Just below, Mark sticks his shiv into Mickey Kaus. I’m with him. Despite the fact that I agree with Kaus on particular issues (I was with him, basically, on welfare reform, and I’m certainly on Kaus’ side where education reform is concerned), he seems stuck in a time warp, where everything still looks like 1991. If it were still 1991, I’d understand. But–and I assume Kaus’s calendar is the same as mine–it’s not. The Republicans have done serious damage, for example, to how Congress is run, and this has had terrible consequences for the distribution of taxes in America, our fiscal condition, environmental politics, etc. To push Mark’s metaphor forward, Mickey is like the soldier who claims to be with your army, but somehow keeps pointing the cannon in the wrong direction. It is perfectly possible to hold many of the same views that Mickey does (not all of them–his position on Social Security couldn’t be more wrong) and still conclude that the really important question, today, is how to establish some sort of institutional control for the Democrats, in order to stop the worst of what the Republicans want to do (for example, even if you’ve got some concerns with raising the minimum wage, for example–and I do–the idea of tying it to making the estate taxation is almost comically regressive) and set the agenda for what Democrats would do if they get full control of Congress and the executive (like passing universal health care and restructuring the tax system).
Mickey seems to think, even now, that the most important task is to point out all of what is wrong with the Democrats. But in a two-party system, you have to pick a party and go with it. It is genuinely unclear to me what it is that Mickey actually LIKES about the Democrats, and why he prefers them to the Republicans. It is also unclear precisely why he thinks his current distribution of fire at his own troops is actually strategically sound. The real explanation is that Mickey’s approach has nothing to do with a strategic assessment of where criticism is most valuable. Instead, Mickey has simply developed a talent for attacking Democrats–it’s what he’s good at. So he keeps doing it. I understand that. I see in myself some of the same instincts. But these instincts are like evolutionary impulses that were productive adaptations to an environment that no longer exists. We’re in a new world Mickey, and have been for some time.