Moderates, Academics, and Democrats

Recently on Kos and MYDD there’s been a discussion of the left blogosphere which traces back to an old post by Kevin Drum. The gist of the discussion is here:

If you remove Atrios, the left blogosphere is neatly divided into two mutually-linking spheres: the moderate/intellectual (academicky) types – Drum, DeLong, Yglesias, TPM, Tapped, Crooked Timber – and the left activist types – Kos, MyDD, Digby, Left Coaster, Pandagon (only this one surprised me a bit). Even at the modest 5-link level, none of these blogs link to anyone on other side.

Here are a few points I’d like to add to the discussion:

The moderation of the journalists (TAPPED, Marshall) has a lot to do with the fact that the career path for committed, aggressive liberal Democrats is pretty puny. What you see on TV, on the talk shows, and on most of the newspapers is almost entirely conservative Republicans, centrists of both parties, and apolitical professionals. Beyond ideology, ambitious journalists can’t afford to offend important people in the biz, even if they are egregiously dishonest, and from time to time all of them make a point of saying nice things about whoever they think is the least loathesome guy on the other side of the aisle.

Bob Somerby is the person they don’t dare to be. Recently he applauded a statement of Josh Marshall’s about the dismal state of reporting on this issue or that, but pointed out that Marshall had failed to name any names. Somerby is almost always right, but he names names and has made too many enemies.

The people at TAPPED have slammed Somerby whenever they’ve gotten the chance, and lo! — Nick Confessore just got hired by the New York Times.

I think that the collegiality of academia, combined with excessive doses of Orwell and Gandhi, tend to incapacitate academics for the kind of gutter fighting you need when you’re facing Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove, and Grover Norquist. I think that the habits and ways characteristic of academic institutions are the problem, and I think that many of these habits and ways are also characteristic of the various other kinds of large institutions where Democrats tend to make their careers. The Republicans hire semi-criminal entrepreneurs, and it works for them.

Finally, Ivy-League whiz kids bring a lot to the party, but I think that they’re too influential. They tend to have a pretty limited class experience, and even the ones who come from non-elite backgrounds can be careerists intent on escaping from their past. To put it simply, I think that the Democrats should hire more people from SW Texas State and fewer from Harvard.

Before I get accused of being a know-nothing Maoist-Populist wrecker, I don’t think that anyone should be purged because of their background. But I do think that there’s been a skew in the Democratic Party which should be corrected. The Democrats’ populist roots are still featured at Roosevelt-Kennedy nostalgia fests, but are not very evident in the party’s real-time activities. Republican populism is fake, but it works.

And finally — as always, I think that the big fact of today’s political world is that there are no good guys on the other side of the aisle, and that Democrats should quit looking for them.

(Temporarily out of retirement).

Update – Also Ian at Blogging of the President