Yeah, that’s about right.

Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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102 Responses

  1. greginak says:

    So i’ll bite. You’re off on this. But first let me just say, Dem’s and liberals screw up all sorts of stuff. The D’s as a party are often spineless and directionless with all their fingers and toes to the wind. Liberals have been in love with data and white papers and research to the point where they have forgotten, at times, to convince people why their policies are correct. Like everybody with strong beliefs liberal can be self-righteous and oblivious to their own biases. Should i go on with criticisms of D’s and liberals? Would that help.

    But anywho, I read the article. The one para about D’s appears thrown in just to show how balanced they are. It wasn’t related to the overall piece. It was BSDI just to show how fair the NYT is and not biased against R’s. If they want to do an article on R’s do it, if they want to do one on D’s do it, if they want to do a piece about both parties, that is fine. There is a BSDI strain in a lot of MSM/Beltway press, that is more about seeming above partisanship or to look non-aligned. If people overuse the concept that doesn’t mean it doesn’t also have value.Report

    • greginak in reply to greginak says:

      OBTW did you catch the BJ post about Kerry’s comment on the Ukraine? He was poking at Kerry for being a hypocrite on his criticism Russia. D’s have to many neo-con/intervention fans and can be as hawkish at R’s at times. D’s tend to be afraid to appear weak so they temporize on pushing diplomacy first and avoid just admitting when we can’t do anything useful/effective or don’t have an interest.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to greginak says:

      What Greg said. The article was about big-money donors starting to bypass the party apparatuses, and the obligatory “both sides do it” discussed PACs blessed by Democrats in Congress. One of these things is not like the others. I’m going to be accused of being defensive now, I know, but, seriously, if George Soros is acting like the Koch brothers, it should say so.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

      It seems to me that there are problems that are endemic to the system at large. As such, it’ll look like these problems are more likely to apply more to the party in power or the party out of power, depending on the problem.

      Because the problem is with the system, it’ll look like any criticism of either party (depending on whether they’re enjoying the fruits of being in or out of power), will be able to cultivate a “BUT WHEN THE OTHER PARTY WAS IN (OR OUT OF) POWER, THEY DID THE SAME THING (AND, THEREFORE, BOTH SIDES DO IT) AND, THEREFORE, THIS CRITICISM SHOULD ONLY APPLY TO (REPUBLICANS)”.

      But, really, the problem is with *THE SYSTEM*.

      Which, of course, leads to the question of “why do you only bring this up when (DEMOCRATS) are in power?”Report

    • Will Truman in reply to greginak says:

      That first criticism of the Democrats is like the guy on a job interview saying that his biggest weakness is that he just cares too darn much.

      “We’re just so interested in good policy that we forget about the politics.”Report

      • greginak in reply to Will Truman says:

        Not really. Policy is pointless if you can’t get elected. Libs have over focused on finding what we think are the best solutions without learning how to sell them. Convincing people you have a good idea is just as much a part of politics and governance as anything else. Also by focusing on data/research liberals haven’t listened as much to what some people want and how they react to it. It is more like an employee who will tell you what he thinks is the best idea but never go to a staff meeting to get the rest of staff on board or listen to their concerns. You can’t really say liberal types don’t criticize other liberals then say “well yeah they do but those aren’t the right kind of complaints.”Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

        Man, it must really suck to have solutions that could save everybody but not be able to get those stupid, stupid people to understand how your plans could save them if they’d only vote for you.Report

      • That’s only a problem if you want Democrats to win. It’s an intrapartisan complaint (at least until or unless it cases them to lose repeatedly). It’s a complaint about how the party is failing you and not actually anything the party is doing wrong except insofar as you want them to win and fight for your agenda.

        From a tactical standpoint, I don’t actually think you’re wrong*. But that’s not something that’s wrong wrong. Not like “We too often look the other way when one of our own is corrupt” or “We blame the voters when they fail to appreciate our wisdom” (Though your last criticism does perhaps touch on that one.)

        It’s a convenient sort of wrong that you can point to your losses as being indicative of your virtue (We’re too nice, we’re not hard enough, we’re too brainy…).

        * – If I were liberal, if the Democrats win in 2016, I’d want and expect a leftward lurch.Report

      • greginak in reply to Will Truman says:

        Well the obvious snarky answer Jay is that yeah i must be tough to be a libertarian.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

        Eh it’s actually pretty easy. If you can manage to see other people as adults in their own right rather than children under your wing, you’ll pretty much be able to say something like “this ain’t my responsibility, they should take care of themselves”. Well, up and beyond the whole “you didn’t build that” problem that should apply to pretty much everybody except the top of the top of the 1%.Report

      • greginak in reply to Will Truman says:

        Jay- So you have two problems with liberals. They don’t criticize themselves and when they do, they don’t criticize themselves the way you do. That seems fair. I assume i could solve your concerns by agreeing with what you are sure is correct.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

        I’m certain that my problems with liberals can also be applied to conservatives and, therefore, both sides do it, and, therefore, my criticisms can be dismissed as not applying to liberals.Report

      • greginak in reply to Will Truman says:

        Will- Well i don’t think liberal ideas are wrong, just like so-cons don’t think so-con ideas are wrong, etc. So is that a tactical complaint, to a degree yes, but governance is partially about tactics. I don’t think there is one perfect way to run a country. There are likely multiple ways of constructing a workable government. I think we can see this is how all those darn social democracies in Europe seem to work well. Each governing philosophy needs not just to say “This is what we believe” but also “This is how we make what we believe work well in reality.” Every group has the first, the second is the hard part.Report

      • greginak in reply to Will Truman says:

        Jay, it seems like your problems with liberals is that you don’t agree with liberal ideas. Fine and dandy. But it isn’t really a criticism of liberals that you don’t agree with our ideas any more than its a criticism of libertarians other people don’t agree with them. Of course there are all sorts of groups with different ideas; that’s a feature not a bug of any one group.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

        The problem isn’t really the whole “I don’t agree with your conclusions” as much as the whole “I don’t agree that your jurisdiction gets this far into my goddamn house” issue.

        But that criticism also applies to social conservatives so you shouldn’t see it as applying to you at all.Report

      • greginak in reply to Will Truman says:

        Yes jay, i know you don’t agree with liberal ideas, i think we’ve covered that before. What did that have to do with the post? Other then my criticisms of liberals weren’t the correct ones?Report

      • I’m not talking about ideology or policy. Heck, ideology is where most people take issue with their party. I’m talking about “We’re doing this and this isn’t right” or “We’re doing this is bad for the system.” (Which is different from “We’re doing this and it’s hurting us politically.”)

        It’s when people accuse Democrats of doing something wrong, or what Democrats consider wrong when Republicans doing it, that it seems to be verboten to suggest that the Democrats do anything wrong. It’s false equivalence whether or not equivalence in severity or scope is actually being stated or implied. It’s BSDI when, as a point of fact, both sides do actually do it.Report

      • greginak in reply to Will Truman says:

        Will- I’ve read some, but not all, of the threads with all the BSDI guff. Is there some of what you are talking about occurring…yes, definitely. It is a failing. But plenty of people criticize dem’s. I even noted up thread about a BJ post mocking Kerry’s double speak on Ukraine. BJ is certainly a partisan site. Heck we could go through BJ’s post each day and find at least one if not more reaming D’s for doing something or other. I think there is a bit of oversensitivity to D’s not being willing to criticize themselves going on.

        I also think BSDI is a fair complaint at times. The MSM/beltway press has for years want to be seen as non-partisan and above the fray. So we got a ton of articles regarding the government shutdown framed as ” D’s and R’s just can’t work together”. So the liberal response is mostly “huh? are both sides really equivalent here?”Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

        Greg, I actually *AGREE* with a lot of liberal ideas (see, for example, Gay Marriage and Medicinal Marijuana… I presume that you agree that Medicinal is “Liberal”, of course).

        What I disagree with is such things as the extent of jurisdiction.

        For some reason, both liberals and social conservatives agree that their jurisdiction extends far further than I think that it should.

        Now here’s your opportunity to tell me what I think again.Report

      • greginak in reply to Will Truman says:

        And i agree with a lot of libertarian ideas. I was pro-free speech/nazi parade in Skokie many years ago. I wish Balko had a magic wand to put in place many reforms. I know we disagree about what you are calling jurisdiction. Not that any thread ever has to stay on topic, but i was responding to Tod’s complaint by being a liberal and criticizing liberals. I don’t think liberals have liberal ideas is a sensible complaint any more than the problem with libertarians is that they have libertarian ideas. I didn’t really think the point of this post/thread was to hash out all the ideological differences between groups.

        Medicinal=liberal…..meh…..just legalize it.Report

      • BSDI very much is a fair complaint sometimes. But here we are discussing an article overwhelmingly about the Republican Party with a mention of something similar happening on the other side and it’s BSDI. Is it the case that there is absolutely no movement towards outside funding and campaign-direction within the Democratic Party? Or just that NC shouldn’t have spared a single paragraph mentioning it unless there was an equivalent amount? Or is it a case of mentioning Democrats while talking almost exclusively about Republican misdeeds? It’s increasingly appearing to be the latter.

        A Washington Post article runs numbers on how many seats gerrymandering yielded for the Republicans and in the course of this – an article stating outright that the Republicans gained more seats from gerrymandering than the Democrats – mentions something to the effect that the number isn’t as high as some would expect because the tilt is countered by some Democratic gerrymandering, and that mention was derided here as BSDI (as opposed to being a part of the calculation, which is what it was).

        Tod, who has written post after post after post on the multitude of failings of the GOP, cannot write a post about the Democrats responding to Republican stupidity in a counterproductive manner without it being “false equivalence.” In that case, he wasn’t even calling the Democrats’ actions immoral, just dumb (he alluded to the GOP as being morally in the wrong). Doesn’t matter. Criticized Democrats. False Equivalence.

        Sometimes, the BSDI hat does indeed fit. Especially when it’s a Republican trying to deflect criticism of his own party. Sometimes when by a both-sides-are-equally-guilty Broderite sort. But Tod “Sailing Away To Irrelevance” Kelly? Now, of course Tod can make a BSDI mistake (and he has). Seems odd that it comes up just about every time he talks about the failings of Democrats. Because Tod just refuses to recognize that one party is considerably worse than the other?Report

      • greginak in reply to Will Truman says:

        Will, at this point i think this is a bit of a Rorschach test. If we are talking about the article Tod noted then my reading of the piece seemed like the one para about D’s was just there to look non-partisan. Hell the writer could have written a two part piece or doubled its length to go into far more depth about how the funding of D’s is playing out. That would make sense to me, but the one para seemed weak. But this is tomato vs. tomatoe at this point since we are reading the article slightly differently but in a reasonable manner. I think we could find much better examples of both True BSDI and D’s not wanting to admit the poopie on their shoes.

        PS. BJ really does complain about D’s often. While they are a partisan Lib/Dem site they rip new orifices on D’s plenty along with having good recipes on Fridays.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Will Truman says:

        I have to concur with greginak here. It is changing with people but for a long time the young stars on the left were academically minded policy wonks whose only wanted to write and enact white papers without having to do old-school campaigning.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to greginak says:

      But first let me just say, Dem’s and liberals screw up all sorts of stuff. The D’s as a party are often spineless and directionless with all their fingers and toes to the wind. Liberals have been in love with data and white papers and research to the point where they have forgotten, at times, to convince people why their policies are correct.

      That the best lack all conviction and the worst are full of passionate intensity is a sentiment universally agreed upon. My party is spineless; yours is evil.

      If your criticism of your party isn’t something that someone on the opposite side of the aisle would agree with, you’re not making a concession. You don’t have to make concessions. Just don’t try to pass off “My party doesn’t go far enough” or “My party is just too intellectual to appeal to the masses” as one.Report

      • greginak in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Yup Brandon…libs and Dems don’t criticize themselves and when they do, they do it wrong and even then they don’t make the same criticisms as conservatives do…..That is three things libs do wrong. Egads!! This sounds more like a complaint that can never be answered. Should liberals agree with conservative complaints that we’re socialists or marxists or hate religion or want america to be weak and powerless or that the prez is a “mongrel”. Which Conservative complaints about Libs do we have to agree with to make you happy? Meh…this is a concern that can never be sated unless i completely agree with you.

        I never said R’s were evil.Report

      • The problem with most of the self-criticism I’ve seen is that it’s a self-affirming sort of criticism. It’s not that the Democrats are doing anything wrong so much as they’re too caught up in being virtuous to be effective. I respect you too much to say that it’s a disingenuous sort of criticism, because (a) I believe you mean it and (b) from a tactical standpoint I think it’s sometimes true… but it’s a different sort of criticism than one that suggests that the Democrats are doing something not just tactically mistaken, but wrong wrong. (A good delineator between whether a criticism is tactical or wrong-wrong is whether people without an investment in the party or movement would agree, which I think is what Brandon is driving at.)

        I’m not going to say that Democrats never criticize themselves for wrong wrong behavior. There is just an extreme overreaction to Broderism here, where Republicans and Democrats cannot be mentioned to engage in the same behavior regardless of the context (how much more attention is focused on Republicans, how pale the comparison is, how clearly it is stated to be primarily albeit not solely Republican phenomenon, etc.).Report

      • Chris in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        You know, Lakoff’s Moral Politics was originally published in 1996. That’s 18 years ago, for the arithmetically-challenged. It argued, in essence, that Democrats/liberals (no one really called them progressives back then) were right, and had the data behind them, but didn’t know how to communicate their ideas effectively given the dynamics of the American political system. He wrote it after Newt’s 1994 conservative takeover, and gave it the subtitle What Conservatives Know that Liberals Don’t. He republished the book, with a few changes and an extra section at the end, in 2002 after the conservative victories in the 2000 elections, and it was a sensation, because it suggested that the reason Democrats lost was because they didn’t communicate well enough. Twelve years later, even with the presidency and one house of Congress, this still seems to be the way Democrats/liberals view themselves.

        To some extent, I agreed with Lakoff in ’02 and perhaps still today: Democrats/liberals have never been as good at framing their ideas as Republicans/conservatives, and this hurts them in elections. On the other hand, the fact that it is still the default criticism of liberals/Democrats/progressives is suggests that they are really bad at learning from their mistakes and it makes it possible to avoid looking critically at the policies they’re supposed to be selling. As someone who is critical of Democrats/liberals/progressives from their left, I find this incredibly frustrating. Particularly when the response to criticisms from the left almost always come in one of two forms: “Oh, stop being leftier than thou,” and “It’s easier to sell a gradual change.” The former is just as dismissive as “both sides do it,” and it’s hard to buy the latter when the most common liberal self-criticism is that they’re not very good at selling their ideas in the first place.Report

      • @chris My thinking on a lot of this has changed in the last few years. I have some issues with Lakoff and I think he (and many others) overestimate what the conservative method has actually gotten them in comparison to the fundamental problems it creates (I could write paragraphs on this). But I am increasingly of the mind that if the GOP doesn’t get its act together, the left really should advocate a leftward lurch of the party. It would hasten the gradual realignment, but there is something about losing power after having made sacrifice after sacrifice to retain it that I think causes real problems. We see that big-time in the GOP right now. There was a bit of that around 2000 or so during the early-ish Bush years.

        I do think that if you are not a staid moderate sort, you do at some point need to start asking yourself what winning elections is for. A wave of change, even if followed by some losses at the polls, can be really lasting given all the veto points of repealing the change.

        So I find myself in the odd position of not entirely disagreeing with Lakoff, and lefties who would be pushing for a lot of things that would drive me batty.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Will, I’d encourage you to write all those paragraphs since I agree with your disagreement on this. I think Lakoff emphasizes something that fits into his theory quite nicely but which at the end of the day is both an incomplete description of reality as well as being misguided. I used to criticize him back them for advocating the use of propaganda to attain votes from people too stupid to form their own opinions about things. And while that part might certainly be an accurate description of some people’s voting patterns and constitute part of an analysis of political strategery at the level of The Party, I always viewed it as an attempt to deliberately lie to/condescend to people to gain their vote. His critique was fundamentally (in my view) elitist and pretty disturbing. Reducing political debates two word sound bites does infinitely more harm than good, it seems to me. As I said back then, I’d rather lose an election because Democrats ineffectively argued and explained their policy preferences than win it by propagandizing the citizenry.

        I think I was the only liberal in my circle who looked it that way.Report

      • Chris in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        I would love it if the Democrats lurched leftward. Unfortunately, leftward generally means less money-friendly, and the Democrats are no less a party of money than Republicans.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Brandon Berg says:


        False equivalency!

        Oh, wait. You’re safely far enough away from the right side of the median that you can say that without getting called out. 😉Report

      • Kim in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        liberals don’t need to form their ideas as well as conservatives. They simply need more plastic ideas, ones that adapt to memespace without shrieking.
        Luckily, that’s what liberals do best.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Brandon Berg says:


        But I am increasingly of the mind that if the GOP doesn’t get its act together, the left really should advocate a leftward lurch of the party.

        I don’t agree with this, myself, but I sorta see what you’re saying (I think): that if nothing else, unfettered lefty lurching will kick conservatives, the non-aligned and the marginalized in the ass and hasten a re-alignment/refocus establishing some sort of parity in political power. Personally, I think the problems with the right are not that it lacks electoral power. What it lacks is any coherent ideas on policy. For example, it seems to me that if the GOP was more amenable to the original Tea Party desires to cut spending, reduce the breadth of government, simplify taxes andmaybe even reduce them in some sort of rational way, etc etc, the party would enjoy lots of electoral support. The problem, it seems to me, is that the old-guard GOP can’t help itself but frame that fully general view in purely political terms by selectively advocating those ideas only when they think it will piss off/counter liberals. If they could somehow manage to adopt it as a fully functioning view of policy (and be willing to compromise when necessary to achieve those goals) they’d have almost every conservative excited and get moderates to lean in their direction as well.Report

      • greginak in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        1 Let me clarify one thing. I don’t think D’s just make a mistake on messaging. As an example with the ACA they wanted R votes and to avoid doing some things that would look bad in the press so they compromised on this and that, and delayed the implementation and cut this and that to bring the total cost down to look better in the headlines. That wasn’t just about messaging, it was undercutting their own program. If you are going to implement something there comes a time when you have to do it the best you can and ride that record, instead of futzing around trying to look good. That is a critique of governing, not just messaging.

        2 I’m still sort of unclear what now counts as the “correct” kind of self-criticism. If we are talking ideology then there is no truth at all to the claim L’s and D’s don’t criticize themselves. We’ve had a zillion debates here where the lefties were split on issues and criticized each others views. None of the groups represented in this place are completely ideologically lock step without significant disagreement.Report

      • @chris It’s worth mentioning that rightward frequently also means less money-friendly. Or at least less big corporate money-friendly. There’s a reason that publicly held corporations have historically spread their money around to both parties. And that the biggest reason Jan Brewer was successfully pressured into vetoing the recent “religious freedom” bill was the efforts of mega-corporations. Similarly, opposition to the bank bailouts in 2008 was heaviest the further right or left you went and strongest the further to the middle you went.Report

      • Chris in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        @mark-thompson That’s undeniably true. I think there’s a pretty good rule of thumb that goes like this: Given how deeply entrenched the two parties and their de facto platforms are, it’s a good bet that any move away from those two parties in any direction is is a move away from big money. There are exceptions, of course, but if you follow that rule, you’ll be right more often than not.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Contra the OP, I’d say that this

        “The devolution of the two-party system has begun,” Mr. Stein said. “Money is leaving the parties and going to independent expenditure groups. These now are fracturing the ‘big tents’ of our old two-party system into independent, narrow and well-funded wings.”

        if correct, is not necessarily a bad thing, nor a corruption of democracy. In particular, to the folks who think the two party duopoly actively hinders responsive changes to poor policy, it might be something to be encouraged by.

        More finegrainedness in political decision-making than we currently have is a good thing, no? I’ll reserve judgment till the data rolls in.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Whoops, wrong subthread.Report

      • Whether #1 counts depends on how it’s framed. My immediate reading of your paragraph is “We just compromise too darn much” which is a way of self-criticism that is primarily applicable on an ideological basis. On the other hand, the same basic complaint but with an eye towards “We are concerned more with optics (in this case, the optics of bipartisanship) than with good legislation” that would apply. So I would consider that borderline.

        With regard to #2, I am not talking about ideological criticisms. I am talking about cases where Democratic politicians were dishonest, stretched the truth, argue election law and circumstance for their partisan advantage (Can a party replace a candidate that bowed out of the race after the deadline but with enough time to logistically do so? Well that depends is he a Republican or a Democrat?). There’s no need to pretend that it’s equivalent in frequency or scope, but it would be really nice if talking about these things didn’t seem predicated on the notion that we should only be talking about Republicans doing these things. Especially here, where criticism of the GOP isn’t exactly lacking.Report

      • greginak in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        I think there are plenty of lib’s, myself included, who are fine to call out D’s for not keeping their little legislatures in their pants, being hypocrites, lying, bullshiting, bending rules, etc. To the extent that some D’s haven’t done that then it is fair to hurl GMO free, locally raised heirloom tomatoes at them for that.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        I’m still sort of unclear what now counts as the “correct” kind of self-criticism.

        I agree. I’m still unclear on it myself. It seems to me that the correct kind of self-criticism is one which says that Anne Laurie and I are both liberals, so therefore we are both the same in some very compelling way, and that therefore when someone criticizes Anne Laurie for invoking FE for purely partisan purposes, it’s as if I did it too, so I must criticize my “self” here, my liberalism.

        It’s one thing to say Anne Laurie represents a faction of liberals who are Obots or My-Party-Right-or-Wrong type; it’s another to say that because AL wrote what she did, all liberals are Obots or pure partisans. Two different things. I don’t know why the continue to be conflated. It makes me think – with limited evidence – that the person making the critique is imposing a thought process on the individuals being critiqued based on the fact that that person self-identifies as a liberal or votes D as if those terms picked out inherent properties of people constituting a class permitting ideological analysis.

        I mean, one refutation of the whole delio: lots of libertarians would like to call themselves “liberals” and probably self-identify as such according to one conception of that term (technical def.) but refrain from doing so because the conventionally determined, ever-changing, political meaning of the word doesn’t capture what they really believe and advocate. It doesn’t really capture anything except in really broad outline, it seems to me.Report

  2. Mike Schilling says:

    So, all of you saying that Citizens United isn’t a killer because you can’t buy elections: what if you can provided you’re smarter about it?Report

    • What’s so funny to me is that the argument that money buys elections misses the threat behind money and democracy. It doesn’t but elections, it buys candidates who are or become office holders.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Will Truman says:

        It would be pretty useless if it bought candidates who didn’t become office holders.Report

      • You never know who is going to become an officeholder. And a lot of them hedge their bets and donate to both parties. (Hint: It’s not because they’re buying elections for two opposing candidates/parties.)Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

        What you want to buy is departments with people who will have their jobs whether or not your preferred candidate gets elected. This will allow you to, for example, have someone who sues your president for sexual harassment audited.

        And if your opposition gets elected for 8 years? Just lay low and know your people will stay bought. The pendulum will swing back and you can get back to business.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Will Truman says:

        And a lot of them hedge their bets and donate to both parties.

        This has always seemed weird to me. Electioneering is a zero-sum game. Anything that helps one side hurts the other side. So why do politicians look favorably on those who “help” them while simultaneously “helping” the other side?Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Will Truman says:


        Because if you don’t, next time they may only help the other side.Report

      • Kim in reply to Will Truman says:

        Do you know what the pricetag is, will?Report

      • Troublesome Frog in reply to Will Truman says:

        It doesn’t matter if money buys elections or not. If elected officials think that money buys elections, money toward their reelection is a useful currency to bribe them with. If they accepted magic beans in exchange for favorable legislation, the magic beans would flow.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Will Truman says:

        Because if you don’t, next time they may only help the other side.


      • People/corporations that contribute to both sides are buying access. No matter which side wins the election, they can make decisions within their particular view of the policy space that are better or worse for me. Suppose I’m a (sane) coal company. I may prefer that the Rs win, but I can’t guarantee that. If the Ds win there are still a range of policies that could be implemented, and from my perspective some of those are much worse than others. I need access to the top people no matter which side wins.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      The gist of the article, Mike, is that money hasn’t sucessfully bought elections–that’s why the big money folks are so frustrated, and are switching tactics–so it’s a bit ironic that you’d be throwing that out there as the Big FearTM

      Will the new tactics work? We won’t know until we’ve had some elections, will we?

      But you know, sometimes big money loses just because people don’t like the message*, and sometimes big money loses because the candidate getting it is successfully sneered at as getting all his money from out of the district.
      * Some people think advertising is a hugely powerful force by which people are mamipulated. But the annals of advertising history are filled with unsuccessful ad campsigns. About ten years ago, Miller beer (iirc) spent about $400 million on an ad campaign that didn’t shift their market share even one point. The Ad Council’s “this fried egg is your brain on drugs” ad was wholly ineffective. The Dairy Council just replaced its “Got Milk,” campaign, despite the slogan having very high visibility and recognition, because milk sales (for drinking) continue to decline.Report

    • @mike-schilling My argument on Citizens United (and its progeny, which actually have been more important) is that it has reduced the barriers to entry for obtaining political influence – it makes appeals to grassroots passions significantly more effective, and correspondingly makes inside-game lobbying less effective. Indeed, one of the effects of Citizens United has been to create a decrease in lobbying expenditures and registered lobbyists for the first time ever, as I pointed out here:

      (Actually I made a lot of important points in that linked thread that I think are worth discussing).Report

  3. Peter Moore says:

    The entirety of Anne’s text in that post is two lines, which observes that Confessore focuses almost exclusively on right-wing millionaires (which you already grant) and, in passing, mentions the “Both Sides” do it meme. She the quotes the 7 paragraphs from the article.

    Yet in your judgement, she has apparently rendered moot the entire story? Even though she quotes 7 paragraphs? And doesn’t write one word that suggests the point of Confessore’s article is unimportant and invalid?

    So exactly how do you base that conclusion? At the face of this, this seems to demonstrate nothing except an interesting hot button are your point, and nothing about Anne.Report

  4. DRS says:

    Come on, Tod. You’re better than this. Don’t be a whiner.Report

  5. veronica dire says:

    Here is the thing I see about Tod’s grand theory: The worst of the contemporary American right is the Tea Party, which is fueled by the broken feedback loop of the right wing media, which centers around Fox. That I totally agree with. And I certainly see how the left might fall into the same trap.

    Heck, I see how I fall into the same trap.

    But there is another issue: Fox had fertile ground in which to plant its seed. That fertile ground is angry whites, from the collapse of the white working class combined with the ever-present sub-currents of white hate, paranoia, and far-out anti-intellectual strains of Christianity.

    And sure, in some alternate universe this “movement” could have been captured by left wing populism. But that isn’t how it played out. And right now the anti-immigrant attitudes, anti-black attitudes, and anti-queer attitudes are pretty baked in.

    This stuff will change. But I don’t think it will flip over night. And whatever the parties do, and however the labels wiggle around, I’m pretty sure I will be part of the politics that does not include these people.

    I have no idea what America will look like in 30 years.Report

    • Suburban-to-rural whites aren’t the only group with substantial strains of hate, paranoia, and far-out theories nor is this the first time wacky thought has infected political dialogue via the vector of social and economic insecurity. In fact, suburban-to-rural whites aren’t the first group to be radicalized and have that zaniness spread with a straight face into the political zeitgeist.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to Burt Likko says:

        @burt-likko — No doubt true. But I feel like there is a difference of degree with the current situation, and that degree matters a lot.

        Maybe in 50 years we’ll be in a wildly different place, but this is how I see the current social forces. They seem strong, widespread, and deeply entrenched.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Burt Likko says:

        “In fact, suburban-to-rural whites aren’t the first group to be radicalized and have that zaniness spread with a straight face into the political zeitgeist.”

        Proof please. If you read books like Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of American Consensus or anything else by Perlstein you can see that conspiracy theories and suburban-conservative voters have gone hand in hand since the post-WWII era especially in places like Orange County, CA. This was also noted at the time by Richard Hofstadter and William Manchester.

        During the 1950s and 60s, there was an Orange County congressman who would vocally opine that the UN was training an army of “barefoot Africans” in Georgia to takeover the United States. This was also the days of the Impeach Earl Warren campaigns.

        In short, it seems to me that the radicalism of the Tea Party is nothing new and they have been a substantial part of GOP politics for over a half century. Leeesq did note that it took them that long to get this much power though.Report

  6. zic says:

    Seems to me there are several different things going on here.

    First is what big money donors are trying to do to gain leverage in the political system through PACs and SuperPACS.

    A second thing is how we talk about what big-money donors, which includes a range of identifiers built, primarily, off party identity.

    There were many things that happened in the last presidential cycle that would have big donors examining their actions; but the biggest, it seems to me, was the ineffectiveness of TV advertising after a certain amount of spending; and in particular, the Obama campaign locked that advertising up early, while it was cheap. It didn’t matter how much was thrown at late ads after some point; there were too many of them, and they simply became meaningless background noise (for both parties, too). Additionally, the vaunted Romney GOTV didn’t work. And I don’t mean to be focusing on the GOP side of things; but in general, the losing side’s game is the game that didn’t work, and that’s where you’d expect to find deep soul searching. That the concerns on the left focus on deep-pocket donors concerned about the environment doesn’t surprise me, either, because this is where the left’s concerns wither.

    For this PAC funding and the political outcomes donors expect from that funding, BSDI would be expected; we’re talking about how rich donors with an interest in driving political outcomes would examine and shift strategy in an effort to achieve outcomes that align with their goals. Of course both sides do it. To suggest anything else is ludicrous. What matters is the specific details of how these things are being achieved; and it matters a lot.

    But the second thing going on here is the meta: the how we talk about the game of politics; and sadly, game seems the right choice of words here. In this case, any action that’s examined often get’s met with a ‘well, they do it, too,’ as if this is reason to dismiss the analysis. That conservative donors might be opting for a more centralized, top-down method of spending their PAC money matters. That environmental donors on the left might be targeting a certain type of legislator matters. They’re all activities that will shape the upcoming elections and the propaganda will hear out of these PACs during that election. The money one PAC might pour into a centralized system to help bolster traditional marriage is one thing; the money another PAC might pour into independent advertising is another; the money is there, sloshing through the system, and should be reported.

    That this money will be dismissed as unimportant because both sides have PAC money, both sides do it? That’s just a distraction from the money and its influence in the system. One of the biggest reasons I stopped freelancing is because this was becoming the standard of journalism expected; fair and balanced both sides to save the news organization from actually having to do deep analysis of what was going on.

    Yes, both sides do it. But the devil’s in the details of each particular doing; that’s what’s newsworthy.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to zic says:

      Zic, the thing is that the article isn’t seeking to dismiss its importance because both sides do it. Tod isn’t dismissing its importance because both sides do it. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that the article didn’t focus solely on Republicans so it’s automatically BSDI. In this case, the article didn’t even pretend it was balanced. It spent fifteen paragraphs talking about the Republicans and one paragraph saying “not just the Republicans” and gave an example.

      This article had twenty-six paragraphs talking about the GOP. There was one paragraph talking about the Democrats. And the criticism here is that one paragraph, and how that one paragraph is there to present artificial balance.Report

      • zic in reply to Will Truman says:

        @will-truman, just about every piece of reporting you’ll find right now does this. Every one. Doesn’t have to be politics; it can be on the business of turning wood into golf tees. (I actually had an editor do that to me — go find the dissenting voice; the other side of the story. Like there’s another side to turning wooden gulf tee? Well, I guess there’s the market for plastic tees made with an injection mold process.)

        My point was that this is the nature of what we think of as reporting now; we see it so often, we don’t even question it; and the only reason we even bother to notice it in the political world is because it’s used to dismiss analysis as of no consequence because, well, they do it, too.

        It’s not that they do it, too; it’s what’s being done; artificial balance is a huge problem of how we receive news, now. (So in that sense, I’m agreeing).

        The story here, despite it’s headline, isn’t about rich people trying to buy access; it’s about how they’re trying to buy access. Centralizing pac expenditures under a top-down driven process is big news; it wouldn’t matter which party ideology was doing it.

        Analysis of this story through a lens of BSDI fails to get to the value of the information being reported; the problem isn’t BSDI, it’s that no single thing can be reported without BSDI. And because the BSDI is there, we get distracted from the meat of the news.

        But: if that graf about Dem PACS had been left out, the story would also have been discredited as ‘biased.’

        In part, I think this is a problem of the internet age, to be honest. I’ve sat with editors and watched them go through a publication; weighing the overall balance across the variety of articles within that issue. Now, the weight of balance falls to each article, not the overall publication. And this horribly distorts the meaning of what’s being reported.Report

      • zic in reply to Will Truman says:

        Here’s another NYT story on Democratic outreach to lower-middle class white males.

        And here’s the ‘other side’ graf for balance:
        Republicans say Democrats’ appeals to women, minorities and gays have been counterproductive with white men. “When you’re spending 60 percent of your time talking about birth control and Obamacare, not a lot of men are paying attention to you,” said Brad Dayspring, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

        Some variation of this is in virtually every story you read, because you may not read the story next to it in the dead tree edition, talking about GOP outreach to Latinos or women or whatever.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Will Truman says:

        Analysis of this story through a lens of BSDI fails to get to the value of the information being reported; the problem isn’t BSDI, it’s that no single thing can be reported without BSDI. And because the BSDI is there, we get distracted from the meat of the news.

        To me, the whole point of the so-called BSDI is an attempt to AVOID distraction from the meat; it is acknowledging an obvious counterexample, and by dint of its minor treatment showing that it’s not truly comparable, in type or in scope, to the actual issue under discussion.

        That’s just debate 101. You acknowledge, maybe even concede, the most obvious opposing example or argument, so that you can spend your the rest of your time productively hammering away at what you want to discuss. The purported BSDI is there to shore up your main point, not to undermine it.

        “Yeah, yeah, certainly *that*; but THIS is what is *really* important.”

        (To be fair, you cover this when you say But: if that graf about Dem PACS had been left out, the story would also have been discredited as ‘biased.’ )Report

      • The story here, despite it’s headline, isn’t about rich people trying to buy access; it’s about how they’re trying to buy access

        That might be a good story, but that’s not what the article is about. The article (not just the headline) is about millionaire donors taking more control over how they spend their money on campaigns, relying less on experts and more on their own sense of how the money should be spent.

        Which is not a phenomenon unique to the right, if the Tom Steyer example is any indication.

        Someone looking to discredit this bias isn’t swayed by a single paragraph compared to the twenty or so focusing on Republicans. This is an article primarily about Republicans. The objection here is that it isn’t solely about Republicans, and a 20:1 ratio is artificially balanced on account of the “1”. My objection to that is that if you’re talking about a phenomenon in one party, it’s actually pretty worthwhile to mention whether or not it’s happening in the other.

        I’m not contesting your newsroom experience here. I am saying that this is a pretty terrible example of it and the reaction is, in my view, a better example of any criticism of the Democrats (even in an article focusing almost all of its guns on Republicans) (excluding intrapartisan criticisms, like the Democrats aren’t mean enough or are too intellectual) being dismissed as BSDI.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Will Truman says:

        This article had twenty-six paragraphs talking about the GOP. There was one paragraph talking about the Democrats. And the criticism here is that one paragraph, and how that one paragraph is there to present artificial balance.

        And what’s the problem with that criticism again? It’s possible there’s a fulsoem story to be told about how this is a process unfolding to a comparable degree on both sides. It’s also possible that a truly balanced account of related processes on each side would actually broadly refute the idea that the processes are happening in remotely comparable degrees or manners. I don’t know if what’s the case, but if the author doesn’t choose to write either of those articles but instead chooses to write an article focusing on one party, then his including and under-reported and under-considered paragraph that doesn’t help the reader compare but just makes an allusion to processes that may or may not be comparable for the sake of fake balance is objectively worthy of critique.

        greginak above says he’d rather, if the a writer were going to throw in a reference to something that may be similar on the other side, he actually cover that topic: do both sides actually do it? Or how does what’s happening on each side actually compare/contrast? If it’s worth mentioning, it’s worth actually covering. If he’s not going to do that, then it is in fact a cheap BSDI sop to put a veneer of objectivity on what is in fact a (maybe?) unflattering article that is basically exclusively about the GOP (but wouldn’t have to be – but is) to just make a one graf allusion to something ostensibly coordinate that may or may not actually be similar.

        To be clear, I don’t have a big problem with this tic of MSM journalism. But it seems like a legitimate thing to criticize, and has done for a decade basically since blogging started. I don’t think Tod Kelly taking notice of it changes that one way or the other.Report

  7. Damon says:

    It’s posts like this that remind me of Charles Keating. When asked by a reporter if he expected anything in return for his political donations, he responded, in essence, that that was the whole point of the donations.

    I think that’s the single most usefull point about politics, politicians, and the “process”.Report

    • Kim in reply to Damon says:

      Not at all. The most useful thing to remember is the backstop, the hard steel behind the velvet glove of donation streams. And that’s blackmail.Report

      • Damon in reply to Kim says:

        I can’t see how it’s blackmail when politicians enter the process knowing “the way things are”. If they didn’t, well, life’s hard.Report

      • Kim in reply to Kim says:

        It’s still blackmail if politicians want to avail themselves of blantantly illegal sex objects or drugs. Yes, this might be a good deal of why they’re in politics, but regardless… Blackmail is a great deal harder to tell to “piss off” than campaign contributions.

        If a corporation threatens to kill you (with all indications that they would do it if you sat still), what would you do?

        Are you a coward or a fool? (Perhaps you are wise enough to not choose a career in law enforcement, neh?)Report

      • Damon in reply to Kim says:

        Again, I’m falling back on “life is hard”. Time to man up and get some dirt on the opposition or pull out. Either way, politics is a “contact” sport. Deal. I really have no sympathy for any politician, except perhaps, the first timer. In that scenario, it’s time for them to decide on how badly they want to be a “leader” of the people.

        So, while I don’t think I’m a coward, I’m also not foolish enough or broken enough to be a LEO or Politician. 🙂Report

  8. clawback says:

    Because apparently, it doesn’t matter whether a few rich asshats on the left are doing something we as citizens should be concerned about.

    Of course it doesn’t matter. It only matters if a significant number of asshats on the left do it. The entire point of the NYT article was that more than a few asshats on the right were doing something or other, and that that is precisely what is newsworthy. The message is diluted when some obligatory BSDI is sprinkled in. If your entire point is that asshattery on the right has gone from minimal to significant, what possible reason is there to write that there is some minimal asshattery on the left?Report

    • Kim in reply to clawback says:

      Is the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy doing this for the LEFT OR the RIGHT?
      It’s Both.
      Same Donor.
      Did I mention he owns one of the local papers?Report

  9. James Hanley says:

    And cue the obligatory freakout that I’ve even mentioned that someone on the left might not be right about something in 3, 2, 1…

    A helluva lot easier than predicting the Oscars.Report

  10. Mike Schilling says:

    So the new narrative is that no matter how badly the Right behaves, the important thing is that the Left is imperfect? It’s a worthy successor to “We all know that Fox is crude propaganda. The important thing is that the Times isn’t always completely objective.”Report

    • James Hanley in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      Do you really believe that’s the narrative?Report

    • I point again to the fact that this post is by Tod Kelly. The exasperated person here isn’t exactly an apologist for the right or someone who seeks to deflect attention from the right’s failings.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Will Truman says:

        In fact, it might be that it’s precisely how vocal about the right he’s been that’s on point here. My impression, which could be wrong, is that he’s consciously correcting for that focus now, not so much offering his honest first-blush responses to things (since, after all, none of what he’s pointing out is new; he could have been pointing it out on the left all along). For example, this Anne Laurie post is just bog-standard leftern-bloggy treatment of mainstream reporting that has been an hourly staple of the lefty blogs for a decade. But maybe some less conscious shift has taken place.Report

    • Kim in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      No, the actual new narrative is that media is too lazy to understand that a big lefty donor is nicknamed “the vast rightwing conspiracy”. And to write about that.

      [Yes, it’s local, and the local papers write about it.]Report

  11. Will Truman says:

    Setting aside the BSDI thing…

    I’m actually not sure why I am supposed to be particularly alarmed by the content of the article. This is actually what the Campaign Finance Reform compromise with the First Amendment gives us. If we’re going to prohibit independent expenditures from coordinating with campaigns, then it seems weird to be alarmed that independent spenders are increasingly doing their own thing instead of coordinating with campaigns.

    This doesn’t seem like a subversion of the democratic process. It seems like the realization of the process that we sort of set out to create.Report

  12. So here’s my objection to the complaints that the article is yet another example of BSDI and false equivalency: it’s not actually taking a position on the morality of this trend. Nor is it even making an implication as to which scenario is morally superior.

    Its point isn’t “money is becoming a bigger problem”; it’s that big donors are becoming disinterested in partisan-sponsored Super PACS like the Crossroads PAC run by Karl Rove and are finding it preferable to spend money more independently. So to complain about BSDI in this piece is to say that the Karl Rove model is somehow morally superior to billionaires just spending money on their own. Last I checked, “Karl Rove” and “morally superior” are not phrases that belong in the same sentence.

    What the article is actually saying is that mega-donors are becoming less interested in donating to groups that seek to push the mutual interests of mega-donors in order to push their individual – presumably more ideological and less business-oriented – interests outside of the party apparatus. Which, if you take a half-second to think about, means that mega-donors will be in increasing competition with each other.

    The article isn’t about how big money is becoming more powerful in order to dominate “both sides.” It’s about how big money is becoming more independent such that the notion of there being two – and only two – “sides” is becoming obsolete.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson says:

      That’s fair but nothing that a full treatment of how/whether this is happening in both party-constellations wouldn’t greatly improve. But that’s just not how NYT articles get written. That would turn a week and a half of reporting into a month, or a month into three, or whatever the scale of the project is.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson says:

      …I should say, it’s more than fair, it’s a good take. I agree.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

        … but that doesn’t render the process something that someone like Anne Laurie can’t see as distasteful (general dislike for the way money moves around politics), leading to dissatisfaction with reporting that fails to examine how such processes are actually playing out on the side she’s sympathetic to and instead makes under-supported allusions to similarity to what is being fully reported on the other side.

        IOW, I agree with your evaluation of the substance, but I guess I don’t think that means that objecting to the failure to report fully but still mentioning what’s going on on one side as (roughly) BSDIism can’t make sense from a different perspective on the substance.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Mark Thompson says:

      Last I checked, “Karl Rove” and “morally superior” are not phrases that belong in the same sentence.

      Some sentences, but Mr. Godwin would have things to say about them.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Mark Thompson says:

      Hey, I just say this comment Mark. I wrote a similar comment upthread but you’ve explained it – the linked article – better than I did. I agree with your take on it.Report

  13. Michael Drew says:

    My reading of Laurie’s post is not that she’s per se objecting to the presence of that paragraph, so much as making the claim that, while the author does go for a veneer of “parity” (and that, to me is the arguable claim – that the presence of the paragraph is a suggestion of parity. Arguable, that is, on both sides, i.e. I don’t find her to be unreasonable to identify it as just such a suggestion, even if I tend to just not be sure about the purpose for its inclusion in the absence of fuller reporting about thes processes wrt Democrats), in fact it being just one lonely paragraph shows hat the author does not deliver the goods to establish any parity (with an implication that therefore there is reason to believe there is not parity, or processes of comparable magnitude playing out on the other side).Report

  14. Kazzy says:

    Hold on… is it accurate to say that many on the right are doing whatever the article is describing but that the behavior is not limited to the right and that some on the left are doing it to? Because if that is an accurate statement, I’d be angry if a reputable news agency reported it any other way.Report