It’s time for the First Presidential Debate of 2016, and all the talk is about facts and what place if any they have in this arcane ritual. CNN announced “the weekend America’s newspapers called Donald Trump a liar;” the Clinton campaign called for moderator Lester Holt to fact-check the candidates (meaning Trump); the Trump campaign said don’t you dare.
Looks like Trump will get his wish, as the debate commission has declared fact-checking above the moderator’s pay grade. Thus, Trump can say, “Obama started the Vietnam War by shooting the Archduke Ferdinand,” and it will be up to Clinton to use her time to explain World War I, Vietnam, space and time, etc., after which her time will run out, Trump will call her a bitch, and rightbloggers will cheer their hero’s brilliant performance.
This is great for rightbloggers, who know that while Trump’s policies are, as we have seen, incoherent and changeable, the emotional appeal of his rage and self-regard may carry the day. They showed this last week when they aimed their spears at comedian and Full Frontal host Samantha Bee — or, rather, at what they thought Bee represents, namely all those snooty people who make fun of Trump and them.
From the days of Eleanor Roosevelt, conservatives have had a problem with mouthy women who contradict them. As I’ve documented here, in recent years the primary object of their hate-on has been Girls star Lena Dunham. But they probably despise Dunham at least as much for her tendency to be nude (without also being Sofia Vergara) as for her vaguely leftish politics.
With Bee, their soregasms have more to do with that allegedly fatal liberal affliction: elitism. The crypto-billionaire Trump is famously (if counterintuitively) supposed to be a tribune of the White Working Class. Since nobody besides the WWC really likes Trump, rightbloggers need these folks to emerge from their hollers and hamlets to vote the rascal in.
To appeal to them, rightbloggers have been leaning heavily on the hoary culture-war idea that liberals all look down their noses at simple folk and try vainly to appease them with trivialities like free college and jobs programs when what they really want is a chance to stick it to their high-school English teachers by voting for a reality show star.
As is customary with such populist appeals, this one was initiated by an Ivy League conservative, Ross Douthat of the New York Times. In “Clinton’s Samantha Bee Problem,” Douthat explained that Bee, as an heir to Jon Stewart’s and Stephen Colbert’s liberal comedy franchises, was actually just an emblem of “the rapid colonization of new cultural territory by an ascendant social liberalism.”
Once upon a time, Douthat claimed, there was a sort of informal Fairness Doctrine for entertainment programming: “On late-night television, it was once understood that David Letterman was beloved by coastal liberals and Jay Leno more of a Middle American taste,” he wrote. Abortions For Some, Miniature American Flags For Others!
But then came the Day of the Libtards like Stewart and Colbert and Bee with their “hectoring monologues,” said Douthat. Then also came awards shows full of homosexuals and black people — not thus filled by choice, apparently, but “pushed,” per Douthat, “to shed their genteel limousine liberalism and embrace the race-gender-sexual identity agenda in full” by some unnamed nefarious force…probably Oprah Winfrey. Even the N.F.L. is coursing with black people — well, okay, it has been for years, but now they’re complaining (“having its Black Lives Matters moment, thanks to Colin Kaepernick”).
These forces, said Douthat, create “an echo chamber from which the imagination struggles to escape.” And since conservatives’ TV sets — yes, even after all these years! — still don’t come with a channel switching device, there’s nothing they can do but vote Trump; “the feeling of being suffocated by the left’s cultural dominance,” Douthat explained, “is turning voting Republican into an act of cultural rebellion…”
“Leftist Scolds Like Samantha Bee Are Definitely A Reason Trump May Win,” wrote David Marcus of The Federalist. Look at Jimmy Fallon, he said: The Tonight Show host — who did a whatta-guy interview with Trump, about which Bee and others had complained — regularly beats Bee in the ratings “because most people aren’t looking for the self-righteous mirth of slamming those stupid Republicans right before bed,” which is a key part of the Clinton political platform.
Marcus’s upshot was that Bee may elect Trump because he’s against political correctness, “a major issue for many Americans” who look at shows like Full Frontal and see, not programming they simply don’t care for, but “a progressive hegemony that makes their ideas cogitatio non grata.” Makes sense; I just heard a guy saying that at the gas station.
Marcus’s colleague Ben Domenech concurred. “Today, the left is entirely in favor of replacing culture with politics,” he said. “That gives us worse culture, and worse politics.” Domenech suggested as an alternative model “border-walkers who can navigate the world between this tribal divide,” and named some examples: Jimmy Fallon, James Corden, and Bono of U2. I don’t know about you folks, but that’s not a world I care to live in.
In “How Samantha Bee is sinking Hillary Clinton’s chances” — man, Bee’s more powerful than I ever imagined! — Jazz Shaw of Hot Air claimed that “if anything, this phenomenon has made me even more inclined to vote for Trump, not less.” There’s a shock. “If I need to be hectored by someone ceaseless from a dubious high moral horse,” Shaw continued, “I’ll try to round up a few more mothers-in-law.” Ha, who doesn’t love a good mother-in-law joke? When you comedy writers get off your politically-militant kick, give Jazz Shaw a call.
Imagine these guys confined to arguing facts. Consider Trump’s recent, bizarre claim that African-Americans had not “ever, ever, ever” had it so bad as they do now. In its facepalm/rejoinder, CNN sighed that Trump’s “statement is so patently absurd, fact-checking it seems kind of silly,” basically spotted Trump slavery, and offhandedly brought up such well-known post-slavery horrors as lynchings. Aha! cried Spencer Irvine of Accuracy in Media: “They could be true, but the article was not sourced, which calls into question the premise of the ‘reality check’ fact-check article.” Black people getting lynched? Might be liberal bullshit!
The general attitude was beautifully expressed by the Washington Times’ Kelly Riddell. Addressing those who demand the media do a better job of fact-checking Trump, Riddell scoffed, “something that Mr. Trump’s supporters seem to understand, but the press and its fact-checkers simply don’t get — is that Mr. Trump deals in hyperbole,” and gave an example: “Did thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheer after Sept. 11, 2001,” as Trump had claimed? “Nope,” Riddell cheerfully admitted. “But they were applauding in other parts of the world, an inconvenient truth that Mr. Trump is unafraid to take on.”
This fanciful approach to reality, which excuses a gross slander on Muslim-Americans on the grounds that someone did it so it might as well have been them, may bother liberals, Riddell said, but it appeals to voters “conditioned to the incessant drone of political correctness,” for whom “Mr. Trump’s comments seem refreshingly honest, no matter how many Pinocchio’s he receives by the media.” For this one I have no punchline, but maybe the gods do. We’re about to find out.