Sunday, October 25, 2015

Amanda Marcotte had a dumb PUMA conspiracy theory

PUMAs...were a small subset of Clinton supporters who became so sure of the dark motives of Obama supporters that some ended up turning their backs on the Democrats entirely.  If [Sanders] loses the primary, he’ll probably throw his support behind the winning candidate. Something to keep in mind next time you want to share some Facebook meme suggesting he’s the victim of some kind of pro-Clinton conspiracy. - Amanda Marcotte
So much of Marcotte's argument here relies on this pose as the reasonable, disinterested adult in the room - even criticizing Clinton's 2008 supporters, for balance - that it's worth reflecting on just how level-headed she actually is. Here's what our autodidact politics-knower had to say about the PUMAs when they were still around:
I would like to argue that this PAC was not formed to support Clinton, but to support the media narrative about hysterical feminists, and to help the McCain campaign...
Say what you will about plausibility, but can we all at least agree that this is by definition a conspiracy theory? Marcotte openly claimed - and as far as I can tell, still believes - that the PUMAs were part of a secret plot to attack feminists and elect McCain. This speculation about elaborate false-flag agendas is if anything much more extraordinary and conspiratorial than then even the most extreme allegations of simple bias and mundane corruption being leveled by Sanders supporters.

Hilariously, the three points of evidence Marcotte puts together are far weaker than anything the Sanders supporters have ventured. First, she begins by speculating that "real world" PUMAs "don't exist" as proven by their supposed absence from public record. Then, in a curious bit of kettle logic, she argues that real world PUMAs do exist in the public record, but that they are actually Republican operatives. Her proof of this is that the PUMA founder, Darragh Murphy, donated $500 to John McCain in 2000. This of course is radically stupid question-begging: Marcotte wants to prove that no Clintonite would support McCain by insisting that no McCain supporter would back Clinton. Finally, Marcotte notices that the PUMAs began to support Clinton's candidacy when it was "basically known she was [dropping] out." It's not clear why she thinks this disputes the very existence of a political faction widely recognized to be a cultish clique of dead-enders who were living in denial until the bitter end.

More telling than any of this, however, is the very first line to Marcotte's post:
I’ve been suspicious from the beginning about the existence of "PUMAs": Female Clinton supporters who are so bitter about her loss that they will throw equal pay, reproductive rights, the environment, and a chance at peace under the bus to get their revenge by voting for McCain.
This is an explicit admission that the author's suspicion of PUMAs preceded any actual evidence, emerging entirely from a conception of Clinton voters that was far too generous and demonstrably incorrect. As the polls reported, a full 25% of women who backed Clinton in 2008 threatened to support McCain over Obama, and 16 percent of them did just that.

Of course, it may very well be the case that some PUMAs were Republican operatives, just as it's clear that some of the loudest Sanders critics in the media have known, direct ties to the Clinton campaign. These shenanigans happen. But Amanda Marcotte is deluded if she thinks that she's any less conspiratorial and any less ideologically invested than anyone else.