National Review’s Reihan Salam and I formed an unlikely duo yesterday, discussing the Democratic National Convention in New York Magazine.
Today in Instant Politics 2012 — in which a range of writers, pundits, politicians, and thinkers discuss the presidential race for Daily Intel — conservative commentator Reihan Salam and Marxist columnist Bhaskar Sunkara discuss the DNC speeches of Elizabeth Warren and Bill Clinton and how the post-presidential Barack Obama will spend his time.
Reihan: While the DNC and the RNC have both made a concerted effort to seem as representative as possible, you and I represent the least unrepresentative panel imaginable. My understanding is that hyperverbal South Asian dudes are a distinct minority in the American body politic, with the exception of Bobby Jindal, who I’m sure is your favorite.
Bhaskar: Me and Bobby J. are so close I still call him Piyush.
Reihan: So, as a Marxist and as a stinging critic of neoliberal technocratic orthodoxy, what do you make of the hero-worship of that old smoothie, William Jefferson Clinton?
Bhaskar: I can understand the appeal, I really can. He’s absolutely dripping with charisma, and his speech last night articulated the Obama line stronger than Obama ever could. Of course, he oozes with a certain unnerving creepiness, but I think that response has more to do with my status as a guy skeptical of used-car salesmen rather than my status as a socialist.
What was interesting about the speech and what “the boy from Hope, Arkansas” has always done well is mix a populist appeal, talking about shared prosperity and equal opportunity in the broad strokes, but actually delivering austerity quite well on the specifics. He did work to reform welfare, and he was a deficit hawk, yet somehow, Clinton manages to maintain the authenticity to present himself as a friend to the poor and downtrodden. It’s the beautiful sophistry of the Third Way.