Poor Winners and the Progressive Fight

Paul Krugman - Poor WinnersPaul Krugman’s Friday column comes out just after midnight my time on Thursday. I thought for a little while about live blogging the event. Now that even the most innumerate can see that Hillary Clinton has won the Democratic Party nomination, would Krugman move on to something besides another “Clinton rocks! Sanders sucks!” article. I thought the idea was very funny because I was almost certain that he would write something different. But I was wrong. Although his article, Wrath of the Conned, is nominally about the Republicans, it reads more like an attack on Sanders. Krugman is one of the great poor winners.

The article doesn’t mention Sanders by name and certainly doesn’t give him any credit in the campaign. You know, because Sanders sucks. The best we get is the truly ignorant claim that nonwhite voters supported Clinton because her “challenger” (Not Sanders!) “sometimes seemed to dismiss” the achievement of Obamacare. Yeah, it was all about Obamacare, Krugman. I’m a big Obamacare supporter, but it does far too much argumentative work for Krugman in his apologias for Obama.

Krugman also quoted the Crimson Hexagon study in the most facile way, saying that Clinton got the most negative coverage. That’s true, but it’s important to note that it wasn’t that much more negative than the other candidates and that the same study found the media covered Clinton far more than it did Sanders.

I don’t especially care, I suppose. But it is a good illustration of how people are often poor winners. Would it be so hard to say something nice about what the Sanders phenomenon has done? Clinton has turned left during this primary because Sanders was pounding her from the left. Imagine where we’d be now if Jim Webb had seen Sanders’ level of support. We wouldn’t be talking about the minimum wage; we’d be talking about who was going to drop more bombs on more countries.

Politicians do not exist in a vacuum. Clinton has shifted to the left on both trade deals and Social Security — because of the success of Bernie Sanders. Does he — Do we?! — get any credit for this? Or are the Krugman’s the nation going to continue to stew about Sanders’ unfortunate “Clinton isn’t qualified to be president” comment (which he took back far more publicly than he stated it)?

Poor Winners Can Help Us!

Scott Lemieux wrote a really good article over at New Republic yesterday, Why Hillary Will Govern More Like Bernie Than People Think. This goes along with what I’ve been saying for some time to disappointed Sanders supporters, “He made Clinton, the Democratic Party, and America better.” But now I find that I have to say it to Clinton supporters. Yes, Clinton is a politician, and like them all — including Bernie Sanders — she shifts with the political winds. And she would have been a far worse candidate if she had spent the last year having only to counter the insanity of the Republican Party.

Lemieux’s article is mostly about Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, and how he’s turned out to be far more of a progressive than anyone would have thought given what a political hack he has always been. Lemieux noted:

Political context matters. If McAuliffe had been elected governor in the 1990s he likely would have been much more timorous and inclined to compromise with Republicans. But it ain’t the ’90s anymore, and McAuliffe has gotten the message.

And so too has Clinton, I believe. And it has happened in a big way. As Lemieux said, “Leaders often act as weathervanes, but this isn’t a bad thing if the wind is blowing in the right direction.” So maybe it’s best that people like Krugman are determined to be poor winners. It can encourage the rest of us. We need to keep blowing — and hard.

Morning Music: The Greatest Taste Around

Dispepsi - The Greatest Taste AroundToday, we end this week of Negativland, in observance of the death of Richard Lyons. I’m going to jump ahead to their 1997 album, Dispepsi. I want to end with it because when I asked my boss if she knew the band, she said, “Pepsi?” She is the hippest person I’ve ever known. Of course, Negativland doesn’t have a song called “Pepsi”; I’m sure she’s referring to “The Greatest Taste Around,” which is the song we are going to listen to today.

The funny thing about the album is that the band was apparently afraid of being sued by Pepsi. This was not unreasonable, because as a band that made heavy use of sampling, pushing the bounds of IP law was kind of the norm. So the album cover does not have the word “Dispepsi” on it. It does have all the letters on it in various combinations. The album’s song list is done as a food nutrition label with the headline “Ideppiss Facts.” But Pepsi, wisely I think, had no intention of suing. Such acts are usually self-defeating. So the band started calling it “Dispepsi.”

Although “The Greatest Taste Around” is about Pepsi most prominently, the whole album is about Pepsi, Coke, the soda industry, and the idea of having to advertise products people wouldn’t normally want. The song “Hyper Real” is about the selling of New Coke. “Aluminum Or Glass: The Memo” does seem to feature an actual advertising memo. The whole album is brilliant in this way. It sounds great, but it is also great political and social satire: and it is all on YouTube.

“The Greatest Taste Around” is such an upbeat song that it’s easy enough to miss how scathing it is. “Tractors plowing down the hills: Pepsi! Ghastly stench of puppy mills: Pepsi!” All to a I-IV-V chord progression. Brilliant!