Political Reform and Revolution: Yglesias Responds


Matt Yglesias has responded to questions (raised by The Economist‘s anonymous Democracy in America blogger and yours truly) about his supposed drift towards Matt Taibbi-style broad cynicism about America’s political system. Yglesias points out, quite rightly, that he’s always been more of a Taibbi-ite than DiA gave him credit for:

I also would like it noted, for the record, that my interest in political reform does not stem from any “disappointment” in how Barack Obama isn’t able to get anything done. I was writing about this back in December because I always knew that Barack Obama wouldn’t be able to get anything done.

Duly noted. Yglesias also provides a long list of political reforms—DC statehood, the elimination of the filibuster, the end of the electoral college, etc.—that he thinks would improve matters, claiming that “It wouldn’t take a ‘revolution’ to achieve any of that.” That’s where he’s dodging the question.

Most reasonable people (presumably even Taibbi) are, like Yglesias, “skeptical about the utility of violence in bringing about positive political change.” But the reason Yglesias could so confidently assert back in December that Barack Obama wasn’t going to be able to get anything done was that the political reforms Yglesias suggests are actually incredibly unlikely to happen.

Just because a reform is possible or even theoretically easy (i.e., doing away with the filibuster or carving out a federal district and making the rest of DC a state) doesn’t mean it has any realistic chance of being enacted. So that puts pragmatists like Yglesias and Ezra Klein back in the same spot. If what the country needs is unlikely to happen without political reform, and political reform is very unlikely to happen, what is a pragmatist to do? I don’t have the answer. But it’s one thing to say a reform doesn’t require a violent revolution for it to happen. It’s another to explain how the reform is actually going to happen, or how the people who support it are going to make it happen.

I’m also still interested in a Port Huron-style Juicebox Mafia statement of principles.

PS: I’m using the term “Juicebox Mafia” with the understanding that it has been co-opted and is no longer a slur.

THE BIG QUESTION...

as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot. That's what Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein tackles in her annual December column—"Billionaires Are Not the Answer"—about the state of journalism and our plans for the year ahead.

We can't afford to let independent reporting depend on the goodwill of the superrich: Please help Mother Jones build an alternative to oligarchy that is funded by and answerable to its readers. Please join us with a tax-deductible, year-end donation so we can keep going after the big stories without fear, favor, or false equivalency.

THE BIG QUESTION...

as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot.

Please read our annual column about the state of journalism and Mother Jones' plans for the year ahead, and help us build an alternative to oligarchy by supporting our people-powered journalism with a year-end gift today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.