Archive

  • POPULISM WITHOUT XENOPHOBIA?...

    POPULISM WITHOUT XENOPHOBIA? Peter Beinart has a smart column this week on the downsides of Democratic populism: For writers like [Thomas] Frank, the tragedy of that era was that the free-trading, Wall Street-friendly Bill Clinton did not use economic populism to permanently lure these angry white males into the Democratic fold. Now Democrats have another chance. But renouncing future naftas won't be enough. Many liberals would like to pick and choose their anti-globalization politics--arguing for more regulation of international trade and investment, but resisting punitive measures to regulate the flow of international labor. Morally, that's perfectly defensible. But, politically, it is likely to fail. There is a reason that the late nineteenth-century populists Frank admires were nativists: While low-skilled immigration may benefit the United States as a whole, it rarely benefits low-skilled Americans. And, for many blue-collar Americans today, Mexican immigration--whether legal or...
  • IRANIAN NUKES.

    IRANIAN NUKES. I was all ready to write a long post on Noah Feldman's article about the Iranian nuclear program, but that determination foundered upon my inability to figure out what Feldman was actually arguing. Feldman included a long, interesting, and rather pointless discussion of the Islamic position on suicide bombing, danced around a realist analysis of the nuclear situation in the Middle East without really committing to it, and soldiered through a discussion of Islamic theology without coming to any conclusions. Marty Peretz liked it, which means that it must have been incoherent. Fortunately, Matt Yglesias is a better man than I, and managed to slog through and produce some observations. Most notable, I think, is Matt's observation that contemporary Western discussions of suicide bombing suffer from some fatal definitional flaws: And, again, why all the talk of suicide bombers in the context of nuclear deterrence? The West lacks a significant tradition of literal suicide...
  • THEOCRACY HYPE.

    THEOCRACY HYPE. Scott , I agree with you that Amy Sullivan 's prescriptive arguments about Democratic outreach to evangelicals are thin. (And for a small-but-perfect illustration of the limited efficacy of even the rather ostentatious rhetorical gambits that Hillary Clinton has attempted in an effort to reach religious voters, see here .) But I do feel compelled to take Sullivan's side on the broader issue of liberal "theocracy" narratives. You're right that the "religious right taken for suckers" notion is widely understood by plenty of liberals, that it is central to Thomas Frank 's argument, and that it renders David Kuo 's book more banal confirmation than explosive revelation. But I think Sullivan's right that there is some real tension and dissonance between that understanding of Republican political dynamics and works such as Michelle Goldberg 's Kingdom Coming , Jesus Camp , to a limited extent Garry Wills 's latest in The New York Review of Books , and many many more. The...
  • AND THEN WHAT?

    AND THEN WHAT? I have a lot of problems with Amy Sullivan 's recent piece about the opportunities allegedly presented by David Kuo 's new book. First of all, I reject her entire premise that Democratic politicians don't reach out to religious believers, and since she never mentions the names of prominent Democrats who treat believers with contempt it's impossible to evaluate her claims. Second, Sullivan's claim that liberal bloggers have "spent so much time fear-mongering about American theocracy that a book illustrating the opposite simply makes no sense to them" is belied by the fact that what is surely the most-discussed liberal book of the second Bush era makes the well-known case that evangelicals are being played for suckers by the business elite that really holds the power in the GOP. Kuo's revelations aren't so shocking as to be incomprehensible to knowledgeable liberals, but are rather banal. But my biggest problem with Sullivan's argument continues to be that she's...
  • GRAND OLD PORNO....

    GRAND OLD PORNO. There are better reasons to vote the Republicans out of office, but it's certainly delicious to see that the GOP has taken money from pornographers, including one who reportedly has expressed a desire to do the Bush twins. Josh Marshall reported this weekend that even as the Republican National Committee tars, in a spectacularly vicious television spot, Tennessee Democrat Harold Ford for allegedly having taken campaign money from "porn movie producers," the party has apparently had its own traffic with the adult video industry. Topping, perhaps, Marshall's revelation of the RNC's lucrative relationship with porn distributor Nicholas T. Boyias , is John Aravosis 's post on porn queen Mary Carey 's largesse, bestowed last year on the National Republican Congress Committee (NRCC). Writing of Ms. Carey and "her boss," Aravosis asserts, "Their $5k donation got them dinner with the president and a slew of top Republican congressional leaders, and even lunch with Karl Rove...
  • The Financial Times on Lula (Guest blog)

    In an article today about President Lula Da Silva�s landslide (61-39) re-election victory, the Financial Times reports that the �the PT�s [Lula�s Workers Party] anti-liberal rhetoric during the second round has caused consternation among many economists, who see it as a sign that spending cuts, needed to release money for investment and growth, are less likely under a second Lula administration than the first.� This continues a major theme of the Financial Times� pre-election coverage . A bigger worry for economists concerned about Brazil�s sluggish growth (1.4 percent average annual per capita for Lula�s four years, about the same as for his predecessor Fernando Henrique Cardoso�s 1.6 percent for 8 years) would be Brazil�s interest rates. The Selic (central bank overnight rate, comparable to our Fed�s 5.25 percent federal funds rate) rate is currently at 13.75 percent. Brazil�s inflation is now less than ours; hence the country�s real interest rates are among the highest in the world...
  • A BRIEF LOOK BACK.

    A BRIEF LOOK BACK. I'll be writing about this at greater length in a piece for New York Times Select coming out tomorrow, but with Election 2006 just a week away and the narratives already emerging about its significance, I though we ought to pause to first clarify what happened two years ago, in 2004. First, the basic recap: Presidency. A 3-point national bump for Bush over 2000, the smallest gain for an re-elected president since McKinley 's 1900 re-election. Just three states switched, the fewest since George Washington ran the table the second time, in 1792, prior to popular voting. Because Bush's gain of New Mexico (five electors) was essentially negated by his loss of New Hampshire (four), the president picked up 3 points plus Iowa. Congress. Three net House seats for GOP, which were more than accounted for by the re-redistricting of Texas (four seats directly plus one party switch). Net of four senate seats for the GOP, arguably their biggest achievement, but one that, again,...
  • HERE WE GO AGAIN.

    HERE WE GO AGAIN. Well, this was a nice little present a week out from the election, wasn't it? Raise your hand if you've heard Ellen Tauscher 's name any time in the past six years. I thought as much. Why doesn't The New York Times just dig up Carl Albert and ask him what he thinks? He's been about as relevant to the politics of the day as la Tauscher is, and he's a damn sight better Democrat having been dead for six years than she is alive and yapping. Why, oh Lord, why do Democratic politicians cooperate with stories like this? Mind you, I'm not arguing for freezing out the NYT , or that the story isn't it a legitimate one, but how hard can it be for professional politicians and professional political activists to keep from tossing rocks at each other in public? The correct answer for everyone in this piece goes something like this: "The important thing for all of us is to strike the power from the hands of a corrupt, reckless, and criminally negligent Republican Party, which...
  • NM-1: DOWN TO THE WIRE.

    NM-1: DOWN TO THE WIRE. Democratic Attorney General Patricia Madrid is going into the last full week before elections in New Mexico's first district with a razor-thin lead over incumbent Republican Heather Wilson . Of course, the poll was run before the televised debate last week. Who won the debate largely depends on who you ask, though most observers found the incumbent to be more polished. Wilson, indeed, has jumped on a verbal stumble of Madrid's during the debate and turned it into an attack ad -- using a bit of creative editing to make it stick: The ad uses a portion of the debate where Wilson asks Madrid, "Can you cite something that would give the people of New Mexico some kind of reassurance that you will prevent a tax increase?" Madrid pauses before saying, "Your president and you have -- have voted for a tax relief." Here was Madrid's full answer from the debate: Madrid: "Your president and you have voted for tax relief for the top 1 percent of taxpayers in this country,...
  • THE MAJORITARIAN DIFFICULTY II.

    THE MAJORITARIAN DIFFICULTY II. Looks like it's Jonah Goldberg Monday here on Tapped . Kevin Drum finds him claiming that the last "100 years" of liberalism has been about "shoving things down people's throats." Drum identifies the most obvious problem: the core elements of the liberal accomplishments of the last century -- most importantly the New Deal/Great Society safety net and civil rights protections -- are very popular, which is why conservatives get power only when they don't oppose them. But what's particularly remarkable is Goldberg's list of examples: "bussing, racial quotas, gay marriage, Title IX." He can't even cherry pick four without destroying his underlying argument. Busing, I'll give him, was unpopular and in some cases ordered by courts (although I'd love to hear what he would have done as a federal judge facing school boards with long histories of transparent constitutional violations trying to nullify judicial opinions striking down school segregation). But the...

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