Wednesday, October 17, 2018


Much of political punditry is theater criticism, and Elizabeth Warren is getting bad reviews for the revelation of her DNA test yesterday. Here's Vanity Fair's Peter Hamby:
All this hard political work—the DNA test, the fancy video, the big Boston Globe piece, the Google search ads, the splash page, the finely tuned messaging—and how did Trump respond to this ruthless counter-offensive? Exactly as you’d expect. He laughed at her and moved along.
Of course he laughed. No one expected him not to. He wasn't going to back down, any more than he backed down on birtherism after President Obama released his long-form birth certificate.

If there'd just been scorn from Trump and the rest of the right, Warren could have been in reasonably good shape. But she was also rebuked by, well, people like Peter Hamby:
It’s next to impossible to argue that Warren’s political standing is better today than it was before she released the video. Warren’s first big foray into the nascent presidential campaign was on Trump’s terms, not her own, having been trolled into producing and distributing a mini-doc that broadcast her biggest political liability directly into the maw of the Internet. Warren gifted her opponents a new and embarrassing line of attack—I’m between 1/64th and 1/1,024th Native American! Take that, Donald!—that will go down alongside John Edwards’s $400 haircut and Mitt Romney’s 47 percent gaffe in the annals of numeric political blunders.
Hamby concludes that the burning question isn't Is it true? but, rather How did it play? And, specifically: How did it play with the awe-inspiring Master of Smashmouth Politics, Donald Trump?
Warren’s maneuver stands as a warning sign for other Democrats on the path to challenging Trump in 2020. Getting into the mud pit with Trump—who doesn’t care about political decorum, rules, sexism, racism, name-calling, facts, or reason—has revealed itself as a sucker’s game for politicians and peacocking White House correspondents who try to joust with him. Talk to anyone in politics, and they’ll tell you the same thing: tangling with Trump is just really hard, and there’s no clear alternative playbook.
Read that again: tangling with Trump is just really hard, and there’s no clear alternative playbook. So you can't fight him and you can't take an approach other than fighting him. Might as well just give up and declare him the winner of the 2020 election by acclamation, I guess.

No other 2020 Democrat has a potential vulnerability quite like this one, but they're all going to have missteps, and when they do, Trump will pounce -- and the "liberal media" theater critics will be right behind, putting the boot in. Just about every Democratic hopeful is destined to get terrible media coverage, primary because there's no bro-ish New Kennedy in the field (i.e., no 2008 Obama or 1992 Bill Clinton). That's the only kind of candidate who's likely to get good press, except perhaps an anti-progressive corporatist like Mike Bloomberg or Howard Schultz.

That's why I think Donald Trump is the odds-on favorite to win the 2020 election. He's not right when he says that many mainstream outlets will endorse him because he's good for the ratings, but it's simply the case that he's the daddy much of the media wants, even if most journalists won't admit it. They admire his media skills and his cocky certitude. We might beat him, but we'll have to beat them too, because they'll effectively be on his side.

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