Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump chose Steve Bannon, his campaign chairman, to be his "chief strategist" in the White House. No one knows quite what that means, but at the very least it means he'll have the ear of the president for the next year. But what kind of person is Bannon?

“President-elect Trump’s choice of Steve Bannon as his top aide signals that white supremacists will be represented at the highest levels in Trump’s White House,” said Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), in a statement Sunday night.

“It is easy to see why the KKK views Trump as their champion when Trump appoints one of the foremost peddlers of White Supremacist themes and rhetoric as his top aide. Bannon was ‘the main driver behind Breitbart becoming a white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill,’ according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

Goodness. People sure do overreact when someone isn't quite as politically correct as they'd like. Let's set the record straight and take a more nuanced look at who Bannon really is. Here's his ex-wife:

Bannon was head of Breitbart News, which embraced the "alt-right." Breitbart itself explains how the alt-right has absolutely nothing to do with white supremacism:

There are many things that separate the alternative right from old-school racist skinheads (to whom they are often idiotically compared), but one thing stands out above all else: intelligence. Skinheads, by and large, are low-information, low-IQ thugs driven by the thrill of violence and tribal hatred. The alternative right are a much smarter group of people — which perhaps suggests why the Left hates them so much. They’re dangerously bright.

See? They're smarter than your average racist. NPR explains further:

The views of the alt-right are widely seen as anti-Semitic and white supremacist....Most of its members are young white men who see themselves first and foremost as champions of their own demographic. However, apart from their allegiance to their "tribe," as they call it, their greatest points of unity lie in what they are against: multiculturalism, immigration, feminism and, above all, political correctness.

"They see political correctness really as the greatest threat to their liberty," Nicole Hemmer, University of Virginia professor and author of a forthcoming book Messengers of the Right, explained on Morning Edition. "So, they believe saying racist or anti-Semitic things — it's is not an act of hate, but an act of freedom," she said.

Being racist is "an act of freedom"! Ben Shapiro, a conservative who used to work for Bannon, said this:

Under Bannon’s Leadership, Breitbart Openly Embraced The White Supremacist Alt-Right. Andrew Breitbart despised racism. Truly despised it. He used to brag regularly about helping to integrate his fraternity at Tulane University. He insisted that racial stories be treated with special care to avoid even the whiff of racism. With Bannon embracing Trump, all that changed. Now Breitbart has become the alt-right go-to website, with [Milo] Yiannopoulos pushing white ethno-nationalism as a legitimate response to political correctness, and the comment section turning into a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers.

Here's a look at some of Breitbart's work under Bannon's leadership:

That all seems perfectly reasonable. Sure, Bannon may be "controversial," but take a look at his staff:

There's a black guy right there, over on the far left. And yet people still call Bannon a racist! This is political correctness run amok.

There are a few things we should all keep in mind over the next four years. No matter what I write, or how much I write, or what I write about, these things will stay front and center in my consciousness even if I don't repeat them constantly:

  • We have elected a loudmouth, race-baiting game show host president of the United States. A. Game. Show. Host.
     
  • However that happened, it happened by a shift of one or two percentage points in the electorate. Don't listen to anyone on either side who writes lazy think pieces about how this portends a sea change in Western civilization and validates everything they've been saying all along.
     
  • A whole lot of people are going to suffer a whole lot over the next four years.

Was the presidential election this year a close call? Of course not!

Kellyanne Conway, a key adviser to Donald Trump’s transistion team, says the general election “was not close” and the president-elect has a “mandate” to carry out the will of the people on issues ranging from Obamacare to national security. “This election was not close. It was not a squeaker,” Mrs. Conway said on “Fox News Sunday.” “There is a mandate there, and there is a mandate for his 100-day agenda, as well.”

Really? It sure seemed close to me. So close, in fact, that Donald Trump actually lost the popular vote. Let's google "2016 popular vote" to find out:

It looks like Facebook isn't the only one with a fake news problem. Surely one of the top three results on Google News shouldn't be a nutbar blog dedicated to spreading false information about Hillary Clinton? How about giving a little higher weighting to actual news sources so this kind of stuff doesn't happen?

Trump's team is dedicated to telling us that the election was a landslide, and there are plenty of doofus sites out there who are happy to spread whatever lies will help that along. Nothing can stop this from happening, but at least big players like Facebook and Google should try not to help them along.

UPDATE: There's also the problem of deliberately fake news sources. Mike Caulfield has more on that here.

On a conference call today, Hillary Clinton blamed her last-minute loss on FBI Director James Comey:

Speaking with Democrats who raised over $100,000 for her failed bid for the presidency, the former secretary of state said Comey's second letter — just three days before the election — did more damage than the first, which landed just 11 days out, according to one individual on the call, who described her tone as clearly sad but hopeful.

Clinton told participants that the campaign's data saw her numbers plunge after the first letter, then rebounded. But the second letter, she said, awakened Donald Trump's voters.

So Comey's first letter, which revived suspicions that Clinton had done something wrong, hurt her, but the second letter was even more damaging. Although it theoretically cleared her, its real effect was to remind everyone that "charges" had been on the table in the first place. And of course, the nation's headline writers played right along:

For what it's worth, we now know that both the Trump campaign and the Clinton campaign agree that Comey's intervention played a significant role in the election. It wasn't Clinton's only problem, but at this point it's just special pleading to pretend that it wasn't a key reason for her loss. If it weren't for Comey, nobody would be talking about the white working class or disenchanted millennials or third-party candidates. We'd be talking instead about the implosion of the Republican Party and arguing over who Clinton should choose as her Treasury Secretary.

I think it's still too early to know the extent to which Donald Trump won because of his appeal to the white working class. These folks have been moving steadily into the Republican camp for a long time, and 2016 merely continued this trend. At the same time, the upward spike this year was pretty big, and it appears to have been especially pronounced in several swing states in the upper Midwest. So it's hardly unfair to suggest that Democrats need to do more to reach out to rural, blue-collar whites.

At the same time, it's worth remembering exactly what Donald Trump's economic pitch was to the white working class:

  • He demonized foreigners for "stealing our jobs."
  • He promised to build a wall to keep out Mexicans.
  • He promised to start trade wars by levying insane tariffs on countries he disapproves of.
  • He promised to rain down hellfire on companies that move jobs overseas.
  • He promised to essentially repudiate the entire postwar edifice of free trade.
  • He promised not to touch Social Security.
  • He promised to create blue-collar jobs by building $1 trillion worth of infrastructure.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but it hits all the high points. Here's the dilemma it presents to the progressive community: it is 100 percent composed of either (a) demagoguery that Democrats just aren't willing to engage in, or (b) things that Democrats already support. And when you add racial dog whistles and conservative social issues to the mix, the problem grows even worse. All we get is yet another list of things that Democrats flatly can't appeal to.

In other words, even if the white working class is the problem for Democrats, it's not clear what the solution is. That's especially true since Trump isn't going to do most of the stuff he talked about, and the rest of it is unlikely to help struggling blue-collar workers anyway. J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, says most working-class whites know this perfectly well:

My view is that folks are pretty clear-eyed about what Trump is actually going to do. I don't see many people saying, "Well, Donald Trump is going to fix these problems."

What he's offering them is a proverbial middle finger to all the people that they're frustrated at. If you think about what folks have been doing for 20 or 30 years, they have been bottling frustration and resentment that the political elites don't understand them, that the political elites don't care about them, that the political elites judge them in various ways.

All Donald Trump does is provide the opposite of those things. He seems to care about them. He seems not to judge them. He seems to understand them, and most importantly, he is willing to scream and yell at the people who have been judging them and misunderstanding them for a generation.

Progressives understand this language pretty well when it comes to their own constituencies. Even if there's not a lot that you can concretely do, at least you can show some respect and make it clear that you care. If a New York billionaire, a Vermont socialist, and an Ohio mega-liberal can do it, surely the rest of us can do it too?

In the near term, the Donald Trump shitshow is going to unfold on a daily basis as we learn who will be running things in the new administration. The bad news starts at the top: Mike Pence is replacing Chris Christie as head of Trump's transition team. Christie may be an intolerable prick, but he's not a conservative ideologue and might have played a slightly calming role. Pence is nothing of the sort. He's a stone right winger who will be perfectly happy to put the Heritage Foundation in control of the country.

As for the lower-level folks, it turns out that Trump doesn't hate lobbyists all that much after all. That whole "Drain the Swamp" thing was just red meat for the rubes. The Associated Press reports that far from hating lobbyists, Trump absolutely adores them. Here's the Trump transition team:

The behind-the-scenes transition operation is being run by Ron Nichol, a senior partner at The Boston Group, a management consulting firm where 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney launched his business career.

Ken Blackwell...senior fellow at the Family Research Council...Veteran agribusiness lobbyist Michael Torrey...Energy industry lobbyist Mike McKenna...David Bernhardt...represents mining companies seeking to use resources on federal lands...Lobbyist Steven Hart, who focuses on tax and employee benefits, is leading the transition team for the Labor Department.

Cindy Hayden...top lobbyist for Altria, the parent company of cigarette-maker Philip Morris...Homeland Security Department. Jeff Eisenach, a consultant and former lobbyist...Federal Communications Commission....Michael Korbey...former lobbyist who led President George W. Bush's effort to privatize America's retirement system....Shirley Ybarra...champion of "public-private partnerships" to build toll roads and bridges....Myron Ebell...man-made global warming is a hoax...David Malpass...Bear Stearns' chief economist...Dan DiMicco...former chief executive of steel company NUCOR and a board member at Duke Energy...Former Rep. Mike Rogers...serves on boards for consulting firms IronNet Cybersecurity and Next Century Corp.

Kevin O'Connor...partner at the law firm of close Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani...Jim Carafano...Heritage Foundation's vice president for Foreign and Defense Policy Studies...retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg...chief operating officer for Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq...Mira Ricardel...vice president of business development for Boeing Strategic Missile & Defense Systems.

Buckle up. This is going to be a rough ride.

A Fresh Start?

David Frum is persuading me this morning that the tweetstorm can be a valuable medium after all. He is not buying Michael Smerconish's suggestion that we should all give Donald Trump a fresh start:

Trump economic advisor Anthony Scaramucci took to the pages of the Financial Times yesterday to tout the bold, innovative plans in store for the American economy:

This could literally have been written by Paul Krugman any time in the past eight years. Needless to say, Republicans in Congress refused to give it the time of day. It was socialism! It was reckless! It was debt busting! It would lead to hyperinflation! And maybe worst of all, it was Keynesianism!

But now it's edging closer and closer to Republican orthodoxy. I wonder how long it will be until Paul Ryan issues an entire roadmap explaining how fiscal stimulus is just what the country needs, and now that Republicans are in charge the country will finally get it?

Shorter Kelly Kleiman: Before Democrats devolve into internecine warfare, let's actually figure out what happened on Tuesday. Was it a whitelash? Sulky Bernie supporters? Lack of enthusiasm from blacks and Latinos? Voter suppression? Right now, we're flying blind, with only some crude data from exit polls and a few first attempts to make sense of the county-level data.

I'll add one thing: whatever the answer turns out to be, it's going to involve a shift of only a few percentage points. Everyone should be careful not to draw overly sweeping conclusions from this, even if it does make for good clickbait.

Hopper wants to hide and pretend that Tuesday never happened. Hilbert is still a bit out of focus at the moment, but he's facing the future with purpose and determination. Which cat are you? Which cat will you be next week?