Attracting Comment

Well, Ezra Klein’s piece on David Shor is certainly attracting comment. Now it’s Megan McArdle getting into the act in her Washington Post column:

To me, Shor’s vision — sort your ideas by popularity, then “Start at the top, and work your way down to find something that excites people” — sounds less inspiring but more likely to help Democrats get and hold power. It doesn’t require Democrats to persuade voters that, say, an Asian American assistant professor has exactly the same interests as a rural, White call-center worker or a Hispanic plumber and that only a conspiracy of the very rich prevents them from realizing it. Democrats merely have to learn what voters already want.

But while Shor’s more prosaic strategy might be an easier sell to voters, it is apt to be a harder sell to the young idealists who staff campaigns and newsrooms. And the newsrooms might be a bigger problem than the political class.

As Matt Yglesias pointed out on Twitter, “A closed circle of young, college educated staffers is likely to end up further off-center the more they talk to themselves.” The mainstream media, and staffers’ internal fights spilling onto Twitter, are an important part of how the progressive vanguard talks to itself — and as the media skews ever-leftward, it helps sustain a rarefied bubble where divisive slogans such as “defund the police” can be questioned only with great delicacy, while significantly more popular propositions like “use the military to help police quell riots” cannot be defended at all.

and notice that she uses the same diction that I did. Vanguard.

I can only repeat that ideas appealing to a mostly white, mostly college-educated self-appointed vanguard are unlikely to be vote-getters, at least not until an extremely charismatic and persuasive champion appears on the scene and none is apparent at present. For my own part I find such champions, whether on the left or the right, peculiarly unappealing even off-putting but I also recognize that I’m in the minority in the view. Far too many, in Bill Clinton’s memorable phrase want to “fall in love”.

4 comments… add one
  • steve Link

    ““use the military to help police quell riots” ”

    This is that popular? Maybe we should make it legal. If we do I dont want to hear any more complaints from anyone about being authoritarian.


  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    I have a question — how does one “sort by popularity”?

    Take as an example “gun control”. This is not take a position on the matter, but polls show 60-70% are in favor of gun control measure yet on a ground level those same measures can be immensely unpopular — also the % of first time gun owners is higher then ever.

    Voters are also in favor for high government spending/benefits, low taxes, and balanced budgets. Free beer is always popular, but that doesn’t tell one how to prioritize.

  • It’s pretty hard to do objectively which is why it is rarely if ever attempted.

  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    Here’s my thoughts about Shor. I somewhat agree / somewhat disagree with his observations/prescriptions.

    I tend to agree with his observation that governing and shaping the government to only suit the preferences of ones supporters and really the loudest supporters is a strategy to lose lots of persuadable voters.

    I disagree with his prescription to fix it all is to figure out and talk about your popular policies and don’t talk about unpopular subjects. That’s a political messaging story and it can work in campaigns (for a while). It won’t work as a governing strategy because life doesn’t let one avoid unpleasant choices or unpleasant subjects. To govern is to choose and be responsible for everything that happens (good or bad).

    I disagree with Shor’s doom on Democrats in the Senate. I believe 22 is an extremely favorable environment for Democrats in the Senate, equivalent to Republicans in 18. Beyond that its a fool’s chase to extrapolate demographic trends implies a structural advantage or disadvantage in Senate or House elections for either party.

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