David Sirota: The Role of Journalism in the Age of Trump

Jerri-Lynn here: I changed the original headline– which by referring to the Trump Resistance, would I believe have led more readers to turn away from rather than toward this interesting RNN interview. Sirota skewers the lame virtue-signalling that constitutes much Democratic “resistance” to Trump– focusing on personality and politics rather than policy– and discusses pressures– e.g. beaucoup bucks– that restrain holding Democrats accountable while Republicans are in power.

DAVID SIROTA: What does a progressive resistance to Trump look like? Oh, man. I mean, I’m saying this … To be clear, I am a journalist. I am a journalist who covers these issues. I’m not playing political strategist here. My view is that a progressive resistance to Trump is one that you would think by its very terms, would mean a resistance to the policies of Trump, not just to Trump, the human being. I think right now, what you’ve seen is a policy-free resistance to Trump, a political resistance to Trump, based more on enmity against Trump as a person than necessarily Trump as a vehicle for policy.

I think frankly, that kind of resistance is safer for Democratic politicians, that it’s easier politically oppose Trump on issues like the Russia situation, on allegations of foreign influence, even potentially on allegations of conflicts of interest with his business, and to be clear, I’m not saying any of those issues are not issues. They are legitimate issues, but it is easier to make those kinds of issues central to a resistance than making, for instance, his particular policies on infrastructure, his particular policies on healthcare, his particular policies on fossil fuel development, the centerpiece of a resistance, because a resistance based on resistance to those kinds of policies potentially antagonizes big donors and big money.

The big donors and big money are not threatened by a resistance to Donald Trump that is predicated on allegations about Russia, that are predicated on allegations of incompetence and mismanagement. To be clear, in the Russia case, yes you could argue there’s some money issues at work there with the oil interests and the like, but in general, that is a fundamentally different form of opposition and resistance than saying, “We are going to fight Donald Trump’s healthcare plans and propose an alternative,” because by proposing an alternative, you are potentially alienating a huge amount in that case, of healthcare money.

I think the long-term shortcoming of a resistance that’s based primarily on a political resistance rather than a policy resistance is if Trump is disempowered or impeached or thrown out, that process hasn’t birthed necessarily a mandate for or momentum for a new set of long-term policies.

JAISAL NOOR: So is it also going to be important to wage resistance to the moneyed interests, the oligarchy like Sanders said, within the Democratic Party as well, if people are going to fight for something rather than just resist Trump?

DAVID SIROTA: Well I mean, you’ve got to ask the question why hasn’t there been more of a forceful, coherent policy resistance to Trump? I think it’s because the Democratic Party is constantly caught between knowing what it should do to win elections, which is propose a positive policy vision on issues that are popular. They’re caught between that and their donor class, and so there is this constant search by Democratic operatives and pundits and politicians to try to find on the Venn diagram, some middle ground. “Where can we satisfy the public and also appease our donors?” That crossover in the Venn diagram is getting narrower and narrower because what the public wants is becoming in direct opposition to what the donor class wants.

It’s becoming a narrower and narrower area, if that is your formula, for Democrats to operate. I think what Bernie Sanders represents threatens that formula, because what it says is you can run winning campaigns or at least almost winning campaigns, and certainly he didn’t lose for lack of resources, you can run competitive campaigns with a completely different paradigm, where you don’t have to answer to a donor class, and which frees you to run on issues that are wildly popular with the public. I mean, I said on something on Twitter recently, I was kind of joking but I was like, “If you want to understand Democratic politics and the problem with it right now, in terms of its political success, is if you take the idea that healthcare should be a basic human right, and you blast it through a windscreen of corporate donor money, on the other side what you get a policy that says, ‘We should subsidize private insurance executives’ salaries.’”

The policy impulse may be right, but when you’re filtering it through, “We need to appease our donors,” on the other side comes a policy that doesn’t necessarily solve the problem, isn’t politically popular, and essentially leaves everything the same. It’s a status quo policy.

JAISAL NOOR: On that issue, would you agree that that is what the Democratic establishment wants? They want to maintain the status quo, and so we saw that with the fact that Jarrett Messina, as you’ve written about, he went to go work with the Conservatives, the Tories in England, against a progressive, socialist challenger with a vision that was starkly different than what his own party had done in the past, support foreign wars, erode the social state.

DAVID SIROTA: I mean, I don’t know … I mean, Jim Messina ran Barack Obama’s campaign. You can’t attribute what one person decides to do to the whole party, but I think it is emblematic of one idea that on economic issues, and the British election was a lot about economics, that on economic issues the corporate wing of the Democratic party is not that far away from, for instance, the Conservatives in Britain. I think that example confirms some people’s fears, and suspicions that the corporate wing of the Democratic Party, if forced to choose, would choose the Democratic Party losing to a Republican rather than winning with a socialist, or somebody who was a true progressive.

I think that it’s not … We’re talking in general terms here, but I think for instance, now when we talk about the Democratic Party, I’m not even necessarily saying we’re talking about the Democratic rank and file electorate. I’m saying if you look at the [inaudible 00:07:49] of insiders who runs the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is run by operatives, it’s run by activists, it’s run by lobbyists, it’s run by donors. If you look at that core of the machine that we know, that we call the Democratic Party, there is not an insubstantial number of people in that machine who if forced to choose, would probably be more comfortable in opposition to a Republican president than having to support a Democratic Party’s very progressive or socialist presidential candidate.

JAISAL NOOR: To what extent do you think our obsession with celebrities and wealth enabled Trump’s presidency? How should progressives push back against celebrities and pop culture appropriating and driving the Trump resistance. You say that with that Pepsi ad, you see it with celebrities who really don’t know about politics, but are using it to market themselves.

DAVID SIROTA: Look, I mean, I’m of two minds on this. I think Trump used his celebrity to … I mean, obviously Trump’s celebrity was a huge force in at least putting him on the presidential map. That is what put him on the presidential map. It wasn’t his business acumen. I mean, this was not … Back in the ’80s there was a rumor that Lee Iacocca was going to run for president. I mean, Lee Iacocca was both a celebrity but also like ran an actual giant company. Donald Trump, I don’t think most people think that Donald Trump, his business acumen qualifies him to be president. I think his business dealings made him famous and the fame put him on the presidential map. Those are two different things.

I think that celebrities using their platform to speak out, by the way on both sides, speak out for Trump, speak out against Trump, I think people who have platforms have every right to use those platforms. I am not a person who thinks that … I’m not a “shut up and sing” kind of person. I think that we need more of our politics to be expressed in our civic lives, in our day to day lives, that I think for a good long while, everything was far more depoliticized than it should have been. I mean, in the 1990’s and in late ’80s, there was this sense that society had become depoliticized, that after this era … Sports is a good example. After this era of the ’60s where you had a lot of sports, athletes who were activists.

The ’80s and ’90s, it was a very depoliticized sports world. I’d rather have a society where people are politically engaged. I mean, they may not be right or intelligent or informed, but at least they’re following and engaged. That’s better for a democracy. I think, though, you’re also right to say, “How much does the resistance get appropriated as a cultural symbol devoid of political meaning?” I think that’s a fair question. Does resistance to Trump just become a slogan, a pop culture slogan that doesn’t mean anything? Yeah, it’s possible, and that goes back to what we were talking about originally, which is that a resistance that’s devoid of any meaning other than “Anybody but Trump,” if the resistance is, “Anybody but Trump,” or, “Anything but Trump,” then it I think misses an opportunity of political awakening to actually make that political awakening mean something for the policies that will govern us for the next many decades.

JAISAL NOOR: As an investigative journalist, I wanted to ask you a question about just the media and their role in this. What have been effective strategies in exposing those rifts between corporate politicians and their rhetoric, and the actual impact of their policy?

DAVID SIROTA: That kind of investigative journalism, accountability journalism, is just not rocket science. What is a politician saying? Who’s that politician taking money from? Did that politician therefore not do what they promised? That is a formula and an important one. You could do a story like that every day, and in a perfect world, a story like that would come out every day. Or, maybe in a perfect world, stories like that wouldn’t exist because that dynamic wouldn’t happen, but in a perfect journalism world, we would be focused on doing those stories every day. I am focused on doing those stories as much as I can, and I think an effective strategy when it comes vis-a-vis the Democrats is to simply be willing to tell those stories about Democrats, because those stories exist about Democrats.

I think there’s this subtle pressure to say that in the era of Trump, by some would say that those kinds of stories aren’t important because they’re not about Trump or they’re not about the Republicans. “Why are you reporting on both Democrats and Republicans? Why aren’t you reporting only on Republicans?” I think there’s a case to say, “Well look, Republicans are in power so that’s an important thing to keep in mind,” but it’s also important to remember that if the Democratic Party, at least right now, is the primary empowered vehicle in the short-term, to provide opposition, then you’ve got to ask questions of that vehicle of opposition and whether it is fundamentally compromised or not.

JAISAL NOOR: You’ve gotten a lot of criticism online from people saying, “Oh, you’re pro Trump.” What would you say to push back against those criticisms, and how do progressive cut through that like, “Vote blue no matter who” blind loyalty?

DAVID SIROTA: It’s a tough one. I mean, I’m not in the business of telling people who to vote for, who not to vote for. That’s not the work I do now. I would say that if the Democratic Party and progressives are proud of a politician, then they shouldn’t fear that politician being scrutinized, that I reject the idea that doing investigative scrutiny on a public official is attacking that official. I reject the idea that if you like a politician, it means that anybody who reports in an accountability journalism fashion on that politician, anybody who does that is a bad person, or is unnecessarily harming the candidate you like.

Journalism is not an attack. Accountability journalism is not an attack. Even adversarial journalism is not an attack. If you perceive the facts to be an attack, what you’re really asking for, what you apparently really desire is propaganda. That is a different thing than journalism. Journalism reports facts without fear or favor, and if people have a problem with my journalism in the sense of they think I got a fact wrong, I want to hear about that. I need to hear about that. That’s important to me, that is my job, is to be accurate and report the facts. If people have a problem with the political ramifications of the facts that I surface, that this fact came out and therefore it was bad for a politician, if they want to say that makes me bad, they can feel that way, but I reject that.

That’s not something I can worry about. I have to worry about my job is to report the fact, and to report the fact pattern wherever it leads to, and without regard for whether it serves one political party or the other.

JAISAL NOOR: How do you hold the media accountable to cover stories? Like, you mentioned that, Ken Salazar in Colorado, everything happening there, the Denver Post, local outlets are ignoring it. In Connecticut, with Dan Malloy, I think they were a little bit better but in doing that, the mainstream media really ignored what was a big story.

DAVID SIROTA: Yeah I mean, look, I used to worry a lot more about who was covering what and who wasn’t covering what. I’d worry about it, and it’d be on my mind, and I’m not saying it’s not an issue. But I think the media ecosystem has changed significantly, even in the last five years, where if something doesn’t get covered in the Denver Post, or it doesn’t get covered in Connecticut or wherever, there’s now new avenues to get that story out. That has made me less obsessed with lack of coverage from other places, because I feel like more and more there are ways to get information to people that don’t have to rely on legacy media middlemen who omit the story, that there is a way to get to an audience.

Maybe it’s not as big an audience, but there’s a way to get to an audience. Yeah, I mean, where I live, the Denver Post in a lot of ways doesn’t do a very good job on a lot of political issues. They do some good reporting on some issues, some really good reporting on some issues, but on a lot of political issues they just … A lot of that is not nefarious. They just don’t have the resources anymore. I mean, they’re owned by a hedge fund, or the financial industry players. They’ve had budget cuts. I get less worried about it. I mean, I don’t like it, but I get less worried about it because I feel like there’s a way to find an audience in the community outside of that.

JAISAL NOOR: How should think tanks be held accountable for pushing propaganda subtly and for hiding behind curtains of dark money where you don’t know where the money is coming from?

DAVID SIROTA: I mean, I would say that’s the same thing as a politician, which is that basically I think that you always need to scrutinize … You scrutinize a politician, where is that politician getting money from? You have to scrutinize, where is my information source getting money from? Doesn’t mean their information is wrong, doesn’t mean their study is wrong, it just means that especially if you’re getting opinion from a “expert” at a think tank. That is distinct from empirical data. I mean, if a think tank you don’t like or is funded by somebody you gives you basic, indisputable data, their funding doesn’t affect the data. It may affect the presentation of it, but it’s a lot different when you see, “This expert from this think tank has this opinion on this bill.”

It’s important to ask, “What forces are shaping your opinion?” I think that kind of accountability, I mean, that is accountability. That’s what those operations don’t want. I’ve done a lot of reporting on the use of think tanks to move quasi corporate propaganda into the mainstream, under the guise of academic research, and I think it’s a hugely under reported set of stories, and it requires from scrutiny.

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57 comments

  1. Altandmain

    I hate to say it, but right now journalists are little more than a capitalistic Pravda machine, preserving the plutocracy. Witness how they attacked Bernie Sanders and continue to do so. They are propagandists as Sirota notes. In 2016, it was obvious they wanted to get Clinton elected.

    The main goal of most journalists in the mainstream media is to maximize their employer’s advertising revenue and preserving the current oligarchy. Honest journalism doesn’t really happen much these days, at least not in politics. It would hurt those 2 missions.

    I remember a joke from someone I met who lived in the USSR. He trusted the news for sports, the weather, and only selectively on non-political matters. The main reason to read the politics is to understand how the ruling class want you to think – a critical thinking exercise, if you will.

    1. skippy

      If memory serves one of the major Universities in my state is ending its journalist degree. Seems there is very limited job demand due to restructuring of traditional print and video media, acerbated by media head hunting people that already have an established demand via blogs or other types of internet exposure. Most of which have not undertaken any degree related courses in media.

      disheveled…. its completely commodified it seems, revenue from infomercials and lifestyle is all that’s left or driving behaviors.

      1. Lambert Strether

        Personally, I feel that if journalists are just working stiffs, that’s not necessarily a bad thing (especially if they’ve got a union).

        Might be bad for Acela ticket sales, but are there really other disadvantages?

        1. Susan the other

          I’ll say this about David Sirota – I’ve read his few previous articles here but never seen his brain in action – and I conclude now that his brain is a clear, off-the-cuff organ that can communicate the narrow walkway between opposite viewpoints nicely. His performance was good and what he said was very good. I like his direction to resist the resistance to Trump without any reference to policy – because that is such a Clintonesque tactic. He is calling for clear policy review. I love it.

          1. UserFriendly

            He started his career as a press aid to Bernie. A handful of other solid reporters were former Bernie staffers.

    2. clarky90

      “The main reason to read the politics is to understand how the ruling class want you to think – a critical thinking exercise, if you will.”

      More and more people, around the World are joining “A Resistance” (Not “The”). It is a Personal Resistance against a myriad of mind-parasites trying, (often, quite successfully) to colonize and then appropriate my (our) consciousness.

      99% of what I read and watch are probing, exploratory incursions. I feel like a fish swimming around in a pond full of dangling, deliciously baited hooks. Whirling, sparkle plastic hooked lures whiz by my nose. “Take a nibble, take a bite!”.

      Who are these “fishermen/women”?

      I used to trust people like Noam Chomsky, until he backed HC. Who to trust? What to believe?

      It is like growing up and leaving home

      1. Ian

        I did not agree with Noam Chomsky’s position on HRC, but I do not believe for 1 second that that puts him in the category of the mind parasites. His position was based on his own breakdown and analysis and I cannot fault him for that, even if i don’t agree with it. I trust Chomsky to be intellectually honest and thoroughly researched in what he says.

    3. Robert NYC

      95% of journalism is a joke in this country and has been for decades. All of this outrage about Trump and crowing about the importance of journalism is laughable at many levels.

      “If you don’t read a newspaper everyday, you are uniformed. If you do, you are misinformed.”
      Mark Twain

      “The most esteemed journalists are precisely the most servile. For it is by making themselves useful to the powerful that they gain access to the ‘best’ sources”.
      Walter Karp, Harper’s magazine, July 1989

    4. Crazy Horse

      Please people, stop calling it the Democratic Party. Its the Democrat Party.

      It is even less democratic than the Republican Party as was clearly shown by how the DNC and its army of tame journalists cut Sanders off at the knees. And it is not representative of the interests of 99% of the American people, but rather is just another branch of the Oligarch Party with slightly different owners.

      Trump may be an infantile con man with the attention span of a mosquito, but the Repugnants at least allowed a process wherein the most popular candidate received their nomination.

        1. Crazy Horse

          Because the Democrats call it the Democratic Party that makes it democratic? Actions trump words.

          1. Vatch

            I don’t think they’re democratic. I’m just trying to find out what the official name of the organization is. I don’t think the Republicans are republican; I think they’re imperial, but I still call their party the “Republican Party”.

  2. Lambert Strether

    > Anybody but Trump

    Note that this hasn’t worked for conservatives either. The #NeverTrump “movement” during the Republican primaries was completely toothless, a debacle. And you would think that the #NeverTrump people after the election, representing as they do a significant part of the Republican Establishment, would have been able, if they were serious, to muscle some sort of “Regent”-like situation, as Richard Evans suggested. But no.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      It might have worked if the GOP race wasn’t Jeb and his sheepdogs. No one wanted Jeb as a third member of the same family (sorry Chelsea), and Jeb’s fawning opponents were too easy to recognize. What was left was Rufio, Cruz, Carson, and Fiorino. What a time to be alive!

      The anti-Bush/Versailles sentiment was strong. If there was a challenger*, Trump would never have polled well, but in that case, there would be no need for “never Trump.”

      *Who could compete with Jeb’s $250 million in the primary alone and his name recognition, plus his strength in South Carolina, you know Bush country.

    2. DJG

      Lambert Strether: And yet I am still seeing in my Facebook feed, which is representative but not comprehensive, weird postings about impeaching Trump and, recently, some video from some truly ill-informed person about how overturning the election results through lawsuits can lead to Hillary as president. So we are still in the denial phase when it comes to Ossoff-style liberals. And like many members of the upper-middle class, these folks have lost the ability to understand consequences of actions. Pence? Pence as president? Well, he’s kind of sleek and well spoken, right?

      I thought that the most incisive part of the interview above, which relates to Anybody but Trump, is the toothlessness of the so-called resistance. Right now, it continues to devolve into charges of misogyny and mansplaining–and those are just the charges made by so-called liberals against the Bernie contingent. Meanwhile, Trump is treated as some subhuman horror to blot out: This isn’t politics. It is bathos.

      A heads-up: I got the new issue of Harper’s yesterday. Brilliant. The article by Masha Gessen cuts through all of this crap: Gessen calls for dismantling politics based on endless war, the continuing state of emergency (invoked every year of his term by Obama, as she points out), and the specious war on terrorism.

      1. Vatch

        overturning the election results through lawsuits can lead to Hillary as president.

        I seem to remember reading that if the Electoral College and the House of Representatives can’t agree on the choice of a President or the election is otherwise invalidated, then the Vice President becomes the President. If the election of Trump were to be invalidated, then Joe Biden, the most recent validly elected Vice President, would become President.

        This might be a total misinterpretation, but here’s the text of Section 3 of Amendment XX to the U.S. Constitution:

        3: If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified; and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.

        Since we’re well past the date fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, this might be completely irrelevant.

      2. marym

        Similar findings in my totally not representative or comprehensive twitter browsing – magical notions that Clinton can still win the election, no sense of what a Pence presidency would mean.

        There’s also a theme of being “embarrassed” by Trump, with apologies for his buffoonery to people tweeting from other countries or to the world in general, and nostalgia for the cool guy.

        Buffoonery being far more embarrassing than the cool guy’s or the most-qualified-candidate-evah’s Drone Tuesdays, arms sales, Honduras, GITMO, Libya……etc.

  3. Doug

    Excellent post — and hopefully NC readers will share this broadly.

    Just two points:

    First, Sirota may miss a subtle insight — at least for some Dem power players — when he says, ” I think it’s because the Democratic Party is constantly caught between knowing what it should do to win elections, which is propose a positive policy vision on issues that are popular. They’re caught between that and their donor class, and so there is this constant search by Democratic operatives and pundits and politicians to try to find on the Venn diagram, some middle ground.”

    There undoubtedly are Dems who fit this description. Yet, over many years Yves and others have discussed ‘cognitive capture’ (in the context of a more virulent form of regulatory capture). Sirota’s phrasing misses this element: that some Dem power brokers are so cognitively captured by the donor class that they actually do NOT seek policy responses to Trump or anyone else because they are so cognitively committed to TINA.

    Second, with regard to Altandmain’s comment about advertising pressures effect on the lack of journalism courage to speak truth to power. At least with regard to legacy newspaper organizations, a shift has been underway for the past few years toward changing the revenue blend in favor of more subscription-based revenue. And this offers a chance of different journalist calculus because speaking truth to power serves readers. Whether and how much journalists seize that chance is yet to be determined.

    1. aliteralmind

      Agreed. The Democratic Party is not “desperate to find that balance,” between policy that genuinely helps the people and the donor class. They’re desperate to keep their cushy lifestyle, as funded by their big money donations. Period. The only thing the Democratic Party is trying to do for the people is find the absolute minimum amount of genuine policy necessary to keep the populace from rioting. Beyond that, it’s all whatever amount of “messaging” and “listening” it takes to tricking people into thinking that they actually care.

      1. Crazy Horse

        The American propaganda organizations— The Washington Post, New York Times, NPR, CNN and their tame journalists operate under the theory that facts don’t matter.. They are in the business of manufacturing consent, and their core technique is to repeat the desired fabrication over and over until it becomes its own reality.

        Putin said it best months ago when the Demofascist Russiaphobia campaign was just starting: “What are you (americans), anyway, a third world country?”

        It’s interesting to compare how the Russian propaganda network, RT (Russia Today) operates in comparison to the US MSM. Seems that they are much better at the propaganda game than their “friends” from the USA. How clever of them to use WikiLeaks to publicize the truth about how the DNC conspired to prevent Sanders from becoming the candidate of the Democrat Party. That little bit of truthful journalism alone created thousands and thousands of never-Clinton Democrats, more than a few who refused to vote or voted for Trump in protest.

        When Hillary Clinton stole classified information and placed it on her unsecured private server for all the world to see *, I’m sure the Russian cyber surveillance teams picked up on it immediately, along with the Chinese, Romanians, and more than a few 13 year old hackers operating from their bedrooms. Must have taken a lot of restraint on the part of Putin to not publish the content and thus interfere with the US presidential election. He probably figured Sanders or Trump would use it to drive the nail in the Clinton coffin, but both were too polite (LOL) or personally compromised to play that card. The issue finally died without a whimper as Trump strives to renege on every possible campaign promise within his first 100 days.

        * Had anybody other than Clinton stolen classified information and placed it on public display it would be considered treason. And it was indeed purposeful, as she was warned by her IT tech that the server was highly insecure. But being Hillary and thus above the law, she preferred to have the convenience of using her Blackberry to following the statutory requirements for handling classified information.

      2. different clue

        I see two possible approaches for Real Democrats to take towards the Democratic Party.

        Either Bernie it Up, or Burn it Down.

  4. Drage

    I detest Trump but the media have really set some nasty precedents on how they have covered the Trump saga. I agreed with Jeremy Paxman’s point of the futility of media sneering of Trump. Its just childish and problem for the media is they have lost a lot of credibility from people such a myself that think media need to at least appear impartial.

    They have opened a Pandora’s box and I don’t see how that can ever be reset now.

  5. Ptup

    This is ridiculous. Trump has no policies. Take, for instance, the House health care bill, which he jumped in and championed at a fairly late stage, celebrated in the Rise Garden after the vote, and then, just recently, called it “mean”. Or, his absurd foreign policy, which seems just to favor countries that he has present and/or future business dealings in. Saudi Arabia yes, Qartar, no, Russia yes, Cuba, no. His tax reform bill is basically, eliminate my family’s taxes for the next fifty years. Of course we should attack the man, because he’s an ignorant, impulsive extreme narcissist who, I’m pretty sure, is nearly illiterate, and this country has decided to make him the supreme commander of the world’s best funded military and an extremely lethal nuclear arsenal. As we’ve already seen, he could snap at any minute, and the world could be destroyed, if maybe Alex Jones tells him that it’s needed. Please. You’re just legitimizing him by talking policy. He’s a horrible, awful, disgusting individual, always has been, always will be. You need to go no further than that. I know, there is this need for smart people in the media, and Sirota is one of them, to elevate the conversation, but, you’re missing the whole point. Watch, tommorrow morning, after he’s been fuming all weekend in his own little paranoid funk, he’ll make his cabinet get on their knees this time and profess devotion and loyalty again. Then, talk to me about policy.

    1. Lambert Strether

      The policy faction wants to win, by delivering on universal direct material benefits that voters actually support. (It’s nothing to do with the gross mischaracterization of “elevating the conversation” (“the conversation” being a classic liberal Democrat bullshit tell; I’m surprised to see it used without irony here)).

      The personal faction wants to vent, collect the clicks, cash in on continued funding from the donor class, who quite prefer policy as it is, thank you very much, and rerun Clinton’s 2016 strategy* in 2017, hoping it will work this time, as Ossoff and DNC/DCCC funding priorities show. (The news that the Democrat leadership didn’t go all in on AHCA because they wanted a bipartisan deal on Russia sanctions tells you all you need to know about their priorities.)

      Venting, cashing in, and doing the same thing while expecting a different result are all fine, at least in moderation, but the distinction between the two factions is quite clear. I agree it’s all “ridiculous,” but it is where we are.

      (On the arsenal, I would be extremely surprised if the personnel in that chain of command haven’t had some quiet talks among themselves; if your views are correct, they would be grossly negligent not to have done so.)

      * At this point, we remember that the Clinton campaign actually preferred Trump as their opponent (the “pied piper” email), and worked to make sure he was selected. So, they got the opponent they considered ideal, and then blew a billion bucks losing to him. Oddly, that’s not part of “the conversation” at all.

    2. anonymoose

      Trump has no policies is not a reason to avoid policy-based criticism. “Here’s what you should be doing, and instead you’re doing nothing” is a perfectly legitimate argument for policy-based criticism.

      I don’t think there’s any risk of legitimizing Trump by talking policy, but I think there’s a very real (in fact, already realized) risk of aiding in the devolution of discourse to the point where “Trump” or whoever else have already won. Put another way, there should be a sort of mental rubric for evaluating presidents, or politicians, etc, and that rubric should be made to some meaningful standard. You’re more than welcome to score Trump at 0/100, and I don’t think there’s any risk of legitimizing him during the scoring, but if your rubric becomes entirely about scandal and offense, and loses a focus on policy and realities, then you have real problems. You wrote, “He’s a horrible, awful, disgusting individual, always has been, always will be. You need to go no further than that.”, but in the context of choosing the next President you need to go far beyond that. There’s no particular shortage of people who can meet your implicit bar yet who you would never want as president. Not to mention the hundreds of other relevant gov’t officials all of whom get graded on roughly the same rubric.

      This stinks of rehabilitating Bush or revising Obama era history (in record disregard for proximity) because they weren’t entirely incapable of speaking like adults.

      1. Whine Country

        I disagree – Since policies are nothing more than talking points used to get voters to vote for a particular candidate, Trump has the same policies that the Demos do. We aren’t lacking for policies, we are lacking for legislators who will actually write laws that implement the policies once they are elected.

    3. DJG

      Wowsers, Ptup, as I just mentioned in a comment above, I am seeing way too many privileged liberals going on about how Trump is some subhuman to be blotted out. I no longer care that he offends you. This is all bathos.

      Policy comes first, as the Sanders wing of the party and, yes, the Greens have been pointing out for months and months and months.

    4. Darius

      We got Trump because the Democrats lost the working class. Democrats need policy to win them back.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        The Democrats need to be dumped or purged. Pelosi and friends can’t win anything back.

    5. Plenue

      “You’re just legitimizing him by talking policy.”

      Well I’m sorry, but Trump is the legitimate president. No amount of insults, sneering, and mocking is going to change that fact. The only thing that could change it would be a catastrophic change in the constitutional order. And such a change would be permanent, whereas Trump himself will be gone in a few years. And the result of that change would be putting Pence in charge. A man who not only has firm policy positions, most of which are horrifying, but who would be far more competent both in running the White House day to day, and in getting things done with both Houses.

      But I don’t get the sense many liberals would actually have a problem with that. Oh, they’d give lip-service to being outraged, but they mostly wouldn’t treat Pence as some existential threat who much be removed, no matter how much more effective he might be at getting evil done. Because their problem with Trump is that his being president is fundamentally an affront to their sensibilities. He doesn’t give sufficient gravitas to the office.

      1. different clue

        The Clintonite Liberal feeling about Trump amounts to this . . . . ” how did this butt-crack plumber become a billionaire? NOKD. NOKD at all. “

  6. RRH

    Everyone must remember that Comey cost Hillary the election, Trump didn’t “Win.” Oh he won the Electoral College, but “he didn’t win the popular vote.” Sorry Dem’s, the votes that count are counted in the College, not the popular vote. Comey cost the Dem’s a Billion Dollars and should the results have been different, how long do you think Comey would have been around? How about shorter than a “New York Minute.”

    1. different clue

      Comey didn’t cost Clinton my vote. She did that herself with promising more support for Trade Treason Agreements and for seeking war against Russia via the subterfuge of No Fly Zones in Syria to support her beloved Cannibal Liver Eating Jihadis . . . in line with her support for the Global Axis of Jihad.

      Comey had nothing to do with any of that.

      Yet the Clintonites keep waving the Comey excuse. The dog ate her homework. The Comey ate her election.

  7. RRH

    Everyone should remember that Comey “cost” Hillary the election, Trump didn’t “Win.” Oh The Donald won the Electoral College, but “he didn’t win the popular vote.” Sorry Dem’s, the votes that count are counted in the College, not the popular vote. Comey cost the Dem’s a Billion Dollars and should the results have been different, how long do you think Comey would have been around? How about shorter than a “New York Minute.”

    1. FiddlerHill

      This relentless talk about Comey costing HRC the election completely ignores the July “get out of jail free” pass he gave Clinton when she should have been indicted. If he’d really wanted to sabotage her, he could easily have done it right then.

      1. Plenue

        It’s fun to watch liberals go back and forth on whether Comey is an Archvillain or a Hero of the Republic.

      2. Ian

        If he had we would probably have Sanders as prez, which is probably another big reason she got a pass.

  8. JEHR

    While many people worry about Trump and associates canoodling with the Russians, Trump is busy getting rid of financial regulations, environmental protections, public education, etc. Those policy changes surely mean more to the residents of the USA than Trump’s personality quirks.

    Here are 90 regulations that have been changed or eliminated.

    1. CD

      The Trump presidency as a magic show or pickpocketing? Watch the action here while I borrow your wallet and watch.

      Distract with noise and lights in the media from the main action elsewhere?

    2. David

      Trump is busy getting rid of financial regulations, environmental protections, public education, etc.

      Here are 90 regulations that have been changed or eliminated.

      Actually the article you linked says,

      …90 regulations that have been delayed, suspended or reversed since Mr Trump’s inauguration…

      Most of these federal regulation have been implemented in the last year. Some were implemented in the last weeks of the Obama administration.

      In many cases , industry has asked for additional time to provide input before the rule is implemented.

      Where the law have been reversed, Congress has approved.

      If you look at the data complied by the New York Times, it appears to show a government functioning as it should. Unfortunately the sample data doesn’t include cases where non-industry groups asked for delays or additional consideration.

  9. lyman alpha blob

    ….it’s easier politically oppose Trump on issues like the Russia situation, on allegations of foreign influence, even potentially on allegations of conflicts of interest with his business, and to be clear, I’m not saying any of those issues are not issues.

    OK, I’ll say it then. Until someone shows one scintilla of concrete evidence, these are not issues.

    Now of course there was plenty of concrete evidence of Cheney’s ties to Halliburton or Bush’s ties to the Carlyle Group but the establishment wasn’t hysterically screaming for impeachment because of that.

    Attacking Trump personally or on phony issues only further exposes the Democrat party for the abject hypocrites they are.

    1. clarky90

      The Democratic Party must start spending their filthy lucre (Titus 1:11) on rubber chickens! Millions and millions of rubber chickens.

      Get rid of that meaningless Dem Donkey. The Party of the Rubber Chicken!

      1. integer

        The Party of the Rubber Chicken!

        One in every pot! And a self-driving car in every garage*!

        *At some unspecified time in the future, or never, whichever comes first.

    2. WorldBLee

      Amen to that. There’s no there there with the Russia allegations, which sprang from clear air to become an obsession with the media and the political class.

  10. Whine Country

    All well in theory but in reality legislators don’t actually write the laws, lobbyists do. Policies to legislators are based on polls taken for the purpose of getting them elected. A legislator can adopt a policy for guarding the hen house and pass it on to staff who will then transact with the fox to draft legislation. Of course this transaction will come with a gratuity. What is it we think that lobbyists do for the enormous sums they’re paid? Do people actually believe that they just visit from time to time with legislators to chat about what might be good policy? Congress and their staff neither write nor read the laws that are passed. It would be too time consuming in light of the time necessary to raise funds to stay elected. As with the neoliberal markets concept, the market has filled a need by providing a solution. It’s one of those public/private partnership kinda things. Unfortunately, it is the reason that legislators cannot really have a policy. The current system provides no one who is willing to actually write the laws to implement it.

  11. irenic

    Accountability?! Okay. Sirota says; “Oh, man. I mean, I’m saying this … To be clear, I am a journalist. I am a journalist who covers these issues.” Bullshit! David Sirota is NOT a journalist, not anymore. The minute he signed on with David Brock(the Democratic party political warrior who is building a liberal fundraising and political machine modeled after the Koch brothers machine), Sirota became Brock and the Democratic party’s propagandist: a dancing monkey.

    Like a good propagandist there is some truth to what he says in the interview but the truth is only used to adorn the propaganda demanded by his master: David Brock. Sirota is(or was?) a progressive hired to tell a good story–not explain good policies–and keep progressives in the Democratic party’s veal pen.

  12. John k

    Dems will continue with status quo and never ever because donors.
    This means they are left with endless lesser evil campaigns…
    Find good looking people, reasonably articulate, that went to good schools and are therefore credentialed. An attractive spouse is a big plus, as are attractive, well mannered, young kids.
    Most important, their focus should be on getting rich, an attribute most appreciated by the donors… after all, if you don’t want or need their money your loyalty would be questioned.

    So status quo and lesser evil is all they have, so it’s what they’re gonna go with. And status quo isn’t a winner these days, best to focus on how truly evil the opponent is. Throw a lot of mud! Some is bound to stick.. remember bernie was anti black, no matter he marched in Chicago. And he’s anti Jew! No matter he is in fact Jewish. And a commie… he went to Russia! Well, that bit is true.

    Sirota is right. Dems dont want to attack trump on policy because his policies are too close to theirs… notice he keeps getting dems to vote for his nominees that are known to implement rep policies… except not warlike enough. Dems were happiest when he bombed that runway…
    But midterms are just around the Corner! So, Russia, Russia, Russia until November, 2018. It’s all they’ve got… sad.

  13. Robert NYC

    Sirota is the real deal in terms of an honest journalist but that is why he will NEVER be allowed to work anywhere in the corporate media. He is dangerous and can’t be allowed to be heard to widely. It’s why you will never see an op-ed by Noam Chomsky in the WaPo or an interview with him on the meet the press.

  14. Indrid Cold

    They always get co opted- Taibbi had a tweet today where he made sure some dingbat knew that he, Matt Taibbi, understood that Trump was in fact on the payroll of Putin. So I’m now done with Taibbi. Sirota is more like Glen Greenwald- he thinks he can do a deal at the crossroads and keep his soul. Maybe. We’ll see.

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