Something I’ve heard a few people raise over the past two days is the analogy between the Park51 controversy and the firestorm over Dubai Ports World taking over management of several American ports. Rather than debate how precise an analogy this is (analogies are always tricky), this made me think of a point about self-deception in politics which I think is probably more widespread than most people recall. My current boss, ThinkProgress editor Faiz Shakir, shared yesterday his dissenting blog post in support of DW World written before he was editor at a time when the TP line was against the deal.
Reading it today, I find Shakir’s argument entirely convincing. I can’t even begin to imagine why it was that I thought Chuck Schumer was right about this. It wasn’t at all the sort of argument I normally agree with, and Schumer has very much the reputation of being a guy who’s good at ginning up tempests in teapots. Heck, I even interned for his communications director at one point and thus participated peripherally in some tempesting.
But at the time, as I recall I was 100 percent convinced that there was more to this opportunistic demagoguery than opportunism and demagoguery. And so I wrote stuff about how, yes, there was opportunism and demagoguery flying around but really there were also these sophisticated “high road” reasons why a DP World takeover would be terrible. In retrospect, I’m sure there were some conservatives who read that stuff and thought “Yglesias is too smart for this nonsense, it’s too bad he’s decided to be dishonest about it.” Which has been my reaction to a lot of conservative rationalizations about various demagogic arguments put forward by the right in the Obama years. But I’m almost certainly not alone in falling into this kind of trap of self-deception.