Analysis by Reporting San Diego
Oct 17, 2016 (San Diego) there are several ways of looking at the Wikileaks revelations. Truth be told, most is quite procedural and boring. Elections are marketing campaigns. The product is the candidate. So dinners with A list media might seem wrong, and in an ideal world they should not be happening. The fourth estate should have a real wall between themselves and the candidates they cover. Back in the real world however, these dinners and schmooze parties are part of the access required. They are shocking to people who have no idea of how crass things are. Suffice to say, this goes on in every town. It is part of the political machine that both parties build at all levels.
Then there are the large quantity of emails telling us how they intend to manipulate public opinion. Remember, these are marketing campaigns. Manipulating potential customers to buy Guess Jeans is not that different from selling a candidate. You too can be chick and good looking, vote for my candidate. At its core this works from dog catcher on up. And if you leave policy out of it even better. The least you tell of what you intend to do the better. Why mudslinging is also preferred to discussing policy. After all, no one likes to make promises voters expect, that you do not intend to keep.
So while the vast majority of emails are just that, process. Some reveal a certain disdain for core constituencies. When Clinton calls Sanders supporters basement dwellers who do not understand how politics works she is betraying almost hate for a part of the party Democrats have been at war with since 1972. That is the so called liberal wing. This wing has lost a lot of power and has been replaced by Neoliberal democrats where it counts: In leadership positions. This is part of the party realignment, a process that is a constant.
Allegedly she told this in a Goldman Sachs speech:
“Politics is like sausage being made. It is unsavory, and it always has been that way, but we usually end up where we need to be. But if everybody’s watching . . . then people get a little nervous, to say the least. So, you need both a public and a private position.”
This is rather telling of a ruthless politician. One that obviously is not telling the rubes what she intends to do in office. To be fair, most politicians operate like this. Most reporters who cover politics from city hall on up were also nodding in agreement when we read that quote. If I told you I was shocked, or surprised, I’d be lying. It is just that in that speech she went further than most, but it was supposed to remain private. I guarantee she would have never said it if she knew it was going to become public. I can say the same about most politicians.
When confronted during the second debate she told an adorable story of how Abraham Lincoln got the 13th Amendment through Congress. Call me skeptical, but I doubt Lincoln used $2700 fundraising rubber chicken plates, or speeches to banks. Maybe I am wrong and should review the relevant historical record. But I do not quite recall that. This said, there was plenty of twisting of arms, and even some primitive opposition research. That part is true. Arm twisting of Members of Congress is quite an art form, and as old as the Republic.
The document trove had another email that should concern us. Though we should clarify, this is not just Democrats, or Republicans, or for that matter Americans. When Bill Ivey, Former National Endowment for the Arts chairman, wrote this he betrayed a certain disdain of the voter, but also a long goal of Neoliberals everywhere. What elites want is a pretty ignorant, and easily manipulated populous. Now that email is worth exploring, for what it does and does not say. It also is contemporaneous to the end of the two national conventions and the need for a show, not a real discussion. As usual context matters.
I’m certain the poll-directed insiders are sure things will default to policy as soon as the conventions are over, but I think not. And as I’ve mentioned, we’ve all been quite content to demean government, drop civics and in general conspire to produce an unaware and compliant citizenry. The unawareness remains strong but compliance is obviously fading rapidly. This problem demands some serious, serious thinking – and not just poll driven, demographically-inspired messaging.
When he told Snopes he really did not mean what he said about government or civics or a compliant citizenry, Snopes validated the document, but it was also an effort to throw sand on what he wrote. Why? It is that bad.
There is more about that debunking, so called. While some sites in the internet said that this document claimed it was the Clinton Campaign that wanted a compliant citizenry, this goes far beyond one campaign. Elites world wide have been defunding and remaking education to fit a mold. It is part of what Naomi Klein has dubbed disaster capitalism. It is a core aspect of it, why education is under attack.
There is another strain in there. What happened to Sanders and how the campaign decided to paint him as the candidate of white male voters everywhere, and recasting him outside the struggle of the 1960s is a deep rewriting of history. I believe George Orwell is nodding and smiling in his grave at this point.
It also betrays a disdain for social justice movements. One item that has challenged the campaign is how to work, or rather co-op black lives matter, and other social justice activists. This is not the first time, or the last time that any campaign will try that in American history. The John Kennedy campaign tried that with Martin Luther King, and in a way so did Richard Nixon with environmentalists. What is distressing is that lions of the civil rights movement, like John Lewis, played a role that was unexpected, but in light of the treasure trove should not be unexpected. When you know where your bread is buttered, you do not rock the boat.
So are there any clear smoking guns? No, if you follow politics regularly. These emails have the feeling of what has become business as usual in a political party that has gone right. It is surprising though to many voters who are not familiar to the nitty gritty of how campaigns work, or how politics works. Voters are rightfully alarmed since media in general do not cover this aspect of politics, partly becuase it is boring. Keeping score of who told on whom, and who donated to who can be telling, but quite work intensive. Also most voters don’t care, to be brutally honest. That should be the lede, some voters are alarmed at what they are seeing.
Most politicians are not going to tell you all they really want you to know what deals they have with political and media elites, or for that matter banking or business elites. Full disclosure, I have gotten invitations to parties held by local politicians. We refuse to attend them, even though it has arguably cost us access. In our view every media outlet should refuse to attend them, if nothing else to prevent the impression of a conflict of interest. Even if they are, and have been standard for decades, reporters have an obligation to the story and to the reader. These parties, whether it is for elite media, offered by elite candidates, for your local politician, will cloud coverage.
Will Wikileaks affect the race? No, they will not. There is a feeling among a small number of voters that this is bad, and reveals a politician with no moral center. In any other campaign year these revelations would have a chance to percolate to the public and actually have an effect. This year, even these revelations are suffering from the Trump effect. Donald Trump has been so horrific, that his words have clouded any coverage of this. Moreover, as I wrote above, there is really no major smoking gun. There are diamonds on the rough, including how the Clinton campaign sees whatever remains of a disorganized left, and how they see conservative catholics. For that matter there is a diamond in there regarding education and lack of civics education. Most of it. is pretty standard. In another year, the disdain for labor, minorities, the left and an educated population would have a chance of making a difference. This year, no, not really.
This is telling of where we are. It is not that Clinton is better or worst than Trump. It is that Trump has dominated what goes on in the evening news since he launched his campaign, to the point of drowning everything else.