IN BAD FAITH

"In good faith" became one of the mantras of the late George W. Bush years. It was the perfect exculpatory phrase for decisions that turned out to be terrible; as long as the original intentions were good, we can hardly blame these hard-working public servants for having erred.

Of course that rhetorical flourish overlooks the fact that those decisions, had any forethought whatsoever gone into them, should never have been made irrespective of the intentions. The intention to turn Iraq into Scott Walker's Wisconsin in the desert no doubt was sincere, but a child could have seen that it had no chance of happening. There's nothing admirable about diving into something that would cost dearly in blood and dollars with nothing but Good Faith in its favor.

The opposite, arguments made in explicit bad faith, is one of the keys to understanding Trump and his success at manipulating the media. They don't even feign sincerity. They lie blatantly and their supporters couldn't care less because it *feels* true and no matter how many times we go through this cycle the Democrats still haven't come up with an effective way to handle it or respond. To quote Washington Post reporter Ishaan Tharoor, "The Elizabeth Warren DNA gambit encapsulates in microcosm what the Dems have been prone to for so long: A credulous insistence that fact-checking can dispel talking points made in cynicism and bad faith."

The example he uses is ultimately irrelevant, although I suspect in the long term it will follow Warren around like "potatoe" did Dan Quayle. In the grand scheme, though, it doesn't mean anything. The question I have, and so often do when I see things like this, is: what was the goal here? What, in the best-case scenario, was taking a right-wing talking point at face value and trying to rebut it going to accomplish?

The hard facts are that when the right makes these idiotic accusations, 1) nobody on the left takes them seriously, at all (see: "Her emails." Try to find a single person who isn't a Republican who gave a flying shit about Her Emails.) and 2) nobody on the right is going to stand corrected, ever. They will – if they bother updating at all – simply move the goalposts. Here the pivot from "lol Pocahantas" to "lol 1/1024th" was so fast it was almost imperceptible.

I think, as usual, the root of the problem is the delusion that there is a big group of Undecided Voters out there who can be persuaded if only they have it pointed out to them that the right makes up 95% of its talking points. Democrats are forever trying to persuade and reach a hypothetical voter that probably doesn't exist – at least not in great numbers. I understand that someone has to maintain the daily list of things the White House says that are blatant lies, if for no reason other than to establish that the pattern isn't changing. But let the interns and faceless DNC staffers take care of that.

The candidates themselves should talk about nothing but 1) a policy agenda that doesn't require white papers to understand and 2) a vision of where the country needs to go that doesn't refer to policy. Do that and focus on getting more people who are predisposed to vote for you to turn out. Attempting to rebut Trumpian accusations is pointless because nothing will dislodge them from the minds of people inclined to believe them and anyone inclined to believe things Donald Trump says absolutely is not going to be reached with some fact checking.

7 thoughts on “IN BAD FAITH”

  • Lawson Matterz says:

    I challenge your assumption that only R care about Clinton's "politically criminally negligent" handling of her email. I vote D and I believed from the start that Clinton's brash and stupid flouting of email security standards and records law was not only obviously wrong, but also obviously going to cost all of us in the election because of the obvious hubris of it.

    Which it bloody well did.

    Your assertion that only R care is not correct. There were lots of D who were never, ever happy with her behavior about this.

    I believe you should reconsider whether you're really so comfortable dismissing someone flouting basic security practice and federal records law. After all, it did turn into a pivotal issue. And it was visible from years ahead.

    Yours in D misery…

  • Ungrateful Negro says:

    This young lady gets it.
    https://twitter.com/hamiltonnolan/status/1025895954908622848

    Also the supposed Dems whose vote was swayed or who stayed home because of "EMAILS!1!" would never have voted Clinton anyway. That's the point. Even those of us who were sighing as we voted for Clinton *actually* voted for Clinton because we understood the stakes and the alternatives. Whether we did so with joy and gladness, or simple resignation, is a different article.

  • You're channeling me now, Ed. I was a republican in the 80's and early 90's, and helped hunt the "unaligned moderate voter" to extinction. The undying mythology of Bill Clinton and the DLC has allowed aging boomer Dems fool themselves vis a "convincible center" that has long since ceased to exist. It was a product of the cold war consensus and its demise was inevitable.

    At this point it's all about getting out the vote, which means exciting the base and getting the high-energy voter to drag their low-energy friend to the polls. What we've seen in the last election and GOP vote suppression efforts since is that we really do outnumber them, and they know it. They also know that an energized minority beats a torpid majority, and we've been rather torpid of late.

    As Matterz asserts, there are plenty of us who were never enamoured with the Clintons. Their policies were shit from the start and the hubris displayed via the email server (among other things) made voting for her a cringy affair. Nevertheless, as the Ungrateful Negro points out, we held our collective nose and did it. The low energy Dem voters stayed home because she never gave them a positive reason to do otherwise, not because of a communication security failure most people can't understand.

  • So much of Hollywood leans left, you'd think the Democrats could tell better *stories*.

    And that's the point—tell a *story* that doesn't directly reference policy, and then claim ownership of that vision. Hell, tell *two* stories—
    One that is the America we want.
    One that is dystopian and bleak.

    And then repeatedly point out that the other side owns the other one.
    Sure, sure, it's unavoidable to discuss the policy parts, eventually, but the policy shouldn't be the advertisement itself. Don't let the facts get in the way of illustrating the truth.

  • It's fine for Democrats to point out from time to time that their opponents are shameless liars. Their mistake is to then stand back with a smug expression, assuming the GOP reacts to being proven wrong as vampires react to daylight. By now, it's abundantly clear this doesn't work. This is not a debating society and proving your opponents are wrong does not defeat them.

    @Lawson Matterz: Nobody's delighted by Her Emails. Nobody, including Clinton herself, thinks Her Emails were her finest hour. Nobody, excepting a handful of diehard partisans, thinks Clinton never did anything unethical in her life.

    Flawless candidates do not exist. But anybody who looked at the raging trash fire of the Trump candidacy on the one hand, Clinton on the other, and claimed they were comparably bad because of But Her Emails, is not a serious person.

    If that won't satisfy you, substitute BENGHAZI!!!ELEVEN!!! for But Her Emails. In that instance, there really was no there, there. Do the Republicans care? No, they do not.

  • If 2 reasonably intelligent groups of people are presented with the same set of facts and come to wildly different conclusions, then the difference in in the original assumptions of the 2 groups. The difference of assumption in this case is whether White Christian Males are superior to everyone else, or if you believe in equality. This has shown to be the ONLY premise which Republicans will not go back on ( small government, fiscal responsibility, family values ) – all of the rest is just camouflage for white supremacy.

  • Davis X. Machina says:

    "He hates the same people I hate — hand me the ballot."
    That's your 2016 election right here.

    It's simple. It's unmoored from any particular policy or policies.
    There's no underlying theory of what government is for.
    It's 100% affect, and it works.

    Whom did Mrs. Clinton hate?

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