This is my favorite of Jim VandeHei’s responses to Dylan Matthews, which Rob linked below:
DM: The Innovation Party sounds like a typical Beltway centrist project: pro-entitlement cuts, hawkish, socially liberal, etc. Is VandeHei familiar with research from political scientists David Broockman and Doug Ahler showing that most self-identified moderate voters aren’t actually that kind of centrist at all? People who want lots of government programs but also are skeptical of abortion and immigration are a more typical kind of moderate. Why would those people ever vote for the Innovation Party?
JV: I would be careful about reading too much into studies of voter habits right now. Did you anticipate Republican voters would elect an anti-trade, pro-status-quo-on-entitlements Democrat as their nominee? Did you predict a 74-year-old man would clobber Hillary Clinton among young women? There is extreme volatility in politics and I believe most eligible voters are willing to consider something unique or different.
This is…amazing. It’s almost aggressively self-refuting.
Matthews is making a familiar but important point. Elite journalists pining for a third party candidate almost always call for one who is, like them, fiscally conservative (especially with respect to popular entitlement programs) but socially liberal. So one obvious problem with VandeHei’s latest iteration is that it’s the antithesis of “innovative,” a label we can safely say can never be applied to something once Tom Friedman has written his first dozen identical columns advocating it. An even more important problem, as Matthews observes, is that these views 1)have very little popular constituency and 2)are already massively overrepresented among Beltway elites.
VandeHei’s asserts that we should ignore the fact that both Democratic and Republican voters support federal entitlement programs. To support this, his first move is…to point out that Donald Trump is winning the nomination while being the only Republican candidate who supports preserving entitlement programs! He then proceeds to observe that Bernie Sanders is popular among young women. How this shows that voters are clamoring for the INNOVATION of Pain Caucus brand neoliberalism and plenty of it, led not by a New York billionaire but a Silicon Valley billionaire, is…not obvious.
This is an inadvertently perfect illustration of how impervious to reason VandeHei’s deeply embedded fealty to centrist Beltway received wisdom is. Somebody points out that pretty much everybody hates his ideas. His response is to cite politicians who have effectively mobilized voters who hate his ideas as evidence that people want things to be DISRUPTED based on his own massively unpopular ideas. It’s really quite amazing. If his first column was beyond parody, his defense of it is doing to parody what Homer did to the Krusty Burglar:
Jim VandeHei, everbody!