The Time Has Come to Give The Lie

Go, Soul, the body’s guest,
Upon a thankless errand;
Fear not to touch the best;
The truth shall be thy warrant:
Go, since I needs must die,
And give the world the lie.
           —Sir Walter Raleigh, “The Lie,” (c. 1592)

A question many of us should be asking: do I believe in lies?

But first, a confession: I did not think Donald Trump would win this election.

I was wrong. Were you?

There are those in my circle of influence—I think of John Robb and Lynn Rees in particular, though they were not the only ones—who claimed Trump would win, and claimed Trump would win in exactly the places and for exactly the reasons he ended up winning.

I discounted what they had to say. I will not be making that mistake again.

Who have you discounted? Better yet, who should you have discounted?

In demographic terms, there are two reasons Trump now claims the title President-elect. The first is that in the old Northwest he galvanized millions of people, mostly white and rarely educated, to vote for him. In days past this demographic split their vote. Many used to vote for Democrats. Even more just did not vote. That has changed.

Why and how this change occurred, and what it means for the future of this republic, is important. I will have more to say about that on a later day. Today though we need to focus in on something else—the second reason Trump won this election.

It’s a simple one: millions of people who voted for Barrack Obama would not show up to vote for Hillary Clinton.

This was true in almost every state. It was true for Latino voters. It was also true for black voters. And millennials. And women. And yes, it was true for the whites as well.

More dramatic still: this took everybody who should have known better by surprise.

I suppose that is not quite true. Some people knew. Some suggested that this would not be the electoral dream so many imagined it to be. But that wasn’t the narrative. The narrative was that this was going to be an election with record turnout, an election that mobilized the masses against the great monster of bigotry and oppression. There would be more people voting here than ever before.

It was all a lie.

Some of my readers supported the President elect. Those of you who did not are angry. You have a right to be. But time is short. If you wish your anger to matter, then it must be focused. Rage! —but channel that rage towards the places it can make an immediate impact. It is time to destroy the lies.

We heard these lies the entire election season. We repeated them. Most of us believed at least some of them. Some of us believed all of them.

The lies went like this. Hillary Rodham Clinton is a wonderful and visionary person. She is a representative for women across the world, an extraordinarily talented politician, and a true example of what makes America great. Clinton’s words are inspiring. Her political judgement is beyond reproach—in fact, given current national conditions, her political instincts are ideal. She is a good listener. She is in touch with the concerns of the nation and its ordinary people. She is a woman of the future. History is on her side.

This lie both enabled and was enabled by others: America’s economy is only getting better; because of her predecessor’s efforts, the country’s future is bright. Americans look forward to that future. Only those deceived by Fox News and the “Alt-right” could believe otherwise. In fact, if you didn’t realize it yet, the few thousand twitterers known as the ‘Alt-right’ are a critical part of the enemy coalition; when normal Americans hear about this new political force, they will care about it, remember it, and feel threatened by it. Demographics is destiny. Hispanic voters will be an electoral force to be reckoned with. Gender will be a deciding factor in this election. The concerns of working class whites do not deserve to be addressed; really, it’s an open question whether that demographic even needs to be respected. Jim Webb and Bernie Sanders were out of touch. The media isn’t actually filled with the lap dogs of the DNC. The DNC isn’t actually filled with the lap-dogs of the Clinton campaign. Clinton’s victory is so sure that she should be spending her time in Arizona and Georgia, not in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The Democratic Party is in the best shape it has ever been in. Sharing John Oliver videos makes a difference.

It was all a lie.

Time for some truths: America’s governing class is bound together more by geography, education, and manners than anything else; it does not understand and cannot relate to the lives of most of their countrymen. Socially and economically the led and the leaders are distinct. In less than two decades, this elite has launched this country into three wars, and lost each of them. None were punished or held accountable for doing so. They plunged the earth into recession, a recession entire regions still feel–but none were punished or held accountable for doing so. This class is fundamentally unaccountable: bankrupt Americans, bankroll cartels—in the end, none of that matters if you’ve made the right connections and you speak the right shibboleths. The gateways into this class are shrinking. The privileges it claims grow larger. Amid all this walks in a woman who embodies it all, Davos Man in the flesh, avatar of establishment orthodoxy. She is the author of one war, supporter of two others; devoted to the poor of other nations but aloof to the poor of her own; friend of the banks, paid by Wall Street when not in government service, and financed by it when on the campaign trail; undeserving darling of a slavish media, uncrowned queen of a slavish party, beloved by all the institutions Americans have grown to distrust and hate; unable to keep rules she demands of her subordinates, and excused for failings that would crush the careers of the less connected. Onto this stage walks this ghoul, and you expected America to be excited about voting for her.

It is time to destroy the lies.

You lost because your party chose a messenger and a message five million of your own voters—not Fox News Acolytes, not the Breitbart junkies, but your own voters—could not stomach. You lost because the party elites and their press hanger-ons lied to themselves, to each other, and then to you. Hillary Clinton was unfit to be the President of the United States. The majority of Americans believed this. The majority of Americans still believe this. An enormous amount of self-deceit is needed to claim otherwise.

Some of you aren’t ready to hear this. Some of you are not willing to concede it. I am sorry I must speak to you so bluntly and so roughly, but time is short. You just lost three branches of government in one night. You don’t control the Senate, and you don’t have the House. You’ve only managed to keep a hold on five state governments—the lowest number in the entire history of your party. You were a percentage point away from losing Minnesota. Minnesota! Yet you thought you were about to win it all.

The time has come to drive out the lies.

Normally this is where you start hearing calls to “spend time in the wilderness.” Your party elites deserve this. Maybe you do too. There just isn’t time for it. Look folks, I am no Democrat. I’m much more comfortable in an America where the court leans 5-4 to the right than the other way around. But I’m also an honest checks-and-balances sort. The prospect of Trump unchecked is unnerving. Many of you go further—you express abject terror.

If that feeling is genuine, then I plead with you, cast out the lies.

Events will move quickly. The Democratic Party is without a leader. The President and his administration are packing up shop. Clinton is a dead letter. Harry Reid is gone. The DNC is a mess. A civil war is brewing. The battle for your party’s soul is coming—and when it is over, the winners must be people with better judgement than those who ran the last campaign.

That is only the first part. The second may be more important—the cadre of “thought leaders” who led you all into this mess must be cast aside. Nate Silver and the modelers like him deserve to be treated like the cultic shamans they are. Ezra Klein, Zack Beauchamp, Dylan Matthews and the Vox set, who did so much to establish the false narratives that dominated this cycle, must be called out, talked down, and driven out. The campaign’s go-to propaganda disseminators (e.g. Joan Walsh, Greg Sargent, etc.) should be treated like pariahs; reporters who could have pushed back on emerging narratives, but instead let DNC and campaign team members vet their reporting (e.g. Mark Leibovich, Glenn Thrush, etc.) should be treated no better.

These men and women are drunk on their own cool-aid. They built an echo chamber and mistook its confines for the world outside it. They sold their self-deceptions to you as fair and reasoned truths—but they are and always were deceptions. You and I were fed a diet of lies. Now the liars and those who believed them both find themselves locked out of power, utterly unprepared for the age about to dawn. These people need to be held accountable. You are the only one who can do that to them.

Politics is not about signaling disgust or praise. Politics is a contest over the division of power. To win this contest you need men and women tethered to reality, not to shibboleths. Those people do exist on the left. Among elected officials, Tulsi Gabbard comes to mind. Adam Elkus recently endorsed David Auerbach and Chris Arnade as media personalities who fit the bill; I might add Thomas Frank to that list. There will be others. The time has come to put them up front.

As for the rest? Do as Raleigh directs: “give them all the lie.”

Leave a Comment


The story doesn't work. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote over Donald Trump by well over a million votes, and possibly more as the ballots keep coming in. She lost because of a relic system from 18th century politics, a system that was a joke a mere ten years after the Constitution was ratified.

Good post. There is little chance this will happen. The Democrats will continue as they are. They will vilify their opponents and pounce on missteps and mishaps of Trump and Republicans, they will deny the legitimacy of Trump and any Republican and try to make an even stronger negative case against their opponents. The future of the Democrat Party will be a rallying around Michelle Obama and the creation of a new Obama entity along the lines of the Clinton Foundation. Michelle will be elected the US Senator from Illinois in 2018, and run for President in 2024, possibly in 2020 if Trump is falling apart or does not run again. This new Obama-centric complex will dominate the Party, it will become the focus for support from he the business community to the extent Trump arouses their ire. Establishment Republicans will find a new leader who will confront and try to thwart Trump, block his policies and prevent him from being reelected. Possibly this will be Paul Ryan, possibly someone else.

Nah Brett, you are still living in the lie. We live in an electoral system. Everybody knew that we lived in an electoral system. Everybody said she was going to win an electoral victory. Another leader, or perhaps even this one with a wiser strategy and better judgement, could have won in this system as it is. Whoever wants to be President has to win in the system as it is. Everybody has always known that. But no one was a little bit worried about a popular vote win and an electoral loss in October 2016, or even March 2016. She lost the only game that is being played.

Wonderfully written.

The very idea of seeing Klein and the Vox crowd being driven out makes me grin to no end.

I think it's fairly easy to see the problem with the Democratic Party today. As it became less and less about unions and the white working class, it was left with the urban areas that have a difficult time extending past the coasts.

You identify people like Nate Silver and Vox as core of this problem. In other words, we should get rid of the centrists in the party.

But who then takes over? Let's use Britain as an example. When Labor's center fell, we saw socialists pick up the mantle of power. How has that worked for them? How will Sanders be any different in a country that is arguably more conservative. You give authors like Thomas Frank who proposes massive extensions in the social safety net that roll back Bill Clinton's reforms (aka no new ideas there).

No, Dems either need to do something new or do the center as well as we did with Obama. Cutting and running to socialism is not the alternative.

On a side note, you pick out Nate Silver despite the fact that, of all the pollsters, he was the one that gave Trump the highest shot.

I have my own book I'm writing I'd love to talk over with you on new ideas for the Dems to win it. Send me a message on FB sometime.


I don't care about Klein's policy prescriptions vs. Frank's. The difference between the two is not just the policies they advocate, but their grasp on reality. Ezra Klein was an Obama admin, then Clinton campaign, play thing. He lives in the thickest bubble in the country, and did a great deal to create it. He's toxic.

Frank, on the other hand, wondered why Kansas went red then spent 10 years finding out.

There are centrists who have their eyes open. David Auerbach andAdam Elkus, mentioned along with Frank above, are exactly of that sort. It's not the policies I question, but the ability to see the truth and then say what is seen, that matters.

I'll respond here to both of your posts. First, let me respond to your newest article, where you hammer the factiness of liberals. It's great to point out that the polls were off by two points. It's lovely that you can say liberals were wrong and their world was upside down. Now, the problem is that I'm not sure what you feel is the best replacement for polls and poll aggregates. Should we all just wander Kansas developing a gut feeling? It seems you're advocating for a talking head model where people scream, "My Facebook feed is full of _____, so you must be wrong!"

Here is the narrative I saw. First, there were two incredibly unpopular candidates. When people were talking about Trump's sins, they were more likely to vote for Clinton and vice versa. Then, right before the election, Clinton's sins were brought up. During the debacle with the leaked tapes, Clinton was up by 8 points. When people were talking about the FBI, Clinton was up by 2 or 3 points, and some of those polls had data from the 8 point period. Silver appropriately took the data as given, and GAVE CLINTON HER LOWEST CHANCE. They were unable to dip her chances any lower because the data was still laced with some of that stuff from late October. I bought Silver's story, and took his side against the Huffpost pollster who called Silver an "unskewer."

On a side note, Silver's performance during the Republican primary wasn't that good, but I don't blame him, as it's hard to tell who'll win in a 15 man race. He mostly based it off of indicators beyond the polls that worked in previous races (endorsements, money raised, etc.).

Onto Vox. So let me identify your problem. The problem isn't that he's partisan as hell. Hell, I'm partisan as hell. I believe Trump is a misguided, uneducated, can't-read-a-single-book, hyper-ADD-raddeled sexual miscreant. I agree with the story that Trump's tweets on the protest haven't been Presidential. I challenge you to say otherwise. I believe it is the job of the media to tell the people what Trump is. But that's not your problem. The problem, as you see it, is that nobody in Vox saw this coming. Well, let me first say that with the horse race narrative I put up above, it's understandable that they didn't put out lots of doom and gloom pieces. I counted 3 post-Comey stories that said Dems may be in trouble and one election night story showing how Trump has a realistic chance at 270. I don't think those numbers are terrible. They weren't shared nearly as much, and I doubt you saw them, but they were there. I read two of them. But the story that really shook up Washington, and causes me to roll my eyes a bit at your argument, is this:

I have a few people who are Trump supporters in my feed. I feel it's valuable to tap into their mindset every once and a while. I have one on FB that has called Obama a secret Russian Manchurian candidate and a possible double agent for ISIS. My roommate's dad calls Arabs "sand N-words." The questions of how to bring these people into the party, and should we bring these people into the party deserve a long hard look in the mirror. Your arguments do little to bring any light to that question. I'll leave you with my favorite article of the post-election flurry.

"I am wary of polemic binaries."

Polemic has its uses. Specifically, if its role is to convince people to act. If it's jsut status signaling then it has no point and I have no patience for it.


I think what I expect people to do next is pretty clear though.


You and I are both from Minnesota. That's the leading state for counties that voted for Obama twice and then flipped for Trump.

The question you should be asking isn't whether or not the DFL should be bringing these people *into* the party. It's about why they left in the first place.

The gap between the leaders and the led has a dimension that I don't see commented upon. When the next big mass casualty war comes, and it will come, will the working class agree to go and fight? Not only is the leader class entirely disconnected from the led, the leader class does not go and participate in the fight. They haven't done that since Vietnam. We have gotten away it with since then because of the scale of the wars we have fought, a small professional military could handle things. But when the next conflict with a large butcher's bill starts, and again, it will come, will the flyover people agree when the leader class, Murray's superzips, say "Go ye forth" rather than "Follow me."?

Perhaps wandering around Kansas and getting a feel for going on would be a better way. That is what Ernie Pyle did, in peace and in war. He had a pretty good feel for what was happening.