The Washington Post -- and much of the establishment -- wants you to buy a lifetime subscription to the politics of fear.
Dana Milbank, a columnist for the paper, popped up at Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein's news conference that focused on climate change. After Stein noted that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have gotten billions in free media, he chimed in: "Dana Milbank with the Washington Post segment of the corporate media. I have a conundrum I want to present to you. I could write about today and others could report here about what an important issue climate change is. And we would publish it or broadcast it. The fact is very few people will read it. They will go read or view stories about Trump's staff machinations or Clinton's e-mails. I'm not sure the issue is necessarily a corporate media but what people are demanding. Why is that? What is the way around that if there is one?"
Milbank is pretending to be so concerned about what it is people want. What came to mind for me was John Milton's aphorism: "They who have put out the people's eyes reproach them of their blindness."
Stein was more diplomatic: "Right now so many people are tuned out [of] the election and out of the political system in general because they are accustomed to being ignored by that system. Was Bernie Sanders tuned out? I don't think so. I think he had more attention from the American public than just about anyone at least from my point of view. It looks to me like he was the guy saying that the emperor had no clothes and everyone was agreeing with him. Even Trump supporters were agreeing with him. Polls showed that the majority of Trump supporters are not motivated by supporting Trump. They are motivated by not liking Hillary Clinton. Let's give them another choice besides Donald Trump as an alternative to Hillary Clinton."
Having been deftly rebuffed, Milbank didn't note his own question in his column in the Post.
Rather, he used mine. I actually had some rather hard questions in mind for Stein. I confess: I refrained. I sensed Milbank -- who was sitting next to me -- would use them to try to lynch Stein. It's hard to have an open conversation with a wolf at the door.
So I asked her relatively easy questions. He still used that to go after Stein.
The question I asked Stein was about her electoral hurdles, including the phony Commission on Presidential Debates and "isn't part of the issue that some people who agree with you are effectively driving down your numbers? Noam Chomsky is basically telling people: Climate change -- the very issue you talked about -- Trump is a climate denier, you've got to vote for Clinton in so-called swing states. How do you get past that hurdle when people who presumably agree with you on the issues are effectively driving down your numbers?"
Milbank transformed my question into Chomsky "has said that the only 'rational choice' for swing-state voters is to support Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. 'How do you get past that hurdle?' Sam Husseini from VotePact, a group that supports third parties, asked Stein from the audience."
First off, I identified myself as with VotePact.org, but Milbank drops the .org because he doesn't want people to check out the website. And of course he doesn't link to it. I mean, in this day and age -- how rude. After all, I did his work for him.
Second, VotePact.org does not "support third parties" per se. It can tersely be described as encouraging disenchanted Democrats and disenchanted Republicans to pair up and vote for the independent candidates the prefer. If people actually wanted Clinton or Trump, there would be nothing to the idea. But, as it is, that's not an idea the esteemed Mr Milbank wants to instill in the minds of readers.
And this shows Milbank's brazen hypocrisy since he was pretending with his question to be so concerned about giving the people what they want. I actually talked to him after the news conference, telling him that no poll is asking the U.S. public who they want to be president. The major polls all ask some variation of the same "if the election were held today, who would you vote for" question. But that question just replicates the bind the public faces in the voting booth, compelling people to vote for their "lesser evil". They are not public opinion polls. But they are reported on endlessly as if they are, thereby molding public opinion to discount alternatives to Clinton and Trump and buy into the the politics of fear. I actually gave Milbank a copy of a news release making this case. He feigned concern about why it would be that no pollster was asking the public what they want.
I say feigned in part because Milbank would later tweet a pic of the news conference that purported to show a low level of interest in the news conference, ignoring the dozen or so cameras that were there and the people who filled up the room by the time Stein got to the event. In his own column he sites what appears to be the lowest lowball of averages he could find regarding Stein's standing in the skewed polls. Some polls don't even list Stein. And of course, he ignores the argument I made to him about the skewed question all these polls are depending upon.
Milbank is a hatchet man and did a couple of similar jobs on Bernie Sanders, writing a piece "Democrats would be insane to nominate Bernie Sanders" early this year. This sums up the logic of the establishment in how it eviscerates choice: You can't vote for moderate change in the primary, because you'll lose in the general and you can't vote for change in the general because you'll end up with worse.
Milbank ends his column with the words: "If opposing Trump is subscribing to the politics of fear, then put me down for a lifetime subscription."
Indeed. That's what the emissaries of the establishment want: Just a lifetime of servitude. How troublesome is that, really? It's just your life and your political freedom. Why shouldn't you fork that over without troubling your pretty little head about possible ways out?
All this is exactly what VotePact.org is designed to over come. It's what Milbank -- as well unfortunately as Chomsky and even Stein and Nader -- have all ignored: Is there an actual solution to the "spoiler" problem?
I have in fact put forward two solutions, which are related. One relates to what pollsters should do, the other relates to what voters could do.
Pollsters should ask people who they want to be president, not "who would you vote for if the election were held today" -- which is a tactical, false hypothetical question that simply replicates the constraints of the voting booth. This is especially insidious given how the polls are used to exclude candidates from the debate stage. See my "How Presidential "Non-Opinion" Polls Drive Down Third Party Numbers and Facilitate Debate Exclusion."
The way that voters can overcome this problem is by pairing up. People who are mainly voting for Trump because they don't want Clinton should pair up with people who are voting for Clinton because they don't want Trump. They could instead vote their actual preferences, be that for Jill Stein of the Green Party, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party or any other independent candidate. The unfortunate reality is that this possibility has not only been ignored by the major media and establishment pollsters, but also by alleged political renegades and by independent candidates ostensibly searching for a path to victory.
That's the tough question for Stein I didn't ask: What's your strategy? Are you actually trying to win? Stein is almost there when she notes: "Polls showed that the majority of Trump supporters are not motivated by supporting Trump. They are motivated by not liking Hillary Clinton. Let's give them another choice besides Donald Trump as an alternative to Hillary Clinton." And she notes the the tens of millions of people who are heavily indebted could constitute an electoral majority. But that's not a strategy. VotePact.org takes those observations and points to a strategy: Get endorsements in pairs, with a would-be Clinton voter and would-be Trump voter who know and trust each other teaming up, overcoming their fear and voting for the third parties of their choice.
It seems increasingly clear: If you don't do this, you likely get exactly what Milbank unwittingly admits to: A lifetime subscription of the politics of fear.
And that is something anyone with a conscience should not buy -- and what we all should be truly afraid of.