There’s a lot that could be said about Matt Bai’s NYT Mag profile of Mark Warner, which unsurprisingly says as much about Bai as about Warner. Bai’s faith in the conservatism of the average American, and the culpability of the uber-rich liberals in wrecking the Democrats’ appeal, will be familiar to anyone who read his chiding critique of Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson’s book for considering structural obstacles to Democratic resurgence when the problem was obviously those liberal Hollywood celebrities and crazed bloggers stopping the party from offering Americans what they actually want. What struck me most on reading the article was the way that Bai’s choice of anecdotes reinforces his narrative – which may also be a reflection of Warner sharing anecdotes that reinforce a similar one.

Bai notes Warner’s plans to reform Medicare and his “embrace of free trade,” as things which will antagonize that infernal liberal elite, even though, as his readers may recall from the 2004 election, the party’s coterie of fund-raisers and policy wonks and strategists and spin-meisters are not known for their support for including labor standards in trade agreements. Warner’s belief that eroding entitlements in the solution to global competition seems more likely to put him on a collision course with the low-income voters who depend on our social insurance net and who’ve borne the burden of neoliberal trade policy. But there’s no gesture towards such a confrontation in Bai’s piece; instead we get an anecdote about his being hectored by elitist liberals at a Bay Area dinner party:

Warner thought his liberal guests would be interested in his policies to improve Virginia schools and raise the standard of living in rural areas; instead, it seemed to him, they thought that they understood poverty and race in an intellectual way that he, as a red-state governor, could not…as some of the guests walked Warner to his car, one woman vowed to educate him on abortion rights. That was all he could take. “This is why America hates Democrats,” a frustrated Warner blurted out before driving away. (Still piqued a month later, Warner, speaking to The Los Angeles Times, summarized the attitude of the assembled guests about their plans to save the country: “You little Virginia Democrat, how can you understand the great opportunities we have?”)

To read this story, and Bai’s article, you would think the only people to the left of Mark Warner are Bay Area elitists with cash left over from their brie purchases to distort the primary process. Of course, Matt Bai isn’t the only elite journalist committed to a vision in which his self-styled centrism is the will of the masses and those to his left are an insular elite. Michael Crowley, in a TNR piece on the tensions between Steny Hoyer’s more TNR-friendly war position and Nancy Pelosi’s, chose to describe Pelosi’s inner circle this way:

In addition to her top confidant, the combative Miller, others with Pelosi’s ear include Rosa DeLauro of New Haven; Anna Eshoo of Palo Alto; and Jan Schakowsky, a fiery crusader from Chicago’s upscale Lakefront area. All are critical of the war.

Now I’ve had the pleasure over the past four years of discovering all kinds of things for which New Haven should be nationally known. But it isn’t. Probably, as many TNR readers recognize Lakefront as New Haven. So Crowley could as helpfully written about “Anna Eshoo of Palo Alto, Jan Schakowsky of Lakefront, and Rosa DeLauro, whose New Haven, CT district represents a largely low-income constituency.” I’m curious why he decided instead to specify how “upscale” Lakefront is. But maybe that just makes me part of the reason people hate Democrats.


Three out of five: That’s the majority of current Yale teaching assistants who’ve joined GESO and are now demanding that Yale recognize their union. Inspirational meeting tonight, with compelling speeches from GESO members about their platform, a strong show of support from Local 35 and from graduate student unionists from Penn and Columbia, and Congresswoman DeLauro, Attorney General Blumenthal, and Mayor DeStefano there to verify the results and pledge their support for a just settlement. Now it’s time for Yale to come to the table and level with the people whose teaching makes a Yale education possible.

In the latest round of the struggle for political license over Catholicism, Democrats, including my Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, have prepared a “Catholic Voting Scorecard” designed to demonstrate that when one integrates candidates’ stances on issues, from DOMA to child tax credit refunds, on which the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has taken stances, Democrats are better Catholics. Personally, I’d rather see John Kerry et al articulating the kind of Catholics they are and the policies that dictates (“My personal faith and political conviction demand that we mean what we say when we promise that no child is left behind”) than touting their fidelity to the policy proscriptions of the Conference of Bishops (“I’m 74% faithful!”). But this scorecard seems worth it, if nothing else, only for having elicited this tragically ironic condemnation:

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said both the bishops and the Democrats are confusing means with motives. “Many of the issues they’re talking about really have nothing to do with actual Catholic teaching or religion,” he said. “It is interpretation of economic policy.”

As I’ve alluded to before, the modern permutation of religion in political discourse into apologetics for social conservatism and the hollowing out of the economic justice which is central to all faiths is a deeply cynical and tragic abuse of the tradition. Where Jesus preached that the meek shall inherit the earth, Congressman King insists that whether the poor will have a share of the wealth of this nation is a matter of interpretation. This reminds me of nothing so much as last summer’s declaration by the Council of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations that “the budget is not a Jewish issue.”