Out of Touch - Democrats, Republicans, or The Economist?

In the battle for newsstand sales, the major newsweeklies have pitted Thomas Edison against the presidential debate against a scary looking humanoid mannequin in blue sunglasses. (Partisans: insert requisite “but I thought [the opposition candidate] didn’t wear sunglasses!” joke here.) Newsweek is the most aggressive in declaring a Kerry debate victory, cranking out a “Why Kerry Won” cover package that brings into focus how quickly conventional wisdom takes root in the Internet age. (More on this tomorrow.) Kerry “fought his way off the ropes,” says Newsweek, “against a president who looked unprepared for battle, advised by overconfident aides who were twirling cigars on the eve of the debate at a bar in South Beach.” (Rove on South Beach? Perhaps in a Speedo? The mind reels.)

Time offers up a dry, if necessary, fact check of the candidates, both of whom played fast and loose with the truth in the debate. It also features a piece on the much-maligned “security moms” demo, which opens with the tale of Kristen Breitwiser, a Sept. 11 widow presently more overexposed than Larry Sabato. “I don’t even know what [security mom] means,” says one Kerry-affiliated anonymouse featured in the story. “Is it someone who cares about security more than anything else? That’s very few women. Is it somebody who cares about security? That’s almost every woman and every man.” We agree — and don’t even get us started on NASCAR Dads, Sex in the City voters, or transgendered rollerbladers. (All right, we made that last one up.)

Thomas Frank, finally laying off those poor Kansans, pops up in New York to criticize Democrats for playing to Daisy Buchanan instead of Tom Joad. (OK, perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but you know what we’re getting at.) “… [A]t the bottom of their hearts, many of the party’s biggest thinkers agree with the ‘liberal elite’ stereotype,” he writes. “They can’t simply point to their working-class base and their service to working-class America, because they aren’t interested in that base; they haven’t tried to serve that constituency for decades.” That flawed thinking, he writes, may explain “the campaign’s boneheaded inclination to keep populist powerhouse John Edwards in the shadows.”

But it’s not the Democrats who are “hidebound and out of touch,” says Benjamin Wallace-Wells of the Washington Monthly; it’s the Grand Old Party, which now resembles the chaotic Democratic party of the late 1970s, and is thus headed for a fall. The only question is when. “[T]he current version of the Republican Party is supremely powerful but ideologically incoherent, run largely by and for special interests and increasingly alienated from the broader voting public,” writes Wallace-Wells. As anecdotal evidence, he offers up the thoughts of a “conservative aide to an even more conservative senator.” “What’s infuriating,” says the aide, “is that it’s hard to know what the party stands for beyond defending a bunch of interests. I mean, look at the leadership — who do you have? Frist? Hack. DeLay? Hack. Hastert? Total hack. I can’t figure out if the administration are hacks or just don’t care. John Kerry’s running on budget deficits — that’s supposed to be our fucking issue.”

Finally, The Economist argues that, contrary to international opinion, America is actually “a selfish nation led by altruists.” According to a study by the Chicago Council on Foreign Affairs, we’re not “well-meaning innocents steered by a Machiavellian elite,” but self-interested folk “much more interested in looking after number one — in protecting their own jobs rather than promoting democracy abroad or fighting world poverty — than [our] leaders are.”

Sounds like an interesting country. Never been there, ourselves.

Brian Montopoli

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Brian Montopoli is a writer at CJR Daily.