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The Abnormally Nutty Michael Barone

When I saw a blog post headlined "Republicans Are Normal, Democrats Are Not" by "Michael Barone," I assumed this was a liberal blogger using the "Shorter John Doe" device where you mock some pundit by summarizing his point in some cruder or even unrecognizable form. But no, that's the real Michael Barone, and that's really his headline. And in case you think this was a mischeivous editor subverting his point by sticking on a cartoonish headline, that's Barone's real argument, too:

the Republican Party is the party of people who are considered, by themselves and by others, as normal Americans—Northern white Protestants in the 19th century, married white Christians more recently—while the Democratic Party is the party of the out groups who are in some sense seen, by themselves and by others, as not normal—white Southerners and Catholic immigrants in the 19th century, blacks and white seculars more recently.

Wow. As it happens, Barone is arguing against my TNR story on the congenital failures of the Democratic Congress. Barone hauls out his argument to make the point that Democratic disunity results from the greater diversity of, uh, abnormal groups that make it up. His argument would make sense if the Democrats were cracking up over social policy. In fact, they're cracking up over economics -- or, specifically, the fact that Democrats tend to be in hoc to local business interests. There is a structural assymetry between the parties at work, but it lies in the fact that Republicans draw all their economic support from business and back the business agenda, while Democrats draw support from labor and environmentalists along with business and must navigate compromises between the two. But Barone was probably just trying to find another way to work in his oft-stated belief that Democrats are a bunch of freaks disconnected from middle America.

--Jonathan Chait