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Monday, November 14, 2016

Understanding the apocalypse

by digby

Progressive organizer Mike Lux has written a comprehensive and interesting analysis of the campaign that's worth reading and thinking about in its entirely. There are a lot of moving parts that have to be dealt with so i'm not going to address the whole thing right now. But his very first observation is absolutely brilliant and it's something I haven't seen anyone else point out:
Trump successfully used the media forms he knew to dominate the media narrative. FDR mastered radio; JFK won in ‘60 because of TV; the Obama team won in part because they dominated in email and Facebook. And a huge part of Trump’s victory was because he understood reality TV and Twitter. He knew that being outrageous and entertaining, sounding spontaneous and unscripted, would make him the media favorite and allow him to overwhelm everyone else in terms of free media and coverage. A study I saw in the middle of the Republican primary tracked how the more coverage Trump got, the higher he rose in the polls, even if not all of the coverage was positive. In fact, it didn’t bother Trump if he got bad press, because he was still dominating the debate and the media narrative, making the race all about him. The other dynamic was that all his outrageous statements made him seem much more genuine than other politicians, which voters loved and made them trust him more, even though they knew he wasn’t always truthful on the facts. 
One of the things that had me worried throughout the campaign, and I think my worries were confirmed both by the polling I saw during the campaign, and the final results, is that we Democrats made this campaign too much about Trump. In doing this, we played into his strategy of defining the narrative of the race. Too many of the HFA ads were focused on how dangerous and outrageous and crude Trump was, when in fact those very characteristics were fundamental to his appeal as a change agent. 
I suspect most Democrats thought that by exposing Trump for the cretinous monster he is that a vast majority of our fellow Americans would reject him. We assumed a basic decency would prevail. We were wrong about that and I doubt anyone will ever make that mistake again. We now know what our country is --- or have been reminded of it. 

His observation about Trump's use of the new media is very apt. He is a man of moment who recognized the zeitgeist better than anyone. What confused us was that he's such a throwback to the 1970s, a man whose worldview is grounded in a period that only people who are my age or older would recognize. What I failed to see was that to his fans, his worldview is fresh. His use of the media of the moment to portray that was really quite brilliant.  And to the older folks my age, he's just like them, reminding them of the good old days when they were young and had that same haircut.

I think we underestimated him all along. I certainly knew he could win, but I couldn't wrap my mind around him actually doing it. And I should have. I live in that media world too. He overwhelmed everything by being outrageous and provocative and unscripted. And he got his American alpha male dominance message (that's pretty much all it was) out not only with what he was saying but by how and where he said it. 

And don't underestimate how much that excitement translated into a loathing of politics by people with more sensitive natures. By the end it was almost unbearable to deal with the negativity. Trump understood his audience. Clinton failed to understand that some measure of hers was traumatized and tuning out. Exposing his negativity perversely blew back on her. 

And that brings me to another of Lux's points:
After we won in 2008, our party fell in love with technology and data- big data and what Obama and Clinton strategist Jim Messina calls “little data” and microtargeting. And data is very important to running modern campaigns. But we fell in love with it so much that it sometimes feels like we forgot that we have to create a political movement that excites and motivates and energizes people, a movement that involves actual humans who volunteer to make calls and knock on doors; who give their small contributions online; who get on their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts to post videos and memes; who are excited about convincing their friends and neighbors and coworkers to get out and vote for Democrats. Obama didn’t get 70 million votes in 2008 mainly because of data, he got those votes because people felt they were part of a movement. While they weren’t as excited in 2012, there was still enough residual love for him and that movement to put him over the top after a tough 4 years. We didn’t have that feeling this year, and we need a candidate and party that will get us back to that old time movement religion.
I'll just say this: the inspiration in this campaign was about electing the first woman president. And in the face of shocking misogyny and abusive behavior in person and online from all sides, women retreated to private spheres, as they always do when under assault. They were intimidated. Perhaps that was weak and cowardly but it was the reality. There was no way to create that surging sense of excitement in public without solidarity from the rest of the progressive coalition and it just wasn't there. 

The lesson is that women's equality will never be that old time religion. Democrats will have to find something else. The first woman president will be a hard right Republican. That's the only woman who won't be met with overwhelming misogyny from the other side and will be defended by their own male allies. They are "the deciders." 

Anyway, lots to think about in that piece by Lux. Some I agree with some I'm still thinking over. But it's the most comprehensive piece I've read by a progressive thinker to date that's looking at this from an organic perspective. Well worth the time.