Glenn A Knight

Glenn A Knight
In my study

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Polling on the Republican Future

Yesterday I posted on The Daily Kos (I have a diary over there), with respect to David Broder's pre-election column, in which Mr. Broder said that the Republican's power would be exaggerated because of the size of their victory in the House. Aside from my comments, I posted a poll, asking readers this question:

Do you believe that the Republicans' gains in Congress mean that they will dominate our politics for the next five years?

I received 55 responses, as of 5:20 PM Mountain Standard Time today. The responses were:

Yes 8
No 42
Not Sure 5
I know that the Daily Kos is a liberal site, but I think it's interesting that such a large majority of the respondents to my question do not believe that the Republicans have put themselves in the catbird seat for as long as five years.

President Obama: Change Your Methods, Not Your Goals

In this November 4 column, David Broder asserts that the problem with the Obama administration hasn't been the goals the President set, but the way in which the Democrats in Congress went about pursuing them. The results turned a lot of Americans against the programs, not because they didn't want healthcare or a stimulus package, but because the programs enacted in Congress were overweight and ineffective.

So, now that he can't get it done without the Republicans, President Obama should do what he said he was going to do: reach out to Republicans, work on getting things done in a timely and efficient manner, and stop playing the partisan game. In Broder's opinion, and I find a lot of truth in this, the President made himself too dependent upon the operating styles of Speaker Pelosi and Majority Lead Reid. They led him down a garden path by playing to all the usual power bases and constituencies.

It's time for President Obama to set his own course and captain his own ship.

A Dead Blog

One of the links I carry on this page is to the blog Cafe Third Edition. Cafe Third Edition is a descendant of the Great Books Cafe formerly hosted by Ken Roberts (before the Canadian regulations governing political correctness forced him to shut it down). The concept was good, but the blog never reached the critical mass of discussants, which I might define as the number of participants necessary to ensure that a) something new will be posted at least once daily, and b) there is a fair chance that someone will respond to any new post.

The last person to post to Cafe Third Edition was me, back in May 2010. I'm going to leave the link up on the sidebar, but I think we may declare Cafe Third Edition completely and utterly dead.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Bad Penny Always Turns Up

I posted this morning on a David Broder column. It felt good to be back.

I hadn't posted since back in July, and I don't see any good reason to go into all the reasons, and/or excuses, for my absence. There was a death in the family. That necessitated two trips to Florida. Those, plus my week's vacation in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, in September, provided me with a pretty good backlog of work both at the office and at home. Et cetera, et cetera.

But I have been reading. Scandinavian mystery novels have been prominent lately. I read Jo Nesbo's Nemesis and Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire. According to a reviewer I heard on NPR (yes, I listen to NPR sometimes), Larsson's novels are consciously descended from a series of detective stories by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. I read a bunch of those novels back in the '80s (we were living in Pennsylvania at the time, as I recall), and they were very good.

A Swedish friend of mine commented, apropos of Henning Mankell's Faceless Killers, that all the Swedish mystery writers were Maoists. I'm not sure about that, but it is true that the detective novel has been used by them as a means of social criticism. That's certainly true of Stieg Larsson, who died shortly after delivering the manuscript of his third novel The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.

Of course, there is a long tradition of using the mystery novel to shine a light on the seamy side of society. Dashiell Hammett, author of the classic The Glass Key, was a committed Communist (and one hell of a good writer).

I finished Nixonland, by Rick Perlstein, today. It's long - the text ends at page 748 - but it is a fascinating and detailed look at American politics from 1965, when we all thought we had entered into a liberal consensus, through 1972, by which time that consensus had been shown to have been an illusion. After Tuesday's election I have to agree with Perlstein that we still live in Nixonland.

An Election Pre-Mortem by David Broder

A lot of people were predicting the results of the general election on Tuesday, November 2, and most of them were right about the general results:

The Democrats lost big.
In particular, the more conservative Blue Dog Democrats lost dramatically.
The Republicans did well.
The effects of the Tea Party movement were ambiguous.

David Broder, in his column in the Washington Post, attempted not a prediction, but a pre-mortem. (Or a premature post-mortem - take your pick.)

Broder's key point is that any analysis which concludes that this election spelled "doom for the Democrats and a shift to the right in our politics" will be wrong. He thinks this for several reasons: the size of the shift to Republicans in the House will lead us to exaggerate the extent of their power; the voters are very skeptical about both parties; neither party has a compelling spokesman on economic issues (though Broder mentions that Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin "has assumed the role of analyst and provocateur); neither party has compelling spokesmen on the other leading issues of the day, either.

All of these are valid points, and all of them taken together mean that Tuesday's election wasn't nearly so dramatic break with the past as the talking heads, and many Republicans would have us believe. I think John Boehner had it right when he said that this wasn't so much a victory for the Republicans as the public giving them one last chance to get it right. And I think Mitch McConnell was dead wrong when he said that the most important task for the Republicans is to defeat President Obama. That's exactly the kind of thinking that could make the Republicans' gain in power very short-lived.

We live in interesting times, folks.