On Ignoring the Next Six Months

Almost exactly one year ago, I pointed out that we should ignore the upcoming 18 months:

Thousands of articles will be written. Hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent. There will be interviews and debates. There will be speeches and rallies. There will be polls and predictions. Strategies and personalities will be analyzed. Policies will even be discussed.

We can safely ignore it all.

The only question regarding the presidential election in November 2016 is whether we should elect a Republican or Democrat. If you’ve been paying attention at all, you already know the answer.

Three months later, I backtracked a bit, did some subtraction and said we shouldn’t completely ignore the next 15 months. Senator Sanders had announced his candidacy and deserved a hearing:

Since Sanders is worth paying attention to, even if he doesn’t get the nomination, I stand corrected.

Now that the contest between Sanders and Clinton is over (even though he won’t admit it), I advise everyone to ignore the next six months. I mean, for god’s sake, the Republican id has spoken and spewed forth a nominee who – although wonderfully representative of the Grand Old Party – is beyond the pale, almost beyond belief.

Since it’s absolutely necessary that we all vote for Hillary in November (and Democrats running for the Senate and House so she’ll have someone to work with), we can safely ignore the millions of words, sounds and images that will come our way between now and November 8th. Not only because there is no reason to think about who to vote for, but because paying attention to all that “news” and “analysis” will give us a lot of unnecessary stress.

Imagine, for example, that Hillary Clinton says something like this:

Look, we have serious economic problems in many parts of our country….Instead of dividing people the way Donald Trump does, let’s reunite around policies that will bring jobs and opportunities to all these under-served poor communities. 

So for example, I’m the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country. Because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right, Tim?  

And we’re going to make it clear that we don’t want to forget those people. Those people labored in those mines for generations, losing their health, often losing their lives to turn on our lights and power our factories. 

Now we’ve got to move away from coal and all the other fossil fuels, but I don’t want to move away from the people who did the best they could to produce the energy that we relied on. 

So whether it’s coal country or Indian country or poor urban areas, there is a lot of poverty in America…. I am passionate about this, which is why I have put forward specific plans about how we incentivize more jobs, more investment in poor communities, and put people to work. 

 Then this will happen:

Trump offered himself as a friend of coal. He compared stalled federal rules curbing emissions from coal-fired power plants to regulations that he said have weakened his hair spray.

“It used to be real good,” he said. “Today, you put the hair spray on, it’s good for 12 minutes.” 

He promised to help revitalize the battered coal industry.

“We’re going to put the miners back to work,” Trump said. “You’re going to be working your asses off.”

A few serious journalists might then analyze the economics of the coal industry and conclude that mines are shutting down because coal mining is expensive and other forms of energy are cheaper. They’ll cite facts like this: the entire domestic coal industry was worth $60 billion five years ago; now it’s worth $22 billion. Coal mining is becoming obsolete.

Other journalists, however, will consider the politics of the situation. How will Clinton’s “gaffe” (we’re going to put coal out of business) and Trump’s thrilling promise play in coal country? Others will ask why Clinton can’t connect with voters in the terrifically visceral way her opponent can: “I mean, why does she insist on talking down to average Americans (like [that loser] Al Gore did 16 years ago)?”

Unfortunately, we are safe in assuming that, as a Vox article says: “the media will lift Trump up and tear Clinton down”. That’s so likely and so unpleasant to read about that it’s hard for me to bring it up:

The US political ecosystem — media, consultants, power brokers, think tanks, foundations, officeholders, the whole thick network of institutions and individuals involved in national politics — cannot deal with a presidential election in which one candidate is obviously and uncontroversially the superior … choice. The machine is simply not built to handle a race that’s over before it’s begun.

The author makes three important points:

The political ecosystem needs two balanced parties to survive… there are entire classes of professionals whose jobs are premised on the model of two roughly equal sides, clashing endlessly. The Dance of Two Parties sustains the consultants and activists… It sustains the party hacks and grifters.

It certainly sustains the Republican politicians now announcing their support for someone they’ve been mocking and criticizing all year long. These characters need suckers to vote Republican if they’re going to stay relevant.

Secondly:

The media cannot countenance a lopsided race…The campaign press requires, for its ongoing health and advertising revenue, a real race. It needs controversies. “Donald Trump is not fit to be president” may be the accurate answer to pretty much every relevant question about the race, but it’s not an interesting answer…. What’s more, the campaign media’s self-image is built on not being partisan… How does that even work if one side is offering up a flawed centrist and the other is offering up a vulgar xenophobic demagogue? It would be profoundly out of character for reporters to spend the six months between now and the election writing, again and again, that one side’s candidate is a liar and a racist and an egomaniac.

Even though they know he is.

And finally:

Just as the media will need to elevate Trump, it will need to bring Clinton down. Going after Clinton will be journalists’ default strategy for proving that they’re not biased. They will need opportunities to be “tough” toward Clinton … to demonstrate their continued independence…Will the Washington press corps chase after ridiculous personal attacks and conspiracy theories regarding Hillary Clinton, whispered into their ears by right-wing hacks [and trumpeted by Trump himself, of course]? Ha ha. Have you met the Washington press corps? They have been doing that since the early 1990s. Clinton rules mean guilty until proven innocent, then and now. The Washington media is a machine that transforms crap about Clintons into headlines, and Trump is a bottomless supply of crap.

Short of moving into the Unabomber’s old cabin, I’m not sure how to avoid this coming onslaught of crap. I don’t have cable TV or much of the other kind. Nobody tosses a newspaper on the driveway. I could try to force myself to avoid the online New York Times, New York Magazine, Vox, Salon and The GuardianThere is certainly plenty of other stuff to read.

Hey, maybe I’ll use Google Chrome’s “Block Site” extension! I’ll block dangerous sites so I can’t visit them and create a master password I’ll never remember. Then, on November 9th, the day after the election, I’ll buy a new computer in order to see what everyone’s talking about. And if the election turns out very, very badly (but seriously, that’s not going to happen), I’ll go searching for that crazy guy’s cabin in Montana.