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High Broderism, Once Influential Conservative Democrat Edition


Bill Galston, the prescient analyst cryogenically frozen at a 1991 DLC meeting, has some Deep Thoughts about the SOTU:

Still, as Mr. Obama began speaking, a key uncertainty remained:  What balance would he strike between the desire to shape the political terrain for 2016 and the imperatives of governing in 2015?  The former required bold initiatives, of a kind likely to evoke sharply negative reactions from Republicans who command majorities in both the House and the Senate.  But successful legislating this year will require compromise with those very majorities.  Could he thread the needle, making the Democratic political case for next year without undermining the possibility of legislative progress this year?

Yes, in 2015 it’s very, very hard to tell if congressional Republicans would be willing to pass sensible middle-of-the-road compromises. But either way, I think that we can agree that whether it will happen will depend on the precise wording of the State of the Union address.

Meanwhile, enjoy this analysis of Galston’s middlebrow equivalent Ron Fournier.

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  • rea

    Could he thread the needle, making the Democratic political case for next year without undermining the possibility of legislative progress this year?

    Only by agreeing to stop breathing

    • Sly

      A commitment he would have to make on behalf of the Vice President as well.

      • cpinva

        “A commitment he would have to make on behalf of the Vice President as well.”

        it’s possible Biden could get away with agreeing to just go blind.

    • OK, right now, Boehner thinks he can muster up enough votes to pass an “Obama stops breathing” bill, but then Ted Cruz is going to decide it doesn’t go far enough, then a bunch of Representatives start talking about other demands they should make and the whole thing falls apart and Ron Fournier writes, more in sadness than anything else, that Obama’s lack of leadership is to blame.

  • c u n d gulag

    Oh, if only President Obama led in a leader-like leaderly leadership way, he’d really be a leaderly leader, and the Republicans would agree to compromise!

    What’s in the air on the planet this idiot lives on?

  • Four Krustys

    Given the guy’s mental capacity and fixation upon a single word, Fournier’s brand of risible bullshit is more like High Hodorism.

    • Baby Needs-A-Nym

      That seems unfair to Hodor.

      I’m not even joking.

    • wjts
      • Warren Terra

        We need to come up with a snarky definition for the “Fournier Transform”.

        • sanity clause

          We sure do! Here’s my try – feel free to improve on it.

          A Fourier transform, as I understand it, breaks down any waveform into a representation based on sines and cosines. A Fournier transform takes any political situation and produces a stream of commentary based on bullshit and horseshit.

  • Bitter Scribe

    I predict that “successful legislating this year” will translate to “not letting Ted Cruz shut down the government again.”

    • catclub

      Yet another thing to blame Obama for, which he has no control over.

      • cpinva

        yeah, except if he were a leaderly, manly man leader, showing leaderly leadership, he’d just grab that bully platform and beat congress into submission with it.

  • If anybody wants to know, my tentative Fournier analysis of last night’s presidential pronominal performance is out. It’s more robust than you might have imagined.

    • catclub

      Loafers! I get it.
      Also thanks for the Jodi Ernst psychopath warning based on her deviant pronominalism.

      Band name.

    • cpinva

      so, are there plastic bread bags with each pair?

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    Never underestimate the diversity of the Straussians. Leo Strauss produced some students who were excellent scholars, many who were various flavors of conservative Republican, and, in Bill Gallston, at least one professional Democratic concern troll.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Everyone who knows him says that Gallston is brilliant. Maybe he is. But not the slightest trace of that survives in his punditry.

      • Gregor Sansa

        Brilliant at avoiding anyone who’s a good judge of character?

      • Matt

        For what it’s worth, his scholarship has never had a high reputation among political philosophers. Maybe it’s been more popular w/ people working in political science, but it has essentially no influence among political philosophers and has generally been seen as derivative and flabby.

        • Russell Arben Fox

          I think that needs some qualification, Matt. Among political philosophers who self-identify as “political philosophers,” I agree with your judgment of Galston; he’s not seen as an especially serious or important thinker, his early work on Kant and republicanism is basically never cited, and he’s considered a dilettante. But among political theorists, things are somewhat different. There Galston is definitely a big name, and while his really important work (kind of in the same vein as Robert Putnam, Benjamin Barber, Peter Berger, Michael Walzer, and other communitarians and neo-Tocquevillians from the 1980s and 1990s) is clearly considered dated, it’s still cited in taken seriously in the theory journals that work in that area (Politics, Philosophy & Economics is a big one). In general, check out this classic write-up from Jacob Levy talking about the difference between theorists and philosophers.

          • Matt

            Hi Russell,
            Yes, this is what I meant by saying that people working political science (that is, “political theorists”) might think more of his work than philosophers do. Philosophers don’t think it’s very good. But, even what you say tends to support that – he’s a sort of cut-rate Barber, Putnam, or Walzer. (I don’t really know Berger.) Now, of those, only Walzer has much respect among philosophers, and there’s some good reason for that, I’d argue, but even leaving that aside, the point seems to be that Galston isn’t as good as those guys. To the extent the “theorists” give him more credit, I think it must be either for non-merit based reasons (he’s a guy you have to cite for institutional reasons, maybe) or else it shows lower standards. His work just isn’t very good.

  • mpowell

    And many of these same people wonder why the average citizen doesn’t pay much attention to politics. Since 90% of the coverage is complete and utter bullshit, why should anyone bother?

    • catclub

      The other 10% can get you killed? Modified large meteorite problem.

  • Murc

    I really hope that when I’m in my fifties and sixties, I don’t persist in thinking that the political environment is still the same as it was when I was 22.

    Hell, I hope when I’m in my sixties I don’t still persist in thinking that the political environment is still the same as it will be when I’m in my forties. There are still way to many Democrats (nominal and otherwise) who got their start in the eighties and served in the Clinton administration and are now party elders or elite opiners, and when I see them stumbling around in a daze trying desperately to cram modern politics into a framework that was already sclerotic before the Internet was a thing, I always think “this is what the Neanderthals must have felt like when those inscrutable Cro-Magnon bastards came along.”

    Frankly, I’m hoping for a wave of heart attacks.

    • humanoid.panda

      The problem with that is that their view of American politics fits midterm elections, where the electorate is about where it was in 2000 or so, demographically speaking..

      • Murc

        When it comes to the horse race? Maybe.

        But when it comes to actual legislative interplay, lots of people who ought to know better seem to genuinely, passionately think that there are productive deals to be cut with the Republican Party, based, as near as I can, solely on the fact that that was the case during their formative years and the bulk of their professional life.

        And it just ain’t the case anymore.

        • cpinva

          no, because the republicans of my 20’s (with a few exceptions) don’t exist anymore. even republicans who kind of actually are like republicans of my 20’s can never admit it or act like it in public, for fear they’ll be primaried by some barking mad loon, who will win. shit, when Nixon and Reagan would be considered liberals next to these freaks of political nature, you have truly gone down the proverbial rabbit hole.

    • Gregor Sansa

      Any wave of heart attacks that doesn’t whelm the SCOTUS shore is a crime.

      (As is autocorrect. Do you have any idea how hard it was to type that?)

      • Murc

        Totally worth it though; that’s some top-quality wordsmithin’, Gregor. I’m stealing that turn of phrase. At parties I will pass it off as my own. Soon, I’ll have forgotten it ever wasn’t!

        • citizen

          Wait, you stole that from Memento!…

          hold on, what was I saying?

    • rea

      I really hope that when I’m in my fifties and sixties, I don’t persist in thinking that the political environment is still the same as it was when I was 22

      Carter ’16!

    • DrDick

      I am in my sixties and actually wish the political environment really was like it was when I was 22 (during the Nixon administration). Even Tricky Dicky and his cohorts were an improvement on the current batch of deranged Republican nihilists.

  • Origami Isopod

    I will only ever really remember Galston as the shitbag who argued that Americans should be locked up at the merest suspicion they might be severely mentally ill.

    • But ask yourself, which is easier? To tackle the US arms industry, or to decide that all the problems will go away if a group of Others lose their civil rights?

  • What balance would he strike … shape the political terrain … thread the needle
    I think he means “thread the tightrope” (or conceivably “walk the needle”).

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