How Fake Outrage Fuels the Corrupt Center Left

The Democratic 'distract and avoid' strategy will cost them in the long term

Hillary Clinton with national press secretary Brian Fallon on her plane on October 3, 2016.

Hillary Clinton with national press secretary Brian Fallon on her plane on October 3, 2016. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

In spite of the fact that this behavior lost them the White House and both houses of Congress, the center left of the Democratic Party continues to rely on manufactured outrage based on misleading claims in order to distract the public from its corruption and rally support from its base.

During the 2016 election, whenever there was an opportunity to create an outrage campaign based on an isolated event, the center left exploited it regardless of the facts. During the state Democratic Party convention in Nevada, a chair-throwing claim (which turned out to be false) evolved into a decree against all of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ supporters. Based on the incorrect account of a second-hand source, pro-Hillary Clinton journalists dramatized the event and were goaded into doing so by Sen. Barbara Boxer and former Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Throughout the Democratic primary, Clinton partisans spread the “Bernie Bros narrative, which was based on the misconception that all Sanders supporters were sexist, white males. At its core, “Bernie Bros” was weaponized identity politics used to whitewash the Sanders campaign.

After the primaries, the center left made no meaningful outreach to progressives. Instead, they relied on scolding and denigrating the “Bernie or Bust” movement and millennials who were considering backing a third-party candidate instead of voting for Clinton. As opposed to engaging them as to why they were unwilling to back Clinton, outrage over the audacity of these radicals to not support Clinton was repeated endlessly. 

There are various ways that the center left could have attacked Donald Trump during the 2016 election, or they could have focused on the important issues that Clinton could have championed for working and middle class voters. 

In September 2016, the center left fanned the flames of outrage over Trump’s comments that if she was pro-gun control, Clinton’s bodyguards should disarm. Though fallacious, this is a common, pro-gun rights argument that is often cited by conservatives. Somehow, Trump’s remarks were exaggerated and spun into an open threat to assassinate Clinton. “Republicans across country should be forced to say whether they are OK with Trump’s comments inciting violence against Hillary Clinton,” tweeted Clinton campaign press secretary Brian Fallon.

In October 2016, The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah noted in response to criticisms made toward Trump over comments regarding veterans with PTSD, “Trump wasn’t trying to demean anyone in this particular case. Clearly, he was having an off-day.”

Clinton partisans feigned outrage and insisted that there were fake emails included in the WikiLeaks email releases, though they were never able to provide evidence that anything had been forged or manipulated, and there had already been reports that the Democrats would try to claim the documents were forged. “Clinton campaign officials and their media spokespeople adopted a strategy of outright lying to the public, claiming—with no basis whatsoever—that the emails were doctored or fabricated and thus should be ignored,” wrote Glenn Greenwald for the Intercept.

The Clinton campaign relied on what The New York Times dubbed “Hillary Clinton’s Outrage Machine,” run by ShareBlue Founder Peter Daou. After Clinton’s “Basket of Deplorables” comment went viral, to much negative attention, the Daou machine pointed to a story on Trump and alleged that the mainstream media was treating Clinton unfairly.

After the 2016 election, the center left continued spinning its web of political theater. Fake news emerged to provide an excuse for why Trump won, though poor evidence and data has been used in cases reported by mainstream media outlets to corroborate that manufactured controversy. A call to recount votes and a push for electors of the electoral college to defect to Clinton were highly-publicized, concerted efforts to incite outrage against Trump.

Third party voters and Sanders continue to be used as scapegoats for explaining Clinton’s loss. Additionally, outrage is often directed at specific individuals. “Everywhere she goes Susan Sarandon and other limousine liberals should be confronted with people who lost insurance at the altar of her purity,”tweeted Newsweek journalist Kurt Eichenwald on January 14, attacking Sarandon for not supporting Clinton and equating her objection with her being personally at fault for the looming possibility of Obamacare‘s repeal.

Fear-mongering over allegations of Russian election interference have been frequently used to spark outrage over Trump’s presidency and reinforce the center left’s insistence of portraying themselves as victims. Some Clinton partisans have gone so far as to equate this “victimization” with that of rape victims.

When criticisms are directed toward the center left, the same tactic of manufacturing outrage is employed to distract and avoid having to defend a corrupt record.

When Democratic Sen. Cory Booker was criticized by Sanders supporters for voting against an amendment to export cheaper prescription drugs from Canada—which 12 Republicans voted for—partisans from the center left came to Booker’s defense. The center left didn’t both to defend the merit of his vote. Instead, they asserted that he was being criticized due to the color of his skin. This weaponization of identity politics outside an appropriate context diminishes Americans’ ability to address definitive instances of racism.

Manufacturing outrage based on misconceptions is a losing strategy for the Democratic Party long term. It may incite outrage among the party’s support base for the next four years; however, it will not hold the Democratic Party accountable to the principles with which they market themselves, but forever abandon in favor of donors and lobbyists.