Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Splitting the sane vote

When Lisa Murkowski (R, for now, AK) announced that she would run for her Senate seat as a write-in candidate, I thought that was good news for Scott McAdams, the Democrat in the race. Apparently, I was naive. According to a new poll, Murkowski is splitting the vote of the sane people in Alaska with McAdams, providing Tea Partier and right-wing crank/crazy Joe Miller (now that has to be a made-up name, right?) with a big lead.



Standardized tests are at the center of discussions about education. Standardized tests teach children how to answer. A good education teaches them the questions to ask.

The debate over our declining schools has become a circular firing squad, with everyone pointing fingers at the others involved. Parents blame teachers and administrators. Administrators blame politicians for denying them resources. Teachers blame parents for not preparing their children and giving them an environment conducive to learning. Students get lost in the shuffle. Perhaps, given the poisonous atmosphere pervading our politics, these attitudes should not be surprising. But it is no help.

We know that good teachers can inspire children whose parents are indifferent to education. We know that parents can get a good education for their children despite uninspiring teachers. We know that learning can take place in humble surroundings. We know that some children can succeed without support from parents or teachers (although such children are rare).

Time to stop pointing fingers and accept that we are all in this together--even those of us who do not have children in school. Time to stop placing blame, discuss how to increase the value we place on education, and then do it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Yellow dogs, blue dogs and beaten dogs

I'm almost a yellow-dog Democrat. That's a term that has almost disappeared from the political lexicon; it referred to someone who would vote for a yellow dog if he ran on the Democratic ticket. Now we have blue-dog Democrats, on the party's right, who all too often undercut the leadership and act like a GOP fifth column. A reader of Talkingpointsmemo suggested that Democrats exhibit a beaten-dog syndrome, "to describe a generation's worth of Democratic electeds and operatives who have so internalized GOP attacks that the mere suggestion that they are coming cause these people to involuntarily cower."

Apart from the split infinitive, that's right on the mark. Sad as it is to say, since at least 1980 the Republicans have so dominated debate in this country that Democrats have largely lost the ability to define themselves, their party or--most important--their values. True, the Obama campaign reversed that in 2008, but the effort was centered on electing a President, not raising the position of the party. And once in office, Obama seemed unable or unwilling to espouse a strong, consistent, principled line of policy and program that would build up the party.

In 2008, with a substantial majority in the House and--for a short time--a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, it seemed as if a vital change in our politics had come. Six weeks before the mid-terms, things look very different. I'll have something to say about why that is so in another post.

Democratic weakness has not only meant losses for the party, it has been a tragedy for the nation. Even if you do not support the Democratic platform, a healthy democracy needs differing views. Although the Democratic Party itself all too often displays such a divergence, the dominance of Republican theory has held back the nation's development. (Think action on global warming and green jobs.) Democratic fecklessness has led to what may fairly be called American decline. Democratic weakness, their failure to offer a contest to Republican ideas, has left the Right dominant by default. And Democrats must share some of the blame.

Disturbing headline

From the Times:

Obama Aides Weigh Bid to Tie the G.O.P. to the Tea Party

If Democrats need to think twice about this, the party is in worse shape than I thought.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Strange attitude

Am I the only one who's getting tired of hearing the Tea Partiers--those self-proclaimed champions of a strong America--play the victim whenever they get criticized? The latest is Christine O'Donnell, speaking to the "Values Voters" conference in Washington yesterday.

"Will they attack us? Yes. Will they smear our backgrounds and distort our records? Undoubtedly. Will they lie about us, harass our families, namecall to try to intimidate us? They will. There's nothing safe about it," she said.

Now, there's no reason for Democrats to lie about O'Donnell--the woman once said she was a witch, for Heaven's sake--but what strikes me is that way that she and others of the Right (Sarah Palin being a prime example) quickly turn themselves into victims when the going gets tough. They have a perfect right to take that tack, but you would think that voters will begin to notice the contrast between the ostensible toughness of the Tea Party campaigners and the whining that rises when they are challenged.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Still not ready for prime time (not even close)

Christine O'Donnell, darling of both the lunatic Right and the Democrats (though not for the same reasons), says that the rigid moral views she has espoused in the past would not guide her in the Senate. According to the LA Times, she said, "When I go to Washington, D.C., the litmus test by which I cast my vote for every piece of legislation that comes across my desk will be whether or not it's constitutional."

Memo to Christine: If, by some horrible mischance, you do get to the Senate, 99.9% of the legislation you see will have no constitutional implications. The legislative process is a whole lot more complicated than you seem to believe.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

No surprise

Certainly not to Red Sox fans. The New York Times reports that "A curious phenomenon has emerged at the intersection of fashion, sports and crime:" many miscreants commit their crimes wearing Yankees caps.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

No doubt anymore

Rand Paul

Jan Brewer

Sharron Angle

Christine O'Donnell

Carl Paladino

Sarah Palin

Jim DeMint

Ben Quayle

John Boehner

Eric Cantor

Paul Ryan

James Inhofe

Mitch McConnell

Can there be any doubt that the Republican Party is dominated by radical right-wingers out of step with the American mainstream?

Just a thought

We have the worst economy since the 1930's, and the world is more violent than it has been since then. Why should we be surprised that we have the worst politics since the 1930's?