Worship Not False Idols? Groupthink Sails On in Caroline Kennedy’s Wake
In the wake of the spectacular meltdown of Caroline Kennedy with regard to. . . well, anything about her bid for the New York Senate seat—from her disastrous trip to upstate New York to her calamitous interview with the Times, her history of not voting and a job that involves voting, her unwillingness to release her financial records or even say what she stood for, her failure to tell her own people she was pulling out of the race, her willingness to blame it all on Teddy’s illness and her quick switch to the Bernie Kerik "blame it on the nanny" gambit after Teddy’s family got angry—it’s borderline incomprehensible that anyone would be arguing at this point that we would be lucky to be saddled with her as a progressive standard bearer.
The highly emotional, overwrought paeans to Kennedy’s superlative abilities attribute my personal opposition to her appointment to my support for Hillary Clinton. Aside from the fact that this makes absolutely no sense, I didn’t support Clinton — we were firmly committed to neutrality in the primaries, as we stated over and over again, which is why nobody involved with the fainting "groupthink" ever links to proof of this claim. It nonetheless gets passed off from one acolyte to another as holy writ. But rational thought seems to be in short supply as self-described "progressives" don’t recognize the cognitive dissonance involved in their cringing tributes to dynasties or their castigation of those who question them. It’s hard to view this as anything other than as part of a larger, somewhat Stalinist critique about deviation from the approved orthodoxies of a personality cult.
Rather than take ownership of their support for a clearly flawed candidate, somehow the "groupthink" of the
Jonas Brothers Caroline fan club has collectively evolved to a place where those who opposed her — including myself, Markos, Ezra Klein, Digby, Kevin Drum, Glenn Greenwald, Atrios, and others — are now responsible for the choice of Kirsten Gillibrand and anything she may do in the future.
Aravosis responds to the silliness better than I could:
In the law, we refer to this kind of logical fallacy as "post hoc ergo propter hoc." After this, therefore because of this. The idea is that the reason we got Gillibrand, a somewhat conservative Dem, is because some complained about whether Kennedy had the experience to be a successful Senator.
The quote above suggests that it was wrong to express concerns about Kennedy’s effectiveness… why? Because the governor then put in someone worse. Yes, and this is our fault how? Using the Blogometer’s logic, if a politician is leaning towards a bad decision, he shouldn’t be questioned about that decision lest he make an even worse decision.
Try that one in child-rearing some time. "Oh, I know little Jimmy is playing with the scissors, but if I take them away, he may go for the knife instead." Or at a national level, yes, our biggest mistake of the past 8 years was challenging George Bush and the Republicans TOO much. Had we only just sat back and done nothing, they’d never have wrecked the country. Oh yeah, we tried that sitting back thing. Didn’t work so well.
Blue America actually endorsed Gillibrand in 2006 based on Howie Klein’s recommend. I spoke to her myself at that time, and found her to be probably the most progressive person we could hope to elect to that particular seat by a long shot, though unlikely to be a hero. Her subsequent record has, as Howie notes, been more conservative than we would have liked, but I agree with Bowers that her willingness to oppose Wall Street interests is a good sign and certainly unexpected in a New York Senator. She’s a strong campaigner whose toughness is already earning her the ever-so-imaginative "Tracy Flick" comparisons, and as Julia notes she’s got good prospects to hold the seat in 2010 against a Republican onslaught (as opposed to Kennedy, whose public meltdown was all the more embarrassing due to the fact that there was no competition in sight).
Still, she’s hardly an ideal choice. Her position on immigration is horrible, and it needs to change. But as Markos notes, she’s under pressure from the left, and her new found support for gay marriage is a sign that she’s willing to move in that direction. As he says, "what made her successful in that district won’t make her successful statewide. So she either adapts, or she dies. And in the end, it’ll be the voters making that call. As it should be." Taking part in an organized, coherent effort to urge Gillibrand in a progressive direction would probably be more politically efficient than continuing to throw one’s panties at the Kennedy stage.
It’s quite possible that Caroline Kennedy just didn’t realize how hard public life was going to be, and that she overreached. She’s certainly got the contacts and the intelligence to retrench, learn from her mistakes and execute a strong campaign for the seat in 2010. I hope she follows through on one of her early commitments to run even if Paterson didn’t chose her. It would be great to see her act as one of the people pushing Gillibrand from the left.
If she’s tough enough to be a good Senator, she’ll be able to demonstrate that as an enthusiastic participant in the election process, something her dynastic forbearers were willing to do. It’s a challenge that any progressive, even her most fawning, obsequious devotees, should be happy to see her meet.