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THE TWO RACHELS! If anyone can get Angle elected, we’ll guess that the bad Rachel can: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, JUNE 15, 2010

It’s always something/and, THE TWO RACHELS: Doggone it—it’s always something! Our sprawling computer network is in the shop, having been taken down last Saturday morning. We’ve been shipwrecked all that time, unable to get on-line!

It’s hard to keep current when computers are down. We regret that, because we’ve been fascinated by Rachel Maddow’s recent coverage of senate candidate Sharron Angle, who won the GOP senate nomination in Nevada last Tuesday.

Could Angle possibly beat Harry Reid? Presumably, yes, she could. In a Rasmussen poll taken after the primary, Angle was leading Reid, 50-39. Rasmussen polls tend to tilt Republican, and any poll taken right after a primary will likely favor the primary winner. (Angle emerged with an upset win over Sue Lowden. Reid was essentially unopposed.) But presumably, Angle could win. For that reason, we get nervous when we see the way Maddow has instinctively approached this candidate.

A bit of background: We’ve been struck, in the past few weeks, by what we now call “the two Rachels.” One of these persons (“the good Rachel”) seems to be extremely capable. You see her at work when Maddow sketches out the facts surrounding the spill in the gulf. But the other Maddow (“the bad Rachel”) is full of contempt for regular people—especially for regular people who have the bad taste to be white conservatives.

For various reasons, Angle is a highly vulnerable candidate, even though Reid has low approval ratings in Nevada. But uh-oh! Since last Thursday night, an unpleasant thought has played in our heads: If anyone can get Angle elected, it may be “the bad Rachel.”

Since Angle won the GOP primary, the bad Rachel has been mocking her in predictable ways. As with other top-shelf liberals, Maddow never seems to understand how her attitudes may be perceived by people who aren’t from the clan. (That is, by the bulk of voters.) And the apparent competence of “the good Rachel” tends to flee the scene when “the bad Rachel” appears on the set. For example, we were struck by this typically self-assured comment from last evening’s program:

MADDOW (6/14/10): Privatizing social security is so unpopular that you couldn’t sell it to the public if you called the "Basket of Puppies and Sky Full of Rainbows" bill. But Sharron Angle will not give up. She will not back down.

Angle favors some form of privatization. (We doubt that she’s ever spelled her proposal out in detail.) But is this position politically toxic in the way Maddow seems to believe? Maddow is always quite sure of herself when she declaims about such matters. But we’ve followed this topic with some interest, dating back to the year 2000, when Candidate Bush made Social Security reform a central part of his first campaign for the White House. Persistently, he got the advantage over Gore in polls on the issue. But then, “personal accounts” had been polling favorably for years at that point, as we’ve explained in the past.

When Bush finally pursued this issue in 2005, he couldn’t get his plan for “personal accounts” through the Congress. But are you sure that support for “personal accounts” would be a loser in Nevada? We aren’t sure of that at all, and we often find that the bad Rachel’s self-assurance—mixed with her haughty contempt for conservatives—leads her to make faulty judgments.

Maddow no longer tells dick jokes every night about tea party members. (Nor did she ever explain why she stopped.) But the contempt which led her to do this in April 2009 seems to be buried deep in the “bad Rachel” side of her soul. Could Angle possibly beat Harry Reid? We’re not sure. But if anyone can get Angle elected, we’ll guess that the bad Rachel could.

We hope to explore Maddow’s coverage of Angle in the next few days. But please forgive us as we struggle along. It’s hard to stay current when you’re not on-line—and we’ll remain in that condition for the next few days.

Pimping personal accounts: Times are different now. But when Candidate Bush ran on “personal accounts,” the mainstream press corps hailed his greatness and savaged Gore for his opposition. This was the late Tim Russert, with Joe Klein, praising Candidate Bush to the skies and trashing Candidate Gore:

KLEIN (5/6/00): The concern I have about the Gore campaign is that he has learned one lesson and he's kind of becoming a one-trick pony.

RUSSERT: Attack. Attack. Attack.

KLEIN: Attack. Attack.

RUSSERT: Governor Bush put forward a Social Security plan calling for a partial privatizing, and [Gore] attacks, saying that is risky. The fact is, President Clinton proposed taking parts of the Social Security trust fund and putting them in the stock market in his State of the Union message just—just a year ago. [Note: This presentation was baldly misleading. Clinton had briefly proposed investment by the government, with attendant risks to be shared by all.] Yesterday, you had Pat Moynihan and, and Bob Kerrey and John McCain all coming out, saying, “Let's have a commission and this is an idea worth looking at.” Why, why—why does Gore just—almost knee-jerk attack, attack, attack?

KLEIN: Well, because it's—it's, you know, scaring people about Social Security. Medicare has worked for the Democrats since time immemorial. In this case, you know, it's really interesting, Gore is in a—you know, for someone who is so wedded to the information age, he really is being reactionary, I think, on—You know, the three big things government does domestically are old-age pensions, health insurance and education. And on all three of those areas, we have the potential this year for a really interesting debate about whether we move those programs from the industrial age, these bureaucratic, top-down, controlled programs, to much more information style—information age-style programs where you give people, like with Bush's Social Security idea. I guess it's actually Kerrey and Moynihan's Social Security idea that Bush has bought into where you give people some control over their future. I mean, this is the information age. People know a lot more, they demand a lot more interactivity, and I think that those three basic systems—education, parents are gonna demand a lot more choice; health insurance, I think that—that consumers are gonna demand choice; and pensions, same thing. And on all three of those—well, two out of the three, I'd say, Bush has—has taken a more progressive position, I believe, than Gore has.

In proposing partial privatization, Bush had taken the more progressive position!

Angle won’t get that kind of help. Reid won’t get trashed for opposing privatization. But that’s how the mainstream press pimped personal accounts back in the very bad day.

As of the year 2000, personal accounts had polled well for years. Are you sure the position is toxic today? Maddow seemed very certain last night. The analysts groaned and complained.