THE NORQUIST FACTOR....

THE NORQUIST FACTOR. After being wrong about a couple of things, Jon Chait's post winds up getting to the heart of the problem with the Netroots -- the admiration for their image of what Grover Norquist has done and the desire "to replicate on the left the comintern-like apparatus he has constructed on the right." As Chait writes:

It is true that the Norquist mentality has helped Republicans win elections. But plenty of conservatives wonder whether it has actually helped advance conservatism. Government, after all, has grown under Republican rule, and the fact that it now funnels more of its largesse to GOP-affiliated interests is of small comfort to honest conservatives.

You can see this in Kos' attack on liberal interest groups for attempting to . . . advance the interests of their constituents. As Mark Schmitt points out here, while what Kos is complaining about certainly is bad for the Democratic Party, it's totally vital to the ability of labor, environmental, and other groups to actually function. The reason one might want groups and individuals to subordinate their own interests to the cause of partisanship is that one party is, as a rule, superior to the other. But it's vital to understand that this would cease to be the case if progressive politics actually did become a Leninist vanguard movement utterly dedicated to advancing the interests of the party and the principle of democratic centralism.

Now I don't think this is really what the Netroots is all about. The Internet is a diverse place, and (as Chait actually acknowledges earlier in the post) you see at least sporadic efforts to shift the Democratic Party's substantive thinking on foreign policy away from misguided Chait-esque views in favor of superior ones, and that's all to the good. But it certainly is a prominent strand of thought in the blogosphere and, I think, a pretty terrible idea. It might or might not work electorally, but elections aside, the main impact of trying to copy the moral and intellectual fiasco that is the contemporary conservative movement would be to . . . replicate the moral and intellectual fiasco that is the contemporary conservative movement.

--Matthew Yglesias

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