Thursday Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot-Bang-Query-Bang-Query Weblogging #3: Matthew Yglesias Is Tired of Trying to Reason with Conor Friedersdorf
Matthew Yglesias: Schumer civil liberties: Nelson Román and coalition politics.:
Police tactics based on systematic racial discrimination are wrong, NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly seems to have pursued such tactics, and as such I would not be pleased to see him appointed to federal office. So I agree with Conor Friedersdorf that it reflects poorly on Senator Chuck Schumer that he's pushing for Kelly to be Secretary of Homeland Security. And since a big part of Friedersdorf's schtick is overblown accusations of liberal hypocrisy the fact that Schumer has this bad idea becomes "Prominent Democrats Are Now Comfortable With Racial and Ethnic Profiling."
So here's a thing that happened a little while back…. Schumer recommended Nelson Román, a New York State judge with a bio seemingly copied from The West Wing's Justice Mendoza--a Puerto Rican kid from the Bronx who served for seven years as an NYPD officer before obtaining a JD from Brooklyn Law School, clerking, and then working his way up the state judicial hierarchy…. Then in July of 2012, Roman issued a judicial ruling that brought a halt to stop-and-frisk policing in New York City. That led the NY Daily News editorial page to pronounce Roman's federal judicial aspirations dead. But Schumer did not back down…. On May 9, 2013 he finally got his vote on the floor of the Senate and he was confirmed 97-0. And thus thanks in part to the hard work and political guts of Chuck Schumer did a civil libertarian hero get a seat on the federal bench, despite the best efforts of the local populist news media and the Republican Party.
Does that make Schumer a civil liberties hero? No. If you actually know much about Schumer you'd know he really distinguishes himself as one of the least civil libertarian major figures in the Democratic Party. He's part of a cohort of white Democrats from big liberal cities who made their political bones during the high-crime 1980s and early 1990s by specifically distinguishing themselves as pro-cop, "tough on crime," figures…. But Schumer did do this one thing, at least. To be maximally ungenerous to Schumer, he did it because he is embedded in a New York State political coalition that heavily depends on the votes of people of Puerto Rican origin so he needs to do something or other to promote the careers of prominent Puerto Rican Democrats and it just so happens that you can't find any well-qualified Puerto Rican jurists who endorse systematic racial discrimination….
Meanwhile, though Schumer is personally bad on civil liberties in a municipal policing context he is personally taking the lead in securing amnesty for millions of otherwise law-abiding people who've violated America's immigration laws, while libertarian hero Rand Paul calls for increased militarization of the border and a more intrusive domestic surveillance system to help "track visitors still in the country because of visa overstays."
I mention this not-so-Moneybox subject because Friedersdorf and I have had some exchanges on twitter recently where I’ve expressed frustration with his writings on these kind of issues. And to me it comes back to this. I think he and I are close on the merits of the issues at hand. But he has a hyperactive hypocrisy detector… dogmatic and highly tribal… blindness about the actual modalities of political change.
Conor’s game here is fairly clear; if Democrats can compromise on Ray Kelly, then why do they complain so much when libertarians and anti-imperialists embrace Rand Paul on drones/imperialism/the national security state? Setting aside the fact that even Rand Paul doesn’t know what Rand Paul’s position on drone strikes is….
Rand Paul… is embedded within a coalition that strongly values neo-confederate crankery, something that Conor is all too aware of. The pleasant (if often contradictory) statements of Paul notwithstanding, this coalition has not demonstrated any significant, long-lasting commitment either to civil liberties (if we understand this to mean something more than “the gubmint stays out of the hair of rich, privileged white folks”) or an anti-imperialist foreign policy. To be most charitable to Conor, it seems that he just doesn’t get that white supremacy and white privilege are features, not bugs, for a significant portion of the voting constituency of right wing candidates who make pleasantly libertarian sounding noises. It’s not as if “reject government interference” and “white supremacy” are the “tastes great” and “less filling” of the Paul coalition, with each contesting for Rand’s precious soul; the rejection of federal government interference is a key objective of the white supremacists, and white supremacy an extraordinarily likely outcome of the rejection of government interference.
Hypocrisy trolling makes up a very considerable percentage of Conor’s political commentary…. I still remain utterly perplexed as to why the Crooked Timber folks thought that Friedersdorf’s trolling on drones before the election was to be taken seriously. The answer to the question “Why do Democrats vote Democrat even because of the drones?” is neither complicated nor particularly interesting; the answer is obviously that a) Democrats care about things other than drones, and b) that alternative voting choices were likely to produce worse outcomes even on drone policy.