Making Radicals

My only reaction to Shadi Hamid’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal outlining his views on how Democratic centrists are transmogrifying into immoderate partisans:

In polarized times, political competition comes to resemble tribal warfare. Everyone is under pressure to close ranks and boost morale. Lacking an animating vision beyond expert-led incrementalism, center-left politicians and pundits have few options to rally the Democratic base other than by attacking adversaries and heightening partisan divides. The other option—laying out an alternative that differs from what Hillary Clinton or even President Obama offered—requires ideological conviction.

That would explain why Rep. Adam Schiff —previously “known as a milquetoast moderate,” according to the New Yorker—has emerged as one of the most outspoken figures in the Russian collusion investigation. Before being appointed to succeed Mrs. Clinton in the Senate, Kirsten Gillibrand was an upstate New York representative who belonged to the Blue Dog Coalition. Her 2013 New Yorker profile was titled “Strong Vanilla”—and she now boasts the upper chamber’s most anti- Trump voting record.

Many Democrats are unwilling to accept that Mrs. Clinton actually lost to Donald Trump. Those who find her standard center-left technocratic worldview congenial are disinclined to accept ideological explanations, so they look for scapegoats: Russia, James Comey, even the voters who supported Donald Trump. Mrs. Clinton herself pre-emptively offered the last explanation in September 2016, when she consigned half of Trump supporters to “the basket of deplorables”—“they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.” As 2020 approaches, Democrats run the risk of repeating that mistake, taking for granted, as Mrs. Clinton did, that Mr. Trump’s unique flaws will be sufficient to ensure his defeat.

is “poppycock”. He’s confusing a lack of principles other than the urge to power with being a moderate. It may be that some moderates are what were once called “Nixonian centrists” (striking the middle between the “Right” and the “Left”). Does that characterize Adam Schiff?
I have no idea. When you have guiding principles you follow them. When all you have is the urge to power, you go whichever way the wind is blowing.

Technocracy has failed. Its advocates, presumably including Mr. Hamid, refuse to acknowledge that. Technocrats led us to war in the Gulf in the 1990s and are proximally responsible for our being at war ever since. Technocrats created the boom-bust cycle we’ve seen over the last 30 years. Technocrats have caused the enormous increase in income inequality that has metastasized in the U. S. That’s a disastrous track record.

In one critical sense technocracy is like Christianity or communism. The real sort has never been tried. It probably never will.

3 comments… add one
  • Andy Link

    It still pretty depressing that first principles are pretty much absent from our politics. The more zealous partisans I know personally glaze over when I ask them about it, or they repeat the talking points du jour.

  • Gustopher Link

    Gillabrand’s House district was fairly conservative, and she represented her district well. When she got to the Senate, she gained the rest of NY and represents her state well. She has some strong principles, but defers on the other issues to the people she represents.

    I don’t think that’s bad.

    I wish more of our public serpents were that way. It’s better than the Republican strategy of electing the most radical person possible.

    “Public serpents” is a pretty awesome iPad typo for “public servants”, so I didcided to stick with it.

  • Ben Wolf Link

    The point of technocracy is proximity to power. It’s never been principle or the security of the American people or acting in their interests. You can look at people like David Brock and David Horowitz to see this in action. One day they’re a left-wing radical or an arch-conservative and the next they’re on the other side. This isn’t because they had a come-to-jesus moment, it’s because they changed their estimate of the quickest route to influence and status for themselves. You can see it in Larry Summers who flip-flops from a market dogmatist to a populist based on shifts in the political winds. And you can see it in Democratic Party lobbyists who immediately go to work helping the Trump administration pass its legislative agenda.

Leave a Comment