Ideological sorting

In the course of a column on a recent Medicare bill, Michael Gerson observes that in the not-too-distant-past there were liberal Republicans (in the northeast) and conservative Democrats (in the past).  Back then, lawmakers could form coalitions with kindred spirits across the aisle to pass legislation.  But now both parties have undergone “ideological sorting,” so that Democrats are virtually all liberal and Republicans are virtually all conservative.  Thus, votes are along party lines, and the only hope of advancing an agenda is to win a big enough majority to steamroll the other party.  This is why, he says, our politics is so polarizing and it is so difficult to get legislation passed.

Read what Mr. Gerson says after the jump and consider the questions I raise. [Read more...]

Rand Paul’s filibuster

Senator and presidential candidate Rand Paul has been staging an old-fashioned filibuster, staging a marathon speech and holding the Senate floor in opposition to the renewal of the Patriot Act, which authorizes certain government surveillance of citizens.

The Senate has pretty much replaced the old “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” actual  filibuster with the mere threat of a filibuster, so that bills typically require a 60 vote super-majority that would be enough to shut off debate should a filibuster actually occur.  Sen. Paul, though, has too few allies on this subject, so he is going the “Mr. Smith” route.  He has only a few allies helping him hold the floor, and there is enough support for the Patriot Act to shut off debate, which will probably happen at 1:00 p.m. today.

So do you “stand with Rand”? [Read more...]

Everybody’s a populist

Just about everybody in politics is claiming to be a “populist” these days–leftwinger Elizabeth Warren, rightwinger Ted Cruz, establishment icon Hillary Clinton, the Christian right’s Mike Huckabee, Occupy Wallstreeters, Tea Partiers, and on and on.

Rutgers history professor David Greenberg points out that the term once had a very specific meaning, relating to the farmer/labor coalition against the railroads and bankers in the late 19th century,  as led by William Jennings Bryan.  The ideology combined a type of socialist economics (nationalize the railroads!) with respect for “ordinary” Americans (a man of the people! champion of the common man!).  Today liberals are seizing upon the economic part (while comprising the cultural elite that the old populists scorned), while conservatives are seizing upon the ordinary American part (a demographic that today tends not to like socialism).

But this reminds us that the left owes a big debt to William Jennings Bryan, today often mocked for his creationism at the Scopes Monkey Trial.  And that there was a time when evangelical Christians were often leftists. [Read more...]

Progressive authoritarianism

More and more progressives are openly calling for the end of democracy and for replacing it with an admittedly authoritarian regime that would give power to experts.  [Read more...]

Free trade with higher wage countries & the China card

As Democrats make a political point of rejecting the free trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership–to the point of defying the Democratic President–Charles Lane clears up the disinformation being spread about the treaty.

He says that, contrary to the rhetoric,  it won’t lose American jobs by sending industries to lower-wage countries.  Our biggest partners in this agreement, who would open their markets to us, would be Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.  All of which pay  higher wages than the United States!  There are low-wage countries in the pact, such as Mexico and Peru, but we already have free trade agreements with them!

Also, in a column criticizing Hillary Clinton for being silent on a treaty she helped to create, Robert Kagan gives the underlying strategic reason for the Trans-Pacific Partnership:  forging an alliance to counter China. [Read more...]

Obama and Republicans lose on free trade bill

A major priority for President Obama is the passage of the Pacific trade accord, a free trade bill that would open up markets in Asia.  But a proposal to fast-track the treaty–allowing a single up-or-down vote, rather than risking death by a thousand amendments–was defeated in the Senate.  All but one Republican took the President’s side, but all but one Democrat voted against him.  The measure fell short of the 60 votes it needed.  Lots of interesting issues here, which I raise after the jump.

UPDATE:  A deal seems to have been struck that will give the bill another shot.

[Read more...]


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