A Social Media Disinformation Campaign Is Underway

Presidential hopefuls are reaching out to progressive economists like never before.

Feb. 20, 2019, 10:46 a.m.

“A wide-ranging disinformation campaign aimed at Democratic 2020 candidates is already under way on social media, with signs that foreign state actors are driving at least some of the activity. The main targets appear to be” Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), “four of the most prominent announced or prospective candidates for president.”

A “review of recent data extracted from Twitter and from other platforms, as well as interviews with data scientists and digital campaign strategists, suggests that the goal of the coordinated barrage appears to be undermining the nascent candidacies through the dissemination of memes, hashtags, misinformation, and distortions of their positions. But the divisive nature of many of the posts also hint at a broader effort to sow discord and chaos within the Democratic presidential primary. The cyber propaganda—which frequently picks at the rawest, most sensitive issues in public discourse—is being pushed across a variety of platforms and with a more insidious approach than in the 2016 presidential election, when online attacks designed to polarize and mislead voters first surfaced on a massive scale.”

“Recent posts that have received widespread dissemination include racially inflammatory memes and messaging involving Harris, O’Rourke and Warren. In Warren’s case, a false narrative surfaced alleging that a blackface doll appeared on a kitchen cabinet in the background of the senator’s New Year’s Eve Instagram livestream.” (Politico)

IN DEMAND. “Darrick Hamilton has been in hot demand lately. In the last few months, Hamilton, a progressive economist at Ohio State University, has fielded calls from staffers for" Sens. Harris, Sanders, Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). They want to know more about ideas Hamilton has been developing for years, like a federal jobs guarantee and "baby bonds" designed to give every kid a nest egg heading into adulthood.

"Hamilton isn't alone. The nascent 2020 campaign is shaping up to be all about radical ideas on the left, with candidates looking toward a populist, progressive agenda that's distinct from the centrist politics of previous election cycles. … That means that, all of a sudden, the academics who've been quietly working on those ideas for years now are finding an eager audience.” (CNN)

HEALTH CARE. "The debate unfolded over a period of days, on multiple televised stages in different states. There were no direct clashes between the candidates, no traces of personal animus — but a debate it was, the first vivid disputation over policy in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. The subject… was health care. At issue was just how drastically to transform the American system, and how comprehensive the role of government should be.

"In one camp were a pair of blunt-speaking Midwesterners, Senators Amy Klobuchar and Sherrod Brown… both beloved by many liberals, yet both dismissive of fellow Democrats’ promises to create a vast new apparatus of government-backed health care. They endorsed incremental policy changes, like lowering the age of eligibility for Medicare. On the other side was the party’s most uncompromising economic populist, Senator Bernie Sanders… a self-described democratic socialist who promised nothing short of a revolution in health care with his proposal for ‘Medicare for all’ … The political and policy fault lines were familiar ones, but the scale and clarity of the disagreement was new to the 2020 presidential primary, an affair that has thus far unfolded as a contest of splashy campaign rollouts, forceful personalities and overlapping policy wish lists. While the party’s most prominent candidates have differed in their rhetoric and most distinctive legislative proposals… Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax, or… Kamala Harris’s middle-class tax cut — at this early stage they have declined to engage the submerged philosophical rifts between them.” (New York Times)

SOCIALISM SQUEEZE. “Democratic presidential hopeful Cory Booker on Sunday delivered what he called the ‘hard truth’ about Medicare-for-all: It will be difficult to pass, so the party should also ready more incremental changes. His rival," Harris, "the next day championed the Green New Deal, a sweeping climate proposal — before adding: ‘Some of it we’ll achieve, some of it we won’t.’ Then on Monday night ... Amy Klobuchar told a young questioner at a CNN town hall that, unlike some of her fellow candidates, she would not support making four-year college free.”

“The increasingly large 2020 Democratic presidential field is fighting two simultaneous battles: a chaotic intraparty primary struggle over how far left to push their policies and a broader question of how to confront the challenge posed by President Trump, who has already begun casting the Democrats as socialists. … Trump’s opportunity to define the Democratic field could be long-lasting: The president will have more than a year to portray the opposing party as radical before a Democratic nominee is selected.” (Washington Post)

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