Brexit voters don’t know anything, says media charged with informing them



The morning after Britons voted to leave the European Union, Matthew Yglesias posted a piece to Vox headlined Brexit: British people probably should have Googled this stuff before voting. It reported that as polls closed and Leave’s narrow victory became apparent, Google searches such as “what happens if we leave the EU?” increased more than 250 percent. After Brexit results were announced, “what is the EU?” became the second-most searched question on the subject.

The cynical explanation was too good to resist. Yglesias took this Googling of Brexit-related information as proof the Leave vote was motivated by ignorance, citing it as a reason to leave policy decisions to representatives and not the people themselves. Over at The Washington Post, Brian Fung ran a similar take on the same numbers headlined The British are frantically Googling what the EU is, hours after voting to leave it. Both of these stories offer an irresistible narrative: that voters made this evidently bad decision without understanding what they were doing. But there are two problems with that story:

  1. Although the volume of EU-related searches tripled, the total number of searches for “what is the EU” came to less than a thousand, and the others were comparably low.
  2. “Public Ignorant” is a funny headline to read in the newspaper.

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Chris Cillizza gives Sanders an uncharitable reading


There is very little Combat! blog today, since I was required to usefully intervene in a chiropractic emergency this afternoon. But I couldn’t help noticing Chris Cillizza’s intensely critical gloss of Bernie Sanders’s remarks on the possibility of endorsing Hillary Clinton. Here’s a sample of the remarks Cillizza called “remarkably condescending” and “by turns baffling and surreal”:

It’s not a question of my endorsement. It’s a question of the American people understanding that Secretary Clinton is prepared to stand with them as they work longer hours for low wages, as they cannot afford health care, as their kids can’t afford to go to college. Make it clear that she is on their side, that she is prepared to take on Wall Street, the drug companies, fossil fuel industry. Deal with the global crisis of climate change. I have no doubt that if Secretary Clinton makes that position, those positions clear, she will defeat Trump and defeat him by a very wide margin.

It sounds like Sanders is demurring on the question of his own endorsement by urging Clinton to adopt a platform that will appeal to left-leaning voters. Perhaps that is quixotic or even petulant, given that he is (still) running as a Democrat, and Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. But it is not “stunning,” as Cillizza has it, nor “amazingly condescending,” as the headline promises. If it is condescending at all, it is no more so than asking a man still campaigning for the Democratic nomination when he will endorse his opponent.

I think Sanders should probably drop out. But insofar as staying in might pull the party platform to the left, he should keep at it. There are a lot of people struggling out there, and right now the interests of poor and lower middle-class voters are not being served by either party. Their choice is between a socially conservative party of the investor class and a socially liberal party of the investor class. As that same Bernie Sanders argues in the New York Times today:

Millions of American voters, like the Leave supporters, are understandably angry and frustrated by the economic forces that are destroying the middle class. In this pivotal moment, the Democratic Party and a new Democratic president need to make clear that we stand with those who are struggling and who have been left behind.

The angry, working-class voters who turned to Trump and wrecked the Republican Party are the Democrats’ target audience. Clearly, they want something different. I think Sanders is right to withhold his endorsement from Clinton at this point, because she has shown little commitment to the policies that he brought into the race. Those policies appeal to millions of voters. The Democrats would be mistaken to leave them on the table just to reassure, as Sanders puts it, “a handful of billionaires.

Both major parties poll below 50% favorability

I love you. I cannot concentrate on my work in polling for thoughts of you. Please tell me if your feelings toward me are very favorable, mostly..."

“I love you so much I can hardly concentrate on my work at the polling firm. Please, tell me if your feelings toward me are very favorable, mostly…”

Good news for Democrats! The Republican Party has registered its lowest favorability rating in the history of the Bloomberg Politics poll, a venerable institution that dates back to the America of 2009. Basically, the GOP is as unpopular as it’s been since George W. Bush left office. But sic transit gloria, you guys, because no sooner is this laurel heaped upon the brow of Democrats than their feet are heaped with poop.

Just over half of respondents to this poll found the Democratic Party “mostly unfavorable” or “very unfavorable.” That’s about a one percent improvement from 2009, with some peregrinations in between. The astute reader may observe that the two parties’ respective peregrinations kind of resemble each other, as though they were variations on the same line. Probably, any poll like this should also include the question “how do you feel about political parties?” for perspective.

But probably we shouldn’t pay attention to polls at all. It’s hard to argue the boys at Bloomberg really captured the geist of the zeit when 55% of respondents said they’re better off than there were in 2009, but only 23% said the country was on the right track. Maybe Rush Limbaugh is right, and the country really is filling up with guilty millionaires. Or maybe you can’t learn anything substantive by calling one thousand arbitrary yahoos. There is at least one good band name in this paragraph. You can read the Bloomberg story here.

Friday links! How dumb are the fascists at my door? edition

Like so many photoshops, it really makes you think

This obvious Photoshop really makes you think.

As near as I can gather from the markets, Britain has voted to break off into the sea. The British pound sterling—or “kwat,” as the Cockneys call it—plunged to its lowest value in thirty years last night, after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. It was widely perceived as a victory for white nationalism, after pro-exit politicians stoked fear of Muslim immigrants streaming into England on EU passports. “Brexit,” as leaving  became known, was so popular among assholes and so vehemently opposed by those who understood it—market analysts and journalists, mostly—that it came to symbolize the destructive ignorance of nationalist populism. This morning, the Washington Post reported that The British are frantically Googling what the E.U. is, hours after voting to leave it. They’re dumb, is what we’re saying here. But the events actually reported turn out to resemble what you’d expect from any major event:

At about 1 a.m. Eastern time, about eight hours after the polls closed, Google reported that searches for “what happens if we leave the EU” had more than tripled.

If such phenomena prove the stupidity of our neighbors, we’re going to run out of dunce caps. Also, our neighbors will eventually train dogs to smell books and find our secret hiding places. Today is Friday, and it’s the dumbs against the smarts. Won’t you assume which side you’re on with me?

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I would never urge Missoula to gather fireworks and converge on the mall

Rockets explode over Bed, Bath and Beyond in a display of times past.

Rockets explode over Bed Bath & Beyond in a display from times now past.

Every once in a while, current events intersect with my natural talent for stupidity to make something so dumb even I enjoy reading it. This week’s column in the Independent is one such. You may not know it, but the mall canceled its Fourth of July fireworks show last week, depriving the city of its semi-official display. Because Missoula is basically a bowl, you used to be able to see the mall fireworks show from any of the mountains and hills around town. One of my favorite summer activities was taking a blanket to High Park and watching the fireworks from within the tall grasses. But all that’s over now, unless we all come together in some kind of implied but not explicit plan to save the Fourth of July. You see, I know what the loss of independent spirit can do to a town.

I have always loved the Fourth of July, ever since I was a kid. In my hometown, graduating seniors used to grab a 12-pack and drink it at the municipal fireworks display, then go to the highest point we could find and throw up. Sadly, in ways none of us could have predicted, this tradition turned tragic. The annual fireworks display was canceled out of respect for the family my friend threw up and then fell on, and the mill shut down after that. Eventually, the town was disbanded.

Fireworks are illegal within Missoula city limits, so residents should definitely not buy as many class-B mortars as they can find and bring them to the mall. The assistant fire marshall has most certainly not been driven mad with power and irrational opposition to fire and its works. But still, one wonders when the centipede of liberty will wriggle from beneath the bootheel of oppression and bite, bite bite. If we are ever to climb the pants leg of freedom, we must rise up.