Oh what a difference three percentage points makes! Our public discourse is full of complaints about those contemptuous, elitist blue-state liberals. On Scarborough Country, unbalanced panels of outraged conservatives wail and moan about blue-state slanders. Elsewhere, self-proclaimed Democrats like the Times Nicholas Kristof lecture Dems for unnamed offenses and ignore misconduct by major Reps. Last Friday, Kristof was at it again, telling Dems what they should do to be less offensive to religious voters. He offered no suggestions to Republicans. Was there something offensive when the RNC sent West Virginians that Ban the Bibleflier? When Republican officials in Kentucky kept trashing Senate candidate Daniel Mongiardo for being limp-wristed? By the way, who showed contempt for religious voters when that Bible flier was sent? On Scarborough Country, pseudo-cons happily batter blue-staters. In the Times, the likes of Kristof take the cue and only find fault with the Dems.
Some blue-state writers, like the daft Maureen Dowd, have wildly overstated an alleged red-state jihad. But even as Dowd keens and wails,our discourse is full of insults aimed at blue-staters by kooky, big-name conservatives. For example, will James Dobson apologize for having called Senator Pat Leahy a Gods people hater? On This Week, George Stephanpoulos gave Dobson a chance to retreat from his stupid remark. But the reverend slithered right off the hook. (To read Josh Marshalls treatment, click here.)
Smiths report gives fair warning about the price of a broken discourse. For ourselves, were sick of the stupid, overwrought fakery found routinely in Scarborough Country. But were sick of the Nicholas Kristofs as well. Stupid statements from all sides should be challenged, even those from the publicly religious. But alas! The mainstream press has long averted its eyes from the stranger parts of religious politics. More thoughts on this in the weeks to come. But the Kristofs will keep scolding Dems for their unnamed offenses—and forgetting to mention the Dobsons. The Leahys have to adjust to the Dobsons in the world the Nick Kristofs would make.
DONT RUSH THEM—DONT RUSH THEM: Wed still like to visit Sundays silly This Week discussion about the size of Bushs win. Just how foolish can it get when the mainstream press corps attempts an analysis? Well show you when ABC posts its transcripts. Three days later, they still havent managed.
KRISTOF DOES IT AGAIN: Those Democrats! In last Saturdays column, Kristof says his party needs a rebranding, like the one achieved by Labor under Tony Blair. But hes afraid that the Dems may not do it. Here is the gentlemans reasoning:
KRISTOF (11/6/04): The Democrats need a similar rebranding. But the risk is that the party will blame others for its failures—or, worse, blame the American people for their stupidity (as London's Daily Mirror screamed in a Page 1 headline this week: ''How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?'').Get it? A London newspaper called American voters DUMB, and who knows? Dems might do the same thing! Of course, no Democrat will ever do any such thing, but Kristof—who calls himself a Dem—was right there to offer the pleasing slander. Meanwhile, when he offered specific suggestions to the party he loves, he showed his significant lack of savvy. Here are two of his four suggestions:
KRISTOF: Pick battles of substance, not symbolism. The battle over Georgia's Confederate flag cost Roy Barnes his governorship and perhaps Max Cleland his Senate seat, but didn't help one working mother or jobless worker. It was a gift to Republicans.But Dems dumped gun control four years ago, in the immediate wake of the Bush-Gore campaign. Did anyone see Kerry pushing it? (Conventional wisdom within the party: Gore lost Tennessee and West Virginia because of heavy NRA propaganda campaigns. By the way—who was showing contempt for those poor red-state voters when these goony ad campaigns were run?) Nor does Kristof show much sign of understanding the southern flag debates. A Republican governor lost his seat in South Carolina for trying to dump the Confederate flag, and economic considerations were very much behind the efforts to dump the flag in both states. Among other economic considerations, flag-based economic boycotts were hurting South Carolina and Georgia—and yes, they were hurting working mothers and jobless workers in the process. Kristof doesnt seem to know it—he seems to think hes dealing with those silly elitist Dems again—but economic considerations were very much involved in the messy attempts to change the flags of both these states. Finally, when Kristof offers hope for the party he loves, here is the hope he offers:
Accept that today, gun control is a nonstarter. Instead of trying to curb guns, try to reduce gun deaths through better rules on licensing and storage, and on safety devices like trigger locks.
KRISTOF: The first thing we have to do is shake the image of us as the obstructionist party, notes Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who manages to thrive as a Democrat in the red sea. He says Democrats must show a willingness to compromise, to get things done, to defer to local sensibilities. We have to show the American people, he says, that Democrats aren't going to take away your guns, aren't going to take away your flags.Heart-warming! But how does Nelson manage to thrive as a Democrat in the red sea? Simple! He does so by voting for Bushs major measures, and by repeating conservative spin. Whats the truth of the Democrats Senate conundrum? The truth: Our system currently favors Republicans in the Senate because low-population rural states, like Nebraska, get two senators each, just like populous New York and California. The Reps have a built-in Senate edge because theyre currently the party of rural America, not because elitist Dems are behaving foolishly. What should Dems do? That calls for a major discussion. But Kristof only tells us how elitist he thinks those silly Dems are. He doesnt say that, under our current system, flag-waving rustics happen to have a built-in Senate advantage.
No, Kristof doesnt seem to know his stuff real well, but he certainly knows his spin—and his spin takes on elitist Dems and ignores the work of elitist Reps, the ones who sent those phony fliers and trashed Mongiardo for being limp-wristed. The country needs a fuller debate about the shape of all these issues. But at the New York Times, what do we get? Diatribes from screaming-mimi Dowd and uninformed attacks from limp-spined Kristof. Amazingly, this is the best our best paper can manage. Sadly, you dont have to go to the Daily Mirror to find intemperate attacks on Americans. Instead, you can simply go to the Times, where Kristof and Dowd balance off.
INTERNALIZED TIMES: We were struck by a letter in todays Times from an unhappy reader of Kristofs latest:
To the Editor:We were struck by the way the writer has internalized the silly world-view of his daily newspaper. When he thinks of reasons why Gore isnt president, he doesnt consider the obvious reason—the War Against Gore conducted by the Times, among many others. And when he thinks of Kerrys defeat, he cant help repeating some silly Times spin: Kerry looked dumb on that goose-hunting trip! In this letter, a reader tries to thunder from the left—but instead, he repeats the cant of the squishy Times center. Maybe George Bush has the right idea when he refuses to read the days papers!
Nicholas D. Kristof argues that to regain the White House, Democrats must be willing to compromise, reunite church and state and shift right on a host of policies.
This is essentially what Al Gore and especially John Kerry tried to do in the last two elections.
We can blame hanging chads, Ralph Nader and fear of terrorism for their defeats, but neither contest should have even been close considering how successful America was in 2000 and how catastrophic it is in 2004.
Swing voters, almost by definition, do not vote on the issues so much as on character.
George W. Bush won because heartland voters think that he says what he truly believes; John Kerry's goose-hunting photo-ops and belligerent talk about killing terrorists smacked of pandering.
Next time, let's nominate a candidate willing to risk losing a few swing votes, something that Mr. Kerry seemed unable to tolerate, to win back America.
New York, Nov. 6, 2004