A couple of projects–a Moot Court appellate advocacy competition and beginning production on a sketch comedy show–have kept me away from my beloved Same Subject. This post, unfortunately, deals with something I read on Matt Yglesias’ blog. I put off writing it because I don’t want to turn my Same Subject into “one sided arguments with Matt Yglesias.” But he makes a point that so perfectly distills Beltway myopia that I had to point it out:
Quoted at length:
I was reading Corey Robin’s rountable discussion of lefties wondering what the deal is with Barack Obama and kind of choked over the idea, expressed by one participant, that “I really see no daylight between his and both [Irving] Kristols’ politics.”
This kind of thing always makes me want to pursue the follow-up question: “compared to what?” I remember well the contention that there wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference between George W Bush and Al Gore. And, indeed, there wasn’t. Both wholeheartedly embraced American military hegemony as a foreign policy and the neoliberal “Washington Consensus” approach to international economic policy. Both emphasized improved education as the key to long-term prosperity, both valorized capitalism as an engine of growth, and neither in any meaningful way challenged the various prevailing economic and social dogmas of the era. And yet looking back in concrete terms, it seems to me that the 2000 election turns out to have been one of the most consequential in American history. That’s because while both Bush and Bill Clinton pursued policies from within the paradigm of the elite American ideological consensus of the post-Cold War era they actually pursued very different policies….In a sense, all American Presidents have been cut from the same bland consensual cloth. But in another sense, American public policy obviously changes from time to time often in important ways.
I’m going to admit off the bat I don’t know what “consensual cloth” is. But other than that, I think there’s something to Yglesias’ thinking that the left and center-left needs to accept: we can’t prove any of that stuff about Gore being better than Bush. And as evidence, I’ll point to the presidency of Barack Obama.
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