Ezra Klein had a great piece yesterday about where we’re at politically: a Democratic president who is governing like a moderate Republican but is treated like a soshulist, a Democratic party that moves to the right to pick up voters while the Republican party moves right to oppose whatever Republicans are doing. Joe Klein rightly adds that the Republican base has moved so far to the right that it scares potential Republican candidates from running. He also rightly blames Fox News, but then segues into this idiocy:
There is also the accumulating decades of educational incompetence, since–let’s face it–a whole lot of smart female teachers were liberated to pursue their dreams and we were left, as Albert Shanker used to say, with the bottom 20% of college graduates to preside in our classrooms. And another thing: Perhaps this is just rear-view, rose-colored glasses, but after Bill Clinton took his lumps in 1994, he learned how to out-argue and out-think the extremists. His message was complicated, but his persona was clear–he was the McDonald’s-eating, lounge-singer-screwing, good ol’ boy with the 800 SATs, who really did understand how Americans (especially blue-collar American males) think, and really cared about their welfare. It was just flat embedded in his DNA after a childhood of having the cool athlete guys laugh at his sax-playing obese butt.
First off, the group that watches Fox and supports Republicans most is people over 65, who went to high-school fifty years ago, long before teh feminism and teh teachers’ unions ruined everything. People under 30 don’t watch Fox and are shaping up to the be the most Democratic generation since the Great Depression.
Then there’s this — Bill Clinton identifies with the poor not because he was poor but because the jocks picked on him? Didn’t Joe know any kids who were poor when he was in high-school? Does he really not know that when you don’t have indoor plumbing, cool athlete mockery is the least of your worries?
I think elite journalists have set up this fantasy morality play where their own high-school selves — geeky and unpopular but smart and hard-working — represent everything that is good while their insufficiently adoring teachers and cool athlete classmates represent everything that is evil. Of course, good triumphed, Joe Klein is a millionaire now, while the cool athletes (now adults) can’t earn a living wage and the teachers are being stripped of their collective bargaining rights.
The real story of how American politics got so screwed up is of course very simple. One party went all in on quick fix Machiavellianism, not just race-baiting but “Babies are being harvested and sold on the black market by Planned Parenthood” and support for voodoo economics from conservative intellectuals. A corporate media that saw its interest as aligned with conservatism was only too happy to look the other way when it wasn’t actively pimping the craziness itself. And ambitious young careerist sociopaths like Klein realized that if they attacked Noam Chomsky, teachers’ unions, and imaginary left-wing radical groups twice for every time they criticized Republicans, they could have comfortable lives as millionaire pundits.
Now those same, no longer young, careerist sociopaths think they can seem courageous by screaming about how nuts things have gotten, pretending they had nothing to do with it, and blaming it all on the fat cat teachers and strapping young bucks who tormented them during high-school.
i had to double-take to make sure you weren’t talking about Joe Klein.
DAMN but that pisses me off. Why is everything always OUR fault? Fuck that shit.
Clinton became a Republican after 1994 in every way except party affiliation.
Let’s just turn this entire country into a frat house so immature white boys don’t destroy us all in a fit of assholery.
@Southern Beale: It’s always the fault of those bitchez, dontcha know. Every problem we have as a republic these days has come from women moving out of their traditional roles as moms, teachers, and nurses.
ETA: /end snark
This seems like a very compelling argument to PAY TEACHERS MORE.
Nope, words and terms matter, especially coming from your side of the isle to describe your leaders. Ezra doesn’t really state Obama “is governing as a mod republican” he is stating he IS a moderate republican. As far as I can tell.
One man’s moderate republican is another man’s pragmatic liberal. Case in point. Do you think if it was practical, or even possible to have gotten a PO, or single payer, that Obama would have shunned that opportunity? A moderate republican would certainly have. A pragmatic liberal would not have. I think Obama would have signed up for such pure liberal policies, if there was any chance of them getting passed into law.
If liberals want to change the narrative, then they need to start with what they themselves say, and say to hell with conventional wisdom speak.
@HyperIon: How do they figure this bottom 20%” GPA? SAT? Lists of best liberal arts colleges? Sounds like a “pulled out of my ass” statistic to me.
@HyperIon: Oh no…that’s not what he’s saying. He’s either saying that the wimmin-folk need to get back into the kitchen if they’re married and back into the classrooms and nurses uniforms if they’re spinster-minded, OR he’s saying that all teachers need to resemble those in films like Dangerous Minds and Freedom Writers, working day and night, sacrificing all for nothing and never asking for proper compensation or benefits.
No, it’s an argument that we should fuck them over every way we possibly can. If we’re already getting the dregs, we should be paying them like dregs.[/wingnut]
ETA: I notice that the wonders of the market never seem to apply to the salaries of anyone except top corporate executives. If we’re having a hard time getting enough good people to fill any other role in society, the solution is always to outsource or bring in more cheap immigrant labor, never to try paying enough to attract talented workers.
It was just flat embedded in his DNA after a childhood of having the cool athlete guys laugh at his sax-playing obese butt.
True, or pundit projection?
Since we’re on the topic of shitty high school experiences, does anyone have an opinion on the cause(s) of the great middle school collapse that Drum mentions at the end of this post?
So some California UC Santa Cruise Gen-Xer claims Clinton is faking the blue collar bubba bit? Good to see superficial, shallowness and projection aren’t just a conservative thing.
My best guess: that’s when the kids figure out how the system is rigged and stop working because they assume it’s not going to help. It might also be when problems with drugs and teen pregnancy really start to take a toll.
@Bob L: Wrong Klein.
Seems everyone is trying to point fingers now a days. Look in the mirror. If voters didn’t vote for these morons the problem would be solved. Ditto for people who don’t vote which in effect is a vote against their own self interest!
The best part, of course, is that the same dynamic that Klein sees in teaching is in journalism, though reversed. We used to get working-class guys doing reporting, because it was too declasse and dirty for nice middle-class men to bother with.
Once the pay started to go up, though, suddenly reporting wasn’t quite as dirty a business as it once was, and the “profession” was flooded by middle and upper class idiots with master’s degrees and no understanding of how regular people live.
Samuel Fuller started off as a reporter (and even made a semi-autobiographical movie about it). Nuff said.
I think what Joe Klein is trying to do with the teachers comment is to pull a Malcolm Gladwell (or Freakonomics) on us.
“See! I’m smart and I can piece together interesting facts to create novel insights!”
Of course, the idea that Republicans are acting crazy because women had more career choices is ( a ) offensive ( b ) stupid, and ( c ) did I mention stupid?
Which begs the question: since Joe Klein is old enough to have had crazy smart teachers, what’s his excuse?
In other news, I still applaud his clear writing in saying how crazy the Republicans are acting.
CNN is trying to do the same with headlines like
Pretty good headline, right? But then in another article, they say:
“He said / she said” journalism is a hard habit to break.
<snark>Next up, an interview with a man who claims to be the president of the united states!</snark>
@Fred: As Mark Knopfler said “When you point a finger ‘cos your plans fell through, you got three more fingers point back at you.”
Preach it. Too bad being an asshole didn’t prevent him from realizing his dreams.
And I really don’t think it’s germane. Maybe teachers were “smarter” or something because they should have been brain surgeons instead; but it’s a different set of skills entirely, and the last thing I do want is to send my little six year old off to school to be tormented by a bitter and hateful woman who wishes she’d had a shot at what she really wanted to do.
And for that matter, knowing my six year old, if female, doesn’t have a shot either would really make me angry and bitter.
I thought that Ezra column was one of the dumber things he has written thus far. Why, oh why, did none of the remaining so-called “moderate Republicans” remaining in the House or Senate vote for the Affordable Care Act if it was so in line with their interests?
It’s mighty tough for liberals to complain about the dynamics of DC being stacked against them when this is what we get from someone ostensibly fighting for our side.
You could say that middle and upper class idiots with master’s degrees and no understanding of how regular people live where attracted to the “profession” because pay went up, OR… you could say that media owners increased the pay because they wanted to attract middle and upper class idiots with master’s degrees and no understanding of how regular people live to the “profession”.
@Roger Moore: Also throw in that middle school is a big change in how school operates. The students go from a single class with one teacher to a schedule where the class room changes and the teachers change by subject. It can throw off a student’s balance of how to work. This was an observation made by many of the field workers at the educational non-profit I once worked for. They would have to explain this to the volunteers who would be working with middle school students.
I didn’t read Ezra that way on this one. I guess from my perspective, governing as a moderate Republican is fine if it’s done competently. ACA was a huge victory however you describe it.
@Omnes Omnibus: Fucking typos.
Cliff in NH
Hello!! Underpaid brilliant teachers were able to get better paying jobs. Thus the idiocracy. (lower paid less qualified teaches took their place)
Pay Teachers More.
How did American politics get screwed? By everyone in it being or becoming greedy.
My faith in humanity is so very low right now. Someone I think of as a good friend emailed me a racist joke. First, I can’t believe she thought I would think it’s funny, and second, I can’t believe she thought it was funny.
@Cliff in NH: The argument isn’t so much that current teachers left, it is is that people who in previous generations would have been funneled into teaching began to have other options and took them.
@WereBear: A story from the mid-1970s. A college friend, a Jewish female, was a bio-pre-med. She applied to 6 med schools. The letters of acceptance began to come in — 4 turn downs, 1 waiting list, 1 acceptance — in that order. She kept being told by her parents and relatives that “nice Jewish girls became teachers and then got married, they didn’t become doctors.” She really wanted to be a doctor. I listened to her a lot about how bad she was feeling until that acceptance came in. Another friend one day told her the same thing about being a teacher and I took him by his collar outside the office we were in and told him I wanted to toss out the window because I’d just gotten her calmed down after she called home and got that stuff from her mother again.
Don’t forget, Klein is a millionaire because of Primary Colors, essentially an entire book of making shit up about Bill Clinton.
@cathyx: Ugh that’s the worst. How did you handle it?
Speaking of Albert Shanker –
The High Cost Of Closing Public Libraries
I can’t believe Patsy Cline would write such a thing. Wait, what?
I agree with Ezra’s points about Obama being a moderate in action. However, I don’t think Obama would have ever been a Republican. We have to consider other things in the analysis. It is not just what legislation actually passes it is what a president chooses to bring up. Obama has brought up health care, financial reform, conservation, investments in science/trains. Plus Obama has tried to increase many regulations and add more IRS employees to enforce the tax law that no moderate Republican would ever prioritize doing, even years ago. Republican moderates have always talked a good game on some issues dear to liberals but they never act on them. See Specter, Arlen before he switched to Democrat. That is why George H. W. Bush did not enact universal reform or sign anything equivalent to repealing DADT or guaranteeing equal rights to federal employees. So Obama shows he is a Democrat through and through in his priorities.
What I don’t like about Ezra’s column is that he seems to assume that “moderate Republicans” develop policy solutions to problems on their own initiative. It seems to me that they only propose solutions when faced with the prospect of having to head off Democrats actually doing stuff on their own. When was the “moderate Republicans” agenda during the W. years?
Cliff in NH
Duh. that’s the whole fucking point of the quoted statement.
@gex: I sent a reply that I didn’t think it was funny. She replied that she didn’t mean to offend me and she wouldn’t send me anything else. I replied that she can keep sending me stuff, just not racist jokes. I wonder that she didn’t think it was a racist joke since it wasn’t about black people, but I haven’t seen or talked to her since this happened. She’s not that with it. I admit that I have some friends who I haven’t ever talked politics or anything of a serious nature with, because if I did, I probably would have no or 1 friend. I may have 1 less friend now.
Ha ha! Classic. Good question.
One of the biggest issues for people like Joe Klein is that being “famous” and “successful” for so many years has rendered them (seemingly) utterly incapable of self-awareness. A hungry young Joe Klein trying to make it in this world does not write that crap about feminazis ruining the body politic — unless he’s trying to secure a gig at Weekly Standard (and considering Joe thinks of himself as center-left, this is somewhat likely). He just thinks twice before hitting “send” on that crap — even if he personally thinks it’s true.
They did. They just all happen to be in the Democratic Party these days.
No member of the radical reactionary opposition party voted for it. That was, you know, the entire point of Ezra’s column.
Obama is trying to be bipartisan in the tradition of H.W. Bush and Clinton (and heck, even Reagan), and reactionaries have poisoned the well and hurt the country instead.
@Elia Isquire: Like I said earlier, it’s all about greed.
I agree with you about moderate Republican governance, but tragically, that is a thing that no longer exists. And that is a part of the beef I have with Ezra’s column. It smacks of Juice Box Mafia shenanigans and being too cute by half.
It’s a fine piece as an exercise in the abstract, but I think it’s absurd to give Republicans any credit of any kind regarding the Affordable Care Act. Liberals should be perpetually banging the drum that Republicans, even the “moderate” ones, completely turned their back on solving health care issues this country is drowning in. Why give them even a smidgen of credit for an issue that they turned their back on for almost two decades and then unanimously rejected when it finally came up for a vote?! Why is the narrative anything except “Democrats have claimed the mantle as champions of improving Americans’ access to affordable health care, while Republicans completely turned their backs on addressing the needs of their fellow citizens, desperately in need”?
Because, yes, the Affordable Care Act was a major accomplishment and not a single fucking Republican signed on to see it through. That’s what makes comments like Ezra’s so galling. You are giving these motherfuckers credit for issues that they have all turned their backs on.
you ALMOST got through that post without saying ‘young buck.’ but agreed, the media is one long parade of strange and unpleasant neurotics.
@Cliff in NH: We are obviously talking past one another. My only point was that the 40 year old teacher with 18 years of experience probably wasn’t going to change jobs, but her daughter was less likely to consider teaching as a career.
On behalf of my very smart wife who is a semester away from achieving her dream of becoming a teacher, and my very good friend who left the engineering profession to teach the subject to high school students, let me say, “Fuck Joe Klein.”
I believe that all American politics post-Nixon is dominated by stories of strapping young bucks buying T-bone steaks. No one else will say this so I am picking up the slack as best I can.
I got the point. I just think it’s a dumb fucking point in a rather awful article.
That is certainly true. I’ve been reading Yglesias and Slate recently so I’ve become inured somewhat.
Just Some Fuckhead
Why not? They propose and invent unpopular policies that Democrats then enact and they can benefit by a) having their unpopular policies enacted by Democrats and b) looking like they oppose said policies.
The core of the ACA in political and ideological terms, is the idea of government mandated universal health care coverage, or near it, regardless of how it is constructed to be delivered. This is not in the slightest way “republican”, moderate or otherwise. It is a fundamental ideological dividing point between the two parties and their fundamental worldview. And I think it is important to relentlessly draw that distinction. No dem, or dem supporter should be in any way stating or implying that it has anything whatsoever to do with the GOP. Not the least of which reasons are that not one of them voted for it. Collins and Snowe are 90’s mod repubs, and they would not touch it with their votes.
I realize Ezra’s larger points and mostly agree with them, but a liberal at his level of punditry should be a bit more careful how he describes the dem crown jewel legislation passed by democrats that is the ACA, and democrats only. This is important, at least to me.
@cathyx: I don’t know if it makes you feel any better, but I think you did the right thing by telling your friend how you felt about the email. If she’s a true friend, you guys will figure out how to remain friends.
@Just Some Fuckhead:
I get it. You think the Affordable Care Act is a Republican abomination dressed up in Democratic Party clothes.
Personally, I think it was a fucking awesome victory in a century long battle and laid a pretty solid foundation for liberals to go to work with.
I think we can both just leave it there.
That was a righteous rant, Doug.
@Midnight Marauder: No! No! You must argue for 50+ comments and upwards of 90 minutes while knowing that you won’t ever change the other person’s opinion.
If there’s one thing liberals should be discussing/arguing about, it’s ACA. Health care is probably the most important issue right now.
Cliff in NH
well, you have to read the quote…. that was the whole point.
and also, I know a teach who quit teaching english to get a high paying finance job, and she has been very diligent about upgrading her finance credentials constantly – not her teaching credentials… which have been completely abandoned for decades.
Guess why she didn’t keep teaching? It wasn’t the screaming kids, it was the pay.
Cheryl from Maryland
@Southern Beale: Really. Fuckin’ A. Let Joe Klein work for shit pay because it’s a noble profession and teaching suits his “natural” disposition. Actually, collecting the trash is beyond his “natural” disposition.
I think the Obama administration itself might just prefer Klein’s narrative on this one.
If they could get the media to go along with it, which narrative do you think the Obama people would prefer when it came to the ACA:
1. Culmination of the liberal welfare project.
2. Bipartisan, common sense, and humane reform.
Both are ostensibly true looking at the broader history of health care reform and political science in this country. But those in power tend to tack to the center when possible, rather than advance an explicitly “partisan” or “ideological” agenda.
Of course you do.
Nicolo and I resent that. There is nothing remotely machiavellian about the inhabitants of Distributed Jesusland.
They are uniformly not very bright.
@Comrade DougJ: I wouldn’t dispute that. I just think a lot of the arguments boil down to willingness to give Obama benefit of the doubt versus lack of willingness to do so (in terms of how good the health care plan is versus how good it could be). Not saying there can’t be enlightening discussions. But the direction that one seemed headed in… I think I’ve seen that before. It boils down to how hard people think Obama “fights.” And that’s subjective. I don’t fault people who agree to disagree rather than argue a shit ton with other people who already have ingrained, non-objective opinions.
How silly of me. I should have known that President Consensus Builder is secretly all about having his time in office being framed as radical, redistributive, and outside the mainstream! I bet he just loves it when voters don’t realize that he’s cut taxes and pursued moderate market-based reforms that are in keeping with the dominant, conventional strain of 20th century politics.
Yep, yep, yep, he is just such a firebreathing liberal crusader. It’s obvious now.
You are probably right, but I wasn’t really directing my point towards the Obama Administration and the way they’ve played their hand with regards to the ACA. It was more focused on supposedly liberal pundits ceding the entire rhetorical field to conservative framing.
That shit is gross.
@Cliff in NH: I know a generation of teacher who didn’t quit teaching; they all worked with my mother. There, I have matched your anecdote with mine.
Yes, it was very silly of you.
I suggest you sit out the next eight elections or so in favor of throwing your Xbox controller against the wall when you lose.
You’re a tedious back-seat driver that brings nothing useful to the table.
Cliff in NH
It’s too bad they are so under paid tho for what they do.
I have a secret admirer!
Well, come out with it, which name did you use to post under and what is it that I did once upon a time to cause you to get so very fwustwated with me?
Because shit, not even Midnight Marauder disagreed with my point. And pretty much everybody disagrees with me all the time. So it must go beyond that.
No matter what, you’re going to have to get in line. I believe stuckinred is the chairman of my anti-fan club at the moment. Don’t bogart his leadership.
@Bob Loblaw: It smells a lot like our hall monitor Allan.
I suspect the 80 percent of voters who already have insurance will be happy to now have the benefits of the new regulations giving them more security in a number of ways that have nothing to do with subsidized coverage for the minority that will need and receive that. That is where the pol benefit will come for dems, over the long term. And why I think the Obama administration would like to keep the narrative, and not give the goopers any credit whatsoever.
there will be a smaller number of folks, mostly younger voters who don’t often vote, that will be pissed at the mandate, but the pol win for dems is with the 80 percent who already have insurance.
Not only tedious, but narcissistic as well.
I think I know who you are now. And hey, Pajamas Media did what they had to do.
I think elite journalists have set up this fantasy morality play where their own high-school selves—geeky and unpopular but smart and hard-working—represent everything that is good while their insufficiently adoring teachers and cool athlete classmates represent everything that is evil. Of course, good triumphed, Joe Klein is a millionaire now, while the cool athletes (now adults) can’t earn a living wage and the teachers are being stripped of their collective bargaining rights.
Are you sure? Because they seem to spend a lot of time sucking up to the jocks who would otherwise be abusing them once they become successful (their admiration for George W Bush comes to mind).
This is going to lead back to their curious “defense” of Obama as too smart by half, and not one of the guys. Trump says Obama’s not very smart and purchased an education, pundits respond with: “Is this true? No, but some now fondly recall Clinton’s/Bush’s personal charm, regretting the icy intellectualism that Obama evinces on policy debates. Clinton/Bush lacked book smarts but you wanted to have beers with them. What happened to leaders who people could identify with?” Shit is eaten, grins effaced, etc.
@Jason: If they “remember” Clinton as not book smart, somehow they’ve forgotten the fact that he was a Rhodes scholar.