"RED AMERICA": BLUE...

"RED AMERICA": BLUE AMERICA'S FAULT? Rob Anderson's effort to cast liberal elites as the real bad guys in the Ben Domenech scandal does indeed seem more than a bit strained. Anderson speculates that Jim Brady hired Domenech precisely because he was a crude, unqualified caricature of conservative punditry that Brady, fogged by blue state elitism, perceived to be conservatism's true face.

Perhaps that's the case, but I don't actually recall a lot of the qualified, thoughtful conservative journalists Anderson cites as obviously better choices for the "Red America" gig rising up in anger at The Washington Post's hiring decision and deeming it to be an obvious effort to discredit conservative opinion. To the extent we heard anything from fellow conservatives upon the news of Domenech's hiring, it was encouragement and support. And however crude Domenech's writing and commentary has been in the past, the fact was that he was an up-in-comer in mainstream conservative circles -- having, for example, recently edited the new book by certified "thoughtful, serious" conservative writer Ramesh Ponnuru -- and a hand-wringing editor looking to appease a right-wing mau mau chorus might sincerely have thought he was a good choice.

I'd also like to state unequivocally (as Anderson himself acknowledges in a "to be sure" clause) that, whether "elitist" or not, both the famous Jesusland map and the Prospect's Dossier on red state social dysfunction provided outlets for liberals to let off some steam shortly after a devastating election loss -- a therapeutic service that was, I think, very necessary and probably healthy during a really dark period. Now, for a variety of reasons, including some serious substantive ones that Garance insightfully conveyed in her piece on values research, liberals should always avoid the temptation to sneer too much and too easily at conservative "heartland" culture. But what any of this actually has to do with the fact that a young right-wing comer and Washington Post hire turned out to be a crank and a plagiarist, I really can't say. Meanwhile, on the subject of elitism and regional resentments, I found Jon Chait's recent attack on Red State snobbery (also in The New Republic) a good deal more convincing.

--Sam Rosenfeld

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