Beltway wisdom

“Washington always wins,” Joe Scarborough repeats at least once a day on Morning Joe, like a Catholic murmuring a Hail Mary. He’s right in this sense: diseased with an incurable self-regard, the Beltway press now excuses its mistake in thinking like the rest of us that Hillary Clinton was going to win last fall by saying any Republican, including the Twitter addict in the West Wing, would have beaten a candidate as flawed as Clinton. She couldn’t win those Democratic strongholds in the north! She didn’t tell enough jokes!

The Democrats picked the wrong candidate—I was a Bernie Sanders supporter from spring 2015—but I suspect he might’ve lost anyway. It’s possible Pennsylvania and one other Dem stronghold won by Trump would have stayed in the Sanders column, but Trump might still have inched a squeaker of an Electoral College win instead of a solid one. Charles Pierce:

You want a textbook example of a thoroughly bad campaign, look to the Dukakis juggernaut in 1988, not the Clinton campaign of 2016, no matter what you’re hearing from people pitching books full of gossipy back-stabbing and obsequious resume-polishing. The fact is that the current spate of Clinton-bashing completely ignores one undeniable fact: Donald Trump was a helluva candidate. In fact, for the cultural and political context within which that election took place, he might have been a perfect candidate….

That Trump never paid a price in the eyes of his voters for that kind of meretricious goonery is the best evidence there is that, in 2016, anyway, he was in every sense a formidable political force. And, let it not be forgotten that he brought with him a Republican Senate, a Republican House, and massive gains out in the states as well.


Moreover, and I owe a hat tip to Scott Lemieux here, it’s likely in retrospect that Trump’s plan of action, while unconventional in the extreme and relentlessly eccentric, also was based in a kind of mad logic. There really was a big slice of the electorate, concentrated in states that were vital in the Electoral College, that was uniquely susceptible to Trump’s appeal. He and his people spotted it and campaigned accordingly. As Nate Cohn shows in the piece linked above, HRC performed about as well as could be expected among Democratic base voters and, as we said, she did win the popular vote by more than three million.

But Bob Woodward has no book out, so Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes will get several days’ worth of talk show bookings and shakes of the head from George Stephanopoulos.

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