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
Some of the contradictions in Republican talking points on election law and voting rights are becoming clear to me, so I wrote about it at New York:
During the intense controversy raised by Georgia’s new election law, which included a negative reaction from Major League Baseball and a number of corporations, many defenders of the law have played a game of whataboutism. What about voting laws in Colorado, the state to which the MLB’s all-star game has been shifted? What about liberal New York? A lot of these comparisons have been factually challenged, or have zeroed in on one benign feature of the Georgia law while ignoring others. But it does raise a pretty important question: What is the posture nationally of the GOP or the conservative movement on the right to vote and its limits?
Not long ago you might have said that Republicans and conservatives were firmly committed to the view that rules governing voting and elections —even federal elections — were purely within the purview of state and local policy-makers. But that was before Donald Trump spent four years disparaging the decisions made by liberal and conservative jurisdictions on voting procedures whenever they contradicted his often-erratic but always forcefully expressed views. If, for example, voting by mail was as inherently pernicious as Trump said it was, almost daily from the spring through the autumn of 2020, allowing states to permit it was a Bad Thing, right? That simply added to the complaints made by Trump after the 2016 elections that California’s alleged openness to voting by noncitizens cost him a popular vote win over Hillary Clinton, and the widespread Republican whining after 2018 that the same jurisdiction had counted out Republican congressional candidates (whining that somehow subsided when Republicans did better in the exact same districts following the exact same rules in 2020).And that was before Team Trump and his many Republican enablers spent the weeks and months after November 3, 2020, shrieking about state and local election procedures around the country, culminating in efforts to get the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule state court interpretations of state election laws. Indeed, since Trump, his congressional Republican backers, and the Capitol riot mob were trying to block the certification of state election results by Congress on January 6, you could say that a major segment of the GOP wanted the federal government to impose its will on the states with respect to voting and elections.
And if the prevailing conservative idea is that decision-makers closest to the people should determine voting and election rules, then it’s hard to explain the provisions in the Georgia law (and in pending legislation in Texas) that preempt local government prerogatives decisively.
So what doctrine of voting rights does the GOP favor, other than whatever is necessary to produce Republican election victories? That’s hard to say.
Yes, at the Heritage Foundation you will find experts who more or less think everything other than in-person voting on Election Day should be banned everywhere. And now and then you will get someone like Kevin Williamson who will articulate the provocative old-school conservative case for restricting the franchise to “better” voters, which was pretty much the ostensible case for the poll taxes and literacy tests of the Jim Crow South. Unfortunately, snooty contrarianism isn’t a particularly helpful guide to the development of voting laws, and most Republicans (other than those caught in a gaffe) are unlikely to agree out loud with the Williamson proposition.
Until quite recently, most Republicans agreed that the jurisdictions that had for so many years discriminated against the voting rights of minorities deserved extra federal scrutiny and some additional hoops to jump through before changing their rules. In 2006, George W. Bush signed a 25-year extension of the Voting Rights Act that did just that, after it passed the Senate unanimously and the House with scattered opposition. Then a conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key feature of the VRA, and now it’s almost exclusively Democrats (via the John Lewis Voting Rights Act) who want to restore it. Where are Republicans on that idea? With the states and localities, or just with the states and localities where federal intervention in voting and election practices doesn’t inconvenience Republicans?
Whatever you think of Democratic attitudes toward voting and elections, at least they can answer such questions coherently. They have united to an amazing extent around highly detailed legislation (the House and Senate versions of the For the People Act and the aforementioned John Lewis Act) that generally expands voting rights and sets clear federal standards for procedures in and surrounding federal elections. The Republican response to these proposals has been almost universally negative. But it’s unclear what, if anything, they would propose of their own accord.
If the implicit GOP position on voting and elections is simply that such rules are part of the give and take of partisan politics and that both sides are free to play fast and loose with the facts and get what advantages they can, then I can understand why they are loathe to make it explicit. But in that case, people who care about voting rights one way or the other should simply choose sides and have it out.