The Atlantic's Molly Ball: Democrats are 'screwed'

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When journalists surfaced at a major political science gathering in Chicago, a few things were abundantly clear, including the pointy heads' desire for more media attention and respect.

There was, too, the matter of how the Democrats are in a very bad way.

Several thousand attended the weekend confab of the Midwest Political Science Association, with political scientists from around the globe and hundreds of papers and early research findings delivered.

It's an eclectic academic feast (and, occasionally, famine). The many hundreds of presentations included "Cicero and the Origins of the Liberal Commonwealth," "What Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Identity Teaches Us about Political Identity and Vice-Versa," "Can Congress Be Productive?" and "How Political Professionals Perceive the Youth Vote."

Some sessions are pretty deep in the weeds, with modest audiences and many young academics presenting initial findings and getting diplomatically phrased critiques from established academics who serve as "discussants" once the young aspirants are done (such as the Texas academic who's studying every presidential press conference question asked from Ronald Reagan onward).

But there was also the easy to understand, such as "The Media and the 2016 Election: A View from the Campaign Trail."

A session chaired by Jennifer Lawless of American University and Danny Hayes of George Washington University included a panel with journalists Molly Ball (The Atlantic), Steve Peoples (The Associated Press) and Nia-Malika Henderson (CNN).

"I think the Democrats are kind of screwed at this point," said Henderson, underscoring what's clearly the current consensus. "They thought Hillary Clinton would win and their bench is really, really thin."

Ball was especially interesting in part since she's among a younger generation of journalists that, as Dartmouth political scientist Brendan Nyhan would note to me at another session, takes academic research seriously. That's as opposed to many more senior counterparts who'd often scoff at academics as removed from the nitty-gritty reality the journalists prided themselves on covering.

"It will be fun to cover the Democratic civil war for a change," she said. "It's hard to underestimate how screwed the Democrats are."

There are the Republicans' giant congressional majorities, holding the The White House, ruling most state legislatures and having a majority of governors. "There's no pipeline" of obvious Democratic talent.

But it was smart for her to note, especially sitting in Chicago, that, at this same time before the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama was a little-known state senator. "It only takes one person."

Peoples was vivid on both how wrong the press was last year but also how so many others were, too. "If you wanted a playbook on how to lose an election, Trump executed that to perfection." Internal Republican polling and Reince Priebus thought Trump would lose, he noted.

"We have to question every assumption we had," he said. "I think as a journalist I walk away asking myself some tough questions. But it is unclear how we do it better next time." If you can't trust polling, what do you do, he wondered.

Lawless concluded with questions about gender and politics, her specialty, in particular about whether sexism undermined Clinton (the consensus was that probably not). But when one dissects the Trump vote, and other facts like the strong White college-educated vote for Clinton (a rarity for a Democrat), has the political ground shifted in dramatic and fundamental ways?

Ball, the journalist with an academic's well-grounded skepticism, said, "I want to know if there has been a lasting realignment. Or was it an anomaly? That's going to be a question I try to answer in my journalism."

Headline of the day

"How Goldman Sachs Made More Than $1 Billion With Your Credit Score — Goldman, which bought TransUnion in 2012, doubled down on clients like online lending startups that were hungry for data on borrowers." (The Wall Street Journal)

The Blaze ablaze with litigation

"Conservative talk show host Tomi Lahren has filed a lawsuit against Glenn Beck and his online platform, The Blaze, alleging wrongful termination." (AP)

"Lahren was ousted from her program after she said she was in favor of abortion rights while appearing on ABC’s The View' on March 17."

The Masters lexicon

If you're a golf fan, did you notice during the dramatic finale of The Masters how the announcers referred to the "patrons?" Not fans, spectators, gallery, as do real journalists.

The Augusta National Golf Club uses that term and so do many of its business partners, like a long-solicitous CBS.

Bashing Trump's attack from the right

"It’s unclear what Trump hoped to accomplish by bombing Syria, but it’s illegal in any case. On Wednesdays, we are at war with the Islamic State. On Thursdays, we are at war with the Islamic State, in effect acting as a cat’s-paw for the world’s leading jihad brigade against the government of Bashar al-Assad, who apparently intends to murder Syrians until he is pleased with what is left. We should let him." (The National Review)

The Pinocchio Test

What about the Mitch McConnell-Paul Ryan flip-flop on a military attack on Syria, having been against it when President Obama contemplated it but now heralding Donald Trump?

The Washington Post's Fact Checker, Glenn Kessler, goes out of his way to underscore the distinct differences between what Obama contemplated and what Trump actually executed. So comparisons can be facile. Still, he concludes:

"But the reality is that Trump’s action was more limited than what Obama had contemplated at the time. At the very least, that should be acknowledged before applauding the new commander-in-chief."

The art of self-promotion

Jay Rosen, a New York University critic of media, invites you to hear him speak on April 18, in part "because our journalists still have not coped with the threat Trump represents to their system, for reasons I will attempt to explain." (Press Think)

There will be a 40-minute question-and-answer period, he informs. Perhaps somebody can ask him to detail his own journalism background, including the White House experience (apparently none) that leaves him such an unrelenting critic of the folks there. (Recode)

An early homage

Walter Mossberg, ace tech writer, did not die, he's merely announced his June retirement. But a New York Times column by Farhad Manjoo and Mike Isaac used word of the retirement to very justifiably laud "a veteran and pioneer of the technology journalism world."

But here's what an academic can miss

From Trump pool reporter Louise Radnofsky of The Wall Street Journal, who was "covering" the president at Mar-a-Lago on Sunday morning, at first presumably from the confines of the Palm Beach Public Library.

8:56 a.m.: "Library is closed. Pool is moving to IHOP, on wrangler's suggestion."

11:05 a.m.: "Pool is now holding at the open Palm Beach County library branch near the golf club, after IHOP's friendly hospitality."

1:39 p.m.: "Pool left Palm Beach County Library main branch (where a local said we have arrived Sundays at noon 'like clockwork') at 1:15 p.m., and waited in vans nearby until joining the motorcade leaving Trump International Golf Club at 2:32 p.m."

The morning babble

There was acute sports analysis from "Fox & Friends" on Sergio Garcia winning the Masters. "This woman seems to have helped him out," says Brian Kilmeade. "This woman" has a name and is Angela Akins, a reporter with the Golf Channel who is his fiancé. (AJC)

CNN was heavy on Syria and North Korea threats. New pundit April Ryan said the situation with Syria (and Russia) was "a very intense issue right now." Yup.

MSNBC's "Morning Joe's" Richard Haass was rather supportive of the missile strike as a "circumscribed action."

Oh, if you missed it last night on HBO, John Oliver wants to assist Bill O'Reilly by running an ad on his show to help him understand sexual harassment. It's inspired by Medical Direct Club’s “Catheter Cowboy.” (The Washington Post)

"Exhibitionism"

"Exhibitionism," an 18,000-square-foot look at Rolling Stones artifacts and interactive displays, is arriving in Chicago after initial stops in London and New York. The Chicago Tribune talks to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, calling to mind for Jagger a historical note when it comes to a section on stage design:

"The 1969 tour was the first tour of arenas that ever carried its own sound equipment. Yeah, in all of rock 'n' roll. Before that, you had equipment, it was always on the stage and it was local stuff. This was hung and it was your rental for the whole of the period. And that had never been done before. Now it sounds really small, but that's kind of a big step in the world where you don't have video screens, and you've only got sound."

A vaguely leftward turn in Columbus?

"The Columbus Dispatch apparently is abandoning its hard-right editorial page slant with the departure of Glenn Sheller, announced March 19." (Columbus Free Press)

First-world ills

"Twitter’s top executives are very well-paid, but that still didn’t stop many from leaving the struggling social communications company." (Recode)

"In fact, two of Twitter’s highest paid executives in 2016, COO Adam Bain and CTO Adam Messinger, gave up some serious money when they resigned from the company at the end of last year. The take they left behind? Over $35 million in stock awards combined."

You missed this?

"After ordering the first U.S. military attack against the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, President Donald Trump held a press conference Friday to express his full confidence that the airstrike had completely wiped out the lingering Russian scandal."

Maybe not. But thank The Onion for raising the possibility.

Corrections? Tips? Please email me: jwarren@poynter.org. Would you like to get this roundup emailed to you every morning? Sign up here.

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    James Warren

    New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S. News & World Report. Former managing editor and Washington Bureau Chief, Chicago Tribune.

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