Mark Schmitt

Mark Schmitt is director of the program on political reform at the New America Foundation and former executive editor of The American Prospect

 

 

Recent Articles

Human Failings

The crowning disgrace of this country's five-year experiment with one-party Republican rule was surely the passage of a bill on September 29 that sanctioned abusive treatment of prisoners in the "war on terror," banned habeas corpus claims for those identified as "enemy combatants," and allowed the president to place that designation on anyone, including U.S. citizens. Even with their president's approval ratings at Nixonian levels, and their own sinking below that, congressional Republicans were able to muster one last grand gesture of disciplined subservience to their only master, power itself. Their logic was best expressed by Senator Arlen Specter, who declared, "I can't support [this] bill. … I'd be willing, in the interest of party loyalty, to turn the clock back 500 years, but 800 years goes too far." And then he sucked it up and voted yea to the 12th century. Democrats opposed the bill but elected not to fight or filibuster. Perhaps it was a reasonable calculation: A...

Reluctant Radicals

It is conventional wisdom that the new democratic activists of the “netroots” are strong on political tactics but don't have much to contribute to the war of ideas. Matt Bai, writing in The New York Times Magazine , charged disparagingly that “leaders of the netroots … will tell you that Big Ideas are overrated.” This isn't entirely fair, but let's take the point: The better-known lefty blogs are indeed weighted toward the tactical. They argue that the liberal establishment of think tanks and advocacy groups is built on the assumption that the government wants to do good and is open to their expertise, and not organized for the task of winning back such a government from its enemies. The no-ideas argument neglects the denizens of another room on the Internet, which hardly lacks ideas: the “wonkosphere,” a term I borrow from Henry Farrell of the gleefully erudite blog Crooked Timber. The leading lights of the wonkosphere include Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo and its spin-off...

Funny Business

What would the legendary labor leader Walter Reuther have said if 40 years ago he was told that American business was going to spend millions to register workers and encourage them to vote? He would probably have been ecstatic: “They're spending their money to turn out my people?!” And indeed, since World War II, business usually stayed far away from that kind of politics. Corporations and their political action committees provided the money that drove campaigns -- for both parties, but more exclusively to Republicans after 1994 -- and that was where their involvement ended. But recently, big business has quietly become a political actor in a new way, organizing employees and getting them to vote in what they see as the interests of their employers. For 2006, the Business Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC) has a goal of registering 2.1 million new “pro-business voters” in 15 targeted states. In 2004, the BIPAC program registered 16,000 voters in Iowa, a state George W. Bush...

JACKSON, LAMONT, NEW POLITICS.

JACKSON, LAMONT, NEW POLITICS. Mike has a point about the implications of having Al Sharpton on stage with Lamont , and in particular directly behind his shoulder, which will be the visual. Someone up there needed to say, "OK, everyone who's not from Connecticut, to the edges, right now, and yes, that means you too, Reverend!" (The person who does that is called "the body guy," and it's a special skill.) I don't agree about Jesse Jackson , however, and not just because he's "past his prime." Jackson's mistakes were never comparable to Sharpton's, and never destructive. And in retrospect, Jackson's campaigns in 1984 and 1988 look exactly like the progenitors of what successful progressive campaigns like Wellstone 's or Lamont's should be -- politically savvy, multi-racial coalitions around core economic and direction-of-the-country issues. It's no accident that some of the most talented organizers in politics came out of those campaigns. The disappointing thing about having Sharpton...

DEATH WITH DIGNITY.

DEATH WITH DIGNITY. I've been arguing for a long time that the Lieberman independent bid would fizzle, that Lieberman stood a much better chance of winning the primary than the general, and I still believe that. If I'm wrong about that, then my comment below is inoperative. But if I'm right, the question is not whether the Connecticut for Lieberman Party ends, but how. The next few weeks are going to be one of those desperate last chapters in a political career, the kind of thing that Lieberman's biographer will label "epilogue." Political careers never end gracefully, never, and if a politician sees a chance, however slim, he will take it. And they always end with the desperate pol claiming that he is trying to practice "a different kind of politics." (The kind in which winning and losing elections doesn't matter.) The next two, three or at most four weeks of Lieberman's life will be sad and painful to watch. He'll find every potential supporter saying, "Sorry, Joe, I'd love to help...

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