As the stakes in the 2016 election get higher, the campaigns and their accompanying coverage get weirder and weirder. I'm not just talking about the big things, like Marco Rubio's human blue screen of death or Donald Trump calling Ted Cruz a pussy, but the lesser-noticed things that illustrate what's wrong with everything. The closer we get to voting in New Hampshire, it seems, the more things there are to make you go "Wait, did that just happen?"
For example, just days after Marco Rubio led a Reifenstahl-esque celebration following his third place finish in the Iowa caucuses, and the media largely followed suit by crowning him the "real" winner, mainstream media darling Mark Halperin engaged in this stunning bit of narrative-shifting:
If he wins by five or more, I think he could say, I won the New Hampshire primary. That's historic. And he does go into South Carolina with a head of steam.
Yes, that just happened. After giving third-place malfunctioning ED-209 Marco Rubio the win in Iowa, after Hillary Clinton literally won Iowa by a coin flip, Halperin is saying that unless Donald Trump wins New Hampshire by more than five points, he can't say he won the New Hampshire primary. Now, you may not be sympathetic to unfairness leveled at Donald Trump, but this is symptomatic of the nonsense that drives narratives about all the candidates. Jeb Bush was only ever a contender because they said he was, and Hillary Clinton only has an email problem because they say she does.
Speaking of Halperin, is partner in crime John Heilemann experienced a telling brain fart on The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell when he mixed up his black Republicans:
Everyone's looked at what's happened and said, "I don't want to mess with that guy. he crushes people." Whether it was Jeb Bush for many many months, whether it was Herman Cain, Ted Cruz for a little while. People don't want to mess with him. He's better at playing the negative politics game that they are.
Herman Cain, of course, was the black guy from the 2012 Republican field, and while no one noticed the slip, it's indicative of the way the media views certain people as interchangeable, when they're clearly not. In no other universe would anyone ever compare Herman Cain with Dr. Ben Carson, yet because they're both black Republicans, they do often get spoken of in the same breath. If anything, Cain was 2012's Trump, and Carson is 2016's, well, Ben Carson.
Then there's old reliable, Chris Matthews, who combined his deranged loathing of Hillary with his pork-mitted understanding of race when he said her campaign "has no soul," but not in the demonic born-of-a-jackal sense, but the other thing:
"It's totally missing a soul. And if you have a campaign without a soul, you have a real problem, no matter where you're running. That's my latest theory, it doesn't have a soul. That'll hurt with black Americans, African-American, too, just the idea of spirit."
I can't even. Is he saying she needs to get Don Cornelius up in here? Should Bill come onstage in the middle of her rallies and drape a cape over her shoulders? Why is this happening?
Finally, there was former Senator and Hillary Clinton backer David Pryor (D-AR), father of Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), showcasing textbook campaign surrogacy run amok when he made the following casual assessment of Bernie Sanders on MTP Daily:
"I think Bernie sanders is a fine man. He's certainly not an evil man. I think he has the best interest in this country at heart. However, what he is saying and what he is promising, there's no way to deliver what he's promising he can deliver."
Well, I'm glad we cleared that up. Now, if Bernie Sanders can only get to the print shop fast enough to crank out some "Bernie For New Hampshire: Not an Evil Man" bumper stickers, we might have something here. Who the eff is saying that Bernie Sanders is evil?
I know this is an intense time for politics, and it's tempting to say that everyone just needs to get a bit more sleep, but I think it's revealing. Like the truth that slips out after a few too many shots of bourbon, these antics are revealing of the truths that bubble beneath the surface of our politics. It's a little bit like Rubio going haywire on Saturday night and letting the circuitry show. The only difference is that people noticed Rubio.