Broder at his most Broderesque

BRODER AT HIS MOST BRODERESQUE…. The Washington Post‘s David Broder, ostensibly the “dean” of the D.C. political media establishment, thinks he knows why Congress is so unpopular with the public in the wake of the debate over health care reform. Care to guess his explanation?

If you said, “because Democrats and Republicans aren’t being bipartisan enough for the Broderesque mainstream,” you’re not only correct, you’ve also probably read most of David Broder’s other columns.

[T]he partisanship on both sides was a turnoff to independents. They were the people who had taken Obama seriously when he said he wanted to move Washington beyond the recriminations of the George W. Bush years. Regardless of their views on health care — or the economy or education or anything else — they are turned off by the inability of both parties to overcome their parochial concerns and agree on steps to curb the joblessness and debt that are consuming the country. […]

This is a country that is feeling the pinch. It has little or no tolerance for politics as usual…. That’s why Congress is in trouble.

Sigh.

I just don’t know how a media professional, who watches political events from the front row for a living, can sincerely embrace such tired, predictable observations. For Broder, it seems every dynamic political conflict can always be stripped of its complexities and summarized the same way: if both parties would put aside their differences, everything would be fine. This has become the Broderesque cliche precisely because the columnist has been writing the same thing, over and over again, in column after column, for as long as anyone can remember.

But as long as Broder keeps pushing the line, it’s probably worth emphasizing why it’s misguided. For example, Broder pointing to “independents” as a coherent, self-contained group is lazy and incorrect.

What’s more, on the larger point, Broder continues to dismiss as inconvenient the fact that the two major political parties have very different agendas and worldviews. They’re supposed to disagree, and they do. Each party wants to take the country in significantly different directions, and while it’s easy to say the parties should get along, put aside their differences, and work together, that’s not how American politics works.

Broder urges the parties to “overcome their parochial concerns and agree.” That’s a charming idea, to be sure, but it’s advice devoid of substance. Which of the parties’ concerns are “parochial”? What is it, exactly, that they should “agree” to do? Broder doesn’t say.

Which policy ideas have more merit? Which deserve public support? Should the governing majority pursue the platform they ran on, or should they make concessions? And if so, which concessions make sense? Broder doesn’t say.

That’s not what Broder columns are for, I suppose. They’re published, again and again, to tell Democrats and Republicans to stop fighting for what they believe in, and meet in some amorphous, undefined “middle.” It’s hard to take such suggestions seriously, and few do.