Democrats Won. We Won. Get It?
by Matt Stoller, Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 05:17:54 AM EST
I know some friends of mine really respect Tom Edsall's work, and maybe he was good once. I don't see it. I read some of his book 'Building Red America', and it was an analytically useless description of why the Republicans will always maintain a narrow majority. His book was uninformed by economics, and featured glib observations like 'The Republicans are the coalition of the dominant'. Just looking at the acknowledgments, where he thanks his sources and friends, should give you an indication that this guy doesn't have a connection to non-Beltway denizens.
Now in journalism, your 'reward' for long service is being given an Op-Ed slot. And since Edsall was considered one of the best courtier servants until he retired, I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that this guy has taken up a position on the New York Times Op-Ed page for a month. And it also shouldn't be a surprise that he's a liberal who doesn't believe that pro-choice groups, minority rights, and unions should apply political pressure to the political system.
To stay in the fight, Democratic leaders will have to acknowledge political realities affirmed by the electorate in 1994 and 2006. Many Democratic constituencies -- organized labor, minority advocacy organizations, reproductive- and sexual-rights proponents -- are reliving battles of a decade or more ago, not the more subtle disputes of today. Public sector unions, for example, at a time of wide distrust of government, are consistently pressing to enlarge the state. For these players, adapting to a re-emergent center will be costly....
Only two members of the House leadership are intuitively attuned to such problems: Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic caucus, and Steny Hoyer, the majority leader. But Emanuel has limited influence, and relations between Pelosi and Hoyer are distant at best.
Still, the vigilance of Hoyer and Emanuel will be crucial to a party whose renewal could easily be stillborn. Congressional leaders are not all-powerful, but they can set the stage for a successful presidential candidate, or lay waste to the center-left, dooming the nominee.
The Democratic Party can secure its 2006 gains, but to do so will require abandoning a decades-long willingness to indulge pressure groups on the left that no longer command broad popular allegiance.
I've met Tom Edsall a few times, and he's always been cordial. I remember one time in particular at a press conference with Howard Dean; he pushed to get Dean to answer a question about Hillary Clinton, which of course Dean would not. This was just after Seymour Hersh had come out with an article about how the US was planning for a nuclear attack on Iran. I decided to ask Edsall about this scenario. Edsall said that he believes that we were going to nuke that country, and I asked him if he thought that might not be more important than trying to get Dean to slip up on Hillary. Edsall just sort of shrugged his shoulders, and said that it's not his responsibility to focus on that story because he's not an editor of the paper and doesn't make the choices about what to cover.
This is one of the Old Wise Men of Washington, or a Very Serious Person, as Atrios would say. After that, I would sometimes read his work in the Washington Post and think 'who is this silly man?' His sources are obviously heavily stacked towards neoliberal insiders on the Democratic side, and he dismisses progressive activists and voters alike. Even though voters rejected an anti-labor anti-choice political party, the lesson for Edsall is that voters embraced an attack on labor and more restrictive abortion laws. It's not hard to figure out why Edsall believes this - peer pressure. Edsall's crowd is that of Harold Ickes, Rahm Emanuel, and Steny Hoyer, people who live in a rarefied world of Democratic elitism. On the Republican side I assume his sources are equally DC establishment; that's where he lives and that's what he knows. I remember his reporting on subjects I know a little bit about, like Democratic data infrastructure, were informed by people who knew nothing about the actual tools being developed.
So anyway, if you need evidence that journalists in DC adopt the biases of their sources and eagerly sop up conventional wisdom, you need go no further than Edsall. Look at who he doesn't like in this article - pro-choice groups, unions, and minority rights groups. These groups, if you are a Democratic insider, are annoying. They make you do work. They force you to not cut deals with the other side, and they hold Democrats accountable for bad economic choices. They make people like Steny Hoyer and Rahm Emanuel uncomfortable because they demand good policy choices, and by and large aren't (or shouldn't) be willing to trade away core principles to the right for better parking spots.
Edsall of course didn't talk to a janitor who just got a raise in Houston, he didn't talk to a Goodyear worker losing his job, or a displaced New Orleans resident, or a NJ retiree with good pension and benefits because of his union. Edsall talked to his friends, and his friends know, they just know, how important better parking spots are. To these people, knocking labor unions just feels so right, doesn't it? I guess it's a testament to how firmly the intellectual core of journalism has rotted that journalists now work strongly against their own economic interest. Even as Edsall attacks unions as an out of touch 'pressure group on the left' that 'no longer command broad popular allegiance', his former colleagues are relying on their union to improve journalism and stop the job cuts devastating newsrooms across the country.
As the news industry slashes tens of thousands of jobs in pursuit of higher profits, it's bad news for journalists, bad news for readers and viewers and even worse news ultimately for American democracy.
That's the message The Newspaper Guild-CWA wants to send to media owners and all Americans on a day of action Dec. 11.
"Guild members must take the lead in the fight to preserve journalism and news industry jobs," Guild President Linda Foley said. "We're calling on news industry employees everywhere to stand up for journalism and to stand with their colleagues who have had their jobs and livelihoods slashed by corporate media barons."
I suppose in Edsall's world, corporate media barons are part of the coalition of 'dominant', and unions are not. So even though the Republican Party was soundly repudiated at the polls in favor of a strongly populist Democratic Party backed by labor, and a touchstone abortion ban was popularly rejected in one of the reddest states in the country, Democrats have no choice but to reject unions and pro-choice groups, or they will face judgment at the polls.
Update: Oh wow. Edsall went on Hugh Hewitt and pulled a Halperin. Silly, silly man.