Interlude—While skipping Trump's budget plan: Until the current campaign cycle, the most appalling part of our White House campaign was always the Iowa Straw Poll, a Republicans-only monstrosity.
Mercifully, this fake event was put out of its misery after Campaign 2012. That leaves tonight's event, the Iowa Caucuses, as our crowning achievement in the realm of electoral faux.
As a general matter, caucus systems are designed with the intent of restricting participation by voters. Every four years, the Iowa caucuses succeed in this non-democratic goal.
Warning! The procedures in Iowa's Democratic caucuses are even more arcane and inane than those maintained by the state's Republicans. That said, the entire system flies in the face of the idea that we want to increase participation by us the people and voters.
Every four years, the absurdity of the caucus system passes with almost no comment. The people hired to play journalists on TV are too busy poring over the latest polls; speculating about what will happen tonight; and avoiding all matters of substance, a cultural preference which has reached its fullest flowering in the current campaign.
Credit where due! In this morning's Washington Post, Ruth Marcus offers her "quadrennial rant against the caucus system." To read that column, click here.
Marcus offers a lonely rant against a faux and ridiculous system. On the other hand, consider the utter nonsense with which readers are gifted in this morning's New York Times. And consider the major discussion of substance which, to this day, still hasn't barked.
With what sort of nonsense are readers gifted in today's New York Times? We recommend this ludicrous piece about Candidate Sanders by Yamiche Alcindor, a 2009 Georgetown grad.
As far as we know, Alcindor's report isn't meant as a parody of Times "campaign coverage." Lest she be saddled with all the blame, let's note the fact that her editor's name isn't given.
Alcindor is offering a detailed look at Sanders' performance on the stump. "Based on a viewing of more than 40 of his speeches in the past several weeks," she has noticed that he often says the same things again and again, while seeming to speak off the cuff.
Below, you see the basic nugget of this "campaign report." The report appears beneath this headline:
"Thought of as Freewheeling, Bernie Sanders Sticks to a Script That Sounds Fresh"
ALCINDOR (2/1/16): All politicians repeat good lines, but Mr. Sanders—lampooned as a freewheeling radical or rumpled professor who impulsively speaks his mind—is turning out to be perhaps the most on-message and disciplined of the candidates in the 2016 field.Interesting! According to Alcindor, Candidate Sanders is "perhaps the most on-message and disciplined of the candidates in the 2016 field."
Many parts of his one-hour crowd-pleasing speech come off as easy asides dropped into a serious discussion at the last minute.
But everything, from the pithy recurring phrases to the thoughtfully placed pauses and seemingly folksy anecdotes are actually well-planned-out, crowd-tested presentations. And he rarely veers from them or strays into gaffe-making territory.
Or then again, "perhaps" he isn't! The New York Times isn't sure!
So far, this report is simply silly. It qualifies as inane when Alcindor starts giving examples of Sanders' routinized speech-making, perhaps at the direction of her unnamed editor.
Let's be fair! In this passage, Alcindor gives her readers fair warning of her intentions:
ALCINDOR: An hour is a long time to listen to a politician speak, especially in today’s hyper-distracted world, so it is especially striking to watch young people who go to hear Mr. Sanders, sit, rapt, without moving or texting.Good God! It isn't just Sanders' policy statements which he repeats on the stump. According to Alcindor, he also repeats his expressions and gestures!
“It seemed very fresh,” Ms. Neumann said. “It wasn’t a manuscript.”
While it seems fresh, it is anything but, based on a viewing of more than 40 of his speeches in the past several weeks. Here are some of the recurrent expressions and gestures:
Pathetically, the Times proceeds to let us know what that means. Readers find themselves informed about Bernie and the hand jive:
ALCINDOR (continuing directly): Mr. Sanders raises both hands to form air quotes when he criticizes Republicans for “loving family values,” then suggests their notion of family values, including denying women access to abortion, is less than genuine. Mr. Sanders also points his right index finger in the air and scowls when he shouts that the Walton family, which founded Walmart, should “get off of welfare.” Then he tightly grips the lectern he is using when he declares that “health care is a right, not a privilege,” then pauses for applause.The examples continue from there, but oh the humanity!
Candidate Sanders "points his right index finger in the air" when he discusses the Walton family! If Alcindor can be believed, he does it every time! So too with the way he raises both hands to form air quotes and tightly grips the lectern!
As noted, we see no sign that this is meant as a parody of modern "campaign coverage." Instead, it forms a sad example of same, in which we talk about polls and theater performance and about little else.
This is the level to which the Times has devolved in its post-journalistic epoch. Routinely, readers are handed piddle of this silly/sad type.
Here's what readers won't encounter in the New York Times:
Over the weekend, we did it again. Using Nexis, we tried to determine the extent to which the Times and the Washington Post have discussed the projected budget effects of Candidate Trump's crazy tax proposal.
Not long ago, formal budget proposals were actually considered important. In this campaign, that journalistic culture has ceased to exist.
On cable TV, you'll see clowning clowns like Mika and Joe reciting results of every poll, of which there are a great many. Eight hours later, you've seen Rachel Maddow stage one of the greatest time-waste marathons in faux journalistic history as, to cite just one example, she has delivered endless trivia about rules for debate inclusion, especially as they effect Republican candidates with zero support in the polls.
We've never seen anyone propagandize in quite the way Joe and Mika have done. We've never seen anyone waste the public's time in the crazy manner Maddow unveiled in early May of last year.
Here's one more thing we've never seen. We've never seen anyone ignore the most basic matters of substance in the way the Post and the Times have done during this campaign cycle. Back to that budget proposal:
Back in September, Candidate Trump unveiled the craziest tax proposal in modern campaign history. But so what? On their news pages, the Post and the Times have almost completely refused to report the most basic facts about what that crazy tax proposal would do to federal budgets.
As best we can tell, the Washington Post finally devoted a meager 680 words to this topic on December 23, when no one is reading newspapers.
In his brief report, Kelsey Snell actually understated the projected size of increased federal debt under Trump's crazy proposal. But at least the topic had been reported, if under cover of seasonal darkness.
As best we can tell, the New York Times still hasn't reported this topic. As best we can tell, the Times hasn't presented a word about this topic in its hard-copy news reporting.
As people prepare to attend the Iowa caucuses, Times readers are being told what hand gestures Sanders makes when he tells particular jokes. But within its news reporting, this glorious former newspaper still hasn't reported the projected budget effects of Trump's crazy tax proposal.
Within our post-journalistic culture, such topics no longer exist! It's all speculation all the time, along with the mugging and clowning.
As the week proceeds, we'll finish our current award-winning series, The Year of the Liberal. Banging and hammering continues apace on our new pavilion, from which we'll launch a new, improved topic focus at the start of next week.
We're moving away from the topic focus we've pursued for the past eighteen years. Our reasons:
Within the realm of our elites, a decision has clearly been made about the boundaries of post-journalistic culture. And within the realm of the liberal world, it's fairly clear that nobody much really cares.
Tomorrow: The year of liberal loathing