Wednesday, October 19, 2022


Ross Douthat is a menace on so many levels – to our politics, to English prose and reason, and so on – that one would think if the Times allowed him to bring in a couple of ringers to help they would vitiate his awfulness. No such luck!  Bad as his columns are, their partisan/theocratic intent is at least more or less unconcealed. But in this “roundtable” collaboration with a couple of other nudniks he tries to portray himself as the friend of the “Politically Homeless” -- in fact the thing was titled “Politically Homeless is Not Politically Hopeless” before it got switched it to “The Midterms Look Very Different if You’re Not a Democrat or a Republican” – as if it weren’t just a Republican recruiting tactic dressed up as high-mindedness.  

Maybe someone at the Times realized some readers would notice that “Politically Homeless” is a red flag signifying that rank bothsider fuckery is coming – the sort indulged by Andrew Yang’s ridiculous Forward Party, and by stray dummies who think “the left wants to censor us because they reject creativity” (??) and thus are no better an electoral choice than people who literally compare them to literal Satan. This is bothsiderism with an extra helping of woebegone and winsome: People who apparently can’t deal with the stresses and hard choices of everyday life -- try to imagine them picking an internet service provider or a wedding dress – and, faced with shitty democrats versus stark raving fascists, choose not to vote for the side less likely to kill them, and instead complain that neither side is serving them so they’ll just sit and cry about it. 

But at least those guys seem sincerely childish. Even without the warning label, you can smell the wingnut shtick Douthat and his collaborators – Reason’s Stephanie Slade, and Tablet’s Liel Leibovitz – have concocted a mile away. Leibovitz:

I came to this country, like so many other immigrants, because I care deeply about two things — freedom of religion and individual liberties. And both parties are messing up when it comes to these two fundamental pillars of American life, from cheering on law enforcement spying on Muslim Americans in the wake of 9/11 to cheering on social media networks for curbing free speech.

On the one hand, Republicans using the actual government to spy on Muslim-Americans (and, under Trump, to keep Muslims out of the U.S. entirely – though maybe Leibovitz doesn’t mind that); on the other, Democrats not doing whatever the fuck they’re supposed to do when Twitter (not a branch of the U.S. government) enforces its Terms of Service on users. It’s bothsides bingo because they’re both “cheering”!

Though Liebowitz is supposed to represent the “left,” he gives no positive defense or endorsement for any liberal or left principle – he just makes the same scared noises about Trump as any Republican milquetoast might. Also he says he’s going to vote for GOP New York governor candidate Lee Zeldin, who’s a literal 2020 election denier – but that, too, is cool with Liebowitz, who actually finds it a reason for a “very big dose of – dare I say it? -- hope”:

Voters are gravitating toward candidates who are telling them coherent stories that make sense. To the political classes, these stories sometimes sound conspiratorial or crazy or way removed from the Beltway reality. But to normal Americans, they resonate.

I guess Big Lie bullshit is OK because it's resonant, and shows independence from the reality-based beliefs of the Beltway elite.

As for Slade, she’s a libertarian, and (as I long ago observed) that means a conservative with social anxieties so, sure enough, while she professes an “almost unimaginable abhorrence… toward some of the Republicans who would have to win in order for the G.O.P. to retake the Senate,” she nonetheless favors them to win the House because

… the sheer economic insanity of the Biden years — amounting to approving more than $4 trillion of new borrowing, to say nothing of the unconstitutional eviction moratorium and student loan forgiveness — is mind-boggling to me, so almost anything that could put the brakes on some of this stuff seems worth trying.

So, she’s mad that the Democrats gave people trillions in COVID financial aid, and hopes to return to power the other party that gave them trillions in COVID financial aid. (Douthat says this makes her sound “like a swing voter”; I’d give him points if I thought he actually knew what that meant.)

The whole thing’s preposterous, but craziest thing is this from Liebowitz:

…I look at the Democratic Party and see a lot of energy I love — particularly the old Bernie Sanders spirit, before it was consumed by the apparatus. I look at the Republican Party and see people like Ted Cruz, who are very good at kicking up against some of the party’s worst ideas. There’s hope here and energy, just not if you keep on seeing this game as red versus blue.

Douthat professes interest in this “Bernie-Cruz” coalition. I would pay a few dollars to see this roundtable reconvened so that the participants could explain what that coalition would be like. Democratic Socilaism without the Democracy and Socialism, but Owning the Libs? Hey, maybe that’s Tulsi Gabbard’s plan! 

Long story short, you should always be suspicious of crypto-non-partisan come-ons, and when it's peddled by post office wall fixtures like Douthat definitely hold onto your wallet.

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