Your Own Personal Joesus


The New York Times' crack business department, have, of course, hidden it behind a wall that can only be breached by concentrated blasts of $50. But this David Brooks column, as Matt Yglesias and Jonathan Chait excerpt, is a time capsule-ready slice of Beltway myopia. Brooks rejects the primary campaigns of the Club for Growth and Democratic "netroots" - both factions marshalling money and volunteers to reshape their parties to their liking - and claims that most Americans are represented by a non-existent third party. Here's an example.

The McCain-Lieberman Party begins with a rejection of the Sunni-Shiite style of politics itself. It rejects those whose emotional attachment to their party is so all-consuming it becomes a form of tribalism, and who believe the only way to get American voters to respond is through aggression and stridency.

Spot the logical flaw. Dynamiting the two parties and making room for a third (which Brooks half-heartedly predicts) is a sort of aggressive and strident act. The last mainstream politician who broke the two-party system, a hero of the "the two modern parties are so mean and uncool" set, was President Teddy Roosevelt. T.R., remember, founded his own party because he was angry that the Republicans didn't nominate him again. Organizing to change the direction of the party, seat by seat, is a rational tactic that can be employed by party fringe and party mainstream alike. Angry "I'll take my ball and go home!" fantasties can only be employed by politicians with huge egos. I don't see how they're representative of the great silent majority.

Moreover, as Yglesias points out, Brooks' heroes McCain and Lieberman don't represent the mainstream on the most pressing issue of our time. Both men are diehard Iraq war hawks. The mainstream of American opinion - Iraq's a mistake, let's start getting out, let's not bomb Iran - if it's represented by anyone, is represented by Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE.). Why don't pundits like Brooks assign Americans membership of the Hegel party (maybe the Hagel-Cantwell party?). Because they like McCain and Lieberman. They don't care that they've been rejected by their party's presidential primary voters. The pundits who keep flogging these two senators and demanding that voters embrace them are like nerds raging against the popular kids winning homecoming court, and voting for the Star Trek fan club president and treasurer in protest.