Do you remember the Iraq War Pundits? The political analysts and especially journalists who spent the run-up to the Iraq War declaring their certainty that Saddam Hussein had chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs? That the invasion of Iraq would be quick and easy, and usher in decency and democracy in Iraqi politics? Richard Cohen of the Washington Post famously told us that “Only a fool, or possibly a Frenchmen, could conclude (that Iraq did not have WMDs.)”
What made the episode so especially grating for those of us in the reality-based community was that, years later, even after their predictions and analysis had been proven utterly wrong, people like Richard Cohen maintained their positions as opinion leaders, speaking (and being listened to) as if they were respectable wise men, whose take on world events still deserved to be central to American political discussion.
Well, now we have the wise men of the Democratic media. They told us Donald Trump couldn’t win the Republican primary, that THE PARTY DECIDES so it must therefore be an establishment Republican. Then they nominated Trump. They told us that Bernie Sanders had no chance in the Democratic Primary.Then he came within a-few-lucky-bounces of winning the Democratic primary. They told us that the Democratic primary was an above-board affair, a level playing field on which Hillary won “fair and square.” Then the DNC and Podesta emails came out. They told us that Hillary Clinton’s plummeting approval ratings, her inferior performance in head-to-head matchups with Republicans, and the decades of controversy that have dogged her wouldn’t be a problem for her election. Heck, they told us that a quarter century of being a high-profile target for Republican attacks would make election-year attacks less likely to stick to her. She’s fireproof! People have heard it all before! Apparently, our discourse about popular politics in this media-saturated age is being lead by people who have never heard of the concept of an “established brand,” and don’t understand how such a thing influences people’s perceptions. They told us that the makeup of the American electorate, especially in presidential election years, would make a victory by a white nationalist who is openly misogynist impossible. Well, here we are. We had the most popular politician in American available to be our nominee, and instead we (I’ll be generous and say “we”) nominated someone who was grotesquely unpopular throughout the primary. The people who devoted themselves to making sure that happened, and who assured us that we should trust them and ignore our lying eyes when it comes to Hillary Clinton’s strength as a candidate, cannot lead this party anymore, or we’re going to get more of the same.
We have been listening to the wrong people. Democrats’ understanding of national politics have been guided primarily by emperors who have no clothes. They need to sit on the bench for a few years, and the people in and around the party who were able to accurately foresee just how weak a candidate Hillary Clinton would be deserve to have their opinions respected. There has to be a consequences to a failure this great, or we will just keep failing over and over.
The 2018 campaign starts today. The 202o campaign starts today. We can win, but we have to stop doing what made us lose. And that means we have to stop listening to the people who lost this race. Let’s be better than the Iraq War Pundits.