Monday, January 25, 2016

Motivated reasoning at Vox?

Via we need other people, Jacobin Magazine has a really interesting takedown of the recent multi-pronged attack on Bernie Sanders from Vox.com writers. A few random thoughts:
  • The double standard/isolated demand for rigor that the article identifies is actually quite ironic. The first Vox article was about "motivated reasoning", i.e. how people have positions about stuff and then work backwards to develop intellectual arguments to justify them. I totally see it.

  • My personal (highly speculative) explanation for Vox's dim view of Sanders is that he doesn't come across as particularly wonky or super-smart. This probably makes him less appealing to the sorts of people who work at Vox. It also likely puts pressure on journalists in the econoblogosphere to disassociate from Sanders, due to brand and market niche incentives.

  • Maybe Sanders is simply too liberal for Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein now. They have both gotten more economically conservative in last 8 years, with a greater emphasis on economic reasoning and market mechanisms in their writing. Reading and studying a ton of economics tends to do this to people. The shifting policy journalism industry has also demanded a much higher level of rigor, due in part to the meteoric rise of economist bloggers as competition.

  • I find the article's idea that Vox is now part of the Democratic intense policy demander clique really interesting. While it's definitely true that Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias have changed, and become more powerful as a public voices, their higher stature may have justifiably led to a greater emphasis on a specific style or approach to candidate evaluation. Pushing politics to be more rigorous and evidence-driven is an explicit goal of Vox, and pursuing this more aggressively than in the past isn't really a bad thing.

  • The tougher political landscape in 2016 does (and probably should) change how people evaluate Democratic policy proposals. Legislating juice is gonna be even scarcer than it was for Obama - being harsher on health care as a top agenda item makes a certain amount of sense (Obamacare did pass, after all).

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