I've never met Amanda Taub and do not know a thing about her except what I could piece together from a couple of her bios out there in the great big internet.
She graduated University of Illinois University High School right about the time Texas governor George W. Bush won the 1999 Iowa Straw Poll and was road-testing the bullshit phrase "compassionate conservatism".
Not very long after that, Team Bush killed the campaign of his political rival -- Senator John McCain -- by unleashing one of the filthiest and most racist whisper campaigns in modern presidential history. Because South Carolina Republicans go for that sort of thing.
And while John McCain was discovering just how lethally effective rousing the racist base of the Republican Party could be, Ms. Taub off to the University of Edinburgh to pursue “a joint degree in literature and political science".
After that, she vaulted over Hadrian's Wall to pursue a "Masters Degree in Violence, Conflict, and Development Studies from SOAS at the University of London."
And after that, back across the Atlantic for another degree -- this time a J.D. from Georgetown, which she completed in 2007. Then a few years at a litigation house in New York City. Then the inevitable stint at Vox specializing in "foreign policy, human rights, and shetland ponies." And since last summer she has been a regular contributor at The New York Times where she has written about, foreign policy and human rights but not (as far as I could tell) Shetland ponies.
So what do we know about Ms. Taub? We know that she is very well-credentialed and could undoubtedly kick my ass at Genocide and Tyrant Trivia every day and twice on Sunday. We also know that she spent most of her adult life deep the Elite University Bubble before taking the shuttle over to the Elite Media Bubble. And there is nothing in the world wrong with that: the world needs all the foreign policy experts and human rights advocates is can get, and if they're also packing a JD in their rucksack, all the better!
However, for those who have been fortunate enough and capable enough to make a life for themselves among the rarefied heights of towers of ivory, there exists an occupational hazard not unlike the Synthecoccus novae virus (which will be accidentally created by the sterile, technological society of the 23rd century and will cause, among other things, Mr. Spock to jam badly and inexplicable with space hippies):
Truly the survivors will envy the dead.
Anyway, the modern, non-fictional environmental ailment I am referring to is known variously as Elite Opinion Dependence Disorder, Ideological Asymmetriphobia and David Brooks Syndrome. It happens when elite opinion-havers who have lived too long inside an Elite Bubble stray far outside their areas of expertise and suddenly finds themselves hip deep in shit about which they don't know the first damn thing.
Which is no big deal, except when, those very well-credentialed people work for newspapers with deadlines and find themselves hip deep in shit about American politics, media and culture about which they don't know the first damn thing, far too often their overwhelming impulse is to follow the same course which served them well at every other elite institution which they have ever called home: seek out the most revered dogma of the long-term residents of their ivory tower and reverse-engineer it to fit their current assignment.
And thus did the very well-credentialed Ms. Taub make a damn fool of herself in The New York Times today:
Why Americans Vote ‘Against Their Interest’: PartisanshipWorking-class Americans who voted for Donald J. Trump continue to approve of him as president, even though he supported a health care bill that would disproportionately hurt them.Highly educated professionals tend to lean Democratic, even though Republican tax policies would probably leave more money in their pockets.Why do people vote against their economic interests?The answer, experts say, is partisanship. Party affiliation has become an all-encompassing identity that outweighs the details of specific policies...
What follows is just one more, dreary, by-the-number Both Sides Do It column which you have already seen a million times before. As always, the tent-pole is a single, perfunctory and objectively ridiculous "example" of Both Sides doing something, which in no way supports the premise of the essay. This is followed by psychologists and/or professors waxing on about the concept of "partisanship" in an abstract and heavily expurgated manner devoid of historical or political context.
As with Mr. David Brooks' Great Project --
..it is now painfully clear that Mr. Brooks is engaged in a long-term project to completely rewrite the history of American Conservatism: to flense it of all of the Conservative social, political economic and foreign policy debacles that make Mr. Brooks wince and repackage the whole era as a fairy tale of noble Whigs being led through treacherous hippie country by the humble David Brooks.
-- in Ms. Taub's very well-credentialed fairy tale, Fox News simply does not exist. Neither does Lee Atwater or the Southern Strategy. Newt Gingrich and GOPAC are nowhere to be found. Neither is Rush Limbaugh and 30 years of Hate Radio.
For Ms. Taub, our politics are just a free-floating universe of partisan tribal identifiers completely unmoored from actual policy differences or facts or consequences. Just Team Blue and Team Red locked in perpetual and escalating hostility not because their differences actually matter, but just because they're Team Blue and Team Red:
Everything from climate change to health care to public education stripped of political context and moral implication. Just an intellectual curiosity to be puzzled over by academics floating high and detached above the world.The result of those overlapping, powerful identities is that Americans have become more willing to defend their party against any perceived threat, and to demand that their politicians take uncompromisingly partisan stands.But while those demands can affect policy, they are rooted in emotional attachments, not policy goals. “When we talk about being a sports fan, there’s no policy content related to that,” Ms. Mason said. “It’s just this sense of connection. And that’s powerful! It makes people cry. It makes people riot. There doesn’t really have to be any policy content for people to get riled up, and to be extremely committed.”
This, right here -- the passing down of the Villager's Both Siderist pathology from one generation to the next -- is what must not be allowed to continue.