Don’t think it really works this way Mr. Krugman

Recently Bernie Sanders offered an answer: Democrats should “go beyond identity politics.” What’s needed, he said, are candidates who understand that working-class incomes are down, who will “stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry.”

But is there any reason to believe that this would work? Let me offer some reasons for doubt.

First, a general point: Any claim that changed policy positions will win elections assumes that the public will hear about those positions. How is that supposed to happen, when most of the news media simply refuse to cover policy substance? Remember, over the course of the 2016 campaign, the three network news shows devoted a total of 35 minutes combined to policy issues — all policy issues. Meanwhile, they devoted 125 minutes to Mrs. Clinton’s emails.

Actually, y’know, the media is there to provide what the readers/viewers want. And if it’s not policy wonks then so be it.

And there’s something rolling around back there…ah, yes, that’s it, the art of politics is going and explaining to people why they should vote for you, isn’t it?

26 thoughts on “Don’t think it really works this way Mr. Krugman”

  1. Remember, over the course of the 2016 campaign, the three network news shows devoted a total of 35 minutes combined to policy issues

    Dubious about this claim (very dubious), but perhaps the reason why is because the entire media was chanting “Hitler McTrump” over and over?

    Amazed that anyone can seriously think the media was biased against Clinton.

  2. That the Democrat presidential candidate threatened the security of the entire nation with her reckless and probably criminal behaviour is far bigger news that the precise details of her policy positions, especially when we know she’ll be lying about them anyway.

  3. > assumes that the public will hear about those positions

    Given that those positions are “stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry” then you’d hope (if they did any good, which I’m not suggesting they would) they’d make a difference to people’s lives. That would, after all, be the point of doing them.

    if that happened people would inevitably notice, even if the media ignored them.

    Krugman appears to be suggesting the rather depressing (from his viewpoint) possibility that all these policies might be implemented but not make any noticeable difference.

  4. “That the Democrat presidential candidate threatened the security of the entire nation with her reckless and probably criminal behaviour ”

    Think this belongs under the heading Flatulent Tosspottery.

  5. When got elected as a local councillor back in the mists of time it was as a result of spending months and months stuffing leaflets through letterboxes taking my message directly to potential voters. It never occured to me to expect the media to do this for me.

  6. over the course of the 2016 campaign, the three network news shows devoted a total of 35 minutes combined to policy issues

    I don’t believe that for one second. I suspect they’re using a highly specialist definition of “policy” to reach that figure — excluding, for instance, discussion of national security policy as it relates to unauthorised private email servers.

  7. jgh,

    Yes, the Yanks fought a war to be rid of the aristocracy and ended up with the motorcade class. Was discussing this with a Leftpondian the other day (Canadian, but says they take their cues from America in these matters). If you want, you can go hang out in Westminster of an evening and meet one of our MPs and have a drink with them in a pub. My MP (a Lady, no less) can be bumped into in the street and seen up ladders putting up her own posters come election time. Donald Dewar used to be a common sight wandering around Glasgow — a friend of mine ran up to him once and danced around him in a circle, just so’s he could say he’d danced rings round Donald Dewar. My Canadian acquaintance was astounded to hear all this. The Americans overthrew “tyranny” and their “representatives” never go anywhere without an armed phalanx between them and the plebs.

  8. As for the age-old argument about policy versus character, people like to think they’re being erudite and intelligent when they say you should vote for policy, but it’s bollocks. No-one knows what policies are going to be required. Classic example is the 2000 American campaign. We all now know what was going to be by far the most important policy position of either candidate, and it was never raised in the campaign by anyone. Not once. And Bush was an isolationist right up till 10/9/01: he changed his mind in light of events. The best way to pick a candidate is obviously by character.

  9. 35 minutes on policy?

    Let’s say the campaign was 350 days long (it was longer).

    That’s 6 seconds per day across “the three network news channels”. (Not sure quite what that means).

    That’s 2 seconds a day each.

  10. Didn’t Trump hold meetings and give speeches? Didn’t Hillary? How come Krugman was unaware of these things? How come he appears not to know about Trump’s twitter feats? Krugman is just another reason why people are tired of experts.

  11. This was a “change” election. Just as 2008 was. And Trump won it by persuading the swing voters in rust belt states that he was going to do change things for them. Just as Obama promised the same. They won. Hillary promised a “change”: A female president. Turns out that swing voters in rust belt states didnt see that as the right change. I suspect Bernie is right and that Bern change might have swung the rust belt.

    Policy was covered:

    Wall and deportations = immigration policy = more jobs for US nationals

    No TPP = trade policy = less trade/less efficiency = some more jobs for US nationals in rust belt (relative to the alternative)

    Muslim ban = security policy = safer US nationals.

    Basically the Donald had policy positions that resonated with swing state voters. And he won. Crazy people on the coasts continue to believe he is a fascist.

  12. I think we should start paying a lot more time to policy and a lot less to his nebulous concept of ‘character’ and even less to those stupid emails!!!

    For example, my mate Peter Sutcliffe,aka the Yorkshire Ripper, he’s got some terrific policies, particularly about a woman’s right to control of her own body. But if he stood for Parliament do you think the right-wing media would give those policies a hearing? No they wouldn’t! They’d insist on dredging up a few incidents that happened 35 years ago. Those hypocrites at the Mail would have the cheek to put it right next to the girl pretending to wear a bikini in the sidebar ‘n’all.

  13. They probably spent far more time talking about Trump’s comments about women than they did on Hillary’s use of a private server to get around FOIA laws.

  14. 125 minutes to cover the antics of one of the most corrupt and evil women ever to have lived?

    Even worse he is probably factually correct on that single score. The entire MSM, during months of campaigning, probably did spent about two hours and five minutes in total on the antics of Killery.

  15. The Inimitable Steve

    S2 – And Bush was an isolationist right up till 10/9/01

    Well, sort of. He promised a more “humble” foreign policy, but that he’d “project strength” to defend “freedom”. It was a cake-and-eat-it criticism of Bill Clinton’s adventures in Yugoslavia and Haiti.

    Dubya was always surrounded by neocons though, so if the WTC attacks hadn’t happened it’d have been some other casus belli.

    Not that Al Gore wouldn’t have done exactly the same thing. And a lot of people (myself included) hoped Obama would be a president for peace, but look what happened there. The warfare state is baked in to the US federal government.

    It remains to be seen if Trump can get the US out of the business of creating chaos in other countries, but I reckon he’s got a better chance than his predecessors, simply because he’s not beholden to anyone.

  16. @ Connolley

    ‘Given that those positions are “stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry” then you’d hope (if they did any good, which I’m not suggesting they would) they’d make a difference to people’s lives. That would, after all, be the point of doing them.

    Yes, but to which people’s lives would it be intended to make a difference?

    Clue: politicians, bureaucrats and their mates in the chumocracy.

  17. What does he mean by “standing up to the fossil fuel industry”? Does he mean forcing them to stop providing the products people want and need, and making people buy more expensive, less reliable renewable forms of energy?

  18. “the three network news shows devoted a total of 35 minutes combined to policy issues … they devoted 125 minutes to Mrs. Clinton’s emails.”

    But Hillary’s emails entail a policy issue: should she be shot or hanged? But first they’ll have to arrest and convict her.

  19. ““That the Democrat presidential candidate threatened the security of the entire nation with her reckless and probably criminal behaviour”

    Think this belongs under the heading Flatulent Tosspottery.”

    Which bit was wrong? No doubt at all that her behaviour was extremely reckless, don’t think anyone’s denying that. There’s a very good case that it was criminal. And the security of the nation? Well, it’s now widely thought that a lot of foreign governments probably hacked her server.

    Theres no doubt that if Trump had done this he would already be in jail, and he’d be in disgrace for ‘threatening the security of the nation’.

  20. As this is an article on an economist, Tim, I thought you might like to know that Murphy is recruiting a PHD student as a researcher.

    If you wanted that additional qualification in economics, just thought you might want to consider this.

    Think about it – Dr Worstall sounds nice?

  21. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Those numbers are clearly rubbish. Thirty-five minutes total over the entire campaign? There were 311 days in 2016 before the election. To have spent half an hour talking about policy in that interval is not materially different from not talking about it at all. I guess being a Lefty economist, even a Nobel prize-winning one, means you don’t have to be very good at sums.

    It’s also a bit weaselly. News shows are not where things like candidates’ policies are discussed in the normal run of things. They’re generally reserved for, well, you know, news. If you add in the talking heads stuff that all the networks, broadcast and cable, do ad nauseam, you were probably getting 35 minutes of policy discussion every hour.

    Clinton did not fail because her policies were given an inadequate airing, and Trump did not win because he was not vetted.

  22. The Inimitable Steve

    Clinton did not fail because her policies were given an inadequate airing, and Trump did not win because he was not vetted.

    Yarp, that’s just Krugman’s sore bottom talking.

    It does raise the question though: what were Clinton’s policies?

    I followed the US election quite closely, yet I couldn’t tell you what she wanted to be president for.

    And yes, her website had hundreds and hundreds of pages of TL;DR, but she apparently didn’t think to mention them on the campaign trail.

    Her entire campaign was built on solipsism (“I’m With Her”), virtue signalling (“Love Trumps Hate”), and meaningless sloganeering (“Stronger Together”, which was better when Kang and Kodos did it).

    It was shit, and I wasn’t surprised she lost. If you were trying to sell a product the way Hillary tried to sell the idea of herself as the next US president, you’d soon be unemployed.

    Meanwhile, the guy we were told was an incorrigible narcissistic joke with no chance of getting elected had a short, tangible, memorable list of policies that he hammered at every opportunity:

    * Wall
    * Jobs
    * Security

    Trump’s campaign messages weren’t about Trump. They were about America.

  23. Bloke in North Dorset

    He probably means that the broadcasters only paid him his top rate for 35 minutes to pontificate.

  24. Humbly, I think policy statements do matter quite a bit.

    Why? Because they give the electorate a chance to see the thinking that a candidate is capable of on matters that are already present. True, the world moves on, and so many policies may need to change.

    But meanwhile, we get a glimpse of what’s important and how the candidate says s/he’d act.

    More than just character.

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