Your Morning Dose of Terrible Punditry
Glenn Greenwald’s civil liberties commentary is more than welcome, but his forays into more straightforward punditry leave much to be desired. Often, his “analysis” is marred by his fundamental ignorance of how our politics and government operate. This from a recent interview with Conor Friedersdorf, for example, is a terrifically bad piece of punditry:
I think the citizenry is becoming less and less defined by loyalty to one of the two parties, and these partisan divisions are breaking down, becoming much less clean. We saw that with opposition to TARP, the general anger toward corporatist control of Washington, discomfort with our policy of endless wars, and the widespread disgust with incumbent power.
There simply isn’t any evidence for this assertion. Americans are no less willing to label themselves as Republicans or Democrats, and the vast majority of Americans claim some partisan preference, even if they label themselves “independents.” Even the Tea Partiers are a recognizably partisan group; most identify as Republicans. Most Americans either don’t care or aren’t aware of the “corporatist control of Washington,” and insofar that there is any widespread discontent, it’s over the creaking economy and ten percent unemployment. Greenwald isn’t analyzing as much as he is inserting his biases and calling it fact.
What’s more, Greenwald falls back on that old formulation of those who can afford the luxury of indifference, “there really isn’t any difference between the parties”:
…the two-party system does not work in terms of providing clear choices. No matter who wins, the same permanent factions that control Washington continue to reign. That’s true no matter which issues one considers most important. At some point, it’s going to be necessary to sacrifice some short-term political interests for longer-term considerations about how this suffocating, two-party monster can be subverted.
I don’t see how Greenwald can peddle this bullshit when we’re only two years removed from an administration that systematically attacked government’s ability to do right by the least well-off. The last administration stood opposed to environmental action, food safety, workplace safety, labor regulations and reproductive rights. It robbed the federal government of its ability to respond to disasters, and left Americans rotting in the aftermath of a massive, city-destroying hurricane. Barack Obama isn’t perfect, and the Democratic Party is a flawed vehicle for advancing liberalism, but there’s a lot to be said for a party that explicitly commits itself to capable and compassionate governance. Indeed, I would like to see Greenwald make his argument to the millions of Americans with newfound access to health care, or the millions of Americans empowered to fight for equal pay, or the millions of Americans whose lives are improved in countless ways by a government that takes regulation seriously.
It’s very easy to rail against “the two-party system” when failure was the norm for more than a decade and you’re conveniently removed from most of its effects. But the truth is that by electing President Obama and a Democratic Congress, we’ve done a whole lot to improve life for millions of Americans. Pretending otherwise is fun and satisfyingly self-righteous, but it isn’t productive.