Open Thread: Missing the Trend for the Stats

Is it necessary for Trump to win the GOP nomination for him to “win” the longer argument? Dave Weigel, at the Washington Post, asks “Why do data journalists keep missing the political story of the year?”:

The story of an election is far, far bigger than the story of who won it. The Trump drama, and the movement that has discovered and elevated him as its candidate, is obviously the political news story of 2015.

Actually, it’s the latest in a long, semi-tragic history of primary campaigns that revealed plenty without producing a nominee. You can start the clock in 1964, when then-Alabama Gov. George Wallace ran for president for the first (of four) times. He had no chance of defeating President Lyndon B. Johnson in the primaries, but where he competed, he scored margins that baffled the political establishment… You could have looked at that result and chided the media for making “news” out of what was, obviously, not a victory. You would have missed a historic moment in the politics of backlash.

Losing campaigns have played that role again and again. Ronald Reagan didn’t win in 1976; you know how that turned out. Pat Robertson’s 1988 primary campaign cemented the influence of the religious right in Republican electoral politics. Howard Dean’s 2004 primary campaign collapsed memorably in Iowa, but accelerated the Democratic Party’s evolution from a party that could put Joe Lieberman on a national ticket to one that was skeptical or apologetic about foreign military intervention. Indeed, by the autumn of 2006, Dean was chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and Lieberman had lost his Senate primary…

… [F]or five months, Trump has been able to swing into states and draw the biggest crowds of any Republican candidate. It’s been two and a half months since a thinly-attended South Carolina event, organized by a third party group, that was supposed to mark the end of Trumpmania. It’s been a month since a rambling Trump speech in Iowa, where even the people standing behind him grew bored with his rants about Ben Carson. The crowds kept coming. And they keep coming.

Few, if any, reporters will tell you that they expected this to happen. Some may fantasize about another universe, where the field is Trump-less, and candidates like Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) are dominating the news with substantive fights about privacy rights and terrorism. Even this summer, the rise of Trump was seen by the Republican establishment as a way to freeze the field, while the grown-ups could hibernate and take over when it counted.

We do not live in that universe. We live in the one where, as The Fix’s Philip Bump points out, 53 percent of Republicans want all illegal immigrants to be deported and many are finding a champion in Donald Trump…








Open Thread: It’s Not Lying If You Believe Your Own BS

Okay, okay, pedants: The proper spelling would be Psych!

Oliva Nuzzi, in the Daily Beast, “Golden Hair, Meet Tinfoil Hat”:

If you were “reading the tea leaves,” as Alex Jones might say, you would’ve felt deeply in your bones that it was just a matter of time before Trump’s courting of the nation’s foremost crackpots and conspiracy theorists went mainstream. The dog whistles would transform into shouts, the winking and nodding into bear hugs…

Alex Jones is the Hulk Hogan of conspiracy theorists. A Texas native, he is big and loud and the color of a ripe tomato. He thinks the government was involved in the Oklahoma City Bombing, the New World Order is being run by “clockwork elves,” and shrimp are suicidal because of Prozac poisoning the water supply. He is the founder of Infowars.com, the sort of publication that peddles 9/11 truther propaganda and runs headlines like, “Subliminal Super Bowl Illuminati Secrets Revealed.”

“I’ve got so many questions,” Jones, who in October endorsed Rand Paul, told Trump. “But you are vindicated—this has gotta be the 50th time the last six months—on the radical Muslims celebrating, not just in New Jersey, but in New York, Palestine, all over! What do you have to say? They’re still attacking you!” (Jones didn’t reply when asked if he was switching his allegiance from Paul to Trump.)

From the unfortunate angle of Trump’s webcam, his neck disappeared into the collar of his shirt and his head looked sunburned and misshapen, like a wad of Silly Putty that had recently been set on fire.

“Well, I took a lot of heat and I was very strong on it and I held my line and then all of a sudden hundreds of people were calling up my office,” Trump said…

A few hours later, Jones had moved off the topics on which he and Trump see eye to eye—Muslims cheering on 9/11, the Iraq War—and on to promoting the idea that the mass shooting at a San Bernardino, California, center for the disabled on Wednesday afternoon was “highly suspicious” and seemingly “geared to elicit widespread public outrage,” much like the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School had been…

The storied meeting was arranged by Roger Stone, a longtime friend of Trump’s who left the campaign, where he had served as an adviser, in August amid infighting.

Reached by phone on Wednesday, as Trump and Jones were still chatting, Stone said that he had “recommended” the interview to Trump after he had been a guest on Jones’ show himself on Nov. 9 to promote his new book, The Clintons’ War on Women.

Stone was adamant that he wasn’t working for Trump again, not in a “formal or informal” capacity, despite recommending interviews to him during their conversations and supporting his candidacy with the frequent employment of the Twitter hashtag #YUGE…

The thrust of Trump’s case for his candidacy is this: The system is broken, the powerful (including himself) are exploiting it to their advantage behind the scenes with the help of a corrupt and complicit media that is concerned only with protecting the establishment and the status quo. Just what your average bros populating a comment thread on a YouTube video about false-flag operations suspect, but Trump may not know the full extent to which this new base of supporters he has tapped into has gone off the deep end. It’s one thing to suggest, as Trump does, that the government and the media are rigged to screw over the Everyman—lots of politicians say that. It’s something else entirely to say government actors are pretending to be the family members of slain Americans who never existed in the first place.

Then again, Trump has been making shit up for longer than he has been a candidate. It would be unwise to underestimate him…

Eric Levitz, at NYMag:

Last night, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly proved himself to be the Hannibal Lecter of right-wing demagoguery. Just as Dr. Lecter used his insights as a cannibal killer to help police get inside the minds of murderers, so O’Reilly drew on his experience as a serial liar to help America get inside the mind of Donald Trump…

“Here’s what happens,” O’Reilly said. “Sometimes, when you’re up there, you get overly excited and you’re speaking extemporaneously. And then you say things, as anybody would, because the crowd is cheering and everything is going wild, that you don’t know to be true but you believe to be true.”

Trenchant insight and the absence of self-awareness have never been so neatly bound.








Skip The Middle, Go Straight To The Top

The grift is on and in glorious prime-time, kids.

Trump pulled the stunt once before, demanding that CNN donate the proceeds from its September Republican presidential debate to a charity. The network didn’t publicly comment on the request and Trump ultimately participated in the debate.

Trump again floated the idea of the network donating money to charity in exchange for his participation during a campaign rally in Georgia.

“How about I tell CNN that I’m not gonna do the next debate?” Trump said to his audience, as quoted by USA Today. “I won’t do the debate unless they pay me $5 million, all of which money goes to the Wounded Warriors or to vets.”

He may not be the game show host this city deserves, but he is the game show host that this city needs, ya see.








Open Thread: The Wingnut Wurlitzer Falls Into the Pit It Has Dug

Any time during the last forty years, a New York reporter looking for a few quick column inches could check whatever atrocity property developer and short-fingered vulgarian Donald Trump had most recently become involved with. Any time in the last twenty years, a national entertainment reporter could always examine Trump’s latest “reality show”, studded with wanna-be celebrities and sociopaths, for going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket filler. Mocking rich jerks with ambitions of seriousness has been a trope since long before the classical Greeks codified the “look at this putz, he thinks he can buy respect” playbook.

Then generally inoffensive reporter McKay Coppins wrote up a Buzzfeed interview mocking Trump’s presidential “ambitions”, it took off on The Nets, and the intersection of wounded plutocracy and the well-honed rightwing media machine produced… a monster. Per Mr. Coppins, at the Washington Post:

… Trump’s dominance in this year’s presidential primary race has often been described as a mysterious natural phenomenon: the Donald riding a wild, unpredictable tsunami of conservative populist anger that just now happens to be crashing down on the Republican establishment. But in fact, Trump spent years methodically building and buying support for himself in a vast, right-wing counter-establishment — one that exists entirely outside the old party infrastructure and is quickly becoming just as powerful.

These forces have asserted themselves repeatedly in the fight over the future of the Republican Party. But Trump came to understand their power earlier than most. When no one was watching, he was assuming command of this Fringe Establishment, building an army of activists and avatars that he would eventually deploy in his scorched-earth assault on the GOP’s old guard, on his rivals in the primary field — and, as an early test case in the winter of 2014, on me…

… An entire right-wing media ecosystem has sprung up, where journalist-warriors flood social media with rumors of sharia law coming to suburbia and hype a fast-approaching “race war” in America targeting whites. The Republican establishment — a loose coalition of party committees, moderate donors and business interests — once hoped to harness this tremendous new energy to recapture the White House.

Instead, the Fringe Establishment is the one doing the harnessing… Read more








Tuesday Evening Open Thread: Another Ramp-Up in the Repub Clown Contest

Hey, remember Liz Mair’s cunning plan? Maybe she was a Trump operative all along!

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Apart from pointing & laughing, what’s on the agenda for the evening?