Archive for November, 2006
by Jay Stevens
Here’s an intriguing bit of news: outgoing Senator Conrad Burns hinted at future plans in a speech today to the Montana Grain Growers Association convention:
Burns told the…convention that he planned to remain involved in issues such as litigation reform, taxes and fighting environmentalists – both in his last month in office and through a coalition he is helping organize.
A mysterious “coalition” to battle environmentalists? Hilarious. Sounds like he’ll be the baddie in the next Bond flick, “Gold Digger.”
But here’s the killer quote in the piece:
Burns said Thursday he wasn’t sure why he lost. The economy is good in Montana, unemployment is down, and incomes are rising, he said.
Completely unaware on so many levels. Blustering auctioneer to the end, eh? Forget about Abramoff and his shotgun mouth for a second, the economy quote is telling. As Babej and Pollack wrote in Forbes’ “Eight Marketing Lessons for ‘08”:
–When it comes to economics, relevance matters.
The Republican majority believed it deserved credit for strong economic numbers–low inflation and unemployment, high profits and stock indices–yet many voters didn’t see it that way. They saw higher gas prices, higher medical costs, higher interest rates–and little personal benefit from the highly touted tax cuts. If you are going to talk about the economy, make it relevant, like Ronald Reagan did with his famous question: “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” Of course, Iraq and corruption were the key issues in the race. But when the GOP tried to throw a Hail Mary with the economy, it screamed “out of touch” to many average voters reeling under the combination of higher everyday costs, a decline in real wages and perceived erosion of their net worth as the housing market stalled.
While the most of us were being buried under rising health care, energy, and education costs, good ‘ole Connie was cuttin’ deals with Big Pharm, Big Energy, and Big Insurance. Forgetin’ the little folks was what did him in.
by Jay Stevens
This may sound crazy, but I think I like baseball’s hot stove league more than the actual season itself. It could be because I’m a Red Sox fan and there’s too often little joy in that in the waning days of summer. But I think it’s more that the winter trades and free agent signings elevate baseball into the realm of imagination. It’s always fun to mix-and-match players and speculate on the possibilities of a team (ah, the old days of baseball card trading!), sometimes more fun than actually watching the teams play the games and, thus, grind the perfection of potential under the cold boot heel of reality.
Er…anyhow…the big story this offseason involves my Bean Town gang’s attempt to sign Japanese phenom pill-hurler, Daisuke Matsuzaka, to a multi-year deal. The story is big not so much because of the player, who figures to be a decent number-two level starter, but because of the staggering amount of money involved.
That is, the Red Sox offered $51.1 million just to talk to Matsuzaka! That amount doesn’t include whatever money the pitcher himself will be offered! (In fact, the money offer was so ridiculous that many pundits thought it was offered just to keep the Yankees from acquiring Matsuzaka.)
However, under the complex financial rules surrounding the deal and baseball, the money isn’t as much as it appears and some are already calling the deal the biggest move of the offseason.
First, Boston has to pay the $51.1 million to Matsuzaka’s Japanese club, the Seibu Lions, only if Matsuzaka signs with the Red Sox, and apparently Boston’s boy-genius GM, Theo Epstein, is leveraging that fact into pressuring the Lions to pick up some of Matsuzaka’s U.S. contract, which would effectively lower the negotiating fee. That is, the Lions would gladly pay some back to get any money at all.
Second, the $51.1 million bid doesn’t count against baseball’s luxury tax. The tax hits any MLB club that exceeds a certain payroll threshold to the tune of a 40 percent on money that exceeds that payroll. That means, if you add that 51 mil to Matsuzaka’s actual salary – to, say, 20 million a year – the Sox can stay below the threshold and save its luxury tax payments. Which makes the actual cost of hiring Matsuzaka comparable to $16 mil a year for a player whose entire salary falls under the luxury tax rules.
Third, $16 million for a number two pitcher in his physical prime is looking like a bargain in this year’s free agent market. Jeff Passan:
Already Boston made the move of the winter with the posting bid for Matsuzaka, which, as the pitching market shakes itself out, is looking somewhat reasonable. Adam Eaton, who has never posted an earned-run average under 4.08 or thrown 200 innings in a season, got $24 million for three years from Philadelphia. Jeff Suppan is poised to get $10 million a year, Barry Zito perhaps $17 million. And the New York Yankees, the team that bid only $32 million for Matsuzaka, landed the negotiating rights to left-hander Kei Igawa – a pitcher most executives envision as a No. 4 starter – for $26 million.
The one thing that can be said about this whole Matsuzaka deal is that baseball economics are completely and absolutely f*cked up. Just compare Boston’s complex “steal-of-the-offseason” with the relatively simple successful building strategy under the NFL’s economic system.
by Jay Stevens
I finally got around to watching “Walk the Line,” the Johnny Cash biopic, and I admit I was underwhelmed. Yes, the critics loved the movie, especially Joaquin Phoenix’ portrayal of Cash. I thought the script was terrible – it made Cash look like he picked up the guitar on a whim, when in fact he was obsessed by music and performance his whole life, and changed the facts around to make an unchallenging romance film – and I thought Phoenix was near unbearable to watch and, more crucially, to listen to.
That’s right: he did his own singing. One word: ugh.
One of the key failures of the movie, in my opinion, was that Cash was depicted as near incoherent, but in actuality Cash was quite voluble – when he talked about music. You can hear Cash’s passion in this 1997 interview with Terry Gross, in which he’s clearly animated reminiscing about his musical past even though he’s already afflicted with the disease that would incapacitate him and eventually kill him.
That’s not to say Cash was lacking in character outside of music. I think NPR film critic David Edelstein sums Cash up best in his review of “Walk the Line”:
If you’re going to tell the story of Johnny Cash, you to need to account for one thing above all: that indelible tension between self disgust and a kind of Christian resignation. Consider that “Man in Black” getup, the height of cool, yet the mark of a soul in mourning. Or those vocals, steady like a train, says someone in the movie, yet charged with the fear of what his former son-in-law, Nick Lowe, called “the beast in me,” a song that Cash sang beautifully in the last phase of his career.
Edelstein opines that Phoenix nailed this essential element to Cash, but I disagree. Phoenix portrayed Cash’s self-loathing by moping wordless around the set – that is, in cliché Hollywood form. Honestly, is it any fun to watch someone go silent and morose through a movie, watching them booze and dope up and womanize? We like a dash of charm to go with our anti-charm. And Cash in real life was quite charming. Earnest. Passionate about music, God, and justice. Slightly self-mocking.
Perhaps I’m being unfair. After all, that same year were released two biopics that did a much better job in depicting all the tension, conflict, and humanity of their subjects: “Capote” and “Ray.” The latter especially, because it portrays a similar plot and subject, really shines, capturing a world of music and personal contradictions and giving insight into genius.
I thought the movie’s (mis)use of Cash’s 1968 Folsom Prison concert, which would be recorded for the man’s landmark “At Folsom Prison” record, typified the failings of both script and acting in “Walk the Line.”
In the movie, the scene serves as the watershed in Cash’s life. He finally finds purpose in playing to prison inmates, who find connection to the singer through his music. They know Cash understands what they’re going through, and Cash realizes his music is transformative, which gives him the sense of purpose he’ll need to stay off the drug habit he just kicked.
As he makes his way onstage, a rebellious grin works its way across Phoenix’ face and he smashes a glass of water on the set while mouthing off to the prison warden, then launches immediately into “Cocaine Blues,” with it’s murderous line, “I took a shot of cocaine and shot my woman down.” He’s found his calling as the anti-authoritarian bad-boy who has more in common with the prisoners than with the stuffy warden.
In real life, of course, Cash has already played concerts at prisons for over a decade. He doesn’t smash the glass onstage – he drinks the prison water and sets it down next to him on stage. And he doesn’t mouth off to the warden; he’s there at the warden’s request. And his repertoire included songs of redemption, culminating in “Greystone Chapel,” a song penned by one of Folsom’s inmates that suggests in Christianity lies forgiveness and hope.
And what’s most stunning about the concert is not Cash, but the audience reaction, at lines like the above from “Cocaine Blues,” from “Folsom Prison Blues” (“I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die”), and especially at “25 Minutes to Go,” which is a morbid countdown of an inmate’s last 25 minutes before he’s hung. You can hear guffawing and cheers at the following lines:
“And the sheriff said, ‘Boy, I’m gonna watch you die,’ with 19 minutes to go/
oh, I laughed in his face and I spit in his eye with 18 minutes to go.”
“I’m waitin’ for the pardon to set me free, with 9 more minutes to do/
“but this ain’t the movies, so forget about me! 8 more minutes to go!”
And the song’s last and unexpected line, “..and now I’m swingin’ and here I go…,” after which the music halts abruptly is met with ironic cheers and amusement.
A reporter at the time, Gene Beley, who was in the audience covering the concert that day, tells the story of “Greystone Chapel,” and recorded the concert from among the inmates. It’s definitely worth a listen, if only to hear Cash’s eagerness to discover “Greystone Chapel” the night before the concert and the clearer calls from the prisoners.
In the end, “Walk the Line’s” depiction of Cash is the overly simplistic 60s-era James Dean rebel Baby Boomers love, when the reality was more complex, more bleak. You can hear the joy in Cash’s voice as he sings “Cocaine Blues” and “Folsom Prison,” regaling listeners with tales of violence and self-destruction. And that’s it, isn’t it? Cash captures the joy of sin and the unbearable soul-crushing sadness that accompanies it. And that’s why the prisoners react: they understand.
It’s time for Wulfgar!’s annual Montana weblog awards! It’s nomination time: you know what to do folks. Go over there and nominate!
No, you don’t have to be a Montanan to nominate or vote. At least, I don’t think so. Who’s going to check, anyway?
by Jay Stevens
Christian Cryder dropped by in the comment thread to readbetween’s response to the SHEC giveaway. It was an interesting post, generally agreeing with the gist of readbetween’s accusation that SHEC’s materialist response may not have been very Christ-like. (There’s also a good response from a SHECIE in the comments.)
Incidentally, Cryder is part of the “Missoula Project,” whose stated mission (pdf) is to “plant a church” in Missoula:
Nestled in the heart of the mountains, Missoula, Montana, sits like a crown jewel in the Last Best Place. It is a beautiful city to live in, but it’s a barren wasteland spiritually. Nearly 70% of those who live here are completely unchurched. Many have rejected modern religiosity and are looking elsewhere for answers.Burned-out ex-hippies, liberal intellectuals, rugged individualists, and bulletproof college students – all are on a quest for meaning and fulfillment. These people hunger for something more, but they are not finding it. Very few have any real understanding how Christ and the Gospel can quench their thirst.
Ugh. Frankly, you’re not gonna find too many friends around here with that kind of attitude. A barren wasteland? Not only does Missoula have a vibrant Christian community, it has a vibrant Buddhist community, too. Oh, and even the agnostics and atheists in town generally support peace, the environment, and freedom. We lead the state in community farming projects, the Missoula Food Bank is amazing, etc & company.
Enough of the patronizing, please. We “burned-out ex-hippies, liberal intellectuals, rugged individualists, and bulletproof college students” are very aware of Christianity, thank you very much, and many of us would prefer to do our own thing. In the end, I pretty much agree with John Derbyshire’s summary of the effect of religion on our community (hat tip to Ed K):
I have now come to think that it really makes no difference, net-net. You can point to people who were improved by faith, but you can also see people made worse by it. Anyone want to argue that, say, Mohammed Atta was made a better person by his faith? All right, when Americans say “religion” they mean Christianity 99 percent of the time. So: Can Christianity make you a worse person? I’m sure it can. If you’re a person with, for example, a self-righteous conviction of your own moral superiority, well, getting religion is just going to inflame that conviction. Again, I know cases, and I’m sure you do too. The exhortations to humility that you find in all religions seem to be the most difficult teaching for people to take on board. Mostly, I think it makes no difference. Evelyn Waugh would have been no more obnoxious as an atheist.
In the end, I wonder how much the “Missoula Project” founders are willing to embrace Missoula. Do they support a woman’s right to choice? Are they willing to embrace the city’s large and eclectic gay population – and not with an aim to change them, but to welcome them as they are into the congregation, marry them, and include their families? Will they make stewardship of the environment one of their top priorities? Are they concerned about poverty and peace? Will they join Missoula’s civic leaders and oppose torture, rendition, and the war in Iraq? (All of these issues are, of course, completely compatible with Christ’s values.)
Or, in the end, will this church try to change the community into its own image?
I’m not too hopeful it’s the former based on that “barren wasteland” crack. Good luck, fellas. With an attitude like that, you’ll need it.
by Jay Stevens
The notorious Mark T pointed this out on the new Montana Netroots blog, but Republican state senator Dan McGee (Laurel) is planning on introducing new legislation that would force a public official to stand for reelection after switching political parties.
Mark thinks this has to do with Sam Kitzenberg’s switch to the Democratic party. So do I.
I’d add that it’s another example of the Montana Republicans’ inability to intellectually or strategically deal with the changing political landscape in the state.
This legislation is a bad idea. First, it’s confrontational, childish, and bitter. (Which, I admit, may be the new strategy of the Montana GOP.) Maybe it’s just me, but I think making politics more negative, divisive, and partisan after an election in which voters expressed violent disdain for negativity and divisive partisanship is self-defeating to say the least.
Would the bill also affect those legislators who caucus with another party? Like the Constitution Party’s Rick Jore who’s planning on voting with the GOP in the 2007 session? If not, the bill would seem hypocritical. After all, Jore’s constituents voted for him in large part because he isn’t a Republican. How would do they like it he’s become a CINO (pronounced chee-no; “Constitutionalist in name only”)?
Add to that the fact that this bill could very well come to haunt the Republican party in the future – what if a Democratic legislator wants to switch parties next session? – and this stunt is a very poor tactical maneuver.
The only possible reason I could see for this bill is to discourage more Republicans from jumping ship. Seriously, why else would you write something like this? And based on Sales’ recent bullying comments towards his own party member, Corey Stapleton, over education funding (“Sales dismissed the idea of putting more money in higher education, saying ‘I think Corey and I are going to have to have a conversation’”), that’s probably a genuine concern. How many moderate Republicans are going to chafe at their party’s new obstructionist tactics? Opposition to education funding and a property tax rebate?
While I admit I’m happy to see the Montana GOP self-destruct, it’s going to mean an ugly, ugly session in 2007. I’m not looking forward to that, even if it means that the Republican party is going to alienate the state’s voters and leave itself in the hands of a few bitter partisan extremists.
Update: I just saw this over at Matt’s but McGee has also drafted legislation that would overturn the recently passed ballot initiative increasing the waiting period that legislators must endure before becoming lobbyists.
What can I say? He wants to overturn the will of Montana voters and roll back lobbying reform? The snarks write themselves.
I’m glad you brought up the the SHEC burglary, Jay, because the story has been on my mind. Frankly, when I read about SHEC making up gift baskets for the burglars I didn’t think, well golly, that’s just terrific.
Of course, I appreciate the impulse: do kindness in return for offense and thereby be an example of Christian charity. But showering the miscreants with material goods struck me as facile, resorting for expression of spiritual sentiment to the same materialistic culture that conservative Christianity uses as a rhetorical foil for its portentously rebellious contemporary incarnation. That’s fine–better to do clumsy works with good intentions than indulge self-righteous vengeance.
However, SHEC behaved with considerably less compassion in my experience when I presented them with the opportunity to feel some. In June, in the Missoula Independent, I profiled J.C. Nouveaux, a local woman who makes her living as a prostitute. Lots of people didn’t like it. Among them, first among them, was Pastor Erbele of SHEC, who came by the office as soon as the paper hit the stands.
What followed his visit (which I missed since I was out of the office) was a stream of correspondence from SHEC members that ranged from marmish scolding to dunderheaded entreaties to save the children–many from the children themselves, seemingly introduced to the article by their church. The concerns expressed in the letters were, in my opinion at least, ably parried by the editor in an ensuing editorial.
As for me, well, I wasn’t particularly surprised that the church on the hill and its members took offense. There’s a strong strain of nostalgia for a time that never was that runs through the consciousness of most fundamentalists, whether inclined to Christianity or the Caliphate, and reading about the life of a prostitute in their home town–not even so much what she does as the stories she tells herself to make it okay–well, there’s plenty in there that a worldview based primarily on revelation rather than evidence won’t accommodate.
Of course, I did think it was a little bit incongruous to get so much guff from purported followers of Jesus for supping with a prostitute, seeing as how accepting and understanding others is what made Jesus rebellious. But considering how much rigid sanctimony the moral values crowd conducts itself with these days, I wasn’t surprised to see some local Christians cast themselves in the role of those concerned more about public displays of fealty to moral prescriptions than the emotional postures that properly complement agape.
So now, in light of the burglary and SHEC’s response, I’m left wondering just what the metric is for determining who deserves an ostentatious display of compassion and who gets the shock-and-outrage carpet bombing.
Here’s a theory, anyway. The burglary was an offense against property and something personally felt by churchgoers while the article offended their sensibilities and required some emotional effort to comprehend. Lacking the necessary moral imagination to feel compassion for J.C., the subject of the story, Erbele and his flock reacted with indignation rather than understanding. The context of the burglary was much more familiar, presenting forcefully the binary between prosecution and forgiveness thereby facilitating the choice of an alternative to retribution. That’s my charitable take.
The cynic in me just thinks that in the case of the burglary, SHEC was already in the news and had to decide what to do with the consciousness that their actions would be scrutinized. When it came to summoning some compassion in the privacy of wherever they read about J.C., considering what kind of witness their reactions would bear was, perhaps, less a factor in their actions.
by Jay Stevens
Matt got to this first, but the Montana House Republicans chose Bozeman Representative Scott Sales to be their leader. A better choice couldn’t have been made – for the Democrats.
First Sales is an “outspoken conservative,” according to the report, Sales promised to make future elections even uglier than they were in 2006:
The fireworks were in the House Republican race, where Sales beat out a more moderate candidate and promised to use the chamber to groom Republicans for future races.“Our leadership has failed us,” Sales said, promising Democrats will be hit harder in future elections and challenged on legislative policies.
Republican Corey Stapleton, who was expected to be picked by the GOP as their House leader, mentioned that he’d like to work with Governor Schweitzer to increase funding for education in the state. Sales bristled.
Sales dismissed the idea of putting more money in higher education, saying “I think Corey and I are going to have to have a conversation.”
Besides being anti-education, an obstructionist, and proponent of negative campaigning, Sales has a very…er…unimpressive record in Montana’s House. Over the last two legislative sessions, exactly one of Sales’ bills was voted into law, and that was the creation of a Class B-13 Nonresident Youth Big Game Combination License. Um. Yippee.
As for his rejected proposals, well, there’s quite a few more of those. There’s the usual opposition to hate crime legislation (and those pesky civil and human rights) and funding for scholarships, education, and charity; and a proposal to eliminate the position of commissioner of higher education. (The first step in killing off public education?)
The one that cracks me up is his proposal to lift the ban on big-game trophy hunting. That one shows that he’s woefully out of step with Montana’s hunters, most of whom do it for the meat, not for the antlers. That’s the fancy Texas businessmen way of hunting, which usually means dumping the carcass somewhere and hiring a Montana guide to do the actual shooting. And come to think of it, that’s probably why Sales likes this bill, because somebody’s likely to cash in at the cost of our wild spaces.
But the most telling bill in Sales’ history is his support of a regulatory-takings initiative that’s much more extreme than Howie Rich’s version, CI-154. Sales’ bill would allow property owners to collect compensation “with respect to any statute, administrative rule, or ordinance enacted between the date that the person purchased the land and [the effective date of this act].” Imagine the lawsuits that one would burden the state with. Ugh.
The first casualty of Sales’ tenure as the leader of the House Republicans? The GOP’s “handshake with Montana,” (pdf). I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing – but considering that he’s from the conservative wing, I’m guessing his “handshake” is probably more like a “kick to the b*lls” to working- and middle-class families.
The defeat of the GOP in recent years has little or nothing to do with back-room dealing and redistricting as harried MT GOPers claim. Instead, the party is laced with corruption and has tacked hard right in recent years. It’s only good news for the Democrats, who will open their arms to moderates like Sam Kitzenberg and his constituency, that Sales will push his party right and promises to make the Republican party’s participation in the 2007 legislative session a bitter cacophany.
by Jay Stevens
I don’t know if you saw this story in the Thanksgiving edition of the Missoulian, but a church that was burglarized recently by three teenagers chose to react to the situation in a different way than we’re used to in these times.
Teens broke into South Hills Evangelical Church recently and stole money and electronics and did thousands in damage to the facility. But instead of reacting with anger, church members got together and made the boys and their families gift baskets:
…last Sunday, Pastor John Erbele devoted his sermon to the young men, preaching about mercy and forgiveness.“He challenged members of the church to give love baskets,” Reimer said. “They’re sitting in the office right now, and we hope to get them to the families on Thanksgiving Day. We’ve collected several hundred dollars’ worth of gift cards, Xboxes and controllers, a DVD, a VCR. All three young men still live with their parents or grandparents, so we hope the message will be clear.”
It’s a great story, where Christian charity is given to the very people that transgressed their property. Anybody who’s been robbed, burglarized, or mugged knows exactly how vile the crime is. It feels like a violation, especially if someone enters your home. To not only forgive, but to reach out to the teens with kindness, takes an extraordinary amount of compassion.
And the story obviously resonated. It was picked up by Fox national wire services and the BBC, and run in papers in Florida, Texas, and Pennsylvania, and was even carried out by the ultimate English-language expatriate paper, The International Herald Tribune. So what are some larger issues behind this small and community event? Why did it resonate?
First, I think there’s an odd irony in the story. Many conservative Christians who would – correctly – view this act of generosity towards its own attackers as a noble and Christ-like act also think that any, say, non-violent approach to terrorism (economic aid to the poorest region of the Middle East, for example) is akin to “appeasement,” and only encourages more terror. By that same logic, the teens of Missoula should be lining up to burgle SHEC in their spare time.
While I’m not saying that it’s not possible to hold two contradictory thoughts in your head at the same time – I do recognize the vast difference between the two examples – I would like to point out that it is possible to react unexpectedly and from strength of character rather than strength of muscle.
by Jay Stevens
In the Billings Gazette story on Dennis Rehberg, which tells what the minority-party Representative will do with his spare time, I saw something I’d like to comment on, namely Rehberg’s comments on partisanship in Washington DC:
Stressing bipartisanship, Rehberg took note of the closely divided state and federal lawmaking bodies.”I think the people of Montana and the nation have spoken pretty clearly. They don’t want the partisan bickering, they don’t want to see the gridlock, they want to see things get done.”
Fascinating quote. What are we to make of it? On one hand, it could be a bald attempt to set up the rhetoric for the next election where Rehberg, either running for another shot at his House seat or for some other, as of yet undeclared seat, can claim that the Democrats are a bitter partisan bunch because they didn’t listen to him in the 110th Congress.
On the other, this could be a genuine statement, because…well…it’s true that voters rejected partisanship by voting for Democratic candidates. This gibes with another report (no link, sorry) that claimed Rehberg was courting the economic populist vote with his opposition to Bush’s recently proposed energy rate hikes. In other words, he might be an ally in the House for Medicare having the ability to negotiate with Big Pharm on drug costs, ethics and health care reform, rollback of tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy, and other useful and popular measures that would take DC out of the hands of corporations and the ultra-rich. If so, it’s a little late, but we could still use the help.
But based on his voting record, color me doutful.
Like Max Baucus, Dennis Rehberg has two years to show if he’s learned the lessons of the 2006 election. Let’s see how he votes.
by Jay Stevens
So there I was, having a nice, quiet holiday, completely unaware that my conservative fans were lacing my comment threads with their usual reality-challenged revisionist interpretation of history, as if somehow everything good and American that has come before leads directly to President Bush and his cadre of loyalists.
I’m thankful that at this time in the year back in the early 1600’s a small group of 50 pilgrims stood with their head bowed in prayer over a bounteous feast. A year before they had been twice as many but those had succumbed to sickness, exposure and starvation. But I more thankful that Gov. Bradford had the foresight to see that the “commune” style of government was failing and to be successful and reward individual effort settlers were given a plots of land to improve themselves. With its biblical roots thus began capitalism and the success that is America.
That’s right. Long before Karl Marx was even born, the Pilgrims had discovered and experimented with what could only be described as socialism. And what happened? It didn’t work! Surprise, surprise, huh? What Bradford and his community found was that the most creative and industrious people had no incentive to work any harder than anyone else, unless they could utilize the power of personal motivation! But while most of the rest of the world has been experimenting with socialism for well over a hundred years – trying to refine it, perfect it, and re-invent it – the Pilgrims decided early on to scrap it permanently. What Bradford wrote about this social experiment should be in every schoolchild’s history lesson. If it were, we might prevent much needless suffering in the future.[snip]
They unharnessed the power of good old free enterprise by invoking the undergirding capitalistic principle of private property. Every family was assigned its own plot of land to work and permitted to market its own crops and products. And what was the result? ‘This had very good success,’ wrote Bradford, ‘for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.’ Bradford doesn’t sound like much of a…” I wrote “Clintonite” then. He doesn’t sound much like a liberal Democrat, “does he? Is it possible that supply-side economics could have existed before the 1980s?
(Big Swede, it’s usually good form to cite the source you “borrow” from in these things.)
By this same logic, then, the lesson of Jamestown and the Virginia colony was that indentured servitude and slavery works and should be hailed today.
This view of Thanksgiving exploits the holiday for partisan politics, of course, where the original event was a harbinger of Reaganite and Bushian ideology of unfettered corporatism. It’s the story, not of giving thanks to God or to the ether or a simple moment to meditate on your fortune and family, it’s an ueber-patriotic call to conservative arms and an American Capitalist Empire!
There are only two accounts of the original Thanksgiving, and neither of them mentions using the holiday to contemplate the benefits of capitalism, the possibility of an American Empire, or any such rot. Mostly it was about eating and being grateful to God for having food to eat.
Our corn [i.e. wheat] did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn, and our barley indifferent good, but our peas not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sown. They came up very well, and blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom. Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.
(No condemnation of those unrepentant socialists, the Indians.)
Dave Neiwert also reminds us that the Pilgrims were neither the first European settlers or the first North American colonists and thinks the message we should take from Thanksgiving shouldn’t be that of “American destiny” (let alone unfettered corporatism):
When you look at the full scope of North American history, the image of Thanksgiving as a holiday of U.S. exceptionalism becomes much harder to sustain. The Pilgrims were not the first European settlers, as many Americans believe. (Cortez’s Spanish troops were.) They weren’t even the first English settlers (several English colonies had been doing very well in Canada for decades). Plymouth was not the first European city in the New World (Cuernavaca would have a decent claim there); nor even in America (as anyone from either St. Augustine or Santa Fe will tell you). And theirs was far from the first Thanksgiving. In truth, they were latecomers to a long-standing party that had already become a New World tradition from Montreal to Mexico City.Living in Canada has given me a bigger view of Thanksgiving. It’s not a holiday celebrating American uniqueness and destiny, but rather one that connects us in history to all the people of this continent — those who came on the boats from Spain, then France, then England to brave a world they could not imagine; those who met the boats and lost the world as they knew it; those who have come in the centuries since from every corner of the planet; and those who share the continent with America now, and are as bound to her fate as surely as we are bound to the brothers and sisters we’re feasting with today.
And the Notorious Mark T reminds us that the American colonists’ in New England (and elsewhere) owed their success not to character, religion, or capitalism, but to disease. If anything, I thnk that’s the message we should take away from the Pilgrims’ successful experiment in New England, that most of our fortunes as Americans – and even being Americans – is purely accidental. We should be grateful to God, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or to random chance that it’s all worked out the way it has and that we lucked into our lives, our family, and even our country.
This isn’t a holiday for arrogance, it’s a time for humility. The original Pilgrims died at an astounding rate. They were cut off from all of their friends, family, and tradition in a hostile environment surrounded by an alien people. Their crops were inconsistent, disease and death were rampant. The survivors knew how tenuous their hold to life was. We should do the same and find inspiration from that feeling, not anger or fear or aggression.
I suppose I should encourage you all to discuss what you’re thankful for in the comments, but that’s probably pretty overworked this time of year. Save that stuff up for murmuring over your mashed potatoes and gravy.
Instead, what would you like to be thankful for next year? It might be fun to revive the list in a year and see which wishes came true. Or it just might be fun to wish wildly, shoot for the stars.
The first thing I’ll be thankful for is that I’m still around to give thanks.
And then — and let’s get the with the mushy stuff out of the way — I hope I’ll be again thankful for having such a fantastic family and dear friends, everywhere. I expect I’ll still be thankful I worked my *ss off for Tester and that I live in Montana and that I have an open and eclectic neighborhood…good health…lots of food…and that the Lions will actually be a decent team to watch for a change.
…but I also hope to thankful for having seen W and Cheney doing the perp walk on CNN, for Sean Hannity’s show being canceled, and for troop withdrawals from Iraq. I hope to thankful for a gripping battle in the AL East with the Yankees coming in third and missing the playoffs. I hope to be thankful for finding such a great child-care provider after our current one leaves in December. I hope to be thankful for a mild summer, not the (as of late) usual carbon-emission smoky scorcher. I hope to be thankful for having my first novel make it to all the best-seller lists and be nominated for the Pulitzer. (And yes, nomination would be enough.)
by Jay Stevens
There have been a couple of interesting articles I’ve linked to in the past few days about corporate responsibility and their role in how they can be steered to do good. Of course “good” is a wildly subjective term, and some feel big business shouldn’t be “steered” at all. But most reasonable people realized unchecked corporate power is bad and that there are serious issues that need addressing.
Leon Gettler of The Age admits that even libertarians’ grandpappy Milton Friedman realized a need for corporate social responsibility even as he railed against it. Gettler notes that companies can attract workers and customers through social responsibility, they can make profit off of new markets that cater to burgeoning social responsibilities (like alternative energy), but that they should also be aware of negative social consequences their products
For example, Health Minister Tony Abbott’s accusation last week that Coca-Cola was fuelling Australia’s childhood obesity crisis should be put in the context of calls around the world for controls on the marketing of fast foods.The tobacco, oil, mining, banking, forestry and pharmaceutical industries have all felt the long-term impact of social issues when they were caught out by society’s changing expectations.
With an issue such as obesity, for instance, the public’s view once upon a time was that the responsibility lay with the individual. Now the blame has shifted to the way companies are marketing fattening foods. The same applies to the tobacco industry.
That is, a company can suddenly find its product sales dropping precipitously if it doesn’t remain aware of the social conditions in the environment where the sales are made.
But while it’s clearly arguable with whom the blame lies in the problems created by things like fatty foods or tobacco products, these products revolve around individual choice. That is, the only person directly impacted by a Big Mac is the consumer eating it.
Other products affect more than the person consuming it. For example, a manufacturer who dumps toxic waste into a public water supply is adversely affecting the community where the plant is based, not the consumers of the plant’s product. Relying on the market to correct the damage done by the plant is foolish. For those situations, where a company’s practices are clearly harmful to the public good, we must regulate.
Helping corporations do the right thing through regulation—which, it should be noted, also levels the playing field so that a greenish BP doesn’t have to worry about a dirty Exxon¬Mobil—is not exactly a new idea. It’s more or less what we used to do, in the long period from Teddy Roosevelt and the trustbusters on to about the 1980s.
Enter climate change. It’s a problem. There’s a near-unanimous scientific consensus that says human activity, at the very least, contributes considerable to climate change and, if unchecked, that will lead to serious consequences to global living conditions and economies. The problem of leaving the market to “correct” the problem of global warming is that it’s a delayed effect – our behavior now will make the climate worse later. By the time consumers realize there’s a serious problem with their habits of consumption, it’ll be too late.
There were a lot of arguments against regulating change to combat climate change, and most of it from those with vested interest in big energy profits. First it was “global warming doesn’t exist.” When the temperatures rose, it became “it’s a natural temperature shift.” Now that scientific and popular consensus recognizes the problem, it’s now “too late to do anything about it.”
Global warming is real, it’s here, it’s our fault, and we can do something about it. We can raise emission standards, for example, sign on to international treaties to reduce CO2, raise gas mileage requirements, give subsidies or loans to energy-saving improvements on public and private buildings, and invest heavily in alternative fuels. None of these things would be difficult or overly expensive.
by Jay Stevens
How low can you go?
True to Republican party form, Montana’s branch of the party is raising a fuss about Montana state senator Sam Kitzenberg’s switch to the Democratic party. Unwilling to come to grips with the simple fact that their party may indeed be coursing steadily to the right and alienating its members and erstwhile supporters, the group is claiming that Brian Schweitzer directed the switch. And in trying to prove their claim, they’re now requesting telephone records from the Governor’s office and the Department of Revenue.
Fine. Let them do so. But when they don’t find anything, can we all agree that they owe the Governor, Sam Kitzenberg, and the state of Montana a sincere apology? A reimbursement of taxpayer money to offset the requests for the records would help, too.
But don’t hold your breath, folks. The Republican Party doesn’t know how to apologize. The Republican Party doesn’t know how to stop themselves. First comes the requests for phone records, then will come calls for independent investigations, then will come lawyers and depositions and blah-blah-blah until someone has to face perjury charges they’ll be acquitted of, and the taxpayer will be stuck with an enormous bill for a bald, partisan witch hunt that ends up with…nothing.
Instead of all this, I’d suggest the Montana GOP get busy reworking its ideology, its representatives, and its tactics. You’re bleeding voters, folks. Remember this used to be a “red” state, don’t you? You lost the Governorship, the legislature, and both Senate seats. And it’s not because of some shady back-room deal the Good Guv arranged.
Here’s my advice: take a hard, long look in the mirror.
by Jay Stevens
James Carville has been in the news lately for attacking DNC chair Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy. It was a sort of foolish move. Chris Bowers has an excellent post about the brouhaha – or lack of one – and how Carville’s attempt to smear Dean may have been a bald try to make himself and his consultant kind still relevant in the face of a growing grassroots and locally based Democratic movement:
Carville and Begala generally represent an older tactical vision for the Democratic Party. This was a vision that was dominant from 1988-2004, when Democrats heavily employed triangulation, focused almost entirely on the narrow targeting of a few “swing” districts and demographics, and when television advertisements and repetitious talking points aimed mushy-middle, low information voters where the primary tools utilized in all national Democratic campaigns. Wealthy donors and high-level consultants liked that strategy because it kept money flowing to the latter in the form of hefty commissions, and because it kept Democratic policy where the former would like it to be. Most state parties and progressive activists hated that strategy because it basically dictacted that their electoral concerns were either not important, or something that the Democratic Party needed to actively distance itself from. Whatever ideological differences there may or may not be between the two feuding camps, ultimately their dispute is grounded in a difference in tactical vision: narrow targeting versus the fifty-state strategy.
Basically Dean’s 50-state strategy has given the “power” to local activists and state party chairs, which means less attention and money flowing to the DC-insider consultants. That is, Carville and the like.
So imagine my joy to finally get The War Room delivered by Netflix to my door this week. I could watch the film and candidacy that propelled Carville (and to a lesser extent, George Stephanopoulos) into the limelight.
From today’s perspective, the film is hardly revolutionary. There have been a number of other campaign documentaries, and the youthful vigor so prominently displayed in the film almost seems like a cliché, because the quick-talking spin-master and the operations room seems so common in campaigns now. There’s not much substance here, either. As Bowers wrote, Carville and the gang worked incessantly on superficial spin, targeted “swing” districts, and used television advertising to win. In effect they exploited mass media.
Consider this: Carville’s legacy is his strategic haiku that’s still in part mouthed by politicos everywhere:
Change vs. more of the same.
The economy, stupid.
Don’t forget health care.
That’s it. That’s Carville’s “genius.” Boil down the campaign into these simple words and bring everything back to them. It works, yes, but it’s the same type of genius responsible for pulpless orange juice.
But the thing that makes the movie is Carville’s personality. He shines in the flick. He’s indefatigable, earnest, saucy, and sentimental. He’s got this way of trashing someone in a playful way that says, “hey, we’re all friends here,” and allows him to say outrageous things without suffering repercussion. Because after all, he’s working for Bill Clinton and is pressed to spin an unending stream of scandals, notably in The War Room, Gennifer Flowers on the eve of the New Hampshire primary.
And the striking thing about Carville’s performance is the genuine emotion he put into this campaign. I was moved by his dedication to the ideals Clinton stood for. Here’s the review from the New York Times describing it:
Mr. Carville’s distinctive brand of Southern charm emerges equally clearly. “The country’s goin’ el busto,” he says flatly. “Fix it. If you can’t, get out of the way.” Since both he and Mr. Stephanopoulos appear to believe in that sentiment fervently, their strategy sessions are seen to go beyond the cynicism and dirty tricks associated with too many political campaigns. Confronted with the specter of Gennifer Flowers, Mr. Carville speaks fiercely to a small group of campaign workers in New England, telling them that if they let Mr. Clinton sink under the weight of such a story, they will be giving up their own hopes of changing the political process. That same motif is heard throughout the film, most movingly as a tearful Mr. Carville thanks his staff on election eve.
In an interview with Frontline, Carville reveals that he suffered personally more than the film cameras showed:
You write in your book that, on the morning of January 26, you woke up in the middle of the night sobbing uncontrollably. Why?
That was the morning of the 60 Minutes interview. I was 40 at the time. I’m 47 years old. I had reached almost the pinnacle of my career in political consulting. I was a guy that mattered in a presidential campaign. I had been sleeping on floors and running statewide campaigns — and it came down to the sex interview being the biggest event in the campaign. . . . And I didn’t know which way it was going to go. I was tired and I was scared. I was scared for the people I was working with, and I was scared for myself. . . . It was fatigue, it was fear, and it was like, God, is this what I’ve worked all of this for? Did I come this far to get to this? So I just kind of lost it; I just got emotional (laughs).
It’s interesting to note that this emotional outburst – the “60 Minutes” interview Carville mentions here is the one the Clintons candidly discuss his marital infidelities – is the outcome of Clinton’s candidacy, and ideals and hopes behind it, resting on the outcome of a sex scandal and Carville’s frustration with that fact.
That’s what the film shows: Carville is genuinely believes in Clinton and what he represented for America. Take this question from the Frontline interview concerning the Starr investigation and Clinton’s eventual impeachment proceedings:
A few hours before the election, when the governor was sure he was going to win, Ted Koppel interviewed the Clintons. In that interview, Mr. Clinton says, “I’m going to keep this zone of privacy, even as president.” Was that a naïve view at the time?
Frankly and honestly, yes. When you run for president, and become president, they just rip you apart. Every facade of privacy that you have is gone. I think everybody believes that, to some extent, you can maintain privacy. And I think in the end, everybody gets proven wrong. . . .
She was distraught. She said that things were dark. . . . And she said, “I don’t know how we are going to get through this. Can you help me?” And I said, “Damn right I can help you.” And then they start . . . railroading the whole thing. It was just another railroad job, over nothing more than a grown man acting stupid with a young woman and not wanting nobody to find out about it.
Investigating everything, FBI agents all over the place, squeezing people. You know something that has never been pointed out? In the last 78 indictments that Ken Starr handed down, he never got one conviction. Not one. Zero for 78.
. . . They were mustering people to vote for impeachment like it was going out of style. They politicized this thing to no end. They wanted to make it political? Fine. I’d be glad to jump in to a political fight with them. . . . This thing will never ever go away from me. Never, ever. This is one of the great injustices that has ever taken place. And I wasn’t coy about it. I didn’t try to hide it or anything else. I wrote a whole book about it.
The movie brings this out, starkly, that Carville believes in this campaign deeply, and that it represents hopeful opposition to the “sleazy cabal” of Republicans who operate on behalf of the wealthy against the working poor and the everyday American. And in his answers on the Lewinsky affair, it’s obvious he takes the attacks on his former boss seriously and personally and that it’s more than just a political battle here.
Combine that desire for revenge with Carville’s own deification after the Clinton win in 1992 — it was Stephanopoulos who said Carville would “pass from a regular human being into a hero” as a result of the campaign — and maybe what we’re seeing isn’t bald self-interest as it is hubris. The man still believes he’s a miracle worker, he still believes he’s the superstar activist of the Democratic party, and he’s loath to give up his say and miss his chance at sticking it to those that attacked Clinton and the country.
But lastly, and most of all, I recognized the emotions I recently experienced in the Montana Senate race: exhaustion, giddiness, calculated coldness, exhaltation and despair, and hope.
Carville to the campaign volunteers: “Outside of love, the most precious thing you can give of yourself is your labor…you people showed you could be trusted.”
by Jay Stevens
As conservative politicians jockey for position in the 2008 presidential nomination battles by trashing gays at every opportunity and banking on the issue to once again divide the electorate in their phony “culture war,” it’s important for everybody to remember who gets hurt: people.
Now Seattle-based columnist Dan Savage is hardly an innocent passer-by in the battle of rhetoric. In fact, he’s quite well known for…well…associating “family values” man Rick Santorum with…well…a byproduct of anal sex. Still, many may conclude Santorum earned the appellation.
In any case, in a recent column, Savage mulls over the amount of sympathy we should feel for fallen social conservatives (like Ted Haggard), including Rick Santorum and the soon-to-be-ex-Senator’s children who openly wept when he conceded the race:
As for Santorum’s kids, well, once again we’re put in the position of having to feel sorry for the offspring of a delusional bigot. But just how bad should we feel? I remember listening to the radio when Santorum said something obnoxious about gay couples: An anti-gay-marriage amendment was a homeland-security measure, Santorum said, which makes gay couples terrorists. My son, who happens to be the same age as Santorum’s younger daughter (the one weeping and clutching a doll in that widely circulated photo), was in the room at the time and he got pretty upset. So, yeah, we should all feel bad for Santorum’s kids, but let’s also feel bad for all the other kids that Santorum hurt.
That’s the thing. When you go around basing your campaign on who can best call a certain group of people degenerate, and who’s hated that group the longest and most consistently, the fact is that people get hurt. And not always the people you want to hurt.
I know me asking for the vitriol to stop is like spitting into an onrushing tornado. Mitt Romney, for one, is apparently determined to earn his conservative credentials by stirring up the issue. But, please. Stop. Your rhetoric does actual damage to those who have not earned it.
Update: Re-reading the post, it looks like I might be saying gays have earned the attacks against them — only their children should be free from suffering accountibility of their parents.
No. I’m not saying that. Judge an individual for his/her actions; attacking a group only ensures you’ll injure those that don’t deserve it.
by Jay Stevens
For those of you only now drifting back into consciousness after the election – or those of you with the blankets still tucked firmly over your heads – there’s been some major rumbling in the ‘netroots about our senior Senator, Max Baucus.
Because Baucus’s committee is so important, the question that will decide much of what happens in Congress is simple: will Baucus follow the populist trend emerging in his state and throughout the country, or will he listen to corporate lobbyists and insulated Washington “strategists” and staffers who tell him to tack to the so-called “right” (read: sell out)?
Sirota has a list of issues to watch Baucus on – though in no way is the list complete.
And today there appeared a post in MyDD.com from blogswarm, which summarized the history of discontent that Baucus has earned from the left, including names like Matthew Yglesias, Chris Bowers, The Nation, and The New Republic, a vertible who’s who of progressive mags and bloggers.
blogswarm’s post is a quick and dirty list of Baucus’ most egregious votes, but what I found most interesting about the post were these little statistics:
2002 Midterm: Max Baucus, incumbent Senator, unopposed: 66,713 votes
2006 Midterm: Jon Tester, grossly outspent: 65,757
It doesn’t take a genius to notice that Baucus would be very, very vulnerable against the right candidate in a Democratic primary. Let’s just say there’s an energized, excited group of people who just battled a three-term incumbent and won, and they’re suffering from hubris right now, and chomping at the bit to do a little more good for the country. Oh, and there’s apparent support from most of the major players in the ‘netroots who helped propel Tester financially and ideologically into his Senate seat. So any Baucus challenger would likely have a small army of foot soldiers and a chunk of change and a whole lot of free publicity.
Lest there are nay-sayers out there worried about the Democratic majority in the Senate if Montana’s left takes down Baucus, the 2008 Senate battle map is very favorable for Democrats. So there’s little risk of a Democratic minority after ’08.
As for me, I’m viewing the world with rose-colored glasses. The slate’s clean. It’s a brand-new day. I’m starting Senator Baucus off with an “A” for his role in the 110th Congress. He’s had some good votes lately – a “nay” on the torture bill, for starters – and I’m sure we’ll see some more. Here’s to Max becoming the man of the people.
Isn’t it great to be a Democrat?
by Jay Stevens
I promised a few thoughts about Ed Kemmick’s column on fair coverage in the media in Sunday’s Billings Gazette. In it, Kemmick defends traditional media against criticism lobbed against it from both the right and the left and makes a case for sticking to traditional forms and ethics when covering the news:
Any thinking person will have beliefs and opinions, but a good reporter will bend over backward to prevent those beliefs and opinions from slanting a story. That is much different from failing to acknowledge those beliefs, or simply giving into them and becoming a partisan hack. Good reporters, trained in skepticism and objectivity, can still serve an important public function.What I mean by objectivity is that the reporter stays out of what he writes, not that he slavishly presents two “sides” to every story. If we report that a petroleum geologist has located oil in a formation 150 million years old, we are not obligated to tack on a disclaimer saying, “Many people, however, believe that the Earth is only a few thousand years old.”
What I mean by being fair and objective is presenting facts without comment and conveying the words and thoughts of other people as they would want them to be conveyed. That is not an easy thing to do, but I think we should continue to demand that reporters at least try.
First, I think we can all agree that everybody likes reporters and traditional media outlets that actually strive for “objectivity” and high ethics when presenting its consumers with its media product. And for the record, I’ve long been a loud critic of the “he says / she says” style of “objectivity” that so often finds it way onto the pages of our newspapers or onto our television or radio coverage.
But, see, the problem isn’t good reporting, it’s the consistent bad reporting from traditional media outlets that lands us into trouble. Ed assiduously defends his craft’s form from blog rhetoric or radio talk-show style, but completely ignores the huge questions surrounding the form, content, and performance of newspaper, television, and radio journalism. No one seriously believes that blogs will supplant journalism. Instead of defending journalism and his own work, Ed might have been better off identifying the real problems and offering solutions.
For example, Ed doesn’t like the “he said/she said” style of objectivity? Unfortunately that’s how the issue of global warming was covered. Despite near scientific consensus that human activity contributes to global warming, and that global warming exists, over half of all audited news articles on the subject gave “…roughly equal attention to the views that humans contribute to global warming and that climate change is exclusively the result of natural fluctuations.”
Journalists lazily and dutifully presented the “other side” of the issue, ignoring (or ignorant) of the fact that those studies were often funded by organizations (e.g., energy companies) whose financial interest ran afoul of good science and reporting. That is, journalist “objectivity” has likely contributed to our nation’s slow response to the climate change.
Or take the example of the New York Times’: they admitted their coverage of WMDs leading up to the invasion of Iraq was deeply flawed. What the apology doesn’t mention is that most of its misleading news articles came from a single source, Judith Miller, who dutifully reported WMD propaganda from administration stooge, Ahmad Chalabi, which was then used as support for the administration’s case for the war. Rumor has it that the newspaper liked having Miller on their staff, because she balanced the criticism that the paper had a purely liberal viewpoint.
The Times’ Miller fiasco easily stands as a synecdoche for the media coverage as a whole between 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. In a time of great crisis and importance, our national media gave the government the benefit of the doubt on every issue and is culpable for the disaster that ensued. The Bush administration exploited the media’s willingness to present its view, even if its view was manufactured propaganda.
In both cases – global warming and the WMD coverage – journalists stuck to out-of-date notions of “objectivity,” ignoring the fact that these ethical forms were crassly exploited by those looking to influence public opinion. By trying to remain neutral, journalists were forced to present…well…“fake” positions and became co-conspirators in the campaign to mislead the American public.
Problems exist in journalism. The question shouldn’t be, which is a better media, blogs or traditional media, but how can we change the traditional standards to make them less difficult to exploit? How can we ensure fairness in the media?
One possible way is with objective analysis. We saw some in the Montana Senate race with the series on analyzing the content of political ads. State reporters tried to objectively parse the accusations and promises of both candidates based on the television commercials they each aired.
That was a great start. Unfortunately no similar effort was made for debates or the gibberish coming from campaign spokespeople.
Update: Ed continues this discussion at his blog. Be sure to check out the comments, some of which are about 6 times as coherent and enlightening as this post.
by Jay Stevens
The Washington Post’s EJ Dionne has written an astute commentary about the post-election environment.
On conservative spin that the loss wasn’t all that bad:
Many who play down the Democratic gains are the very same people who said six months ago that the Democrats had no chance of winning either the House or Senate. Incumbent-friendly congressional boundaries and the fact that many of the House and Senate seats Democrats needed to win were in previously pro-Bush areas meant Democrats needed a big and unlikely surge.
On the conservative claim that the election was actually an affirmation of conservative values:
The notion that this election produced a different kind of “conservative” majority is simply wrong. Yes, Democrats won in part by nominating moderate candidates in moderate areas. But every newly elected Democratic was, by any fair reckoning, somewhere to the left of the vanquished Republican, especially on Iraq and economic issues.Moreover, Nov. 7 sent to Congress a pack of unapologetic progressives, including Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the Senate, and such new House members as John Yarmuth of Kentucky, Carol Shea-Porter in New Hampshire and Dave Loebsack in Iowa, among many others.
And a warning to Democrats, of all stripes:
But victory has not prevented the revival of what feels like an ancient feud between Democratic centrists, who are emphasizing the importance of moderate voters in last week’s results, and those on the party’s left who point to the centrality of economic populism and impatience with the Iraq War.To which the only rational response is: Stop! Moderates were, indeed, central to the Democrats’ triumph because Republicans vacated the political center. But these are angry moderates. Many are unhappy about Iraq, less on ideological grounds than because the Bush policy is such an obvious failure. The new Democratic voters are a mix of social conservatives (especially in the South and parts of the Midwest such as Indiana) and social libertarians (especially in the West). Many (especially in the Midwest) are angry about the flight of manufacturing jobs overseas.
Holding this coalition together will require subtlety and an acknowledgement that the comfortable old battles of the 1980s and ’90s are irrelevant to 2006 and 2008. The old arrangements are dead, a truth both parties need to recognize.
Hopefully that’ll be the last bit of commentary on post-election spin here at 4&20 b’birds, although I reserve the right to change my mind at any time.
The warning to Democrats is the most interesting bit of the piece. I, for one, think economic populism is the way to go for the Democratic Party. It’s not only a winning topic and keep Democrats in power for a long, long time, but good policy aimed at the working- and middle-class voters will actually do a world of good. IMHO.
BTW, I think I’m finally coming down after the election-season hubbub, the late-night blogging and long, long car trips, the debates and rallies, knocking on doors and calling on the phones. Every time I settle down with a book or to watch a football game, I fall asleep. Pass out. From consciousness to unconsciousness in seconds. Speaking of which…the Griz won that game, right?