Chris Cillizza: the High Priest of Higher Broderism

Here’s something from Chris Cillizza that can be nominated for most unintentionally ironic column of the year.

When House Republicans secured their 216th “yes” on the American Health Care Act Thursday, Democrats immediately began taunting their across-the-aisle rivals.

“Na Na Na Na, Hey Hey Hey, Goodbye,” Democrats sang at Republicans. A few Democrats even waved goodbye.

The implication was obvious: Democrats believed many Republicans had just cost themselves their political careers by voting for an overhaul of Obamacare.

And the DC political class wonders why people hate them.

I understand that Democrats not only didn’t like the way this bill was passed — without any estimates on what it might cost or how many people might lose coverage as a result — but also believed the policies contained in it would leave the country and its people considerably worse off.

That is a worthy conversation to have. But, that’s not what Democrats were doing. Instead, they were jeering and mocking their colleagues.

There could be no worse messenger for this argument than CNN Editor-At-Large Chris Cillizza, who made his bones at the Washington Post writing jeering and mocking articles about who “won” and “lost” the week in politics. The time when he’ll make a serious contribution about the “worthy conversation” we should all have about health care policy is never. And no Beltway columnist better personifies why the people hate the DC political class.

Cillizza is known for his efforts to take the cynical view about what works politically over the substantive merit of any debate, yet he scolds the Democrats for cheapening our democracy and lowering the level of discourse:

Look. We have two parties in this country for a reason. Democrats and Republicans don’t always disagree on the problems the country faces but do almost always disagree on how to solve them.

Debating those differences is the stuff of democracy. Giving the public the chance, every two years, to render their judgment on who has more of the right in the argument is the backbone of our political system.

I think he means that “we have more than one party for a reason,” but that’s a minor quibble. It’s not at all clear how mocking the House Republicans for politically endangering themselves is an action capable of interfering with the public’s opportunity to vote in November 2018. The mocking did not occur during the debate but after it, while the voting was going on. And if Cillizza wants the public to be better able to render a judgment about whether the American Health Care Act will be good for them, he might begin by writing about that very topic rather than giving us this exercise in scolding.

Poll after poll suggests that one thing both sides broadly agree on is that they prefer bipartisan compromise to go-it-alone-ism. When House Democrats act like they did today — or President Trump acts like he does almost every day — we get further and further from even the possibility of finding common ground or even just talking to each other like human beings.

It also convinces people not in Washington or not involved in politics that the people who are representing them in DC have no real idea what they care about or value.

That’s a very bad thing for the long-term health of our democracy.

One thing Cillizza brought over to CNN from the Washington Post is his divinical degree from the Church of Higher Broderism.

Higher Broderism is a school of thought, best exemplified by Washington Post reporter David Broder, that Washington DC elites should provide the common wisdom to the ragged masses beyond the beltway. Moreover, Higher Broderism believes that the only acceptable politics is centrist. It’s not so much where the center is at any given time, it’s the centrism itself. Therefore, politicians who occassionally buck their own party, like Joe Lieberman and John McCain, reside on the Mt. Olympus of Higher Broderism. In this view, it is more virtuous of Lieberman to buck the winds of his party and support the President on Iraq than it is odious for him to wrong on the issue.

Or, in our present case, it is better to rob more than twenty million people of their health insurance than it is to show a lack decorum in the House of Representatives.

Other elements of Higher Broderism included in Cillizza’s piece are the insistence that both sides are equally or near-equally to blame for the lack of civility in our politics, and the reliance upon misleading polls to argue that what the public really wants are bipartisan compromises on the most divisive political issues facing the nation. Give us half a death penalty and let’s split the difference on abortion!

So, let’s clear something up. The Republicans began the tradition of singing “Na Na Na Na, Hey Hey Hey, Goodbye” during the roll call in the 1993 budget bill. They repeated the practice during the passage of the Affordable Care Act. These things could have been mentioned by Cillizza in the spirit of Both Siderism, but curiously missed the cut in this piece. Also, the public hates the American Health Care Act because it would be very bad for them, which they know despite not having been told what to think from CNN’s new Editor-At-Large.

After building his career out of treating politics as a gladiator game, Cillizza wants Democrats to show civility and focus on substance, but he can’t be bothered to write about the substance of the subject at hand.

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