Thursday, April 04, 2019

Was Dana Milbank Always This Stupid?


Still wrong

Milbank got just what he wanted-- a lot of attention for his poorly reasoned anti-Bernie diatribe in the Washington Post on Tuesday, Bernie Sanders has emerged as the Donald Trump of the left. I certainly agree with his first line-- "In politics, as in physics, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Hence, Sen. Bernie Sanders’s emergence..."-- and I often use it to explain why it makes sense that America elect the best president in history after having just gone through the absolute worst. But that isn't where Milbank was taking this. That second line of his ended with " the Donald Trump of the left." Jesus! What an imbecile!

Like so many other champions of the status quo, Milbank, husband of Democratic Party pollster Anna Greenberg, currently working for one of the more conservative-- and least popular-- presidential hopefuls, John Hickenlooper, is worried that Bernie is raising too much money from too many small donors and that he "remains untouchable, in a Trumpian way." Keep in mind that Milbank has admitted that he voted for John McCain in 2000, Chuck Hagel in 2004, and Michael Bloomberg in 2008, none of whom were on the ballot but each of whom he saw as a potential great president. Total doofus-- a contrarian for the sake being an asshole and getting attention. "Sanders," he conceded, "isn’t Trump in the race-baiting, lender-cheating, fact-avoiding, porn-actress-paying, Putin-loving sense. But their styles are similar: shouting and unsmiling, anti-establishment and anti-media, absolutely convinced of their own correctness, attacking boogeymen (the '1 percent' and CEOs in Sanders’s case, instead of immigrants and minorities), offering impractical promises with vague details, lacking nuance and nostalgic for the past."

Skip Kaltenheuser, the first of a dozen people who brought Milbank's latest idiocy to my attention noted: "Sanders scapegoating billionaires as if they’re immigrants being chased by Trump; imagine that. How could anyone sketch out such a grotesque comparison? I suppose it helps if one works for the richest guy in the world, on the off-chance he has self-interests other than it would be fun to run a newspaper. Own one, anyway."

I spent Monday at a cattle call for eight Democratic presidential candidates hosted by labor unions, the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood and other progressive groups. Sanders was easily the least charismatic, hoisting his trousers by the waist, tugging at his socks, hunching over the lectern, sitting stiffly and awkwardly greeting questioners. But the reception among liberal activists, which had ranged from tepid (Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand) to enthusiastic (Warren) was, for Sanders, rapturous. “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” they chanted, standing when he appeared and when he finished. In between, they applauded a routine full of Trumpian flourishes.

He simplified and blamed: “The crisis that we are facing today is not complicated... We have a government that ignores the needs of the working people... yet works overtime for wealthy campaign contributors and the 1 percent.” He mocked those who questioned ideas such as Medicare-for-all (“the establishment went crazy, media went nuts, still is”), and he celebrated his prescience. He channeled rage at the “vulgarity” of a “grotesque” and “corrupt” system, the “absolute hypocrisy” of Republicans, corporations that “lie” and billionaires who “buy elections.” Of the wealthy, he said, “Many of them are bandits,” and he said if Republicans “don’t have the guts to participate in a free and fair election, they should get the hell out of politics.”

Like Trump, he railed against companies moving jobs to China or Mexico, and he harked back to simpler times: “Forty, 50 years ago, it was possible for one worker to work 40 hours a week and earn enough money to take care of the whole family.”

It’s less hateful, perhaps, to blame billionaires than immigrants or certain “globalists” for America’s troubles, but the scapegoating is similar. So is Sanders’s “socialist” label (worn as defiantly as Trump wears the isolationist “America First”), and his Democratic credentials are as suspect as Trump’s Republican bona fides were. Most Republicans opposed Trump, but the large field of candidates prevented a clean matchup.

A similar crowd could likewise prevent Democrats from presenting a clear alternative to Sanders’s tempting-- if Trumpian-- message that a nefarious elite is to blame for America’s problems. Universal health care, higher education and child care are within reach, Sanders said to cheers, if only “we stand up and tell this 1 percent that we will no longer tolerate their greed.” In real life, it’s not so simple. But in our new politics, maybe it is.

Anyone recall Thomas Frank's November, 2016 essay, Swat Team-- The media’s extermination of Bernie Sanders, and real reform, for Harpers? Or how about this much passed-around passage? "Extra credit is due to Dana Milbank, one of the paper’s cleverest columnists, who kept varying his angle of attack. In February, he name-checked the Bernie Bros-- socialist cyberbullies who were turning comment sections into pens of collectivist terror. In March, Milbank assured readers that Democrats were too 'satisfied' to sign up with a rebel like Sanders. In April, he lamented Sanders’s stand on trade on the grounds that it was similar to Trump’s and that it would be hard on poor countries. In May, Milbank said he thought it was just awful the way frustrated Sanders supporters cursed and 'threw chairs' at the Nevada Democratic convention-- and something close to treachery when Sanders failed to rebuke those supporters afterward. 'It is no longer accurate to say Sanders is campaigning against Clinton, who has essentially locked up the nomination,' the columnist warned on the occasion of the supposed chair-throwing. 'The Vermont socialist is now running against the Democratic Party. And that’s excellent news for one Donald J. Trump.'" Frank wasn't finished with Milbank and the other status quo ass-kissers at The Post:
What can we learn from reviewing one newspaper’s lopsided editorial treatment of a left-wing presidential candidate?

For one thing, we learn that the Washington Post, that gallant defender of a free press, that bold bringer-down of presidents, has a real problem with some types of political advocacy. Certain ideas, when voiced by certain people, are not merely debatable or incorrect or misguided, in the paper’s view: they are inadmissible. The ideas themselves might seem healthy, they might have a long and distinguished history, they might be commonplace in other lands. Nevertheless, when voiced by the people in question, they become damaging.

We hear a lot these days about the dangers to speech posed by political correctness, about those insane left-wing college students who demand to be shielded from uncomfortable ideas. What I am describing here is something similar, but far more consequential. It is the machinery by which the boundaries of the Washington consensus are enforced.

...What The Post is saying here is that the American system, by its nature, doesn’t permit a president to achieve anything more than “incremental change.” Obama did the best anyone could under this system-- indeed, as the paper pointed out, he had “no other option” than to proceed as he did. Therefore he should be exempt from criticism at the hands of other Democrats.

The board explained its philosophy slightly differently in the other editorial, battle of the extremes. Sanders, like Ted Cruz, was said to harbor the toxic belief that “the road to progress is purity, not compromise.” Again, his great failing was his refusal to acknowledge the indisputable rules of the game. Heed the wisdom of our savviest political journalists:
Progress will be made by politicians who are principled but eager to shape compromises, to acknowledge that they do not have a monopoly on wisdom and to accept incremental change. That is a harder message to sell in primary campaigns, but it is a message far likelier to produce a nominee who can win in November-- and govern successfully for the next four years.
The reason The Post pundits embrace these tidy sophistries is simple enough. Knee-jerk incrementalism is, after all, a nifty substitute for actually thinking difficult issues through. Bernie Sanders ran for the presidency by proposing reforms that these prestigious commentators, for whatever reason, found distasteful. Rather than grapple with his ideas, however, they simply blew the whistle and ruled them out of bounds. Plans that were impractical, proposals that would never pass Congress-- these things are off the table, and they are staying off.

...[N]o group knows the story of the dying middle class more intimately than journalists. So why do the people at the very top of this profession identify themselves with the smug, the satisfied, the powerful? Why would a person working in a moribund industry compose a paean to the Wall Street bailouts? Why would someone like Post opinion writer Stephen Stromberg drop megatons of angry repudiation on a certain Vermont senator for his “outrageous negativity about the state of the country”? For the country’s journalists-- Stromberg’s colleagues, technically speaking-- that state is pretty goddamned negative.

Maybe it’s something about journalism itself. This is a field, after all, that has embraced the forces that are killing it to an almost pathological degree. No institution has a greater appetite for trendy internet thinkers than journalism schools. We are all desperately convincing ourselves that we need to become entrepreneurs, or to get ourselves attuned to the digital future-- the future, that is, as it is described for us hardheaded journalists by a cast of transparent bullshit artists. When the TV comedian John Oliver recently did a riff on the tragic decline of newspaper journalism, just about the only group in America that didn’t like it was-- that’s right, the Newspaper Association of America, which didn’t think we should be nostalgic about the days when its members were successful. Truly, we are like buffalo nuzzling the rifles of our hunters.

Or maybe the answer is that people at the top of the journalism hierarchy don’t really identify with their plummeting peers. Maybe the pundit corps thinks it will never suffer the same fate as, say, the Tampa Tribune. And maybe they’re right. As I wrote this story, I kept thinking back to Sound and Fury, a book that Eric Alterman published in 1992, when the power of pundits was something new and slightly alarming. Alterman suggested that the rise of the commentariat was dangerous, since it supplanted the judgment of millions with the clubby perspective of a handful of bogus experts. When he wrote that, of course, newspapers were doing great. Today they are dying, and as they gutter out, one might expect the power of this phony aristocracy to diminish as well. Instead, the opposite has happened: as serious journalism dies, Beltway punditry goes from strength to strength.

Yesterday a response to Milbank on The Post website by "danrev" totally nails it. "This article, like many of Dana Milbank's, is hopefully some great farce because if these are his actual opinions, and the editors of WaPo allow this level of bullshittery, I really have to just abandon WaPo entirely, again. I get that this is an op-ed with zero journalism involved or evidence, but ew. This is the same old, washed up hits: a one issue candidate (yes, the most important issue: inequality), he's old (you got him), he's white (guilty), he's socialist (oh no, get in the bunker), tax returns waaahhhh. He always releases his tax returns, he addressed the campaign harassment issues from the 2016 campaign and apologized directly for actions of others because he holds himself accountable, he fired a bunch of guys, and has the most diverse and female campaign team in the D race."

The problem here is that a bunch of commenters (and therefore readers), are just saying 'hey, yeah this Milbank guy is on to something.' This being despite the support from 525,000 individuals, who donated ~2x each in the first quarter, and his dominance in polls with younger voters.

'Screw old white men' am I right? ...because nothing they say, do, believe, or propose as law that would be disproportionately more beneficial for women, POC, veterans, or even the elderly makes them anything other than 'an old white man.' Bernie has the groundwork, the money, and the votes from broad constituencies to enact legislation that would provide the drastic changes the working poor have been asking for (unfortunately they did so from a billionaire liar in 2016 to their own detriment).

Oh, and those places with 'disaffected Trump voters in key states' you ask. Many of them voted for Bernie in 2016 (WI, MN, MI, WV, IN, ~IL, ~MO, ~KY). These are all wins or 50/50 states from a then no-name socialist from Vermont. Those disaffected voters HAVE BEEN destroyed by the ultra-wealthy (Ds and Rs) for decades...and Bernie, unlike Trump would actually work for those people rather than against them. 

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At 9:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's your own fault. NO ONE in their right mind actually reads the Washington Post

At 9:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Milbank is well-paid to be a propagandist. He himself isn't ignorant, but he's counting on those who read him to be stupid.

Forty, 50 years ago, it was possible for one worker to work 40 hours a week and earn enough money to take care of the whole family.

When I was young (1960), I met a man who had retired at 55 with a paid off house, a vacation home in the southern lakes area of Michigan, and had three college graduate offspring. He worked on the line for GM right out of high school and never left. His wife never worked outside the home.

Try doing that today - especially if you are
a recently laid-off Walmart greeter.

At 10:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An absolute truth from DWT: "Those disaffected voters HAVE BEEN destroyed by the ultra-wealthy (Ds and Rs) for decades..."

for decades. hmmmm. maybe we should try something other than the Ds. for once.

decades seems like a long time to allow the democraps to destroy their voters... dontcha think?

At 6:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the sad fact is dana millbank is not stupid.

However he knows that the voters on the left ARE fucking stupid. And he knows they'll fall for pretty much anything he wants to say.

American lefties: IQs plummeting through double-digits into singles... since 1980. Democracy sucks when all who vote are morons and/or Nazis.

At 7:43 AM, Blogger DorothyFuldheim said...

little known fact - at Yale Milbank's nickname was The Hairiest Man Alive

At 8:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bernie is the equal and opposite reaction to Obama and Clinton, not so much Trump. Trump rose to the top of the GOP after Bernie was already making waves in the Dem primary.

At 11:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

agree with 8:31.

Bernie is the left voter's opposite, though not equal, reaction to the betrayals of obamanation and, especially, that 2009 congressional abdication to wall street.

thank gawd the PARTY could thwart those hapless voters yet again.

trump is the Nazi voter's opposite overreaction to being expected to coronate yet another shithead named bush. The degree of the overreaction is probably their revulsion to having a ni--er in the white man's house for 8 years.

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