Dramatic Change is “Radical”

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Ezra Klein says “I’m not sure I’d term calls for procedural reform ‘radical,’ much less ‘revolutionary.'” Here’s what I said when Matt Yglesias said something similar:

Just because a reform is possible or even theoretically easy (i.e., doing away with the filibuster or carving out a federal district and making the rest of DC a state) doesn’t mean it has any realistic chance of being enacted. So that puts pragmatists like Yglesias and Ezra Klein back in the same spot. If what the country needs is unlikely to happen without political reform, and political reform is very unlikely to happen, what is a pragmatist to do?

This conversation has drifted somewhat far afield from its original topic, which was Democracy in America’s claim that Yglesias and Klein are not the “fundamentally moderate, process-oriented wonks” the conventional wisdom says they are. I took that claim to mean that such people would be incrementalist third way types who think that change can be accomplished by working within the system and the existing process. But that’s not what the young progressive blogosphere is calling for. Instead, Klein and Yglesias are advocating for fairly dramatic changes to the way American politics works in practice. Right now, their message is largely that the system doesn’t work, and Barack Obama can’t get anything done because the system is flawed. Wouldn’t making that system work be a pretty big change? Maybe we’re just getting caught up in semantics here. But changing the way the President is elected, or changing the way powerful Senate committee chairs are picked, or making DC a state—as opposed to working within the system we have—all seem like pretty radical changes to me.

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