Friday, August 27, 2010

A Year of Fundamentals

I feel like this is going to be an interesting election year. On the one hand, all the fundamentals favor the GOP. The economy is down. The Presidential Party normally loses off-year elections. The Democratic Party won a ton of marginal seats in the 2006 and 2008 wave elections, and those seats would be difficult to hang onto under any circumstances. The terrain is very Republican-friendly.

Political scientists are generally rather sneering about the idea that the daily political play-by-play actually effects election results all that much. It's fundamental, macro issues (most notably the economy) which drive results.

Yet, this year, we might see a test of that hypothesis, given just how far to the right the Republican Party has decided to drift. It's not quite like the Republican Party decided to run a whole slate of Alvin Greenes, but it's close.

In state after state -- Kentucky, Nevada, Florida, and most recently Alaska -- GOP primary voters have spurned mainstream, electable candidates for folks on the furthest of the right-ward fringe. And it's turning states that should have been easy wins for the GOP into bona fide targets for the Democratic Party. Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) should be dead in the water, but for the fact that 66% of Sharron Angle's own supporters regret having nominated her. Joe Miller's apparent knock-off of incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) has possibly put that Senate seat into play. In the Florida gubernatorial race, former prohibitive favorite Bill McCollum couldn't get past Rick Scott in the primary, and Democratic nominee Alex Sink has to be smiling given that McCollum apparently won't endorse Scott. A similar story prevails in the Florida Senate race, as Charlie Crist's independent bid after getting forced out of the GOP primary by Marco Rubio has thrown the entire race into flux (for the record, I'm a Charlie Crist fan, and have been since well before he dropped the GOP label). And so on and so forth.

So this is an interesting year. It really tests the question -- are fundamentals everything? Are there candidates so extreme that they can -- not just on a case-by-case basis, but systemwide -- check against the natural political gravity which is pulling hard against the Democrats this year?

It'll be interesting to find out. (Although I can't say I'm excited. Call me risk-averse, but I'd prefer a strong chance of mainstream Republicans winning than even a 50-50 chance of some of the nuts we're talking about getting their hands on the levers of power. Sharron Angle may have given Harry Reid a breath of life, but it also means we have a non-negligible prospect of Senator Sharron Angle. Scary.).

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Filling the Gap

Kevin Drum has two good posts up: one on the obsession with raising the retirement age, and another on the rise of the "Obama is a Muslim" falsehood.

It's been a busy day for me, and a quiet day on the web.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ground Zero: It's Not Just Staten Island Anymore

No, the title is not a typo. In the meantime, opponents of the Park 51 community center don't know exactly where "Ground Zero" ends and Muslims should be allowed to build things. 10 blocks away? 100 blocks away? The entire island of Manhattan? Who knows! We ought to just throw up our hands like the American Family Association, and just ban Mosques nationwide!

This sudden escalation of hate and prejudice is reflected by the nearly one-third of Americans think Muslims shouldn't be allowed to run for President. As Dan Filler accurately notes, "anti-Muslim sentiments are beginning to jump the levees, spreading out across Village Americana." We are teetering on the precipice of this becoming mainstream -- part of "normal politics", rather than banished to the fringes where it belongs. It's scary. It's very, very scary.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

When Did We Suddenly Have To "Pay For" Things?

I feel like there is no greater illustration of the hollow GOP concern for the deficit than this exchange between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and David Gregory:
GREGORY: For a final time, I’ll go back to my question which is, the extension of the tax cuts would cost $3.2 trillion. That’s borrowed money, that adds to the deficit. Do you have a plan to pay for that extension?

MCCONNELL: You’re talking about current tax policy. Why did it all of a sudden become something that we, quote, ‘pay for’?

Senator McConnell may have once again darted across the McConnell Line.


Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf's book What's Right with Islam is What's Right with America, was published in America by a press owned by none other than Fox News' Rupert Murdoch. Which, under the Spaceballs criterion of guilt that the Cordoba Initiative is being forced to play under, makes Fox News a terrorist affiliate (and the Cordoba Initiative a conservative hack outfit, I guess).

The Dark Side

This article, on how to keep the trapped Chilean miners sane as they await what might be a four-month long wait for rescue, is very interesting. But my favorite part was the inverse-Yoda advice given about the perils of darkness:
The men used tools they have underground to establish a light source and to power their head lamps – after food and water sources, establishing reliable access to light is critical to staving off psychological deterioration.

“The most important thing, aside from keeping physical needs satisfied, is to help them keep a positive frame of mind,” Dr. Suedfeld said. “Darkness is disorienting. It leads to uncertainty. That leads to anxiety and fear.”

And that leads to the dark side! Wait -- that's circular.

Anyway, hopefully the officials down in Chile have some good consultants available to advise them on how to keep tensions to a minimum amongst the trapped miners. Their situation is precarious enough without them fighting all the time.