Jonathan Chait’s Convention Wisdom Shocker

Jonathan ChaitJonathan Chait wrote a really annoying article yesterday. It isn’t that I disagree with him necessarily. Rather, it is that he puts forth the commonest of common wisdom as though he’s being an iconoclast. His big insight: the Republicans will keep control of the House. He’s really put himself out on a limb there!

Mostly, he’s pushing back on some commentary from people like Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei. They’ve argued that the business community is none too happy with the House Republicans. And Chait is right to ridicule this. I already did last week, Hoping Won’t Make Chamber of Commerce Hate GOP. But what’s really going on here? It’s August in Washington; Congress is in recess; what’s a Politico reporter to do?

But there has been a reasonable change of opinion about the 2014 Congressional election. Before, following from the stupid idea of the six-year curse, people thought the Democrats would lose big. But now, as I wrote in The Next Three Election Cycles, it looks like the Republicans will make minor gains in both chambers.

Chait is at his most silly in discussing immigration reform. I don’t understand these mainstream liberals and their fascination with this issue. He claims that by not passing comprehensive (but mostly pathetically tepid, overwhelmingly pro-business) reform, the Republican Party brand will be poisoned for decades among Latinos. I’m not clear on the whole notion of party “brands” and loyalties. The African American community was loyal to the Republican Party for so long, not because of Lincoln, but because the Democratic Party stayed explicitly racist into the 1960s. If the Republican Party changed its policies, Latinos would vote for it.

Of course, the issues that Latinos care about are not exclusively immigration. In fact, it is at least a little offensive that these liberal white guy reporters focus so much on this issue. What it shows is that they are not the one thing that most defines the Latino community: poor. Yes, it is certainly true that the explicitly racist elements of the party hurt its standing with Latinos. Comprehensive immigration reform is not the end all, be all. Mostly it is simply a matter that Republican policies are designed to harm the poor and limit their opportunities.

Chait ends his article by making an analogy with the Republicans of the late 1990s and how it took 6 years of George W Bush for the Republicans to lose control of Congress. That’s true, but he conveniently forgets that there was not a demographic tidal wave sweeping over American politics at that point. I still maintain that the Republicans will not go down easily. But to suggest that the Republicans can keep doing what they’re doing and that it will take 6 years of President Rand Paul before they pay a price for it is madness. Let’s not forget, Bush didn’t win the 2000 election and wouldn’t have won the 2004 election without 9/11. None of which means that the Republicans won’t continue to find ways to win. But to suggest that they will by default is just the smug spouting of conventional wisdom.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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