Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump won big in yesterday’s ‘Amtrak primaries,’ plus much of our political media is selling anger. (More)

“We have to be both dreamers and doers”

Hillary Clinton won four of the five states yesterday – Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania – with Bernie Sanders winning only Rhode Island. And she won by wide margins in both Maryland and Pennsylvania, netting 144 (63%) of their 227 pledged delegates.

All told, she now leads by 309 pledged delegates and needs only 376 (36%) of the 1053 remaining to secure a pledged delegate majority. Polls show Clinton leading by 6 in Indiana (92 pledged delegates, May 3rd), by 9 in California and by 10 in New Jersey (546 and 142, both June 7th). If those polls hold, those three states alone would gain Clinton 423 pledged delegates … and give her a majority of pledged delegates.

That doesn’t consider the pledged delegates from the 11 other Democratic primaries: Guam (12, May 7th), West Virginia (37, May 10th), Kentucky and Oregon (61 and 74, both May 17th), the Virgin Islands (12, June 4th), Puerto Rico (67, June 5th), Montana, New Mexico, North and South Dakota (27, 43, 23, and 25, all June 7th), and the District of Columbia (45, June 14th).

I focused on pledged delegates because, while Clinton may also need super-delegates to reach an outright majority of 2383 at the convention, super-delegates have never overturned a pledged delegate majority. If Clinton reaches 2026 pledged delegates, there is no historical or contemporary rationale for super-delegates to overturn her now-3-million-vote majority and award the nomination to Sanders.

And that’s why Clinton was magnanimous in victory last night:

Speaking to Sanders supporters, Clinton said she intends to unify the party. She appealed to their shared values, including reducing income inequality, college affordability and universal health coverage.

“Our campaign is about restoring people’s confidence in our ability to solve problems together,” Clinton said. “That’s why we’re setting bold, progressive goals backed up by real plans.

“After all, that is how progress is made,” she said. “We have to be both dreamers and doers.”

“We will talk about what we intend to do between now and the end and how we can get there”

And for the first time, the Sanders campaign appeared to accept the mathematical near-inevitability:

“If we are sitting here and there’s no sort of mathematical way to do it, we will be upfront about that,” Tad Devine, Mr. Sanders’s senior strategist, said in an interview. “If we have a really good day, we are going to continue to talk about winning most of the pledged delegates because we will be on a path toward it. If we don’t get enough today to make it clear that we can do it by the end, it’s going to be hard to talk about it. That’s not going to be a credible path. Instead, we will talk about what we intend to do between now and the end and how we can get there.”

Sanders has plenty of money to fund the rest of his campaign, and he should stay in the race and continue to advocate the progressive issues and solutions that he would like to see in the Democratic Party platform. But it’s past time to end the baseless smears that have defined his campaign over the last few weeks.

“The only card she has is the woman’s card”

Donald Trump also had a YUUUUGE night, sweeping all five ‘Amtrak primaries’ by wide margins. That puts him on track to lock up the GOP nomination with wins in Indiana and California:

Donald Trump has now won 26 states. That includes seven of the ten biggest states by population. Only 11 remain. Even if he only gets 46 percent of delegates going forward, he’ll reach the 1,237 number needed to win the Republican nomination on the first ballot. And with polls showing him up in Indiana and California, the two biggest delegate prizes remaining, clearing 46 percent shouldn’t be hard.

The bizarre nature of Trump’s candidacy, as well as the refusal of his rivals to drop out, has sometimes obscured this, but at this point, the state of the Republican race is not complicated. Donald Trump is winning. The most likely outcome, by a substantial margin, is that he gets a majority of delegates and is the Republican nominee without a real convention fight.

It’s not a done deal. Trump could still say or do something so unconscionable that GOP voters in the 11 remaining states turn against him in overwhelming numbers, or so politically toxic that GOP insiders see no choice but to re-jiggle the convention rules and choose another candidate. But he’s been so incendiary so often – and paid no price for it – that I doubt GOP voters will abandon him. And even party insiders have admitted that a gamed convention would tear the GOP apart.

But while Clinton was gracious in victory, Trump was anything but:

“The only card she has is the woman’s card. She’s got nothing else to offer,” Trump said in a response to a question from Vox’s Liz Plank. “And frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the woman’s card, and the beautiful thing is, women don’t like her.”

“An outcome Epstein must regard as an extreme coincidence”

Trump was, of course, echoing the “affirmative action president” thesis proposed last May by the Weekly Standard’s Joseph Epstein:

If Hillary Clinton wins the presidency in 2016 she will not only be the nation’s first woman president but our second affirmative-action president. By affirmative-action president I mean that she, like Barack Obama, will have got into office partly for reasons extraneous to her political philosophy or to her merits, which, though fully tested while holding some of the highest offices in the land, have not been notably distinguished.[…]

How have we come to the point where we elect presidents of the United States not on their intrinsic qualities but because of the accidents of their birth: because they are black, or women, or, one day doubtless, gay, or disabled – not, in other words, for themselves but for the causes they seem to embody or represent, for their status as members of a victim group?

New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait spotlighted the ugly bias beneath Epstein’s argument:

Yes, that’s right. America used to elect presidents on “intrinsic qualities” rather than “accidents of their birth.” And this process resulted in the election of forty-three consecutive white men, an outcome Epstein must regard as an extreme coincidence. The last president to be elected on the basis of intrinsic qualities rather than accidents of birth was George W. Bush, whose birth circumstances, Epstein apparently believes, had no bearing upon his career trajectory.

And MSNBC’s Steve Benen refuted Epstein on the facts:

It’s worth noting that Clinton was a successful U.S. senator, twice elected in a large state, and she served four years as an accomplished Secretary of State. If she becomes president, Clinton will be the first chief executive in over 150 years to have served in the cabinet and been elected to statewide office.

Yet Trump insists “The only thing she’s got going is the woman’s card,” and many if not most of the GOP’s white male base will agree, because …


“Anger as a commercial product”

… a big chunk of our political media delivers anger and resentment on a daily basis, as Vox’s Jeffrey M. Berry and Sarah Sobieraj explain:

Still, there is something fundamentally different about the 2016 election. Trump’s description of Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers and his call to ban Muslim immigrants seem to have crossed a line of civility while at the same time propelling his candidacy forward. Pundits say that Trump has struck a chord with an infuriated electorate, eager to hear someone voice their frustration with our economy and political system.

Anger, however, is not simply an attitude finding an outlet in this year’s candidates. Anger is also a commodity, a business product successfully marketed to select customers.

Specifically, it’s a business product designed to select white customers. The much-hyped Esquire/NBC News survey on voter outrage found that anger was mostly white resentment:

Consider the white men and women in our survey: From their views on the state of the American dream (dead) and America’s role in the world (not what it used to be) to how their life is working out for them (not quite what they’d had in mind), a plurality of whites tends to view life through a veil of disappointment. When we cross-tabulate these feelings with reports of daily anger (which are higher among whites than nonwhites), we see the anger of perceived disenfranchisement – a sense that the majority has become a persecuted minority, the bitterness of a promise that didn’t pan out – rather than actual hardship. (If anger were tied to hardship, we’d expect to see nonwhite Americans – who report having a harder time making ends meet than whites, per question three – reporting higher levels of anger. This is not the case.)

Indeed, despite having what many would consider a more legitimate case for feeling angry, black Americans are generally less angry than whites. Though they take great issue with the way they are treated by both society in general and the police in particular, blacks are also more likely than whites to believe that the American dream is still alive; that America is still the most powerful country in the world; that race relations have improved over the past eight years; and, most important in the context of expectations, that their financial situation is better than they thought it would be when they were younger. Their optimism in the face of adversity suggests that hope, whatever its other virtues, remains a potent antidote to anger.

Berry and Sobieraj say that bitterness is skillfully packaged and sold across the conservative media:

Outrage discourse involves efforts to provoke emotional responses, (especially anger, fear, and moral indignation) from the audience through the use of overgeneralizations, sensationalism, patently inaccurate information, and belittling ridicule of opponents. Outrage sidesteps the messy nuances of complex political issues in favor of melodrama, misrepresentative exaggeration, and hyperbolic forecasts of impending doom.

It is personality centered, with its ad hominem attacks dividing the political world into heroes and villains. Opponents are morons and idiots, not people meriting a civil response to their viewpoints. Outrage takes the form of political competition, political theater with a scorecard. It is ideologically selective, using a conservative or liberal frame to analyze the issues of the day. Finally, it is highly engaging – the vast audience would be absent if it wasn’t for the skill of hosts and writers to entice their viewers, listeners, and readers to keep coming back.

And that has proven very profitable:

What is remarkable about anger as a commercial product is that anger isn’t usually associated with good business practices. If you walk out of a Home Depot angry, you’re probably not going to go back. Yet the finely honed practices of outrage media are designed to do exactly that: to make you angry. Political anger or fear is emotionally compelling, and such reactions are validated because viewers and listeners have great trust in the hosts of the programs they select. Making your blood boil is a key to getting you to come back to the next day’s program for more. It’s a brilliant business strategy.

They develop their thesis in greater detail, including how media anger-mongering propelled the rise of the Tea Party, in their 2014 book The Outrage Industry.

Hillary Clinton has already signaled her general election theme of “Love and Kindness.” And Donald Trump has long signaled his themes of anger and resentment. We’ll see which message wins….


Update: I’ve updated the Squirrel’s delegate math above, and in my comments below. There are a total of 4051 pledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention. The New York Times delegate tracker combines the remaining pledged and unpledged delegates in a single number. I apologize for the confusion.


Photo Credit: Getty Images


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