Sometimes a Primary is Just a Primary

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Speaking of volatility, how about Matt Bai? He seems to swing between genuinely keen insights and the laziest of conventional wisdom on almost a weekly basis. Today, unfortunately, is the latter: Tuesday’s election results, says Bai, demonstrate an anti-incumbent wave, a new era of divisive primaries, the loss of party power, and the end of issues-based politics. I’m pretty sure I’ve been hearing about all four of those things since at least the mid-70s, but this in particular was gobsmacking:

What all this probably means is that we are living in the era of the upstart. Thirty years ago, when you needed a party infrastructure to make a serious run for higher office, taking it to the establishment was a quixotic venture undertaken on the national level, where a Jesse Jackson or a Pat Buchanan could at least make a powerful statement along the road to obliteration. (Recall Jimmy Carter’s indictment of Jerry Brown in 1976: “Don’t send them a message, send them a president.”)

Jonathan Bernstein comments acerbically:

It seems that Bai has heard of Jimmy Carter. That’s good! Now, my assignment for Matt Bai: go back and read about Jimmy Carter’s 1976 campaign….Citing Jimmy Carter to make a point that thirty years ago “you needed a party infrastructure to make a serious run for higher office” is like citing Spiro Agnew to make the point that at forty years ago, only seriously accomplished politicians with a deserved reputation for personal integrity were considered for the Vice Presidency.

The rest is an epic takedown of the entire piece. Read it. Reporters really, really need to stop drawing monumental conclusions from a few tiny data points. Especially when they have to twist even the few data points they have in order to do it.

And speaking of things reporters should stop doing, Somerby is good on the Richard Blumenthal affair today. Be sure to read down to the summary of Christopher Keating’s appearance on The NewsHour two nights ago. Blumenthal may be guilty of misstating his service record once — twice at a stretch — but Keating has been covering him for years and was never under the slightest misapprehension about Blumenthal’s past. Based on the evidence to date, the New York Times seems to have overplayed its hand on this pretty seriously.

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