Catapulting the Propaganda, Eschaton Edition
[NOTE: I wrote up this post earlier today and decided to hold it for the evening and just noticed Turkana already published a response to Atrios. I guess this is unintentional doubling up, but I feel strongly enough about this that I'm going to post it. Atrios is one of those people I've held in high esteem over the years and I was terribly disappointed with his crazy post.]
In the past few months, I have had to endure the unfortunate experience of calling out some "top" "liberal" bloggers for their unmitigated B.S. Believe it or not, it wasn't easy for me since I'm generally a person who really likes to try and avoid direct conflict as much as possible (hence the use of "some" or "liberal bloggers" or other general terms in many of my posts). It still isn't easy especially because some of them are otherwise fine people - people I have grown to respect over the years for their unique strengths - and I have nothing against them personally. However, as I read through the mountain of sheer bull**** that gets published on some of these blogs on a regular basis, it gets harder and harder to stay away from criticizing people directly for their ugly posts. Let me be clear. I have never had any issue with bloggers supporting Sen. Obama or anyone else, nor have I had objections to fair and accurate criticisms of Sen. Clinton. She is by no means perfect and has screwed-up on more than one occasion*. However, there are times when it just becomes impossible to just be a passive observer of the relentless garbage pile up against a fellow Democrat and say nothing.
Earlier, Atrios wrote something that I consider to be the biggest pile of rubbish he has written on his fine blog in all the years that I've read him. Atrios has clearly been amongst the saner ones in the um, "League of Mostly Non-Aligned Bloggers", but this post was, to put it charitably, an egregious piece of nonsensical propaganda that does not befit him (emphasis mine, throughout this post):
I know I'm not alone in the League of Mostly Nonaligned Bloggers in being rather puzzled by Clinton supporters. I don't mean all people who supported her, but the ones who are still pushing for her candidacy. As far as I can tell they want her to be the candidate and really just don't care how that happens as long as it does. At this point only a drastic rule change combined with a massive shift in support from superdelegates even gets her close to the nomination. In another [sic] words, cheating combined with the smoke-filled room residents overturning the outcome of the primary process.
I never really cared all that much about who won this thing, but at some point Obama became the only one with a legitimate path to the nomination. I just stare and scratch my head and wonder what it's all about. I appreciate that there are people who don't like Obama for whatever reasons and prefer Clinton for whatever reasons. But he, you know, won?
Let me respond to each of these charges in turn. First, this one:
As far as I can tell they want her to be the candidate and really just don't care how that happens as long as it does.
This is a grossly offensive thing to say. It is certainly possible that there are some Clinton supporters who fit Atrios' description, but the more prominent ones that I know of certainly do not fit this false caricature. Just off the top of my head, consider Jeralyn at Talk Left, Taylor Marsh, Jerome Armstrong and me. Our blogs are probably nowhere near Atrios' in terms of traffic but nevertheless, our traffic is probably near the highest among blogs that host at least one Clinton supporter. I have been reading Jeralyn, Taylor and Jerome for a while now and as far as I can tell they have never made any statements to the effect that they "really just don't care how that happens as long as it does". I have certainly been a long-time supporter of Sen. Clinton but I have never taken that stance and never will.
Second, Atrios says:
At this point only a drastic rule change combined with a massive shift in support from superdelegates even gets her close to the nomination.
This is ridiculously wrong. There is no "drastic rule change" required for Clinton to win the nomination, whether or not you separate out - as Atrios has - the notion of "a massive shift in support from superdelegates" (which, in his formulation, is not tied to the alleged rule change he refers to). The only rule that governs who gets the nomination is who crosses the threshold for the total number of delegates required. Neither Sen. Obama nor Sen. Clinton have enough pledged delegates to exceed the magic number. In fact, it has been fairly clear for a long time now that neither can win on their own without superdelegates choosing one person or the other. What has been unclear is this: who would the superdelegates pick if Sen. Obama leads in pledged delegates after June 3rd but Sen. Clinton leads in the popular vote? In fact, non-aligned observers like Jay Cost have been writing about this, explaining how Clinton still has a shot at the popular vote at the end of this primary (even after appropriately adjusting for Michigan) and politely pointing out that winning the popular vote is an entirely legitimate argument to make to superdelegates. [NOTE: Before a bunch of people misinterpret what I mean when I say popular vote, please read these posts and my footnote**].
Atrios then gets even more absurd by claiming:
In another [sic] words, cheating combined with the smoke-filled room residents overturning the outcome of the primary process.
This is a completely false and divisive claim probably traceable to some brain-dead commentary at Daily Kos or TPM. If superdelegates picked the winner of the rather-binding popular vote over the winner of the non-binding pledged delegate count, that is not only within the rules, it is to me the most legitimate outcome of all (a point I have made consistently for a long time). This does not necessarily make it illegitimate if they pick the delegate count winner, but non-binding and disproportionately awarded delegates (which are ultimately derived from the popular vote; also see here) do not reflect the will of the people as much as the popular vote count (also see Big Tent Democrat). In case Atrios failed to brush up on the "rules" of "legitimacy", there is no rule that says superdelegates should pick the winner of pledged delegates when the winner has not amassed the minimum needed to win the nomination. Even Whoever Kidnapped Josh Marshall (WKJM), and people like Howard Dean, to their credit, have pointed out that superdelegates are allowed to pick the nominee of their choice using a number of factors and they are eminently entitled to weigh the popular vote in their decision. It is only in the minds of the Grand Panjandrums of the "liberal" blogosphere (let me exclude Atrios from that group for now) that "at some point Obama became the only one with a legitimate path to the nomination". (To put it more bluntly, some people do believe that if you keep lying about something repeatedly, it becomes the truth - this is Bush-style, "Saddam caused 9/11"-type propaganda. That doesn't mean I have to accept those lies or propaganda.)
Let me add this - according to the Greatest Rules on Earth it is also entirely legitimate for superdelegates to pick any damn person they want - even overturning the winner of the popular vote and/or the delegate count. That is the role of the superdelegates - to pick the person they believe will have the best chance of taking the Democrats to victory in November. However, I have not advocated for that position and nor have people like Jeralyn, Taylor or Jerome.
Atrios understandably ends with the biggest falsehood of all:
But [Obama], you know, won?
Yes, just like Saddam, you know, caused 9/11? Just. Like. That.
Indeed, it appears Sen. Obama didn't get his own campaign's memo and this catapulted propaganda for he was busy campaigning in, um, Puerto Rico recently. If he has already won, why in the world would he need to campaign in a territory that will not vote in November (i.e., no need to campaign there under the guise of a general election campaign) and whose primary delegates he presumably then does not need? To repeat, why would he be campaigning in a territory whose results apparently don't matter since, um, he has "won"? I'm sure everyone has their Favorite Explanation - but I have a simple one - he was trying to make sure that Sen. Clinton didn't amass too much of a popular vote gain in PR that would cast doubt on the legitimacy of his crowning, er, nomination and give her a stronger argument with superdelegates.
At the end of the day, I have always recognized that Sen. Clinton had an uphill task, especially after her campaign's screw-ups in the February races after Super Tuesday. But the possibility of her emerging the popular vote winner has always been non-trivial. So, it has *never* been the case that "at some point Obama became the only one with a legitimate path to the nomination" and it has *never* been the case that the only way Clinton could win is through "cheating combined with the smoke-filled room residents overturning the outcome of the primary process". In contrast, these kinds of statements have always been typical of the predictable mendacity of Obama propagandists and it is sad to see Atrios (Ph.D., Economics) repeating this tripe.
*P.S. As an aside, I have never claimed that every or any criticism of Sen. Clinton is just based on sexism - another frequent caricature I have read of Clinton supporters - because it is not; but I've been pretty clear that there have been numerous attacks on Sen. Clinton whose roots lie in sexism or misogyny.
**P.P.S. At least a few people (e.g., Jay Cost, me) have discussed the legitimacy or lack thereof of including Florida and Michigan results in the popular vote. Like the Clinton campaign, I was first and foremost in favor of a revote primary in both states. But when that was scuttled (in my opinion because the Obama campaign was afraid to risk losing those races and the concomitant ability to claim victory in the popular vote by excluding MI and FL) there was left no other option but to include the original results from those states, but adjust the results in MI by awarding the uncommitted vote entirely to Sen. Obama. That said, the DNC rules not only allow re-votes, they also allow reconsideration of penalties - as part of the legitimate DNC process - and it wouldn't be a "rule change" when two competing rules can produce different results. It is entirely legitimate and within the rules of the DNC to petition for those results to be counted.
(Finally, I'll try to get back to this in a future post, note that the voter turnout in MI was 20%, which was a much higher turnout than in most of the caucuses and even approaching the turnouts of some other primaries this year. The voter turnout in FL was 34% - amongst the high-end of turnouts this year. So, obviously most voters in these states could care less about the memo declaring that their vote didn't count. If these races didn't represent the wishes of the voters in those states, they are no worse than the representative effect of most caucuses and some of the other primaries.)