On Twitter, our J.P. Freire and the American Prospect's Adam Serwer had a little spat today about conservatives and overcriminalization. Serwer had made what I thought was a good blog post, sort of applauding the idea of Christian conservative audiences hearing arguments about overcriminalization.
But on Twitter, Serwer repeatedly characterized the “conservative approach to crime” and claimed the “conservative record on crime is clear and easy to evaluate,” dismissing Freire's objections that such a record might b emore complex than he thinks because, well, different conservatives have different views.
This was just another instance of the sort of head-butting we constantly see on blogs. Complaining about “liberals” or “conservatives” being inconsistent is a waste of time. Chris Matthews did this to me on Hardball last month, arguing that conservatives were only objecting to nudie-scanners at airports because Obama was in the White House. Maybe there are people for whom that's true, but then he should have them on the show. I was on CNN in 2001 opposing the creation of the TSA, so why would he ask me to defend some pro-TSA conservatives — many of whom were defending the nudie-scanners this year?
On the other side, I've seen conservatives rail about liberal hypocrisy on the filibuster, but again, name names. Matt Yglesias, as far as I can tell, has been consistent in opposing it. Just because some leftist activists held pro-filibuster rallies, (Chuck Schumer showed up and Mother Jones called the filibuster-backers the “protest of the year“).
Fine, pick on Schumer, or maybe Mother Jones, if they have since reversed pocition. Don't pick on “the Left.”
So here's my New Year's Resolution that I hope others will take up too: if you're going to try to make an argument about inconsistency or hypocrisy, name a person or a publication. In general, try to critique claims by individuals rather than by ideologies.
Do I have any takers?