Journalists Cheerfully Urinating On Senate Bill’s “Ideological” Critics | The Plum Line: It would really be nice if certain Beltway journalists could get it into their heads that the Senate bill’s critics on the left have actual substantive differences with the bill’s proponents, and are not motivated solely by “ideology,” whatever the hell that means.
Ronald Brownstein, for one, is actually trying to claim that Howard Dean opposes the bill because he’s a “wine track” Democrat who doesn’t lack insurance and hence has the luxury to indulge in ideological struggles.
Brownstein writes that Dean and the “digital left” are able to “casually dismiss” the bill because “they operate in an environment where so few people need to worry about access to insurance.” He adds that for these critics, the debate is “largely an abstraction” and merely a crusade to “crush Republicans and ideologically cleanse the Democrats.”
Brownstein doesn’t meaningfully respond to any of Dean’s substantive policy objections to the bill. If he did, he could no longer claim Dean’s critique is purely “ideological.”
He’s not the only one making this claim. Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The Times today wrote that “ideology” is “smacking the pragmatic president in the face,” presumably meaning that the word “ideology” is a good catch-all for all criticism of the bill. And Joe Klein has dismissed critics for being in the grip of “ideological fetishes.”
People using this word need to explain what they mean by it. Anyone who actually reads criticism of the bill on sites like Firedoglake and DailyKos can immediately see that much of it is substantive and detailed. Agree or not, most critics are making a case against the bill as flawed policy that will have adverse real-world consequences. Why is it “ideological” to claim a mandate with inadequate subsidies risks forcing people to buy insurance they can’t afford?
Indeed, some serious proponents of the bill — Ezra Klein, Matthew Yglesias, Steve Benen, etc. — are largely refraining from such blithe dismissals of the bill’s critics. That’s because they understand that there’s a real and complex policy debate underway, and realize the best way to serve the bill is to actually rebut the critics.
I think proponents are making a strong case. And no question, it’s excessive when the kill-the-bill camp denounces them as insurance industry toadies or weak-willed enablers of Joe Lieberman. But surely the debate isn’t well served by reckless shouts of “ideology,” which reveal nothing but an unwillingness to engage the substance of foes’ criticism.