Somerby goes after Krugman in an amazing post today. There is no doubt that the Incomparable One holds the Shrill One in high regard, so it matters greatly when Somerby uses Krugman as an example of what is wrong with liberal political discourse. Krugman, unlike the Blogger Boyz, has zero interest in being a pool boy at Versailles. He has a day job, after all. The errors he makes are interesting and illuminating because of what they say about the blind spots and ill-advised impulses on the left.
Somerby starts with Ted Kennedy, using Kennedy's death as a dash of ice water on the longing for Camelot:
If we're so "smart", how come we keep getting our asses handed to us? Why can't we get our agendas enacted even when we hold legislative majorities? Somerby then goes into a long and detailed criticism of Krugman's latest article, picking up on themes he has been discussing with regards to Rick Perlstein last week. He's using these two thinkers in great part because these are two of the most perceptive analysts of Movement Conservatism around, people who have clearly demonstrated (Krugman with Conscience of a Liberal and Perlstein with Before the Storm and Nixonland) they get what that movement is and how it came to power.
Our guy was the most effective ever! And health care reform was his lifetime passion! Only we liberals would fail to see the oddness of these conjoined statements, in a month when we’re getting our clocks cleaned again in the matter of health care reform! This isn’t a criticism of Senator Kennedy, of course, This is a criticism of us.
But then, that’s the shape of modern politics. The other side gets the big wins. Our side gets the pleasing stories, in which we’re allowed to define ourselves as being both moral and smart. That’s one of the ways the world’s ruling classes buy off numb-nuts like us.
What Bob zeros in on is the use of the term "crazies" (edited down - be sure to read it all. Some emphasis mine, some Somerby's):
I read this and had to agree. Mockery of the have-littles has been a standard operating procedure of the Stevensonian mode of liberalism since, well, Stevenson.* What benefit can come to liberalism by being constantly on an intellectual and cultural offensive against working class Americans? Somewhere between nothing and less than zero. Somerby continues by describing the corporate embrace of conservative political measures to defeat the liberal gains of the New Deal. Their success, as both Krugman and Perlstein have documented, lay in the ability of the Movement Conservatives to leverage the arrogance and elitism endemic in the rising technocratic elite - the revolutionary saints. Somerby winds up and delivers a kock-out punch:
According to Krugman, the right-wing fringe—Rick Perlstein’s “crazy” people, he is careful to say—have taken over the GOP. But does that story, told that way, really make much sense? Does it really make sense on the merits? Does it make any sense as a matter of politics?
Just think about what Krugman says there:
In Perlstein’s piece (click here), he explained who his “crazy” people were—the people around whom he chose to build his name-calling piece. ... Does it make sense to be told that people like these have somehow “taken over one of our two major parties?” Actually, no, it pretty much doesn’t—but that’s where Krugman starts!
Grassley and all those other players are vastly more culpable than the “crazies.” But in the past forty years, liberals have always loved to kick down at little people—at the people who simply aren’t smart enough to win the Bates Medal, the Nobel Prize. In our view, Krugman’s story—as told there—is quite weak-minded. But ever since the days of Nixon, “liberals” have loved to tell that story, thus harming progressive interests.
Sound familiar? It is the alpha and omega of the Obama 2008 campaign, sneering at the socio-economic inferiors who they didn't need anymore to win the elections. Or, to quote Chris Bowers:
COOLICAN (5/15/08): Though it had been tried before, Perlstein writes, Nixon was the first to successfully exploit a devastating new narrative: the Democratic Party as enemy of the working man.
Perlstein says Nixon understood the anger and frustration of working-class people, the humiliation of being looked down upon by elitist, liberal betters. Why did Nixon understand this “deeply sedimented cultural narrative,” as Perlstein calls it? Because he’d faced it all his life.
In California, Ronald Reagan was also “successfully exploiting” that “devastating new narrative.” (For examples, read Perlstein’s Nixonland.) Endlessly, we thought of that devastating narrative in the past five days as we watched a string of spectacularly un-savvy liberals describe certain aspects of the past forty-seven years. (More on that next week.)
We “liberals!”We love to call the other side dumb! But has anyone ever been dumber than we are? Tomorrow, we’ll start a series about the crucial questions Perlstein was asked in the wake of his piece in the Post. Why are Democrats so bad at “messaging?” So bad at “pushing back?” Why is that Democrats and liberals keep getting defeated by “blatant and ridiculous falsehoods?”
Put it a slightly different way: If we had the most effective legislator, why can’t we get the cause of his lifetime passed? Part of the answer: We’re too busy assuring ourselves that those who defeat us are dumb.
Out with Bubbas, up with Creatives: There should be a major cultural shift in the party, where the southern Dems and Liebercrat elite will be largely replaced by rising creative class types. Obama has all the markers of a creative class background, from his community organizing, to his Unitarianism, to being an academic, to living in Hyde Park to shopping at Whole Foods and drinking PBR. These will be the type of people running the Democratic Party now, and it will be a big cultural shift from the white working class focus of earlier decades. Given the demographics of the blogosphere, in all likelihood, this is a socioeconomic and cultural demographic into which you fit. Culturally, the Democratic Party will feel pretty normal to netroots types. It will consistently send out cultural signals designed to appeal primarily to the creative class instead of rich donors and the white working class.Yup. Hope you creative types don't need health insurance.
*During one of Stevenson's presidential campaigns, allegedly, a supporter told him that he was sure to "get the vote of every thinking man" in the U.S., to which Stevenson is said to have replied, "Thank you, but I need a majority to win."