What to do about gerrymandered elections?

An issue for election day:  One of the problems in our political system today is that Congressional districts have been drawn up to ensure that each one is a “safe seat” for the incumbent and a particular political party.  That means that voters almost never have competitive elections with genuine choices–unless, that is, the incumbent has a primary rival from the same party.  This makes for ideological polarization, say many observers, as well as thwarting the basic processes of democracy. [Read more…]

Pulling back from the culture wars?

Church historian Martin Marty discusses how conservative Christians are pulling back from the culture wars.  He cites the leadership of Pope Francis for the Roman Catholics and Russell Moore for the Southern Baptists.  An additional factor is the increasing secularization of the conservative movement, citing the Tea Party’s general indifference to moral issues the church has been concerned with.  (He might have added the active atheism and hostility to Christianity of the hard-core libertarian followers of Ayn Rand.)

Read what Dr. Marty has to say–and what I have to say about what he says– after the jump.   [Read more…]

Madisonian politics

George Will has found something that President Obama and the Tea Party have in common:  Both disdain Madisonian politics; that is, the checks and balances that require the different factions to compromise with each other, as built into the very structure of Constitutional governance. [Read more…]

Congress stops default & ends shutdown

Cutting it close as usual, on the day before the government would run out of money, Congress agreed to raise the debt ceiling and end the 16-day partial government shutdown.  Basically, both sides dropped their demands and kicked the can down the road.  The government will be funded until January 15, and the debt limit will rise until February 7.  In the meantime, a commission will be appointed to try to resolve the controversies. [Read more…]

Democrats up the ante on default bill

It looked like Congress was close to an agreement on funding the government and avoiding default on Thursday, but negotiations fell apart yesterday.  And as Republicans abandoned their insistence on defunding Obamacare, Democrats made demands of their own, insisting that Republicans agree to end the sequester, the across-the-board cuts from last time we were about to go over the fiscal cliff that have actually worked to curb government spending. [Read more…]

Punitive Liberalism

If you watch old movies, read books from the first half of the 20th century, and are old enough to remember the early 1960s, you will recall that New Deal liberalism was a cheerful, optimistic creed, pro-American and working for economic prosperity.  After all, liberals from Franklin Roosevelt through Hubert Humphrey were progressives, which gave them confidence that things were getting better and better.  But after a certain point, liberals began to be filled with gloom and doom.  America must be punished for its sins; our neglect of the environment will incur apocalyptic judgment; economic prosperity weakens our moral fiber.  Conservatives used to sound that way, and did, before the sunny optimism of Ronald Reagan.

George Will discusses the shift to a “punitive liberalism” in a discussion of a book that sees the tipping point as  the assassination of John F. Kennedy, even though Lee Harvey Oswald was a Communist.  (I think the tipping point was the Vietnam War, but still. . . .) [Read more…]