Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Silver on Progressivism

So I have to concede that after having been a serious Nate Silver junkie throughout the election season, I hardly looked at for a couple of months after the election was over. Increasingly, however, I've been drawn back as a regular reader. I think this post goes a long way to explaining why. I have from time to time expressed a certain amount of frustration with the liberal bloggers and netroots (as here or here). The online liberal community seems to have a heavy tilt towards economic populism and hyper-partisan demagoguery that I tend to find repellent. Some of the more prominent bloggers (e.g. Matt Yglesias) are lighter on the economic populism, but still tend to be heavy-handed partisan footsoldiers. Silver comes closer to mirroring my own views than any of the other bloggers I currently read. The discussion at linked above does a pretty good job of sorting out the differences. Like Silver, Obama clearly falls into the "rational progressive" category--in fact, he probably represents the prototypical ideal of rational progressivism. I expect we'll see plenty of argument over the next 4 or 8 years between the rational progressives and the radical progressives over the direction of the Obama administration. At least I hope so, because the conservatives are, frankly, too stupid to bother arguing with lately.


Peter said...

I think that the progressives would do well to consider what the "stupid" conservatives are saying. All this progressiveness appears likely to stifle the economy.

Killing the golden goose seems an apt analogy especially for someone who loves spending money way Obama does.

Joe said...

I don't mean to suggest that there are no smart conservatives out there, or that there couldn't be legitimate criticisms of the Obama administration from a conservative perspective. But what we have been hearing from the Republican establishment so far has been, frankly, stupid and deeply unserious (like Senator Rick Shelby's insane proposal to let Citibank collapse). I agree with what Damon Linker writes here:

... I think something more needs to be said in response to Kimball. Something more needs to be said because Kimball's post raises important questions about just how far the American right is going to go in marginalizing itself during the Obama era. Are its leading intellectuals going to engage in constructive, thoughtful, informed debate about the policies proposed by the president? Or are they going to become indistinguishable from populist rabble-rousers like Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin -- men who routinely confuse venomous, paranoid ranting with thinking? Because here's the thing: If Roger Kimball really believes that Barack Obama is a Leninist who deserves to be impeached for deliberately sabotaging the American economy (presumably as a prelude to imposing communism), then he has definitively demonstrated that he has a reckless, irresponsible mind and a temperament ill-suited to serious intellectual engagement in our public life.

The right can certainly afford to have a few cranks running around. (The left certainly has its share.) But how many is too many? When will sensible citizens conclude that the right simply should not be trusted with political power -- not because its policies diverge from what the American majority prefers, but rather because the right is in the grip of a form of ideological madness that renders it incapable of governing -- or even thinking -- responsibly?