Almost exactly a year ago Hillary warned us about the “radical fringe” that Trump was enabling. It’s 30 mins long and I just listened it to again. It was a good speech. The speaker sounded sane and rational which was refreshing. Also prescient which was scary. I think it’s worth the time to hear it.
The New York Times said Hillary Clinton Denounces the ‘Alt-Right,’ and the Alt-Right Is Thrilled. They liked the publicity, much like Trump likes when anyone talks about him in the news, for good or bad. This week I heard someone blame the rise of the alt-right on this speech more than what Trump has done. That the Democrats always play “the racist card”.
Ed Kilgore called it a calculated risk. Republican advisor and pundit Pratik Chougule said it will backfire. Grace Wyler in Vice gave what I found to be the most balanced crtique, How Hillary Clinton’s Attack on the Alt-Right Went Wrong. Here are three excerpts:
What made Clinton’s speech so remarkable—and so effective—was that everything she said was simply true. In fact, her remarks were surprisingly lacking in hyperbole, both in terms of what she said and the even-keeled, almost grandmotherly way in which she said it. Almost none of the material was new—bloggers and pundits have been cataloguing the deranged controversies she mentioned or months. In aggregate, though, it was a cogent reminder that the Republican Party has nominated a lunatic as its presidential candidate. It was also further confirmation of just how depressing and gross the presidential race has become.
The jubilation of “racialists” and white identarians aside, Clinton’s focus on the alt-right also misses, or ignores, the broader economic and social anxieties—specifically, financial angst and resentments over globalization and immigration—that have, to varying extents, fueled Trump’s rise and that of similar political movements in other parts of the world. And while the question of whether Trump’s support is better explained by racial fears or economic ones has been the subject of heated debate this election cycle, a new report from the McKinsey Global Institute suggests that there’s a strong link.
Of course, there is still time for Clinton to start such a conversation. However, her speech Thursday suggests that the campaign remains focused on casting Trump as unhinged, and creating racist bogeymen that will drive Democrats to the polls in November. Considering that Clinton is more than 10 points ahead of Trump in the most recent national poll, that strategy may work. But calling Trump a racist won’t change the economic and political climate that allowed him and his friends on the alt-right to thrive. In fact, it might just make it worse.
At the time Trump said:
“It’s the oldest play in the Democratic playbook,” Trump said. “When Democratic policies fail, they are left with only this one tired argument: ‘You’re racist, you’re racist, you’re racist.’ … Hillary Clinton isn’t just attacking me. She is attacking all of the decent people of all backgrounds who support this incredible, once-in-a-lifetime movement.”
Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said Thursday’s speech “proved to the American public what we have known all along – Hillary Clinton has no hope, no vision and no ideas for the future of our country. Clinton lied about her emails, she lied about Colin Powell, and today she lied about Donald Trump. Donald Trump is talking about issues; Hillary Clinton is talking about Donald Trump. Today, as she took a break from her Hillary-in-Hiding Tour, she missed another opportunity to talk about education, infrastructure, terrorism, healthcare, the economy and energy. We’re living in her head rent-free, and that must terrify the political insiders who want to keep things exactly the way they are.”
So that worked. Hillary had a ton of detailed policy positions on her website and she told people to check them out. Hillary spoke about her positions often, but the press rarely covered those parts of her speeches. In the debates she told people to check out her policy details at her website, no one did. At the time Trump had virtually no plans, at one point he had a six pager on his immigration plan. It’s since been proven what many of us thought at the time, that he had no healthcare plan, no secret plan to defeat ISIS in 30 days, no plan to pay for his wall, no plan for the economy other than “it will be great”. Instead the news covered his latest outrageous statements and her emails and that’s all anyone thought about for the election. Plenty of people still think she would have been just as bad or couldn’t get over her emails. Look what that got us.
Lawrence Lessig says that money in politics isn’t the most important issue but it is the first issue because nothing can be fixed until we fix that one. I and others fear that the Republican party has lost the ability to be rational on policy. They deny climate change. They irrationally rail against healthcare reform with no plan of their own. Their economic plan is to give tax breaks to the rich while telling poor people it will trickle down to them while that’s been disproven and the result is the poor will lose their safety net which is Paul Ryan’s goal. Instead I think the first problem we need to fix is that we as a nation have lost the ability to rationally hold elections.
On Saturday John McCain posted to Facebook his comments about Charlottesville that I thought were quite good. The Facebook comments to his post disturbed me as much as anything I’ve seen on the Internet in a long time. There was typical Internet bile: The violence was a false flag operation paid for by George Soros or “The leftist are to blame for this period. This was a Bernie supporter who used his car to kill the far left.” But there were plenty that struck me as just misinformed: It was just people protesting the removal of a statue and they were attacked by antifa. They got a permit. “Why are the whites being called Nazis when they did the right things?”.
Their news told them this. And what I didn’t see too much of from pundits yesterday evening was the fact that Trump Cribbed His Charlottesville Press Conference Straight From Fox News. This is what conservative media is passing to their listeners. Vox talked to 13 Alabama conservatives on Charlottesville and the comments are astounding. It’s Obama’s fault. “I suspect that leftist groups bused in a bunch of thugs so the leftist media could beat this narrative about evil.” “ I think that news media, Hollywood, and Democratic politicians are the top three entities that can gain from something like that.” I don’t think is a common view but this was my favorite comment: “ I don’t think Gen. Lee would be disappointed in them moving the statue because I think he would want to preserve the union.”
What has me so disheartened is I don’t know how we come together unless people stop listening to it or it becomes rational, and I don’t know how either of those things happen. I know there are rational Republican officials that are hesitant to speak out against it because their media will turn on them. But I think they need to read Profiles in Courage and find strength in numbers. I hope there’s a good sized block of rational conservatives that will support them.
Update: How apropos, now I see this:
The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University today released a comprehensive analysis of online media and social media coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign. The report, “Partisanship, Propaganda, and Disinformation: Online Media and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election,” documents how highly partisan right-wing sources helped shape mainstream press coverage and seize the public’s attention in the 18-month period leading up to the election.
Time to get reading…
Update: Media Matters has a video showing Trump’s statements compared to those on Fox News