Some liberals were disappointed by the result of the presidential election. Others were devastated. Former Fox News Watch panelist Gabler is in the latter group. “The anguish of Nov. 8 has not subsided,” wrote Gabler in a piece that appeared last Thursday on Salon and originally ran at BillMoyers.com. “We think of the election almost as a kind of death -- the death of the America we thought we knew or the death of a democracy we thought impervious -- and ever since, we have been cycling through Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’[s] stages of grief…Many of us cannot rouse ourselves to rail at the system or the voters or God. It’s as if anger is an insufficient response.”
Tom Johnson covers mostly websites (e.g., Salon, Talking Points Memo, Daily Kos) for NewsBusters. He blogged frequently for the site from 2005 until 2007 and has been a regular contributor since 2011. From 1989 until 2002, he was an entertainment analyst for the Media Research Center and its spinoff, the Parents Television Council. From July 2004 until June 2005, he monitored National Public Radio for the MRC. He is a graduate of the University of Arizona.
Esquire’s Pierce readily concedes that Ben Carson (“an elite neurosurgeon”) and Mike Pompeo (“graduated at the top of his class at West Point”) are smart guys. In a way, though, they’re also tragic figures, he suggests, since they’ve “had to tailor their politics and their public personae to cater to the anti-rational, theocratic, anti-intellectual Id of modern conservatism…This means that both Carson and Pompeo have long histories of saying and writing things that sound like transmissions coming through their molars from Planet X.”
President Obama’s farewell address wasn’t ominous enough, believes The Nation’s Walsh. “It didn’t quite rise to the present danger,” wrote Walsh late Tuesday night, not long after Obama left the stage in Chicago. “Generally, he directed his mild criticism at all of us, not at the white backlash that elected [Donald] Trump.” In fact, the speech “could have been delivered even if Hillary Clinton was the president-elect.” According to Walsh, as much as Obama “tried to change” America, it remains “inadequately changed,” which may explain why Hillary lost.
Logic and proportion may be non-factors in media coverage of Donald Trump’s presidency, fears Lloyd Grove. In a Wednesday column, Grove opined that journalism “is in danger of passing through the looking glass, only to land in a menacing, topsy-turvy world, namely the White House Press Room…It’s likely to be [a] place where language will occasionally signify its opposite, and government spokespeople will declare, as Humpty Dumpty famously scolded Alice, ‘When I use a word, it means what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’” The key to this process, indicated Grove, is the use of the term “fake news” as the “Trump administration’s rightwing-populist bludgeon to delegitimize the purveyors of real news.” Among Grove's expert witnesses: Dan Rather.
Next Tuesday, three days before the current POTUS becomes an ex-POTUS, Jonathan Chait’s Audacity: How Barack Obama Defied His Critics and Created a Legacy That Will Prevail will be published. On Tuesday, New York magazine, where Chait is the chief political pundit, ran an excerpt from the book in which he claimed, “The truth is that Obama enacted careful, deep, and mostly popular solutions to a broad array of problems to which his opponents have no workable response.”
As much as Republicans dislike Hillary Clinton, often intensely, few if any of them believe she’s Satan. Yes, Donald Trump described Bernie Sanders’s endorsement of Clinton as “a deal with the devil,” but presumably it was just a figure of speech. That said, some on the left are darkly suspicious about how low conservatives go in their opinions of HRC. In a Tuesday Daily Kos post, cartoonist and blogger Jen Sorensen wrote, “As my husband says, this was not so much an election as an exorcism, the culmination of a decades-long smear campaign by the right.”
Bill Clinton was, in the words of one of his competitors for the 1992 Democratic nomination, “an unusually good liar,” but for Eric Alterman, a critical mass of mendacity in presidential politics didn’t develop until 2016. Alterman thinks it explains the mainstream media’s response to POTUS-elect Donald Trump. “Mainstream journalists are used to collaborating with politicians to tell the truth a little bit at a time,” wrote Alterman in a column for the January 30 issue of The Nation. “Lies are accepted when they fit the master narrative, but they need to hover within an acceptable range of plausibility. At the very least, they require the pretense of evidence, however specious it might be…American journalists simply don’t know how to report on a president who is also a compulsive liar.”
The image of America as “a shining city on a hill” (or a similar phrase) has been a staple of conservative political rhetoric for several decades. In a Tuesday piece for The New Republic, Matthew Pratt Guterl, a professor at Brown University, adapted the metaphor for leftist domestic use: “The nation as a whole seems no longer interested in celebrating any vision of equity, justice, and mutual respect. We need new symbols desperately. Blue states—especially those with democratic supermajorities and friendly neighbors, like Massachusetts and Rhode Island, California and Oregon—can be those symbols. And they can turn that symbolism into meaningful practice and policy.”
Donald Trump: future war criminal? You never know, suggests Paul Glastris, who believes there are “apt” and “worrisome” parallels between Trump and Slobodan Milosevic, the former Serbian and Yugoslav president who was facing charges that included genocide when he died in prison in 2006. “During the years of carnage...the ethnic cleansing, the rape camps, the 100,000 people killed...journalists and foreign leaders who met with Milosevic came away with impressions of the man remarkably similar to what many today say about Trump,” wrote Glastris. “He was brash and confident in public, but polite and conciliatory in private. He was obsessed with controlling and manipulating the press. He seemed not even to believe the nationalist rhetoric he spouted, but to be using it to gain and hold power. He trusted nobody but his family.”
In the mid-1990s, when the great Norm Macdonald was kicking off his “Weekend Update” segments of Saturday Night Live with, “And now, the fake news,” pretty much everyone knew what he meant. These days, however, disputes over definitions of “fake news” seem as common as fake news itself. It may be that the lefty writer angriest about fake news is media critic and political blogger Allison Hantschel, who in a Tuesday post at First Draft blamed the problem on both conservative media (for undermining the mainstream media) and the MSM (for not vigorously defending itself until it was too late).
Besides the electoral setbacks that liberals absorbed in 2016, they also were politically traumatized by quite a few of the year’s celebrity deaths, according to Caroline Framke. In a Friday piece, Framke opined that it was “particularly cruel” that “an entire tier of progressive icons” was passing away at the same time that Donald Trump was “riding a…wave of fury that depends on fear, xenophobia, and a latent desire to return to a world that looks more similar to the one that existed 50 years ago.” By “progressive icons,” Framke doesn’t mean they were lefty activists. For the most part, she’s talking about people like Prince and David Bowie, whose work swayed opinions on sexual and racial matters but whose political views seldom were explicit.
It seems that so much happened in 2016 that some major developments were hardly noticed. For example, L.V. Anderson suggested in a Thursday post that this was the year in which a large portion of the left suddenly was forced to realize that America sucks. “After Trump’s election, it is more or less impossible to believe that we are making meaningful progress,” she wrote. “White liberals who woke up horrified on Nov. 9 weren’t horrified because the world had suddenly changed -- we were horrified because the scales had finally fallen from our eyes, and we could at least see our unjust, racist, sexist country for what it is. The next president will not be a woman, the makeup of the Supreme Court will not shift toward progressivism, and we are not jolly passengers on a cruise ship sailing toward an era of tolerance, justice, and respect for the dignity and rights of all.”
In a Christmas Day post, Digby (also a columnist for Salon) contended that, given the media’s hostility toward Hillary Clinton, that “it’s actually a testament to her rectitude that [the e-mail story] was all they came up with. They had certainly tried over the course of 25 years to come up with something real and they ended up having to make up this ridiculous fake scandal to justify their Javert-like obsession.” To Digby, Hillary was an even more inviting target for the media than her scandal-prone husband: “After all, she was always the uppity one who was asking for it, not good old Bill. They didn't get the indictment they were promised but the FBI did manage to be the instrument of her destruction so it's almost as good.”
Aaron Hanlon thinks anti-conservative bias at colleges and universities is a molehill that a lot of people try to make into a mountain. To the dismay of Hanlon, a professor of English at Colby College, some of his fellow liberals are among those who, in his opinion, exaggerate the problem and thereby bolster the right’s case. Last Thursday in The New Republic, Hanlon went after New York Times pundit Nicholas Kristof for three 2016 columns critical of the leftward lean of America’s campuses.
Salon pundit Marcotte believes that in the Age of Trump, conservatism consists of just two tenets: the rich should get richer, and liberals are disgusting. In a Friday column, Marcotte admitted that liberals “say nasty things about conservatives,” but maintained that conservatives are far more likely than liberals to engage in “dehumanization” of political opponents.
The affinity of some American conservatives for Vladimir Putin was a minor phenomenon well before Donald Trump ran for president, and for obvious reasons it’s still grist for the mill of punditry. Liberal blogger and columnist Waldman delved into the topic in a Monday piece for The American Prospect. Waldman mused that maybe Republicans “are just now realizing that Putin is a leader after their own hearts,” explaining, “An avatar of anxious masculinity, [Putin] finds democratic constraints inconvenient, rules with an iron hand, and has a habit of having his enemies killed.”
Donald Trump is a visceral and emotional conservative, not a philosophical conservative, but that’s good enough for government work, suggests New York blogger Chait. The main aim of Chait’s Thursday post was to slap down the argument from some righty pundits that candidate Trump was, as Chait paraphrased it, “a non-ideological figure, or even a progressive…who chose the Republican Party for no particular reason, and who shares none of its salient characteristics.” Chait indicated that in general, conservatives’ distaste for the president-elect is found among journalists and intellectuals, while “activists” have worldviews similar to Trump’s.
On Friday, Barack Obama held what might be the last press conference of his presidency, and, if things ran to form, Nation columnist and What Liberal Media? author Alterman was impressed. As POTUS, Obama has been “the coolest guy in the room,” wrote Alterman in the magazine’s January 2-9 issue. “It didn’t matter what room. He was always able to keep his head while everyone around him was losing theirs—and usually blaming him.” Since the election, there’s been a lot of talk about how elitism, and the backlash against it, affected voting behavior. In Alterman’s telling, the MSM fed that backlash.
It’s definitely not morning in America for the media, believes NYU's Jay Rosen. The metaphor Rosen uses to illustrate the media’s plight during the first several months of Donald Trump’s administration isn’t a time of day but an entire, harsh season; he headlined his tweetstorm of last Sunday “Winter is coming: what it will be like for the press under Trump.” In September, Rosen alleged that candidate Trump was “trying to break the press,” meaning that Trump sought to trash “the entire system that gives honest journalism a role in the republic.”
Like most observers, The Nation’s Walsh expected that the voters who backed Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 would turn out for Hillary Clinton, whose presidency would safeguard Obama’s “political, social, and racial legacy.” Of course, countless expectations were dashed on November 8, when, as Walsh puts it, an “unexpected surge of white voters…took their country back from a black man [and] refused to hand it over to a liberal white woman.” In her piece, Walsh suggested that Obama hurt Hillary’s chances of winning pretty much by just being himself for eight years.