I’m very fond of Martin Longman. He is an excellent writer and commentator. But he is having a bad day today over at Political Animal. First, he completely misread Ron Fournier’s recent National Journal article, “We Don’t Suck As Much!” a Motto Your Party Can Honestly Embrace. Longman actually gave Fournier credit for making some progress on false equivalence, The Democrats are the Least-Lousy Party.
Fournier had written, “To those on the far right and far left who will accuse me of ‘false equivalence,’ I beg your pardon and say, OK, the other side sucks a bit more. Feel better? The rest of us don’t.” Far from making progress, Fournier is embracing false equivalence. He’s saying that’s something that only extremists think about and all the good people like himself in the “middle” know that the Democrats and the Republicans are equally bad.
What I find interesting is that false equivalence coming from Fournier is an indication of just how bad the Republicans are. As you can see from his Wikipedia page, Fournier is a consistent Republican with a history of bashing Democrats from a supposed centrist position. One commenter called him a “Republican apparatchick.” I don’t think that’s quite right, because apparatchicks didn’t pretend to be disinterested centrists. Fournier is something far more loathsome. And the fact that the best he can say is that “both sides suck” shows he doesn’t have anything real to complain about the Democrats nor anything good to say about the Republicans.
So Longman messed that up. It happens. Doing a blog is a lot of work, and as the “weekend guy” at Political Animal, I don’t think he gets an editorial help. And to be fair, Fournier’s article does claim that on the boarder crisis, Obama was “a little less bad than the Republicans.” But the point of the article is broadly: both parties are exactly the same! After I read the article, I was just going to discuss Fournier with a hat tip to Longman. But then I read a later article.
Longman wrote, Movement Conservatism is Dead as a National Ideology. This is where we get into dangerous territory. As I discuss a lot around here, Ted Cruz or even Michele Bachmann could become president under the right economic conditions. Many liberals were thrilled when the Republicans nominated Reagan in 1980 because of his extremism. The truth is that the Republicans could have nominated anyone that year and he, she, or it would have been elected.
This is why I found it so upsetting when Longman wrote:
No. No. No! There is absolutely no way that any Republican could have won the presidency in 2008. The economic conditions for a Democratic victory in 2008 are the best of all races back through Carter-Ford in 1976. And that’s just because I haven’t looked any further. The case for 2012 is not as strong, but it is still quite strong. Romney’s problem was not that he ran as a movement conservative; it was that he ran on the economy. If you are the challenger and the economy is improving, you don’t run on the economy. See Lynn Vavreck’s The Message Matters for details.
What most bugs me about this idea that the Republicans might have won if only they had moderated their views is what it implies about the Democrats. Now I’ve been reading Longman for a long time and I know he doesn’t think this, but it implies that the Democrats have won the presidency because they have moderated. The standard line is that Clinton and Obama won because they are New Democrats—you know, economically conservative Democrats. And this just isn’t the case.
Just look at how stupid the Democratic Party is. In 1980, when the economy said the Republicans were certain to win, they nominated their most conservative headline candidate. In 2008, when the economy said the Democrats were certain to win, we nominated a milquetoast moderate. And what do we get for not sticking it to the Republicans as they stuck it to us? Cries of “Socialism!” and “Tyranny!”
Like I said, Martin Longman is an excellent writer and commentator. But he’s only human (despite his image above). He just had a bad day.
Update (20 July 2014 8:05 pm)
Longman noticed my tweet. I still don’t know how that happens. Anyway, it turns out that yesterday, he wrote, My Day Could Have Gone Better. It is about his mistake of buying baseball tickets for his son and him, but for the wrong day—a work day. And so it ended mostly with sitting in traffic. It sounds a lot worse than discovering my little article. But how bad could this article be when I twice refer to him as an “excellent writer and commentator”? Dave Weigel should get such plaudits!