On Fox, it's a whole different world: We Americans! The last two nights, on cable news, we've been living in two different worlds.
On MSNBC, we liberals got to enjoy an exciting car chase. This car chase began Thursday night.
According to Michael Flynn's lawyer, the general wants to tell his story, but he'll need immunity first. An embarrassing number of major liberals rushed to cable to say or suggest that the general, who strikes us as basically nuts, had thereby confessed to a crime.
Over the past two nights, MSNBC has entertained us rubes with the hunt for Flynn. (Undercard: the hunt for Nunes.) By the end of last evening's Last Word, guest host Joy Reid was pretending to sip a large cup of tea as she played tape of the various jokes the Kimmels and Fallons had told last week.
In such ways, the cable suits dumb even their brighter stars down.
The Last Word's hour had been built around the thrill of the chase. Over on Fox, in that same hour, Sean Hannity's viewers were being treated to an entirely different set of concerns and a whole different set of facts.
In separate segments, Hannity chatted with Monica Crowley, then with Kellyanne Fitzpatrick, about President Trump's various great achievements so far, and about the real scandal here—the scandal surrounding the illegal leaking of General Flynn's past remarks.
Viewers were told that Flynn was right to seek immunity, given the "witch hunt" which is unfolding. Viewers were also told about the criminal conduct of former Obama aide Evelyn Farkas, concerning whom more below.
In short, viewers of these profit-making channels were living in two different worlds. This brings us to Paul Krugman's latest column, in which Krugman seemed to explain the foolishness of West Virginia's voters.
Why did so many West Virginian vote for Trump last fall? That's a very important question. Krugman's attempt to answer the question was amateurish in the max extreme.
Don't get us wrong! As far as we know, Krugman's column was highly informative on the substance—the substance being the diminishing role of coal in West Virginia's economy. On the substance, we will assume that Krugman was totally right and highly informative.
His column was amazingly amateurish when it came to the politics. Headline included, this is the puzzling way the MVP's column began:
KRUGMAN (3/31/17): Coal Country Is a State of MindAs you can see, Krugman's presentation is murky in certain ways. But it's perfectly clear, if you read the whole column, that Krugman is saying that the coal industry "led [West Virginia's] residents to vote overwhelmingly against their own interests" last year, full freaking stop.
West Virginia went overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in November—in fact, he beat Hillary Clinton by almost a three-to-one majority. And it may seem obvious why: The state is the heart of coal country, and Mr. Trump promised to bring coal jobs back by eliminating Obama-era environmental regulations. So at first glance the 2016 election looks like a political realignment reflecting differences in regional interests.
But that simple story breaks down when you look at the realities of the situation—and not just because environmentalism is a minor factor in coal’s decline. For coal country isn’t really coal country anymore, and hasn’t been for a long time.
Why does an industry that is no longer a major employer even in West Virginia retain such a hold on the region’s imagination, and lead its residents to vote overwhelmingly against their own interests?
No other explanation is offered for the way West Virginians voted. In this column, Krugman replaces our tribe's favorite single-explanation explanation (West Virginians are a gang of slobbering racists) with a new single-explanation explanation:
West Virginians voted for Trump "because Donald Trump successfully pandered to cultural nostalgia, to a longing for a vanished past when men were men and miners dug deep."
End of column, full stop.
According to the leading authority, West Virginians cast 489,371 votes for Donald J. Trump last fall. No other possible explanation is offered for any of those votes.
No effort is made to estimate the number of votes which turned on Candidate Trump's foolish claims about coal. We're told that Those People voted on coal, and we're told nothing else.
What makes a very smart person present such an underfed bit of "analysis?" Would anyone offer a column like this except in such tribalized times?
We'll let you answer those questions. For ourselves, we'll cite one obvious possible explanation for West Virginia's steady turn to the right on the presidential level. This obvious possible explanation involves the rise of Fox News.
As Charlie Peters noted in his recent piece in the New York Times, West Virginia used to vote Democratic. In 1952, the state even voted for Adlai Stevenson over the otherwise well-liked Ike.
As recently as 1988, the state even went for Dukakis.
West Virginia used to tilt blue. This is the way the worm has turned over the past twenty years:
West Virginians' picks in White House electionsThe state supported Eisenhower, Nixon and Reagan, but only in their blow-out re-election wins. On balance, West Virginia tilted toward blue.
1960: Kennedy, 53-47
1964: Johnson, 68-32
1968: Humphrey, 50-41
1972: Nixon, 63-36
1976: Carter, 58-42
1980: Carter, 50-45
1984: Reagan, 55-45
1988: Dukakis, 52-47
1992: Clinton, 48-35
1996: Clinton, 52-37
2000: Bush, 52-46
2004: Bush, 56-43
2008: McCain, 56-43
2012: Romney, 62-36
2016: Trump, 69-26
The state flipped to red in 2000 and it has never looked back. The red-blue gap keeps getting larger. A note on Campaign 2000:
The night that Candidate Gore conceded, we were told by a major campaign spokesman that West Virginia and Tennessee had been lost because of giant ad campaigns by the NRA.
We were told that we'd never see another Democrat run on gun control, as Candidate Gore had done in the wake of the Columbine killings. That prediction largely held through Campaign 2012.
(In 2013, President Obama proposed a gun control measure in the wake of the Newtown killings. The predictable outcome occurred.)
In 2000, we were told that West Virginia had flipped because of an ad campaign about guns. (That didn't mean that everyone had voted on that basis.) Yesterday, Times readers were told that West Virginians voted for Trump because of coal, full stop.
We would assume that guns and coal have played roles in this state's recent elections. That said, there's a likely factor which is constantly missing in action when tribal pundits in big major cities explain West Virginians' votes.
We're going to take a wild guess! Over the course of the past twenty years, an increasing number of West Virginians have become viewers of Fox. They've also become consumers of "news" from comparable partisan sources.
Last night, we liberals enjoyed the pleasing car chase we were being served. We'll guess that, across the Mountaineer State, many voters were ingesting the alternate story-lines, assertions and chases being transmitted by Fox.
They may have gone to Fox for the guns; they've stayed for the chase after Farkas. Last night, Reid pleasured us liberals in various ways. West Virginians watching Fox were ensconced in a whole different world.
Krugman's explanation of Those People's half million votes was amazingly amateurish. Would a college sophomore receive a good grade if he or she offered such work?
As with many such "explanations," Krugman failed to mention the role which is presumably being played by the rise of partisan news orgs like Fox. On the front page of this morning's Times, a similar pattern obtains.
On the front page of this morning's Times, Shear and Davis offer a somewhat peculiar report about our two different worlds. In the passage shown below, and elsewhere, they detail the way one of these worlds is getting pimped by Sean Spicer:
SHEAR AND DAVIS (4/1/17): At Mr. Spicer’s news conference, the press secretary chastised reporters for failing to accept that Mr. Trump had been right all along [about his "wire tapping" claims]. “The substance we are talking about continues to move exactly in the direction that the president spoke about in terms of surveillance that occurred,” Mr. Spicer said, even as he deflected questions about the White House’s role in providing intelligence reports to Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.The reporters mentioned The Gateway Pundit; they also mentioned Hugh Hewitt. They never mentioned the Fox News Channel, which has been aggressively pushing all the themes which have emerged from Spicer.
Mr. Spicer provided no evidence of the surveillance allegations. But he pointed several times to news reports that he claimed backed up the president’s accusations.
One was a March 2 interview with Evelyn Farkas, who served as deputy assistant secretary of defense in the Obama administration until leaving the government in September 2015.
TheGatewayPundit.com, a right-wing site, called it a “notorious” interview and said it proved Obama administration officials had disseminated “intel gathered on the Trump team.” Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, said on the Hugh Hewitt radio show that Ms. Farkas had made “just an incredible statement.” Breitbart News reported on Mr. Priebus’s comments.
It has seemed to us, for many years, that major orgs like the New York Times have avoided reporting on powerful figures like Rush Limbaugh (at one time) and Fox News (today and always). We've long complained about this apparent game of duck-and-cover.
It ought to be viewed as major news that we're living in two different worlds! For almost twenty years, we've said that this sort of thing should be front-page news. The Times has this phenomenon on its front page today, but fails to mention Fox.
The Gateway Pundit rated a mention. The Fox News Channel did not.
The fact that we live in two different worlds is major gigantic news. The recent broadcasts by Fox are news. In our view, Reid's tea cup play last night deserves some mention as well.
Reid, who is very bright, was told to do that by the suits. Last year, Steve Kornacki, who is very bright, was trained to stand before "the big board" with shoulders hunched, leaning forward, talking too fast and talking too loud, pretending to be a stereotypical car salesman. In this way, again and again, a smart person relentlessly sold us the pleasing polling data which turned out to be wrong.
Reid and Kornacki were told, by their owners, to behave in these silly dumb ways. Given the status and money involved, very few people refuse.
When people agree to behave in such ways, do you trust their representations concerning the world's basic facts? Do you start to wonder where such players, along with their owners, may be putting their thumbs on the scale?
We liberals enjoyed our car chase this week. More and more, we're being massaged and cultivated by the corporate suits, as are the viewers of Fox.
Fox belongs on the Times' front page. Our clowning belongs there too.
Frisking West Virginians: Why did West Virginians vote as they did? For starters, if you want to know, you might want to show up there and ask them!
Last October, The New Yorker's Larisaa McFarquhar went to West Virginia and asked. Ich bin ein West Virginian, she said.
Even then, needless to say, there is no way to know "the answer" to such a sweeping question.
We liberals seem to enjoy explaining Those People. More precisely, we seem to like to pretend.
West Virginia's "red" vote just keeps going up. If we were asked to venture a guess, we'd guess at the role played by Fox within our highly dangerous and destructive two different worlds.
Putin wants to undermine our democracy? Cable does that every night!