Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Tomasky just wrote another hack article

In his latest column for the Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky makes at least three substantive claims that range from extraordinarily weak to flat-out wrong:
1. Tomasky claims that Clinton "has the strong backing of those who are the most dispossed and threatened," by which he means "mostly African American and Latino voters." But the polls indicate that nearly half of these people refuse to support her, and nearly 35% of them are actively opposing her by backing Bernie Sanders. 
2. Tomasky claims that their support is justified by considerations about "electability". But in 2016, Sanders has consistently outperformed Clinton in polls head-to-head polls by an average of five points, and on the merits Clinton is an extraordinarily inferior matchup to Sanders
3. Tomasky claims that we hear "so little about" Clinton's support among voters of color - but this is the opposite of true. On the contrary, it has become such a major narrative in the election that not only has the media coined a rhetorical shorthand for it - voters of color are her "firewall" - but there has in fact been a significant public backlash to the narrative by voters of color who support Sanders.
Again: these are, at best, openly disputed claims with little basis in fact. They're certainly important issues, and deserve more attention than just a passing reference; at the very least, a careful writer would defend them instead of simply asserting them. So why are they here? Why is Tomasky so eager to cram his writing full of dubious argument and demonstrable error?

The temptation is to insist that he's just shilling for Hillary Clinton, but it's actually even more ridiculous than that: Tomasky is just writing about himself. In the middle of one of the most hotly contested Democratic primaries in decades, with all kinds of grand questions about socialism, liberalism, class, race, and gender at stake, Michael Tomasky has now used his massive platform twice in the past month to write two columns insisting that he is not actually a shill.

The first came just a few weeks ago in An Ode To My Berniebro Trolls, where Tomasky insisted that "people can disagree with [Sanders] and not be monsters or corporate shills":
...that’s my take. It has nothing to do with loving Hillary Clinton or getting DNC talking points (by the way, I think Debbie Wasserman Schultz, payday-lender enabler, should resign from the DNC) or pining for invites to those mythic Georgetown cocktail parties that I get invited to maybe three times a year and go to maybe once. It’s just my take.
Evidently, however, this just wasn't enough - what this election really needs is yet another article explaining how Michael Tomasky is not actually a hack. That's why he rushes through the actually significant and important arguments in his piece. Obviously Sanders' supporters would respond that he is actually the defensive vote against a neoliberal centrist who will continue to wage war and gut welfare; obviously Sanders supporters would argue that his significant support among the poor, minorities, women, and the young also matters; obviously, they would also add that Clinton's central base of old rich white folks have less "skin in the game" than anyone.

But instead of engaging with these actual, substantive questions, Tomasky rushes past them to get to his personal concern: "Why is it we hear so much about [Democrats representing moneyed interests] and so little about [voters of color]?"

Presumbly, it's the second part of that question that we should actually care about - but it takes Tomasky eight paragraphs before he even mentions voters of color in his article. That's because he spends the first 500 words talking about the first part, scare-quoting "hack supporters" in the headline, dismissing criticism of "sellouts" as "a priori", and insisting that his politics actually come from "my core convictions" about offensive vs. defensive voting, etcetera.

Tomasky could have used his column to talk about voters of color, who they actually support, how the issues of electability bear upon their concerns, and so on - these are all weighty, fundamental issues that deserve more than a passing sentence or two. But instead, he's too busy relitigating the argument he made just a few weeks back; he only brings up voters of color as a way of proving that he's not a hack, and he drops them just as quickly, leaving objections like the ones listed above unanswered.

Unfortunately, for Tomasky, the more time you spend talking about whether or not you're a hack, the more decisively you settle the question.