Tag Archives: Matt Yglesias

The “Mystery” of Sarah Palin’s Unpopularity

I could sit here and explain to you all of the things I disagree with about Jennifer Rubin’s assessment in Commentary of why Jews don’t like Sarah Palin. But that would be repetitive, since both David Frum and Matt Yglesias do a fine job of refuting Rubin’s arguments both substantively and superficially, respectively.

However, I will point out the bizarre obsession many conservative pundits have with trying to analyze why Republican politicians are hated or merely disliked by large swaths of the population.  There seems to be a trend in which someone will finally, finally!, pull back the curtain on why Sarah Palin, for example, remains deeply unpopular with a large portion of the American people. And as if one might be able to use the force to change those minds.

I know it’s hard sometimes to understand how other people don’t feel the same way you do about something, as when Dave and I and our friends in DC were certain that Obama should win the Democratic nomination, and yet 17 million plus people had their hopes hung on Hillary. That was frustrating.  But I also understood that there are natural impulses and beliefs that folks have, and sometimes those just have to play out.

So, why do so many people dislike Sarah Palin? Jews or otherwise? Because she’s a conservative, and no more than 50% + 1 of the country’s citizens are conservatives too.  And because after eight years of George W. Bush appealing to the uneducated masses, it seems more folks have gotten wise to the idea that we might want our president to be more than an average person (even if she has the unique (!) qualification of also having raised children) but the smartest most analytical person available for the job.

There’s no mystery there at all.

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One Reform That’s Unlikely to Happen

Sandy Levinson seems a little late is right on time, or even early, to the constitutional reform-game, which Yglesias has been pushing for a while now, but I’m glad he’s in agreement for the most part.

Personally, I care less about reforming the office of the vice presidency (although  I might change my mind if I think too hard about Dick Cheney) than I do about fixing life-terms for appointees to the Supreme Court.

Yglesias has been arguing for eighteen-year terms, staggered every two years, giving presidents a fairer chance at appointing ideologically similar justices and preventing justices from hanging on so long that they’re nearly on their death bed by the time they retire.  More on this another time, but wanted to point out Levinson’s post.

Update: I stand corrected. Sandy Levinson is the constitutional reform-maven, and it’s Matt Yglesias who has jumped onboard relatively recently.  If I may defend myself, though, I was more pointing out that Levinson seems surprised that Yglesias feels the way he does about consitutional reform, when it’s something Yglesias has been vocal about on his blog for a few years, Levinson’s support for reform notwithstanding.  Levinson seems late to Yglesias reform-game, if not to reform generally.

Too Old, Too Fast

You may have seen the young lad, Jonathan Krohn, speaking to CPAC last weekend.  You may also have read the NYT profile on him just this weekend.  I’m going to skip both and instead give you Matt Yglesias’s take on the whole thing:

I really struggle to understand why this particular gimmick appeals to conservatives. What does it accomplish to put a 14 year-old front and center at CPAC? What’s the message it’s supposed to send? That the conservative message is childish? That the right’s talking points can be easily mastered by a 14 year-old? That the CPAC audience doesn’t care about the knowledge-base of the speakers there, they just want to hear certain ritual beats repeated? I wouldn’t want to claim that liberals are so high-minded as to be above all that, but I’m hard-pressed to think of an example of liberals trying to flaunt disdain for knowledge and expertise.

I have to agree, but I’ll add that I feel really bad for this kid.  Dave and I were discussing this yesterday, and ultimately came to the conclusion that the joke may very well be on him, not on the Republican Party.  At fourteen you are unqualified to wax poetic about anything really, no matter how much you think you know.  The fact is this kid hasn’t gone through puberty yet, hasn’t even begun to find himself in the world or comprehend what he likes and he doesn’t like.

For example, at fourteen I used to read C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books all the time.  I haven’t lost that affection through the years — I have seen both of the movies and will certainly continue to read bits of the books as I have time and feel compelled — but I have a lot of other things going on in my life, a lot of other interests.  My feeling about Lewis has matured just as I have.  I should point out that at fourteen I was also a Democrat.  I’m not sure you could live in my parent’s house and not grow up that way.  But I know that as I’ve aged I’ve come to understand what that means in a very different way than when I was a kid; I’ve been tested in ways that I was not qualified to be when I was fourteen, not least of all because no one wants to push too hard on a kid who is so young.  In college and beyond you come to have conversations that were unthinkable when you were fourteen; as a result you are able to better understand where you’re coming from and what you believe.

Which is all to say that I think Krohn has a lot of growing up to do and I hope he’s not to ruined by this experience when he gets there. For all we know he’ll go to college and find out that he’s really a liberal. Horrors!

Political Leanings

There’s been a lot of talk this month about whether or not we are now a left-of-center nation or still leaning right.  I tend to think that’s all malarkey, because in the end we are a center nation that moves one way or the other depending on the situation at hand.  The center changes with the times.

Matt Yglesias sums up my point of view pretty well:

nobody should underestimate the possibility for rapid change. If the economy is doing well in 2012, people are going to say to themselves “man, things sure were screwed up before Barack Obama showed up and fixed everything” and he’ll win in a landslide. But if the situation remains grim, then people will think “man, life sure has sucked under Barack Obama” and they’ll show him the door. And of course, wild swings are possible. Ronald Reagan swept into power in 1980 amidst serious economic problems. By 1982, things were worse than ever and the GOP suffered big electoral reverses. But by 1984, the were back on the upswing, it was “Morning in America” and he got re-elected by a huge margin.

This is predicated on political ideology being dependent largely on economic factors.  Which is perhaps the best way to look at the situation, when you consider that economics probably played as large a role as any in the recent election.  But a lot of conservatives like to say that we live in a center-right country because of our social values, which is separate entirely from the economic argument.

I would say this, though, about social values — the center is constantly changing.  Actually, Arnold Schwarzenegger said it pretty succintly on This Week yesterday (I’m paraphrasing): it’s ridiculous for anyone, particularly Republicans, to say that one thing or another is a bonafide Republican value.  Teddy Roosevelt, after all helped create the progressive tax system we have today and called for universal healthcare.

And so — values are mutable, and tend to progress as we do.  While interracial marriage was not a center issue fifty years ago, it certainly is today.  And we can hope that in another fifty, gay marriage will have the same distinction.  The same goes for universal healthcare, or whatever you’d like to cherry pick.  Times change and with those times changes the center.

Okay, Okay — Some Debate Reax

The one thing that stuck out to Dave and I as we watched last night’s post-debate coverage, was the overwhelming tendency of the punditry to decide that McCain was “back!”  Which of course, was not really true, and if it was, it might be too little too late.  Then came the polls, which voters gave to Obama.

Matt Yglesias makes a very good point:

To me, the crux of the matter is that McCain can’t get out of the habits that served him very well when he was a Senator building a glowing national reputation largely by talking directly to elite members of the political press. If you watched the previous two presidential debates, plus the VP debate, plus about half of the Democratic primary debates, plus the prime time speeches at the Democratic National Convention, and you’ve seen a dozen Obama surrogates yakking on cable a dozen times each just since Lehman Brothers went under then it gets kind of boring to watch Obama stay calm and repeat his talking points on the key issues.

But the debate is targeted at folks who haven’t watched all that stuff. And a lot of McCain’s best moments will have gone way over the heads of most people.

This is along the lines of the discussion we had last night, but I would go a bit further and say that the pundits are praying for a close race here.  It doesn’t benfit them at all if everyone has already begun to tune out, if early voters are lining up in droves, and on Election Day, people boringly decide to indeed vote for Obama.  David Gregory wants people to watch him on “Race For the White House” for the next two weeks, hanging on his every word.  But if people have already resigned themselves to an Obama victory, what possible role do all of these, er, bloviators, have to play?

I think it was George Will, a column a few weeks ago, who pointed out that only a few of the presidential elections in the past fifty years have been very, very close.  Bush v. Gore in 2000 was an anomaly of sorts — in most cases the winning candidate has blown away his opponent.  The punditry never tells you this; they would prefer you to think that this election, and the next, and the next, will all be exceedingly close, photo finishes, forcing you to watch television news until your eyeballs fall out.