Rat Bait

Because you may have missed this story over the weekend, here’s some important news for lefty critics of Hillary Clinton, via the New York Times‘ Parker and Corasaniti. It focuses on the biggest GOP oppo research operation of them all, and ever, America Rising:

For months now, America Rising has sent out a steady stream of posts on social media attacking Mrs. Clinton, some of them specifically designed to be spotted, and shared, by liberals. The posts highlight critiques of her connections to Wall Street and the Clinton Foundation and feature images of Democrats like Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, interspersed with cartoon characters and pictures of Kevin Spacey, who plays the villain in “House of Cards.” And as they are read and shared, an anti-Clinton narrative is reinforced.

America Rising is not the only conservative group attacking Mrs. Clinton from the left. Another is American Crossroads, the group started by Karl Rove, which has been sending out its own digital content, including one ad using a speech Ms. Warren gave at the New Populism Conference in Washington last May.

“Powerful interests have tried to capture Washington and rig the system in their favor,” intones Ms. Warren, as images of Mrs. Clinton with foreign leaders flash by.

The new-style digital campaign captures some basic facts about 21st-century communication: Information travels at warp speed on social media, it is sometimes difficult to know where that information comes from, and most people like to read things with which they agree. The result, said Ken Goldstein, a professor of politics at the University of San Francisco who specializes in political advertising, is something more sophisticated.

“Politics is usually basic math,” he said, “and this is a little bit of calculus, thinking a couple steps ahead.”

You know, when it came out during Watergate that Richard Nixon’s campaign staffers were pulling this kind of crap in the 1972 Democratic primaries (mostly aimed at poor doomed Ed Muskie), it was a really big scandalous deal. Now it’s smart politics, or “calculus.” Progressives should beware playing their game.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.