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The Argument Against The Democrats
The more you see, the less you like. Reason editor Nick Gillespie reviews Matt Bai's book, The Argument, in The New York Times:

With the possible exception of the Republicans, is there a major political party more stupefyingly brain-dead than the Democrats? That’s the ultimate takeaway from “The Argument,” Matt Bai’s sharply written, exhaustively reported and thoroughly depressing account of “billionaires, bloggers, and the battle to remake Democratic politics” along unabashedly “progressive” (read: New Deal and Great Society) lines. Well-financed and influential groups ranging from the Democracy Alliance to the New Democrat Network to may be taking over the Democratic Party, he says, but they are not doing the heavy thinking that will fundamentally transform politics — unlike the free-market, small-government groups formed in the wake of Barry Goldwater’s historic loss in the 1964 presidential race.

Bai has the grim job of covering national politics for The New York Times Magazine, which means his livelihood depends on following closely whether the Tennessee actor-turned-politician-turned-actor-again Fred Thompson will actually run for president (a decision reportedly put off until after Labor Day, allowing an anxious nation to savor the last days of summer) and taking seriously the White House fantasies of Senator Joseph Biden (at least in Biden’s presence). While sympathetic to the new progressives, Bai describes a movement long on anger and short on thought.

...“The Argument” provides plenty of reasons to think that the Democrats, owing to an off-putting mix of elitism toward the little people and glibness toward actual policy ideas, are unlikely to go over the top anytime soon. Or, almost the same thing, to make the most of any majority they hold. The book describes Soros, after Bush’s victory in 2004, coming to the realization that (in Bai’s words) “it was the American people, and not their figurehead, who were misguided. ... Decadence ... had led to a society that seemed incapable of conjuring up any outrage at deceptive policies that made the rich richer and the world less safe.” Rob Reiner, the Hollywood heavyweight who has contributed significantly to progressive causes and who pushed a hugely expensive universal preschool ballot initiative in California that lost by a resounding 3-to-2 ratio, interrupts a discussion by announcing: “I’ve got to take a leak. Talk amongst yourselves.” Bai never stints on such telling and unattractive details, whether describing a poorly attended and heavily scripted house party or a celebrity-soaked soiree in which the host, the billionaire Lynda Resnick, declared from the top of her Sunset Boulevard mansion’s spiral staircase, “We are so tired of being disenfranchised!”

Moulitsas, the Prince Hal of the left-liberal blogosphere, comes off as an intellectual lightweight, boasting to Bai that his next book will be called “The Libertarian Democrat” but admitting that he has never read Friedrich Hayek, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and social theorist, who is arguably most responsible for the contemporary libertarian movement.

Ultimately, Nick writes, "The argument at the heart of “The Argument” is less about vision and more about strategy."

Posted by aalkon at September 3, 2007 10:25 AM


It seems to me that the populace is more conservative than the Democrats imagine. Plus, the current Republicans have overdosed on big government spending, so the Democrats message of "better government" is like shaking a bottle of whiskey in front of someone puking their guts out in the toilet.

Posted by: doombuggy at September 3, 2007 5:31 AM

> it was the American people,
> and not their figurehead,
> who were misguided.

How much leadership success will you expect from party that thinks so little of the voter?

Posted by: Crid at September 3, 2007 7:43 AM

This is so sad because in large part I have to agree....

...except for the myth about a post-Goldwater-loss movement of people debating ideas of small government and free markets. That happened largely before the Goldwater loss.

What happened after was the rise of the neo-Conservative and neo-Christian insurgencies within the GOP. It was their movement. The libertarian movement began its death within the Republican Party that year. "Free-market, small-government groups formed in the wake of Barry Goldwater’s historic loss in the 1964 presidential race" did not "fundamentally transform politics" and anyone who believes so is not paying attention. All one has to do is look at the rising budgets and increasing government powers to see that.

The Republicans lost their way and find themselves lost today as big government, Big Brother advocates. And the Democrats are lost because they don't know how to distiguish their brand of big government and Big Brother from the Republicans'. The Democrats inside the Beltway don't undestand Progressive values.

And journalists, it seems, still don't understand the internet. The notion that "bloggers" are supposed to be sized up and measured by looking at Kos misses the point that even Kos would have to admit: "bloggers" are not an insurgency or political movement, but rather simply people with opinions who suddenly find themselves able to speak and be heard.

Which in itself is a notion so radical that the political parties and corporate establishment are lost, confused, scared and not a bit resentful.

Posted by: media girl at September 3, 2007 7:57 AM

MG- I was struck by the Goldwater passage for similar reasons. The expenditures that tamed the desert for habitation in Phoenix have been federal: It's hard to argue that leaders from such a place would have small government on their minds.

Following your link:

> Being approached by men is
> something women face every
> day. In fact, we have to deal
> with notions of "gray areas"
> when it comes to rape itself.
> But if a man is even
> approached, watch out!

Over the weekend, someone (via Insta) made the point that this is one of many recent sex scandals wher no one even got laid.

Posted by: Crid at September 3, 2007 8:11 AM

I think Gingrich's recent editorial in the LAT about getting candidates up for nine 90-minute debates in the weeks before the election is a great idea, and could contribute, at least in some small way, to getting elected being more about vision (or at least having a fucking clue about economics and other bases of good policy making) and less about strategy. (Not that the Democrats do well in the strategic department, either.)

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 3, 2007 9:39 AM

Amy - they'd never agree to it. First, none of them have the intellectual firepower. Second, none of them dares to be off point for even a millisecond.

Television has changed politics, and not for the better. Numerous surveys have shown since the JFK/Nixon debates, that the candidate that looks better is the perceived winner.

Posted by: brian at September 4, 2007 5:05 AM

This books sounds like it could be a lot of fun. I might have to get it! (damn you, Amy! I have enough to read already!)

Posted by: Lena at September 4, 2007 5:23 PM

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