Sunday, July 29, 2018


The bothsiderism in this New York Times story about the Georgia governor's race is awful:
... Georgia’s political middle, long the dominant force behind the state’s thriving commerce and pragmatic leadership, suddenly finds itself all but abandoned.

More starkly than in most midterm campaigns, the contest between [Brian] Kemp, the two-term Republican secretary of state, and [Stacey] Abrams, a former Democratic leader in the State Legislature, has come to mirror the disorienting polarization of the Trump era and expose the consequences of a primary system that increasingly rewards those who appeal to the fringes.
"Fringes"? Kemp is certainly appealing to them, promising to personally round up and deport immigrants in his own truck and vowing to "sign the toughest abortion laws in the country." Abrams is a mainstream liberal. She backs universal gun background checks and Medicaid expansion. The Times makes much of her advocacy for the removal of "the iconic carvings of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson" on Stone Mountain, but the carvings are inextricably linked to the revival of the Ku Klux Klan in the early twentieth century and to mid-century segregationism. They're distasteful even to some Republicans in Georgia. There's nothing extreme or fringe-y about wanting them gone.

But the Times is so infested with bothsiderism right now that even guest op-ed writers from outside the world of politics pick it up. Here's a piece by two social scientists, Leaf Van Boven and David Sherman, in which it's argued that action on climate change is stalled because voters of both parties are suspicious of the other guys:
In 2014 and 2016, we conducted two national surveys of more than 2,000 respondents on the issue of climate change. We found that most Republicans agreed that climate change is happening, threatens humans and is caused by human activity — and that reducing carbon emissions would mitigate the problem.

To be sure, Democrats agreed more strongly than Republicans did that climate change is a concerning reality. And among climate skeptics there were more Republicans than Democrats. Nevertheless, most Republicans were in basic agreement with most Democrats and independents on this issue.
So why can't we all sing "Kumbaya" and solve the problem?
... our research suggests the problem is not so much that Republicans are skeptical about climate change, but that Republicans are skeptical of Democrats — and that Democrats are skeptical of Republicans.
In other words, both sides are to blame. And how exactly does that symmetry express itself?

The authors told their subjects that certain climate change approaches were supported by members of one party or the other. The result was this:
We found, in both studies, that our participants toed the party line. Republicans supported climate policies that they understood to be backed by Republicans and were neutral toward policies backed by Democrats. Democrats supported policies that they understood to be backed by Democrats more than they supported policies backed by Republicans.
Wait -- Republicans "were neutral" toward Democratic-backed solutions, but Democrats "supported" Republican-backed solutions, albeit less than they supported Democratic solutions? That doesn't seem quite parallel to me.

Later, we're told:
Our studies revealed a consistent, if somewhat surprising, pattern: Political disagreement was substantially smaller when it came to Republican-backed policies.

In particular, there was very little distance between Republicans and Democrats when evaluating a Republican-proposed carbon tax.
So Democrats aren't resistant to Republican solutions the way Republicans are to Democratic solutions? If that's the case, why was this presented to us in a bothsides way?

I don't know if this is a framework imposed by Times editors or merely internalized by Times writers -- but it might make good business sense, because the letters column suggests that Times readers believe progressives are either half the problem or all of it.

Here are eight letters to the Times written in response to an article and an opinion piece about increased progressivism in the Democratic Party. Of the eight letter writers, seven believe that Democrats are going way too far:
Democrats Brace as Storm Brews Far to Their Left” (front page, July 22) describes the desire by some to move the Democrats farther to the left. This may work successfully in some districts, but it is a misreading of the loss in 2016, and it’s magical thinking to see it as a strategy for 2018 and 2020 on a national basis.


... we may be more successful in rebuilding an American pro-democracy majority if we liberals can genuinely come to respect the many decent white people who are fearful because of the fierce pace of cultural and technological change many of us are experiencing.


Haven’t we learned anything from the extremism on both sides of the aisle that has polarized this country? Democrats can brace for a slaughter if they move far left. It may be fine for some local races, but a presidential candidate needs to appeal to a wide range of people, and both parties need to moderate if sanity is to return to Washington.


Having grown up in Manhattan as a lifelong Democrat, I have found watching the conversion of Republicans to a Trump party painful. Watching Democrats run to the far left has been just as painful. It leaves Americans with so many bad choices. Would it be too much to request a party with liberal social stances on abortion and civil rights while also showing some fiscal responsibility?


Re “Democrats Are Moving Left. Don’t Panic,” by Michelle Goldberg (column, July 24):

... Ms. Goldberg cites national polls showing broad support for various initiatives considered left-of-center. I happen to agree with many of those ideas, but the only poll that counts is in specific states and congressional districts in Ohio, Kansas, Iowa, rural Minnesota, Orange County in California, northern Florida and other areas whose voters are up for grabs this November, and who are unlikely to be grabbed by the left or the right.


Democrats should panic. Supporting fringe candidates is a big mistake. Michelle Goldberg clearly believes that the vision of the far left is best for America, but not enough people agree, and every time another wild-eyed, wealth-redistributing, Israel-bashing, Euro-loving, border-erasing uber-leftist is nominated, the Republicans pop a bottle.
Does the content of the Times shape this thinking on the part of its readers, or does it merely reflect it? Either way, it's a bothsider world, and progressives struggle to be taken seriously in it.

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