Home / General / The Jacksonian Democratic Party Could not be Revived Even if it was Desirable, Which it Most Certainly Isn’t

The Jacksonian Democratic Party Could not be Revived Even if it was Desirable, Which it Most Certainly Isn’t

Comments
/
/
/
651 Views

155574647

Ed Kilgore has a smart intervention on the question of the Jacksonian tradition in the Democratic Party.  Let us acknowledge the one major progressive achievement of Jackson’s presidency — staring down Calhoun on nullification — before moving on to this point:

So the idea that today’s parties are simply the reverse of those of the Age of Jackson, while useful, isn’t entirely accurate. Just as we pause at Jefferson’s views on church-state separation before labeling him the father of “constitutional conservatism,” there are discontinuities in both the major party traditions after him.

There’s no question that trying to map partisan disputes and coalitions from the antebellum era onto 21st century ones is inherently problematic, and whether it has much value at all is questionable. But I would say that if we have to pick one contemporary party that’s the heir of the Jacksonian tradition, it would certainly be the Republicans, although such an answer is unnecessarily simplified.

This conclusion is beautifully put:

Still, the idea there is some distinctively Jacksonian Democracy out there waiting to be harvested by—let’s face it, this is what some anti-Obama writers implicitly suggest—a national Democratic leader of the right race or the right “populist” ideology is quixotic at best and offensive at worst. You can call it the Party of Obama now as Chait does, if you wish, but it’s really the party formed by Americans who unambiguously view the federal government as the instrument of equality and opportunity and prosperity built on the work and talents of every citizen, who in an old-fashioned Jacksonian sense deserve the full fruits of their labor.

Both the “quixotic” and “offensive” points are crucial. Evidently, Wilentz’s version of the argument puts the matter in the most offensive way possible. It’s one thing to say that it’s in the strategic interests of the Democratic Party to pursue culturally conservative border state whites; it’s another thing to say that the Democratic Party belongs to this faction, and a different Democratic coalition represents a usurpation. But particularly with Obama having established that a Democratic victory doesn’t need West Virginia or Kentucky, even more superficially benign forms of the argument carry the same implication. To be obsessed with Scots-Irish white men retaining their permanent place in the Democratic fold implies that they are primus inter pares. They aren’t, and prettifying Jacksonianism to make this argument is intellectually bankrupt on every level.

But even if it was desirable to restore this element of the 19th century Democratic Party, it’s not something that can just be done by running the right candidate or making some marginal changes. Coalitions drive leaders, not vice versa. There’s nothing Hillary Clinton could do to make Kentucky or West Virginia competitive, any more than running Mitt Romney could make Massachusetts competitive for the Republican Party. (Dana Houle is very good on this point starting here.)

Jacksonian nostalgia is as much a dead end electorally as it is intellectually. If you don’t believe me, look at how Jim Webb does in the Democratic primaries.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • Nick056

    Worth noting that Wilentz’s Rise of American Democracy was basically an updating of the Age of Jackson thesis. It’s a great book in some ways, but then, there’s, off the top of my head …

    … The attempts to wrangle with Indian Removal by arguing Jackson saw it as fundamentally humanitarian to set aside land and provide it to the Indians, even if it didn’t turn out so well.

    … Further attempts to wrangle with his attitudes about Indians by talking up Jackson’s adoption of an Indian child who lived at the Hermitage (though I could be confusing this with the far worse Meachum biography, which God help us, won the Pulitzer).

    … Needless criticism of JQA as president, to help establish Jackson as the conquering King Democrat I.

    … And (later) attempts to portray Calhoun as responsible for the rot in the Democratic Party, to deflect from Jackson’s culpability.

    That said, it’s worth remembering that Francis Blair went on to help found the Republican Party in the 50s after being a key advisor to Jackson, so there is a direct line from Jackson to Lincoln, and Lincoln himself relied heavily on Jackson’s nullification proclaimation in drafting the 1st inaugural.

    • witlesschum

      I haven’t read either book, but I can’t read the name Jon Meachum without remembering classic period Bob Somerby nicknaming him Parson Meachum for some particularly dorky tutting about the Clenis. My wife gave me a pretty classic eye roll when I explained why I kept snickering when he showed up in The Roosevelts.

      • Someone got me American Lion (Meachum’s Jackson bio) for Christmas a few years ago. I had read bad things about the book and it sure didn’t disappoint. Put it down after about a hundred pages.

    • timb

      Is there a possibility we could pass a bill of attainder on Meachum? I understand the Constitution, but surely the Founders would have approved it for him.

    • Scott Lemieux

      I couldn’t make it through Wilentz’s Jackson book. It wasn’t without its merits, but the thesis is salvageable and the chaff/wheat ratio was pretty high.

      The attempts to wrangle with Indian Removal by arguing Jackson saw it as fundamentally humanitarian to set aside land and provide it to the Indians, even if it didn’t turn out so well.

      And many slave power leaders presumably convinced themselves that slavery really was in the best interest of African-Americans. It’s not much of a defense.

      • Davis X. Machina

        It isn’t like there wasn’t reasoned, organized, political opposition to Indian removal, either — not that I ever heard about it till I read David Howe.

        Sometimes there’s no one to throw in with on an issue. This was not one of those cases.

  • Nobdy

    Parties SHOULD be responsive to their constituencies and primary voters just like governments should be responsive to voters. The idea that parties should remain static or somehow bound over more than a hundred years is silly. Parties are living organizations not historical societies bound by specific charters of purpose.

    Also if the Democratic party swings back to being just the party of the working class whites where are minority voters supposed to go to be represented? Splinter off and form a third party? Quietly support the Republican party that is actively opposed to their interests?

    What about women? Should they get no party because they couldn’t vote during Jacksonian times or should they just vote their 19th century ethnic line even if it ends up with them voting for a party radically opposed to their bodily autonomy?

    • Scott Lemieux

      Was it wrong for the Democratic Party to compete in California or Washington? The more you think about the argument the dumber it seems.

  • LeeEsq

    I’d like to take this opportunity to register a criticism of the American Nations thesis, that the different political and cultural beliefs of different geographic regions of the United States can be traced back to the origins of the original settlers in colonial of frontier times. It always seemed overly determinative to me and damn close to racist arguments that your intelligence, personality, and more is determinable by your ethnic and racial origins. The idea that Scots-Irish Americans are always going to belong to a particular Jacksonian ideology is silly. If things were this overly determined than the natural political state should be stasis and change and reform near impossible.

    • The Dark Avenger

      Have you ever been in the American South?

      The arguments about Scots-Irish Americans has to do with culture, nor racial traits.

      • Jasper.Spires

        Biology determines culture.

        Wherever there are large numbers of whites, you will find a certain kind of society.

        Wherever there are Asians, ditto.

        And where there are ‘Groids, there of course you will always find Africa.

        Why do you think Israel has been able to defeat the combined armies of multiple Arab nations decisively on several occasions? Why is it an economic success story while places like Egypt are shitholes? Because Jews are smarter than Arabs and build more successful societies. Biology determines culture.

        • Davis X. Machina

          Then why are they so poor at pancakes, huh?

          I mean, blintzes? Feh! And latkes barely count. They’re made from potatoes. Blini they stole from the Russians.

          • DAS

            Nu? Intriguing I find your ideas? To your newsletter I should subscribe?

            • Ahuitzotl

              Oh no, the yodavirus has made it to LGM

        • DrDick

          Slow day over at Stormfront? Go crawl back under your rock, worm.

          • George Wallace

            How many Negroids live in your neighborhood?

            Fucking hypocrite.

            • sharculese

              How many crackers won’t sit at the lunch table with you?

            • witlesschum

              I don’t go around counting, as I’m not a racist moron, but I’d guess something like 10 percent. Perhaps 20, depending on how you define the boundaries. You got a problem with that?

            • Ahuitzotl

              Well having just moved from Treme in N’awlins to Ybor in Tampa, I’d say about 90% in both

        • joe from Lowell

          Biology determines culture.

          So what you’re saying is, your practice of not using toilet paper can be traced to your extra chromosomes?

        • sharculese

          OH look, it’s a dullard trying to ameliorate his track record of sweaty-palmed failure by gesticulating in the direction of white people who aren’t him.

          • Davud Duke

            White [BONERS]

            • Malaclypse

              We’re laughing at you, not trying to shut you down. Please try and keep up.

              • Orval Fabus

                [Who cares?]

                • Gregor Sansa

                  NAM NAM NAM.

                  I eated you.

                  (see PWNYage below)

                • witlesschum

                  A terrible thing happened, so you attempt to make it worse by using it as grist for your stupid race mill, while we can all look around and see the costs of white supremacy in blood. You’re better than those guys, why?

                • sharculese

                  I actually do think it’s hilarious when you pretend to be a victim, yes.

                • Bas-O-Matic

                  That was in Tennessee.

            • The Dark Avenger

              Then allow me as a non-Jew to tell you that as far as biology and culture are concerned, you are full of horseshit.

            • sharculese

              Wait, I’m confused. Am I white or not? You really have not been consistent on this point in your rageout.

              • Malaclypse

                Am I white or not?

                Given your GENDERFRAUD, who can say? Aside from Jennie, that is, because he has a system.

              • Jasper.Spires

                White [BONERS]

                • sharculese

                  don’t you want your homeland to be Culturally Enriched(Tm)?

                  You mean Atlanta? It couldn’t hurt.

            • SgtGymBunny

              Well, in your own words, Mr. Jaster.Spires, that “kike” is entitled to shut down real debates

              Because Jews are smarter than Arabs and build more successful societies.

              You’re just confusing yourself…

        • Malaclypse

          Why do you think Israel has been able to defeat the combined armies of multiple Arab nations decisively on several occasions?

          Massive military aid from the largest military force this planet has ever seen. This isn’t a complicated question, unless you are a subliterate moron.

        • Halloween Jack

          Why do you think Israel has been able to defeat the combined armies of multiple Arab nations decisively on several occasions? Why is it an economic success story while places like Egypt are shitholes?

          Besides the billions in American aid that it receives every year?

        • timb

          I’m not sure the [not so] new comment system is working

          • It works to the extent that the writers take the time to eliminate the trolls when they appear.

            • timb

              Well, Erik, I love the trolls. This guy is hilarious. I loved making fun of Jennie. It’s all these readers who brighter than I am and want to have real conversations who ruin my fun

              • sharculese

                obtuse Dreherite acronyms, race war fantasies, fixation on my Jewishness – I think we may actually have a Dagney on our hands here.

          • Scott Lemieux

            It would also be easier to delete comments without ruining threads if even the most pro forma trolling wasn’t guaranteed multiple responses within 30 seconds.

            • Rob in CT

              [ashamed blushing]

              Yeah, so, sorry ’bout that.

        • Four Krustys

          “Why do you think Israel has been able to defeat the combined armies of multiple Arab nations decisively on several occasions?”

          Probably because they have socialized medicine and gay marriage.

          “Why is it an economic success story while places like Egypt are shitholes?”

          Probably because they have socialized medicine and gay marriage.

          “Jews are smarter than Arabs and build more successful societies.”

          You’re saying smart, successful societies have gay marriage and socialized medicine? Never thought you’d admit that. Maybe you’re not as dumb as you seem.

      • has to do with culture, nor racial traits

        This does seem like an overreaction: Lee clearly meant “race” as a synonym for “culture”.

    • Linnaeus

      The American Nations thesis has also struck me as being overly reductionist and determinist. Same goes for Albion’s Seed, which a lot of people really seem to be enamored with, but I didn’t find as convincing as they did.

      • Rob in CT

        I think there is a kernel of truth in it: culture does matter. But it can (and has been) taken too far.

        • Karen24

          Culture does matter, but culture isn’t static. “Albion’s Seed” postulated that customs from medieval England still persist and are, in fact, still controlling. I don’t find that persuasive, especially since I’m from the group the author of that book obviously found disgusting — the Scotch-Irish.

          • Linnaeus

            Yes – I agree that culture does matter and that “founder” cultures can exert influence on subsequent migrations of people, but I wonder if authors like Woodard and Fischer overstate that.

            I don’t find that persuasive, especially since I’m from the group the author of that book obviously found disgusting — the Scotch-Irish.

            I’m a mix of enough things that I don’t consider myself to be “from” any of the founder groups that Fischer and Woodard posit, so in his view, my family is some kind of admixture to whatever the Puritans or Quakers (depending on whom you read) started. I’m a bit skeptical.

            • Manny Kant

              Whichever of the nations books involves random counties in eastern Nebraska being the same “nation” as Philadelphia, but north Jersey being a different one, pretty much soured me on the project.

              • Linnaeus

                That’s in American Nations, and yes, I found that to be puzzling myself.

                • Manny Kant

                  It’s just such a weird thing. Because New York was settled by the Dutch and Philly wasn’t, Woodard insists that they must be in different nations.

                  More broadly, while the whole project is a bit oversimplified, “the Midlands”, in particular, simply does not work as a concept. It’s basically just “whatever was left over”.

            • timb

              This. Both side of my family have been here since the early 19th century, but they “bred” with Germans, Irish, African-Americans, and Hispanics and I’m from the boring and homogenous Midwest.

              How could a dominant English culture control the 1/6 to 1/5 of Americans who have German ancestory?

              • The Dark Avenger

                My name is derived from a German ancestry, but that ancestry passed through TN and TX picking up cultural traits along the way. And a lot of Germans migrated to TX and other parts south in the 19th Century, and they adapted to the culture around them, as many immigrant groups do.

                • Linnaeus

                  Sure, but I think that Woodard and Fischer understate how that works in the other direction, too.

                  It’s interesting to me how Fischer’s argument in particular is pretty much in direct opposition to the nativist strain in American culture. He’s arguing for a cultural durability that the nativists didn’t countenance.

              • Davis X. Machina

                In our time, people who migrate to the Sun Belt have tended, at least on the margins, to adopt or adapt voting patterns, religion, and other cultural signifiers to what they move to, rather than the other way around.

                So it happens. How much, I don’t know…

                • Linnaeus

                  Although, I might ask how much of that is self-selection.

          • Origami Isopod

            I didn’t get the impression he found them disgusting. I got the impression he saw them as deeply traumatized from centuries of being caught between two major powers and desperate to find a home in which they’d be safe from all that. I thought he was a lot harder on the cavalier/plantation class, who were mostly the definition of “useless rich.”

            I do recall the discussions of hygiene in the borderfolk-settled regions, but I assumed the contempt came from original sources, i.e., people from other regions who viewed the borderfolk through their own class prejudices. Very few people back then would have lived up to 21st-century U.S. standards of hygiene.

          • burritoboy

            That thesis is probably made too much of. Nevertheless, in parts of the world where the history does go back to the Middle Ages, it’s regularly brought up to explain regional differences. For example, such things as regional opposition to or support of Henry VIII’s break from the Roman Catholic Church (1532-1534) or regional antagonisms in Italy that sometimes date to wars between long-disappeared independent city-states (in some cases, the last battles of which were fought 500 or more years ago) or to different French regions’ reactions to the French Revolution (or the different regions’ experiences in the French civil wars of the 16th century) and so on.

        • Origami Isopod

          The persistence of culture over time longer than a human lifespan is a thing. Most definitely, the original settlers of a place (if they haven’t been chased out of it or killed off) set a tone for the politics in subsequent eras. When I read Albion’s Seed a lot of things “clicked” for me about U.S. politics, both national and regional.

          That said, as Karen says, it’s not static, either. You can find threads of similarity between early Anglo or Irish settlers and the modern-day areas that they settled, but you can also find copious differences – just as Kilgore is saying about, e.g., Jackson vs. Palin.

          IIRC Fischer acknowledged that Albion’s Seed ignored the cultural contributions of later immigrants and that he intended to address them in a later volume.

  • Todd

    Especially when the much easier (though not easy) solution is also better. The Democratic party (and its nominee) SHOULD try to convince SOME working class whites who traditionally have voted Republican to change their votes, by showing them how the Republican party’s platform is against their own interests. Peel off some votes with old fashioned debate and showing meaningful distinctions. Classes of people do not move in elections as classes of people. Doing a little better is both something to build on, and can have a real effect at the margins in the closer states (all eight of the them).

    • Davis X. Machina

      …by showing them how the Republican party’s platform is against their own interests.

      Except it isn’t. It’s tailored to their interests, for some definitions of ‘interest’.

      People aren’t just homines oeconomici; they’ll define ‘self-interest’ in different ways, and prioritize them differently

      • njorl

        I’m of two minds on this. There is feedback between tribalism and identified interests. People oppose medicaid expansion because they’re Republican and are Republican because they oppose medicaid expansion. Even if they would benefit from medicaid expansion, they oppose it for racist reasons. Their “interest” is best served by suffering and hurting poor minorities.
        But sometimes, one side of the equation is absent. They might be a Republican because they were raised that way. These people can be peeled off.

      • Linnaeus

        It’s like Ta-Nehisi Coates once wrote: People vote for racism because racism is their interest.

        • Jasper.Spires

          White [BONERS]

        • Jasper.Spires

          White [BONERS]

          • Jasper.Spires

            White [BONERS]

            • Malaclypse

              Roland was a warrior from the land of the midnight sun
              With a Thompson gun for hire, fighting to be done
              The deal was made in Denmark on a dark and stormy day
              So he set out for Biafra to join the bloody fray

              Through sixty-six and seven they fought the Congo war
              With their fingers on their triggers, knee-deep in gore
              For days and nights they battled the Bantu to their knees
              They killed to earn their living and to help out the Congolese

              Roland the Thompson gunner
              Roland the Thompson gunner

              His comrades fought beside him, Van Owen and the rest
              But of all the Thompson gunners, Roland was the best
              So the C I A decided they wanted Roland dead
              That son-of-a-bitch Van Owen blew off Roland’s head

              Roland the headless Thompson gunner, Norway’s bravest son
              They can still see his headless body stalking through the night
              In the muzzle flash of Roland’s Thompson gun
              In the muzzle flash of Roland’s Thompson gun

              Roland searched the continent for the man who’d done him in
              He found him in Mombasa in a bar-room drinking gin
              Roland aimed his Thompson gun he didn’t say a word
              But he blew Van Owen’s body from there to Johannesburg

              Roland the headless Thompson gunner
              Roland the headless Thompson gunner
              Roland the headless Thompson gunner
              Talkin’ about the man, Roland the headless Thompson gunner

              The eternal Thompson gunner still wandering through the night
              Now it’s ten years later but he still keeps up the fight
              In Ireland, in Lebanon, in Palestine and Berkeley
              Patty Hearst heard the burst of Roland’s Thompson gun and bought it!

          • Linnaeus

            Hate’ll burn you up, son.

            • Francis

              Wolverines!

            • He’s so far around the bend he can’t see the bend from where he is.

              • The Dark Avenger

                But I’ll bet his hair is perfect, wherever he ends up.

    • Peel off some votes with old fashioned debate and showing meaningful distinctions. Classes of people do not move in elections as classes of people.

      This is an unstated but almost universal assumption among far too many political “analysts” and “strategists” and what have you. If you can’t win Soccer Moms, NASCAR Dads, or the like, you’re screwed, but it doesn’t work that way, ever. People, even demographically similar people, are very different, and going from 30% support among one group to 40% can mean the difference in a whole lot of races. It’s less fun to talk about and involves using grade school math, so it’s too sophisticated for teevee blathering, but it’s true.

      • Origami Isopod

        political “analysts” and “strategists” and what have you

        White people who think the only voters who matter are white ones. But, also, GOP shills, most of them, and the rest are dimwits who buy completely into whatever the conventional wisdom is supposed to be at the moment.

        • Pat

          I agree that there’s a lot of that attitude. On the other hand, there’s an awful lot of red House districts out there that would be nice to shift into the blue column. If we can persuade enough Republicans to threaten insurance subsidies for white middle-aged people, maybe those voters will vote blue (again). They did it in 2008.

      • Jackov

        All the Jacksonian boosters are so focused on the beneficiaries of Jacksonian democracy – hardscrabble white dudes in the guise of suburban dads with trucks – they are neglecting (intentionally?) the part of his legacy that may be applicable today – expanding voting rights. If I was to go all old hickory in 2016, it would be by focusing on expanding ballot access, restoring voting rights and targeting the people who currently do not vote.

        The group identified by Pew as Bystanders are youngish, less affluent/educated, racially/ethnically diverse, skeptical of bankers and Wall Street and detached from the political process(the true heirs of 1828 frontiersmen!) Their views fall to the left of the general population with 50% identified as Democrats/lean Democrats. There may be no way to activate this group but they represent 10% of the voting age population.

        • Scott Lemieux

          But the thing is, the expanded franchise isn’t Jackson’s legacy. He benefited from it, but he wasn’t responsible for it.

    • Jasper.Spires

      White [BONERS]

      • Halloween Jack

        1989 the number another summer (get down)
        Sound of the funky drummer
        Music hittin’ your heart cause I know you got sould
        (Brothers and sisters, hey)
        Listen if you’re missin’ y’all
        Swingin’ while I’m singin’
        Givin’ whatcha gettin’
        Knowin’ what I know
        While the Black bands sweatin’
        And the rhythm rhymes rollin’
        Got to give us what we want
        Gotta give us what we need
        Our freedom of speech is freedom or death
        We got to fight the powers that be
        Lemme hear you say
        Fight the power

        As the rhythm designed to bounce
        What counts is that the rhymes
        Designed to fill your mind
        Now that you’ve realized the prides arrived
        We got to pump the stuff to make us tough
        from the heart
        It’s a start, a work of art
        To revolutionize make a change nothin’s strange
        People, people we are the same
        No we’re not the same
        Cause we don’t know the game
        What we need is awareness, we can’t get careless
        You say what is this?
        My beloved lets get down to business
        Mental self defensive fitness
        (Yo) bum rush the show
        You gotta go for what you know
        Make everybody see, in order to fight the powers that be
        Lemme hear you say…
        Fight the Power

        As the rhythm designed to bounce
        What counts is that the rhymes
        Designed to fill your mind
        Now that you’ve realized the prides arrived
        We got to pump the stuff to make us tough
        from the heart
        It’s a start, a work of art
        To revolutionize make a change nothin’s strange
        People, people we are the same
        No we’re not the same
        Cause we don’t know the game
        What we need is awareness, we can’t get careless
        You say what is this?
        My beloved lets get down to business
        Mental self defensive fitness
        (Yo) bum rush the show
        You gotta go for what you know
        Make everybody see, in order to fight the powers that be
        Lemme hear you say…
        Fight the Power

        Elvis was a hero to most
        But he never meant shit to me you see
        Straight up racist that sucker was
        Simple and plain
        Mother fuck him and John Wayne
        Cause I’m Black and I’m proud
        I’m ready and hyped plus I’m amped
        Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps
        Sample a look back you look and find
        Nothing but rednecks for 400 years if you check
        Don’t worry be happy
        Was a number one jam
        Damn if I say it you can slap me right here
        (Get it) lets get this party started right
        Right on, c’mon
        What we got to say
        Power to the people no delay
        To make everybody see
        In order to fight the powers that be

  • Phil Perspective

    There’s nothing Hillary Clinton could do to make Kentucky or West Virginia competitive, any more than running Mitt Romney could make Massachusetts competitive for the Republican Party.

    The first part of this is most certainly wrong. And it doesn’t even involve Hillary waving around the Confederate flag, or what ever it actually is. Nothing even close. The problem is that she won’t do what is necessary. Things like income support and single-payer. After all, look how many Kentucky residents are doing better because of ObamaCare.

    • Davis X. Machina

      And look at how many of them love their coverage, because it’s Kynect, and not Obamacare…

      • Brien Jackson

        And even if they did, how many of them would vote for the party of brown people anyway?

        • Pat

          I think they vote for the party of brown people, if it’s the only way they get to keep their insurance.

          Enough people that they know would have to point it out to them. Otherwise, yeah, they’ll zone out to Faux News.

    • sibusisodan

      After all, look how many Kentucky residents are doing better because of ObamaCare.

      Yeah, but how many of them know it’s because of Obamacare, and not because of Kynect and Mitch McConnell’s awesomeness?

      EDIT: Daaaaaviiiiis! [shakes fist]

      • Davis X. Machina

        And a joyful good morning to you. We’ll fight over priority when it’s Nobel time. Before then, it’s petty.

        • sibusisodan

          Fair point! You said it better anyway.

        • There’s a Nobel in Snark? I better start documenting my comments better.

          • Davis X. Machina

            It’s like that not-actually-a-Nobel-thingy they give economists.

            • As long as it’s not an Ig Nobel.

              • Ahuitzotl

                more of an Ugh,no

    • Rob in CT

      Wait. You think that if Clinton went full economic populist that Kentucky and/or West Virginia would be in play.

      You believe this?

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        he’d better- Phil’s been saying that about as long as I’ve been around here. I wish I thought it would be that simple

        • njorl

          If he keeps saying it, he’ll eventually be right. It would be surprising if those states had an economic turnaround before they evolve a little more racial tolerance.

          Maybe around 2040.

      • sharculese

        I don’t know if Phil actually believes this so much as is no longer incapable of interrogating his own urges to tantrum about how the Democrats have failed his impossible standards.

      • Davis X. Machina

        No, but if Bernie wins the nomination, he’ll carry both states.

        Those hollows are full of social democrats who don’t vote, because a sufficiently-left candidate has never been presented to them.

        • FlipYrWhig

          I love the circularity of it all. It would be so easy to win every election with left-liberal populism, you see, because everyone loves it instantly when they see it, that the fact that no one does it proves that the fix is in and that the Democrats are taking a dive on purpose. It makes the whole process of _persuading people_ moot. Persuasion _would be_ instantaneous! If they only tried! Which proves how dangerous _and_ popular the left-liberal agenda _really_ is: it’s always being snuffed out (by The Corporatists) before it can flourish. The world is a harsh and cruel place because of a small number of easily vanquished foes that someone else should have gotten rid of by now. Oh well.

          • ColBatGuano

            How did Kucinich not waltz into the White House? Must be the Clinton’s mob fault.

    • joe from Lowell

      Hillary Clinton goes into Kentucky and starts discussing “income support,” and all the middle-class white people there say, “Hey, she’s talking about me!”

      This brilliance is why politicians of Phil’s ilk are so dominant in American politics.

      • Rob in CT

        Heh, indeed.

        Maybe some support could be peeled off by pushing a slightly different policy mix, but exactly how that would work and at what cost have to be considered carefully.

        • FlipYrWhig

          I guarantee you it would work as follows:

          Democrat: “Democrats like me want to help you live a better life and make more money!”

          Voter: “Hey, I like the sound of that!”

          Republican: “Don’t listen to Democrat. He really wants to help The Others, who are lazy and/or criminal, and he’ll use your hard-earned tax dollars to do it. Plus, he wants you to drive a wimpy car and eat tofu.”

          Voter: “That sucks! I’m voting for Republican! At least he isn’t trying to take my money and meddle in my life!”

          • Pat

            Well, yeah, because 90% of Voter’s friends who talk politics are Republican. And once they’re sure he’s on their side, they make sure he gets to the polls.

    • joe from Lowell

      Hence, President Edwards. Hence, President Jesse Jackson. Hence, President Teddy. Hence, President Kucinich.

      • Brien Jackson

        TeH ESTablishment Get ‘EM!!!!!!!

      • Joe_JP

        don’t see “hence” used enough

        • joe from Lowell

          I just opened up a can of whoop-hence.

          • Ahuitzotl

            really? I have to rely on freshpicked ones from the garden, which aren’t very convenient, however artesanally authentic

    • JL

      I suspect that unlike me you haven’t lived in Kentucky or been there recently. Or for that matter looked at recent polling there.

      I would love for Clinton to take economically leftist positions, but if you think that would win her Kentucky I don’t agree with you. I would also love Kentucky to go blue, but that’s a long-term project, not a short-term one.

      Regarding Kentucky’s fairly popular Obamacare implementation, Kynect, Kentuckians like “Kynect” but dislike “Obamacare”. Googling kynect approval will give you many more results on this topic.

      • FlipYrWhig

        People who dislike “Obamacare” think it’s welfare for Those People. People who benefit from what Obamacare actually does don’t see it as “Obamacare,” just like how people who benefit from government programs don’t see themselves as benefiting from government programs. It’s the basic compartmentalization to which all Republicans adhere when it comes to the government and the welfare state. It’s stupid, and it’s very, very psychologically and politically real.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Things like income support and single-payer. After all, look how many Kentucky residents are doing better because of ObamaCare.

      Two sentences that provide perfect illustrations of both the pundit’s fallacy and self-refutation.

  • tsam

    How about we stop using 18th and 19th century zombie fathers as a symbol of modern..anything? Jackson, Jefferson, Lincoln, Reagan…all gone now, all irrelevant to current politics.

    • postmodulator

      Sometimes I think we’re like North Korea, but our Dear Leaders are dead.

      • Sly

        So are North Korea’s. At least two of them are, anyway.

    • Rob in CT

      I like Reagan being placed in the 19th century. That’s a nice touch. :)

    • How about Aaron Burr as a symbol of how to deal with people dumb enough to accept challenges to duel?

    • timb

      That cannot be true, since the Parties themselves draw our attention to it and, since the echoes from their policies and decisions are still around

  • Jasper.Spires

    White [BONERS]

    • ChrisS

      Yes. I would like fries with that.

    • Davis X. Machina

      Free Bob Ewell!

    • Rob in CT

      Oh come now. At least give us something original. This is such “race realist” boilerplate. I’ve seen it tons of times. Yawn.

    • Gregor Sansa

      If the front-pagers ever need a “disemvowel” button, I’d be happy to code it. It used to be fun to mock Jennie’s foolishness, but this is just disgusting.

      • Jasper.Spires

        White [BONERS]

        • Gregor Sansa

          What the horseapples did you just bucking say about me, you little blank-flank? I’ll have you know I graduated top of my class in the Equestrian guards, I’ve faced down an Ursa Major, and I have over 300 confirmed pals. I am trained in friendship magic and I’m the top sparkler in the Earth, Unicorn, or Pegasus branches of the guards. You are everything to me and not just another changeling. I will teach you the power of friendship with amiability the likes of which has never been seen before on this Earth, mark my bucking words. You think Celestia doesn’t care or that your scrolls just turn to ashes when your dragon burns them? Think again, filly. As we speak I am contacting my secret network of BPFs across Equestria and your cutie mark is being traced right now so you better prepare for the sonic rainboom, Derpy. The rainboom that teaches you that even a life that seems pathetically little can be better with friends. You’re gonna think you must have had the cutie pox, filly. I can be anywhere, anytime, and I can befriend you in over seven hundred ways, and that’s just with my earth pony magic. Not only am I extensively trained in kindness, but I have access to the Elements of Harmony of the Mane Six and I will use them to their full extent to wipe your miserable frown off your face, you little squeebundle. If only you could have known what kind of (((hugs))) your “clever-hooves” little comment was about to bring down upon you, maybe you would have held your bucking tongue. But you couldn’t, you didn’t, and now you’re learning your lesson, you Celestia-beloved colt. I will shit rainbows all over you and you will frolic in them. You’re bucking adorable, foal.

          • Jasper.Spires

            White [BONERS]

            • Gregor Sansa

              PWNYED!

              • BubbaDave

                You, sir, you are responsible for the near-death experience of one keyboard now drenched in spit-take Diet Dew. Won’t somebody think of the keyboards?

          • We need a Game of Thrones version.

            • Gregor Sansa

              But then we’d need a different one for each of the Great Houses…

              • [Channelling middle management] You’ve got your instructions. Make it happen.

            • burritoboy

              has anyone written a ninja version? i really want to read a ninja version.

    • Halloween Jack

      WAPO shut down the comments section. Hmmmm, wonder why?

      On account of shitbirds like you showing up, I reckon.

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    hopefully management will just delete “jasper”- with a set of tongs

    • CaptainBringdown

      I’d prefer a pike-based solution.

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        the longer it goes on, the more desirable “nuking him from orbit, to be sure” becomes

  • sleepyirv

    I’m fascinated how a historical figure’s reputation can go down like Jackson (or up like with Grant. Or for the rightwing, their weird obsession with Calvin Coolidge) not on the basis of any new historical information, but just on current trends in political thinking.

    Jackson seems to have been hurt on the Democratic side on two points:
    1) The (correct) emphasis on racial justice, which Jackson was abominable.
    2) The emphasis on the “Hamiltonian means” part of the “Hamiltonian means for Jeffersonian ends” equation that’s really big for many current Democrats.

    I won’t say it does a “disservice” to Jackson, because we don’t owe Jackson anything. But I don’t think it’s a proper use of historical reasoning to cut him out of the Democratic party. While the nation-building program of the Whigs would have been a long-term benefit to this country, in the short-term it did very little for the vast majority of the population that were dirt farmers or laborers (nevermind slaves) while being a massive plus for the elites of the time. It’s not something that needs to be celebrated, but studied.

    I guess I just find it weird when (IIRC) Matt Yglesias says he would have voted with the Whigs if he was in the 1830s. And Chait seems to be going down the same line. It’s not because he and Chait take that position, but I can’t see why anyone feels the need to take that position or answer that question.

    • witlesschum

      Given how little most people know about history, it seems super banal to think that views of past politicians are almost completely based on current norms. Jackson’s previously higher rep seems likely based on the ease of imagining his party as something like the New Deal coalition and Woodrow Wilson had a good rep during the Cold War because his imperialist foreign policy backed by moralistic posturing was a very good fit for the consensus around intervention-friendly anticommunism.

      I’ll bet Andrew Jackson was imagining himself as the heir to the tradition of some Roman who he wasn’t remotely like, too.

    • timb

      See, here’s my problem, after having been educated by posters previously and coming to agree with them, it’s not like we judge Jackson by standards inapplicable to him at the time. It was a minority opinion, but a still a popular one, that Jackson was a racist troll. JQA thought so, freaking john Marshall thought so.

      Here, on this blog, we complain about the racism still endemic to American political life, yet here we see part of its past, its claim of legitimacy. To be sure Jackson is not only a racist asshole, but ripping roots and branch from the “Good Guys” who inspire us to the “assholes we hate” is not only valid historiography, it’s valid politics.

      To be sure, I am not claiming, sleepyirv, that you are in favor of simpleton view or the endemic racial features of American society, so I’m not arguing against you, as much as against the idea that this does not matter. It does matter, because one can see the echo in America today

    • Manny Kant

      I guess I just find it weird when (IIRC) Matt Yglesias says he would have voted with the Whigs if he was in the 1830s. And Chait seems to be going down the same line. It’s not because he and Chait take that position, but I can’t see why anyone feels the need to take that position or answer that question.

      Very much this. Why does all discussion of 19th century politics have to be in the sense of “which of these two deeply flawed no longer existing political parties should you have supported in the 1830s?” Who cares?

      • witlesschum

        Yes. The fact that they see it as a question to answer makes them seem unserious about understanding the past.

        That’s the path for people who’ll mumble about how Jefferson* thought like a bible-study attending, megachurch evangelical and wrote the constitution with Jesus on both his shoulders.

        *Intentional joke.

    • Matt McIrvin

      Or for the rightwing, their weird obsession with Calvin Coolidge

      Last I looked at the Wikipedia page on Calvin Coolidge, it had a weird digression about how Herbert Hoover, unlike Coolidge, caused the Depression by being too much of a tax-and-spend liberal. It was dutifully sourced to a Coolidge biography by Amity Shlaes.

      I think that was when I first realized that there’s some kind of Coolidge cult going on.

      • timb

        You should hang out with George Will more

      • Malaclypse

        It was dutifully sourced to a Coolidge biography by Amity Shlaes.

        Of all the things I miss about EotAW, I miss Eric Rauchway’s periodic destruction of Shlaes’ “scholarship” the most.

      • rea

        Be cool with Coolidge!

      • burritoboy

        Really? The Coolidge cult has been a thing since the early 30s. I heard about it for the first time in the early 1990s. Which makes sense, since modern-day Republicans think that Hoover and Eisenhower were either wusses or not Republicans at all (and it’s too hard to get people to believe that Hoover was a success). Nixon is still too toxic to praise, and Ford was another wuss. Harding was just a stupid corrupt horn-dog, Teddy Roosevelt is unmentionable, Taft is the big fat guy, and nobody remembers what the Republic Presidents before Roosevelt did. (Most people can’t even remember those guys’ names.)

        So, if you’re going to praise any Republican president before Reagan and after Lincoln, you’re going to go with Coolidge.

  • priceyeah

    Thank you for taking this issue on, you’ve done exemplary work. Obviously connected to this argument is a repression of the fact that ordinary racism supplies the structuring logic for the Republican Party.

    It also demonstrates something that I say all the time, which is that American politics, as a discourse, doesn’t pay nearly enough attention to INTERESTS. So much of the discourse gets bogged down in “What’s the right solution to this problem?” as if it could be deduced in a rational, objective way, or, worse, “Who’s the right candidate?” The fact is that any party that decides to represent the interests of black people is going to drive a lot of white voters out of that party. Not to see this is to miss possibly THE rationale for so much of post-1950 American life, including white flight, the repeal of welfare, the demonization of the Post Office by some, the rise of voucher-based education and home schooling. It’s just like iron shavings moving away from a magnet — there’s no party that has a platform “correct” enough that it can attract black people and racist white people, period. If you are unaware of this then you forfeit your right to be an American historian or political commentator, IMO.

    • Matt McIrvin

      Or, only some people and organizations are allowed to have interests, whereas others are held to higher moral standards. When a corporation acts in an utterly mercenary manner, it’s just business, because the corporation’s only duty is to its shareholders; but if the union negotiating with the corporation does the same thing on behalf of its workers, it’s being crooked and greedy.

  • Joe_JP

    Yeah. And, Jackson on the 20 is stupid.

    Seriously, the guy didn’t even like paper money or federal banks!

    • Matty

      That’s the best argument I’ve seen for leaving him on there!

  • yet_another_lawyer

    it’s really the party formed by Americans who unambiguously view the federal government as the instrument of equality and opportunity and prosperity built on the work and talents of every citizen, who in an old-fashioned Jacksonian sense deserve the full fruits of their labor.

    What? Is there anybody who views the federal government in this way? It’s build on the ‘work and talents of every citizen’? It’s the instrument of equality and opportunity? I find it impossible to believe that this ideology describes a non-trivial number of… anybody.

    • Rob in CT

      The argument I’ve made, when presented with a friend rambling about how he “hates the government” is “dude, the government IS US! It’s the vehicle through which we decide to do things, as a group.”

      Which is basically that argument.

      • yet_another_lawyer

        It’s conceptually similar, but there’s a world of difference between “our government is an okay-ish way of aggregating the preferences of those who are both allowed to and choose to vote” and the contention quoted in the original post.

      • Srsly Dad Y

        Exactly, and “how long you have to work each week/year to pay Uncle Sam before you start working for yourself” is BS — we collect taxes to buy things together, as a nation, as a group.

    • witlesschum

      It’s a little flowery and emphasizes the wrong things, but I think it gets to a basic divide between people who don’t have a problem with government intervention in principle versus those who do? In practice, nobody actually has a problem with government intervention when it does stuff they like and people who like some government interventions don’t like others, but that basic, ideological premise gets at something.

  • petesh

    I support Mr Lehrer on the topic of vaporization as compared with satire, in certain instances, and I recommend most of the other pieces of wisdom collected here.

  • Vance Maverick

    I was quite sure the image up top, with the authoritarian fist and swept-back hair, was of Tim Robbins as Bob Roberts. But reverse image search tells me it’s Jim Webb. On second thought, the vacuous slogan (Forward!) is the opposite of “The Times They Are A-Changin’ Back.”

    • Rob in CT

      Hah! At first glance I too thought it was Tim Robbins.

  • Steve

    Is an IP ban not possible? Or does this slug have easy means to circumvent such a ban?

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      the slug’s just gotten lucky. management does pretty well when they have the time

    • Scott Lemieux

      Well, it took well over 100 comments until someone left the troll’s comments alone, which is essential to IP banning without wrecking the thread.

      [And, of course, someone replied within the 30 seconds it took me to delete it! Because God forbid a particularly lazy troll not control the discussion for even a minute! I wonder if it’s even worth the bother.]

      • timb

        It’s not. Let their evisceration stand to amuse us

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        so to put trolls down you *need* us to leave them alone. That is going to help my impulse control

  • I was disappointed that the link was to a four year old piece on how the Democrats need to make a greater effort to get back “swing voters,” otherwise known as Reagan Democrats, on a theory about their actual swinginess that’s since been debunked.

    • witlesschum

      I’m going to be pretty happy when the term swing voters is either retired by pundits or applied to the organized swinging movement.

It is main inner container footer text