The Iowa caucus was informative in terms of the current status of low information voting, no different than Rush LImbaugh expressing his horror at Buttigieg kissing his husband following the debate.
Accordingly The Trump media operation “reveals” he’s tolerant of voting for someone gay, so how does the hypothetical of voting for a democratic socialist rank in comparison, as James Carville red-baits Sanders as a “communist”. That’s even more deranged than the Trump campaign claiming it represents African-Americans better.
As important as information is to countering the flood of disinformation, the media frame presented to low-information voters may be the best tool, considering the desperation of Trump’s messaging and the claim that Trump has kettled the LIVs.
President Trump revealed in a Thursday interview that he would be open to voting for a gay candidate for president.
Fox News’s Geraldo Rivera asked Trump on an episode of his podcast released Thursday if Americans would “vote for a gay man to be president.”
“I think so,” Trump said. “I think there would be some that wouldn’t, and I wouldn’t be among that group, to be honest with you.”
“I think that it doesn't seem to be hurting Pete ‘Boot-edge-edge,’” Trump continued, using a phonetic pronunciation of former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg's (D) name. Trump has previously joked about the former mayor’s last name. “It doesn’t seem to be hurting him very much.”
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, to whom Trump presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom last week at the State of the Union address, drew pushback Wednesday for taking aim at Buttigieg and calling him a “gay guy, 37 years old, loves kissing his husband on debate stages.”
“Then they’re sitting there, and they’re looking at Mayor Pete, a 37-year-old gay guy, mayor of South Bend, loves to kiss his husband on the debate stage. And they’re saying, 'OK, how’s this gonna look, a 37-year-old gay guy kissing his husband onstage next to Mr. Man Donald Trump? What’s gonna happen there?'” Limbaugh said.
How problematic is the notion that Bernie Sanders might be the most electable Democrat, especially if Mike Bloomberg is more committed to the defeat of Trump. For the Low-Information Voter (LIV) and the necessity of GOTV, what may win is consistency rather than prevarication. The latter is now exclusively Trump-world.
Democrats fretting about the prospect of nominating Sanders should consider, for a moment, how the few years in American politics have exposed the frailty of conventional wisdom and incremental thinking. They might also consider Xanax. But they should consider, too, listening to Brad Parscale, who has access to troves of data much richer than any Democratic campaign right now. He and others in the Trump orbit apparently see what Sanders supporters have seen for a long time: that Sanders is a uniquely powerful politician, with strengths no other Democrat brings to the table. Yes, he has vulnerabilities, but so will any nominee. Still, if Sanders winning the Democratic nomination gives you a particularly bad case of night sweats, it might be useful to put aside your priors for a moment and think about him another way. Instead of asking if Sanders is unelectable, ask another question: What if Sanders is actually the MOST electable Democrat? In the age of Trump, hyper-partisanship, institutional distrust, and social media, Sanders could be examined as a candidate almost custom-built to go head-to-head with Trump this year.
Whether you think his ideas are crazy or not, the very fact that he has a clear, consistent and easy-to-understand message makes him a formidable politician. In every debate, in every interview, Sanders says the same thing. Literally, the same words. Reporters loathe interviewing him, because he refuses to play pundit or engage in personality fights. Sanders wants to talk about taxing the billionaires and helping the working people of this country. For the press, that’s boring. For voters, it’s authentic and respectable. I’ve written in the past about the simple and often-overlooked utility of having a message. Knowing why you are running for president, and communicating that message effectively and repeatedly to voters, is a superpower. Kamala Harris sank from great heights because she had no clear message, and Elizabeth Warren’s recent slide has coincided with a drift from the policy-focused message that carried her through much of 2019. Having a message allows candidates to stay on offense, pivot to a safe harbor in stormy times, and ignore Trump when he tries to attack or distract. Bernie can get cranky, but it’s hard to see Trump throwing him off message in debate. I wrote last year about how voters are willing to look past certain flaws and weaknesses as long as a candidate has a strong point of view. Remember the maxim about George W. Bush during his 2004 reelection bid: You might not like him, but at least you know where he stands. The same might be said for Sanders in a race against Trump, who lies every day. Trust is a valuable currency in politics, and Sanders has plenty of it to spend.
It’s a split that maps, if not perfectly, onto the gap that emerged between college and non-college educated voters in 2016. The latter set are often low-information voters who view politicians and media with contempt, deciding to sit elections out. Trump has exploited them to powerful effect. The president has made politics about culture—not just policy. He found a way to attract new voters, particularly rural and non-college educated whites who previously thumbed their nose at conventional politics. Because he’s a pure attention merchant, he doesn’t care what screen he appears on, as long he is there. Because he lacks an ounce of shame, it all works, with or without the blessing of the legacy press.
None of the above can be said for Democrats, who care habitually about the good graces of the national press, and who don’t see politics as a subspecies of the entertainment business. Democrats happen to believe in facts and institutions—and yes, they would like a cable contract when the campaign is over, thank you very much. But to Trump’s great advantage, the mainstream press is where many of the fights for the Democratic nomination are being waged: on cable news, on Twitter, and in the prestige media. Jared Goldberg-Leopold, the former senior communications adviser for Washington governor Jay Inslee’s presidential bid, told the Washington Post recently that, “In many ways, 2020 is the Cable News Primary. MSNBC and CNN are the biggest pipelines into voters’ living rooms.” The problem for Democrats is that those media spaces are, today more than ever, islands unto themselves. Cable may be a good way to reach highly engaged Democratic primary voters, but the reality is that television news is watched by only a tiny fraction of Americans. During the first five days of the much-hyped impeachment hearings, only about 4% of the American population tuned in to watch some part of the testimony on TV. Twitter, the other opinion-shaper preferred by Democrats, is younger, more educated, and more liberal than the country as a whole, and only 10% of its users create 80% of its content, according to Pew Research.