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I'm a little unclear here....

If policy A is "good" but unpopular, should you support policy A?

If policy B is "bad" but popular, should you support policy B?

The two are linked if policies are binary, since (NOT A) policy is a B policy.

There are also two types of type A policy - You could have a policy that is "good" from a liberal value system perspective, but bad from a "Nascar Man" perspective. You could also have a policy that's good from both perspectives, but Nascar man doesn't know it yet -but will find out in the future, or could be persuaded to "see the light."

Finally, while judging whether a policy is good or bad requires neccessarily requires a normative assessment, deciding whether a policy is popular seems like a more or less empirical question. There's still room to present results and discuss methodology, but there's nothing inherently liberal about whether a policy is popular or not. In principal a conservative or moderate could assess popularity just as well.

Chris Brown

Beinart's endless making of lists of what the democrats must do to win public favor and his need to place ideas and people into the tidy little intellectual categories of "liberal", "conservative, and etc reveal what a simple minded nit wit the guy really is.


Of course, the other side plays the exact same game.

They invest their political capital into free prescription drugs rather than into abolishing social security.

How do you think that particular calculation came about?

The difference seems to me that the other side is willing to be cold and calculating in building a majority electoral coalition in a way that we are not.


"They invest their political capital into free prescription drugs rather than into abolishing social security."

Well, not really -- they invest a lot of rhetoric in trying to convince people they've provided free drugs, perhaps. And they let the insurance and pharmaceutical industries write the bill. Thereby screwing over the people they were supposedly trying to "help" and adding some more to the deficit.

Anyhow, I think Beinert has a point, which he expresses in an painfully entertaining way -- and I agree that he's weirdly unaware of his own NASCAR tendencies. The Republicans know how to whip up resentment, fear, and derision, all at the same time, by invoking a cartoonish notion of masculinity. The Democrats (and/or liberals) find this hard to deal with, which is understandable on some level. (I wound up feeling sorry for John Kerry in 2004 -- he had no idea how to deal with the relentless brutality and shamelessness of the Bushies.) But I wish they would stop trying to appease NASCAR man, because it is an impossible goal. I don't know who attends these conferences (not me) or what relationship, if any, they have with the real world, but a little diversity (economic, racial, sexual, geographical) might help. Then again, it might not.

Osama von McIntyre

Perhaps the problem is that the Democrats don't have a "story." There is as much diversity in the Republican coalition as there is in the Democratic, but there is essential consensus on the defining fictions of that coalition--lower taxes and spending, security, less regulation, hostility to government and the overall notion of the public sector as an agent of social good.

The fact is, that the governance of this coalition is only loosly coupled to that consensus story. And that doesn't matter much. Because in the public mind, it is pretty clear what the Republicans "stand for."

There is no such clarity--and no such consensus--about what the Democrats stand for. There is a broad disparity of outlooks, so the definition of the consensus is done strategically by the conservatives. The liberals are for what the conservatives are against--thus we are for higher spending and taxes, more regulation, less security, etc.

So regardless of the spectrum of opinion on the American left, such as it is, we need to have a nominal consensus set of principals that we can communicate. And they have to be consensus, and they have to demonstrate core values. "Social justice" is insufficiently precise, and too easy to mischaracterize.

We need a "story" that will represent the binding principals of the liberal coalition, even if they are not really true.


Nice catch Mark, spotting Beinart's name tag left behind at the registration table. Maybe not coming to that conference was his way of acknowledging that he is one of the worst conjurers of Nascar Man. He decided not to attend, leaving his name tag unclaimed and available for use by straw men, because he knew that if he did participate at the conclave he just couldn't stop himself from invoking "real Americans."


Don't know what his description of the conference meeting had to do with Democrats. It sounded like 98% of the similar gatherings I have attended. None involved political organizations.


I agree-it does sound like a few too many conferences I've been to, and so that doesn't cause concern in me about the state of politics. It causes concern in me towards America's ability to focus on much of anything.


The problem here is that the liberals presume themselves to be the Democrats. And I think as long as that's the idea, the project fails, because we don't have the numbers and never will. Social-democratic, internationalist, policy-oriented, tech-involved 20/30-something nerds are not the Democratic party. Nothing's changed in that regard since Adlai's day, and if the Dean campaign couldn't knock that into our heads, I don't know what will. There are just not enough of us to constitute a national party. With or without Nascar. When we begin to understand that we can try to append our agendas to a national party's, but that we do not have the numbers to set an agenda ourselves, we might get somewhere again.

Osama von McIntyre

Great point, Amy.

I often wish that we were a nation of wonks, but it just ain't so. In fact, most people find it difficult to think abstractly about policy to any degree.

Tom Marshall

I guess you could call me a Nascar Man. But I for damn sure don't fit the stereotype you have in mind. And neither do many of my friends at the track. It does get tiresome reading about the stereotype you have fooled yourself into believing.



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