The Democrats’ Fyre Festival Nomination

The New York Times reports today that the Bloomberg campaign is going big with a social media campaign run by Jerry Media. I got to thinking that the name sounded familiar, and then I remembered: Jerry Media is the social media marketing company, big with so-called self-appointed online “influencers,” behind the disastrous Fyre Festival. (If you haven’t seen the Netflix documentary about Fyre, settle in with some good adult beverages; you won’t believe it. Of course, in the age of Theranos, another epic fraud fueled in part by a credulous media, I guess we can believe it.)

The Fyre Festival seems like the perfect metaphor for this year’s bonfire of the Democratic Party vanities.

Meanwhile, a thought: What if Bernie Sanders is actually a clever DNC ploy to make every other Democratic candidate look “moderate,” when in fact they are all just as socialist-stupid as he is? This especially comes to mind with regard to Mayor Pete, who the media is now calling a “moderate” even though there are lots of reasons to suspect he is deeply radical, as Roger Simon argues in his Epoch Times column this week. We know that Democrats conceal their true views from voters as much as possible, and the problem with Bernie is that he channels the inner id of Democrats too well. But as I say, maybe this is not an accident?

The debut of Bloomberg on the debate stage and upcoming primary ballots at last complicates the scene, but if Buttigieg emerges as the main challenger to Sanders, expect at least a few in the media to start running “Who Is the Real Pete Buttigieg?” stories. In this respect he reminds me of Gary Hart in 1984.  Here’s an excerpt from my Age of Reagan account of the rise and fall of Hart:

In the two weeks after New Hampshire, Hart trounced Mondale in Florida, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Washington, Wyoming, Oklahoma, and Nevada.  Hart had barely campaigned in some of these states, and his organization was thin.  Hart was suddenly the front-runner, and campaign contributions instantly surged.  Fresh opinion polls showed Hart drawing even with Reagan in a head-to-head matchup.  So many things were going wrong that Mondale contemplated dropping out of the race; a campaign aide prepared a memo for the logistics of withdrawing.  The front-loaded primary schedule that was supposed to benefit Mondale threatened to be his rapid undoing; had the 1984 primaries been as front-loaded as they are today, it surely would have meant his quick end, as it did to Howard Dean in 2004.  In 1984 the process was still sufficiently dilated to allow Mondale a small window of time to recover.

Apply this lesson to Biden as you like. To continue:

Presidential candidates who rise from obscurity in American politics tend to be like half-baked soufflés: they collapse just as quickly.  With success came intensified media scrutiny, and soon it emerged that Hart was . . . weird.  It turned out his given name was Hartpence; he had shortened it to Hart in college, but gave contradictory accounts of why he had done so.  He had radically changed the style of his signature well into adulthood.  And there was an odd discrepancy about his age: Hart claimed to be 46, and his campaign biography said he was born on November 28, 1937.  In fact Hart was born in 1936.  He had started using the latter date when he applied to the Virginia Bar in 1965, and had used the new date ever since.  He had studied for a divinity degree at Yale, but curiously omitted this fact from his various biographies such as Who’s Whoand the Congressional Directory.  Hart’s only new ideas, one of his campaign aides quipped, were his name and his age. . .

Hart’s problem, as Richard Brookhiser observed, was that “the candidate of new ideas could not afford weird behavior,” and Hart’s bizarre explanations for these biographical oddities set off a media feeding frenzy and unnerved a lot of Democrats.  “What the public held against Hart,” Ronald Steel wrote later, “was not his lack of solutions, but his lack of authenticity.”  Numerous leading media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the TV networks ran prominent features on Hart’s peculiarities.  The hypothesis must be entertained that the media, having been caught off guard by Hart’s surprise emergence, was out to exact retribution.  The New York Times and the three TV networks don’t like it when they proclaim before the first primary that Mondale is the all but certain nominee, only to have the pesky voters defy them.  Who gave Hart permission?  “His candidacy had made a fool of Washington insiders,” Time’s William A. Henry wrote; “No one, no matter how long his memory, was able to recall anything in politics to compare with the mania of exuberance about Gary Hart that swept America. Prairie fire, Hart’s delighted partisans called it.”  (Curious that Hart’s boosters used the same catch phrase Reagan had been using for 20 years.) The media was certain to do its best to put the fire out.

On the CBS Evening News in early March, shortly before the next round of big primaries, Dan Rather led a segment thus: “Who is this man, this Gary Hart?”  On NBC the following night, Roger Mudd asked: “How old is Gary Hart?  And why did he change his name?”  NBC wasn’t done.  Two nights later, NBC’s John Dancy offered another Hart segment that began: “Who is Gary Hart, anyway, and what does he believe?”  Tom Brokaw dismissed Hart as “this season’s hit rock-‘n’-roll single.”  Roger Mudd practically taunted Hart in an interview: “Why do you imitate John Kennedy so much?”  CBS’s Bruce Morton kept up the theme: “Gary Hart is the hottest political property around, at least this week.  But who is he?”  ABC was not left out, with Jack Smith delivering a devastating syllabus of Hart’s strangeness: “He’s even fudged the year of his birth.”

As I say, expect some of this treatment for Mayor Pete if he surges to the top.

It should also be pointed out that the Democratic convention in San Francisco that year—I attended as a reporter—could be thought of as the beginning of the identity politics chokehold on the Democratic Party. But that’s for another day.

Chaser—This is CNN! (with the caveat that this headline may not be authentic, or may have been removed).