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Matt Bai Biography
Matt Bai is an American journalist, author, and screenwriter. Since 2014, he has been the national political columnist for Yahoo! News. For more than a decade prior to that, he was the chief political correspondent for the New York Times Magazine, where he covered three presidential campaigns, as well as a columnist for the Times.
His cover stories in the magazine include the 2008 cover essay “Is Obama the End of Black Politics?” and a 2004 profile of John Kerry titled “Kerry’s Undeclared War.” His work was honored in two editions of The Best American Political Writing.
Bai is a graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences at Tufts University in Medford, MA and Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, where the faculty awarded him the Pulitzer Traveling Fellowship. In 2014, Bai had two brief appearances as himself in the second season of TV show House of Cards.
Matt Bai Age
Matt Bai is an American journalist, author, and screenwriter. Since 2014, he has been the national political columnist for Yahoo! News. He was born on September 9, 1968, in Trumbull, Connecticut, U.S. Matt is 50 years old as of 2018
Matt Bai Journalism career
He began his career as a speechwriter for the U.S. Committee for UNICEF, writing for Audrey Hepburn, among others, and his international coverage includes reporting from Liberia and Iraq.
Before joining the New York Times Magazine, Bai was city desk reporter for the Boston Globe and a national correspondent for Newsweek magazine. In 2001, Bai was a fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where he led a seminar on the next generation of political journalism.
He has also been a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford and the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago.
Other work by Bai for the New York Times Magazine has included cover stories on John McCain’s philosophy about war and Barack Obama’s strategy to win over white men, as well as a much-discussed cover essay, “Is Obama the End of Black Politics?”.
During the 2008 primaries, Bai wrote an online blog, The Primary Argument, on The New York Times website. He also wrote a personal essay about his Japanese American in-laws for the anthology I Married My Mother-in-Law: And Other Tales of In-Laws We Can’t Live With—and Can’t Live Without (Riverhead Books, 2006).
In a 2007 interview with the Progressive Book Club, Bai said his political work is more influenced by novelists writing about the urban decline in America than by other political writers.
“I think novelists have done a better job on the whole of describing the confusing moment we’re in, in this post-industrial era,” he said. “Writers like Philip Roth, Richard Russo (especially Empire Falls and Nobody’s Fool and The Risk Pool), Richard Ford (especially The Sportswriter)—they’ve really tapped into deep confusion.”
Matt Bai Movies and television
Bai co-wrote the screenplay for The Front Runner, the cinematic version of All the Truth Is Out, along with the screenwriter Jay Carson and the film’s director Jason Reitman. Starring Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga, and J. K. Simmons, The Front Runner completed filming in Georgia in November 2017 and was released in November 2018.
Another screenplay written by Bai and Carson, which tells the story of a massive class action suit against Chevron in Ecuador, was honored on the Hollywood Black List in 2016. Bai has also written for television, and in 2014 he played himself in two episodes of the hit Netflix series House of Cards, as part of a season-long storyline involving a magazine story he was writing in the show.
Matt Bai Goes Awry
New York Times political writer Matt Bai’s almost pathological need to appear evenhanded, even when writing analytically, is nicely captured by his blog post today.
He focuses on a moment in the debate, already mentioned below by Jon when every Republican candidate refused to agree to a deal that included “one dollar in new tax revenue for every 10 dollars’ worth of reductions.” This, as Jon says, is “anti-tax mania.” And here is Bai:
If this were merely a Republican phenomenon, the party would be alone in suffering the wrath of the average American voter. But it isn’t. You could have put a lot of Washington Democrats up on that stage, and asked them if they would have accepted $10 in new taxes or new stimulus in exchange for $1 in cuts to Social Security, and you probably would have gotten much the same response: hell, no.
Ah yes: except of course that President Obama offered the Republicans a deal with much less favorable ratios, at least as far as liberals are concerned. Now, I am sure Bai could find a few Democrats that would say “hell, no” to this deal.
These Democrats do not run Washington. These Democrats do not control their own party. These Democrats would never make up the entire party’s presidential field.
Matt Bai Wife, Married, Family
Matt Bai is the national political columnist for Yahoo News, where his “Political World” column appears every Thursday. Before joining Yahoo at the end of 2013, he was the chief political correspondent for the New York Times Magazine, where he covered three presidential campaigns, and a columnist for the Times.
Bai’s most recent book, All the Truth is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid (Alfred A. Knopf, 2014) looks back at the ruinous scandal involving the presidential candidate Gary Hart in 1987 and how it helped shape the political and media culture for decades after.
It was selected as one of the year’s best books by NPR and Amazon and was one of 10 books long-listed for the PEN Faulkner Award in nonfiction. The New York Times Book Review called it a “mini-classic of political journalism.”
Bai is also the author of The Argument: Billionaires, Bloggers and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics (Penguin Press, 2007), which was a New York Times Notable Book for 2007. He also contributed a personal essay to the anthology I Married My Mother-in-Law: And Other Tales of In-Laws We Can’t Live With—And Can’t Live Without, published by Riverhead Books in 2006.
Bai, 48, often explores issues of generational change in American politics and society. His notable stories for the Times Magazine included a 10,000-word cover piece titled “Who Killed the Debt Deal?” in 2012 and the 2008 cover essay titled “Is Obama the End of Black Politics?”
He appears frequently on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and other news shows. In 2013, he played himself in a recurring role on the second season of the Netflix drama “House of Cards.”
Bai is also a screenwriter and is currently developing a movie based on All the Truth Is Out, among other projects.
Bai spent part of 2013 in residence at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, where he was a public policy scholar. He has also been a fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School of Government and at the Hoover Institution at Stanford. He serves on the board of the Jonathan M. Tisch College for Civic Life.
Before joining the Times Magazine in 2002, Bai spent five years as a national correspondent for Newsweek. He began his journalism career as a city desk reporter for the Boston Globe.
He spent three years in his early twenties as a speechwriter for UNICEF, where he worked with Audrey Hepburn during the last year of her life. His international experience includes coverage from Iraq and Liberia.
Bai is a graduate of Tufts and Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, where the faculty awarded him the Pulitzer Traveling Fellowship. His wife name is Ellen Uchimiya
Matt Bai Net Worth
Matt Bai is an actor, known for Meet the Press (1947), Yahoo News Midterm Mixer 2014: An Election Night Afterparty (2014) and Tavis Smiley (2004). He has a net worth of $1.4 Million
Matt Bai Books
Bai’s first book, The Argument, published in August 2007, is an account of the “new progressive movement” in America and the people who built it. The Argument was the only political book to be named a New York Times Notable Book for 2007.
His second book, All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2014. It revisits the 1987 media scandalization of then-candidate Gary Hart. Part history, part memoir and part cultural critique, the book was seen as a sharp critique of his own industry.
Bai discussed this aspect of the book on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and on NPR’s Fresh Air, among other venues. Reviewing All the Truth Is Out in the New York Times, Jack Shafer called it “a mini classic of political journalism.” The New Yorker’s media critic, Ken Auletta, wrote, “Bai’s superb book provokes many questions, and I gulped it down in a single sitting.”
- Front Runner, The
- All the Truth is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid
- The Front Runner (All the Truth Is Out Movie Tie-in)
- The argument
Matt Bai Election
The Democrats’ 2016 mistake
The last time Democrats awoke to find themselves completely marginalized, the year was 2004, and George W. Bush had just been re-elected, along with pretty much every other Republican in creation.
Almost immediately, the party’s top donors and strategists settled on an explanation. They decided that they were losing because they lacked the campaign “infrastructure” the right commanded (think tanks, media watchdogs, voter files, etc.), and they immediately set about trying to build one.
From that effort, hundreds of millions of dollars later came groups like the Center for American Progress, which quickly became the party’s premier think tank; Media Matters, which now rules a small empire of rapid-response groups; and a company called Catalyst, one of several new repositories for data on Democratic voters. (I wrote a book on all this, by the way, which seems like eons ago.)
All these organizations were humming along at full capacity by the time Hillary Clinton won the nomination 12 years later. She had the full force of this “new progressive movement” squarely behind her.
And not only did Clinton lose anyway, but once again the party saw itself denied the power in Congress and banished from statehouses. Last week’s election was 2004 all over again, only this time with a laughably unprepared opponent who had virtually nothing by way of campaign infrastructure at his disposal.
So what, exactly, do the great minds of the party tell themselves now?
There are plenty of culprits to fixate on. Already Clinton herself, and no doubt some of those around her, have blamed the FBI director, James Comey. There’s the predictable screaming about the undemocratic nature of the Electoral College because apparently millions of Americans didn’t realize before last week that they weren’t living in ancient Athens.
In a New York Times op-ed, David Plouffe, who managed President Obama’s triumphant 2008 campaign, listed low turnout among younger and African-American voters as Clinton’s chief problem in states like Michigan and Wisconsin. Plouffe’s litany of causes came down to this: Donald Trump’s voters were super-excited about their candidate, and Clinton’s voters less so.
All of which certainly helps illuminate the tactical reasons Clinton lost, but not the larger, underlying problem.
Democrats lost because for a while now they’ve been telling themselves a story about modern politics. And while that story is comforting and has some significant truth at its core, it turns out to be dangerously wishful.
This particular story goes all the way back to 2002 when the writers Ruy Teixeira and John Judis published an influential book called “The Emerging Democratic Majority.” At a time when Democrats were dispirited, Teixeira and Judis argued, presciently, that the country’s demographics were evolving in ways that would ultimately favor their candidates.
As racial minorities and women came to encompass ever larger blocs of the electorate in the years ahead, and as the small-town South lost population to urban and western America, Democratic constituencies would inevitably gain a numerical advantage over traditionally conservative blocs.
This argument took on a special currency after 2004 when liberals (now calling themselves progressives) were busy building their new infrastructure. As changes in the makeup of the electorate began to accelerate, the theory of demography as destiny took a firm hold on the left.
Basically, the party’s leading funders and operatives decided that they didn’t have to pander to white people living outside of cities anymore, because with each passing year their voters were cementing a new majority and redrawing the electoral map. Every election now was going to be a turnout election; get the people who already agree with you to the polls, and you don’t have to worry very much about persuading anyone else.
Barack Obama’s two elections seemed to them to validate this new Democratic math. Obama relied on a coalition of African-Americans and Latinos, along with first-time voters and women, to become only the fourth Democrat in history to break the 50 percent barrier — twice.
And so this was Hillary’s driving theory of the race. Her campaign was effectively nothing but a giant turnout operation, crunching data on reliable Democratic voters while simultaneously keeping the candidate herself from saying anything remotely interesting. She ran on a database, rather than on an argument; the more Trump alienated and motivated her base, the less she felt the need to make any discernible case.
I go back to August when nothing much was happening in Clinton’s campaign, and I asked her to talk with me only about what her website said was her signature plan — a $270 billion proposal for infrastructure spending. Word came back that she wasn’t going to discuss it in any detail. To my knowledge, she never did.
It must be quite a relief, warming feeling all over, to think you can win political campaigns without ever having to wrestle with complex subjects or talk to anyone who doesn’t already think you’re right.
But the Cult of Demography was built on some very flawed assumptions.
For one thing, it assumed that Obama was more or less a typical Democratic candidate, whose electoral math was now the party’s math. In fact, Obama was an anomalous, nontraditional candidate whose emergence inspired some traditional Democratic voting blocs — namely African-Americans and younger voters — in ways that no other campaign could hope to achieve.
According to exit polls, which are imperfect but the best measure we have, Obama won 95 and 93 percent of African-Americans, respectively, in his two elections. He won 66 percent of the youngest voters in 2008.
Clinton won 88 percent of African-Americans and trailed Obama among young voters by several points. You can say she “underperformed,” but the reality is that probably no other Democrat today could match what Obama did in these communities.
The second problem is that even if you buy that a Democrat can maximize turnout among minorities and the already converted, it doesn’t mean you can simply forget about everyone else. In politics, how well you do among your own constituencies isn’t all that matters; there’s also the question of just how poorly you do among the groups you can’t win.
An analysis by The Hill newspaper found that while Clinton actually performed better than Obama in the most densely populated counties of states like Pennsylvania and Michigan, she trailed him by much larger margins in the all-white rural areas, which sealed her defeat.
Why? Because she never so much as looked in their direction.
Obama was right to point out this week that he had made a concerted effort to reach rural white voters in 2008 if only to hold down his losses. I followed him then into Appalachian Virginia, where he was the first nominee of either party to show up in 32 years, and he and I talked about that focus at some length during the fall campaign.
According to excellent reporting by the New York Times’ Amy Chozick, no less a strategist than Bill Clinton himself argued to his wife’s campaign command that she, too, needed to speak to white working-class voters. No one listened. They were all about the database.
Of course, some Democrats will argue that even if this election doesn’t validate the demography argument, all they have to do is wait. They won the popular vote, after all, and those margins will only grow as America becomes more diverse and millennials more engaged.
They’ll point out that the share of white voters seemed to have declined by another couple of points this year, following a downward trend. Give it a few years, and Clinton’s model will work just fine.
But that’s making another dubious assumption — that because any block of voters is reliably in one camp today, they’ll still be there 10 years from now. It assumes that Republicans can’t field a candidate who appeals to some larger segment of black or Latino voters, a third of whom voted Republican this year.
It assumes, too, that younger voters don’t grow more ideologically diverse as they age. According to an analysis by the Democratic group Third Way, Gen Xers — my generation — grew markedly more conservative in the decade between 2000 and 2011. There’s not much reason to think millennials will remain stuck where they are, either.
The bottom line for Democrats ought to be this: You can’t really count on winning elections without persuading anybody of anything they don’t already believe. You can’t be a truly national party if you need 90 percent of a single minority’s votes just to be competitive (any more than you can be a national party relying only on white voters).
And you’re not going to put yourself back in the majority if your first reaction to Trump’s victory is to lash out at rural America as “rubes” or “deplorable.” That’s pretty much the opposite of solving your problem.
Democrats should find a new story in the months ahead. Because demography by itself isn’t actually destiny, and disdain isn’t much of a strategy, either.