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a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Drum strikes out Mallaby to retire the side

Posted by Thomas Nephew on August 31st, 2006

After Townhall.com mudslinger Herman Cain and the L.A. Times editorial board fouled out last week, cleanup hitter Sebastian Mallaby stepped to the plate for the Wal-Mart Shills on Monday with “Shopping for Support Down the Wrong Aisle.” Observing that opposition to Wal-Mart has infected even the inner sanctum of the DLC — Biden! Bayh! Clinton! even (gasp) Lieberman! — Mallaby adopts the old “more in sorrow than in anger” tone,* fretting:

How can supposedly centrist Democrats defend this betrayal of their principles?

… and disingenuously locating the supposed objection to Wal-Mart in Chinese imports, rather than American union-bashing, communities racing to the bottom, workforce exploitation, and rule by fiat over much of the rest of what passes for the American economy these days.

Now of course the cynical answer to Mallaby’s question would be “What principles?” But believe it or not, I don’t like cynical straight up, so I recommend Kevin Drum’s answer as well:

Well, here’s the thing. When every single moderate Dem starts attacking Wal-Mart, maybe nobody’s betraying any principles at all. Instead, maybe they’ve figured out something that Mallaby hasn’t: it’s not the 80s anymore and things have changed. And one of the things that’s changed is that Wal-Mart has gotten a lot bigger, unions have continued shrinking, working class wages have stagnated, and corporate power has grown tremendously. It’s perfectly rational for even moderate, pro-business Dems to look at the record of the past couple of decades and conclude that things have gotten pretty far out of whack and that Wal-Mart is a good symbol of this imbalance.

Drum even stuck a Wake Up Wal Mart button to his post for good measure. And the whole Washington Post editorial board might do well to study where Drum takes the argument next:

In other words, reality matters, not just politics. At one of my panel sessions this weekend, a member of the audience asked if reading blogs for the past four years had made me less willing than before to give George Bush the benefit of the doubt. I answered that it would be silly to pretend that reading people like Digby and Atrios hadn’t affected my political views, but that something much more important had happened during my time reading blogs: George Bush had mismanaged the country for four years. Anyone sentient who has simply watched Bush govern during that time would be less inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. Hell, even conservatives feel that way.

The same is true more broadly. There’s a reason that so many former moderates are so irate these days, and it’s not because they aren’t moderates anymore. It’s because moderates should be irate over the events of the past decade. People like Mallaby seem unable to figure that out, and therefore assume that any change of heart is motivated not by events, but by a “betrayal” of principles.There are Democrats I’m willing to believe this about, and there are others I’m less sure of. No matter: they’re all showing up at Wake Up Wal-Mart rallies now. And that speaks volumes about where the political center of gravity is shifting on the issues of Wal-Mart, the “dwindling anti-trade labor movement,” and freeloading as business model. Mallaby may splutter, and Lieberman may have his fingers crossed behind his back, but Wal-Mart’s unscrupulous, unwise, and unAmerican domination of this country’s economy may be nearly over.

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* I imagine a Shirley Temple voice asking “What’s happening to my very favoritest party ever?”

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