Politico Confirms That Nothing Matters

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Hey, did you think the media might be reflecting on how they essentially enabled a white nationalist know-nothing wildly corrupt strongman by normalizing his insane flaws while focusing on 1) emails, and 2) the horserace? Well, fuck you, because they haven’t. They’ve gone even further to accept Trump’s essential distortions. 

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First Debate Live Blog! Or: How I Never Stopped Worrying And In Fact Feel Physically Ill

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Pictured: Trump campaign prep room

I woke up this morning with a dry throat and a pounding headache, symptoms of a hangover but without the happy memories of drinking the night before. I must be coming down with something, and well I don’t believe in the metaphysical, I don’t doubt that weeks of worry have something to do with it. All the worry leading up to today, where Hillary has to be perfect, and even if she is, Donald Trump could still walk away with an inside shot at becoming the President.

It’s impossible to really put into words how insane it is that we are here. That we are entering the debate wondering if Donald Trump can behave for long enough to convince people he should be President. Of America. There has never been a more dangerous candidate in American history, certainly not one that is this close. This long ago ceased being about politics, and is about the country as a whole. I know that from 2000-2008 some people thought the country was irredeemably mad, and since then a lot of people have felt it was “Taken from them”, in which every word of that formulation is ahistorical. But this isn’t hyperbole. This is a genuinely dangerous moment. We’re at that part in the history book where people reading it say “why are they doing this? Can’t it be stopped?” with the sickening realization that it wasn’t. We’re at that hinge.

So tonight isn’t a question of who will “win”? One person will be manifestly more qualified to be President in every conceivable way. That can’t be questioned by any serious person. The other might be declared a winner because we’re in a period of historical insanity, and those forces have proven irresistible. So we’ll see.

We’ll be live-blogging after the jump. In the meantime, read Pierce and despair and read Scocca and rage.

This cold is making booze sound terrible, but whiskey might be the only cure for what ails me. It might be the only cure for all of this.

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Tomorrow’s Irritation’s Today: There is No Pivot From Bigotry

 

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“Lady, you knew I was a snake until you covered my ‘attempt at tacking toward the center'” – Ancient Parable

 

Imagine that you’re at a bar with a guy and he’s railing about blacks and Mexicans and Jews. He’s just going off, and with each drink, he gets more and more unhinged about them, more conspiratorial, until toward the end he’s a sweaty mess and raving about how they are all out to get him and ruin his life, because they are evil and awful people, barely even people.

Then, about a week later, you see him. He mentions that he had a job interview, and it turned out that the people in charge were black, so he didn’t say anything racist for a few hours. Would you think, well, this fellow certainly has turned a new leaf! Because raw self-interests forced him to tamp down his essential terribleness for a spell, he clearly isn’t a terrible racist anymore!

Of course you wouldn’t. So hey, media: don’t pretend Trump’s sudden incoherence on immigration, and his faltering, obviously-insincere attempts at softening his hardline stance are anything but a transparent attempt to erase the last 14 months (and really, 5 years). You know it is a cynical ruse when he actually uses the word “softening”, which is remarkably insincere. It’s like saying “we’re about to start pandering, believe me.”

Everyone “pivots”; we know this. It’s part of politics. But running on naked racism and white nationalism for over a year, then pretending you didn’t mean that, isn’t a pivot. It’s a way to hide the essential nature of your campaign to fool people who are just now paying attention. This isn’t something he should be able to get away with. The stakes are too high.

So I really, really, don’t want to see serious discussions on “did Trump manage to massage his message enough to appeal to his base without alienating more people?” He’s still the know-nothing fascist dimwit he’s always been, now he’s just pretending to be a real candidate for five or ten minutes. He’s clearly not. It’s part of the cynicism of GOP leaders— just pretend that you won’t be an epochal and country-wrecking disaster of a President for 3 months, ok?”– and it is incumbent upon the media not to let them get away with it. This isn’t Romney pivoting away from the far right. It’s George Wallace putting on Groucho glasses and pretending to be someone else. It’s a gaboon viper telling you he’s a caterpillar. It really can’t be allowed to work.

A Quick Followup on Unskewing

 

Not pictured: a lot of human voters. 

 

So, last post was mostly talking about Trump’s own brand of imagined reality, but there are also a lot of people who clearly believe that the polls can’t be right, because: rallies and signs, man. Ceca, in his Salon article, points out how this can take place, in the doughy form of Eric Bolling at FOX.

Interrupting a discussion about the hiring of Breitbart overlord Steve Bannon to run the Trump campaign, Bolling complained, “These polls, Dana, honestly, we have to stop with these polls.” Bolling continued, “They’re insane with these polls. Just look at what’s going on. You look at a Trump rally, and there’s 12, 15, 10,000 people.” In addition to demanding that “we have to stop with these polls,” Bolling compared his inflated estimates of Trump’s crowd sizes to Hillary’s lesser-than crowd sizes, insisting that rally attendance is an accurate predictor of election outcomes. It’s not.

He’s right! It really, really, isn’t. We went through this with Mitt Romney in 2012. Don’t forget– don’t ever forget– Peggy Noonan’s list of yard signs and vibrations for why all the polls were wrong. When people are vested in an outcome, they will believe anything.

But it is easy to believe, honestly, and very tempting. It’s especially easy for some reporters who often have to drive long distances, because when you do so, you spend a lot of time on the highway. An example: last week, when my bride and I were driving home from the Adirondacks, we went through upper New York, near the Canadian border and rounding around Fort Drum before heading south to 90 near Rochester. Coming out of the highlands, we pavered off into flat country, flat and poor country, where each little town, dotted sparsely with ramshackle houses, broke-down cars, and dying businesses, blended together.

We saw dozens, if not more, Trump signs. In one town there was an (at least) 15-foot-high sign blaring “TRUMP” in enormous, hand-painted letters. One upholstery place had two signs. The first was a two parter, in which the proclimation of “Jesus is Lord” was above  the nature of the business, and next to it was a “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” sign. This was real Trump country. Hundreds of miles of Trump’s America.

We also went through the Lake Erie tip of Pennsylvania, as well as across Ohio. Most of that was interstate, but not all (we took a few detours). Throughout that, we saw exactly 1 Hillary sign that I can remember, and that was in Erie, PA. I would conservatively put the estimate of total Trump-to-Hillary signs at 100-1.

Donald Trump is not going to win New York, nor Pennsylvania, and probably not Ohio. So when people are tallying up signs, remember, it is meaningless. The vast stretches where not many people live, but those who do live difficult lives, can be distorting.

The important thing, for Democrats, and the media, is to remember these places exist between elections.