On Ross Douthat, “Glass Jaw” Analogies, and Always Trying to Find a New Angle

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Ethan Gach

I write about comics, video games and American politics. I fear death above all things. Just below that is waking up in the morning to go to work. You can follow me on Twitter at @ethangach or at my blog, gamingvulture.tumblr.com. And though my opinions aren’t for hire, my virtue is.

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46 Responses

  1. Avatar jc
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    says:

    if your political agenda succeeds only if the other side doesn’t disagree with and try to stop you, then it’s not much of a political agenda.Report

    • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to jc
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      says:

      That’s true iff you’re working in a political system that’s not seriously warped if not broken completely. It’s not true, on the other hand, if you have to work within the US Senate.Report

    • Avatar Ethan Gach in reply to jc
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      says:

      It’s a political agenda either way, no? I’m looking in the dictionary and it’s not corrorborating your stance. Care to clarify?

      And the job of people writing and talking about politics and policies should not be, do a lot of people already agree with X, or will team A be successful at pushing it through despite team B.

      What actually matters is whether X is a good policy and should be adopted. I couldn’t give to $hits whether Douthat thinks liberalism’s preferred policies are popular. What I want to know is whether the disagrees with them, and if so, why.

      Anything outside of that isn’t just a waste of space, it’s actually negative space cause it takes precious time away from actually talking about what matters like, how do we balance the environment against economic growth, what are the moral, financial, and organizational concerns regarding the administration of health care, and will a bigger stimulus, no stimulus, or just a different stimulus help the economy recover?

      He spends the post talking about those subjects, but doesn’t actually engage with them. He talks on and on about: this is what happened, this is what liberalism had to do with it, this is why liberalism is failing.

      It’s the kind of useless and misleading monday morning quarterbacking we could all do without.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Ethan Gach
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        says:

        You’re right we could do without it.

        But the thing is this has been Douthat’s MO for ages. It’s essentially been his way of turning around the fact that his prim, social conservative BS is becoming extremely unpopular. He tries to turn it around and blame his opposition’s policies effectiveness.Report

      • Avatar jc in reply to Ethan Gach
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        says:

        *it’s not much of an admirable or successful political agenda. congrats on nitpicking way worse than douthat.

        the ability of XYZ policies to be implemented in the face of political opposition is crucial to the question of if it’s a good policy. you can’t say “we should have obamacare” if the nature of the US political system means that its implementation will be frustrated and fail by political opposition. if that is the case, then we should push for a different health care policy that won’t be stopped by political opposition.

        now of course, this is a bit meta, and there’s a place for the pure policy analysis you want too-but that policy analysis has to consider what’s politically feasible. over the long run, policy arguments can change the political calculus, but those arguments have to be shaped wiht hte current political balance in mind.

        we need both policy and political analysis, in other words.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Ethan Gach
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        says:

        “What actually matters is whether X is a good policy and should be adopted. I couldn’t give to $hits whether Douthat thinks liberalism’s preferred policies are popular. What I want to know is whether the disagrees with them, and if so, why.”

        And yet I’m told that voting for Gary Johnson will do absolutely nothing to advance the cause advocated in the post just before this one.Report

    • Avatar emma in reply to jc
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      says:

      yes What political agenda, is a sad sad world. Check out the FFT guys latest video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ac4LnNrVtic on who he thinks is going to get in in NOVEMBER, he is very accurate and its scary prediction. I feel sorry for what these guys are doing to us and our future generation.Report

  2. Avatar jc
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    says:

    also, if the democrats have failed to overcome GOP opposition to solve the nations problems, then focusing on why that happened is “right, true, or important”Report

  3. Avatar Roger
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    says:

    Ethan,

    I think Douthat hits the nail on the head and you are the one in denial.

    The president is a charismatic figure who we elected based upon his promise and vision. But once elected, his job was to actually move this country forward. That means he is responsible for the policy that can be actually advanced, not the policy die hard liberals would like to shove down our throats. He chose the stimulus, and squandered it on payoffs of his political cronies and by incentivizing people not to work. Probably a pretty stupid move, no?

    Instead of concentrating on the actions necessary to stimulate the economy, like less regulation and cronyism, he chose to spend two years working on a bureaucratic nightmare that will screw up health insurance markets more that they already are, and that increases the cost of hiring people, especially the less skilled. Really, really monumentally stupid move. A twofer.

    Now you suggest he should work on immigration and global climate change? Why not just piss into the wind? It would be as likely to help the average American.

    For a president to be effective, they need to have a sense what the people want and need and find bipartisan support to deliver it. On the economy, he should have been substantively delivering less bureaucratic micromanagement, less cronyism, lower corporate taxes, lower barriers of hiring and firing, fewer mandated benefits, better intellectual property laws, a fix to this boutique gas blend rip-off scheme, and an end to corporate welfare/bailouts and ethanol/farm subsidies.

    On health care, he should have worked with the republicans to design a reform package that the American public wanted that he then forced through the Democrats and special interests. In other words, the winning move for a liberal president was to design health care that everyone liked and that the liberals could live with.

    Ethan, what is “right, true and important” to Americans? I’d like to hear your thoughts.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Roger
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      says:

      Instead of concentrating on the actions necessary to stimulate the economy, like less regulation and cronyism, he chose to spend two years working on a bureaucratic nightmare that will screw up health insurance markets more that they already are, and that increases the cost of hiring people, especially the less skilled. Really, really monumentally stupid move. A twofer.

      Do you have employer-provided insurance? Does it pay for most of your medical coverage? Because not everyone has that kind of insurance. Many folks could not get insurance at all, even if they wanted it and could pay for it. Many others found they were dropped from insurance they had when they became ill. To suggest that the insurance market was ‘working’ fails all sensibilities; it worked for some folk. For others? Not so much.

      Furthermore, addressing these problems — people who could not access the insurance markets — was the #1 issue for Obama when he ran for election. He won in a landslide. Some of us call health care a mandate.

      On the economy, he should have been substantively delivering less bureaucratic micromanagement, less cronyism, lower corporate taxes, lower barriers of hiring and firing, fewer mandated benefits, better intellectual property laws, a fix to this boutique gas blend rip-off scheme, and an end to corporate welfare/bailouts and ethanol/farm subsidies.

      What cronyism? Give examples. Taxes were lowered; significantly. Particularly for small businesses. Tax breaks were given for hiring. And Congress obstructed legislation; Republicans in Congress, including eliminating ethanol subsidies.

      On health care, he should have worked with the republicans to design a reform package that the American public wanted that he then forced through the Democrats and special interests. In other words, the winning move for a liberal president was to design health care that everyone liked and that the liberals could live with.

      The ACA is filled with ‘republican designs.’ If it had been a Democratic plan, there would have been a public-option; the ability to purchase insurance directly from the government instead of insurance companies.

      You don’t have to like Obama, but making up a history that didn’t happen is bogus. Argue with reality, not your fantasy about what happened.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to zic
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        says:

        No I do not have employer provided insurance, my wife and I have an privatr HSA plan. But you miss my point completely. I am not arguing against health care reform — it is much needed. I am arguing for health care reform designed in a way which the opposition party and the majority of Americans would like, and that the liberals would tolerate and the special interest would consign themselves to. I’ve written many comments laying out what a good plan could look like, and will not bore you with a repetition. He squandered his mandate.

        The cronyism of GE, GM, Chrysler, Solyndra, Goldman Sachs, the health care providers, the corn lobby, the sugar lobby, the Mohair lobby, the defense contractors, blah blah blah.

        Your comment that he did a few things just gets to the fundamental disconnect between the far left and the rest of us. I don’t give a damn that he did a few token things. His job was to provide leadership and vision out of the greatest recession of our lives. I could give a list of hundreds of things, no thousands of things he should do, or more appropriately undo, as most of them are things that need to be undone from past interference.

        You really seem to believe that the effectiveness of a senior manager or general is to bring back a list of things he did to try to address the problem, and that is an indication of success?

        You sound like a government worker.Report

    • Avatar Koz in reply to Roger
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      says:

      “The president is a charismatic figure who we elected based upon his promise and vision. But once elected, his job was to actually move this country forward. That means he is responsible for the policy that can be actually advanced, not the policy die hard liberals would like to shove down our throats. He chose the stimulus, and squandered it on payoffs of his political cronies and by incentivizing people not to work.”

      nationalreview.com/corner/329946/27-days-go-richard-brookhiser

      Absolutely. Here it is October 10 and it’s another good polling day for Governor Romney. Just yesterday libs were spinning themselves away from one national poll which came in at +4 Romney and you turn around and today there’s a new national poll +5 Romney. It’s like God Himself is making a special effort to piss all over and demoralize the libs.

      Well, at least as far as Rick Brookhiser goes, this is why. We’re having difficult times in America, and President Obama has a record. That makes things difficult from the get-go. But when President Obama just simply ignores his record, and the problems it was supposed to ameliorate, well there’s only so long you can continue to defy political gravity.Report

  4. Avatar LauraNo
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    says:

    It’s nice to see someone taking Douthat’s attacks on liberalism seriously.Report

  5. Avatar James Hanley
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    says:

    He notes that liberal technocrats got the stimulus wrong. But it was really liberal politicians and their staffs that got it wrong. Krugman et al claimed from the beginning that Democrats in power weren’t owning up tot he size of the fiscal hole they were trying to fill or how much money would actually be required to fill it,

    And of course we all know Technocrat Krugman was right. Because…well….um….Report

    • Avatar Ethan Gach in reply to James Hanley
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      says:

      I totally get that.

      But I would have preferred Douthat to outline why he thinks the stimulus “failed” exactly, and how he’s come to that conclusion based on the data.

      At the very least he could link to an earlier post in which he’s detailed that argument at lenght.Report

    • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to James Hanley
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      says:

      The point is that “I was right and you were wrong” is weak tea when both you and the other guy seemed to be expecting the same results.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 in reply to James Hanley
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      says:

      Well, short of finding a parallel US were there was exactly what Krugman wanted, the best you can do is…read what he said would happen, and then see what happened.

      I can’t say for certain that what he advocated would have turned out BETTER, but his predictions about what was passed were pretty accurate.

      It wasn’t hindsight. He said right there at the time, before it was signed into law, that it was too small and wouldn’t do much more than basically prevent state cutbacks from making it worse.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Morat20
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        says:

        Also, actual evidence came out showing the economy contracted even further in the 4Q of ’08 then was known at the time. But, hey, beating up on Krugman due to the fact he doesn’t think immediate austerity for the middle and working class isn’t a sure way to turn around an economy is a fun little sport libertarians have (and on this one, I’m OK with just saying libertarians, as seen by Hanley’s usual mild mannerness going to snark for no good reason).Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jesse Ewiak
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          says:

          Hanley’s usual mild mannerness

          Eh? Occasionally might have been a better word choice.

          going to snark for no good reason

          Actually, there is good reason. I’m sick of liberals’ fawning over Krugman, the assumption that he speaks with econo-papal infallibility. Seriously, “Krugman predicted that X wouldn’t happen, and it didn’t! That means he’s right that Y would have happened if we’d only done what he suggested!” is unworthy of educated and intelligent people. It’s not actually Krugman I’m critiquing here, but his liberal bootlickers. They’re exactly like those libertarians who orgasm at the name Rothbard.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Morat20
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        says:

        He said right there at the time, before it was signed into law, that it was too small and wouldn’t do much more than basically prevent state cutbacks from making it worse.

        Successfully predicting that policy X won’t produce outcome Y does not mean you have made a correct statement about why outcome Y didn’t occur.

        There are plenty of economists who have critiqued Krugman’s claims, but I don’t see many liberals bothering to take them seriously. Given that many of the people who are devout acolytes of Krugman know precious little macro themselves, there’s not a much better explanation for their devotion than that Krugman says the things they want to be true, and his critics say the things they don’t want to be true.

        That is, liberals’ trust in Krugman is more faith-based than knowledge-based. If Krugman is right, they’ve still followed him for the wrong reasons.Report

  6. Avatar Elias
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    says:

    I think I liked Ross’s post more than you, Ethan, but I certainly didn’t agree with it all. I thought his issue, though, was that he mistook the inherent sclerosis of the Constitutional system for uniquely symmetrical problems with the two parties. If he can write the same thing about Conservatism and Liberalism within the span of a few weeks, maybe the issue isn’t the isms so much as the system in which they operate? Alternatively, one could argue they’re both flawed in the same way because they’re both parties of capitalism, so the means through which they could have a wider appeal are blocked off by their ideological/economic necessities.Report

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