Following the successful wingnut attack on Van Jones, the Washington Independent reports that Glenn Beck’s next target is Cass Sunstein, with the pretext being his discussion of organ donation in Nudge, his book with Thaler on how small framing effects can have big effects on outcomes (. I see this as a positive development in all sorts of ways.
Update Sunstein’s appointment was approved by the Senate on a near party line vote 57-40. Six Republicans (Bennett, Collins, Hatch, Lugar, Snowe,Voinovich) voted Yes. The No votes included Bernie Sanders who opposed Sunstein for much the same reasons I would and some Blue Dogs notably including Ben Nelson, who followed the Beck line (all of the Dems voted for cloture). Obama’s only real chance of achieving anything is to dump both the filibuster rule and the Blue Dogs. End update
First, if Beck succeed in derailing his appointment as regulatory czar and presumptive future Supreme Court Justice, Sunstein would be no loss, either intellectually or as regards the progressive cause.
But more importantly, Sunstein has been one of the strongest, and, given his closeness to Obama, the most influential advocates of the view that the polarization of US politics is the result of a failure of communication, and that if people on both sides only talked more, they would realise how much they had in common.
Whether or not Beck’s attacks are successful, I’m confident Sunstein is about to find out how wrong he is on this. On the contrary, the more interaction liberals (even those as lukewarm as Sunstein) have with the Republican base the more they will realise that they are dealing with people whose political views are a closed system, impervious to factual evidence or to any form of morality more developed than loyalty to the tribe. And, I bet, Sunstein will look in vain for support from his friends at the American Enterprise Institute.
The whole history of the Obama Administration so far has been one long demonstration that ideas of bipartisanship or postpartisanship are meaningless as long as they involve dealing with the Republican party or its supporters. Maybe Beck’s attack on Sunstein will be enough to drive the lesson home to the centrist establishment.
(Googling, I found very similar sentiments from Jim White at FireDogLake)