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Does Ezra Klein Really Not Understand the Point of Politics?

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So Ezra Klein’s big lead-off article at Vox was, well, strange. Not that I disagree with all of it, although there is way too much both sides do it in here. But see here:

The silver lining is that politics doesn’t just take place in Washington. The point of politics is policy. And most people don’t experience policy as a political argument. They experience it as a tax bill, or a health insurance card, or a deployment. And, ultimately, there’s no spin effective enough to persuade Americans to ignore a cratering economy, or skyrocketing health-care costs, or a failing war. A political movement that fools itself into crafting national policy based on bad evidence is a political movement that will, sooner or later, face a reckoning at the polls.

The point of politics is not policy. The point of politics is power. This is blindingly obvious. I know that there is a subset of Beltway pundit types who really wish that politics was about policy. They want to talk about policy and wonkish details. They don’t want to talk about building social movements. But that is a severe misreading of what politics actually are about. The civil rights movement or the conservative movement did not succeed because of policy debates. They succeeded because they were able to marshal power. The environmental movement faded in part because it did begin to believe that politics was about policy and deemphasized its base expressing power. To a lesser extent, the labor movement did the same thing. The Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson laugh at Klein’s formulation.

And the idea that the right evidence is going to save a political party and the wrong evidence is going to destroy one, I don’t think there’s a lot of evidence to this unless you are cherrypicking fairly significantly. I mean, OK, Hoover’s actions during the Depression did doom the Republicans. But while Obama won in 2008, I don’t exactly recall Bush’s many failed policies making him one of the worst presidents in American history permanently dooming the Republican Party. Oh yeah, because Republicans knew how to take power in a number of ways that frustrate the majority of the country today.

Maybe some of this is that I take a longer-term view because I’m a historian. But maybe some of it comes from some pretty significant ideological blinders that Klein wears.

Thanks to friend of the blog Robert Cruickshank for bringing this to my attention.

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  • Anon21

    The Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson laugh at Klein’s formulation.

    And how’s that working out for them, aside from the good humor? I know it’s fashionable on the left to pretend buying elections is as simple as spending the money, but… it isn’t.

    • There is a lot more to elections than just presidential elections. I think they are finding recent happenings in Wisconsin for instance much to their liking.

      • And Michigan, Kansas, Indiana, and–because of their comrade in cash Art Pope–North Carolina, among other places.

        • Anon21

          So, you want to attribute Republican rule in Kansas, Indiana, and North Carolina to outside money rather than conservative electorates. Not really buying it.

          • No, you’re not buying it. The Kochs, DeVos’s and Pope are buying it.

            • Anon21

              I’m sure that if not for Citizens United, Kansas would be shoveling money into Planned Parenthood’s coffers rather than attempting to run it out of the state. This political analysis makes all the sense in the world.

              • That you seem unaware that Citizens United wasn’t needed in many states because that type of campaign finance system was already in place may have something to do with you looking as certain and vehement as you are uninformed and wrong.

                • Anon21

                  Forget Citizens United, then. Your contention is that Kansans elect Republicans because they are bamboozled into being right-wing ideologues by out-of-control campaign spending?

                • My contention is you’re blathering about things you know nothing about. If you want some background on Kansas, maybe request some time with Kathleen Sebelius, the Democrats who in 2010 held the offices of AG, SoS and Treasurer, or the moderate Republican who led the Senate against the opposition of the Koch-backed conservatives and with the votes of the Democrats. Or any of the Republican governors prior to Brownback, every single one of them a moderate.

                  Or, maybe just in general try commenting less until you’ve read more.

                • Kansas just destroyed the teachers unions. Nothing to do with the voters at all. Just bought and paid for legislators.

                • Oh, btw, you should be able to easily get time with all of them except Sibelius, because all of them lost in part because of huge spending by the Kochs, especially the moderate Republicans who got slaughtered by massive Koch spending in the 2012 primaries.

                • Anon21

                  You’re looking at an increasingly radical Republican Party, a trend that’s been shaped over the course of decades, and attributing it to campaign spending in the last few election cycles. I’m saying: that’s oversimplified and obscures more than it illuminates.

                • I’m saying you’re now just being obtuse and ignoring anything anyone says. Maybe you find that exhilarating, but I find it tedious.

                • Andrew

                  You’re looking at an increasingly radical Republican Party, a trend that’s been shaped over the course of decades, and attributing it to campaign spending in the last few election cycles.

                  If you take that analysis a step further, you get to the people who shaped that trend.

                • The real difference is that it has always been easier for moneyed interests to dominate state and local affairs. They do so even in places with strong campaign finance laws.

                  It is extremely hard for moneyed interests to buy the presidency, and Citizens United has not changed that.

                  Also, Dana, what’s tedious is you telling everyone how smart you are. The way to show people you are smart is not to brag how smart you are. That is, however, how you show everyone how much of an asshole you are.

                • Lee Rudolph

                  “Telling everyone how smart you are” is not what Dana does (at least, not often enough for it to have been observed by me). Dana has relevant expertise and experience in actually doing electoral politics (for Democratic candidates), and speaks from that experience in a way that tends to convince me. That tendency then carries over to other kinds of comments—an intellectual error on my part (but a very common one, and hard to avoid; nor, in such an actually low-stakes environment as blog commenting, perhaps not really necessary to avoid).

                  You have relevant expertise and experience in First Amendment law, and when you speak from that experience, you tend to convince me. If you spoke from there more often, perhaps you’d get some undeserved credit too. When you’re just saying things that I could say (and maybe would!), well, I’m less impressed (even when I agree!).

                • Thanks Lee, that’s very generous. But there is something to what Dilan is saying about me, or rather, what some people feel when they clearly don’t know the facts of the subject AND are certain they are right AND are immune to demonstrations of their faulty logic or uninformed claims. I’m not, I don’t think, saying I’m smart. But I’m probably very bad at concealing my belief that people who don’t know what they don’t know, spout off ad nauseum, make bad arguments, and are immune to facts, I think those people are being dumb. Maybe they aren’t inherently dumb.

                  As for this thread, refusing to acknowledge the effect a handful of ultra-rich donors have had on state politics–not always, btw, conservatives, as one can see in Colorado, with the liberal “four horsemen”–and dismissing what others are saying without engaging it seriously, in this context, with a bunch of smart people who read a lot and know a lot, in this context, that’s being dumb.

                  As for my experiences, sometimes I’ll comment drawing on knowledge or experience not available to most other people here; lots of us do that. But this stuff about money in state politics, it’s not hidden knowledge. It’s been widely reported all over the place the last 6 or 8 years or so. I assume almost everyone here knows about the numerous examples of a few rich people dominating state politics. If someone is going to claim it’s not important, they better have a more sophisticated argument than “it’s obviously not important because Romney didn’t win.”

                • “Maybe they aren’t inherently dumb. But they’re behaving in a way that’s dumb.”

                • sibusisodan

                  The way to show people you are smart is not to brag how smart you are. That is, however, how you show everyone how much of an asshole you are.

                  How can you be so correct and so unaware simultaneously?

          • JL

            Outside money is only one form of power. Conservative grassroots organizing over the past 50-60 years is also power.

            • Anon21

              I certainly agree with that. Indeed, it’s the exact point I’m trying to get Dana to acknowledge.

              • DrDick

                But the flood of money aids and expands that.

              • You’ve never argued that point. I and others aren’t saying only the money matters. But you’ve been saying it doesn’t matter at all.

            • Andrew

              Conservative grassroots organizing isn’t self-funding. They’re backed by big money donors.

              • Anon21

                That’s been characteristically true of some of the Tea Party organizing in the last five years. But it hasn’t been true of all conservative grassroots organizing since the 1970s. This has been a long-term project, and Koch et al. are coming in at the end of it.

                • Not so much. Here in North Carolina Art Pope has been building conservative grass roots support and organizations that support conservatives for many years.
                  In a larger sense, the Powell memo was written in 1971 and the Right took it quite seriously building an infrastructure of think tanks and supporting institutions.
                  The Tea Party is less an example of a sudden groundswell than the intersection of events with ongoing institution building that allowed the Right to take advantage of fortuitous (for them) circumstances.
                  Throw in the motivating factor of a Black president and what you see today is not five years but forty years of organizing.

                • Andrew

                  Yes, it’s a long-term project that started with Goldwater. The organizing developed in tandem with the growth of the right-wing think tanks and media operations. It was funded by Coors, Scaife, Koch, and other big money donors. It wasn’t some organic, bottom-up movement.

                • Eric Zuesse

                  Re. your “Kochs et al. are coming in at the end of it”:

                  That’s false. Here is one of numerous news reports I did at Huffington Post that prove it false:

                  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eric-zuesse/final-proof-the-tea-party_b_4136722.html

          • Timb

            You should. Indiana’s legislators are extremely corrupt, ALEC-supported tools, especially indiana’s Republicans. This last fall when outside money and organization flew into Indiana to help — successfully — reject an attempt to stop marriage equality, indiana’s legislators folded to public pressure and tabled the bill.

            The idea that Indiana is knee-jerk Republican is not true any longer. But the money which purchases Indiana legislators comes from the Right and results in terrible changes.

            PS rejecting a smae sex marriage amendment…..just one more way Indiana is better than Alabama, which is news to some people

        • Barry

          On top of that, please recall just how badly the GOP was doing in Fall, 2008. They had failed so badly on so many levels that if politics were about policy, they’d be in the the powerless losers’ doghouse for a decade. Any time that they succeeded in blocking any little issue would be a rare thing indeed.

          Instead, they’ve done an incredible job.

    • Mitt “Mittens” Romney

      Well, my friend, considering that my effective tax rate on the one preliminary return that I released (and, oh boy, you best believe I filed an amended return in December 2012) was just under 14%, and I deliberately goosed that upward to calm The Help (that is you people) down, and normally I’m way under 10%, and my friends are way lower, well, friend, I’d say it is working out really well.

      • Anon21

        So the Koch Brothers spent all that money… to keep Mitt Romney’s taxes low? Was it an elaborate feint, or what?

        • DrS

          Well, obviously. It’s not like the Koch’s and Mitt Romney have anything in common or anything.

          • Anon21

            You seem to be wandering far astray of the point. The Koches spent tons of money on national elections for many reasons, one of which was keeping marginal tax rates low. It was money poorly spent in terms of the results it achieved.

            • DrS

              Wandering far from what point, exactly?

            • James E Powell

              I guess I missed that huge tax increase that passed over Republican objections.

              • Anon21

                You also missed a Romney EPA gutting the Clean Air Act, which was probably a higher priority for the Koches than even taxes. We all missed that, thankfully, because politics is more complicated than “Whoever spends the most wins.”

                • elm

                  Who has said “Whoever spends the most wins?” That is in no way synonymous with “Politics is about power.”

                • Anon21

                  I’m not saying it is, but what’s the point of invoking Koch and Adelson, most notable for wasting a bunch of goddamn money in 2012, in this context? In the national elections they grasped for power and came up empty.

                • They might be most notable in public for that but I’m not interested in what garners headlines.

                • elm

                  But, as pointed out, they acquired power in other areas, such as at the state level or in the House. If everyone is reaching for power, not everyone can get it. That their money was insufficient to acquire presidential power in 2012 does nothing to detract from Erik’s point. Erik’s point may be flawed in other ways (I think Bijan is largely correct below), but your comment is a non-sequiter.

                • dollared

                  Wisconsin Wisconsin Wisconsin. Kochs and Fox made Scotty Walker and the margins have been razor thin.

                  Anon 21, you are simply ignoring the evidence. Nice trolling, though.

              • malraux

                FWIW, the ACA does have a substantial tax increase in it, a medicare tax on investment income.

            • Malaclypse

              It was money poorly spent in terms of the results it achieved.

              If Romney paid 14% on the one return he released, why are you questioning the results achieved? Do you think the Kochs, or Adelson, or anyone in the rentier class, are paying more than that? When was the last time this country seriously debated treating unearned income anything like wages?

              • Anon21

                Sorry, what is the connection between this and the campaign expenditures of Americans for Prosperity or whatever? You think that without Koch money in the race, we would have passed a capital gains tax increase by now?

                • dollared

                  Man, what a vigorous troll! The money spent by these guys has generated massive returns in their long game. Control of Congress by the Tea Party rump that they funded has: 1)eliminated 1M federal jobs; 2) cut food stamps by 10%; 3) terminated long term unemployment benefits; 4) raised Obama’s threshold for increased capital gains tax from $250k in income to $400k in income; 5) continued the frustration of the American people with the sluggish economy, slowed down by these reductions in spending; 6) supported their main story about the ineffectiveness of government; 6) directed more and more money to national and local television businesses, which are therefore more favorable in their coverage; 7) and created a general atmosphere of hopelessness that the government could be more well run or that workers or families could be more empowered to demand policies that could better their lives.

                  Aside from that, AFP and their friends have really accomplished nothing, and I totally agree with all your right wing talking points.

                • Anon21

                  The GOP takeover of the House in 2010 was caused by the Koches, Adelson, or big money in general? Horseshit. There’s not an opposition party in American history that wouldn’t have taken over under the political circumstances of 2010.

                • dollared

                  you’re soooooo good! One of the best trolls evah! Did you see anywhere where I said that the House takeover in 2010 was determined by the Kochs? 145th time in this thread you’ve misrepresented someone’s argument.

                  It’s the funding of the TP rump AFTER the House Takeover, and the ongoing aircover and attack ads in the swing states, that they use as their method for accomplishing their goals.

            • Barry

              Anon21: “You seem to be wandering far astray of the point. The Koches spent tons of money on national elections for many reasons, one of which was keeping marginal tax rates low. It was money poorly spent in terms of the results it achieved.”

              They (and other billionaires – look at the Walton family) have been doing this for quite some time. The fact that they don’t *always* win doesn’t contradict the fact that they’ve done quite well.

            • rea

              The Koches spent tons of money on national elections for many reasons, one of which was keeping marginal tax rates low. It was money poorly spent in terms of the results it achieved.

              How so? Marginal tax rsates are still low!

              • Anon21

                Because of what the Koches did, despite the fact that they failed to achieve what they attempted to achieve? What’s even the logic here? What causal chain are you positing?

                • Well, we do keep asking for better trolls.

        • Barry

          Anon21 says:

          “So the Koch Brothers spent all that money… to keep Mitt Romney’s taxes low? Was it an elaborate feint, or what?”

          Please ask a friend who has a clue.

          • Anon21

            They spent the money to elect Romney. In that purpose, they failed.

            • Malaclypse

              Haw lucky for us that they spent all that with only one goal in mind.

              • And that it had no additional effects, like not helping get out the vote of people who voted Republican for other offices.

    • Bruce Baugh

      If you’re looking to keep women from having access to reproductive control, or keep whole swaths of people from voting, or looking to let white people have an easier time murdering black people, or any number of other things they’re interested…I’d say it’s looking pretty damn good.

  • The point of politics is power. If you don’t want power challenged, one way is to say the point of politics is policy.

    • Zombie Robert Moses
    • Ezra’s an elite. I checked out the backgrounds of the hires he’d made through when he took heat for hiring a homophobic homosexual. More than half of the ones I was able to ID were Ivy grads. Now, are a lot of Ivy grads smart and capable and do they cultivate the skills and gain the experience to get good jobs? Sure, of course. But the pool of smart people for what he’s supposedly doing isn’t half Ivy grads.

      But if a guy who went to UCLA, whose dad went to MIT and whose mother is an artist, whose wife went to boarding school and Harvard, and whose most prominent initial hire went to Harvard, if that guy goes about hiring people based not on diversity of perspectives but because they think like him, he’s probably going to end up with a staff that believes politics is about policy, so we should trust them on everything, because they know policy better than the rest of of proles who aren’t in his elite circles.

      • ThrottleJockey

        I’m going to flip the question, Dana. If I concede that politics is about power, what is policy about?

        I don’t have a strong feeling about Klein one way or another, but good policy isn’t just good politics. Over on the Equal Pay Day thread we’re discussing women’s wage gap. Once we all agree that it needs to be fixed, how do we then go about fixing it? Do we just sign the Equal Pay Act into law? Will that get more HS girls into STEM careers? Will that mean more girls want to be DRs instead of nurses? Or MBAs instead of secretaries? Will an Equal Pay Act mean my sister doesn’t have to take off work for 3 years to have a kid?

        Here’s the thing: Once you get into power, you then have to do something effective with that power, and that where policy comes into play.

        • Policy is about whatever the people in power want to pursue or are forced to confront or ignore. Often they want something stupid or greedy, often they have neutral or laudatory motives but it’s a bad policy, other times it’s a decent policy but poorly executed. But “policy” isn’t neutral, it’s what people who’ve achieved power over government do with that power. It can be measured against what they say they hope it will accomplish, and it can be assessed to show the effects of the policy. But there isn’t some platonic form of “policy” that is right or wrong for all people, at all times. But I think that’s an unstated assumption of what Klein is trying to do, and it’s as sound and attainable as is the American mainstream journalism ideal of “objectivity.”

        • Once you get into power, you then have to do something effective with that power, and that where policy comes into play.

          More or less answering your own question. Policy is an avenue through which power is exercised.

          Isn’t that fairly obvious?

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    Hunter Thompson said something to the effect ‘politics is the art of controlling your environment’…

  • The point of politics is not policy. The point of politics is power. This is blindingly obvious.

    A happy moment of 100% TBA-Loomis agreement. Jeez, Klein. Grow up.

    • Gwen

      The point of politics is COOKIES! NOM NOM NOM nom nom nom.

      • And how does one acquire cookies? I mean, besides clicking on websites?

    • IM

      “The Object of Power is Power”

      Well yes. But what about policy? There does it come in?

  • burnspbesq

    Oh, come on.

    What is the point of amassing political power, if not to advance a policy agenda?

    If the entire point of the exercise is to reward your friends and mess with your enemies, isn’t the entire process pointless and amoral?

    And, for that matter, how does one identify friends and enemies, if not by their positions on policy issues?

    • Policy follows power. That’s the point. It’s about amassing power. What you do after that is secondary to the point of having power.

      • Theo

        What doesn’t follow power? What don’t you need power to do? Or, what can you do without the power to do it?

        • Pat

          We tell the kids that there is a difference between a policeman and a librarian. Both are authorities. The policeman has a gun, a radio to call for more guys with guns, and the power to arrest people on behalf of the community. The librarian knows where information is kept.

          So if you want to talk about the uses of power, you might think first you want to be the policeman, who has a lot of power. But if you don’t value the librarian, you may not be able to use power effectively when you have it.

          • Theo

            You’re just talking about different kinds of power. Both are means, not ends.

            • Pat

              I think there is a difference between power and authority. Both can be used to accomplish goals; however, they are different in how they can be unwound or undone.

              A man with a gun has the power to shoot someone. A police officer has the authority to shoot someone. The difference is that a police officer is supposed to wield his authority according to explicit rules and only under specified circumstances. Prosecuting a policeman for shooting someone is far more difficult than prosecuting a random person.

              Torture under the Bush II administration was done under the guise of authority, and it has been difficult to unwind, which worries many of us that it will be repeated. But I digress.

              Knowledge and information from an authority is a very different kind of power, and it’s crucial for policy implementation. Without it, power-brokers reward their friends.

              • Pat

                Well, they only successfully reward their friends, and they f***ck the rest up.

              • Theo

                “But I digress.”

                Agreed.

      • TT

        I would say it’s secondary only in terms of chronology rather than importance. For many in politics what you are able to do is of the utmost importance, but you cannot do it without first gaining power.

      • ThrottleJockey

        Secondary is not the same as unimportant. If you look at Detroit, the black establishment ran that city for 20-40yrs. Obviously there’s lot of issues over which Detroit doesn’t have control–state polices, the auto industry, federal polices–but I don’t think most black people in Detroit think they’ve been well served by the black establishment there…Which is why they’re about to have their 1st white mayor in 40yrs. There has to be a point to power other than mere power, otherwise its meaningless–at least for most of the proles. Power, like glory, is fleeting. (Just ask Nancy Pelosi ;-)

    • You seem confused that there is a difference about the means to achieve and maintain power, and the administration of governance once you get power. Katznelson’s Fear Itself is really good at showing how the New Deal borrowed a lot of policy ideas from the dictatorships in Europe, especially Italy.

      Policy and power are different. Classic example, which Erik talks about all the time, is workers and labor unions. Ygeslias is actually mostly inclined to liberal policies that would help out working people. But he’s viscerally hostile to those people or their labor union representatives exercising any influence over policy choices. He was probably rather comfortable with an presidential election between two Harvard Law grads. But someone with Harry Reid’s background would probably have given him hives.

      • Anon21

        But he’s viscerally hostile to those people or their labor union representatives exercising any influence over policy choices.

        You’re gonna need a cite for “Yglesias is … viscerally hostile to [working] people … exercising any influence over policy choices.” I know where you’re getting “labor union representatives,” and it’s actually mostly an issue of his disagreeing with labor union representatives (especially teachers) about the policy positions they advocate than having any objection to their influencing the policy process.

        • In all the years I’ve read him, I have never seen Yglesias support an actual strike while it was happening.

          • I’ve also never seen him mention when a labor union supports something he supports. But jeez, look up “Yglesias” and “countervailing” and see all the smug snark about unions.

          • Anon21

            He’s been hostile to some strikes (Chicago teachers is the one I remember) because he doesn’t support the policy ends they are seeking to achieve. I would hope you would be hostile to a prison guard union’s strike attempting to achieve greater use of punitive solitary confinement without intending thereby to signal your hostility to labor or strikes generally. As to other strikes, he has been neutral or positive, e.g.: http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2000/08/whats_at_stake_in_the_verizon_strike.html

            He’s not any kind of advocate for organized labor, but neither is he reflexively hostile to organized labor. He is certainly not viscerally hostile to working people exercising any influence over policy choices; that’s just Dana making shit up, as is demonstrated by the lack of the slightest shred of support for the claim.

          • Barry

            Has anybody here seen Yglesias support real, existing, current unions? Heck, I can’t recall him even pulling the old ‘back in the day, unions might have been justified, but now…….’ excuse.

            • dollared

              No and never SATSQ.

        • You wanting a cite is not the same as me needing one. I’ve dealt with him on Twitter more than enough to know what I’m talking about. This isn’t some gnostic knowledge attainable to only the elect. He’s displayed it over and over again.

          • Anon21

            Okay, then I’m going to have to reject it. It’s untrue.

            • You’re good at that reasoning stuff.

            • Aaron Morrow

              You’re going to need a site for that.

              MY – “I think the classic postwar American dynamic of an economy with a large minority of the workforce unionized is fundamentally unstable.”

              • Anon21

                You’re not even trying here, friendo. Let’s link to the full piece and see your argument melt away: http://thinkprogress.org/yglesias/2011/02/20/199982/labor-unions-and-me/

                1) The quote you pulled is descriptive, not proscriptive.

                2) He expresses sympathy for labor unions struggling to organize or maintain their membership in the face of an unequal playing field created by Taft-Hartley.

                3) He discusses the Nordic high-unionization equilibrium and says it leads to “a kind of Mirror Universe version of the Chamber of Commerce, a politically powerful institution interested in maximizing the income growth of the median Swede rather than the median Swedish CEO.” Again descriptive, but given his overall body of work, verges on an endorsement of this high-unionization model.

      • RogerAiles

        It’s Kausism by Proxy. There is no cure.

    • Bloix

      For the modern Republican Party, the point of amassing political power is to alter the constitutional order of the United States so as to ensure one-party rule for the next generation or more, and thus to permit those who control the party to channel the resources of the nation and the world to a few very wealthy families and corporations without fear of being turned out of power.

      The United States as a third-world one-party state, that’s the goal. Think of the PRI in Mexico from 1929-2000 as the model.

      • Pat

        I’ll agree with that interpretation.

      • joe from Lowell

        And they very clearly use policy – from voter ID laws to campaign financing to an entire educational platform built around weakening the teachers unions capacity to help Democrats – as merely a means to the end of gaining and holding power for themselves and their peeps.

  • I don’t quite see this.

    Perhaps if we ask, “What’s the point of power?” we might get some answers? The point of power is to have your way. A description of “getting your way” is “having your favoured policies enforced”.

    So the proximate goal of politics is power but the ultimate goal is policy, at least for many people. This fits in with “The point of majorities is to do stuff”.

    For some people, power is, indeed, largely a primary goal, and the effects of exercising is clearly less important than the exercise itself. But that doesn’t seem true of, e.g., the US political parties. They definitely want power. Republicans perhaps a bit more than democrats. Republicans definitely want to just taste power a fair bit. But both sides also have strong policy concerns.

    • TT

      Making sure that you’re “getting your way” I think is the most important way to think about politics. “Getting your way” comes in many forms, whether it’s enacting and enforcing, or blocking, ignoring, and/or subverting policy.

      • Control over a massive pot of money? Does that really necessitate policy? Its an end in itself.

      • Pat

        You should tell John Boehner that the point of having a majority is to do stuff. I don’t think he got that memo.

        • Well, he doesn’t have an effective majority…he has a majority of the house. The republican proximate goal is to attain power (for many, it may be an end goal).

          • Pat

            He could still craft policy and pass legislation, you know, try to be productive.

            • Sure. But but if he has policy that won’t be enacted because of other actors that doesn’t show that he doesn’t know power is to be used.

        • The stuff they’re doing is obstruction, and it’s highly effective.

    • Royko

      I think the way I would formulate it is that politics is about getting the power to make policy.

      That said, a belief that constituents will recognize the effects of bad policy and correctly attribute the causes (which Klein seems to be saying) is a bit naive. Sometimes, it will work out that way. But too often, people don’t notice the effects of bad policy until it’s too late, and then direct their anger in the wrong directions. In that regard, I think Erik’s right that you can’t just count on people coming around to the best policies eventually.

      • Theo

        “I think the way I would formulate it is that politics is about getting the power to make policy.”

        So what does power have to do with politics, that it doesn’t have to do with anything else?

        “I think the way I would formulate it is that farming is about getting the power to farm.”

        Really?

        • Royko

          Well, if you imagine the act of farming in your mind, it’s not crops growing. It’s getting the proper equipment and doing the tilling and planting and what have you that allows the crops to grow.

          So farming is about doing the things you need to do to grow your crops.

          Similarly, politics is about amassing enough support (power) to get your policies passed.

          • Theo

            “So farming is about doing the things you need to do to grow your crops.”

            So politics is about doing the things you need to do to get your policies passed? Yes, I see the difference: one requires tractors, the other requires detractors.

            Again, saying politics is power is, at best, meaningless half-truth. Politics is about the power to enact preferred policy. A normal person then, realizing that any action or endeavor necessarily requires seeking the power to it, would fairly characterize the point of politics as enacting policy.

            • Royko

              Well, I guess I tend to think of it in terms that policy is the end while power is the means. (For politicians themselves, it’s more complicated.)

              I think not acknowledging that relationship is what leads people to say foolish things like, “A political movement that fools itself into crafting national policy based on bad evidence is a political movement that will, sooner or later, face a reckoning at the polls.”

              • Theo

                “Well, I guess I tend to think of it in terms that policy is the end while power is the means.”

                Look, I don’t disagree with you. I think it’s rather inane, however, to says something like this. Power is the means to do anything.

                I don’t understand how your second statement follows from the first.

              • joe from Lowell

                How about this:

                Politics is the means to achieve an end, which is power.

                At which point, power becomes the means to achieve a new end, which is policy.

                • Lee Rudolph

                  “At which point, power” CAN become “the means to achieve a new end, which is policy” but CAN ALSO become, instead, the means to maintain power for its own sake.

                • Theo

                  “Politics is the means to achieve an end, which is power.”

                  That would mean something indeed, but it’s not true. The end of politics is not power, it’s policy, as you acknowledge but suggesting that when the “end” of power is achieved, then the end becomes policy. Of course, that’s merely a convoluted way of admitting that power was not really the end, policy was the end.

                • Theo

                  “means to maintain power for its own sake.”

                  I a problem imagining power as an end for its own sake. Power is, by definition, the means to do something. That something may be different things in different contexts, such as farming and politics. But power alone is not an end; power alone is not even power.

                  In politics, power is used to influence policy. If you want power to do other things, such as lift heavy objects, analyze laws, preach the word of God, or cure people’s ills, you would not seek to accumulate political power, because political power would not help you do those things.

                  Only if you wanted to enact policy would you seek political power. Thus, the point of politics is policy, not power.

                • joe from Lowell

                  as you acknowledge but suggesting that when the “end” of power is achieved, then the end becomes policy.

                  Nope. My recognition that power can be used as a means does not mean what you keep insisting it does. You need only look at Lee Rudolph’s comment above, about cases in which people seek power for its own sake, to realize this.

                  The people who seek power as an end unto itself (or to get money and women and status and a place in history) engage in the same contests, which we call “politics,” as those who seek power and then use it for something else. Therefore, it cannot be the case that policy is the end of politics, because we have so many examples where it is not.

                  Of course, that’s merely a convoluted way of admitting that power was not really the end, policy was the end.

                  No, Theo, I’m actually make a different point that eluded you the first time. Maybe you’ll get it this time.

                • joe from Lowell

                  Only if you wanted to enact policy would you seek political power.

                  Let me introduce you to Kwame Kilpatrick.

                  Real policy-oriented fella, that one.

                • Theo

                  “Therefore, it cannot be the case that policy is the end of politics, because we have so many examples where it is not.”

                  Do we have any example of where power is the end? I’m imagining a president, upon taking the oath of office, retiring to the White House and saying, “Well, I’ve made it, I will now do nothing.”

                  If a powerful person does nothing with his power, is he really powerful? I guess you could argue then, that the power to do nothing with one’s power, is the ultimate expression of power and the ultimate end, right?

                • joe from Lowell

                  Do we have any example of where power is the end?

                  Yup. If the Koch-driven conservative movement has promoted policies aimed at any other end other than securing the power of the Koch brothers and their allies, I haven’t seen it.

                  I’m imagining a president, upon taking the oath of office, retiring to the White House and saying, “Well, I’ve made it, I will now do nothing.”

                  Imagine a President who takes office and proceeds to dedicate his term to securing and expanding the power of himself and his allies. It isn’t hard to do.

            • DrDick

              Speaking as a political anthropologist, “politics is about power” is the central truth you need to recognize to understand politics. It is ultimately all about obtaining and deploying power. For some people, just having power and being able to use it as you want is the ultimate reward.

      • They also often don’t recognize the effects of good policy either. That’s why the Cass Sunstein nudge stuff is so politically stupid.

        • Erza Klein is the first person to go to UCSC and not smoke too much pot.

    • njorl

      Yes. Power is the ability to enact preferred policy. In that regard Ezra is not wrong. Where he might be wrong is in his understanding of what Republican policies are.

      Democrats are much easier to understand. They want to improve the standard of living of most people. The better they do, the more popular they become, the easier it is to win elections. Their policies feed their politics which give them power to enact their policies. That’s a nice, tidy cycle.

      Republicans are different. They want to preserve and concentrate as much wealth and power as possible in the hands of those who believe in the concept of concentrating power and wealth in as few hands as possible. Having demonstrable success in that policy isn’t going to win them any elections (though it does get them more funding). Republicans need a second tier of policies which they use just to win voters. Republicans need to demonstrate some success in these policies to win elections, but they don’t care that much. In addition, they are much more amenable to the idea that it is better to “have an issue” than to “have a law”.

      • DrDick

        It is also the case, as I noted upthread, that for some people having power and be able to deploy it is an end in itself.

    • JL

      I think you and Erik are talking past each other.

      There is a certain subset of my highly-educated acquaintances who are politically liberal but extremely distrustful of most organizing and activism, because they think politics is supposed to be a reasoned and factual discussion of the best policy choices, and collective action, which is about gathering power to exercise, seems to them like rule by mob rather than rule by whether your policy prescriptions are the best if we’re rational about it. The fact that basically no political gains ever come from the sort of reasoned debate that they favor seems to have been lost on them.

      I think THAT is the mentality that Erik is arguing against. Obviously, for most politically interested people, the point of getting power is to be able to create policy and implement one’s values and all that good stuff, but you still need power for those, power is a necessary link between the start point and the desired goal, and that’s something that IME many naturally wonkish people don’t quite get or would rather downplay because it clashes with their ideals.

      • José Arcadio Buendía

        And because they got beat up by the cool kids who make up that mob too many times and being smarter is their form of revenge. They think that there is a Right Answer and they have it.

        I agree with Loomis that the point of politics is power. Having the right policy and being able to implement it is what I personally believe power should be used for and I think that’s a compelling political argument, but I’m under no illusion that power can be had by boring good government harangues. You need the implementers, the organizers, and the idea people. They can all sneer at each other, but they all need each other for anything to happen.

        • Ronan

          this is absolutely nuts bordering on completly oppossed to any form of scientific knowledge.
          of course facts matter, of course policy matters, of course organisaing matters, of course power matters

          you have to know where youre going and have a goddamn argument to make when you get there. you have to know how to organise, how to influnce politics etc..all of this takes research, it doesngt just fall from the rings of saturn.

          i would think theres virtually no one who studies politcal science (not me, but id assume) who actually believes (literally) in technocratic policy. Its a starting point of all political science (afaik) that policy *is driven* by politics.

          • GoDeep

            Well said, Ronan. Couldn’t agree more.

      • Linnaeus

        This. There’s a lot of comments in this thread to the effect that “you need power to enact policy” and I don’t disagree with that, but I don’t think Erik is saying that policy ends don’t play a significant role in politics.

        • Linnaeus

          I don’t think Erik is saying that policy ends don’t play a significant role in politics.

          Or, rather, that they play no role at all.

      • LeeEsq

        Beyond being distrustful activism, most policy-wonk types are distrustful of the things necessary to get politicians elected into office or the compromises and horse-trading involved in writing legislation. They don’t like the fact that our Congress tends to do its own thing when it comes to legislation rather than merely tinkering with what the President sends down or giving it an up or down vote as is. My suspicion is that the anti-politics types are conflict averse people and can’t really stand the fights that take place in electoral politics or legislative battles.

        • Great example of what you’re describing: naming a blog about politics named “Monkey Cage” with a Mencken quote that “Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage.”

          They may think that’s cute and clever, but it’s also pretty damn disdainful of the great unwashed masses whose stupid notions they–or, the worst of them, but not Farrell–because they’re professors, can debunk and do not mistakenly believe.

          • Ronan

            i would have thought that saying was disdainful of those in the monkey cage ie the politicians and ‘technocratic’ policy makers causing so much grief

          • Ronan

            this is ridiculous anyway. it’s their job to develop factual research, not pander to specific vested interests. they provide a service which *can be useful to those wanting to influence policy and the interested general public*

            • Ronan

              i mean, my god when will the monkey cage’s campaign against the great unwashed end

              http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/04/08/rich-people-rule/

              • Heh. I haven’t read Lindblom, but Schattschneider, Ferguson and especially Domhoff would see Klein’s list of hires and shout THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT!!!

                For the rest, you may want to reread what I said upthread about Yglesias. He wouldn’t want the policy outcomes being consistently bad for the less affluent. But he also wouldn’t want policy decisions to be shaped by too many meetings between Congressmen and the great unwashed masses. In other words, they may have OK ideas about policy outcomes, but they have very elitist ideas about politics and policy process and a blind spot to how a process dominated by elites is likely to result in outcomes that favor elites. Monkeycage is sort of like that, in that some of them–not Farrell, and Bartels isn’t a regular there–but some of them see themselves as like that Randi guy who debunked superstitions and ESP and such.

                • Ronan

                  I dont read Yglesias or Klein et al, not out of any personal animus but just because I started reading online late in the day after they had secured their positions and never got into the habit. I think I once read an Yglesias’ piece on how the economy is like a Burrito stall (or something) and thought it so stupid there was no need to ever read the man again. (though I have, once or twice)

                  Id generally agree with your point about their conceptions of politics, that its been influenced by their upbrining/career socialisation etc, sorry for the snark, Im just in a bad mood.
                  You should read Lindblom (his book on the market is pretty interesting, although i was coming at it from a laymans perspective so perhaps its not as interesting to all, but worth a read)

      • There is a certain subset of my highly-educated acquaintances who are politically liberal but extremely distrustful of most organizing and activism, because they think politics is supposed to be a reasoned and factual discussion of the best policy choices, and collective action, which is about gathering power to exercise, seems to them like rule by mob rather than rule by whether your policy prescriptions are the best if we’re rational about it. The fact that basically no political gains ever come from the sort of reasoned debate that they favor seems to have been lost on them.

        I think THAT is the mentality that Erik is arguing against.

        I agree with you and Erik that that view is nuts. Thanks for the clarification.

      • GoDeep

        The fact that basically no political gains ever come from the sort of reasoned debate that they favor seems to have been lost on them.

        Any look at the ramp up of the Tea Party into power shows this. Friend sent me some link today saying that Fox News watchers are woefully uninformed on most issues. Hasn’t caused a dent in their House majority though. And that ignorance may let them capture the Senate too.

    • Manny Kant

      I think there are plenty of Republicans (and some Democrats, too) who don’t have any strong policy beliefs, but just want to kind of enjoy the perks of power and rock the boat as little as possible.

      In general, the incentives for Democrats like this are to be mushy centrists, while the incentives for Republicans like this have increasingly become to pander to the far right. You are certainly not going to convince me that implementing policy are primary interests for politicians like Ben Nelson and John Boehner, to take what I would say are archetypal examples of the Democratic and Republican varieties of this sort of politician.

      • José Arcadio Buendía

        That I don’t agree with. Ben Nelson merely voting for Reid as majority leader makes him infinitely preferable to his Republican alternative, as demonstrated plainly by his asinine successor.

        Mushy centrists can be as you describe, but they can also be powerful help sometimes.

        • Manny Kant

          What exactly don’t you agree with? I wasn’t saying Boehner and Nelson are the same, just that they are both examples of politicians who don’t care about policy. As I said, Democratic politicians who don’t care about policy are going to end up in a different place from Republican politicians who don’t care about policy – I certainly agree that Nelson is preferable.

      • I think there are plenty of Republicans (and some Democrats, too) who don’t have any strong policy beliefs, but just want to kind of enjoy the perks of power and rock the boat as little as possible.

        I agree that some people have power as a primary goal. Maybe many politicians even. But I don’t think that’s the goal of politics per se. Part of political technology (e.g., democracy) is to try to yoke power desires with good policy and governance outcomes.

  • Theo

    “The point of politics is power.”

    Now I understand the point of this blog much better.

    • And the people who believe that probably understand Max Weber better too.

      • joe from Lowell

        And Hans Morganthau. And George Kennan.

        And foreign policy thinking as a whole.

    • witless chum

      Probably not.

    • DrS

      There’s that classic libertarian understanding of power.

    • Anna in PDX

      Geez, what did you think “Lawyers, Guns and Money” was about? Political influence that comes from quietly attending neighborhood association meetings, I suppose.

      • Manny Kant

        I thought it was a reference to a Warren Zevon song, and probably a coy reference to the research interests of the site’s founders – Lawyers (Lemieux), Guns (Farley), and Money (djw, I guess? or just kind of an odd man out kind of thing?)

        • Anna in PDX

          Of course it is a reference to the Warren Zevon song and their areas of expertise, but a secondary reading of the title would lead to the assumption that they (the blog writers) understand where power comes from and are not naive about it.

    • DrDick

      I doubt that you are even capable of understanding anything at all.

  • politicalfootball

    I agree 100% with the post, but I just want to take a moment to express a little sympathy for poor ol’ Ezra, who is an honorable guy who may well perform valuable service to the people who actually intend to get things done.

    • I think that’s a good point. Ezra is–or at least was–a decent guy. He’s becoming a bit of a rock star, and there’s a danger that he gets too self-absorbed and inclined to conventional wisdom, and there’s definitely a desire to not be seen as partisan. He may actually cause harm. But I think he sincerely wants to achieve good things.

      But he’s got a ways to go in understanding politics and power, and his relationship to both.

      • GOOD INTENTIONS

        Hell is paved with good intentions, not with bad ones.
        All men mean well.

        G. B. Shaw, Maxims for Revolutionists

      • Bloix

        For years, Klein has been under pressure to turn into a “both sides do it” kind of guy. So far he’s been too smart, too ambitious, and too self-identified as a moderate leftie to just write utterly hackish crap so he writes this psychological stuff that has some meat to it to give himself cover.

        But regardless of any genuine insights this inaugural Vox piece may contain, its purpose is to demonstrate that Klein and Vox are safely ensconced in the Village tent. They will be the proprietors of a new leftie intellectual stall in the tent, but inside is where they’ll be.

        • Manny Kant

          Ezra Klein hasn’t been willing to describe himself as liberal or on the left for a couple of years now.

  • Derelict

    There’s a whole raft of people just like Ezra–folks with public platforms who find all of the following hideously distasteful:

    confrontation

    middle-class people

    Working-class people

    poor people

    unions

    environmentalists

    What they love:

    Imagined consensus

    Fellow elites

    corporatism

    • James E Powell

      They also love wealth & status. And good seats and feeling important and being noticed and flying first class and knowing the chef and Europe and not just having it all but getting to be one of the people who decides what “it all” includes.

    • Pat

      Sort of like an anti-Erik!

    • wengler

      You forgot to add technocratic solutions.

    • Tyro

      One of the things I don’t understand is why you would use money and fame to be centrist. If I were rich and had a large platform, I would feel like I had the freedom to say the radical things that people don’t feel free to say within the confines of “polite society.”

      • You may be assuming a backward causal chain.

      • EliHawk

        So basically, Ted Turner then?

  • RogerAiles

    Yes.

  • ajay

    The point of politics is not policy. The point of politics is power.

    It’s both. To put it another way, using your example, did the civil rights movement do what it did solely because MLK wanted power? If he’d had the option, would he have been just as happy getting similar power by becoming, say, the chairman of General Motors? No. He went into politics because he had a very specific set of policies that he wanted in force. He needed power in order to make that happen. But saying that politics is solely about power is like saying that no one buys a car so they can commute to work, they buy a car so they can drive a car. Well, yes. But they (or some of them) want to drive a car in order to get to work. (Some others just enjoy the feeling of driving a car.)

    • I challenge the very basis of this entire post because it assumes that MLK was the civil rights movement, which is very much not true. The civil rights movements succeeded because black people demanded power and because northern white liberals agreed with some of their basic demands.

      • It wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that MLK was the public face of the CRM. Part of his power came from that perception, as all power is based partially on perception.

        • Yes, but it was a lot more complex than that at the time and it’s been oversimplified massively today.

        • DrDick

          He was one of many public faces at the time. He happens to be the one who has been formally installed as the icon of the movement by the existing (white) power structure, largely since he was less threatening than many others.

          • GoDeep

            I’m pretty sure the fact that he’s on my grandmother’s wall, fan, coffee table, and Limited Edition! Commemorative Ceramic Plate!! means that he wasn’t the favorite of just the white power structure. Malcolm X was popular, as was A. Philip Randolph (whose idea the March on Washington was) but no one came close to capturing the heart of black America like King did. To the extent that he was “installed” it was first and foremost by blacks–even if the white establishment found him vastly preferable to, for instance, Stokely Carmichael.

      • ajay

        I challenge the very basis of this entire post because it assumes that MLK was the civil rights movement, which is very much not true.

        Good job that wasn’t the basis of my entire post, then. The final object of the civil rights movement, and follow me closely here, was not “get more black guys into positions of political power”. It was a policy-oriented political project. Some of those policies translated into more political power for black people, like Voting Rights – but not all of them by any means.

  • CaptBackslap, YOLO Edition

    Politics should, obviously, be about policy. But humanity is irremediably defective, and so the battle is fought on more…primal grounds.

    More specifically, politics is about control of what Lacanians call the Big Other–the ostensibly omnipotent force underlying the social order.

    • Matt_L

      Fuck Lacan, how many divisions does he have?

  • montag2

    On one level, the Ezras of the country like explaining/devising/divining policy with other like-minded people. That’s okay, even if too much of that in Ezra’s clubhouse involves the unadulterated infiltration of rational thought processes by Third Way/New Democrat/DLC/wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing horseshit and prestidigitation.

    But, in the real world of politicking, two truisms still stand: if you’re explaining, you’re already behind, and a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth can put its shoes on. Dems have had a hard road in a harder world because they too often can’t figure out how those two truisms work together.

    • UserGoogol

      The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

      • panda

        How did it work out for the Bush White House, both politically and substantially? I mean, in the end, reality came crashing down on them, their policy goals were not achieved, and the next administration, elected on the basis of these failures, managed to push through the most significant progressive achievements in a generation.

        • UserGoogol

          Yes, I was using that post to attack montag.

          • panda

            Sorry for the misunderstanding.

        • Pat

          I think many of their policy goals were obtained. A lot of wealth was taken from previously middle-class people. A huge amount of money was transferred to those who were already rich and powerful. Those well-connected to the Bush group were rewarded, especially those who sold arms to the US for use in Iraq. What wasn’t to like?

        • TrexPushups

          Chief Justice John Roberts
          Justice Samuel Alito

          Shelby county
          Citizens united
          The latest campaign finance case
          DC vs Heller
          And many more as the years go by.

          They got a lot done.

  • Barry

    Another way to phrase it is that Ezra probably believes that good prospective policy leads to power, while bad prospective policy does not, and that once in power, good policy reinforces power, while bad policy does not.

    Which, of course, is the sort of foolishness which pundits are paid to propagate.

    • wengler

      He thinks that people vote on policy? Obama could give everyone who voted against him a mansion and a million dollars and they would happily vote against him on election day and chalk up their material gains to hard work.

      The only time that people vote on policy is during primaries.

      • GoDeep

        You don’t think that a significant segment of voters vote their interests and that their interests are based on policy proscriptions? Did the Chamber of Commerce endorse Romney just because he was the white guy, or was it because he was offering them a shit load of goodies too?

        • a significant segment of voters vote their interests and that their interests are based on policy proscriptions? Did the Chamber of Commerce endorse Romney

          The Chamber of Commerce isn’t a significant segment of voters.

  • UserGoogol

    Except for a very small number of people, individual power beyond some insignificant domain is unachievable. (And said “great men” don’t influence history as much as people like to think they do.) The quest for power has to be based around the power of factions, not the power of individuals. And factions are organized around policies.

    • I dunno, you look at someone like Hitler, who literally dodged death not just in WWI, but several assassination attempts as well, or the failed Chinese scholar whose hallucinations lead to the creation of the Taiping Rebellion(which affected one of my ancestors greatly, but that’s a story for another day), and it’s hard to see how history would’ve come out the same way if they hadn’t been in their respective places in time and space.

      Also, what Louis Pasteur said:

      Fortune favors the prepared mind.

      • wengler

        You think Hitler led the German state into a place that it didn’t want to go? Hell, Hitler didn’t even found the Nazi Party, he got into it while spying on it for the military.

        • I’m not saying that at all, obviously there were Germans who didn’t want to believe they had been defeated, that they were betrayed, but I don’t think the German state wanted to exterminate Jews for example, or start a two front war with Russia as the second front.

      • Karate Bearfighter

        The Taiping Rebellion seems to me to be an excellent argument against the idea of an individual creating history. There were 3 other massive, contemporaneous rebellions in China, none of which were centered around Jesus’ younger brother. Where the conditions were right for rebellion, rebellions broke out, whatever their nominal organizing principles.

        • Yes, I recently had to opportunity to read a good history of China and there were rebellions sporadically throughout the Common Era, especially under the Qing Dynasty.

          Having said that, I believe that it was different because of the magnitude of this particular rebellion:

          The Taiping Rebellion was a massive civil war in southern China from 1850 to 1864, against the ruling Manchu-led Qing Dynasty. It was a millenarian movement led by Hong Xiuquan, who announced that he had received visions in which he learned that he was the younger brother of Jesus. At least 20 million people died, mainly civilians, in one of the deadliest military conflicts in history.[4]

          Hong established the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom with its capital at Nanjing. The Kingdom’s army controlled large parts of southern China, at its height ruling about 30 million people. The rebel agenda included social reforms such as shared “property in common,” equality for women, and the replacement of Confucianism, Buddhism and Chinese folk religion with their form of Christianity. Because of their refusal to wear the queue, Taiping combatants were nicknamed “Longhairs” (simplified Chinese: 长毛; traditional Chinese: 長毛; pinyin: Chángmáo) by the Qing government, which besieged the Taiping armies throughout the rebellion. The Qing government eventually crushed the rebellion with the aid of French and British forces.]

          It was the biggest pre-Communist rebellion in Chinese history, IMHO.

    • Manta

      “And factions are organized around policies.”

      I don’t think so: policy objectives change, factions are more resilient.
      Maybe factions are organized around interests would be a better formulation?

      Or use the word “class” instead of “faction”?

  • joe from Lowell

    You make a good point, but I think you take it too far. It seems pretty inarguable that the Republicans paid a big price for the Iraq disaster and melting down the economy. You talk about power, but they controlled all three branches of Congress on November 1, 2006, and it wasn’t enough to stop people from using their eyes.

    • They paid a big short-term price. They definitely did not pay a long-term price. If we are focusing on a single election cycle, then sure, but any real analysis of politics has to take a longer-term view.

      • They’re paying a big long-term price on LGBT issues, and probably on immigration as well.

        And I’m not sure they’re not paying long-term costs for Iraq. White voters under 30 are actually more Dem than Republican. They came of age during Iraq, and I have to imagine that’s played a role in their leaning Dem.

        • panda

          Also, since 2006, the stimulus pumped huge amounts of money into green energy, the ACA was passed, and large tax hikes on the wealthiest 2-3% of Americans were enacted. Those are all significant long term losses for the republican agenda.

        • Manny Kant

          The Republicans’ unpopularity on LGBT issues has absolutely nothing to do with the kind of “data” and “evidence” that Klein is obsessed with.

          In addition to ignoring power, Klein’s position seems to ignore values.

          • Values, self-and-group identifications, historical patterns and preferences, symbolism, and the resources various groups do or do not have for politics, and how they use them.

            To say politics is about policy is to sell elitist technocracy, and to sell a site that will be producing it.

            • Nick

              Also ideology. Goo-goo views of politics tend not to be able to account for ideologies. Or, to put it another way, they assume that their own (hegemonic and fundamentally conservative) ideology is both universal and simply “being realistic” rather than an ideological stance.

            • GoDeep

              To say politics is about policy is to sell elitist technocracy, and to sell a site that will be producing it.

              That’s an argument that you can’t argue with. And the best comment on this entire thread.

          • Ronan

            You dont think so ? you dont think that being able too counter ‘ssm will destroy marriage/is bad for children’ which actual evidence is helpful ?

            you dont think ‘data’ and ‘evidence’plays any role here?

            this is nuts

          • Ronan

            and your definition of ‘policy’ is very limited.having people who understand complicate state law, having people who know how to convince important policy makers (who know who they are), having people to write proposals, having people write research.

      • Joshua

        I actually disagree with that. The GOP lost a great deal of its legitimacy and is widely thought of as a joke among future voters (a.k.a. younger people). They get crazier and crazier with each election. They hold the House now, thanks to gerrymandering. They may hold it for longer, thanks to voter suppression. They may win the Senate in 2014, but do you really think the GOP, on its present course, has a rosy future?

        • We have no way of knowing this. It’s certainly impossible, but we certainly can’t say that the Republicans have paid a medium-term price yet. Perhaps in 2040, we can say they did.

          • Joshua

            I think the GOP has paid a medium term price – do you honestly believe that the GOP would be in exactly the same position today had Dubya been a wise steward of the economy and the military? I think they would be quite a bit better off.

            Just because they have the House thanks to one election and some gerrymandering doesn’t mean they paid no price.

            • Theo

              “Just because they have the House thanks to one election and some gerrymandering doesn’t mean they paid no price.”

              Uh, don’t you think they might win the Senate in 2014? That’s pretty much paying no price, or not much of one.

              • joe from Lowell

                When did 2014 in isolation become the only relevant metric? Why not 2016, when the Republicans are guaranteed to be even further away from the majority than now?

                • Theo

                  Guaranteed or my money back? 2014 is not the sole metric. It’s a metric. After 2014, when the republicans control both the Senate and the House, they could have enough power to enact policies (ahem). Depending on those policies, that could change their image and favor with voters.

                  Indeed, if you abide my Loomis’ statement, that’s exactly what they will and should do. Use the power to gain more power to gain more power.

                • joe from Lowell

                  Guaranteed or your money back.

                  You don’t see me make a lot of rock-solid predictions. You also don’t see me turn out wrong when I do. Those two facts are related.

                  2016, Theo. Guaranteed or your money back.

                  After 2014, when the republicans control both the Senate and the House,

                  I see you don’t follow the same procedure as me.

                  Indeed, if you abide my Loomis’ statement, that’s exactly what they will and should do. Use the power to gain more power to gain more power.

                  Your argument here is true, as long as the bolded part isn’t a typo. Because what you just described is not Loomis’ statement, by your erroneous version of Loomis’ statement.

                • Theo

                  Ok, what’s your prediction, precisely? Ot at least as enough to be called on it. I’ll add it to my Nostra Theos calendar.

                  “Because what you just described is not Loomis’ statement, by your erroneous version of Loomis’ statement.”

                  That’s true, assuming the bolded part was not a typo.

                  And I correctly describe Loomis’ statement, and have explained what, at best, its meaningless, and, at worst, it flat out wrong.

                  It suffers from the typical liberal elitism that suggests that masses never know what’s going on, they’re just constantly bamboozled by the power-hungry people they elect. That’s an understandable perspective of someone who feels misunderstood, but it doesn’t make it less untrue.

                • Yes, because none of my examples are actually about working people taking power for themselves or anything. It’s not like I talked about labor or civil rights in the original post.

                • joe from Lowell

                  “2016, when the Republicans are guaranteed to be even further away from the majority than now?”

                  My prediction is right there: the 2016 elections will leave the Republicans with fewer seats than they have today. Bookmark it, libs!

                  And I correctly describe Loomis’ statement

                  No, you did not. You took the statement “the point of politics is power” and misread it as “the point of power is power.”

                  This is why you keep saying that people use power to do things, and believe that observations refutes a claim about the purpose of politics.

                  It suffers from the typical liberal elitism that suggests that masses never know what’s going on, they’re just constantly bamboozled by the power-hungry people they elect. That’s an understandable perspective of someone who feels misunderstood, but it doesn’t make it less untrue.

                  Now you just look silly.

                • Joshua

                  Theo, if Republicans un-crazy in an attempt to “change their image and favor with voters” that’s still a win. I don’t think they will do that, though. I think they will go full-crazy and continue their melt down. If we want to take a long-term view as Loomis says, that’s what all evidence points to right? We can’t take a long term view while looking at 2014 as the only relevant metric.

                • Theo

                  “I don’t think they will do that, though. I think they will go full-crazy and continue their melt down.”

                  That’s certainly a possibility, but I don’t think it’s likely.

                  “If we want to take a long-term view as Loomis says, that’s what all evidence points to right?”

                  I’m less comfortable making long-term projections in politics. What is obvious to me, is not obvious to others, and vice versa. A lot things can happen in two-years, and I would be utterly amazed if the Reps learned nothing from the train-wreck that was 2012.

                • Joshua

                  Why do you think this? Did you see what the GOP did to the handsome, minority Presidential candidate who worked to pass immigration reform? In case you forgot his name because they went Keyser Soze on him, it’s Rubio.

                  All evidence points to Republicans learning in 2012 that Romney lost because he was a squishy RINO and the country craves a real Conservative as President.

                • Theo

                  “All evidence points to Republicans learning in 2012 that Romney lost because he was a squishy RINO and the country craves a real Conservative as President.”

                  A RINO doesn’t gloat about how 47% of the country is helpless. That’s R, through and through. All evidence points to the Republicans not putting insane people in front of the camera this time, and they will nominate a libertarian-minded conservative, who will have a good shot at beating Hillary. I don’t know Hillary will be beat, though, because Bush did an awful lot of damage. But it’ll be close.

                • Read Joshua’s comment again and try understanding it.

              • Manny Kant

                Losing in 2012 seems like a price.

      • UserGoogol

        What politics is about and what causally drives politics aren’t the same thing. It seems very likely that politics is largely driven by random chance. For instance, by the dumb luck of the timing of the economy and the Iranian Revolution, a bunch of Republicans were able to take power in 1980, and then ride that out for a while, which in turn gave conservative plenty of time to set itself up with power. It wasn’t the result of any grand conflict, they just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

        • I don’t disagree.

        • Theo

          What stroke of luck led to the Democrats in power?

          • Pat

            Typically Republicans running the economy into the ground. Occasionally Republicans committing such egregious crimes they have to resign from office.

            • Theo

              So you think running the economy into the ground was “largely driven by random chance?” Interesting.

              • Joshua

                Part of the problem seems to be that we only have two parties. Republicans screw up and are terrible, are kicked out of office, then people forget after a while and vote them back in. Usually this coincides with a rebranding of the old, shitty, failed ideas that didn’t work before. Would these same losers keep getting so many chances in, say, a parliamentary system? As much as people may not have liked the ACA in 2010, it seems weird that they were so eager to vote for the GOP again (and, indeed, they were not, judging by the apathy of that election; it didn’t stop the Republicans from treating it like a mandate from heaven).

              • Pat

                No Theo, I think that Republicans running the economy into the ground is a deliberate policy. I just note that policies enacted under first Calvin Coolidge, then Reagan and G.H. Bush, and then G.W. Bush have all necessitated bailouts of financial institutions. Each of these events provided an opportunity for Democrats to get elected to fix the economy.

                • Theo

                  “No Theo, I think that Republicans running the economy into the ground is a deliberate policy.”

                  I suspected as much. So, when Republicans win, it’s dumb luck. When Democrats win, it’s because of deliberate bad policy of the Republicans. Do you realize how that sounds?

                  Anyhow, at least we can agree that Democrats never get elected because of their good ideas, just their ability to clean up after the Republicans… Maybe another reason to call them nannys?

      • joe from Lowell

        You don’t think the collapse of the Republicans’ position carried over into the 2008 and 2012 elections?

        Remember when we were growing up, and the Republicans used to beat the Democrats like a drum over being “weak on foreign policy?”

        I dare the Republican nominee in 2016 to try that argument against the Democrat. I dare them.

        • Lee Rudolph

          But…BENGHAZIIII!!!!!!

          • joe from Lowell

            Please proceed, Governor.

            When it comes to foreign policy politics, we’re living the Please Proceed Governor world.

  • Matthew Stevens

    “The point of politics is not policy. The point of politics is power. ”

    Oh, for crying out loud. Politics is about using power to get the policies you want. There’s no contradiction here, much as you try to manufacture one.

    • Politics is about using power to get the policies you want.

      For this to be true, it would have to be the norm that a politician who wasn’t achieving his desired policies would leave office.

      That does happen sometimes, but it isn’t the norm. Politicians become politicians because they want power; what they do with the power is conditioned by the desire to remain in power.

      • “what they do with the power is conditioned by the desire to remain in power.”

        Exactly and this is what those who complain that Obama isn’t doing enough don’t seem to understand–you have to make Obama (or any politician) do you what you want because you have the real power to punish his own desire to hold power.

        • Manta

          Isn’t it a bit too “neutral” as a description? That is, in this description who the actual politician is is irrelevant (as long as he is competent enough): Mitt Romney or Barack Obama would enact the same policies because those politicies reflect the balance-of-power of the various actors in the “real word”.

          Now that I think of it, it would explain the “bipartisan consensus” on many issues…

          • Except they face different bases and so while it is technically the same electorate, the real people they have to keep happy are quite different.

          • But–it does go to explain why Richard Nixon would sign all that environmental legislation even though he didn’t want to. There was too much power behind it for him to resist without significant personal cost to his own power.

      • UserGoogol

        Policy isn’t an all or nothing thing. Politicians reliably vote to push policy in a certain direction. (See, for instance, the infamous DW-NOMINATE.) If your goal is to change policy, that’s the best you can realistically get, and throwing in the towel just because you haven’t been elected Emperor of the Universe is dumb.

      • Matthew Stevens

        For this to be true, it would have to be the norm that a politician who wasn’t achieving his desired policies would leave office.

        No, because his policies are less likely to be implemented if he (or his partisans) aren’t in office.

      • tt

        But politicians who can’t achieve their desired outcomes don’t really have power, either. I think for many politicians it’s more about status that power.

      • Theo

        “Just because they have the House thanks to one election and some gerrymandering doesn’t mean they paid no price.”

        Just like when you try to lift heavier weights. You never try to get stronger, you just give up and quit.

    • Yes, race baiting and jingoism and waving the flag are all policies. And because we don’t have campaigns celebrating the rule of the rich, we must not have policies that favor them.

  • Aaron Morrow

    “A political movement that fools itself into crafting national policy based on bad evidence is a political movement that will, sooner or later, face a reckoning at the polls.

    At least, that’s the hope. But that’s not true on issues, like climate change, where action is needed quickly to prevent a disaster that will happen slowly. There, the reckoning will be for future generations to face. And it’s not true when American politics becomes so warped by gerrymandering, big money, and congressional dysfunction that voters can’t figure out who to blame for the state of the country. If American politics is going to improve, it will be better structures, not better arguments, that win the day.”

    My bold there. Is Klein conclusion calling for a revolution or a coup d’état to enact a parliamentary system? Or is he saying that Vox will shine a bright light to help tell voters who to blame?

    I actually think this was a poorly written piece, which I think to be strange coming from Klein. Does he often falter in these longer pieces?

    • Nick

      I think Ezra thinks that there is some set of “structural improvements” that will lead to a politics where elected leaders will sit at the Table of Good Government and discuss policy proposals until they reach consensus.

      • chris

        I can think of some structural improvements that might help, starting with abolition of the Senate (or at least removing all legislative authority from it — it might be harmless to keep as an advisory body or for appointment confirmations and treaty ratification).

        But the political struggles that would be necessary to implement such structural reforms are probably as hard as, or harder than, implementing any given set of good policies themselves.

  • Joshua

    No surprise that a wonk believes in the power of wonkery.

    Nate Silver feels the same way, but his website is a turd. Vox seems, right now, a lot better. But then again, I’m a bit of a wonk myself.

  • Ian

    I agree entirely that politics is about power, but I think you’re not giving enough credit to the idea that power is about policy. To take a current example: many people (including Klein and Yglesias, if I recall correctly) argued that the Democrats’ 2010 losses were a fair price to pay for getting the ACA passed. I would agree with that: if you make power more important than policy, you’ll never enact anything that might decrease your power.

    This is still a disappointing statement on Klein’s part, because it presumes that good policy will eventually triumph, a position that even former diehard technocrats like Brad Delong have recanted. At Wonkblog, I thought that the policy focus was a kind of stalking horse: he and his cohort would repeatedly give Republican proposals enough serious attention to demonstrate that they weren’t serious. It allowed him to be dispassionate about politics, which is useful when you’re trying to become a DC player as Klein so clearly is, but it also became an important part of the ideological war. But with Vox, I’m getting the sense that this dispassionate, technocratic posture isn’t just a posture.

    • Good points, but I think of passing the ACA as taking the power over people’s health away from a capricious employer-based model and redirecting resources around to give power over people’s health more to the individuals and their doctors, nurses and other health professionals.

      • Ian

        Oh, absolutely: I definitely think of the ACA as empowering people in fundamental ways. But for many Democrats in the House, they knew that they were enacting legislation that would empower their opponents in the next election and they did it anyway.

        So I think a fair critique of Klein’s position is that he’s implicitly framing power as something that politicians have, not something that ordinary people have. But within such a frame, the idea of choosing policy over power is valuable.

    • tt

      This is still a disappointing statement on Klein’s part, because it presumes that good policy will eventually triumph

      I think this is a strong overstatement of what Klein actually said, which is a much more modest claim. And the next paragraph is all caveats which make the claim even weaker:

      At least, that’s the hope. But that’s not true on issues, like climate change, where action is needed quickly to prevent a disaster that will happen slowly. There, the reckoning will be for future generations to face. And it’s not true when American politics becomes so warped by gerrymandering, big money, and congressional dysfunction that voters can’t figure out who to blame for the state of the country. If American politics is going to improve, it will be better structures, not better arguments, that win the day.

      • Ian

        Fair enough–I confess that I didn’t read it that carefully before I sounded off. But still, the caveats paragraph seems to imply that the problem is dysfunctional political structures: if only politics weren’t so warped, good policy would be able to triumph (excepting extraordinary situations like climate change). I just don’t think that’s generally true: even in an imaginary perfect system, political change happens because the interests of one group triumph over the interests of another group.

        • tt

          if only politics weren’t so warped, good policy would be able to triumph

          If you read the entire article, Klein’s framing is actually the opposite of this: people naturally tend against evidence-based reasoning in politics, and towards tribalism, and the only thing that saves us is if bad policies hurt people so badly that they can escape that. In any case, I don’t see any implication that good policies will triumph, just that a party that consistently dedicates itself to bad policies will pay a price for it over the long term.

          • Pat

            Another possibility is to build bridges between tribes, to reduce the ability of demogogues to do their hate-thing. See gay rights as an example.

    • UserGoogol

      The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.

  • Izzy

    It seems to me that part of the issue here is that one needs to draw a distinction between the personal purpose of politics and the purpose of politics from a group perspective.

    For an individual, the purpose of politics is power. Even if the individual has other goals, he or she needs power to enact them, so the only way to achieve personal goals in politics is through amassing personal power.

    But for a group–say, a political party or those aligned around a cluster of issues, the purpose of politics is policy, and power is useful only insofar as it advances policy preferences.

    President Obama has no doubt been motivated by a desire for more power, as essentially every politician is. But those who voted for him did so hoping he would advance their policy preferences better than his opponents, and evaluate his presidency based on what he has accomplished or failed to accomplish in terms of policy, within the constraints of the political situation. (Another way to formulate that is to say the purpose of politics for the voter is to direct power towards achieving one’s favored policy objectives.)

    • low-tech cyclist

      Exactly. The point of political power is policy. Conservatives got power so they could cut taxes on the rich, roll back regulations on businesses, interfere with people’s sex lives, and launch the occasional war. Liberals got power in the hopes of making affordable health care available to all, addressing climate change, and ensuring that the proverbial ‘good life’ is something that we can all aspire to.

      Power is a means to a set of ends, but the ends are what inspire people to become part of a political coalition, thereby increasing its power.

      • Theo

        “interfere with people’s sex lives”

        Do you have an example of this?

        • Bowers v. Hardwick

          Stop playing stupid.

          • DrS

            I don’t think he’s playing.

            • joe from Lowell

              If he didn’t start out that way, he’s clearly there now.

          • Theo

            Your example is a 30-year-old case? Have conservatives tried to criminalize homosexuality in, you know, the recent past, maybe in the last decade? Could you give me an recent example of such interference?

            Oh, and does the liberals’ attempt to expand the definition of rape to include consensual sex between adults count as “interfering with people’s sex lives?”

            • Have conservatives tried to criminalize homosexuality in, you know, the recent past, maybe in the last decade?

              Yes.

              • Theo

                Cite?

                • Pat

                  Let’s quote Wikipedia!

                  As of January 2010, 29 states had constitutional provisions restricting marriage to one man and one woman, while 12 others had statutes that did so.[73] Nineteen states banned any legal recognition of same-sex unions that would be equivalent to civil marriage.[74] In 28 out of 30 states where constitutional amendments or initiatives that define marriage as the union of a man and a woman were put on the ballot in a referendum, voters approved such amendments.[c] Arizonans voted down one such amendment in 2006,[75] but approved a different amendment to that effect in 2008.[76] In 2012, Minnesota became the second state to reject an amendment to its state constitution banning same-sex marriage, though Democrats increased their numbers in the legislature in the same election, leading to the May 2013 enactment of same-sex marriage legislation there.[77] A bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage in New Jersey was vetoed by Governor Chris Christie on February 17, 2012[78] before a New Jersey Superior Court ruling led to its legalization in October 2013.

                • Theo

                  “Let’s quote Wikipedia!”

                  You see, this is what I thought low-tech was getting at, but I didn’t want to put words in his or her mouth and be accused of strawng-manning him.

                  So , I’ll ask the follow-up: What does legal SSM have to do with “interfere with people’s sex lives?”

                  Or alternatively, if you intended to provide a citation to what I asked for: What does legal SSM have to do with criminalizing homosexuality?

                • It’s not just same-sex marriage. Do your own searching and fuck off.

              • Theo

                “Do your own searching and fuck off.”

                I did. I didn’t come up with anything. All I find is isolated cases of mostly religious groups yakking about homo-sex this, homo-sex that. I don’t find any Republican or conservative supported initiatives to criminalize homosexual conduct in the US.

                But that’s ok if you can’t find anything either. I’m not surprised.

                • I did. I didn’t come up with anything.

                  It is not at all surprising that you cannot work the internet and must argue as if you have never heard of anything at all.

                • Theo

                  “It is not at all surprising that…”

                  Liberals want to cast SSM is interfering with people’s sex lives. It isn’t, of course, but whatever sticks. After all, politics is about power, right? And if you get power by hyperbole or outright lies, it matters not.

                • Liberals want to cast SSM is interfering with people’s sex lives. It isn’t, of course

                  What an idiot.

                • Theo

                  “What an idiot.”

                  Wait, you’re not one of those “marriage is about sex, and sex is about procreation, so marriage is about procreation” people are you?

                • Your inferences are like little notes to your psychiatrist.

                • DrS

                  Theo, your contention is that laws against SSM have no effect on people’s sex lives?

                  Besides being horrifically creepy you are also astoundingly stupid.

                • Theo

                  “Theo, your contention is that laws against SSM have no effect on people’s sex lives?”

                  I’s be open to an explanation as to how legal SSM laws “interfere” with sex lives. But I probably should expect to get one.

                  I’m trying to imagine a gay couple not having sex because they don’t have a marriage license. Or complaining about the difference associated with a civil union vs. marriage being a total turn off.

                  Anyhow, maybe you could explain it, rather than get all huffy?

                • Perform a few more thought experiments. I’ll wait.

                • Theo

                  “Perform a few more thought experiments. I’ll wait.”

                  Oops, I meant, of course, that I shouldn’t expect to get one…

                • DrDick

                  Given your obvious lack of any intellectual skills, this does not surprise me in the least.

                • Theo

                  “Given your obvious lack of any intellectual skills, this does not surprise me in the least.”

                  Did you have an explanation? No? Ok, then.

            • Terry Cuccinelli

              Hi, Theo.

            • Malaclypse

              the liberals’ attempt to expand the definition of rape to include consensual sex between adults

              Citation needed, because this is gonna be great.

              • Theo

                I would offer evidentiary restrictions designed to protect the sexual history of accusers, laws that seek to expand criminalization of sexual encounters while under the influence of alcohol.

                These might be good laws, in your opinion, but there is no question that they interfere with people’s sex lives more directly than SSM marriage laws.

                • DrS

                  Rape apologist…whodathunk

                • Theo

                  “Rape apologist…whodathunk”

                  You have difficulty separating issues, don’t you? That’s ok, I’m very good at stating things clearly:

                  I think laws that interfere with people’s sex lives by criminalizing rape, whether promoted by conservatives or liberals, are good.

                  You see, all you have to do is ask if you’re confused.

                • Malaclypse

                  I’m shocked to encounter a glibertarian unclear on the concept of consent.

                  But you’ve paid for this hole, and you own it, so I will not hinder your right to keep digging.

                • The Eleventh Doctor

                  laws that seek to expand criminalization of sexual encounters while under the influence of alcohol.

                  In what states are these laws being proposed, and by whom?

                • Theo

                  “I’m shocked to encounter a glibertarian unclear on the concept of consent.”

                  Just because you have an opinion on something, doesn’t mean you’re “clear” on the concept.

                  Unlike the pure-white liberals, libertarians have to deal with the real world. In the real world, things like consent can be murky, indeed.

                  Husband and wife love to get hammered at the local bar, stumble home, and hit it. One night, husband drinks himself under the table, while the wife only tips back a few. She helps the husband home, and they hit it. No regrets in the morning, but husband goes to the DA next week and alleges rape.

                  Crazy liberals like yourself, confident in their line-drawing and concepts of consent, should have no problem convicting the wife of rape, right?

                  If not, why don’t you explain, coherently, why husband was able to consent.

                • Theo

                  One in Wisconsin in 2006. Several others in response to campus drinking. And its always liberals. Conservatives and libertarians accept responsibility for their choices.

                • DrS

                  Husband and wife love to get hammered at the local bar, stumble home, and hit it. One night, husband drinks himself under the table, while the wife only tips back a few. She helps the husband home, and they hit it. No regrets in the morning, but husband goes to the DA next week and alleges rape.

                  Oldest story in the book. Happens every day.

                • Malaclypse

                  Unlike the pure-white liberals, libertarians have to deal with the real world.

                  This is the funniest thing I will read all month.

                  Husband and wife love to get hammered at the local bar, stumble home, and hit it. One night, husband drinks himself under the table, while the wife only tips back a few. She helps the husband home, and they hit it. No regrets in the morning, but husband goes to the DA next week and alleges rape.

                  Crazy liberals like yourself, confident in their line-drawing and concepts of consent, should have no problem convicting the wife of rape, right?

                  Find me a DA that brings charges under your implausible hypothetical, and get back to me.

                • Theo

                  “Oldest story in the book. Happens every day.”

                  Yes, but maybe you could comment on the consent issue. Did the husband consent or not? According to Mal, there is a clear answer.

                • OMG the husband is THEO who has been abused by cunning vixens his whole life!

                • DrS

                  Conservatives and libertarians accept responsibility for their choices.

                  I actually chuckled, Theo. Thanks!

                • Malaclypse

                  Did the husband consent or not?

                  That depends on whether characters that would be deemed implausible stereotypes by Dan Brown can effectively give consent, and I will admit that is unclear.

                • Theo

                  “Find me a DA that brings charges under your implausible hypothetical, and get back to me.”

                  I don’t know why that’s relevant to the question of whether the husband consented or not, but you’re right, it’s unlikely to be prosecuted because it might not be illegal:

                  http://www.aals.org/profdev/women/anderson.pdf

                  Now that’s a decent discussion of different kinds and degrees of consent, and why it’s not as simple as you make it out to be.

                  Now, back to the question. Did the husband consent? If not, was he raped? Come, on, don’t be a rape apologist!

                • Theo

                  “I will admit that is unclear.”

                  I’ll accept that’s as close as you come to a concession.

                • Malaclypse

                  In the sense that it is unclear if Rudolph consents to guide Santa’s sleigh, okay.

                • Hogan

                  One in Wisconsin in 2006. Several others in response to campus drinking. And its always liberals.

                  So if I can’t come up with a specific instance of a legislative campaign to (re)criminalize gay sex, including names and dates and places, that proves that’s not really a thing; but this handwavy bullshit proves that turning consensual sex into rape is totally happening and widespread and must be addressed.

                  You have the brain of a five-year-old boy, and I’ll bet he was glad to get rid of it.

                • Theo

                  “So if I can’t come up with a specific instance of a legislative campaign to (re)criminalize gay sex”

                  Give me a break. I asked low-tech for an example of what he meant, and he never replied. Not to worry, through! Some hive-minded commenter jumped in with Bowers. I don’t know if that’s what low-tech meant, but conservatives and Republicans have moved beyond criminalizing homosexual behavior. After Lawrence, its not feasible if anything else.

                  I then suggested that liberals also promote laws that interfere with sex lives. Most recently, this has been in the form of expanded laws involving sex and alcohol. Do you deny that liberals would like to strength laws in cases in which women engage in sexual activity under the influence of alcohol? Is that something you are unaware of?

                • Theo

                  “In the sense that it is unclear if Rudolph consents to guide Santa’s sleigh, okay.”

                  I thought liberals didn’t think animals could consent to anything? Are you suggesting Rudolph has the capacity to consent, and that consent is relevant to the treatment of animals?

                • I asked low-tech for an example of what he meant, and he never replied.

                  Examples are out there, and there were lots of replies about you being stupid and unable to find them. Which is true. Q.E.D.

                • DrDick

                  Unlike the pure-white liberals, libertarians have to deal with the real world.

                  Bwahahahahahahahaha!

                  That is the dumbest and funniest thing you have ever said here. No libertarian has ever even encountered reality.

                • Theo

                  “Examples are out there, and there were lots of replies about you being stupid and unable to find them.”

                  There may be examples out there of what low-tech meant. But wouldn’t we need to know what low-tech meant in order to find them, though?

                  Look, I don’t have access to your hive-mind, so please go easy on me. I actually need people to tell me what they think about something in order for me to understand what they think about something.

                • That’s easy then: fuck you.

                • Theo

                  “That’s easy then: fuck you.”

                  I feel sorry for you. You’re insulting people on the internet that you don’t even know. Yet, you’re absolutely certain that your view of reality is correct and is the best way for everyone.

                  I hope you get better.

                • Please feel free to weep for another fellow human. It’d be neato.

                • Malaclypse

                  Are you suggesting Rudolph has the capacity to consent, and that consent is relevant to the treatment of animals?

                  I was suggesting your hypothetical was farcical. Next time I’ll use smaller words.

                • DrS

                  Jesus tap dancing Christ, you think it’s some huge interference with someones sex life that defense attorneys for accused rapists can’t just call the victim a slut, slut, slut.

                  That’s fucking disgusting, dude bro.

              • Terry Cuccinelli

                Yeah, you knows rape is by definition sex that is not consensual, so I have no idea what the fuck you’re on about, Theo. But I have a strong feeling that it’s gonna be flat-out revolting.

                • Theo

                  “rape is by definition sex that is not consensual,”

                  That is absolutely true, if you use an absolute definition of “consent.” But, what does consent mean to you? If you are unable to legally operate a motor vehicle, can you consent to sex? What’s the highest BAC allowed for BJ?

                  If you engage in sex while unable to consent due to intoxication, are you guilty of rape? What if both people are so intoxicated? Is there any difference in your mind between forcible rape and non-consentual rape? If not, do you find laws that make a distinction revolting?

                  But I digress. The question was whether liberals promote laws that interfere with people’s sex lives. I think we’ve pretty clearly answered that in the affirmative.

                • Manny Kant

                  What is the difference in *your* mind, Theo, between “forcible rape” and “non-consentual [sic] rape”?

                • Theo

                  “What is the difference in *your* mind, Theo, between “forcible rape” and “non-consentual [sic] rape”?”

                  I would think that’s obvious in the context of the discussion, but: One involves force and lack of consent, the other involves a lack of consent due to lack of capacity to consent. Do you think that’s a difference without meaning? If so, why does the law recognize the difference? Just stupid rape apologists making the laws?

                • Manny Kant

                  Are you saying that it’s somehow less bad to rape someone who’s unconscious?

                • Theo

                  “Are you saying that it’s somehow less bad to rape someone who’s unconscious?”

                  Less bad than what? Forcibly raped at gun point? What’s your opinion?

                  Lack of capacity to consent derives from different sources, such as age, intoxication, mental capacity, in addition to consciousness. Of course, you know that already… I hope.

  • TR Donoghue

    “Politics is the authoritative allocation of values”

  • tt

    Erik, did you read the entire piece or just the last two paragraphs? Because I don’t see how you could have read it and come to the conclusion that Klein thinks political movements win or lose based on policy debates. The point of the article is exactly the opposite, that policy debates are ineffective because people believe what they do due to their tribal affiliations (what Klein and Kagan, who the article is based on, call “identity protection”) rather than evidence. I agree that Klein wants to talk about policy and wonkish details, but his point here is about how little these things matters in terms of political success. His point is entirely consistent and even complementary with yours. And so I think you’re misinterpreting what Klein means by “the purpose of politics is policy.”

    I wish you’d focus on the “both sides do it” point, where I suspect there is more genuine disagreement. Are left-liberals actually better able to avoid the tribal tendencies Klein discusses in this article (“identity protection”) or is it just that this ideology happens to be more consistent with reality, such that people who affiliate with it tend to be more correct by happenstance, in some sense?

    • Manta

      The Democratic has a more diverse base than the Republican one: a purely tribalistic approach would be more problematic for them.

  • rea

    To say politics is about power is simply a tautology. And the point of politics/power is policy–it’s not simply to put members of your tribe on top–it’s to use the power to do things.

    • Steve LaBonne

      This is just wrong. For conservatives “doing things” has less than nothing to do with anything even remotely describable as public policy. The point of power for them is to reward their friends (as often as possible with taxpayer dollars) and punish their enemies. Their ostensible policy positions are only a fig leaf for those things, which is why they’re generally so incoherent and so unresponsive to circumstances.

  • José Arcadio Buendía

    This is why liberals and Democrats lose. They think politics is about policy. Policy is one of many means for politicians to stay in power, but it is not an end.

    The same exact policy can be seen as good or bad by two people depending on whether they believe in or trust the person who enacted it.

    • Theo

      “This is why liberals and Democrats lose.”

      What about when they don’t lose? or what about then the Reps lose? Do the republicans not understand, either? Are you and Loomis the only ones who really understand?

  • joe from Lowell

    Why put a 350 horsepower engine in a car?

    To give it a lot of power.

    Some people will wish to use that power to get to work faster.

    Others, to outrun the police when they’re running a long of ‘shine.

    Others, to do donuts in the parking lot.

    Others, to make vroom vroom noises that attack a certain subset of women.

    The purpose of putting a 350 hp in a car is not to attract women, get to work faster, or do donuts. The purpose is a allow the car buyer to have power.

    • Theo

      This is a good example of the tautology. What does the abbreviation “hp” stand for? On the other hand, what if you asked, “What’s the point of cars?”

      • joe from Lowell

        Theo, don’t use big words you don’t really understand to try to sound smarter. It doesn’t work.

        Yes, dear, we’re talking about horse power, how much power a car has. By your reasoning, the purpose of putting more power in a care cannot be to increase the car’s power. It must be something else.

        GM must put more horse power in a car to increase the number of donuts produced.

        • Theo

          “Yes, dear, we’re talking about horse power, how much power a car has.”

          So you’re claim is that power is power? The point of adding power is to make something more powerful? That’s tautological, or if you prefer smaller words, redundant and repetitive.

          That does not, however, mean that the point of “cars” is power. Which would be the proper analogy to your characterization of Loomis’ statement. As it is, your analogy is supports my characterization.

          • joe from Lowell

            So you’re claim is that power is power?

            No, my “claim” is that the reason you put a larger engine in a car is to increase the car’s power. Not to increase the number of donuts people do. Not to get people to work faster. Not to allow them to outrun the revenuers. To increase its power.

            This is not complicated. Stop playing dumb.

            That’s tautological, or if you prefer smaller words, redundant and repetitive.

            It’s not the terms that are the problem, but the lack of merit of the idea you’re trying to express. You’ve just been caught in an position where you’re forced to admit that people increase power in order to have more power, and instead of formulating an argument why that isn’t so, you’re trying to define the statement you can’t refute out of existence.

            You may not like it that the reason to put a larger engine in a car is to increase its power, but you’ve yet to come up with any argument for why the observation is false.

            That does not, however, mean that the point of “cars” is power.

            Good thing no one has said that, then.

            • Theo

              “Good thing no one has said that, then.”

              Because that would absurd. Just like saying the point of politics is power is absurd, but someone did say that.

            • Theo

              “Good thing no one has said that, then.”

              Because that would be absurd. Just like saying “the point of politics is power” is absurd, but someone said it.

  • Rob in CT

    The point of politics is not policy. The point of politics is power.

    I hate that this is true.

    • Theo

      Then love that it’s not.

      • For every George “Cincinnatus” Washington, there is a Strom Thurmond, a George Wallace, a Karl Rove, an Andrew Jackson….

  • Prok

    Klein has long suffered from this problem. It’s also why he’s easily hoodwinked by Republican “wonks” like Paul Ryan.

  • wengler

    I think both of these formulations are wrong. Klein and the technocrats always believe in some perfect solution, preferably cooked up by some think tank stacked with Ivy Leaguers, to be promulgated to the grateful masses. They call that policy and think the perfect calculated policy wins elections by building constituencies around it.

    Politics and partisanship are all about hitting the opposition over the head. If bare-knuckled politics controlled everything, the Republicans would win every time. But they don’t.

    The third factor, which isn’t talked about at all here, is the person. We don’t have national referendums, we have representatives. This is a critical factor in American elections, because party discipline in the US is nearly non-existent, and every one of us 330 million likes to think we are special and individual. Thus a minor but potentially substantial part of the voting populace looks for preferred intangibles on which to judge a candidate. And once in there seems to be a certain faction that misses the monarchy and will always vote for the incumbent.

    • tt

      They call that policy and think the perfect calculated policy wins elections by building constituencies around it.

      No, they don’t. No one thinks this. Klein’s piece specifically argues against it.

    • IM

      because party discipline in the US is nearly non-existent,

      You do ignore the trend of american politics, especially on the republican side, in the last twenty years.

  • Cersei Lannister lectures Ezra Klein on power.

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ifaRhL95HUM

    • IM

      Ah, but Cersei is a fine example of the ultimate failure of this sort of thinking.

      Davos Seaworth on the other hand:

      And I know that a king protects his people, or he is no king at all.

    • IM

      Littlefinger on Cersei:

      Every man’s a piece to start with, and every maid as well. Even some who think they are players. Cersei, for one. She thinks herself sly, but in truth she is utterly predictable. Her strength rests on her beauty, birth, and riches. Only the first of those is truly her own, and it will soon desert her. I pity her then. She wants power, but has no notion what to do with it when she gets it

      On the other hand, Littlefinger is hardly policy orientated himself…

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