Some Less Obvious Post-Election Lessons

A couple of days after the US presidential upset, we’re in the precarious intermezzo where the dust is settling but impressions still linger. While the torrent of Wednesday morning quarterbacking by sundry wonks, mavens and talking heads certainly contains elements of good analysis, it’s wise to capture some subtler points before they get lost in the palliative mainstream spin. The following list – not necessarily original and certainly not exhaustive – is an attempted contribution, by way of highlighting some of the less obvious losers in Tuesday’s outcome, along with associated lessons.

  1. Private polling. Beyond the obvious, it is high time to thoroughly reexamine its role in elections for public office. Its controlling influence in determining who gets to participate in the highly influential nationally televised debates is already scandalous and of questionable legality; this latest debacle simply means it should be banished from the process forever. There are strict, publicly accountable processes determining which presidential tickets get to be nationally balloted (i.e. exposed to enough electoral votes to be able to win), and they should get to participate in nationally broadcast debates, if any. Period.
  2. Mainstream media. The standard retort of the industry was summarized by the PBS Newshour anchor’s response to bias criticism the day after the election, stressing alleged media reliance on unexpectedly faulty opinion polls. This severely stretches the truth.  In the final phase with only two major candidates, the bias was plain to see: in the selection of stories, the tone, the tenor. It is really but a simple journalism freshman paper to analyze Amazon’s “Most read from the Washington Post” daily newsletter in recent weeks.  But earlier phases are no better; e.g., with the systematic and deliberate narrowing of the playing field by excluding the two nationally balloted “third” parties. Specifically, there can be no “plausible deniability” with pollsters here: any star news anchor can unilaterally refuse to moderate a rump field of candidates, and challenge his colleagues to do the same; that’s the difference between journalism with integrity and captive media.
  3. DNC shills.  It is high time for and similar party cheerleaders masquerading as independent progressive outlets to either move on to thorough reform or move out of the way.  The sad spectacle of some hitherto big name “progressive champions” actively blessing the swift, irreversible transition from Sanders’ “democratic socialist” agenda to “defeat Trump” to “elect [the candidate endorsed by the Koch brothers and Bush clan]” is not a matter of taste or opinion – it is rank hypocrisy and contradiction that breeds discreditation. Shockingly, back during primaries, MoveOn foreshadowed its own implosion, with its Washington director warning in a February 20 NYT piece that “the key to winning the presidency in November will be mobilizing tremendous grassroots enthusiasm, and nothing would take the wind out of people’s sails faster than to have the Democratic nominee chosen by party insiders” [my italics]. Evidence to the latter premise mounted to the point where even Rudy Giuliani publicly stated it on October 10 – leaving this omen plain, stark and even more starkly ignored.
  4. Bernie Sanders. Positive effects of the Sanders campaign are well known; it’s only fair to face the flip side now. As was pointed out on these pages several weeks ago – he could just not walk away (without consequences) from his creation; some games can simply not be played half-way. In descending order of importance, he failed at three consecutive crucial junctures following the primaries: a) Not accepting the Green Party invitation to be their candidate; this would have carried intact the energy of his campaign, opened the door to a genuine 4-way race, and enormously elevated the debate across the spectrum in the many months remaining;  b) Not endorsing the Green Party’s Stein-Baraka ticket; while less momentous, such a move still had game-changing potential, especially prior to the televised debates;  c) Not actively promoting his progressive agenda in support of the Clinton campaign; having supposedly beqeathed these lofty ideas into his ex-rival’s program, his defeaning silence effectively eliminated them from public view and perceptions of party agenda.
  5. Mindless big data analytics.  Admittedly a broader point, yet not to be ignored. In an era of often vulgar tech infatuation with ephemeral gadgets, literal auto-mobiles, robotic manipulation of financial markets and sundry ad hoc heuristics elevated to venerable “algorithm” status – it is time to reclaim part of the human side from Silicom Valley gurus and their financial backers. As some of the best spies famously testify, there is still no substitute for human contact and intelligence. Understanding the proper combination of humanities with hard science and technology will serve us well beyond any attempts to better gauge the American electorate.
Dr. Radmilo Bozinovic is a computer professional who has worked in the Silicon Valley since 1988. During that time, he has also been involved in numerous public interest projects, ranging from serving on two non-profit boards, to improving language access in state courts and public education. A native of ex-Yugoslavia, he has actively worked to uncover the truth about its civil war and the foreign role played in its breakup, and other conflicts. Read other articles by Radmilo.