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Posts Tagged ‘David Broder’

David Broder Parodies Himself. Again.

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

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It’s normally not worth pointing out a Broderian column from the Broder himself, but for some reason today’s effort is a unique classic of the genre. Broder is examining why people hate Congress and concludes that, you guessed it, it’s because Republicans and Democrats don’t get along, and Barack Obama hasn’t delivered on his promise of post-partisanship:

But the partisanship on both sides was a turnoff to independents. They were the people who had taken Obama seriously when he said he wanted to move Washington beyond the recriminations of the George W. Bush years. Regardless of their views on health care — or the economy or education or anything else — they are turned off by the inability of both parties to overcome their parochial concerns and agree on steps to curb the joblessness and debt that are consuming the country.

There’s two parts of this paragraph that leave me downright angry. The first is the notion that Obama hasn’t moved Washington into the age of post-partisanship. It would be one thing to claim that Obama made a promise, explicitly or implicitly, that he couldn’t keep, but that’s not what Broder is doing. Rather Broder is laying the continued existence of partisanship in Washington at Obama’s feet, which is just absurd, especially coming the day after Obama announced his intention to open up more coastal area for oil exploration. Republicans, on the other hand, have opposed everything in basic lockstep, with individual members reversing past positions to do so and taking absurd stances along the way. The Republican Senate leader has even bragged about how he managed to keep his caucus in unanimous opposition for political ends. That Broder purports to care so much about bipartisanship yet never mentions this implies either that he is stuck in some strange paradox of his own making where he can’t even bring himself to point out that one party is more to blame for legislative gridlock than the other, or that he simply doesn’t pay much attention to what’s actually going on in government.

But even more than that, once again we see the fundamental Broderian assumption of the world; there is one universal Truth, and the existence of political parties functions solely as a barrier towards individuals acknowledging that. There’s no allowance whatsoever that people actually disagree, even fundamentally, about how to address policy questions, and that parties are a reflection of that. In Broder’s world, there’s simply no possibility that, at base, people just have irreconcileable differences about the fundamental issues affecting public policy. On jobs, for example, Democrats have accepted a basic Keynsian framework for how to respond to the recession that’s basically embraced by the vast majority of economists. Republicans, on the other hand, have come to embrace a pre-Depression view of the relationship of government to the economy, and reject the basic idea that the government can take affirmative action to spur economic growth and job creation, and will accept nothing except or beyond permanent tax cuts at the highest marginal rates. There’s absolutely no way to bridge these two views of how the government should respond to economic downturn, and a government that requires these two groups to agree to act is a government that will ultimately do nothing, because you can’t get these two sides to agree. The only answer is that one side, or at least a few members of one side, could agree to capitulate in the name of allowing some sort of action, and sign off on a plan they think is a mistake, but how unprincipled is that?

This is really expending much more mental energy on Broder than he’s worth, but it’s a useful reminder that the vaunted center, as represented by Broder, is actually nothing but an intellectually immature, ignorant, vapid set of nonsense. Broder doesn’t really believe anything (or know anything about public policy), so he just can’t imagine that other people have goals, beliefs, or ideas about matters of policy that will create real fault lines of uncrossable differences. But that’s just proof that Broder has a very narrow, very myopic view of the world, and doesn’t have the inclination to learn anything about actual policy debates. It would be comical, but important political journalists look up to this guy.

David Broder is Not Smarter Than a 5th Grader

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

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by Brien Jackson

If I tried to write about every dumb thing David Broder said, I probably wouldn’t have time to write about anything else. Still, his effort today, another shocking paen to the unending virtue of “bipartisanship,” is particularly onerous, and deserves a few words. Yglesias, Booman, and Krugman have already done a good number on it, so read what them to gauge most of my feelings on this abject nonsense (I especially liked Yglesias’s notation that Broder really has no business being a political journalist in the first place).

I’ll just add that what really jumps out at you the longer Broder tries to keep this schtick going is how embarrassingly thin the premise is. I think it was Yglesias who, a while back, noted that the dynamics of an expanding caucus altered the dynamics of bi-partisanship (you’re getting more votes and the opposition is getting more ideologically extreme), but that this sort of arguing from Broder & Co. never seems to reflect that. You get the same nonsense whether there’s a 54 seat majority with half a dozen moderates in the minority or whether there’s 60 members in the majority and only two moderates in the minority, even though the reality is very, very different. It’s also odd just how little logic is involved in this excercise. Presumably, Broder is a fetishist for bipartisanship because he equates “bipartisan” with “consensus.” But, ultimately, an increasing majority caucus is in and of itself an example of some emerging consensus. After all, when you consider not just that there are 60 Democrats in Congress, but that they represent every region in the state, as well as the fact that the Democratic nominee for President just won 365 electoral votes, including Indiana and North Carolina, that seems like pretty conclusive evidence that there’s broad approval for the Democratic agenda, especially considering how poorly Republicans continue to poll. So there’s really no reason for anyone who’s paying attention to think that a bill garnering 56 Democratic votes and 4 Republican votes must necessarily be better than one getting 60 Democratic votes and nothing else.

But then, given Broder’s own statements, you have to wonder just how much attention he’s paying.

Broderism and Journalists as Pundits

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

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by Brien Jackson

It’s not the worst thing that’s been written on the subject, but nevertheless, as you would expect, David Broder is worried about the stimulus. Not that it’s not enough to help a terrifingly fragile economy of course, but that Democrats aren’t doing enough to get Republicans to support the bill.

Beyond these policy challenges, there are political considerations that make it really important for Obama to take the time to negotiate for more than token Republican support in the Senate.

Nothing was more central to his victory last fall than his claim that he could break the partisan gridlock in Washington. He wants to be like Ronald Reagan, steering his first economic measures through a Democratic House in 1981, not Bill Clinton, passing his first budget in 1993 without a single Republican vote.

The first way leads to long-term success; the second foretells the early loss of control.

This vote will set a pattern for Obama, one way or the other. He needs a bipartisan majority because, tough as this issue is, harder ones await when he turns to energy, health care and entitlement reform.

This is silly on the face of it. On the one hand, I’d be remissed if I didn’t point out that Broder (a campaign journalist by trade) brings a column about the stimulus package back to politics. This is the problem with having journalists writing your Op-Eds; since everyone more or less writes about what they know, the discussions inevitably come back to horserace electoral framing. And on some level Broder’s point is correct, it would be politically advantageous for Democrats to secure a lot of Republican votes for the package, but all the same, readers of The Washington Post would be much better served if the Op-Ed editors had devoted the space to someone who was both an economist and had a flair for putting economic matters in terms most people can understand. Brad Delong and Dean Baker are both available, so far as I know.

But even addressing the substance of Broder’s writing, it’s still an incredibly lazy formulation. Democrats don’t need overwhelming Republican support to pass any of those things, they need a grand total of 2 Republican supporters in the Senate. And when Al Franken is seated they’ll need just one. To that end, there are 4 Northeastern Republicans in the Senate in states that Obama won (Snowe and Collins in Maine, Specter in Pennsylvania, and Gregg in New Hampshire), and two of them (Specter and Gregg) are up for re-election in 2010. Obama carried New Hampshire, a state where McCain was certainly a popular figure, by 9% this past year, and he won Pennsylvania, where McCain-Palin devoted nearly all of their resources over the last month of the campaign, by 11%. You don’t think Specter and Gregg are fairly eager to find ways to be perceived as cooperating with Obama for their own sakes?

Also, at one point in the column Broder cites the non-existant CBO report, at least a week after that talking point had been discredited. Why oh why…?

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