June 14, 2012 · 0 Comments
By Charles P. Pierce:
It’s nice to see the news from Nebraska that Bob Kerrey is still, for my money, the single most useless Democrat not currently wearing Joe Lieberman’s underwear. He has recently given an extended sitdown to Matt Bai of The New York Times that seems to have made Bai’s heart go pitty-pat. But it truly isn’t Bai’s fault that Kerrey wanders through life believing that he could have been a contendah if only the presidency were an appointed position, or, perhaps, if candidates were simply required to leave their resumes on a table in the West Wing, next to the M&M’s with the presidential seal.
(Yes, they exist. And, yes, I have glommed some. Your tax dollars at work, beeyotches!)
“My view is that the jerks in our society are evenly divided among all income categories,” he said. “I think it’s important for rich people, especially on the Democratic side, to hear someone say thank you.”
No. Fk you. Many of them belong in jail and are not there. That’s thanks enough from the nation they helped to wreck.
Most striking, perhaps, is Kerrey’s contempt for the leadership of both parties in Washington, which makes him sound like some 1920s prairie populist.
Except that the actual prairie populists were contemptuous of both parties in Washington because both parties in Washington were in the pockets of the plutocrats. Here is what an actual “prairie populist,” Kerrey’s fellow Nebraskan William Jennings Bryan, had to say about that in his stump speeches back in 1901, and the basic message of the “prairie populists” didn’t change much from 1901 to the 1920′s. (The text is from Michael Kazin’s magisterial Bryan bio, A Godly Life.)
“Men sell their votes. Councilmen sell their influence, while state legislators and federal representatives turn their government from its legitimate channels and make it a private asset in business.”
On the other hand, Bob Kerrey thinks some Democrats have been insufficiently grateful to rich people. This is not populism, prairie or otherwise.
But this is who Kerrey is. He’s been scornful of even the most pale populism, and he’s been making dark noises about “entitlements,” for as long as he’s been on the national scene. They are no more accurate now than they were in 1988, and Kerrey is still pretty much fibbing his ass off about them. But, in the Bai story, he seems to have gotten himself astride a new hobbyhorse — the elimination of political parties in government.
One of his central proposals calls for a constitutional amendment that would ban party caucuses in Congress and establish nonpartisan elections for the House and Senate, much like the unusual system that has governed Nebraska’s Legislature since 1934. The amendment, as Kerrey envisions it, would also eliminate the unlimited campaign donations made permissible by the Supreme Court. Practically speaking, what all of this would mean, he says, is that there would be no “party line” to follow but rather coalitions based on ideology or shared interests.
Great. So now corporate Democrats won’t even have to pretend anymore that they have any allegiance to anyone else. Anybody want to guess what “shared interests” are going to mean in our current political context? And that’s not even to mention that fact that what Kerrey is proposing is completely impossible, even by constitutional amendment, because, as long as you have elections, people are going to band together in something like political parties, whether it’s legal to call them that or not. It is a distinctly American problem that in the past has defeated smarter people than Bob Kerrey….
“The nonpartisan pursuit of the public good, Washington’s persistent ideal, had by the summer of 1792 become impossible. For Madison, who in Federalist No. 10 had shown a deep understanding of factional politics, the development was unwelcome but hardly surprising. In becoming a party leader, he reluctantly accepted the partisan character of free government and came to see that what was at least a necessary evil could perhaps become an effective way to achieve constructive public goals.” (Ralph Ketcham, James Madison, p. 334)
After all, the” unusual system” that has prevailed in Nebraska for almost eight decades hasn’t exactly done away with partisan politics there. Which is why Bob Kerrey is odds-on to lose to a nebbishy Republican state senator named Deb Fischer, who is going to be riding a wave of money similar to the one that swept her past two better-known opponents in the Republican primary. The country has decided, maybe, that it’s had enough of Wise Men telling it to sit down and shut up and let “leaders” rule “from the middle,” where nothing ever really gets done, and where people still think of John McCain as having been a “leader.”