Sunday, April 25, 2010

Slightly missing the point

'Ambinder lives is a fantasy world where left-wing commentators (including Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow) are serious policy wonks, while all conservative commentators are "entertainers shouting slogans;" where hyperbole is the exclusive refuge of the right-wing; where the vile language and defamation hurled at George Bush for eight years never existed; where the equally vile attempts by Democratic leaders to equate health care protesters to terrorists never happened.' [Hat Tip: Instapundit]

Bill Jacobson was obviously pretty angry when he wrote this; and like me when I get a bit of red haze, his thinking is not all that clear.

I read the Ambinder piece, and my reaction was not 'you are projecting' and 'you are worse at this than us'. What is most striking, at least to me, is how detached Ambinder is from the actualities. I don't think Ambinder has ever watched the Tea Partys, listened to the Tea Party speeches, watched Fox news, listened to Rush Limbaugh or watched Glenn Beck. I don't suppose, apart from a few outtakes on YouTube, he's ever watched a whole speech by Sarah Palin.

To analyze anything, to have anything interesting to say about a subject, you have to pay attention to it. In the old days, say thirty years ago, most politics happened between politicians. They debated between each other, and with journalists and policy wonks. That was about it. The public did not get a voice. Policy was debated, decided and put into legislation in a very tight circle of people. And certainly much more than now, people paid attention to the points made by the other side. Very often, if the opposition made valid points, those points would immediately be stolen!

Now that the debate has broadened massively, there is a tendancy on all sides of the American political spectrum to just ignore and caricature the opposition. Perhaps it is just that there are now so many voices, so many blogs, so much news output, so many political magazines, that to try to do all of that debate justice is impossible for anyone other than people with no job and fanatical devotion.

But whatever Ambinders excuse is, his analysis of the goings-on of every part of the political spectrum other than the one he inhabits is reminiscent of a guy giving a commentary on a football match using a pair of binoculars, from near earth orbit. There are vague forms, a bit of colour here and there, but essentially he has no clue what is going on.


'It is absolutely a condition of the age of the triumph of conservative personality politics, where entertainers shouting slogans are taken seriously as political actors, and where the incentive structures exist to stomp on dissent and nuance, causing experimental voices to retrench and allowing a lot of people to pretend that the world around them is not changing. The obsession with ACORN, Climategate, death panels, the militarization of rhetoric, Saul Alinsky, Chicago-style politics, that TAXPAYERS will fund the bailout of banks -- these aren't meaningful or interesting or even relevant things to focus on. (The banks will fund their own bailouts.)'

You will note that there is no mention of the Federal deficit- the single most talked about topic at Tea Partys. No mention of the nationalization of health care and the car industries. No mention of the destination of stimulus funds. No mention of the grotesque growth of the Federal Government in a way explicitly foreseen by the Founding Fathers, who wrote the Constitution to specifically prevent it. These are the core issues for 99% of legitimate Tea Party folk.

Ambinders list reads like a campaign leaflet from eighteen months ago. All that is missing is the Birther libel. It really is the most pathetic mis-characterization. The fact is, the Tea Party folk not only disagree with specific policies- they understand that the Obama/Ambinder intention is to fundamentally change the United States into something alien from what has gone on for the last 234 years.

And Ambinder thinks we should be 'grilling ... administration economic officials', 'hectoring ...Democratic leaders on the public option', 'criticis[ing] Elena Kagan', churning out 'keepin'-them-honest perspectives on health care', chit-chatting about 'detainees and Gitmo', and funniest of all, furrowing our brows over 'derivatives'. Fun and interesting though these small potatoes are, they are not the survival-of-the-Republic-in-its-constituted-form important. And every one of them has received extensive attention on Fox news, especially health care. I know that, because I watch Fox news. Not only does Marc Ambinder not watch Fox news, he almost certainly has a fastidious distaste for it worthy of a Victorian grand dame. That is the prevailing snobby view of those on the left, who believe Fox is for NASCAR watchers and people who chew Skoal.

Fine. But then don't launch into some faux analysis of it. You are going to get it wrong, and everybody who knows better will just laugh.

1 comment:

phil said...

I love this. Although it is unfortunate, you really seem to be spot on with your theory (or fact) that nobody listens to the opposition, rather waits to speak. To put what you said simply.

I'm not sure I agree 100%, maybe 70%, with your politics, but I'm sure we'd be able to sit down at a table and have an enjoyable, peaceful conversation about the world today.

Thanks for being open-minded. We need more of that.