Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Comment on Chait

Ok, yes this set of articles by Chait has already gotten lots of attention, see here, and here and here. Oh and while I'm at it, here.

I just have a few comments to make on Chait's response at The Plank to the critics of his first piece.

Chait writes
Part of what I'm arguing, though, is that the tactic of embracing the Lamont primary is more likely to make the problem worse than to make it better. Consider the scenarios. If Lamont wins the primary and the general election, which is akin to drawing an inside straight, then the direct effect is positive. But, as I argued in my previous Lieberman/Lamont column, if you defeat Lieberman, "he'll play the same role as before, only this time with the power of martyrdom behind him: the virtuous anti-Democrat, too good and honest for his party."

The role of the netroots, Kos and the others, has been to support folks in Connecticut who wanted to put forth a challenger.

It has become a major challenge, a "civil war" as Chait puts it, only because it turns out that a very large fraction of Lieberman's constituents don't much want him to be their Senator. It should be noted to that the reason for this discontent with Joe Lieberman is entirely due to Joe Lieberman. Therefore the notion that Lieberman is some sort of martyr is absurd. I do not doubt, however, that he will be so labeled. I also do not doubt that should Lieberman loose, one of the leading proponents of the 'martyr' meme will be The New Republic.

Chait also lists two litmus tests that the netroots are imposing. These are
The first is Iraq. To be on the side of the angels, one must favor withdrawal and believe that there was no rational case to be made for war given the publicly-known information in 2002.

Yet the netroots is solidly behind a host of Democrats who do not believe that "there was no rational case to be made for war". Chait's claim that this is a litmus test is clearly, demonstrably wrong.

His other litmus test
The second is the netroots themselves. To be in the good graces of the activists, one must believe not only that the rise of Internet activism has some potentially positive ramifications, but to signal that one accepts a Manichean battle between virtuous people-powered activists and corrupt Washington insiders.
This too is nonsense. There is exactly one Democrat who has one the animosity of the netroots, that is Lieberman. The rest of the Democrats vary in their support of the netroots from wholehearted to barely noticeable, yet only one is facing open opposition. I think it would be more accurate to note that the net roots, like every other group in the fricking Universe, does not much care for people who are actively hostile to it, and who characterize them as extremists and unpatriotic.

As a last note, Chait expresses his concern that the netroots is trying to make the Democrats too much like Grover Norquist has made the Republicans. However, there is a great deal of ground between the currently disjointed liberal interest groups and Norquit's autocratic conservative organization. I think liberals could add a little unity of purpose without becoming just like the Republicans. Chait's concern is rather like the fear in the 30's that if the nation adopts Social Security it would immediately fall into Stalinism. We managed to avoid that, I believe that liberals could take the chance of becoming a bit more organized.

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