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We're Scum -- at least Matt is

Responding to "Grover Lust" below, and to Matt Yglesias's agreeing with me, David Sirota has added both of us to the list of "a Democratic circle in Washington, D.C. that has become all-too-comfortable losing elections" and makes various other suggestions about how we resemble neutered like farm animals.

It could be an interesting discussion but I'm afraid so far it hasn't been. It is kind of funny, though, to think of Matt and me as sharing responsibility for decades of Democratic losses. Due to his not being alive at the time, I think I have to take full responsibility for Humphrey, McGovern and maybe even 1980! So he has to take full responsibility for Mondale and Dukakis, and we'll share blame for 1994. I'll take full responsibility for 2000, though, (for my failure to help a candidate other than Gore win the nomination).

The comments on Matt's post are quite funny and interesting, and I appreciate a few people who said kind words about me.

Posted by Mark Schmitt on August 5, 2005 | Permalink


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Sirota is to intellectual honesty as Wolfowitz is to smart war planning.


"I'll take full responsibility for 2000, though, (for my failure to help a candidate other than Gore win the nomination)."

Good lord. Do you really think Funky Dollar Bill would've been a better general election candidate than the Al-bot? I know you've got residual loyalty to your old boss, but seriously...

Posted by: Petey | Aug 5, 2005 7:44:50 PM

This sort of thinking is completely insane.

Certain ideals are adopted at different speeds in different places. The civil issues that people desire litmus test-style vetting of Democratic candidates are things that are going to continue churning through the psyche of the populace for a generation or more. A staunchly pro-gay marriage candidate will poll a lot better in some states than others, but if they're both Democrats, they can both be counted on (usually) to support Democratic policies in Congress -- that's sort of how the party thing works. Would the Dems lose Steph Herseth's vote if they tried to legalize gay marriage? Quite possibly, but they're not going to try, so who cares? In the meantime, she votes the "right" way on the important things. (I'm just pulling her name out of a hat here. Hopefully she *has* voted the right way on the important things?)

What the D needs people who are a) fighters, b) attuned to their constituencies, and c) ready to answer the call when the bugle sounds. If they're sharp and charismatic enough to seize public opinion by the horns and wrangle it, that's great -- but it's also incredibly rare. There's a valid critique to be made regarding the entrenched Democratic consultants who've got a career's worth of failure to rest their laurels on over the last dozen years, but the solution isn't a bullet-list of required positions.

Side note: Earlier I characterized the litmus-testing as a social issues thing, when the most recent issue that's come up is actually CAFTA. This debate annoys me, because the D needs to come to grips with free trade. I'm not content to see the party pick up the banner of protectionism, though maybe I'm just disaffected -- it seems like a shield that can't hold forever. I think there's room to maneuver for the left on this issue, a positioning that's both pro-free trade and anti-screwing America. The key is finding something to balance the losses by making the workforce more globally competitive (education, etc). Enough babbling; the meat is up above.

Incidentally, this is the smartest political weblog I know, and I'll bring all 130lbs of me to FIGHT anyone who speaks ill of it!

Posted by: Najork | Aug 5, 2005 8:04:51 PM

After reading your previous post, I wanted to mail you a dime. Not because I want you to destroy people with Norquistian power, but because I can't think of anyone else in whose hands it would be safe.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Aug 5, 2005 8:24:05 PM


I eagerly clicked on Sirota's piece, hoping to find a list of the whole circle.

Now I suppose I'd have to read a lot more Sirota in order to collect the whole set, and life's too short for that.

Isn't the whole cabal exposed on one convenient website somewhere? How can we have an Information Age politics without an internet enemies list?

Posted by: RonK, Seattle | Aug 5, 2005 9:36:11 PM

Now that I've read Sirota's latest post, I'm disillusioned. When he called out the D's who voted for the bankruptcy bill, I loved it! I thought, hey, we need more streetfighters like this guy.

Alas, what we don't need are streetfighters sticking the knife into fellow progressives and lording it over everyone because they worked in a successful political campaign. For christ's sake, spare me.

Posted by: TomHilliard | Aug 5, 2005 11:24:21 PM

I like your blog and your perspective. I like the fighting spirit of liberals like Sirota too.

Sounds like he got carried away with his critique of you.

I do think that the Democratic Party needs to do a better job of standing up for some very basic ideals. It needs to communicate these ideals to the American public and finally give Independents and moderate Republicans a reason to vote Democrat.

If that involves seeing a few party leaders put the hammer down on people like Steny Hoyer and hacks like Joe Biden (B of A) and Jo "Mentum"...as well as distancing the party from the likes of Al From and the DLC, all the better.

Posted by: Patrick Briggs | Aug 7, 2005 3:52:58 AM

I thought that a lot of what Sirota has been saying about the need for Dems to get religion on economic populism has had a lot of merit.

The ad hominem attacks on you and Matt were really embarrassing and I lost a lot of respect for him.

I wanted to say so over there, but he doesn't have comments. Which may also say something about his small p politics.

Posted by: Marc Brazeau | Aug 7, 2005 6:13:43 PM

Not sure I have much to add on the basics: Sirota's rants are maddening, and it's particularly galling that he treats you and Matt with such bad faith. Sirota may just be speaking for himself, but what unites his attack with a resurging anti-free-trade sentiment is the application of some gross Marxism, of treating the trade issue as simply the expression of vested interests. Democrats are for free trade? It must be because they're beholden to corporate money. Now, surely some are beholden to corporate money, but the Deaniac model of political power is being applied too broadly for my tastes.

I'm wondering how much the latest scuffles over trade matter. I'm feeling a lot of anger from my lefty friends and those in the dKos-ian blogosphere in MA. And not just for CAFTA, but for NAFTA as well. Does this portend any real split in the party, or is this a natural airing out of resentment?

Posted by: Chris Cagle | Aug 7, 2005 9:35:54 PM

The thing about losing scads of elections is that anything any Democrat has ever done in the past few decades can be semi-plausibly identified as the true cause. Since Democrats have advocated just about any position you can name, this affords rich possibilities for the ambitious analyst. We're too far left, too far right, too far center, too fond of social issues, too cowardly on social issues, economically uninformed, too Commie, not Commie enough, too gay, not evil or stupid enough for the stupid evil masses, too good for this wicked wicked world, lacking in foreign policy vision, in bed with the terrorists, lapdogs for Bush on Iraq, etc. etc.

Obviously something's wrong, but if you average over the mass of "whither Democrats" articles you may never find out what it is. Much of it is the classic "the present situation is so bad that [proposal I just pulled out of my butt] must be better" argument, beloved of discussions of education reform. It's possible that the thing that is really wrong is that Democrats spend so much time publicly musing about what will play in Peoria instead of just advocating what they believe. Most of the time, they end up convincing themselves that their favorite policy is the strategically astute one anyway, so they might as well just save a step.

Posted by: Matt McIrvin | Aug 7, 2005 10:57:58 PM

what matt just said.

i'd just like to add that if the dems weren't so f*cked up, the GREENS wouldn't have to even exist. the greens are just some people trying to be what the dems are SUPPOSED to be.

it's so telling that the the dems resent nader and/or the greens for espousing actual Democratic viewpoints.

the democrats have lost their rhetorical way. they need to SHOUT IT OUT PROUD.

we have NOTHING to be embarrassed of. we should NEVER support the bushies when they are, well, WRONG.

i'm a democrat, but i'm deeply saddened by the party's neville chamberlain (sp?) appeasement silliness re: bush's crap.

geez y'all, it's NOT rocket science.

Posted by: | Aug 8, 2005 1:54:29 AM

what matt just said.

i'd just like to add that if the dems weren't so f*cked up, the GREENS wouldn't have to even exist. the greens are just some people trying to be what the dems are SUPPOSED to be.

it's so telling that the the dems resent nader and/or the greens for espousing actual Democratic viewpoints.

the democrats have lost their rhetorical way. they need to SHOUT IT OUT PROUD.

we have NOTHING to be embarrassed of. we should NEVER support the bushies when they are, well, WRONG.

i'm a democrat, but i'm deeply saddened by the party's neville chamberlain (sp?) appeasement silliness re: bush's crap.

geez, y'all, it's NOT rocket science.

Posted by: bluedot | Aug 8, 2005 1:55:24 AM

Alright, I've read Sirota's original piece, as well as his reply, and I'm pissed. What a feckless twat. Emulating movement Republican chest-thumping isn't gonna cut it and it ain't gonna win us elections or anything resembling a lasting majority. Getting on ones knees and servicing Grover Norquist isn't gonna help much either.

Posted by: fnook | Aug 8, 2005 10:12:12 AM

Mark Brazeau,

Sirota does have comments. He shut them down at the blogger blog to drive traffic to the Working Assets blog, because he's paid to blog for them. You do have to register, but commenting is available at working for change.

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