Despite Election Results, Edsall Still Sees ‘Red’

By: Greg Mitchell

When John Tierney was finally ceremoniously booted off The New York Times? op-ed page, there was some hope that his guest replacement this month, Thomas B. Edsall, after a distinguished career at The Washington Post, would provide thoughtful commentary in that unliberal column slot.

So what does he do on Saturday? He offers advice to the Democrats on how they can avoid certain disaster for the party and stop trudging along as ?No.2.? He also states that liberalism is ?dead? and ?rigor mortis? will soon set in, and the party as a whole must undergo a ?painful transformation.? This comes on the heels of the Democrats? electoral triumph, and it comes from a man who in his recent book was prescient enough to write, “The Republican Party holds a set of advantages, some substantial and some marginal,? meaning that “the odds are that the Republican Party will continue to maintain, over the long run, a thin but durable margin of victory.”

Whoops. Turns out it was a thin Red line.

Talk about bad timing. Just weeks after the release of Edsall?s book, the GOP lost that predicted edge in the House, the Senate, statehouses around the country, and governorships. It?s amazing they still kept their majority at FoxNews. The leader of their party now sits in the White House with a 31% approval rating. Yet here is Edsall dispensing wisdom to Democrats.

The title of his book, by the way, is ?Building Red America.? The last I looked the building boom had gone bust for the Republicans, and Red America had turned pink or blue except in the Deep South and the Great Plains.

But Edsall has been wrong before. In 1991, a year before the Clinton victory, he wrote in his book, ?Chain Reaction,? that the Democratic Party was ?in danger of losing its stature as a major competitor in national politics.?

Edsall was so eager to sell his new book that he appeared recently on rightwing radio host Hugh Hewitt’s program, where he admitted that the mainstream media has an “overwhelmingly” strong liberal bias — making the job for his former colleagues in the industry so much easier — and estimated that Democrats outnumber Republicans in newsrooms by 15 or 25 to 1. This margin is not sustained by a single survey, even the slanted ones frequently cited by Hewitt and has brethren.

In his book, Edsall paints the Democrats as hapless and disorganized and forever outfoxed by Republicans on the campaign trail. Of course, in the fall campaign, the Democrats held their own with the GOP in the field, somehow found a stellar cast of attractive candidates, and revealed Karl Rove as an overhyped (by Washington Post insiders) genius ? celebrated for two presidential races won in the Supreme Court and by a few votes in Ohio.

In the book, Edsall mocks the Democrats? ?elitist? ways, declares that its candidates’ attempts to portray themselves as ?populists? will surely fail, and suggests the Republicans will probably “stay” in charge because they are culturally in tune with the majority of voters: “Traditional values of family, neighborhood, church, school, and the workplace are, to millions of voters, ‘money in the bank’ — they are what holds people together, providing security against a rainy day.”

Well, how has that worked out lately?

Like so many of his colleagues, past and present, at The Washington Post, he minimizes the true reality that trumps all of the above: the real silent majority are those who have come to distrust or despise the Republicans for rampant corruption, family values hypocrisy and lying about Iraq (and then handling the postwar war incompetently).

Perhaps that’s why the Republicans, besides losing all those seats, nationally and locally, failed to defeat a single Democrat running for re-election for the House or Senate.

Yet here is Edsall, in today’s New York Times, proclaiming that the party?s leadership ? cautioned only by Steny Hoyer and Rahm Emanuel ? will drive the party off the cliff if given half a chance. ?The Democratic Party can secure its 2006 gains, but to do so will require abandoning a decades-long willingness to indulge pressure groups on the left that no longer command broad popular allegiance,? he writes. He may be right about some of the oldline interests, but a new ?pressure group? — grassroots, Web-driven activists — now helps call the tune in many elections, and proved remarkably successful this year.

Prospects for 2008 are actually improved for these organizers, with many more vulnerable Republican seats in the U.S. Senate up for grabs. With Edsall predicting defeat, they might feel justified in expecting another sweep.


Related E&P story:

Edsall Responds to ‘E&P’ Editor’s Critique

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