Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Broder does it again

Everyone's favorite octogenarian columnist has a new (chronologically, not content, speaking) column up:
Before Boehner opened his mouth, Speaker Nancy Pelosi blasted him in a statement charging that "Congressional Republicans and Mr. Boehner have stood in the way of Democratic reform efforts in Congress for the last four years, and now they want to take America back to the exact same failed policies of the past that put the corporate special interests ahead of the middle class."

That is par for the course in this campaign season, and it represents the sort of reflexive partisanship that voters are understandably sick of. [...]

Many of the Republican leader's proposals are standard, and some that are not are questionable. But few who serve in the House, or observe it closely, would challenge Boehner's analysis of the dynamic that has made Congress a dysfunctional legislative body and Capitol Hill a hostile workplace. [...]

Boehner was a serious legislator for five years at the start of this decade as chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, before he became a floor leader for his party. His diagnosis of the problems in Congress offers a starting point for a cure. Let's hope the Democrats respond.
I should say I'm shocked, but really, I'm not shocked by anything that establishmentarians do anymore. Broder is probably not read by anyone outside of political junkies and political figures, and that probably makes it easier for him to believe that the reason Americans hate Washington is "reflexive partisanship" rather than, I don't know, a relentlessly networked and arrogant ruling class that cares only about its pet obsessions rather than real middle-class issues? I'm just speculating here, but the Republicans have been extremely partisan over the past two years and the voters seem likely to reward them for it. How does Broder explain this? I guess the thing about how Democrats have been shutting off debate is supposed to answer that, but it's not like conservatives have had much trouble getting their message out. And nobody even does debates in Congress anymore.

Of course, calling Boehner a serious legislator is wildly off the mark, as Steve notes here:
He is, as we talked about last week, almost a caricature of what's wrong with Washington insiders. Boehner first gained national notoriety in 1996, when the chain-smoking conservative congressman, shortly before a key vote, walked the House floor distributing checks from tobacco industry lobbyists.

More recently, Boehner has developed an unrivaled love of corporate lobbyists, with whom the GOP leader coordinates to try to kill jobs bills, Wall Street reform,health care reform, and energy legislation.

We're talking about a long-time Capitol Hill veteran who literally meets in smoke-filled rooms to scheme behind closed doors with powerful interests, most of which have hired his former aides for maximum influence and impact.

Is Broder out to lunch? I don't hate the guy nearly as much as most lefties seem to, though I've been more critical than not. At risk of being too mean, he's the best argument there is for a mandatory retirement age for media outlets. Why? I think it has to do with the messed-up way we as a culture view aging. Everyone knows about the justly famous "full retard" bit from Tropic Thunder, which is basically that movies about mentally challenged people tend to give them special powers of some sort or other--Rain Man being able to play genius poker, for example--because people feel bad about not really giving a damn about handicapped people and want to think that everything somehow evens out, that lacking the ability to connect with other people is offset by some other gift somehow. I think a lot of people figure that age automatically grants wisdom as a similar way of life compensating for the downsides of being old. Of course, people who actually spend time with senior citizens know that this is a complete stereotype, and it's far more common for the elderly to be more set in their ways and resistant to new ways of thinking than other groups. This is, of course, a generalization, but as a person with a background in the sciences I can tell you that most changes in scientific thinking didn't come about because of some bold new theory or because some visionary led the way--it's usually been because all the people who backed the old way of thinking died off. The debate over particle physics comes to mind, but there are many, many more.

My point is that Broder seems to have missed the past fifteen years of history, and he still thinks that the two sides are 1) willing to reconsider their ideologies and 2) that bipartisanship is an inevitable good. How do we fix the ideological gulf in this country? More talking, of course, among political elites! This is all just so sad that I feel bad laughing at the guy. He came from a time and place when both of those notions were true, and now they're pretty clearly not. But at least there's a decent excuse for why he says this stuff--he's stuck in his ways. The question is, what's the rest of the media's excuse?

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.