Tuesday, October 5, 2010

No matter how many parties we have, I will not invite Tom Friedman to any of them

I'd like to associate myself with this post by Jonathan Bernstein criticizing Tom Friedman's call for a third party. I just read the column myself and, considered along with David Broder's most recent column, I don't think a more poignant case for legacy media irrelevance has ever been made.

Friedman's column is especially infuriating. People like Friedman never say something like, "I generally prefer the Democratic platform and policies to those of the Republicans for reasons that are self-evident" because that would bring the insinuations of the dread liberal bias, even though it's clearly the perspective of the article. So every left-of-center voice in the media has to act like a completely independent maverick with no connection to the progressive movement or politics, and an active dislike of them is preferable. This is insane. And since saying, "Vote Democratic, because they would do a better job of fixing things, especially if those deficit-poseur Blue Dogs were purged" is not the thing a maverick independent can say (though it is pretty logical, I think), Friedman's solution necessarily has to be awkward. A third-party movement that duplicated the goals of the progressive movement would find itself directly at odds with the Democratic Party (see also, Green Party), and the same is true of a party that tries to duplicate the goals of the Republican Party. I guess Friedman wants some sort of "radical centrist" party, and this party of the elites (The Bloomberg Party, basically, 'cause that's what it is) presumably includes moderate hawkishness, fiscal conservatism and social liberalism, which is what the elites always say we voters want, but I've seen no evidence of it. I do think that there is an opening for the opposite of what the elites want--a dovish, socially conservative, fiscally liberal party--but presumably Friedman wouldn't want that at all.

Even if one grants Friedman's assumptions about the state of the two parties, it does not stand to reason that a third party is even the right way to go. Fixing the existing parties might well be the easier and better idea. But that's boring, and wouldn't make for a splashy column. Overwrought Roman references aside, Friedman's column mostly represents a desire by the establishment to drive the course of public policy. The problem is that the establishment has spent its last decade destroying its credibility at every turn--by embracing nearly every disastrous Bush policy they could find, from No Child Left Behind to Iraq to Social Security privatization (though they couldn't make that one happen on their own) so as to prove their independence from the left, without ever raising any concerns of which I am aware. Through all of this, they showed themselves to be concerned with maintaining access to power than exercising theirs responsibly. They have worked hard to make themselves irrelevant, and we see the results: now, major candidates simply don't talk to the media ever. And now they want to run the place?

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.