Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news media and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

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Paul Krugman: Paranoid Politics Goes Viral

When everything is a liberal media conspiracy.

We still don’t know how much damage Covid-19 — the coronavirus disease — will do, but it’s reasonable to be very concerned. After all, it appears to be highly transmissible, and it is probably a lot more lethal than ordinary flu.

But not to worry, say right-wing pundits and news organizations: It’s all a hoax, a conspiracy by the liberal media to make Donald Trump look bad. Administration officials and Trump himself have echoed their claims.

These claims are, of course, crazy. Among other things, Covid-19 is a global phenomenon, with major outbreaks ranging from South Korea to Italy. Are the South Korean and Italian media also part of a conspiracy to get Trump?

This craziness was, however, entirely predictable to anyone who has been following right-wing politics. It’s just the latest battle in a long-running war on truth, on the very idea that there exists an inconvenient objective reality.

Michelle Goldberg: Bernie Sanders Can’t Count on New Voters

There’s little evidence a progressive candidate can remake the electorate.

As Bernie Sanders has taken the lead in the Democratic primary, those of us with doubts that America would elect a Jewish democratic socialist president have been able to comfort ourselves with polls showing him beating Donald Trump, often by larger margins than his competitors.

New political science research by David Broockman of the University of California, Berkeley, and Joshua Kalla of Yale erodes some of that comfort. Broockman and Kalla surveyed over 40,000 people — far more than a typical poll — about head-to-head presidential matchups. They found that when they weight their numbers to reflect the demographic makeup of the population rather than the likely electorate, as many polls do, Sanders beats Trump, often by more than other candidates.

But the demographics of people who actually vote are almost always different from the demographics of people who can vote. That’s where their analysis raises concerns about Sanders’s chances.

Eugene Robinson: On coronavirus, Trump needs the ones he hates: Experts and journalists

If the coronavirus is to be successfully contained, President Trump will have to rely on both the government experts he calls the “deep state” and the news media he calls the “enemy of the people.” I have a hard time being optimistic that he will ask for the help he needs.

The irony would be delicious if the situation were not so serious. In China, the epicenter, the death rate from covid-19 — the disease caused by the coronavirus — has reportedly been about 2 percent. Though different countries have reported different mortality rates, that figure would make the virus 20 times more deadly than the seasonal flu. We know the virus is spreading here, as evidenced by a cluster of cases of covid-19 in the Seattle area, but we have no idea how widespread it is because we have done so little testing. As of the weekend, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had conducted only about 500 tests; health authorities in Britain, by contrast, had done more than 10,000 tests. The number of confirmed deaths from covid-19 is rising: Washington state authorities announced four more fatalities on Monday.

Trump has spent his presidency denigrating the “permanent federal bureaucracy,” which he accuses of being unaccountable and disloyal. Now, however, he must count on longtime officials at agencies such as the CDC and the National Institutes of Health to understand this dangerous new pathogen and limit its spread. You can bash bureaucrats all you want, but sometimes you really need them.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Bloomberg’s campaign threatens to turn our elections into an auction

In last week’s Democratic debate, former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg delivered, with a slip of the tongue, one of the night’s most telling lines.

Let’s just go on the record. They talk about 40 Democrats. Twenty-one of those are people that I spent a hundred million dollars to help elect . . . I bough — I, I got them.”

He’s right. Too often elections can be decided by the highest bidder. This has made running a political campaign more expensive than ever.

“When adjusting for inflation, nine of the 10 most expensive non-special election House races ever occurred in the 2018 election cycle,” an OpenSecrets analysis found in January. “Eight of the top 10 most expensive Senate races occurred after Citizens United with inflation factored in.” In 2016, political ad spending totaled $6.25 billion, up $2 billion from 2012. Ad spending in 2020 is projected to reach nearly $10 billion.

Into this financial arms race candidate Bloomberg thundered, pouring more than half a billion dollars into advertising and millions more to hire thousands of campaign staffers across over 125 field offices. He has also spent in more unorthodox ways, the New York Times reports, “hiring 500 people — at $2,500 a month — to spend 20 to 30 hours a week recruiting their friends and family to write supportive posts” online.

As Jeet Heer writes in the Nation, “Bloomberg is creating a model for running for president, one in which a rich man can simply buy a political party with the same ease he acquires a mansion or a yacht.” This oligarchical strategy threatens to turn a contest of ideals into an auction and further undermine the legitimacy of our democratic process.

Paul Waldman: Sanders is a terribly risky nominee. But so is Biden.

The stampede to Joe Biden’s side among Democrats in the wake of his victory in a single primary has been remarkable to behold. What they are unlikely to say out loud is that this isn’t about Biden’s inspiring vision or compelling personality, so much as their fears that if Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) were the nominee, he’d lose to President Trump. Biden, for all his weaknesses, looks like a better bet.

I can’t say for sure that they’re wrong. There are no certainties here, and no way to account for every variable that could affect the outcome of the election, let alone events that we can’t foresee.

But what we ought to realize is that both Sanders and Biden represent a huge risk to the Democrats — but for completely different reasons.

To simplify things a bit, I fear that Sanders would do everything right and fall short because he was fated to lose, while I fear that Biden would do everything wrong and blow a race he could have won.