Ignore the trolls: The foolishness of gauging Hillary vs. Trump based on online comments

Naked Capitalism writer is convinced that progressives will pick Trump over Hillary from reading anonymous comments

Published June 5, 2016 10:59PM (EDT)

Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump   (AP/Andrew Harnik/Reuters/Jim Bourg/Salon)
Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump (AP/Andrew Harnik/Reuters/Jim Bourg/Salon)

There are weak arguments, and then there is “basing your thesis entirely on the comments anonymous Internet users leave on your blog.” You may as well be taking stock market tips from your cat. Both are about as equally worthy.

Nonetheless, that is the angle taken by Yves Smith of the financial blog Naked Capitalism in a column published on Politico on Thursday. The column’s argument is that the smart, tough progressives who leave comments on Smith’s blog under names like HotFlash and Katniss Everdeen loathe Hillary Clinton so deeply that they will very smartly vote for Donald Trump over her. This sample of preferences of Naked Capitalism commenters and emailers means that the Democratic Party is “about to have a long-overdue day of reckoning.”

Back in 2012, conservative Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan infamously said that she had a gut feeling that Mitt Romney would win based on the fact that in one neighborhood in Florida somewhere, she had seen more yard signs touting him than Obama. Smith’s column is the 2016 update of Noonan’s gut. There is literally no point to it now, at the tail end of the primary season, when Clinton has victory all but wrapped up. Still, it’s worth going through this thing and marveling at its perfect epistemic closure, not to mention the not one but two moments of equating the Clintons and liberals to long-dead and discredited fascist French political movements.

One reader writes:

“If Clinton is the nominee 9 out of 10 friends I polled will [do one of three things]:

A. Not vote for president in November.
B. Vote for Trump.
C. Write in Bernie as a protest vote.

"We are all fifty-somethings with money and college educations. Oh, and we are all registered Democrats.”

Nine out of 10 is a high percentage! And if you extrapolate that number out to the general population of Democrats who have voted in the primaries, you see that Clinton is still defeating Sanders by approximately 3 million votes. (Yes, including caucuses.) So how this one person’s group of friends is indicative of the way Democrats in general feel is anyone’s guess.

To be sure, not all of my Sanders-supporting readers would vote for Trump. But only a minority would ever vote for Clinton, and I'd guess that a lot of them would just stay home if she were the nominee. Many of my readers tend to be very progressive, and they have been driven even further in that direction by their sophisticated understanding of the inequities of Wall Street, especially in the run-up to and the aftermath of the financial crisis[.]

Smith manages to bring up the financial crisis several times, and it is true that Democrats shoulder their share of blame for it. But how you can bring it up over and over without mentioning George W. Bush even once, or the years of financial deregulation that preceded Bill Clinton’s presidency, or even that wealth inequality has been growing for a good 40 years, is beyond me.

Some of them also have very reasoned arguments for Trump. Hillary is a known evil. Trump is unknown. They'd rather bet on the unknown, since it will also send a big message to Team Dem that they can no longer abuse progressives. I personally know women in the demographic that is viewed as being solidly behind Hillary—older, professional women who live in major cities—who regard Trump as an acceptable cost of getting rid of the Clintons.

Again, Hillary Clinton has scored three million more votes in the primaries, so I’m comfortable in saying these women are a distinct minority of Democratic voters. I would also point to polls showing Clinton beats Trump with women by close to 20 points overall, so saying that the majority of women you personally know doesn’t support Hillary and therefore she could lose the election is tunnel vision of a high magnitude.

Under Obama, it was the Blue Dog, Third Way Democrats who were turfed out, while candidates with strong stances on economic justice kept their seats.

Most of the Blue Dog Democrats who have been “turfed out” were in marginal, conservative-leaning districts that they won, particularly in Congress, during the 2006 and 2008 wave elections that gave Democrats large majorities. More leftist candidates have prospered in left-leaning districts and states.

The column goes on and on in this vein. The Obama and Clinton presidencies are responsible for bringing inequality “to Gilded Age, banana-republic levels,” with no mention of the eight years of a Republican president in between those two administrations or any acknowledgement of the fact that Congress was controlled by the GOP for much of that time. There is mention of the old cattle-futures “scandal” of the 1990s, for which no one was ever prosecuted or even accused of specific wrongdoing, as an example of dirt that has stuck to the Clintons. There is the assertion that Naked Capitalism commenters view a Trump presidency as “an acceptable cost of inflicting punishment on the Democratic Party for 20 years of selling out ordinary Americans.”

It is this last statement that is particularly galling. There is ample evidence in Trump’s statements and record, to say nothing of the record of the Republicans who will likely still control the House of Representatives, to show that millions of ordinary Americans would suffer under President Trump. Millions of women would lose their right to bodily autonomy when Trump appoints a Supreme Court justice who would overturn Roe v. Wade. Millions of Americans would see relatives deported and families torn apart. Wealth inequality would rise under Trump’s economic plan, which includes enormous tax cuts for the rich and rolling back what financial protections we gained under the Dodd-Frank bill, which the real estate mogul has vowed to repeal.

I don’t know what Smith is trying to accomplish here, though I’m guessing trolling Democrats and trying to fan the flames of anxiety over party unity and the ongoing, contentious primary is right up there. Don’t be fooled by this sort of thing. Hillary Clinton will be the nominee. Some of the ideas Bernie Sanders has pushed will make it into the party platform. Everything else is just noise.

By Gary Legum

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