The Teenager just linked to a NYT piece by David Brooks explaining that voters are silly to vote on the basis of “electability”, because if they all do that, then voter A will vote for a candidate because he thinks that the candidate is electable, thus making the candidate look stronger and causing voter B to vote for him for the same reason, and so on — with positive feedback loops leading to a sort of bubble craze which, however, will collapse instantaneously in the same way if the candidate suddenly starts to seem less electable for any reason.
This doesn’t seem like much of a point. By now we’re dealing with candidates who are all pretty much the same. Gephardt is out, Lieberman soon will be, and support for Kucinich and Sharpton is stable at 1% or 2%. So what we’re looking at is really Coke versus Pepsi, and consumer choices of that type are famous for being volatile.
What’s really happening is that the core Democratic voters, even the simple Iowa folk, have learned to play the meta-politics game of “electability”. So now the pundits have had to try to regain their edge by playing meta-meta-politics: “Aren’t those people out there fools, thinking about electability like that?” By doing this, they hope to maintain control of the all-important High Snarky Ground.
As is his wont, Brooks is just throwing a little monkey-wrench into the Democratic works — no surprise there. Yglesias’ case is a bit more complicated. Doesn’t he belong to the moderate branch of the party, which has been promoting the swing-voter “electability” strategy and slagging on the odious Democratic Core Constituency ever since Matt was in diapers?
Since approximately 1965 I’ve had to live with the fact that most Americans don’t agree with me about politics, and whatever changes there have been in my own opinions during that period have not changed the situation much. Between you and me (PC aside), the famous White Southern Male the Democrats are supposed to be trying to appeal to seems to be quite the jerk (as do his many Northern brothers). But if I choose to think about his response to a candidate when I vote in a primary — as people have been nagging me to do for twenty years or more — couldn’t I be cut a little slack?
Of course, my real gripe against the New Dem types (the ones who’ve been pushing the swing voter strategy the hardest) is that I doubt that they would support an Old Democrat even if he were electable. (Consider Matt’s insane drivellings about the ethanol subsidy and Gephardt, for example, or the way many of them turned on Gore because they thought he had gone populist on them.) The big difference between the people who helped Dukakis lose and the ones who helped Gore lose — I don’t mean Matt here — is that Susan Estrich is “out”, whereas Martin Peretz still isn’t.
Revisions for style