One of the odd but revealing bits of intra-Left agitprop in recent years has been the lefty blogger campaign against The New Republic, the venerable liberal magazine. Despite its very diverse product (including anti-Iraq War writers like Spencer Ackerman, and seriously lefty writers like John Judis and Rick Perlstein), TNR has often been demonized on the Left, and lumped into the Evil D.C. Democratic Establishment. Markos Moulitsas regularly refers to TNR as “dying,” and when former TNR editor Peter Beinhart admitted he was wrong about the originial decision to invade Iraq, he was generally savaged in the blogosphere for having the temerity to do anything other than retreat, in sackloth and ashes, into perpetual silence.Last year Beinart was replaced as TNR editor by Franklin Foer, who immediately penned editorials supporting single-payer health coverage, and retracting any suggestion that TNR supported Bush’s Iraq policies. And now the magazine has been bought by a Canadian media firm that presumably cannot be accused of neo-conservative views.It will be interesting to see if TNR’s detractors give the magazine a break, or instead continue to attack it for allowing, not highlighting, unorthodox center-left arguments on Iraq and other issues. After all, there is a point of view in the progressive blogosphere that any dissent from the party line, as defined by themselves, reinforces “conservative memes” and cannot, cannot be tolerated. Free speech is limited to those who support the broader Cause, doncha know.When it comes to TNR specifically, one irritant to progressive blogospheric opinion is definitely going to be the continuing role of Marty Peretz as editor-in-chief. The big irony is that Marty’s fantasy is an Al Gore candidacy in 2008, which also happens to be the fantasy of Markos and other netroots detractors of The New Republic. In the unlikely event that Gore decides to run, it will be fascinating to watch lefty bloggers make common cause with Peretz, as against the ostensibly more liberal cynics at TNR and elsewhere.UPCATEGORY: Ed Kilgore’s New Donkey
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By Ed Kilgore
A lot of media outlets reported the unexpected defeat of the Farm Bill in the House this week. But there’s quite a significant backstory, which I wrote up at New York.
Back in the day, the Farm Bills enacted every five years to reauthorize major agriculture and nutrition programs were the model of bipartisanship. Indeed, the food stamp program (now called “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program”) was first devised in part as a way to extend support for Farm Bills to include urban legislators who didn’t know a combine from a snowplow.
The defeat of the latest Farm Bill on the House floor shows how far the old formula has unraveled.
In more recent and ideologically driven Congresses, the bills have sometimes attracted heat from the right, involving both libertarian-ish objections to crop subsidies and hostility toward food stamps as “welfare” programs for those people. Indeed, in 2013 the whole enterprise nearly went down (and wasn’t finished until 2014) over SNAP funding, with House conservatives not thinking cuts went far enough and Senate Democrats thinking they went too far.
With Republicans now controlling both Houses, the big initial Farm Bill controversy has been over the GOP’s desire (lashed along by the Trump administration) to toughen SNAP’s already significant work requirements. Indeed, this became a signature cause for lame-duck Speaker Paul Ryan, and a sort of shriveled booby prize for his frustrated plans to clobber entitlement programs and “welfare” before leaving Congress.
The SNAP provisions of the current Farm Bill guaranteed united House Democratic opposition, and also cost the votes of a few GOP “moderates.” But the bigger problem emerged when conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus looked at the overall dynamics and decided to take the bill hostage to their demands for an immediate House vote on the Goodlatte immigration bill — a measure more conservative than the president’s own in that it offers no permanent succor to Dreamers in exchange for the reductions in legal immigration and border wall funding. This in turn was a response to a very different maneuver by a group of endangered Republican moderates in blue- or heavily Latino districts to join with Democrats and force a vote on a bill that is significantly friendlier to Dreamers without all the nativist filler in the Goodlatte and presidential proposals.
In the end, all these problems were too much of a lift, and the bill went down decisively by a 198–213 margin, with 30 Republicans (actually 29, plus Ryan, who voted no to preserve the right to make a later motion for reconsideration) opposing it. As the GOP defectors keep pointing out, the program authorizations covered by the Farm Bill don’t run out until the end of September, so there’s time to work something out on both immigration and SNAP in time to avoid the mess that occurred last time around. But with so little else of substance on the House agenda this year (at least the Senate has confirmations to absorb its time), it’s entirely possible the Farm Bill will continue to attract hostage-takers until the end of the session….
Meanwhile, Paul Ryan’s desire for a little trophy he can take home to Wisconsin representing his desire to liberate poor people from the government’s help in making ends meet will be delayed one more time.