Greg SargentI really like Greg Sargent; I read his The Plum Line blog throughout the day. In particular, his gang (him along with Jamelle Bouie and Jonathan Bernstein) see the world pretty similarly to I.[1] But in his coverage of the Sequester, I'm afraid that Sargent is allowing Republicans to win.

The dynamic is an old one that Republicans are really good at using. They stake out some extreme proto-fascist position and insist upon it. The Democrats move to the right to meet them. The Republicans continue to insist they won't compromise. The professional centrists, of course, lament that the two parties just can't agree. And the liberals defend the Democrats by noting that the Republicans are being unreasonable. Eventually, a deal is reached that is far to the right of what Democrats would normally want, but all the liberals rejoice because the Democrats "won."

The problem is that the Republicans won: they ended up with more than they could ever have reasonably expected. And this isn't just true of particular battles. Right now, we live with an extremely conservative government. With a Democratic White House, we get policy that Nixon and even Reagan couldn't have dreamed of. Look at Supreme Court nominees! The great "liberal" justice John Paul Stevens just retired. He was put on the court by Ford. So we won't be dancing in the streets anytime soon.

I bring this up because this morning, Sargent wrote, The false Equivalence Pundits Are Part of the Problem. Everything he writes in the column is correct. But it is arguing on the conservatives' ground. David Brooks isn't make his ridiculous "Obama is to blame!" arguments because he seriously thinks that Obama is to blame. He is making these arguments so that we liberals will fight with him while the Republicans manage to pull the country ever to the right.

I don't know what to do about this. I fall into this same trap. And let's fact it: it is hard to get people to pay attention to an argument to eliminate the sequester altogether when the Republicans use this tactic. Also: the Democrats are the real problem here—Barack "Let's negotiate with ourselves!" Obama especially. But there must be some way to counter the conservative offensive. The first step, perhaps, is to not accept David Brooks' claim that he is a moderate.



[1] I know that "I" sounds awkward, but it is correct. If I used "me" it would indicate that they see the world the same way they see me.