Jonathan Chait

Political Scientist vs. Pundit

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Jonathan Bernstein fisks New York Times political analyst Matt Bai. First, Bai:

What all this probably means is that we are living in the era of the upstart. Thirty years ago, when you needed a party infrastructure to make a serious run for higher office, taking it to the establishment was quixotic venture undertaken on the national level, where a Jesse Jackson or a Pat Buchanan could at least make a powerful statement along the road to obliteration. (Recall Jimmy Carter’s indictment of Jerry Brown in 1976: “Don’t send them a message, send them a president.”)

Bernstein:

It seems that Bai has heard of Jimmy Carter.  That's good!  Now, my assignment for Matt Bai: go back and read about Jimmy Carter's 1976 campaign.  And then try to argue that Barack Obama, backed by Harry Reid and Ted Kennedy (and established party insiders such as David Axelrod and David Plouffe) was anything like Carter in '76.  What you're going to find is that "thirty years ago" was the era of the upstart, not now.  Citing Jimmy Carter to make a point that thirty years ago "you needed a party infrastructure to make a serious run for higher office" is like citing Spiro Agnew to make the point that at forty years ago, only seriously accomplished politicians with a deserved reputation for personal integrity were considered for the Vice Presidency.

Institutions like the New York Times provide enormous value in their reporting. But the tossed-off analysis has always been a soft spot, and the blogs have really helped expose that.

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