, just normal male sexual aggression.

These attitudes might seem diametrically opposed to one another. But they’re actually two sides of the same coin, Peter Glick, professor of psychology and social sciences at Lawrence University, told Vox. People can hold both of these sexist views at the same time, and they very often do.

“It’s how men can wear ‘Trump That Bitch’ T-shirts at a Trump rally, and then go home and say, ‘I love my wife and daughter,’” Glick said.

Trump expresses both hostile and benevolent attitudes toward women all the time. When he likes a woman, he praises her in a patronizing way (usually focusing on her physical beauty). When he doesn’t, he viciously insults her.

Benevolent sexism is the carrot, Glick explained, and hostile sexism is the stick. If you’re a “good” woman who meets expected gender norms — who has warm feminine charms, who maintains strict beauty standards, whose ambitions are focused on home and hearth — you will be rewarded with affection, protection, and praise. But step outside those norms, and you risk being labeled as one of the “bad” girls who are abused and scorned only because they deserve it.

It’s a tidy little cycle. Benevolent sexism is supposed to protect women from hostile sexism, and hostile sexism is supposed to keep women in line with the ideals of benevolent sexism.

But while benevolent sexism may put women on a pedestal, Glick said, it’s a very narrow pedestal that’s easy to fall off of. This is the whole reason that our age-old “Madonna versus whore” dichotomy exists in the first place: If women can be separated into good girls and bad, and only bad girls get punished, it justifies male dominance and absolves men of blame for treating women unfairly.

And it’s why Trump, despite the long list of sexist words and deeds to his name, can insist that “nobody respects women more” than he does — and why some people, including women, actually believe him.

8) Kathy Cramer on the politics of anti-elite resentment in rural America.

9) Take that political correctness!

10) Not quite getting arrested for a library fine, but it is absolutely insane that any jurisdiction anywhere thinks it is a good use of public resources to put out arrest warrants for people who bounce $10 checks paying off library fines.  Insane!

11) Really interesting dialogue on the election between Theda Skocpol and John Judis.

12) Yglesias on how praise for Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff is really lowering the bar for Trump.

13) There’s simply no way that NC Governor Pat McCrory is going to make up the 6000 votes he’s behind.  My already low opinion of him has sunk far lower, not that he is flinging around baseless accusations of voter fraud in his desperate attempt to hold onto office.

14) Michael Tomasky’s “muted farewell” to Hillary:

She ran a good campaign. People—in some ways liberals in particular—loved to carp about what a lousy candidate she was. Well, no. She won a primary in which she never trailed. She led pretty much the entire way in the general election. She oversaw a very successful convention. She won all three debates, two of them by a mile. She had better TV ads (the ads were fantastic). She had better field operations.

It’s hard to do all those things. Candidates who do them almost always win.

But she lost.

I submit she didn’t lose for anything she did as a candidate. She lost for two main reasons. One, the email server decision. Yes maybe it got over-covered, and yes, Jim Comey probably killed her on Oct. 28 (and Anthony Weiner, whom I saw referred to on Twitter last night as the Steve Bartman of this election, didn’t help her).

But she skirted the rules. Before that story broke in March 2015, her approval and trust numbers were above water. Within a couple months, they were not, and they stayed underwater ever since. I can’t agree with other liberal writers that, hey, bosses often skirt rules, no big deal. She wasn’t a private-sector boss. She was a public servant. Public servants should obey the rules in a way that makes common sense to regular people. If she had, she’d be the president-elect today, I have little doubt. She’ll have to spend her life waking up thinking about that.

 15) Confessions of a fake news writer.

16) How much should Democrats cooperate with Trump?  Not at all says Jamelle Bouie:

Supporting a Trump-branded infrastructure initiative as a discrete piece of policy where two sides can find common ground only bolsters a white-nationalist politics, even if you oppose the rest of Trump’s agenda. It legitimizes and gives fuel to white tribalism as a political strategy. It shows that there are tangible gains for embracing Trump-style demagoguery.

17) Bouie’s colleague at Slate, Jim Newell, disagrees:

I don’t have any nifty Actually! reply to this. If an infrastructure bill passes, and Trump’s approval rating goes up as a result, it would still seem … undeserved. But I also don’t think it’s tenable for Democrats—especially if Democrats were to advertise it as their strategy!—to keep their hands off every single thing that might make Trump look good, especially if the things that are making him look good include people getting good construction jobs and improved access to child care.

To whatever extent Democratic senators work with Trump on these proposals, they should work extra hard to block the rest of his agenda. They should fight mass deportations, hard. They should fight appointments, like Jeff Sessions’ for attorney general, hard. They should walk out of Congress if Trump moves forward with a “Muslim registry.” They should use all the leverage they can possibly muster in the appropriations process to block rollbacks of the social safety net. If they do it right, they can show that they’ll work with Trump on areas where he meets their interests, on their terms, while also making it known that they’re not, in any way, interested in seeing this president serve a second term.

18) Heartless state legislator (shockingly, a Republican) with some choice words for mom of kid with Type I diabetes.

19) Because poll-based forecasting models got the election wrong does definitely not mean Political Science got the election wrong.

20) Dahlia Lithwick on how Democrats should play as hardball as they can on the Supreme Court (it’s a complete travesty what the Republicans have gotten away with here).

21) UVA students ask university president to stop quoting Thomas Jefferson (the founder of the university) because Jefferson, you know, owned slaves.  Heck, you know what, a bunch of the signatories of the Constitution owned slaves, we should probably not even bother with it.  Also, Abraham Lincoln said some really horrible things about Black people by modern standards, so I’m done with him.

22) Thomas Edsall on the Anti-PC vote.

23) Some brand names are horrible.

24) Important Yglesias piece on how Trump could truly corrupt our form of government and how we need to fight to avoid it.

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