Home 2016 elections Campaign Briefs: Thoughts on Elizabeth Warren, Paul Ryan, Bernie Sanders, and the...

Campaign Briefs: Thoughts on Elizabeth Warren, Paul Ryan, Bernie Sanders, and the Media Coverage of Donald Trump

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One reason it might not be a good idea for Hillary to name Elizabeth Warren as her running mate is that it would at least temporarily cost the Democrats a Senate seat (for the first approximately half year after the seat would become vacant). But I am now thinking that, if Elizabeth Warren would be as powerful a campaigner for the Democratic side as I think she might be, having the platform of the VP nominee, she could conceivably help win the Democrats an additional Senate seat (or two, or three) they might otherwise not win.

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Most people seem to think that Paul Ryan will end up endorsing Donald Trump, if tepidly. But what I think needs to be said — whether he ends up endorsing or not — is that Ryan’s dance with Trump already has had the unworthy effect of legitimizing Trump. Ryan’s position – wanting agreement on core “conservative principles,” wanting “true unity” for the Party – is premised on the falsehood that there’s anything that Trump could say or do now that should persuade any right-thinking person that Trump would be an acceptable President of the United States. After what we’ve all seen and heard, however, Ryan should know already all he needs to know to reject Trump as a possible president. Ryan’s helping to normalize Trump makes sense for him politically, but it lacks principle. (But where can we find any Republicans — who still have political ambitions – who have shown any political courage or principle?) For Ryan, there seems to be no principle at stake, no concern about the nation’s good, that outweighs ambition and partisanship.

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Can anyone persuade Bernie Sanders that we don’t need a “messy” convention? I am imagining that this campaign fulfills a lifelong dream of Bernie’s to lead an army into righteous battle. He’s been finding it so fulfilling to be able to play that role, I’m imagining, that he’s reluctant to let go of it. That reluctance is apparently strong enough that it is distorting his perception of the overall state of the struggle over the values and issues that he cares about. If he could gain more flexibility in his perception of the battle, and of the roles he might play, it would be good for his cause and good for him. It is no longer time for him to be leading an army into battle. It is time for a role, one might say, more like Obi-Wan Kenobe (from the very first Star Wars movie): the role of the elder who understands some deep things that the youth can learn from.

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The media have been facing the issue of their coverage of Donald Trump. Much of that issue has been framed in terms of how much coverage to give to a candidate who is a master of doing and saying outrageous things that capture the spotlight on an almost daily basis. My take on it is that the issue is less “how much coverage” than it is “what kind of coverage.” For example, when Trump brings up the old lies about Vince Foster’s “murder,” that should be covered—but only in the way that Chris Hayes has done on his MSNC program, “All In.” Hayes segment on it showed two things: the disingenuousness of Trump’s approach (exemplifying his saying “I won’t talk about this thing that I’m talking about); and even more important, that this filth Trump insists on bringing into our political discourse has been utterly and completely debunked and rejected time and again (by the FBI, and even ultimately by the right-winger who first brought the suspicions into the public discussion more than twenty years ago). Trump affords an eminently “teachable moment,” but the role of the media cannot be to let Trump “teach” the public to give credit to his lies but rather to teach the public that Trump is, as several of his Republican opponents said, a “pathological liar.”