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Ezra Klein Gives the Smackdown to Matt Miller


Which problem does your third party solve? - The Washington Post: "Whenever friends of mine begin idly fantasizing about a third party, I always have the same question: which problem of American governance, specifically, is your third party meant to solve? Gridlock in the Congress? Corporate money in politics? Ideas that go unmentioned by the two major political parties?…

As Greg Sargent pointed out, [Matt Miller's] speech sounds substantially like speeches President Obama has given, either recently or during the 2008 campaign. The policy ideas, too…. [S]hort-term stimulus and long-term deficit reduction… corporate tax reform and the imposition of an energy tax… higher salaries to teachers and easier ways to fire the ones who perform poorly… universal pre-k and tweaks to the Affordable Care Act… higher capital ratios to rein in the banks and campaign-finance reform to clean out our elections… higher taxes and a lift in the eligibility age for both Medicare and Social Security… truce on issues like abortion and gun control until we get the economy back on its feet… what the Obama administration would do if it didn’t have to clear its policies with Congress or the American people.

Miller’s speech implies that what’s holding American politics back is that there are no candidates willing to give this speech, or hold these positions. That’s not accurate. What’s holding American politics back is a polarized Congress that has collapsed into gridlock. What’s holding American politics back is that the minority party understands that the quickest path back to power is undermining the majority party’s ability to govern. What’s holding American politics back is that voters want a government spending at about 23 or 24 percent of GDP but they want taxes around 18 percent of GDP, or maybe even a bit lower.

These types of third-party proposals tend to talk a lot about hard truths, tough choices and unpleasant realities. But in almost all cases, they skirt the hardest political truth of all, which is that politics is hard, often boring, work…

I don't know whether Ezra is correct in his claim that Matt simply wants to avoid the hard work of politics--wants to avoid facing the fact that if he actually wants to get all these good things done, he needs to roll up his sleeves and start working alongside those of us trying to advance Obama's agenda--or whether he is too embarrassed and "nonpartisan" to admit that Obama's positions are his positions and that Obama ought to be his ideal president.