Author Page for Scott Lemieux
Now that the latest Nader thread has neared the length of an Unfogged one, I guess it’s time for a new one! I think zuzu makes the point that is really the most important:
There’s a lot of talk about Nader on this blog, but I rarely ever see any of Nader’s defenders say exactly what they thought he was going to accomplish in 2000, or 2004, and god help us, 2008. Because I don’t think Ralph hisself knows once the cameras turn his way.
This is really the heart of the issue. Defenses of Nader at this late date always end up turning into attacks on the Democrats. And while I rarely agree with them tout court — they tend to ignore obvious facts like the structure of American institutions, the preferences of the median voter, etc. — they certainly have some merit. But the larger problem is that it’s all a non-sequitur because voting for Nader doesn’t accomplish anything positive. (Or, at least, doesn’t accomplish anything that just voting for Bush straight up wouldn’t accomplish, but in the wake of the hundreds of thousands dead in Iraq, a deficit that will make progressive change much more difficult, the Alto-fied Court, etc. one rarely hears heighten-the-contradictions arguments that eight years of Bush will be worth it because the 2008 Democratic candidate may be slightly to the left of the previous ones. Especially since the frontrunner is less progressive than Gore or Kerry.) The Goldwaterite transformation of the Republican Party wasn’t accomplished by vanity third-party runs, and getting matching funds for the Greens would have done nothing but make it easier for the Republicans to hold office.
As Michael Tomasky pointed out, one only wishes that conservatives were as illogical and indifferent about the strategic ends of their actions as the minority of Greens still defending the man who used them for his own bizarre ends:
During the 2000 campaign, I used to go to bed wishing that the Christian Coalition were as strategically feebleminded, and as psychologically bent on disruption at any price, as the Greens. That way the CCers would have backed Gary Bauer, the laughably unelectable hard-right family values candidate. Then, once Bauer had been winnowed out of the nominating process, they would have claimed that his defeat showed just how corrupt the Republican Party had become from its incurable need to placate the secular humanists and “banking interests.” Then they would have run some nut of their own who’d have made Bauer look like Arthur Vandenburg. Finally, with a few million misguided souls behind them, including at least a couple thousand in Florida, they would have cost George W. Bush the election, no asterisks or question marks. What a wonderful world this would be.
But the Christians are far smarter than these left-wing lions of ideological chastity, and so we are where we are.
Christian conservatives could have formed a third party over, say, Reagan hanging Bork out to dry or Bush I tax increase. Alas, they didn’t, because they actually understand American politics. They understood that for all they were used the GOP was better for the than the Dems, those were the only two options, and they got the Roberts Court as a result. Anyway, to sum up, the costs and benefits of Nader’s 2000 candidacy:
- Costs: Nader’s goal of electing a very reactionary and exceptionally incompetent president was, alas, realized, with incredible domestic and foreign policy costs.
- Benefits: None. And, no, the fact that some people got to feel ideologically pure as they effectively voted for Bush (while assuring us that, despite having governed to the right of the Texas legislature, he was a harmless moderate not substantially different than Gore!) doesn’t count.
I’m not really seeing how the tradeoff works here.
Tom Hilton looks into Melinda Henneberger and discovers that her random anecdotes just happened to line up with her strong pro-forced-pregnancy views! (“‘…choice,’ make no mistake, is killing the Democratic Party.” It’s scary to think about how much views that aren’t the majority position are hurting them…) What are the odds? And not only that, but she also lined up with the far right on the Schaivo case, complete with appalling, gratuitous slaps at her husband. Another question: it would obviously be too much to ask for her to write about how the disgraceful (and enormously unpopular) Schiavo circus hurt the GOP, but has she ever written an op-ed about how the death penalty is “killing the Republican Party” by costing them the Catholic vote? I know which way I’m betting.
Anyway, as Digby says there’s no genre of op-ed more annoying than this kind of Friedman/Broder special, where well-rewarded pundits tour Real America and find — amazingly enough! — that Real Americans just happen to agree entirely with their a priori views:
That is exactly why I don’t trust this stale and silly convention of DC insiders and elite pundits making anthropological forays into Real America and “reporting” back on the thinking of the electorate. They just reinforce their own preconceived notions and come back to their perch at the top of the political power structure secure in the knowledge that they are just like small town, hard working, regular folks after all.
Give me cold poll numbers any day — and if somebody wants to follow up with interviews of a sample of that sample for an article in the paper, then fine. But the notion that DC pundits have some special way of talking to strangers that translates into something meaningful about the population at large is ridiculous.
Henenberger is anti-choice. Fine. She went out and found some anti-choice people just like her and extrapolated from their conversation that abortion was killing the Democratic party, just as she personally thinks it is. But she never says that. Instead, she pretends that she has conducted some objective reporting which led to the inevitable conclusion that the Democratic party is losing because of abortion. That is shoddy journalism, opinion or not.
And the real brickbats here, of course, belong to the New York Times for not even requiring her to directly acknowledge that her cherry-picked Stories From the Heartland happen to accord with her own views on the subject.
- The case created a standard for surviving a motion to dismiss — that in inference of illegal action should “at least as likely as any plausible opposing inference” — that is unusually difficult. Despite this, Alito concurred to claim that the standard was still too lenient. The corporate donors certainly got what they paid for.
- Having said that, the problem here is not just about Alito and Roberts. This decision, after all, was 8-1. As I mentioned last week, what we think of as “liberals” on the Court are really more Rockefeller Republicans and DLC Democrats. They seem like liberals compared to Thomas and Alito — especially on the kinds of cultural issues that dominate coverage of the Court — but business cases make it clear that there’s no Douglas or Marshall on the current Court. (If if you’re response is that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a crazeee liberal, you don’t know what you’re talking about.)
- And in this particular case, the primary blame (or, if you own a business engaged in potentially shady securities activities, credit) belongs to the Republican Congress. The most interesting part of the case to me is this from Stevens’s dissent: “[Congress] implicitly delegated significant lawmaking authority to the Judiciary in determining how that standard should operate in practice.” Congress does, in fact, do this all the time, but it’s rare for this to be acknowledged openly. And as Stevens points out (and unlike Ledbetter), none of the standards advanced in this case are illogical readings of the statute. Congress wanted to create a tougher standard, and it didn’t specify how much tougher, so any of the three broad standards advanced in this case could plausibly fit the statute. That the Court would fill in a moderately conservative standard isn’t terribly surprising.
Melinda Henneberger. Her accomplishment should not be understated; within op-ed pages that regularly publish Tom Friedman and Maureen Dowd, and that gave a month-long guest slot to the Simpsons’ crazy cat lady, I would be shocked if this isn’t the worst thing the Times publishes this year.
See Bean, if you haven’t already. Then Paul and Ezra. And then
Digby Tristero and Barbara. (She’s the political editor of the Huffington Post? Jeebus.) And the thing is so bad I’m sure there’s something we all missed.
Depressingly, the “because having a bare majority in one house of Congress was not enough to entirely strip the executive branch of its powers, the Democrats are equally responsible” routine being trotted out by Nader-exculpating voters here. I guess we need to return to Jon Chait on this:
Before the election, a New York Times editorial rebutted Nader’s Tweedledee-and-Tweedledum analysis by citing the two candidates’ starkly different approaches to using the budget surplus — with Bush favoring a massive tax cut for the rich and Gore preferring other governing priorities. In his memoir, incredibly, Nader throws this back in the Times editors’ faces. “So what happens in June 2001, with the Democrats taking over the Senate?” he asks. “The Democrats call a $1.3 trillion Bush tax cut a victory for their side, as indeed numerous Democrats voted with the Republicans.” While repellent, the collaboration of a minority of Democrats with the Bush tax cut hardly vindicates Nader; quite the opposite. The tax cut fiasco, like Supreme Court nominations, demonstrates the difficulty of stopping a president’s agenda from moving through the legislative branch. But it was Nader who argued (at least implicitly) that controlling Congress mattered more than controlling the White House. He claimed all along that his candidacy would help the Democrats win Congress; indeed, he asserted that the extra turnout he spurred gave Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) her winning margin and that this would offset any advantage Republicans gained by controlling the presidency. The tax cut showed that Nader was wrong and that the Times was right: What really matters in setting governing priorities is which party has the White House. Nothing resembling the Bush tax cut could have passed with Al Gore in the Oval Office.
To listen to Nader explain himself on these questions, then, is to stumble into a funhouse world of illogic and trickery. His systematic dissembling was necessary to hide something he could not, for political reasons, admit: Helping elect George W. Bush was not an unintended consequence but the primary goal of his presidential campaign.
Then there’s the claim that the possibility of Clinton running means that the Dems are just as bad because she’s just responsible. Now, I won’t be supporting Clinton in the primaries, and please criticize her awful vote on the war as heartily as you like. But as for apportioning responsibility, I think this is pretty straightforward:
- If Clinton votes against the war, we would have had the Iraq war.
- If Nader doesn’t run in 2000, no war.
This is pretty straightforward–their relative responsibilities are not remotely comparable.
Ah, yes, nice to see the Rockies accomplish what the BoSox couldn’t. Even a bug turned into a feature, as the fact that TV audio wasn’t working at the gym meant that I got to hear Sterling go ballistic about St. Derek of Pastadiving’s baserunning blunder for two innings. Sweet! (I guess it would have been even funnier if it was a Fox broadcast and McCarver explained that Jeter had no choice but to light out for third on a grounder to short with one out because the moons of Neptune were in his eyes, but that option wasn’t on the table.)
Ralph Nader says he is seriously considering running for president in 2008 because he foresees another Tweedledum-Tweedledee election that offers little real choice to voters.
And the problem is, given his asceticism he’ll never sidle up to the bar, flag the bartender, and order the double shut the fuck up on the rocks that he needs to drink until they’re picking him off the floor.
I have a post over at TAPPED noting that Kennedy’s opinion in Carhart II was a “gaffe” in the Kinsley sense of telling the truth. And in this case, the truth was particularly inconvenient for the anti-Roe pro-choice position. What I had in mind in particular was this claim in Rosen’s mock opinion in What Roe v. Wade Should Have Said:
The only evidence we have of the purpose of the legislators who passed the abortion laws (as opposed to the doctors who lobbied for them) is their text, and that text clearly suggests that the primary purpose of the laws was to protect fetal life…We must, I think, take them at face value; and search for hidden purposes to enforce stereotypes would be empirically fraught and hard to sustain.
I agree that it’s the text, as opposed to the subjective intention of legislators, that is most important, but (as Balkin’s mock opinion demonstrated in detail) the assertion that it’s clear from the text that the sole purpose of these laws is to protect fetal life is exceptionally unconvincing. The case of “partial-birth” abortion bans make this especially clear. It’s hardly necessary to search for “hidden motives” when the anti-choice lobby enthusiastically supports legislation that can injure women but doesn’t significantly protect fetal life even in theory. If Kennedy had been strategically savvy enough to not mention this it wouldn’t have changed this fact, and the only good thing to come from Carhart II is that is makes the extent to which debates about abortion are debates about 19th and 21st century conceptions of women very clear.
Holbo on the range of acceptable debate among the Bealtway elite and its implications for assertions about whether parties have “new ideas” and “vigorous debates”:
Let’s take it from the top: if the Republicans have got a guy who wants to spend money building a wall against Canada, that’s intellectual vibrancy. If the Democrats get someone who wants to expand health insurance or combat global warming, that’s a canary dying in the coalmine of the Democratic party’s political extremism?
It’s a nice illustration of a dilemma for Democrats. The only way they can get credit for ‘having ideas’ is by turning Republican – not because the Republicans have ideas, but because the range of media-acceptable impulses you can exhibit runs the gamut from the far right to the right-leaning left.
Right. And to be clear, having vigorous debate within your party about whether torture and arbitrary executive power are good things is really not a selling point.