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Friday, September 29, 2017

Jon Chait and Alex Pareene

I have a Jon Chait problem. I generally agree with him on most issues. I find him very provocative. I am very sure that no one cares about my opinion about Chait's latest post. That includes me. I don't want to waste time thinking about the exactly how far I agree with him. But here I am.

I also have a vaguely favorable view of Alex Pareene, but don't read him much. I was very entertained by his mild mannered amused Phillipic on Chait "You Are Jonathan Chait's Enemy".

There is one marginally interesting sub-topic. It appears that Pareene and Chait can't both be right, but I am confident they are.

Pareene wrote "I say “you” because his conception of the left almost certainly includes you. ... He means basically anyone to the left of Bill Clinton in 1996. " Chait wrote " (I allegedly oppose “basically anyone to the left of Bill Clinton in 1996,” which is odd, because I was to the left of Bill Clinton in 1996, and still am.)"

I see no contradiction. I think Chait was to the left of Clinton in 1996 and also that he considers anyone who goes out of her way to note that she is to the left of Clinton's positions as of 1996 to be a dangerous lefty. So the "basically" is a vague hint at "who is to the left of Bill Clinton in 1996 and says so even when not accused of being as far right as Bill Clinton in 1996".

Notably, Chait's point (such as it is) is that he supports Barack Obama and so do the vast majority of Democrats. This is true. It is also true that in "The Audacity of Hope" Obama hinted at some sort of praise for Clinton for the 1996 welfare reform. I am sure Obama would have voted against in 1996. I am fairly sure he would have vetoed 3 GOP welfare reform bills not just 2 as Clinton did. But he was not audacious enough to hint at any such doubts. I am quite sure that Chait would consider some statements dangerously left wing and disqualifying, even if he agrees they are true. This is Pareene's claim.

Now, I agree with Obama's not so audacious choice, and agree with Chait. In any case I wouldn't vote to nominate a candidate who says what I think about immigration (it should be allowed without any restrictions) or foreign aid (the foreign aid budget should be increased at least 10 fold). Where I differ with Chait is that he doesn't just demand moderation from candidates but also from commentators (other than Chait).

I took the one interesting bit off the end of a long boring post, which continues below.

I think I agree with Pareene. In particular, I think Pareene is right that his quotation of Chait is key to understanding Chait "the new breed of left-wing activists who are flexing their muscles within the party. These are exactly the sorts of fanatics who tore the party apart in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They think in simple slogans and refuse to tolerate any ideological dissent."

Chait strongly disapproves of such people and fears them. However, he never names them. This violates Chait's rule of polemic. He asserted that left bloggers were such people. Then when challenged read the lefty blogs & found they weren't far left radicals (yet) and asserted that they would become far left radicals. Then when challenged further read further and found many were wonks, divided the left blogosphere into the wonkosphere (analysts) & the net roots (advocates) then denounced the net roots for being advocates not analysts. His research lead to a tautology, unless he is willing to argue that there should be no advocacy organizations (which would render any discussion of the proper future for the Democratic party moot).

Interestingly Chait seems unable to even understand what Pareene is trying to tell Chait about Chait. He thinks Pareene's point is that the future of the Democratic party is named Bernie Sanders. I didn't detect any such opinion in Pareene's post. Indeed (I admitted above I don't read Pareene much) I have no idea who he supports for 2020 Democratic nominee.

Chait argues that Pareene is wrong to suggest "The other politician supposedly representing my worldview is Lieberman. (In fact, while my editor endorsed Lieberman for president in 2004, I wrote a dissent saying Democrats would be crazy to nominate him.)"

Just above the quote of Chait which I requoted Pareene wrote "The rest of this column is dedicated to listing the many ways in which Joe Lieberman, then engaged in a bitter primary fight, was a terrible Democrat.

Chait's claim about Pareenes alleged claim about Chait's views of Lieberman is plainly obviously 100% false. I can understand that people don't respond calmly to harsh criticism, but his failure of reading comprehension is amazing.

Actually there is an even more striking proof of this. Pareene's preceding sentence is "Here is a very instructive passage from a column he wrote in 2006." Chait conflated 2004 and 2006. How did that happen ? For one thing, he seems to have entirely forgotten what he wrote in 2006 and, in particular, that he wrote it in 2006.

Pareene continued "It is overly simplistic to reduce the fight over the identity of the Democratic Party to Joe Lieberman on the one hand and Bernie Sanders on the other, but if, purely as a thought experiment, those were the only two futures on offer, it’s clear which one Jonathan Chait would pick. He would rather belong to the party of Joe Lieberman. If you wouldn’t, then you’re the sort of person he has spent his career fighting against."

Lieberman responded "It is common to read Sandernistas describing the Democratic electorate as if Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were the only two choices available." But Pareene explicitly said the choice isn't Bernie Sanders or someone else. He was talking about a thought experiment.

His points are that Pareene is a "Berniecrat". This may be true (I will check) but has nothing to do with Pareene's post about Chait. He notes that Barack Obama is very popular and is not Bernie Sanders. This has even less do do with Pareene's post. I am quite sure he is sincere, but I think he can't understand Pareene's criticism, because he doesn't understand himself and how strange his obsession with the late 60s & early 70s seems to people who are younger than he is (and to me -- I don't confidently claim to be younger than he is).


JimV said...

I haven't read Chait (maybe once or twice which I don't remember) but I have read people who complain about him (including the Pareene article, linked to by someone else). My take-away from this post is that I am right not to read Chait, despite the fact that you often praise him (mildly).

The other lesson I take from this post, which I will try to apply, is that if you want to rebute someone,

a) write your annoyed rebuttal, but don't publish it yet;
b) go back over what they wrote to be sure your rebuttal actually responds to what they said, giving the benefit of the doubt when there's a less annoying interpretation.

Blissex said...

This is a very intensely funny comment on the suffering of Democrats in the Democrat wing of the party who think that the party's candidates should be in the Reagan Republican wing of the Democracts (or perhaps at best in the Nixon Republican wing of the Democrats) to run successfully against the Goldwater Republicans that are the Republican party's candidates.

I think that it is also intensely funny that some people agree that Obama was right not to be "audacious", and thus support him, when he was likeBush before him a president that spent taxpayer funds to run a large number of latin-american style abduction/torture/murder squads, with periodic review of "targets" to abduct/torture/murder in official White House meetings. And never mind decriminalizing "too big too prosecute" and actually hand them out a trillion or so to refill their bonus pools.