Joe Nocera does a pretty good job on the Republicans in his NY Times op-ed today, but he spoils it near the end with this piece of nonsense:

A party controlled by its most extreme faction will ultimately be forced back to the center.  The Democrats learned that when Walter Mondale was losing to Ronald Reagan, and Michael Dukakis to George H.W. Bush.  Now it is the Republicans who don’t seem to understand that their extreme tactics are pleasing a small percentage of their countrymen but alienating everyone else.

Nocera thus demonstrates his susceptibility to that common affliction of the mainstream media: false balance.   He couldn’t trash the Republicans without saying something equally trashy about the Democrats.   But today’s Democrats clearly are no match for the Republicans’ radicalism, so he hearkens back to a mythical age of Democrat extremism.   What improbable extremists:  Walter Mondale, who in 1984 advocated nothing more radical than a tax increase to curb the deficit.  Michael Dukakis, who, having dourly promised to wage his 1988 presidential campaign on “competence, not ideology,” trashed an assertively liberal draft speech for his Labor Day rally.  (He called it “populist shit.”)

It is preposterous to suggest that the Democrats of the 1980s (or of any era) constitute some kind of analogue to today’s Republicans, who are (yes, I’m repeating myself) the first genuinely radical major party in US history.  Nocera thus understates the Republicans’ lunacy, which was supposed to be his main point.




  1. Bill Anscher October 1, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    I’m disappointed in Nocera’s comment but what bothers me even more is the large number of newscasters blaming “Congress” for failing to act to stop the shutdown. The blame rests squarely on one sub-set of Congress – the conservative (whoops – scratch that terminology), the extreme right wing of the Republican party.

    • Bill Anscher October 1, 2013 at 8:21 pm

      Actually I reread my own comment and should change it – the fault lies with all the Republicans who did not have the courage to stand up and say this is lunacy.

  2. Mel Brender October 1, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    What worries me (see Ryan Lizza’s piece in the New Yorker Online: is that the Republican intransigents most responsible for this nightmare live almost exclusively in parts of the US where Romney beat Obama handily, where there are fewer blacks than there were ten years ago, where they will be seen as brave warriors for principle.

    So rather than be punished for their lunacy, they will survive and live to fight to our bitter end.

  3. Art Steinberg October 1, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    The real issue is where have the “moderate, responsible” Republican/conservatives been throughout this debate. They are in the best position to influence the crazies among the House Republicans and state publicly that their behavior is irresponsible. This morning I heard someone from the Heritage Foundation giving his (seemingly reasonable)reservations about Obamacare but stating that he certainly did not support shutting down the government. Where has he been??

  4. Jeffrey Herrmann October 2, 2013 at 10:01 am

    We should be happy that the Repugnicans are acting like crazy arsonists in regard to the shutdown, given the polling (e.g., Quinipiac):

    American voters oppose 72 – 22 percent Congress shutting down the federal government to block implementation of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today.

    Voters also oppose 64 – 27 percent blocking an increase in the nation’s debt ceiling as a way to stop Obamacare.

    American voters are divided on Obamacare, with 45 percent in favor and 47 percent opposed, but they are opposed 58 – 34 percent to Congress cutting off funding for the health care law to stop its implementation.

    Republicans support the federal government shutdown by a narrow 49 – 44 percent margin, but opposition is 90 – 6 percent among Democrats and 74 – 19 percent among independent voters.

    However, when it comes to defaulting on pre-existing obligations of the US government on Oct. 17, the consequent immediate chaos and long-term harm will be so enormous that no amount of opprobrium heaped on the Repugs will make up for everyone’s losses.

    As Paul Krugman noted, the Repugs deny evolution and anthropogenic climate change, so why shouldn’t they deny financial disaster will be a consequence of default.

    But it will.

    • tonygreco October 2, 2013 at 11:19 am


      I was thinking of discussing those encouraging poll results in my next post, but you’ve done it for me. Thanks. I’ve had my doubts that the American people would perceptively place the blame where it belongs, but this poll suggests that they are doing so.


      • Art Steinberg October 2, 2013 at 8:02 pm

        I know the polls are encouraging, but throughout Obama’s first term, although polls often showed agreement with Democrats on specific issues, Republican obstructionism did not cause them to suffer much in the voting booth (e.g., the 2010 election). The 2012 election was an important victory, but Romney still got 47% of the vote. I am still skeptical that voters realize just how destructive Republicans can be. And the best example is the threatened failure to raise the debt limit and the resulting U.S. default.

  5. Judy Robinson October 2, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    I agree that Nocera was totally wrong to cite Mondale and Dukakis in this context. However, I think the McGovern nomination of 1972 could be used to support his argument.
    The most politically active Democrats during the years leading up to the nomination were those opposing the Vietnam war. Because of their activism, (and the relative passivity and ineffectiveness of others) they were able to dominate the primary and nomination process, but underestimated the distance between themselves and the electorate as a whole. This led to a Nixon landslide and contributed to the movement of the Democratic party back toward the center. (At least, that’s how I saw it.)

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