pretty simple choice for Democrats

Here’s two different 2016 campaign ads. This one has about 8,150,000 views.

This one has about 17,500 views.

Which, do you think, would have been better suited to a campaign season about populist discontent and a vast swath of Americans (of many races and backgrounds) who felt left behind?

I keep seeing defenses of the campaign arguing that Hillary’s policy platform was populist. But what’s the value of a populist policy platform if the campaign is obsessed with celebrity glitz and glamour? Why was the Democratic convention a parade of celebrities? Corrected: Why are you inviting turning over your social media accounts to Lena Dunham, to who was simultaneously posting things about how white men are finished, to campaign for you in the final month of the election when you desperately need to shore up your “blue wall” in Michigan and Wisconsin? Why play to college educated liberals, in November, in that way? What do you want – a message that can motivate a large group of the undecided, or one that flatters the egos of people who would never vote Republican in the first place? Simple choice for liberals and Democrats as they ponder their political future. As simple as it gets.

Are they going to get it right? No, of course not.

Update: This column is a little more germane than the other link.


  1. I mostly agree that Hillary should’ve done more to directly target working class voters. Where I somewhat differ is that I don’t think she was capable of selling herself to working class voters.

    Let’s face it, Hillary is not a good campaigner and she herself admits that. Bill Clinton and President Obama knew how to connect and sell themselves to working class voters. Trump too knows how to connect with them at an emotional level. Hillary has long struggled with connecting with voters at an emotional level. So in that sense I think, had she done more to target working class people, it wouldn’t have been very effective.

  2. Yikes! Being de-coupled from the TV, I didn’t see either of these, assuming that’s where they both ran. Could not even sit through the one viewed 8M times; ack!

    You’re right. The choice is a simple one. And, no, I don’t think they’ll get it right, either. I assess that they are so certain and secure in their influence that they simply cannot help themselves. They may in fact be utterly defenseless against their own overwhelming self-regard. How else to explain it?

    1. I would be surprised if the celebrities ever ad aired on TV (if by “on TV” we mean in full during a commercial break – it probably got free air time by being shown in excerpts on cable news programs).

  3. An even better ad to run would have been one showcasing general contractors, vendors, and other small business owners who had been ripped off by the Trump Organization refusing to pay invoices or suddenly demanding to renegotiate payment terms right before payroll, etc. But you might as well have asked the DNC to produce an ad featuring the lifeforms on Alpha Centauri.

      1. Interesting, but quite semiotically tone-deaf. They should have gone with a plumber or a roofing contractor or a dry wall installer, not an egghead architect; the guy reads as a professor, not as a salt of the earth yeoman smallholder.

  4. I’m not sure how Streep’s speech indicts Democrats, or what you suggest she should have done differently. Other than the awful bit about football and MMA, I thought it was pretty great.

    There’s certainly an argument that the Clinton campaign and the DNC publicized celebrity endorsements over common-man appeals, but a celebrity making a point at an award show has literally nothing to do with her campaign, the DNC, or the strategic tactics of Democratic Party.

  5. The top one looks like just a “vote” ad, it doesn’t say anything about Clinton unless it’s buried somewhere in the stuff I skipped.

  6. Hillary’s campaign didn’t post the celebrity video, that was Joss Whedon’s Save the Day PAC, which raised and spend a little less than $1 million.

    Hillary’s campaign didn’t post the other video, either. That was the Unite Here Tip campaign, which spent $1.9 million this cycle.

    The Hillary campaign didn’t host Lena Dunham’s video about white men, either. That was on her own twitter account. Not a campaign ad, or anything.

    I guess everything any Democrat does, even on their own dime, or on their own twitter account, is directly attributable to the Clinton campaign?

    And, what, exactly, should the Democrats have done about Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes? Is she a candidate, a member of the DNC?

    1. “The Hillary campaign didn’t host Lena Dunham’s video about white men, either. That was on her own twitter account. Not a campaign ad, or anything.”

      No, I’m sorry, that’s factually incorrect. That was posted during a social media “takeover” by Lena Dunham that was deliberately planned and executed by the campaign. And the campaign chose to heavily involve Katy Perry. And the campaign chose to ignore Michigan and Wisconsin. Etc.

      1. Here’s how Breitbart described it:

        “Both Lena Dunham and her father, Carroll Dunham, expressed their support for “the extinction of white men” in a bizarre video posted to Dunham’s Twitter account on Wednesday.”

        How did Breitbart miss that this was directly attributable to the Hillary campaign?

        Lena Dunham took over HRC’s Instagram on January 8. The video was posted on Twitter, not Instagram, and in November, not January.

        Can you show when she took over HRC’s Twitter?

        1. Check the NYT link, my friend. The timeline is right there. It’s in the New York Times. You’re telling me I should trust Breitbart’s failure to investigate that over the NYT’s version of the facts? Really?

          1. The NY Times article (“Lena Dunham faces criticism…”) clearly shows that the tweet was on Dunham’s own account. And on November 2, not in January. The words Hillary and Clinton are not mentioned in The NY Times article. It points to a Fox News story which also misses how Clinton was directly responsible, noting only that Dunham was a supporter.

            Why don’t you quote the part of The NY Times article you’re talking about. Maybe you’ve copied the link wrong, or have a different version.

          2. I’m sorry, are you really denying that Lena Dunham was a campaign surrogate for the Clinton campaign? That they brought her around stumping for Clinton? That they promoted and shared her work? Here’s from ABC News:

            “Dunham has hit the campaign trail in the battleground state to support Hillary Clinton. The Democratic nominee’s campaign hopes Dunham’s star power will help them court the all-important millennial vote.”


            Are you telling me that Katy Perry wasn’t featured prominently by the Democrats? That Jay-Z and Beyonce weren’t? Who was responsible for the complete failure to campaign in the Rust Belt? Why did the HRC campaign have one tenth as many human canvassers in Michigan as John Kerry did 12 years earlier? Why were there no lawn signs and campaign literature available for volunteers? Why were the voter lists so much worse for the HRC campaign than they had been for the Obama campaign? Why were union organizers and local politicians screaming for help in October, and why did the campaign ignore those screams? None of this is the fault of Democrats or their campaign? None of this speaks to a fundamentally out-of-tune message for the country? Really?

          3. No, I am disputing this:

            “Why are you turning over your social media accounts to Lena Dunham, TO POST THINGS ABOUT HOW white men are finished, when you desperately need to shore up your “blue wall” in Michigan and Wisconsin?”

            That explicitly says that Clinton gave Dunham her social media accounts in order for her to post her video. Here are the facts as far as I can tell.

            Hillary let Dunham take over her INSTAGRAM feed on January 8, for a single day. (The content pretty summed up by the first post, “Warning: I’m pretty focused on my outfits.”)

            Lena Dunham posted a video on her OWN Twitter account about white men on November 2.

            And, when I pointed out that the Hillary campaign had not hosted the video, you said I was “factually incorrect,” that it was “DURING” a social media takeover that was “DELIBERATELY PLANNED AND EXECUTED BY THE CAMPAIGN.”

            To be clear, you were wrong when you said that HRC had given over her social media accounts to Dunham for her to post that video. (She gave 1 account, for 1 day, 10 months before the video, so Dunham could post 3 or 4 silly photos of flag-colored dresses.) You were wrong when you claimed the video was posted during the time period that Dunham was granted access to Clinton’s social media accounts. And, you were wrong to suggest that the NYT article supported either of those claims.

            Maybe there’s an argument to be made that Hillary’s campaign was too celebrity-obsessed, but it isn’t made by any of the examples you gave in your initial post. The videos were by two different independent PACs. The Convention gave an order of magnitude more stage time to people like Khizr Khan and Michael Bloomberg than to celebrities, and random statements by Dunham, on her own twitter feed, aren’t attributable to Clinton. Certainly, Meryl Streep’s speech last night, isn’t attributable to the Democratic Party.

          4. True or false: the Hillary Clinton campaign involved Lena Dunham in official campaign activities during the final months of the election, and promoted her social media accounts during that period using their own social media accounts.

            You are right that I suggested that the social media takeover was ongoing when Dunham tweeted that, and I’ve corrected the post. I think that having her serve as an official campaign surrogate, and her tweeting something like that – which I don’t necessarily disagree with but see as truly terrible political messaging – is a connection that Democrats should understand enough to avoid.

          5. True or False: Save the Day PAC, and Unite Here Tip, are PACs that are unrelated to Hillary’s campaign. That they spent $1 and $2 million respectively on their efforts, which included the videos above, have nothing to do with the voter list quality or number of canvassers in Michigan.

            True or false: the biggest stories out of the Democratic Convention at the time were not the number of celebrities, but Michelle Obama’s speech, Alicia Machado, and Khizr Khan.

            The campaign made tons of mistakes. They should have spent more, earlier in Michigan. But, we’re not going to fix them by making up fake narratives. Hillary wouldn’t have had a single penny more to spend in Michigan if Joss Whedon hadn’t made his video. And what, we should cut the number of celebrities from 12 to 9, so we’re no more celebrity studded than the Republicans?

            Now, if Katy Perry, with her 95 million twitter followers comes to the next Democratic candidate and says, “I want to do whatever I can to help you win,” what should he/she say?

            “Yeah, no, we’re confident that the youth vote, which never turns out well, in any election year, will defy the odds this year and turn out without any assistance from you. Thanks.”

          6. The Democratic Party has been captured by its donor class. It is a party by and for elites. It has abandoned core commitments to the working class (of all races) and to the labor movement. It has embraced Wall Street-friendly Democrats like Andrew Cuomo and Corey Booker at the expense of traditional populist distrust of the banking industry. And it sends its presidential candidate on SNL but not to Flint; it parades celebrity endorsements but not the steelworkers; it runs adds based on inspirational gibberish, not basic appeals to what people want and need. And it has failed. Not just in the presidential campaign, but in the incredible failures at the state and local level. You want to excuse all of that failure, go right ahead. If the Democrats want to win, they must change.

          7. Dunham’s comment may have been terrible optics, but it happened in the middle of the Comey dustup, so no one noticed. Every campaign struggles with surrogate discipline.

            Your argument isn’t helped by more falsehoods. Here’s what the Flint mayor said at the Convention, which you think had too many celebrities:

            Clinton “came to Flint when the water crisis hit,” Weaver told fellow Democrats and television viewers. “She joined with our community groups and our churches. Hillary said ‘I will do everything I can to help you get back up and to help you get your strength.’ ”

            Also, I thought we were talking about celebrities. Which of Perry, Dunham, Whedon or Streep are banker-friendly donor class? Is it Dunham? I’ll admit, I don’t watch “Girls.”

          8. Madison, WISCONSIN is the same as Flint, MICHIGAN now? You’d think the different states would be a clue, if not the different city names.

            Like I said, the mayor of FLINT, spoke at the Democratic Convention:


            Should we have a discussion of all the various cities in the country that are NOT Flint? There are 49 states that, like Wisconsin, are not MICHIGAN. So, at least that’s a shorter conversation.

          9. So you’re completely dedicated to pedantically focusing on the minutiae of this discussion rather than the actual cultural and messaging issues of the Democrats, huh?

          10. Katy Perry, whose songs include “Roar,” and “Firework,” and “I kissed a girl,” is a Wall-Street friendly bank-hugger?

            Joss Whedon, of Buffy and Avengers fame is a corporatist?

            And Meryl Streep, who argued at the Golden Globes last night that we shouldn’t be bullying reporters based on their disabilities, is an anti-Flint Wall Street Crony?

          11. They are millionaires who do not seem particularly animated by left-wing economics, and that’s a deep problem with the party writ large.

          12. Freddie,
            The use of A-List Celebs and the strategy of focusing on the South/Southwest instead of the Rust Belt are two separate issues. I don’t think they should be grouped together.

            Obama’s campaign made use of A-List celebs in 08′ and perhaps to a lesser extent in 12′ (I could be wrong but I don’t recall as many Celebs campaigning for Obama in 2012). It’s already assumed by most Americans that most A-List Celebs are Left Leaning so I doubt the help Clinton got from those folks helped or hurt her anymore than it helped or hurt Obama.

            What probably did hurt her was her campaign strategy. She didn’t campaign enough in the Rust Belt and she did seem to try to do the bare minimum in terms of campaign rallies and meeting with the Press.

          13. “Katy Perry, whose songs include “Roar,” and “Firework,” and “I kissed a girl,” is a Wall-Street friendly bank-hugger?”

            “Roar” is an empty anthem of supposed empowerment of… some kind. Some completely non-threatening kind. It sounds like it was created by an AI that would fail a Turing Test. “Firework” is the same. Both pablum with absolutely zero message at the core. And “I Kissed a Girl” is about titillating men with performative bisexuality. (Unlike what I, an alternateen in the 90s, will always consider the real “I Kissed a Girl” song, which is about a couple girls deciding they like each other better than they like their boyfriends.)

            Katy Perry has no message beyond whipped cream shooting out of her bra.

      2. I agree that those things were dumb.

        But your post is using Streep’s comments to illustrate how The Democrats are making the same mistakes, when it illustrates nothing of the sort.

  7. Of the 257 speakers at the DNC, 12 were celebrities, plus Senator Al Franken. You have a very low bar for “parade of celebrities,” I guess.

    But, then again, you’ve blamed 2 independently produced PAC ads on the Hillary campaign, and also, basically, everything Lena Dunham ever posts on her twitter. Oh, and, I guess, every anti-Trump speech an actor or actress gives, from now on.

    1. Ah, I forgot the #1 rule, Democrats Can Never Be Blamed For Anything. Good thing your candidate spent more time on Broad City than in Milwaukee.

  8. Freddie, did I miss the posts where you endorsed Hilary and asked your readers to work hard to help elect her? The posts where you added your own (very eloquent) voice to help broaden her message?

      1. Then what’s your point with this post? Why should you (or your readers) care whether or not Democrats have an effective message if they’re
        “garbage”? Yes, I understand you said this only about Hillary, not all Democrats, but you don’t seem to care very much which major party wins any election at any level. It’s fine with me if you want to pine for the socialist revolution, but then why waste ink on the failures of Democrats to win elections if they’re not materially better than Republicans in the first place?

          1. No, but I’ve also never seen you use your prodigious writing talent to help any Democrat prevail over a Republican opponent. So your criticism of the Democrats’ election strategy rings a little hollow (notwithstanding the fact that I think it’s completely correct). Don’t want complete Republican control of government at every level? Then how about helping out the Democrats next time, instead of throwing stones after it’s too late?

    1. What is this bizarre faux-consequentialist call-out culture where freddie was insufficiently effusive about the democrats garbage candidate? Maybe we can agree that freddie should start to write pro-democrat posts every four years when liberals start writing posts about how bombing and droning half the middle-east is bad.

  9. Freddie do you think it’s hypocritical of liberals/leftists to say that we should be careful choosing our words when it comes to denouncing Salafist terrorists so as to not alienate the Muslim community while providing free propaganda for Islamic extremists (which I agree with) yet many of the same people seem to not have a care in the world how they describe “white men” in a way that near perfectly fits the narrative/conspiracies of white nationalists who want to present white people as being “under attack” from coastal elites? Even the reaction you get from both is similar when you tell them to stop with such rhetoric, that you’re trying to “silence” them from telling the “hard truths”. From the outside looking in it seems kind of glaringly stupid and confusing.

    1. It goes without saying that thoughtful individuals will consider the likely consequences of the content of their statements, how they are delivered, to whom, and so on. And the greater the audience of the statement the greater the responsibility.

      1. Right but why do so many leftists “get it” when it comes to the Muslim community but not apply that same logic to “white America”, especially considering how large “white America” is and there are simply more whites than anyone else to radicalize towards the far-right (on account of their proportion of the population in the US being larger than any other identity group)? “Don’t be an asshole towards the 1% of the population that is Muslim because besides being immoral it gives ammo to extremists (true enough), but it’s trendy and cool to be an asshole towards the 63% of the population that is white (31.5% that is white male?) and if they’re radicalized double down on it.” I find it baffling. Are the people doing this deep cover white nationalists or something?

        1. I agree that this is a prime example of inconsistent thinking. There is no path to national electoral success without 40-ish% of the white vote, so the only conclusion is that either the liberal-leftists you’re talking about haven’t figured that out or that they would rather lose elections than concede anything at all in their arguments.

        2. Along these lines, there was a startling piece on NPR last weekend. A Muslim American activist in Chicago speaking about how he prayed while at the playground with his daughter, and the saw cars slowing down, stopping, and how this made him fear for his daughter. His fear was clearly affirmed by the piece – yes, white Americans probably hate you and might kill you. You should be afraid. Despite the fact that there have been very few incidents of anti-Muslim violence, your fear is valid. Why might this be so? Because in the wake of an actual incident of violence by a Muslim man against non-Muslim Americans, some people have been (supposedly) stirring up anti-Muslim sentiment.

          While I get the idea of not wanting to alienate Muslims, the scale of hypocrisy here is incredible to me – Muslim American fear of white Americans is completely valid, to be affirmed on national radio shows (over and over, I might add), in the absence of very much violence by white Americans against Muslims, but white American fear of Muslim Americans, after a series of violent incidents, is absolutely taboo.

          I’m a member of Chicago Public Radio. I’m pretty damned liberal in most ways. But I’ve started to notice just how odd the discourse is.

          1. This isn’t really the same thing. According to the FBI report released in November, anti-Muslim hate crimes haven’t been this common since the immediate aftermath of 9/11. They increased by 67% between 2014 and 2015, and the Justice Department views it as a serious concern. It’s more than “stirring up anti-Muslim sentiment.” Last year multiple Muslims were shot or beaten while walking down the street, including an imam and his assistant who were murdered execution-style on a sidewalk in Queens.

            In the scenario you’re referring to, the man realized he was drawing significant attention to himself and his identity as a Muslim, and it was causing people to gather and stare – even people who were driving down the road and had places to be. I doubt they were pulling over because they needed a moment to reflect on the beautiful diversity of the great American melting pot. So why were they stopping? Worrying about escalation seems like a logical reaction.

            You seem to be trying to compare that to white Americans fearing Muslims who aren’t doing anything out of the ordinary, and are simply frightening by virtue of being Muslim. There are a myriad of reasons why that doesn’t really add up, but for starters, the acts of violence you’re referring to are also frequently committed by non-Muslims. Murdering groups of random people is the purview of the bitterly angry and malcontent, not any particular religion. Not only are American Muslims neither of those things, as a whole, they’re actually very stable and stalwart forces of good in their communities, because their religion demands constant charitable work that benefits non-Muslims as well.

          2. This is such an interesting response, Archer. I had not said anything about people gathering and staring. Nor indeed had the man being interviewed. He had only mentioned cars, doing … well, to quote you “nothing out of the ordinary.” It’s quite normal to slow down or stop while driving on a neighborhood street near a park. They may have been dropping their own kids off at the park. There was nothing in his story that suggested that there was anything actually threatening, nor even that anyone had actually noticed him. Instead, it was precisely what you’ve described as an unfortunate attitude when held by other Americans – seeing substantial risk in the utterly normal activities of his neighbors. This was the exact point being made – that he had no actual evidence, but he had been brought to the point where the normal activities of his neighbors made him fearful, and the interviewer more or less said “yeah, that’s really where we are today. I can see why you’d be afraid of the normal activities of your neighbors.”

            But you’ve gone quite a bit further, somehow elaborating an entire scene, from whole cloth, in which a praying Muslim brings crowds of gaping haters. It’s interesting that this script comes to you so easily.

            At this juncture, it’s important to reiterate the statistics – there were significantly more non-Muslim Americans killed by Muslim Americans each of the last two years. I am definitely not saying that the statistics justify anger or fear of Muslims. Quite the reverse – I’ve often told people their fear of terrorist acts is out of all proportion to the incidence of such things. I’m just saying that that principle applies to this man in spades, since the statistics show that he’s even less likely to be victimized.

            I don’t actually have a problem with a story about his fear, though. It’s a genuine emotion. People, myself included, are frequently weak willed, cowardly, with lapses of judgment, irrational and overblown fears.

            What I dislike is the journalistic failure of simply coddling that fear, legitimating it without asking questions. It builds a false picture of America in the minds of people like you, who now find it easy to believe that a Muslim man praying in public would quickly find himself the object of a gaping mob considering their options of violence. These are the lies our tribe’s media tells us.

            It’s much more egregious, though, that our tribe’s media coddles the fear of this man while suppressing the story of the fears that non-Muslims have. This is why so many people in the other tribe use “NPR” and “the New York Times” as sneered epithets.

          3. Fear of Muslims is not rational and shouldn’t be coddled.

            It’s not rational because:

            – Terror attacks committed by Muslims are extremely rare outside of the Middle East and Africa. In the US you’re 1000 times more likely to be harmed by a non-Muslim criminal than a Muslim terrorist

            – Muslims in the US who have committed acts of terror make up .0000001% of the Muslim population here.

            Fear of social alienation or discrimination because of one’s skin color or religion has more of a basis in reality. I don’t think most Whites can relate to the feelings that non-Whites have about never truly being able to assimilate or be socially accepted as a “real American” because we’re the wrong skin color or practice the wrong religion.

  10. Wow, the HRC apologists just WON’T LET GO!

    It’s nice that Clinton did a photo-op and said some pleasing, insincere things in Flint. You know what she **didn’t** do in Michigan? She made not a single visit to a UAW hall or local. Not one. Up until her joke of a campaign, this has been practically a Michigan ritual for Dem presidential candidates. Everybody knows that the American auto industry and the UAW aren’t what they once were, but in Michigan they can still pull a lot of political weight, i.e., rally a lot of votes. Even more votes than wily, treacherous Jill Stein could muster.

    Granted, as the spouse of President Nafta, Clinton might not have got the warmest reception ever. Perhaps her six-figure salaried genius “campaign” staff thought it might produce bad “optics”. They were always keen on “optics”.

    But, as they say, what’s important is “moving forward”. And with that dynamic Schumer-Pelosi leadership team, the new Democratic Party has an absolutely golden future!

  11. I’m not naive enough to think that videos get viral entirely on their own, but doesn’t the view disparity say something about what actually resonates with people? I know it’s not just this video, I didn’t see a single story of the second type really break out and hold in the mainstream consciousness. You can say that’s a choice about coverage, that the media let things like Trump University vanish off the radar and the Hillary Campaign didn’t fight to keep them on, but if there was something that could have resonated, it would have resonated. Maybe it’s credibility that’s missing.

    1. You think that celebrities have more credibility than union members? “If there was something that could have resonated, it would have resonated” seems to me to completely misunderstand the attention economy and how it works.

  12. if all u wanted was hillary’s election, she should have divorced wild bill, and when the email thing came to first light said she was guilty as hell, apologized, said she made a colossal mistake, ate crow, and -gasp- repented -of this sin, middle america would have been happy to elect her. either one, for sure, both would have elected her. can’t stand trump, but shaking things up he’s doing that.

  13. The commenter above me talks about Hillary needing to divorce Bill. Something I have not seen once in thinkpieces about “why Hillary was hated” was this. And yet, I believe this was THE reason she was seen as untrustworthy. Not the right-wing smears. Largely not even her neoliberalism. That she did not divorce a man who seduced a 22-year old intern (and probably did worse to other women.) That sole act primed a whole lot of people to believe she had no integrity whatsoever.

    I lived in mid-Michigan at the time. People who used to like Hillary turned on her. They didn’t blame her for what her husband did. They blamed her for staying with a cheater who so publicly humiliated her. This is one of many ways in which collapsing all working class voters together regardless of region doesn’t work. Bible Belt voters are probably more likely to want a woman to stay with her husband no matter what. Not Upper Midwestern voters. No way. In the Rust Belt, you don’t let a man treat you like that. You don’t stay with a man who treats other women like that. You’re given leeway if you’re trapped by an economic or physical situation, but Hillary obviously wasn’t.

    I believe this is the core of why many people thought Hillary and Trump were the same, morality-wise. He’s a sexual predator, but she’s supported a sexual predator for decades as his wife, subjecting herself to constant public humiliation to stay with him. It’s seen as her betraying herself as a woman and the entire sisterhood of women. Cheating is a BIG BIG BIG deal to these people, and the kind of cheating Bill did is particularly inexcusable. So every time Hillary’s supporters reminded us that Trump’s a sexual predator, people remembered Bill, and thought, “what’s the difference?” And they stayed home.

    Also, back when I first read Hillary visited Michigan only once, I had a visceral feeling of being spat on. It was weird, but it came from the culture I grew up in. There’s a feeling that if you won’t set foot in someone’s house, you’re saying you’re too good for them. Hillary seemed to want to be anointed as was her due, and she was irritated that everyone didn’t fall in “with her” automatically. (Terrible slogan btw.) That attitude is poison to people in the Rust Belt. “Who died and made you queen?”

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