Posts Tagged ‘Peter Beinart’
November 12th, 2012 at 1:39 pm
After Immigration Reform, Then What?

Peter Beinart says the GOP’s “Hispanic problem” is about more than just immigration reform and competing forms of amnesty:

Hispanics do feel that the economic system is “stacked against them” and they do “want stuff” like health care, college-tuition assistance, and other government benefits that might help them get ahead. According to Pew, while only 41 percent of Americans as a whole say they want a bigger government that provides more services, a whopping 75 percent of Hispanics do.

Food for thought for those thinking Marco Rubio’s version of the DREAM Act or another legal quick fix will suddenly flip Hispanics from Democrats to Republicans.

October 7th, 2010 at 10:00 pm
Peter Beinart Just Making it Up as He Goes Along
Posted by Print

Pity Peter Beinart. The former New Republic editor was once a voice of intellectual independence on the left — even going so far as to write a 2006 book arguing that it was incumbent upon liberals to aggressively prosecute the War on Terror.

A prophet is despised in his own country, however, and in the world of Washington punditry it’s more common for the prophet to change than the country. Thus, Beinart — after years of being labeled a Zionist warmonger by his colleagues on the left — has turned tail and run into the arms of his left-wing brethren. The source of his rebirth? A scathing rebuke to what he calls “the American Jewish Establishment” in the New York Review of Books and a decided retreat from his previous muscularity on foreign policy.

Having claimed sanctuary with the left, Beinart is now drifting into the realm of liberal self-parody. As his party stands on the precipice of what could be one of the largest midterm election refutations in history, he takes to the virtual pages of the Daily Beast today to confidently proclaim that Barack Obama is “a lock” for reelection in 2012. The only problem is that the self-styled intellectual’s data has been tortured until it confesses his preferred outcome. Consider:

Of course Barack Obama is likely to be reelected. For starters, American presidents usually get reelected. In the last 75 years, incumbents have lost a grand total of three times: in 1976, 1980, and 1992. And what did Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George H.W. Bush all have in common? They had serious primary challenges within their own party (from Ronald Reagan, Ted Kennedy, and Pat Buchanan, respectively). The last president who lost reelection without a major primary challenge was Herbert Hoover in 1932.

Beinart’s historical invocation is deeply flawed. He seems to have chosen a period of 75 years only because it yields the most favorable outcome for his thesis. But should the 1936 election really be taken with equal weight as 1992 in understanding modern American politics? Look at it this way: the same data could be used to say that three of the last six presidents have failed to be elected to a second term — that 50 % failure rate provides no room for the confidence that Beinart is peddling.

As for primary challenges, this a more subtle, but still flawed, analysis. In all likelihood, Beinart has the causation wrong. Presidents don’t lose because they have primary challenges. They have primary challenges because of the weakness that ends up leading to their loss. Reagan, Clinton, and Bush 43 simply did a better job of managing their coalitions than Ford, Carter, or Bush 41. But had the latter three not been challenged for their party’s nomination, it’s still not safe to say they would have been on sure footing for reelection.

Were Beinart not imbibing Organizing for America soma, he could have produced a more thoughtful piece. The landscape for Obama in 2012 probably looks closer to that facing George W. Bush in 2004 than any of the earlier models he cites. Like Bush, Obama’s tenure has led to some (still relatively stifled) disquiet in his own party and has polarized public opinion at large — making a majority in the electoral college very tough sledding. But like Bush, he also has the benefits of incumbency and a known brand of leadership to take into an election where the opposition’s bullpen is  thus far a mile wide and an inch deep.

This is no time for triumphalism on the left. Obama certainly retains the prospects of being reelected in 2012. But if he does, it will be a street fight, not a coronation.