Sentence of the day from Chris Dillow:
(...)a lot of mainstream politics is just narcissistic navel-gazing.
Sentence of the day from Chris Dillow:
(...)a lot of mainstream politics is just narcissistic navel-gazing.
I agree strongly with this from Brendan O'Neill:
One of the most striking developments of recent years has been the movement of conspiratorial thinking into the centre of political life and public debate. For decades, conspiracy theories about global affairs and domestic politics being controlled by largely hidden, unnamed actors with a malevolent agenda tended to flourish only on the fringes of society, especially among far-right groups. But today, it is commonplace to hear very mainstream thinkers and activists talk about the ‘cabals’ and ‘cults’ that allegedly control economic life and dictate the global agenda. As a result of a broader crisis of politics, of a long drawn-out evacuation of meaning and oftentimes purpose from the political sphere, political and economic developments can seem arbitrary and unhinged to many – and they respond by devoting their energies to obsessively hunting down the dark, dastardly thing which, they assume, must be puppeteering these confusing developments from behind the scenes.
Please, Ta-nehisi stop you are going to make me puke!:
"I am not raising 'nothing niggers,'" my mother used to tell me. "I am not raising niggers to stand on the corner." My mother did not know her father. In my life, I've loved four women. One of them did not know her father and the other two, very often, wished they didn't. It's not very hard to look at that, and seethe. It's not very hard to look at that and see a surrender, while you are out here at war, and seethe. It not hard to look around at your community and feel that you are afflicted by quitters, that your family--in particular--is afflicted by a weakness. And so great is this weakness that the experience of black fatherlessness can connect Barack Obama in Hawaii to young black boys on the South Side, and that fact--whatever the charts, graphs and histories may show--is bracing. When Barack Obama steps into a room and attacks people for presumably using poverty or bigotry as an excuse to not parent, he is channeling a feeling deep in the heart of all black people, a frustration, a rage at ourselves for letting this happened, for allowing our community to descend into the basement of America, and dwell there seemingly forever. (...) There are moments when I hear the president speak and I am awed. No one, from the offices of the White House, could have better explained to America what the George Zimmerman verdict meant. And I think history will remember that, and remember him for it. But I think history will also remember his unquestioning embrace of "twice as good" in a country that has always given, even under his watch, black people half as much.
Awesome stuff from Paul Krugman:
The whole politics of poverty since the 70s has rested on the popular belief that the poor are Those People, not like us hard-working real Americans. This belief has been out of touch with reality for decades — but only now does reality seem to be breaking in. But what it means now is that conservatives claiming that character defects are the source of poverty, and that poverty programs are bad because they make life too easy, are now talking to an audience with large numbers of Not Those People who realize that they are among those who sometimes need help from the safety net.
I agree with Sean Collins on this:
it is a myth that the US is becoming ‘libertarian’ – the number of restrictions on personal behaviour is increasing, not decreasing. At the same time as marijuana is being legalised in Colorado, cities are banning e-cigarettes for no rational reason. The newly ‘liberal’ America says it’s cool to smoke marijuana but then demonises those who eat a McDonald’s hamburger or drink a Big Gulp soda. Many of the same people who are posing as liberty’s champions over marijuana are the same ones who are leading the charge when it comes to bans, limits and nudges on tobacco, soda, school lunches, and so on.
A hahhah moment from Juan Cole :
Greatness has escaped Mr. Obama. He seems content to be the community organizer of the Federal government, asking Congress and Federal officials what they think they need and offering to try to get it for them. That isn’t leadership. His response to the NSA leaks was to announce that the country could now have a discussion of the practices, as though the citizenry could discuss matters being actively hidden from them, on which a sitting senator like Wyden is muzzled. Mr. Obama’s chance at greatness is before him. Most of the abuses are in the executive, over which he largely has control. He could initiate major reforms restoring constitutional liberties. If he does not, he is very unfortunately choosing to play P.W. Botha, not Nelson Mandela.
Ah another one from Elisabeth Drew:
Barack Obama had an unfathomable inability, beginning in his early years in office, to grasp the difference between campaigning and governing—and for that he’s been paying a fearful price in his second term.
Sentence of the day from Paul Krugman:
(...) anyone counting on Obamacare to collapse is probably making a very bad bet.
Of course Krugman is right, but the point remains that Obamacare is and will remain a canard boiteux; something liberals and many Democrats will defend to their death because it is a symbol of the blind faith they placed in the One even though it will never fix the American Health care system and a policy that all others will resist because to them it epitomizes government's meddling in an area it either can't help.
Well, thank you Obama for ruining the dream of Universal healthcare for America.
I agree with Julian Ku on this:
In other words, the problem is not that spying itself is illegal or morally wrong, but that it is illegal and morally wrong to spy on your allies and friends. Spying on other countries might very well be morally and legally justified (e.g.: North Korea, Iran, China, Russia ( ...) In any event, my prediction is that the fallout from the latest NSA scandal will be a flurry of “no-spy-on-you” promises and then a series of new “no spy agreements” for certain favored “allies”. I think Germany will talk about a universal anti-spying norm, but this initiative will eventually die largely because no large nation really wants it.
Was I just having a nightmare or didn't the One get a Nobel Peace prize just for not being George W Bush ? I'm sure it was a dream !
David Bernstein on why the rollout of Obamacare has been 'messy':
Why, it’s obviously because President Barack Obama and his top aides hate government, and therefore can’t be trusted to run a major government program. When the government is run by political forces committed to the belief that government is always the problem, never the solution, that belief tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Key priorities are neglected; key functions are privatized; and key people, the competent public servants who make government work, either leave or are driven out. What we really need is a government that works, because it’s run by people who understand that sometimes government is the solution, after all.
Doesn’t make any sense to you? It made just as little sense when Paul Krugman made the argument in 2008, imaginatively (to say the least) positing that George W. Bush and John McCain were wild-eyed libertarians, and that the former’s purported libertarianism was the cause of FEMA’s incompetence in dealing with Katrina. (...) t must come as a surprise to Krugman and his defenders that government can prove itself to be wildly, disastrously incompetent even when run by people whom even Krugman would have to admit aren’t going to be confused with libertarians any time soon (assuming, of course, that Krugman actually ever believed the nonsense he wrote).
Bernstein is been willfully disingenuous to score cheap political points for actually the failings of the Obama administration on this issue and others make Krugman. They show that Obama, as Bush, believes more in winning than in government or for that matter governing. Obamacare has no soul, c'est un machin used to gain liberal cred through a symbol that makes lovers of Harry Potter like change good.
In short, Obama is not and has never been a Krugman democrat.
People like Obamacare. They like Medicare and Social Security too, and not just because they are junkies hooked on the government yayo, but also, I suspect, out of a sense that in a country as rich as America people should not starve or freeze or die because they cannot afford to see a doctor. To roll all of this back, Republicans will have to set aside the exciting, romantic, vox clamantis thrill of noble failure, and get about the boring drudgery of actually winning elections—and not just in gerrymandered districts, but nationally. As I tell my five-year-old: destroying things is easy. Building is hard.
But building is better, and more necessary. America really does need an effective check on the Obama administration's regulatory instincts. It needs a sane, functional pro-business party—one focused on doing things like winning elections in an increasingly diverse country by actually persuading voters rather than by keeping "undesirable" voters from the polls.
From Daniel Drezner:
Thanks to the Mongolian clusterf**k that Ted Cruz, John Boehner, and some other economic know-nothings in the U.S. Congress have perpetuated, the next decade of global political economy will provide an excellent natural experiment to see whether there will be any form of economic balancing against the United States.
Oh well, chaos is good or at least flashy so there is nothing to worry about...
I agree with this :
For news-media creators, potentially catastrophic events like the shutdown are the deep source of the currency we seek: page views, forwards and links. The shutdown captivates the attention of the fickle public, tearing it momentarily away from the spectacle of a naked Miley Cyrus gripping giant construction apparatus between her legs. (That spectacle itself, of course, is a different type of calculated attention-getting "controversy" constructed by a number of self-interested media players, not least of them Ms Cyrus herself.) Journalists and bloggers swarm over the shutdown like ants on a dropped twinkie. But in an even more symbiotic relationship, we also create the controversy we feed on by swarming to it. Bloggers, tweeters, politicians and everyone else have an incentive to focus on the shutdown, to intensify the controversy, in order to drink from the resulting fount of public attention.(...) Nowadays, however, almost everyone who participates in social media understands it. A very large number of Americans are now adept at identifying potentially viral memes, and then ramping up the hype in order to both create and piggyback on them. In the general media viral memes may often be merely weird or titillating, but in politics, since politicians have not yet figured out how to use sex scandals to win (rather than lose) elections, they are almost always divisive, insulting, controversial and infused with prophecies of doom. So in politics the effect of increasingly widespread participation in this dynamic has been to exacerbate the American public's already deep attachment to apocalypticism.
Governing America is a lot more challenging than seducing Oprah...Thank God That's great.
It should be puzzling just how little power the present executive is actually capable of wielding. He can go to the U.N. or Kansas City and make speeches (that themselves often enough implicitly cast him as a kind of interested observer of his own presidency), but nothing much that he says in Washington seems any longer to be seriously attended to. In the foreign policy arena, he is surrounded by a secretary of defense who ducks for cover, a secretary of state who wanders the world blowing off steam, and a national security advisor and U.N. ambassador who seem like blundering neophytes and whose basic ideological stance (in favor of American -- aka “humanitarian” -- interventions globally) has been rejected in this country by almost any constituency imaginable. Unlike previous presidents, he evidently has no one -- no Brent Scowcroft, Jim Baker, or even Henry Kissinger -- capable of working the corridors of power skillfully or bringing a policy home.Domestically, who ever heard of a presidency already into its second term that, according to just about all observers, has only one significant achievement -- Obamacare (whatever you think of it) -- and clearly hasn’t a hope in hell of getting a second one?
Jeff Shesol sums up perfectly the American policy on Syria:
Foreign policy-making, unlike the domestic variety, is rarely compared to sausage-making, but what we have seen over the past couple of news cycles should be inspected by the U.S.D.A.
I would love to be having whatever Andrew Sullivan for Obamaland must be Eden when one is high.
To mourn the end of summer or rather celebrate my return to blogging life, sugary excerpt of my hiatus from Sandy Levinson;
:For reasons known only to himself, President Obama has decided to risk his presidency on the outcome of the congressional vote. As I see it, the best way to assure the destruction of his second term is to authorize a strike that makes almost literally no sense in terms of the public rationales that have been offered. There is literally no measure of what might count as "success," other than deterring additional use of chemical weapons. Given that there is no evidence that Assad ordered the use of those weapons in the first place, one might well imagine that he will make some efforts to make sure they are not used again. (There is something particularly indecent about the Obama Administration claiming that Commanders-in-Chief must be held responsible per se, a reversion, it appears to the Yamashita doctrine right after World War II. This, of course, is the Administration that has resolutely refused to hold anyone from the Bush Administration responsible for what is at least equally banned by international and domestic law, i.e., torture, or, for that matter, to pursue members of the Bush I Administration for their toleration of Saddam Hussein's use of poison gas against Iran and then Iraqis. )
It is ominous that Obama's chief domestic support is coming from John ("I never met a war I didn't want to get into") McCain. We all live with (and are victimized by) analogies. I keep thinking of Vietnam, in which thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese lost their lives in order to vindicate American "credibility" and fight against the perception that we were a "paper tiger."
Hum, well at least Cornel West is consistent. Is that a good thing? I don't know but he is onto something.
Poignant question from Sandy Levinson:
Why has "surveillance state" apparently become so widely accepted as a "neutral" term describing the present United States (and, no doubt, other countries as well, and perhaps all that have the technological capacity), while "police state," even if modified by "soft" or "pink" or, to adopt an adjective from the 18th century referring to one type of despot, "benevolent," still presumably raises all sorts of hackles and undoubtedly would generate accusations of ideological shrillness (perhaps like using "constitutional dictatorship" to refer to at least aspects of the American system, even if most of it these days is dysfunctional and incapable of any cogent action regarding many of our most crucial challenges)?
What happened? Well, my guess that something died in America when the change we could believed in ended up being nothing more than remixed Bushism.
Quote of the day from Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the US House of Representatives:
The one thing I do conservatively is count.
In truth Mr Obama’s problems extend well beyond the confines of the capital’s Beltway. The president’s headache is that his winning majority resembles the hamlet in “Brigadoon”. It exists all right, twice sending him to the White House. But, like that Highland village, it is hard to see or touch most of the time. (...) The magic at the heart of Mr Obama’s two victories was his ability to expand the electorate itself, mobilising sporadic voters who shun politics most of the time, notably the young and minorities. Now that he is no longer on the ballot, his loose coalition risks being no match for the intense ideologues who fight and oversee Washington’s partisan battles.
The best sentence I read this week from Sandy Levinson over at Balkinization:
(...) the Constitution is evermore a clear and present danger to the health of the American Republic.
I agree with Corey Robin on this:
During the Vietnam era, liberals and leftists believed not only in social justice but also in mass protest. Whether the cause was democracy at home or liberation abroad, men and women afflicted by oppression had to organize themselves for freedom. Yes, some of yesterday’s activists were blind to coercion within these movements, and others joined elite cadres bombing their way to liberation. Still, the animating faith of the 1960s was in the democratic capacities of ordinary men and women, making it difficult for liberals and leftists to believe in conquering armies from abroad or shock troops from on high.
Many liberals, and some leftists, no longer hold these views. Their faith is guided not by the light of justice but by the darkness of evil: by the tyranny of dictators, the genocide of ethnic cleansers and the terrorism of Islamist radicals. Despite their differences—some of these liberals and leftists support the war in Iraq, others do not; some are partial to popular movements, particularly those opposing anti-American governments, while others favor constitutional regimes, particularly those supporting the United States—theirs is a liberalism, as the late Harvard scholar Judith Shklar put it in a pioneering essay in 1989, that seeks to ward off the “summum malum” (worst evil) rather than to install a “summum bonum” (highest good). Reversing Augustine’s dictum that there is no such thing as evil—evil being only the absence of good—today’s liberal believes there is only evil and progress is measured by the distance we put between ourselves and that evil.
Ah good intentions and the obsession with evil...
I agree with Sandy Livinson on this:
What I want to do now, though, is simply to vent about the patent irresponsibility of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick in appointing his friend Michael Cowan to replace John Kerry as senator, apparently for no other reason than his (Gov. Patrick's) desire to have an African-American Democratic senator for at least four monts or so, and regardless of the fact that there is no reason at all to believe that Sen. Cowan, as I presume he'll become tomorrow or very shortly thereafter, has any real knowledge about national political issues that may in fact come up in the next four months. This is "expressive politics" at its absolute worst, and Gov. Patrick should be ashamed of himself. Frankly, it is the kind of self-indulgent gesture by someone with power that gives "affirmative action" (which I support) a bad name with many Americans. He has, in one instant, disserved his state, his party, and the nation (even if, as I presume, Sen. Cowan is an extremely fine and able person whom all of us would be proud to have as a friend or, if governor of Massachusetts, an aide, as he was.) Nothing in my remarks should be read as casting aspersions on Mr. Cowan's personal character (other, frankly, than that he didn't have the personal self-discipline to exercise what Madison might have described as the "civic virtue" to tell the Governor that he is highly flattered but not really qualified for the job).
All politics nowadays is expressive politics, which is almost always a potent and dangerous form of identity politics.
Deval Patrick is Obama 1.0, he hasn't yet updated his operating software to make his errors of judgment appear to be brilliant avant-gardism and awesomely historic.
From Garry Wills:
Tradition dies hard, hardest among those who cannot admit to the toll it has taken on them. That is why the worst aspects of the South are resurfacing under Obama’s presidency. It is the dignity. That a black should have not merely rights but prominence, authority, and even awe—that is what many Southerners cannot stomach. They would let him ride on the bus, or get into Ivy League schools. But he must be kept from the altar; he cannot perform the secular equivalent of taking the Lord in his hands. It is the dignity.
This is the thing that makes the South the distillation point for all the fugitive extremisms of our time, the heart of Say-No Republicanism, the home of lost causes and nostalgic lunacy. It is as if the whole continent were tipped upward, so that the scattered crazinesses might slide down to the bottom. The South has often been defeated. Now it is defeating itself.
It is easy, comforting, and convenient to blame American idiocy on the South, it fits perfectly in the dumb culture wars narrative.
I disagree partly with Professor Bainbridge on this:
Obviously, Obama is no socialist. But ask me if I think he's a (surprisingly militaristic) social democrat and you'll get an affirmative answer, which in my book makes him a lot more of a liberal on domestic issues than any other modern Democratic president.
I don't think Obama's militarism is surprising at all for it takes guts, audacity to be anything else these days in American presidential politics and Obama is only audacious in his speeches; furthermore Obama's liberalism is both a fantasy and an glitzy accessory used to keep him fashionable.
Though a majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal, several states retain trigger laws that would come into force if Roe v Wade were ever overturned (see map). Leaving them in place is a cheap way for politicians to place themselves on one side of a culture war without having to accept the consequences of their position.
Nowadays, in America and elsewhere, being successful in politics means being cheap!
Obviously, I agree with Glenn Greenwald on this:
t is a perfect illustration of the Obama legacy that a person who was untouchable as CIA chief in 2008 because of his support for Bush's most radical policies is not only Obama's choice for the same position now, but will encounter very little resistance. Within this change one finds one of the most significant aspects of the Obama presidency: his conversion of what were once highly contentious right-wing policies into harmonious dogma of the DC bipartisan consensus.
Best thing I read about the Newtown tragedy so far from Bill Benzon:
Remember the story of the Emperor's New Clothes? The Emperor parades before the town proudly display his costly and gorgeous new outfit, NOT! For, as everyone sees, he's naked. But no one says anything for fear of displeasing the Emperor. And then one little boy blurts out "he's bloody naked!" and the whole delusion collapses.Everyone saw what the boy saw, but no one knew that their neighbor saw the same thing. Everyone was quaking in their boots in fear that they, and they alone, couldn't see the Emperor's fine raiment. Therefore, there must be something terribly wrong with them. But there wasn't. Their eyesight was fine. The little boy's cry showed them that.These terrible gun tragedies are like the little boy's cry. Now we all can see IT. But what is this IT that we can see, and why do we so quickly forget that we saw it? Why does seeing IT seem to make this failure of vision even worse? For that's what it does: "But after moments of healing, the partisan divide in attitudes toward guns has seemed only to accelerate after similar past events, as in Columbine, Colo." Just what is it that's been polarizing the American body politic over the last forty years?
I agree strongly with Corey Robin on this:
Only a country steeped in myths of innocence would find the most conventional and boring kind of realism about politics to be the trumpet blast of Truth, Brave Truth.
We see these quicksilver shifts, from innocence to cynicism or realism, in the culture all the time, especially its more elite sectors—though sometimes they go in the reverse direction. Think of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, how the wise-cracking cynic Jean Arthur becomes a true believer. Or Dave, where the Sigourney Weaver character makes the same pilgrimage. (Interestingly, in both cases it’s a woman who loses her cynicism and discovers her innocence via falling in love with a man.)
But whether it’s the cynic discovering or recovering her innocence, or the innocent losing his innocence, the story of politics among cultural and political elites in this country is always the same, toggling back and forth between two positions that are little more than the competing wisdom of juveniles.
Oh America, I have news for you even innocence can be sinful dirty complicated. As a matter of fact, in America, innocence is a way to fight the terrifying realization that purity in the modern world is impossible.
All this reminds me of the awfully good movie Agnes of God with Jane Fonda in which a young and yes innocent nun gets pregnant and there is throughout the strong suggestion that she had sex with God, which makes it more than ok, not an exploitation, not a perverted act or a worse not one of a sexual discovery and empowerment but a religiously wonderful occurrence for the Mother Superior (Anne Bancroft ) declares solemnly and fanatically in the end of the movie that to be innocent is to be god's victim.
The problem with modern voters is not that they are selfish, but that they are often ignorant and irrational. That problem cannot be solved by restricting corporate and union-funded political speech. Obviously, corporate and union-funded speech sometimes seeks to exploit political ignorance. But the same is true of speech funded by the media, political parties, activist groups, and others. In a political environment where the electorate is often ignorant, whoever is allowed to engage in electoral speech has a strong incentive to take advantage of that ignorance.
I agree with Somin even though I am trouble by the elitism (but right) of our shared viewpoint. However, my discomfort is soothed by the realization that America and Americans don't want an educated citizenry because of the belief, that politics is about identity and that illusory thing called culture. In other words, people should always vote who they are and never what they know.
In Obama's America it isn't knowledge that is power, but identity.
From Glenn Greenwald:
Political leaders and political movements convinced of their own Goodness are usually those who need greater, not fewer, constraints in the exercise of power. That's because - like religious True Believers - those who are convinced of their inherent moral superiority can find all manner to justify even the most corrupted acts on the ground that they are justified by the noble ends to which they are put, or are cleansed by the nobility of those perpetrating those acts.
Political factions driven by self-flattering convictions of their own moral superiority - along with their leaders - are the ones most likely to abuse power. Anyone who ever listened to Bush era conservatives knows that this conviction drove them at their core ("you are with us or with the Terrorists"), and it is just as true of Obama-era progressives who genuinely see the political landscape as an overarching battle between forces of Good (Democrats: i.e., themselves) and forces of Evil (Republicans).
Well, four more years...Bush + Obama = ?
This from John Quiggin disturbs me:
It strikes me that the best way to understand the distinctive characteristics of US voting patterns is to to treat “Southern White ” as an ethnicity, like Hispanic. With that classification each of the major parties becomes an coalition between a solid bloc vote from an ethnic minority and around half the votes of the “non-Southern white” ethnic majority, which is more likely to vote on class lines. The question then is which ethnic/class coalition is bigger. As in other countries, voting for the more rightwing party is correlated, though not perfectly with higher incomes and (conditional on income) lower education, and to shift according to broader ideological movements.(...) To the extent that white Southerners vote on ethnic lines, hostile to key Democratic ideas, it makes little sense to try for a class-based message that panders to (for example) Confederate nostalgia. Rather, the best hope is that younger generations will cease identifying with the South and regard themselves just as Americans or even (Utopianism alert) just as human beings.
Is it legitimate to treat Southern Whites as a separate ethnic group? Certainly, plenty of Southerners thought so at the time of the Civil War. Since then, Southern whites have made strong claims to a separate cultural heritage, defined in opposition both to blacks (and also through historic and recent conflicts with Hispanics) and to Northern Whites.
Really does ethnicity make one more likely to be stupid and to vote a certain way? It does in America because ethnicity is treated as a religion. Quiggin's point just illustrates what is wrong with the America's view of ethnicity and race for they are used to legitimate identical illusions and ignorance.
Come on now, whether one is a 'Southern White' or whatever else, in America, the fact remains that it is much easier and even comfortable to justify the unjustifiable by using ethnicity, culture, and identity as excuses for one's biases and irrationality and that is a problem for no matter what their heritage, people chose who/what to be.
From a fascinating BBC article on the American cult of the General by Daniel Nasaw:
With Gen Petraeus' public downfall, the American public can begin to grapple with why after 11 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan "we haven't won anything", [Andrew] Bacevich says.
The consequences of the myth of "the great heroic general" have been dire, he says.
"It's an excuse to not think seriously about war and to avoid examining the actual consequences of wars that we have chosen to engage."
Andrew Bacevich is too optimistic. The American public doesn't want to think seriously about war or about politics, economics, race, gender, sex for that matter.
Sugar excerpt of the day from Bret Stephens (hat tip: Professor Bainbridge):
Fellow conservatives, please stop obsessing about what other adults might be doing in their bedrooms, so long as it's lawful and consensual and doesn't impinge in some obvious way on you. This obsession is socially uncouth, politically counterproductive and, too often, unwittingly revealing.
Also, if gay people wish to lead conventionally bourgeois lives by getting married, that may be lunacy on their part but it's a credit to our values. Channeling passions that cannot be repressed toward socially productive ends is the genius of the American way. The alternative is the tapped foot and the wide stance.
Also, please tone down the abortion extremism. Supporting so-called partial-birth abortions, as too many liberals do, is abortion extremism. But so is opposing abortion in cases of rape and incest, to say nothing of the life of the mother. Democrats did better with a president who wanted abortion to be "safe, legal and rare"; Republicans would have done better by adopting outgoing Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels's call for a "truce" on social issues.
By the way, what's so awful about Spanish? It's a fine European language with an outstanding literary tradition—Cervantes, Borges, Paz, Vargas Llosa—and it would do you no harm to learn it. Bilingualism is an intellectual virtue, not a deviant sexual practice.
Which reminds me: Can we, as the GOP base, demand an IQ exam as well as a test of basic knowledge from our congressional and presidential candidates? This is not a flippant suggestion: There were at least five Senate seats in this election cycle that might have been occupied by a Republican come January had not the invincible stupidity of the candidate stood in the way.
Stupid question: does it pay to be smart and to act smart in American politics? I don't think that it does for the ultimate test remains likeness and the willingness to refuse to listen to reason because of Americanness/manliness.
From Paul Krugman:
The modern GOP is very much into denial of inconvenient truths, whether those inconvenient truths involve climate change or macroeconomics. Why shouldn’t we expect a party that still believes in supply-side economics after the Clinton boom and the Bush bust to engage in voodoo polling too?
And yet Republicans retained for a long time a fearsome reputation for political prowess. How can these be reconciled?
I know that I’m not alone in believing that a large part of the answer is that they were never actually that good; they were just lucky.
Both American political parties are in denial, one just happens to have been able to make its denial more attractive and more 'hopeful' with the use of magical thinking and marketing .
Sugary excerpt from Philip Delves Broughton:
Perhaps the greatest shock of his second term will be the hardening realisation that Obama’s reality is not his rhetoric. He is a very mainstream, and not uncommonly partisan Democratic haggler, who will become more so the longer he stays in office.
I have to admit that it is hard to accept the fact that America doesn't like reality. Sometimes, I wish that Amerians were more French than they are and can probably ever be.
I wish this were true:
Though it may be painful, though it may be costly at the polls in the short run, Republicans don't have a future unless they break up with the religious right and the gay-bashing, Bible-thumping fringe that gives the party such a bad rap with every young voter. By fighting to legally ban abortion, the party undercuts the potential to paint itself as a rebel against the governmental-control machine.
It is impossible for the Republicans to break up with the religious right, the best thing to hope for is an open relationship.
From Gerard Magliocca:
I think the critics of Citizens United should admit that their doomsday predictions about what the decision would mean for substantive political outcomes were wrong. Tons of money were spent to little effect. Now this may not be the best campaign system, but in the end people listened to the speech being offered and made up their own minds. As it should be.
I disagree. An exception doesn't make the rule or rather Magliocca infer the wrong conclusion from what he believes to be the right outcome of Tuesday's election without taking into consideration that especially in financial matters, spending gazilion amounts of dollars dumbly and ineffectively is almost always fatal.
Great questions about the coverage of the American political election from Charlie Beckett via the London School Economics's Polis blog:
(...)Why do political journalists still treat campaigns like theatre or sport when it is now maths? (cf Nate Silver) (...) Was the election really so close, or does the news media need a tight finish to justify their investment and boost ratings? (...) Did editors think electoral college system was too complicated/obscure to bother explaining it fully, sooner? Because citing only a national poll and saying it’s “too close to call” was not really the most accurate account(...) Is media obsession with process (tactics/strategy) getting in the way of meaningful debate on issues e.g level of debt? [I would answer yes, but it's mainly because politicians don't want to debate Big Issues and the public can't be bothered to read the reams of policy detail that was actually put out by both candidates].
From Sean Collins at Spiked:
In a campaign devoid of ideas, people fell back on identity. Obama’s victory was a victory for the Democrats’ strategy of winning on social values and cohering support among women and minorities, an approach which was very pronounced at their national convention in September.
Identity politics is very much the present and the future of not only American politics, but of world politics. That said, I think Obama's victory was impressive!
From llya Somin:
Obama’s reelection victory cements the idea that having an African-American president is normal.
Ah America and its love of symbols to avoid hard work and harsh/difficult questions!
Sugary excerpt of the day from Lynn Parramore :
Cultural memory and prejudice form strange currents in the Southern mind. The power of the fear and antipathy of the black man has been diluted, but it’s still there, and it's easily stoked by unscrupulous politicians. But it’s easy to just stop there, and you won't have a clear picture if you do.
If you look closer, there’s something else. The Harley Davidson guys and their Southern brethren who put rebel flag stickers on their rides are signaling that they still strongly identify with a war in which their ancestors found themselves on the wrong side of history and fought a losing battle. White men in other regions of the country don’t really get what it feels like to know that your people were defeated in a war by their own countrymen. There’s a feeling that they lost so much for this Union to stay together that they’ll be damned if they are going to admit another defeat by recognizing that America is currently in decline. That is too much for the heart to bear.
Aah, I have to admit this type of analysis just drives me bonkers for it evokes the despairing consensus in America that identity and culture are solely about collective memory and history. I resent that idea because it takes me back to the Fascist dictum that people think with their blood.
Silver has repeatedly, and not very convincingly, tried to explain his percentage forecasts in the context of a football game: Romney is behind, but could still win with a last-minute touchdown. The problem with this metaphor — as, of course, Silver has acknowledged — is that we don't actually know the score of the game. We're standing outside the stadium and guessing the score based on crowd noise. So the source of uncertainty resides at least as much in the potential for mismeasurement as in the potential for last-minute game changers.
What Silver's 80.9% forecast technically means is that, if the Obama-Romney 2012 election were contested 1000 times, he thinks Obama would win 809 of them. This is a way of thinking derived from games of chance, which is where modern ideas about probability originated. In poker or blackjack or roulette or craps, you can (until you run out of money) repeat many iterations of the same gamble. But this particular election is only being contested once. So the closest approximation to the games-of-chance approach would be to expect that, if Silver forecasts four-fifths odds of victory in five different elections, he should correctly pick the winner four times. That's a ridiculously tiny sample size, though. You'd really want to look at dozens or hundreds of elections to judge Silver's reliability. Maybe, if he keeps doing this for another couple of decades, we'll be able to judge him by that standard. In the meantime, it's Silver's reasoning that probably offers the best clues to whether his forecasts are credible.
I agree with both Silver and Fox.
From Clive Crook:
(...) if Obama loses this election, it won't be for what many will say are the obvious reasons -- because the economy is weak and Obama's an African-American. It'll be because he ran as a failed progressive rather than a successful centrist.
I don't even think that Obama is a successful centrist, although he is for sure not a progressive...
I agree with Walter Mead on this:
American liberalism today is in an advanced stage of intellectual decline. Cynical and short sighted interests wrap themselves in the increasingly tattered mantles of sacred ideas. Liberals are right to feel that social justice matters, that the poor should have greater opportunity and that government in a democratic society cannot remain indifferent to the existence of great social evils. (...)The French say that behind every great fortune lies a great crime. But it is also true to say that behind every great failure lies a great blunder. Late 20th century American liberalism is wrong about the way the world works. It doesn’t understand cause and effect very well. It cannot feed itself. Given full power it cannot design and implement policies that advance the causes it honors. Modern American liberalism can only win Pyrrhic victories, because liberals in power take steps that advance their decline.
To paraphrase Forrest Gump, American Liberalism is like a box of chocolate, whatever you get from it might make you feel good by providing a quick sugar rush, but it will never really feel you up and will always ruin your teeth.
From Sandy Levinson:
One "benefit" of this election is that it demonstrates so many things that are wrong with our basic constitutional structures, but, insofar as the worst part of the Constitution is Article 5, I suspect that we will all continue to deny that the Constitution has anything to do with why most Americans, across party lines, have increasing contempt for their government.
In short, America is stuck because of its unchangeable and yet so imperfect Constitution.
I take issue with this from Amy Davidson via the New Yorker:
Romney has said that he does support exceptions to an abortion ban for victims of rape and incest, but, as I’ve written before, that does not make him a moderate. Who would a woman have to appeal to to prove that she had been raped in order to be allowed to end her pregnancy? How long would that take, how vulnerable would she have to make herself to legal machinations, further exposure to her rapist, or the condescending disdain of men like Mourdock? Or is that what he supposes he is sparing survivors of rape by taking the whole question of access for them off the table? How, for that matter, would Richard Mourdock and his cohort want her to prove that she might die if she saw the pregnancy through? Would a small but significant risk be enough? If she was denied access and did die, or was left disabled, where would God’s intention be?
There isn't such a thing as a moderate position on Abortion and people who argue that there is are usually trying to make another point and in this case, Davidson's point is that Romney is an extremist. She should just say it instead of using abortion to prove what is for her, obviously, a res ipsa loquitur literally.
It is alarming to assert but in America and elsewhere, there is only a right and a wrong position on Abortion, which means that there is no middle ground for it is impossible to be a little pregnant. For that reason, Abortion is no longer in my opinion a political issue, but solely one of human rights.
From Stephen Walt:
To put it simply, Neocons have a lot in common with the Obamabots/Obamaniacs!
(...) the unsinkable resiliency of the neoconservative movement remains impressive. Indeed, there is a certain genius to neoconservatism, which one must grant a certain grudging respect. Unlike their liberal interventionist counterparts, who are always looking for consensus and eager to compromise, the neocons are both remarkably uncompromising and notoriously unrepentant. They don't look back, if only because staring at their record of consistent failure would be depressing. So they always look forward, confident that their fellow citizens won't remember the past and can be bamboozled into heeding their advice once again.(...)neoconservatives are like someone who is constantly telling you to jump off a twenty story building, and promising that if you do, you'll fly. If you decide to be prudent and jump from the 10th floor instead, and find yourself plummeting toward earth, they'll just say you failed because you didn't follow their advice to the letter.