“Last week, Hillary Clinton went before a committee. She admitted she had sent emails to her family saying, hey, this attack on Benghazi was caused by Al-Qaeda-like elements. She spent over a week telling the families of those victims and the American people that it was because of a video. And yet the mainstream media is going around saying it was the greatest week in Hillary Clinton’s campaign. It was the week she got exposed as a liar – but she has her Super PAC helping her out, the American mainstream media.” – Marco Rubio, October 28, 2015
As the calendar turns to Halloween, once again zombies stalk the land – zombie politicians, zombie reporters, and zombie ideas. The principal characteristic of zombies is that they should be dead, but aren’t, right? In American politics, we see tired, discredited ideas from Republicans and Democrats and ongoing fealty to the same people that created the 2008 financial crisis and the continuing anemic economy. Want an example? How about responding to the large majority of Americans who want corporate welfare ended – not reformed, but ended – including onerous penalties for businesses who relocate to islands to avoid taxes? How about the billions in revenue that would create? You won’t hear about that at either a Republican or Democrat debate, because zombies run those orgies of onanism – zombies being the people asking and answering the questions.
The last 48 hours have shown us zombies turning on each other. I believe the Republican zombies were right to lambast the CNBC moderators as lamest of the lamestream media, and Reince Priebus was right to scold them in his letter today. I almost feel sorry for CNBC’s panel of the undead. They think they’re non-partisan because their priority is the economy. How many times do I have to explain that non-partisan and bi-partisan aren’t the same thing? The CNBC “moderate”rs (uh oh, that word) well represent the Wall Street-led bipartisan elitists, and because Wall Street politically invests above all in Republicans and Democrats, CNBC can’t bludgeon the candidates with non-partisan, populist ideas that have the support of 51%+ of Americans. Like opposing the TPP. Like stapling a green card to diplomas given to foreign students. Heck, like Obamacare. I’d be impressed if one of them broke his zombie stupor to retort “hey governor/senator, why does your ideal small business owner always have to be a ‘he’?” Fairly sure 51% of Americans would appreciate that.
Yet as with The Walking Dead, glimmers of hope keep us going. Two days ago, Marco Rubio proved himself neither quite zombie nor normal human. Rubio might be like TWD’s Rick, the zombie-killer with zombie blood in his veins. No, Rubio didn’t support a non-partisan idea like ending corporate welfare. However, his rhetoric represented a clear-eyed view of our problems. Time and again, he adroitly circled back to prioritize poor, middle-class, and immigrant concerns. And he does provide a child-tax credit that bothers some conservative economists. Perhaps he won’t actually help the people he discusses – his website’s tax plan isn’t cheering – but compared to many of the zombies onstage with him, at least Rubio demonstrated he’s been listening to the waves of non-partisan populism over the summer that have bolstered Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, and Ben Carson.
Perhaps Rubio is less Rick and more Marco Watley. You’ll know that name if you saw the #1 movie of this autumn. Maybe it’s a generational thing, but Rubio instinctively acts like Matt Damon – in his voice, in the way he holds his face and your attention. Like Damon, he emanates preparedness, unlike some of his stage-mate zombies. And now that the lamestream media has taken notice, he’s this week’s Carly Fiorina, which says something problematic about his inevitability.
Still, Rubio’s above quote about Hillary Clinton describes at least half of a major problem. The pro-Hillary zombies and anti-Hillary zombies are baaaaack. Since the Democrats’ debate ten days ago, I’ve been going to the news aggregator realclearpolitics.com every day. RCP also archives their days’ worth of links, and so it’s easy for anyone to see which stories they’ve been linking to lately. Typical adjacent pair of headlines:
Hillary’s a genius! No, Hillary is a lying liar! Though this isn’t exactly Ms. Clinton’s fault, when she makes headlines, reporters react as though their high school’s cheerleader just came to the reunion – some with familiar decades-old anger, others with familiar decades-old effusive praise. Can we get Carrie to telekinetically destroy all of these high school-mentality zombies?
What’s worse, now that the mainstream media – left, center, and right – has anointed Clinton and Rubio the “winners” of the most recent debates, there’s a palpable sense of relief that the Sanders-Trump-Carson summer is over. (Not Clinton’s fault, not Rubio’s fault.) Here come the major mainstream media mandarin I-told-you-sos along the lines of: see, we knew all this outsider talk was just a summer fling and America wasn’t really serious about re-thinking the Democrats and the Republicans. There’s a disgusting, self-perpetuating aspect to it, as when CNN deleted a poll that said 81% of viewers thought Sanders won the debate, and replaces it with a statement that Hillary Clinton won.
There’s something so dispiriting about another year of this 24-year-old franchise. It’s like Jaws-Back-to-the-Future Part 20. Here’s how you know someone’s in the tank for Hillary: they cheer her “getting seasoned” if an opponent fights her to the last primary (as in 2008) and they alternatively cheer her “avoiding being bloodied” if she has the nomination wrapped up by South Carolina. But what I really hate about so many of the pro-Hillary writers in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, The Huffington Post, The Nation, The Atlantic, and The New Republic is that in this wave of worshipful coverage, almost none of them mention the very obvious Republican plan to make 365 separate headlines out of 365 separate leaked emails between now and Election Day 2016. You like scary movies? Then you’ll love this noise: Drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip. Do writers like Gail Collins and Charles Blow think that their effulgent enthusiasm for Hillary can just make the leaked-email problem go away? (If so, maybe they can do the same for Amy Pascal, who runs Sony Pictures?) Rarely have I seen such willful whistling past a graveyard (yes, I have more Halloween metaphors ready) or such extreme demonstrations of putting your fingers in your ears and going “LA-LA-LA-LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” It would be like reading a pro-McCain article from 2007 that forgot to mention that he voted with Bush 90% of the time. Uh, you do know that’s going to come up, right?
To be clear, the anti-Trump conservatives have been just as myopic. At this point, their predictions of Trump’s collapse are starting to resemble their predictions of interest rates doubling next year. David Brooks has been a case in point. In three long, 1000-comment-receiving articles in the Times about anti-establishmentarianism in the polls, Brooks did not once mention the word “populist” or “populism.” Those silly voters, all attracted to shiny objects! Demanding outsiders for some incomprehensible reason! Well, we know there’s no historical precedent – never mind term – for resistance of and re-negotiation with our awesome elites, that’s for sure! Say it David: P-O-P-U-L-I…
Hey, maybe I’m crazy. Perhaps the Democrats and Republicans have so successfully jury-rigged our political system into a zero-sum duopoly that the machinery will eventually re-assert itself. But as Jonah Goldberg writes wisely at National Review, the resistance to the BI-PARTISAN status quo is real. Trump may fade, but only fools will then dismiss Trumpism. Business as usual is not acceptable, and since the Republicans are out of the White House, they have the slight advantage of mentioning that during this cycle. At some point, disgusted voters may well break off and form that more populist, less partisan, party. And they will probably lose the next election, as Abraham Lincoln’s new-third-party Republicans did in 1856. Sometimes you have to take the long view. Because eventually, we are going to break our addiction to zombies. And perhaps Marco Rubio won’t be the one that does it, but he, like any other Floridian with a boat, could tell you the first and last move in a war against zombies: don’t play.