Bloggingheads freaks out my computer, and watching Mickey Kaus freaks out my eyeballs, so I typically tend to avoid it. Apparently, however, Mickey uses his pedestal to assail Ezra, who seemed, when I met him on Wednesday, to be the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being etc. etc. The point of attack is Ezra’s assertion that neoliberalism is both dead and wasn’t really all that much anyway.
Mickey’s point is fairly simple; the primary enemy of the Democratic Party remains on the left, and Ezra is a twerp for not being able to understand that. The attack on Ezra is only a minor manifestation of Mickey’s larger approach to politics. This approach includes, of course, an effort to purge the Democratic Party of all evident Democrats. Ezra’s suggestion that neoliberalism is both dead and that it failed is a challenge to just about everything Mickey stands for, both personally and politically. Now, my own position on this question is closer to that of Matt; neoliberalism had its place, but at this point in time the “Left”, such that it is, has internalized the most important critiques and has rendered anti-leftists purges of the sort that Mickey is demanding rather pointless and quaint. For Ezra, a young, popular writer with hair to suggest that not only Mickey’s political stance but, essentially, his entire career has been a waste of time must be particularly irritating. Mickey, along with so many young men of his generation, fought and died face down in the mud, in the jungles of the New Republic, trying to kill unions and other pro-Democratic interest groups in the 1990s. And now, does anyone appreciate the sacrifice? Does Mickey get a parade? Of course not; rather, some young kid like Ezra Klein comes along and spits in his face, and tells him it was all for nothing.
The biggest problem, of course, is that Mickey remains essentially clueless about most anything that took place after 1998. Even after seven years of George W. Bush, he thinks it more important to assail relatively trivial groups on the left wing of the Democratic Party than to challenge anything (foreign policy, economic, social, etc.) that the Republican Party has done. He is so ignorant of the left half of the blogosphere that he declares Ezra to be on the “far left”, an argument that’s utterly untenable if you’ve ever, you know, actually read Ezra Klein. Really, what has to be wrong with someone to assert that “neoliberalism is needed more than ever” in the wake of the Bush administration?
Kaus is a cartoon figure, which Robert Wright tries to point out in polite terms in their Bloggingheads (“you’re kind of a neoliberal…icon”). He combines puerile insight with absolutely the worst writing of any blogger I’ve ever encountered. Without the Slate link, he’d be getting about 40 hits a day. I still find it valuable to launch the occasional attack against him, largely because he’s not self-aware enough to render his arguments in less than transparent terms. I’m sure that other “neoliberals” find gays icky, hate unions, and get stiffys from Ann Coulter, but only Mickey fails to understand that these are things that reasonable people ought to be ashamed of.