Liberal darling

by Henry Farrell on October 20, 2006

Megan McArdle “tells us”: that the _Economist_ has moved all of its material from behind the paywall (if you’re not a subscriber, you need to watch an ad to get in). It seems to me that this is good news for the _Economist_; I can’t imagine it’ll lose many subscribers, and it may gain some. It’s also good news for people like meself who like to take potshots at its odder articles; we can now be sure that our readers can actually read the original if they click on the link. This “piece”: on the demise of Mark Warner’s and George Felix Allen’s respective president hopes is a case in point. Most of the article is pretty unexceptionable. The peculiar bit is this summation of the current state of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

But whatever the reason, [Warner’s] retreat has created a vacuum. He had positioned himself as the centrist alternative to Hillary Clinton, the early front-runner for the Democratic nomination and the darling of the party’s liberal activists. Southerners, Westerners and moderates are now shopping for a new candidate, perhaps Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico or Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa, Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana or former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, the vice-presidential nominee in 2004.

So Hillary Clinton is apparently the “darling of the party’s liberal activists.” Now, we don’t have any really decisive evidence on this – the only surveys that I know of which try to figure out what “liberal activists” want are the “Pew survey”: (which focuses on Howard Dean supporters) and the “Blogpac survey”:, which draws from a sample of MoveOn email list subscribers. Neither is definitive – but Pew finds that Clinton polls number 4 or number 3 among former Dean activists depending on which question you look at, while the Blogpac survey finds her to be joint fifth with Joe Biden, and to have higher unfavourable ratings than any other listed candidate. Given that Clinton has specifically tried to position herself _as_ the centrist alternative over the last couple of years, this is about what one would expect. Equally bizarre is the suggestion that centrists might want to gravitate towards John Edwards. This could just be the result of sloppy thinking that telescopes “Southerners, Westerners and moderates” into a unified category, but to the extent that Edwards might appeal to Southerners and Westerners, it’s not because he’s a moderate. It’s because he’s running the most economically populist campaign that a serious candidate for the Democratic nomination has run in recent history. These claims don’t seem biased to me so much as clueless. The bit about Clinton in particular strikes me as the sort of thing one might believe if one listened more to Republicans talking about Democrats than to Democrats themselves. I don’t get the impression that the article’s author actually knows very much about what’s happening within the Democratic party. Not what you expect from a serious magazine.

{ 3 trackbacks } » Blog Archive » Not Serious
10.21.06 at 12:31 am
Amazing insights from The Economist « The Opinion Mill
10.21.06 at 8:21 am
Economist goes « Entertaining Research
10.22.06 at 1:17 am



P O'Neill 10.20.06 at 9:31 pm

What is their specific justification for having no bylines? With no sources cited for anything, and no authors, it’s hard to figure out where this stuff is coming from. Although the Hillary=Liberal thing does sound it comes from Dick Morris.


ed 10.20.06 at 9:32 pm

While I think the American coverage at the Economist is the worst in the magazine, the comment makes sense once you realize they are using codewords.

Yes, by “moderate” (or “conservative”), they mean Southern or rural Midwestern. By “liberal” they mean Northeastern. Once you stop thinking that these are supposed to indicate policy stances, and just indicate which part of the country the candidate is from, the rest of the article makes sense.

In fact, the Economist writer seems to be sophisticated enough to know that geography is much more important than policy stances in winning American elections. I’d prefer they just say this instead of using codewords, but then the rest of the mainstream media does the same thing.

If you don’t believe that policy is not important in U.S. presidential politics, remember that Kerry’s voting record was identical to Lieberman’s (but the latter is more visibly religious). Warner is probably to the left of Hillary Clinton on any standard ideological test.


Benjamin Nelson 10.20.06 at 10:44 pm

Hey ed. Didn’t know Kerry and Lieberman’s records were identical. Do you have a source?


tib 10.20.06 at 10:56 pm

I hate to defend the Economists coverage of US politics but you can probably fit Warner between George Allen and Hillary Clinton on a conservative to liberal continuum. So centrist for some definition of center. Also, neither Dean supporters nor MoveOn members are considered typical liberal activists beyond the Internet. Too male and wealthy generally, not your typical Democratic Convention goer.


Matt Weiner 10.20.06 at 11:05 pm

ed: geography is much more important than policy stances in winning American elections.

If you don’t believe that policy is not important in U.S. presidential politics, remember that Kerry’s voting record was identical to Lieberman’s (but the latter is more visibly religious).

I can’t believe that the important geographical feature is the Massachusetts-Connecticut border.


thetruth 10.20.06 at 11:18 pm

[aeiou] The Economist is the magazine for people who want to support a facist genocidal government, but who want to seem slightly cosmopolitan while doing so.

Fuck them, and fuck the Economist, and fuck you for writing this.

When you decide you want to have a real press, and you’re ready to talk about what needs to be done for that happen, write THAT up. That’s a post I’d love to read.

Till then, fuck off, you’re part of the problem.


Henry 10.20.06 at 11:21 pm

tib – agreed that these are imperfect proxies for Democratic activists. But MoveOn has 3 million plus people on its list – I don’t think it’s going to be that unrepresentative (although it clearly will have some income skew, possibly be less likely to include union types etc). But I don’t think that there is any good alternative sources of information on Democratic _activists_ (I’m sure that someone somewhere has to have some breakdown on liberal v. non-liberal Democratic _supporters_ but that isn’t the same thing). The point I’m trying to make is not that we have great data – we don’t – but that what data we have seems to point in one direction, imperfect as it is, and I can’t think of _any_ positive data to support the strong positive claim that Hillary Clinton is indeed the darling of the liberal activists. Perhaps there is some out there, in which case I’m wrong – but I’d like to see it.


thetruth 10.20.06 at 11:28 pm

There’s no trolling going on but yours. If you’re going to give serious consideration to rags such as the Economist while studiously ignoring the truth, you are part of the problem.

And that will remain true no matter how many vowels you remove.


Seth Finkelstein 10.20.06 at 11:46 pm

As a conjecture, I suspect Clinton dominates among woman liberal activists, and perhaps also African-American and Hispanic liberal activists – and these groups are arguably underrepresented in Internet punditry and print punditry.

There’s some fluffy poll data at
though it’s not much use.


John Quiggin 10.21.06 at 12:58 am

“The bit about Clinton in particular strikes me as the sort of thing one might believe if one listened more to Republicans talking about Democrats than to Democrats themselves.

Spot-on. The reason Clinton is classed as the “darling of the party’s liberal activists” is because that’s the way Republicans see her. Clinton-hatred is an essential part of the wingnut world model, bearing no relationship to the centre-right policy stance of real-world Clintons. Parallel-universe consistency requires that their archenemy should be a liberal activist.


Jim Harrison 10.21.06 at 1:40 am

I don’t know whether the Democratic netroots comprise a very large group. What’s interesting about ’em to me is not their numbers but their novelty. They represent a new tendency in American politics, a radical middle. Journalists, who, after all, are paid not to be too bright, think they are leftists because they are indeed very angry; and Republicans want to call them liberals for tactical reasons. In fact the netroots tend to promote a mix of rather unalarming positions: responsible internationalism, equitable sharing of tax burdens, a pragmatic approach to globalism, a unwavering commitment to civil rights, and a belief that the government should address the problems we have in common (global warming/energy/health care) while staying the Hell out of people’s bedrooms. Some of these ideas are, roughly speaking, social democratic (though favoring universal health care is about as revolutionary as supporting indoor plumbing) but many more are libertarian–not a lot of enthusiasm for the drug war, for example. Obviously there are plenty of disagreements inside this group, which is just begining to define itself. It also seems to be the case that the self-understanding of the netroots is not centrist if centrism is defined as a conscious attempt to split the difference between right and left. What the netroots definitely aren’t is traditionally left. That’s what the Economists and umpteen others are missing.


travc 10.21.06 at 1:41 am

Maybe they just insist on using the more proper English definition of “liberal”… If only (that would actually make me happy). Nope, just repeating the GOP talking points like pretty much every other wanker writing for magazines, radio, or the TV “news”.


lutton 10.21.06 at 1:58 am

I concur that she’s not the favorite nominee of the ‘liberal activists,’ but in one sense, she is our ‘darling.’ She draws a highly partisan crowd for fundraisers, she earns some respect for standing firm on *some* issues (but also loses some for the opposite), she rakes in the cash, and she is held in high regard by many for suffering the right-wing slings and arrows.

The fact that she’s a lightning rod for right wing hate, you’d have to say that her supports in general have to be liberal, rather than moderate. Their certainly going to be tagged as such anyway.

As the leading lady of the party, yeah, I’d say she’s our ‘darling.’

But that doesn’t mean we all want her to be the nominee (even though we could probably agree that a President Hillary would cause such a meltdown in freeperland that it might be worth it! :) )


lutton 10.21.06 at 2:01 am

egads; THEY’RE certainly going to be tagged, not Their (it’s late)


bad Jim 10.21.06 at 3:08 am

Judging by my mother’s inclinations, Hillary’s the clear choice of 80-something feminists. The old lady is equally fond of Senator Dianne Feinstein, despite her support of the death penalty and her pro-development stance back when she was on San Francisco’s city council. (My mother won her council seat, and took a term as mayor, as a foe of development in our picturesque city.)

Clinton’s a hawk and a hack, at best a stalking horse in the next election. I’d love to have a woman president, but it ain’t her, guys, no, no, no.


dearieme 10.21.06 at 3:31 am

It was an extraordinary feat to nominate John Kerry, a candidate so feeble that even W could beat him. They surely won’t nominate Little Madame Cattle-Futures, will they?


abb1 10.21.06 at 5:07 am

I think she’s all right, for a politician.


Norton 10.21.06 at 5:37 am

who’s your momma bad jim? I can’t remember her taking a term for mayor in my fair city, unless ‘her ‘ name is art agnos? Do you mean she ran for mayor? What Ev’s? Diane is who she is. My buddy matt ran for mayor too. yeah! And my ‘friend’ Gavin dates 20year olds to throw the wolves off the track. So what? Why in the world would democrats want to win the WH in 2008? Let Saint John McCain deal with shrub’s BS.


John Emerson 10.21.06 at 5:58 am

I’m surprised that the Kos straw votes weren’t mentioned. Hilary has no support at all at Kos. Kos is not representative of Democrats overall and doesn’t claim to be, but it’s pretty representative of activists, including but not only liberal activists.

Hilary has support from Clinton loyalists and probably middle-class feminists and maybe minorities. And she has tremendous support among the big-money people wand party pros ho want to make sure that liberal activists are kept far from power. Unsurprisingly, liberal activists is the group where she’s weakest.

In the US “liberal” can mean “big-government corporate liberal” or “ACLU peacenik liberal”. The latter group is a subset of the former and is the distinctively liberal group within the Democratic Party.

I don’t buy the idea that geographical code words are slyly being used. It was just a dumb, biased article.


John Emerson 10.21.06 at 6:04 am

Dearieme, I think that a lot of the Democratic pros, opinion leaders, and money people are mostly concerned with keeping the Democrats under control. There are no real moderate Republicans left any more, and that demographic is now represented by the so-called moderate Democrats, who have lots in common with the more cynical Republicans (on military and foreign policy and on corporate issues.

The destruction of the moderate Republicans has put a lot of people in a bind, because playing the two parties off against each other doesn’t work if one of the parties is manifestly insane. Even so, a lot of otherwise rational “moderates” are really torn, because there’s no one they hate more than liberal Democrats. The poor bastards.


Anon 10.21.06 at 6:53 am

P. O’Neill: I don’t know the specific justification for no bylines in The Economist, but it used to be standard operating procedure for news magazines (e.g., Newsweek many, many years ago).


Joyful Alternative 10.21.06 at 7:03 am

Maybe by “activists” the author means big money political contributors. That would fit; Sen. Clinton certainly seems to have lots of rich fans (although the only actual human supporter I know of is a conservative Republican who fancies herself a feminist and whose first choice is Newt Gingrich).

On the gender and wealth of moveon and DFA, I have personally found moveon people to be rich and male in my limited experience and DFA to be female and of modest means in my fairly extensive contact. I see the Democratic netroots to the right of me on average.


Barry 10.21.06 at 7:33 am

Hasn’t the management of The Economist been clearly turning their magazine into a right-wing rag for a while? I expect that Megan has a bright future there.


derrida derider 10.21.06 at 8:05 am

Barry, I think standards in general at the Economist have fallen in the last decade or so. But it’s really only the American coverage that has moved to the right – or more precisely, to Republican partisanism – rather than just becoming sloppier. I think that this is a deliberate move on their part – they now have many more American readers than UK ones, and they’re generally rich Americans.

Commercially you can’t go wrong by reinforcing the prejudices of rich old men.


JM 10.21.06 at 8:06 am

Unrestricted free trade as a panacea for the world’s woes has been the guiding principle of The Economist since its inception in the mid nineteenth century. It tends to be so blinded by the single-minded devotion that it veers on the naive.


Aaron Swartz 10.21.06 at 8:23 am

strikes me as the sort of thing one might believe if one listened more to Republicans talking about Democrats than to Democrats themselves.

And that, in turn, strikes me as the sort of thing people say about Micklethwait and Wooldridge.


Eli Rabett 10.21.06 at 8:44 am

The Economist specializes in if pigs were horses cows would fly jounalism. Come to think of it they are well named.


Steve LaBonne 10.21.06 at 8:44 am

Even so, a lot of otherwise rational “moderates” are really torn, because there’s no one they hate more than liberal Democrats. The poor bastards.

Some of us have resolved this dilemma by becoming liberals. I may be a bit slow, but faced with the kind of appallingly expensive, but highly effective, political education Bush has provided, I do eventually get it.

For whatever one data point is worth- I loathe Hillary. She really should be a “moderate Republican”, if such a species still existed.

(I also share the dismay over the metamorphosis of the Economist’s US coverage into a superficially more sophisticated version of Fox News.)


Bruce Baugh 10.21.06 at 11:32 am

Senator Clinton used to be very popular with a lot of the women I know in the range from moderate through liberal to somewhat left-wing. It’s just that that peaked no later than about 2002 and has been in decline ever since.


devil's advocate 10.21.06 at 11:34 am

I think they may just be referring the party’s RICH liberal activists–the people raising money at the fancy parties in NY, LA and SF. They are the types that like The Economist, but from the rest of the nation’s perspective, it’s inaccurate. If there is a class bias, however, then it could be accurate that she is maintaining her support among those groups that may(?) have disproportionate impact on the process.


Henry 10.21.06 at 12:15 pm

John – I didn’t mention the Kos straw polls, b/c I didn’t think they were good evidence about liberal activists more generally (straw polls have a lot of selection bias for obvious reasons). It’s pretty clear though that the Kossacks don’t like Hillary’s politics much. Which is just fine; nor do I.


Avedon 10.21.06 at 12:29 pm

Hm. Most of the women I know prefer Gore or Feingold, actually. Jus’ sayin’.


r€nato 10.21.06 at 12:42 pm

the comment about Hillary being the fave of ‘liberal activists’ jumped out at me right away, too.

Says who? You’re exactly right; this is what REPUBLICANS think that Democrats want. THEY think Hillary is a screaming liberal; if they would just stop and ask Democrats – hell, any random Democrat would probably do – they’d find out that Hillary is considered just another triangluating DLC Republican-lite centrist, and a lot of us are suspicious of how much of a ‘real’ Democrat she would be.


John Emerson 10.21.06 at 1:06 pm

Sure, but the selection bias was precisely in favor of liberal activists, which is the group in question. It strikes me as a pretty good data point. The notable thing was how low Hillary was on the totem pole, ranking something like seventh with less than 5% of the vote — not really whether Feingold’s totals were padded or not, for example.


ed 10.21.06 at 2:02 pm

“Hey ed. Didn’t know Kerry and Lieberman’s records were identical. Do you have a source?”

Sorry I didn’t respond earlier, I’ve been a bit busy since posting that comment.

If you have either the CQ or the National Journal political almanacs, you can get a quick and dirty look at Liberman’s and Kerry’s voting records. There are also several online sites that keep track of this stuff. I don’t have time to retrive the details, but the information that would back up the claim is accessible.

Both Senators supported NAFTA, and have been supportive of the other big trade agreements. They both backed McCain-Feingold. They both voted for the second Iraq War, despite Kerry’s later attempts to spin the issue. They both voted against Clinton’s impeachment, in this case it was Lieberman spinning otherwise. They generally have been reliable votes for the Democratic leadership in the Senate, though with something of a pro-corporate slant.

Kerry voted against the first Gulf War, and Lieberman supported it. I can’t think of any other major issue where their voting records diverge.

Edwards, by the way, was the first Democratic nominee for either president or vice president to deviate from the major Democratic fundraisers’ positions on a major issue, in his case trade.


John Emerson 10.21.06 at 2:02 pm

34: Selection bias up the yinyang, Avedon.


Brittain33 10.21.06 at 11:36 pm

This week’s issue also says that DeWine is in trouble because of ethical problems and Jim Talent, like Claire McCaskill, is a moderate. Both comments are objectively wrong and not even subjectively likely for their current races.

If DeWine has ethical problems, they’re not enough to stand out next to Burns’ or Allen’s, and perceptions of his ethics have nothing to do with his impending defeat. Talent, meanwhile, is a conservative with the voting record to prove it. I think that because he doesn’t come across as a snakehandling lunatic to The Economist, but as a nerdy suburban Dad, they must assume he’s one of them.


Daniel 10.22.06 at 2:21 pm

I’ve noticed over the last few years that British people tend to say “the Economist is a really good magazine, although the British coverage is a bit strange”, Americans say “the Economist is really good, apart from the loony American coverage” and Europeans say “you have to read the Economist for the British and American coverage, but the European stuff is bullshit”.


harry b 10.22.06 at 2:34 pm

dearieme — don’t you think you’ve answered your own question? :)


Steve Paradis 10.22.06 at 8:42 pm

My first reaction to the magazine is James Fallows’ old crack about the credibility of a British magazine named The Economist.


vivian 10.22.06 at 9:21 pm

As a (US) college freshman ages ago, I thought the E’s political coverage was pretty uniform – slightly superior to every other country, but not politically biased. Except for anything to do with Northern Ireland, which was nastier and grudge-filled.

The best part was the mailing lists I got on through the subscription: guides for CEOs to outwit cowardly boards of directors, offshore registries for megayachts, private jets, long before the internet bubble made these ads commonplace.

Now it’s all puff pieces, like something from an in-flight magazine.


Progressive_Patriot 10.22.06 at 11:57 pm

Clearly the author is clueless as to the reality of American politics, but I’m not sure their cluelessness has anything to do with being an ocean away from D.C. — quite the contrary, while the “Hilary as liberal darling” is idiotic, I’m not sure that it’s not in fact indicative of the inside the beltway, gang of 500 conventional wisdom.

And, as a progressive firmely in the Anybody-but-Hilary* (* except for Bayh) camp, I actually think this could redound to the tremendous benefit of liberals and progressives in 2008. That is, the emergent “un-Hilary” candidate (unless it’s Bayh or maybe Biden) is almost certain to be better across the board, but in particular on national security (i.e., more inclined to get us the hell out of Iraq and less likely to embrace a “kinder, gentler neoconservatism) and on civil liberties (i.e., less inclined to support, say, torture or partially repealing the first amendment to “protect the flag” whenever it’s seen as politically expedient to do so). But if the un-Hilary (whether it’s Russ Feingold, or John Edwards, or Wes Clark, or the new-and-improved Al Gore, or Bill Richardson) can not only knock her out of the race but in the course of doing so earn credentials in the mainstream media narrative as being the “sensible moderate centrist alternative to the wacky flag-burning leftist Hilary Clinton,” that’s a double-whammy.

As anyone who’s been paying attention over the past six years knows, reality matters far less than the mainstream media frame (“straight-talking John McCain,” anyone?). And after all, it’s about time the superficiality and idiocy of the inside-the-beltway punditocracy works in our favor for once…


aaron 10.23.06 at 9:44 am

John Edwards might make a decent president.


aaron 10.23.06 at 9:46 am

However, I don’t think it’s a good idea for anyone who has been in congress to be president.


Hogan 10.23.06 at 10:56 am

DeWine IS in trouble because of ethical problems. They’re just not HIS ethical problems.


Ken 10.23.06 at 2:48 pm

“Hasn’t the management of The Economist been clearly turning their magazine into a right-wing rag for a while? I expect that Megan has a bright future there.”

They did endorse Kerry in ’04. That certainly doesn’t burnish their liberal credentials, but a “right wing rag” it is not.

Comments on this entry are closed.