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Monday, September 02 2019

It’s been a bad weekend for MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. I’ve always thought Hayes is a smart guy, but at the same time, he’s always demonstrated himself to be incapable of escaping the prison of his own ideology. That has always limited his effectiveness and propelled him into saying some really foolish things.  His recent mini-TED talk on the Electoral College was just the latest example.

A few observations…

1.     Hayes is far more polished and impressive sitting behind a desk reading from his prepared script on a TelePrompTer than he is working the crowd. From an audience perspective alone, his mannerisms and professorial lecture approach came across tedious, forced, and uncomfortable.

2.     It’s one of the weirdest things in the world to see an educated person like Hayes, speaking to a supposedly politically engaged live audience, and pretend as though the Electoral College is some recently-discovered, previously undetected, subversive plot by the Founding Fathers to undermine democratic rule in America.

Every year in my classes, I have my students read Federalist #68 where the brilliant Alexander Hamilton lays out the purpose, point, and genius of this novel mode of electing our president. We discuss the logic behind it, the reason it was chosen as opposed to a popular vote system, as well as the perceived shortcomings that over 200 years of history have revealed.

It’s beyond strange to pretend we are just now beginning to understand or investigate what it’s all about. Commentator David Burge had my favorite observation on this bizarre approach:

3.     Hayes’ “money line” that the Electoral College, if it weren’t in the Constitution would be unconstitutional was, well, just not bright. He argued – in the same discussion – that the Electoral College was unconstitutionally undermining the minority, while at the same time it was unconstitutionally undermining the majority. Seriously.

4.     The real issue that Hayes seemed to have involved gerrymandering and the drawing of district lines. But that has precisely nothing to do with the Electoral College.

5.     Hayes does himself no favors when he was justifiably lambasted by a wide array of conservative commentators. Predictably but disappointingly, he sought refuge behind ideological battle lines, accusing conservatives of being “#triggered” by him.

This had nothing to do with being triggered. It had everything to do with calling out bad takes for what they are…like this:

Chris Hayes has good things to say and most of the time he thoughtfully presents them. This wasn’t one of those times.

Posted by: Peter Heck AT 09:05 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email