There is only one major party that supports multiparty liberal democracy on the ballot in November, and Josh Barro and Ross Douthat know who to blame — the party that does:
If you’ll forgive me for belaboring the obvious, a few points here:
- This whole revealed preferences routine is a dumb annoyance. Either the Republican Party is anti-democratic or not; the strategic response of the Democratic Party, a difficult question with no clear right answer, is neither here nor there. And the evidence on this question is not ambiguous — if 1/6 and its aftermath isn’t enough for you, just ask them!
- And needless to say the revealed preferences argument cuts both ways — if getting your way on pet issue x is more important than opposing authoritarianism, your opposition to authoritarianism was evidently never very strong in the first place.
- The idea that the left wing of the Democratic Party has not in any way curtailed its policy ambition as part of a governing coalition in which the key veto points are currently occupied by Joe Manchin and Joe Biden is some of the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard. I mean, just compare the House BBBA and IRA fer Chrissakes. You just don’t hear constant whining about these concessions because the left wing of the Democratic Party is much more committed to liberal democracy than Barro or Douthat apparently are.
- Discussion of European coalition politics is mostly useless, because in the US for better or worse we put our coalitions together before the election, and the Democratic Party is the ideologically heterogeneous united front against encroaching authoritarianism.
- The idea that there’s One Magic Policy Concession that could somehow turn the tide in the midterm is not plausible on its face. But the quoted colloquy reveals an additional problem, which is that the policy concessions that might appeal a neoliberal centrist like Barro would be completely different than the concessions that might appeal to a expanded-welfare-state-curious cultural reactionary like Douthat. When you throw the fact that any such concession might alienate core voters you need to persuade to vote, the idea that there’s some easy tradeoff Democrats are leaving on the table is nonsensical. Ultimately, this is just vacuous Yangism — the idea that you should be order political candidates like a custom suit. That’s not how any of this works.
- The best part, however, is that Barro’s examples of successful United Front efforts to stop authoritarian governments that the Democratic Party should emulate are…Hungary and Israel! That’s your example of more successful political movements than the Democratic Party? The Hungarian united front that did three points worse than Herbert Hoover in 1932? That’s the path to victory? I am losing my goddamned mind here.
Anyway, 2022 presents a clear choice between liberalism and semi-fascism. If you choose not to decide or in favor of the latter, that is the choice you have made, and the Democratic Party didn’t force you to make it.