WE KNOW WHAT THEY DID LAST DECADE! Cohen and Herbert are very upset. We can recall what they did: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 24, 2010
Half a loaf of history: Is better than none. Tomorrow, well post the first half of Chapter 4 at our companion site, complete with explanations/excuses.
The triumph of upper-class messaging: We strongly recommend David Leonhardts ECONOMIC SCENE column, which the New York Times has had the good sense to put on todays front page.
As he considers the new health care law, Leonhardt reviews the growing inequality within our society over the past thirty years. Most people who follow politics know that inequality has vastly increased. That said, we were struckand surprisedby this part of Leonhardts column:
We were very surprised by those figures. Since the late 1970s, we have dropped from 90 percent coverage down to 85 percent? And just imagine! All the storm of the past year will result in getting up to 95 percentjust five points higher than we were when Jimmy Carter was president.
(Elsewhere in his piece, Leonhardt describes other aspects of our decades-long growth in inequality. A chart describes the fate of the very wealthythe top 0.01 percent of earners. (One person in every ten thousand.) In the past thirty years, the annual income of these lucky duckies has increased by 384 percent. During that same period, their total effective federal tax rate has declined by more than 11 pointsfrom roughly 42 percent to roughly 31.)
Why were we surprised by those coverage figures, even after a year of health care pseudo-discussion? As we read Leonhardts piece, we thought of the decades-long triumph of upper-class messaging.
In theory, the past thirty years should have been a golden age of progressive messaging. With vast inequality taking hold, it should have been a progressive messagers dreama chance to speak to working people, a chance to explain their plight. But almost every American elite is now composed of the wealthy or their kissing near-cousins. The mainstream press corps is an upper-class institution. So is the career liberal world.
Almost everyone you see in our public discourse is an adjunct to the upper-class. They are part of the upper-class, or they are near-cousin lap-dogs. They go on Hardball and kiss Chris Matthews assthen pretend that they are progressives.
In fact, this has been a golden age for upper-class messaging. First, the Jack Welchs bought the Chris Matthewses; then, the Matthewses bought the Joan Walshes. They sit on TV, scratch backs, kiss keisters. Regular folk can go burn.
Again, well recommend that nauseating exchange between Rachel Maddow and Jan Schakowsky. Millions more women will go on Medicaid, where they can get no abortion coverage. But so what? Our Own Rhodes Scholar wont ask about their situation. What are her concerns? She is afraid that upper-class women may have to write two checks, instead of just one. And she wants to know if her elite political friend was disrespected in some minor manner.
Trust us: This is what Maddow knows. The know-nothing Wolff, who runs her show, is the son of a Budweiser lawyer.
We strongly recommend Leonhardts column. How did the era he describes permit the triumph of upper-class messaging? Jack bought Chris, then Chris bought Joan. Below, we consider the posturing of two career liberal journalists for whom we cant have huge respect.
WE KNOW WHAT THEY DID LAST DECADE (permalink): How did we ever get into the current mess? Lets compare and contrast:
Ken Gormleys new book, The Death of American Virtue, describes the way the lunacy took hold of our political culture during the early Clinton years (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/23/10).
By way of contrast:
In his column in yesterdays Washington Post, Richard Cohen didnt seem to recall that the Clinton years even took place. Cohen is often astoundingly clueless, true to his role as one of the mainstream press corps designated liberals. But yesterdays piece was clueless in a standard, instructive way.
Cohen praised the passage of health reformand mused on the oppositions fury. The fury of this oppositionand its frequent lunacytracks directly from the events described in Gormleys book, of course. (The lunacy is an obvious part of our history.) But like his older brother Rip, Richard Van Winkle seems to have slept all through that earlier decade. In this passage, he seems to marvel at events which represent a reprise:
Not a single Republican vote? To Cohen, this is historically significant. Unfortunately, those who were awake in the Clinton years will recall that Clintons initial budget passed with not a single Republican vote. The next year, his health plan didnt get a single Republican vote either; the bill had been crushed so thoroughly by solid GOP opposition that it didnt even come to a vote. But Cohen somehow seems to think that the fury of the current opposition is newand is somehow tied to Obamas election. No one could fail to know where his small brain would go next:
For the tiny mind of Cohen, the fury must come down to hue and race. But what explains the events in the Gormley book? What explains the years when the lunacy took hold of the culture? Cohen forgets that those events took place. He slept through that previous decade.
In part, we were struck by Cohens piece because we had already read Bob Herberts column in the New York Times. When it comes to the furious opposition, Herbert focuses even more heavily than Cohen on the least among them. Before he got to the race and gay slurs, he started out with this:
Herbert has thoroughly taken the bait. As a nation, we are so far, in so many ways, from being a class act, he says. His first piece of evidence? The fact that a group of lowlifes behaved in the way he described. And by the way:
When Herbert says a group of lowlifes, the gentleman really means: two. (You might call it Classic Screeching Pseudo-Liberalism. Two people behave like fallen souls, and it shows that we suck as a nation.)
The two people in question behaved very badly. (Dylan once called them poor immigrants.) So did the people Herbert described as he continued, those opponents of the health care legislation who shouted racial slurs at three congressmen andtaunted Barney Frank because hes gay. This conduct sent Herbert off on a tear about the Republican Party.
In our view, what he says about the GOP is overstated, but largely true. That said, theres a reason why we dont respect Herbert a lot when he goes off on such tears:
Wed say that is overstated, but largely true. But well admit it: We tend to feel contempt for Herbert when we see him ranting so grandlywhen he tells us that we have to rise up against this kind of garbage, to fight it aggressively wherever it appears. (Would we have time to do anything else?)
Why do we feel contempt for this man? We know what he did last decade! In the last decade, the decade of Gormley, he gulped every bit of the lunacys Kool-Aid. He drank all the GOPs poisons down, and then he swilled them back out.
Today, Bob Herbert shouts and yells pretty much like a big fracking nut (Confront it everywhere!) Quite correctly, he shouts and yells about the tremendous damage the lunacy has created. But we dont have much respect for Herbert. You see, he has never gotten around to explaining why he helped the lunacy in the past decade. And like Joan Walsh, he continues to lick the boots of Chris Matthews, who did more to cement the lunacys hold than any living person.
Herbert gulped the GOP Kool-Aid, first about Clinton, then about Gore. Good God! After the first Bush-Gore debate, he insisted that Bush had tried his best to tell the truth; he complained about the fact that Gore had sighed when Bush kept peddling horse-shit! And Cohen wasnt far behind in his love for that GOP Kool-Aid. Today, Cohen cant even remember that decade. But we can recall what he did.
Tremendous damage inflicted on the country? Thanks to these two losermen, yes. Today, one rants and the other muses. But we can recall what they did.