Monday, September 14, 2009

Racism increases 67% since January

UPDATED: 18-Sep-09 charts the dramatic increase in racism this year.

This is a difficult post to write. But some issues, no matter how distasteful, must be faced squarely. Sadly, the numbers speak for themselves. Racism is on the rise in this country.

Why the dramatic rise in racism now? I cannot answer that. Perhaps the problem was here all along and we simply chose not to see it. It was easy to ignore in the months following the election when Obama's approval rating was at 70%. In the euphoria of his election, many of us became too complacent about racism. With a 70% approval rating for the President elect, we were all too willing to overlook the 30% of racist Americans who remained. It was an easy mistake to make, the racists were outnumbered by more than two to one.

Few now remember that November 2008 to January 2009 was the golden age of the new post-racial post-partisan America, ushered in by the election of our new President. Our pundits in the mainstream media helped us to understand and appreciate the deep import of the election, and the possibility of finally turning the page on our racist past.

Maureen Dowd - Nov. 9, 2008:
"..we have images to share that are harmonizing, not polarizing -- black and white students cheering and celebrating in front of the White House and the warm and fuzzy obsession about what kind of hypoallergenic puppy Sasha and Malia will get. It's cool that President-elect Cool has gotten everybody chatting, even if it's awkward small talk. And it's fun, after so many years of unyielding barriers, to feel sentimental."
Joe Klein in Time - Nov 5.2008:
"Obama's victory creates the prospect of a new "real" America. We can't possibly know its contours yet, although I suspect the headline is that it is no longer homogeneous. It is no longer a "white" country, even though whites remain the majority. It is a place where the primacy of racial identity — and this includes the old, Jesse Jackson version of black racial identity — has been replaced by the celebration of pluralism, of cross-racial synergy...It is a country that retains its ability to startle the world — and in a good way, with our freedom. It is a place, finally, where the content of our President's character is more important than the color of his skin."
Keith Olbermann - Nov 5, 2008:
"But it has seemed to me that every study that's ever been made about prejudice between groups of people, and it doesn’t matter if we’re talking racial or religious or ethnic or societal or any kind of other differences between people, when you personally know someone of the so-called other group, your likelihood to be prejudiced or doubtful of them seems to drop from about 90 percent to about 10 percent. In some respects, a president-elect, soon we expect to be the president of the United States, is almost a figure in the family of everybody in the country, almost as well known as some at least distant relative. Will this have a material impact in knocking down what remains of prejudice in this country?"
That was then. This is now. What happened? Perhaps it was just too easy to sweep the problem under the rug. To simply pretend the problem was not there.

Here are the facts. Racism has been rising steadily over the last few months. In recent polls, President Obama's job approval number has dropped from 70% to 50%. This means the percentage of racists in this country has risen from 30% to 50% - a 67% increase in only eight months! Even more alarming, close to one out of two Americans are now racist. We have reached a tipping point. If this trend continues, the racists will soon be in a majority. Now, more than ever, we need the pundits and sages of the mainstream media to speak out. Racism is so insidious, so deep rooted, that we may not even know whether we are racists, unless or until bloggers and pundits make that determination through psychoanalysis.

Some of those same strong media voices who were sweeping the racism problem under the rug in January, are sounding the alarm now that the full scope of the problem has been realized.

Dowd - Sep 13. 2009:

Representative Wilson shouting from the floor?
= Racism
"I’ve been loath to admit that the shrieking lunacy of the summer — the frantic efforts to paint our first black president as the Other, a foreigner, socialist, fascist, Marxist, racist, Commie, Nazi; a cad who would snuff old people; a snake who would indoctrinate kids — had much to do with race.. But Wilson’s shocking disrespect for the office of the president ...convinced me. Some people just can’t believe a black man is president and will never accept it."
Bravo, Maureen. How brave, this extraordinary willingness to make specific accusations of racism on the basis of nothing more than the imaginary voices in her head. Of course, it would be even braver if she lived in a country, where, unlike here, she and her paper could be sued for slander. Sadly, some do not appreciate her principled stand against imagined racism. What are we to make of those such as blogger Clifton, who shamelessly asserts: "There is enough real racism in the world as it is; you are not helping anyone by making shit up!" Clearly Clifton is a racism denier.

KLEIN on Scarborough- Sep 11. 2009:
Protests in opposition to Obamacare?
= Racism
"But the fact is that those kind of heinous arguments I think are a minor chord in the Democratic party, and they have been in the Republican party, but they are far more of a major chord. And I think that a lot of this, especially out in poor middle class white American is based in racial fears."
Joe, keep speaking out. The administration is in denial over the real reason for the opposition to their policies. Your clear dispassionate analysis may yet snap them out of their dangerous delusions. What could they be thinking? Could anyone really believe that - a President who signs an earmark stuffed budget that quadruples the deficit, pushes through an almost $1T pork laden stimulus package that does not stimulate, takes over car companies, bails out investment bankers, institutionalizes the Bush/Cheney unitary executive, is pushing massive new energy taxes and wants an additional $1T in new health care entitlements - would raise strong opposition? Nonsense. Who could be opposed to such enlightened policies? The opposition is obviously racist. That is the only rational explanation.

OLBERMANN - Sep 8, 2009 "[video]:
Forced resignation of Van Jones?
= Racism
" the Candyland world of racism dressed up as anything else, they will believe anything about the president and they will believe any rationalization, no matter how transparent, that what they‘re feeling is not racism... The White House green jobs adviser Van Jones resigned in the middle of a storm in a tea pot over the holiday weekend... A former chair for the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights John Anner who was a friend of Mr. Jones has said what many are thinking here to quote it, “It struck me why go after this guy. He‘s a minor player. He has no power, no budget. Why take him? It‘s because he looks like Obama and he has all of those same attributes of being well-educated and he‘s an electrifying speaker with an elite education.”
I cannot sufficiently express my gratitude to Keith Olbermann for stepping up yet again. The attacks on Van Jones is so clearly rooted in racism that one would have to assume that anyone who would even suggest otherwise, must also be a de-facto racist. In this context, it was particularly shocking to me that Willie Brown, Democrat, former Mayor of San Francisco, frequent MSNBC contributor, and a man who worked directly with Van Jones would sadly be revealed to be a racist. From his column Sunday:
"The only question I have about Van Jones' resignation as the White House green czar is why didn't they call me before they hired him. You would think that, as part of the vetting process, they would have called the mayor of the city where he was from. I would have said, "Yeah, I know a lot about him. He's really a pain in the ass. When he ran Bay Area PoliceWatch, he slanted every case to make the cops look as bad as possible. And while he might be talented enough, he's totally and completely unreliable."
Willie Brown - a racist. Who knew?

With these brave media voices speaking out, perhaps we can beat back the scourge of racism once again. While we may never again return to the golden age of November 2008 to January 2009 when only 30% of the country were racists, perhaps we can at least reverse the trend and insure that the racists remain a minority of the voters in this country. Before it is too late - like -before the next election.

UPDATE - 18-Sep-2009:
Some additional notes on this post. As often happens, the idea for this piece emerged from a recent comment thread at Donklephant, where I am a co-blogger. An expanded version of this post (including Jimmy Carter "piling on" with more racism accusations) was cross-posted at Donklephant where it stimulated an even more interesting comment thread - check it out.

Andrew Sullivan accepted the trackbacks for this post, which is as close as he gets to permitting unedited critical commentary on his blog. That stimulated more traffic and comments here than usual, and for that we are appreciative. Thanks.

This post was also linked at The Crossed Pond, generating another interesting comment thread that is worth a read, as it also includes a comment from your loyal blogger independently scored as a rare TKO. It also includes a great comment by Rojas, quoted here as a succinct summary and punctuation mark for this topic:

Rojas at The Crossed Pond
I guess what I find amazing about this discussion is that we are treating the racism claim about Obama’s opposition as if it were some kind of productive conversation starter.

It isn’t that, nor is it intended to be by those that offer it. It seems to me that whenever and wherever this argument is initiated, those initiating it do so in order to de-legitimize Obama’s opposition in its entirety and stop the policy conversation. Opponents are not portrayed as being influenced by a racial agenda, but as being controlled by it. The entire purpose is to deny them the sanction of reason so that their arguments may be ignored.

And that is garbage. Pure, unadulterated swill. If opposition to the policies of the President is going to be categorized in racial terms, then no national discussion is possible; there can be no negotiation with a fundamentally irrational opponent.

The tenor of the discussion over the last few weeks has put paid to any claim that Obama can be the first “post-racial” president, or any kind of transcendental figure on the issue. His own supporters have demolished that promising myth.
Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Live Blogging the Live Bloggers -
President Obama's health care speech to Congress

Welcome to the latest in the continuing series of "Live Blogging the Live Bloggers". As announced earlier today, this edition the first live attempt to cover bloggers covering a non-presidential debate. A series first inspired by the question DWSUWF asked covering a Republican debate over two years ago:
"There are plenty of bloggers covering the event live tonight, but is anyone covering the live bloggers? DWSUWF rushes in where other, more sensible bloggers, fear to tread. "
Our intent is to select a variety of bloggers from across the political spectrum, and live blog their live blog efforts. I don't know who we will include, but will start with some bloggers we have used before, in the hopes they will be live blogging again tonight.



Vodkapundit - Stephen Green: "But of course I’ll liveblog the President’s Big Address tonight... The first martini goes in the shaker around 45 minutes before the show starts, refilled as often as necessary. This will be the fifth or sixth one of these since Obama was sworn in, and I’m getting the gray hairs (and raggedy liver) to prove it.”

DailyKos - McJoan:"It seems pretty clear that the public option won't be taken off the table, which will piss off the White House's new BFF Olympia Snowe, who despite all of her negotiating with the White House has apparently has decided that triggers just aren't enough and the public option has got to go. On the other hand, he apparently isn't going to make the majority of Dems in Congress--who have passed four bills out of committee with the public option included--too happy, either."

Donklephant - Justin Gardner: - "...what we’ll hear tonight is Obama trying to reset what a “public option” means so that his White House can go with a localized version (aka co-ops) that only happens if universal coverage doesn’t happen in a state."

Stinque:"If we read the colonic bag correctly, the “public option” is dead. Even if it passes the House, it won’t survive the conference committee. Instead, some future public plan will be “triggered” if certain standards aren’t met after a suitably long period of time... All of which is to announce that Barry’s going to say something tonight that won’t make a damn bit of difference, and we’ll be revving up our Open Thread/Hemlock Tasting Party at 7:45 p.m. ET. À votre santé!"

Andrew Sullivan: "Mark Blumenthal isn't a big fan of instant polls, like the ones we are likely to see tonight after Obama's speech tonight. The polls are skewed because those who watch such speeches are likely to be supporters of the president, and historically these sort of speeches don't tend to move approval ratings."

Reason - Suderman: "Philip Klein and my former colleague Greg Conko have a new paper out making the case against the current batch of health-care reform proposals - they fully recognize that the current health-care system is a disaster, and that the reforms they propose wouldn't necessarily ensure that those with chronic preexisting conditions have access to health insurance. But, they say, the current patchwork of ill-thought-out government regulations of the health care market is so problematic—and, in fact, exacerbates our health care problems so much—that it must be fixed before addressing the few remaining problem cases."

DWSUWF - Allright, I've got this thing cued up and some live bloggers identified. But not sure if any of the usual libertarian suspects will be live blogging. Real-time adjustments may be necessary...


"I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last."

Vodkapundit - Stephen Green: "And here comes the President, running on Clinton Standard Time. Bush’s speeches were almost uniformly dreadful, but he was at least punctual. Judging by his reception, President Obama remains very popular with people who have no intention of voting for his proposals.”

DailyKos - McJoan:" Meaningful, comprehensive healthcare reform is one of the key reasons Dems have got a huge majority in the House, a supposedly workable majority in the Senate and the White House. There's a good argument that continuing to hold those majorities after 2010 is going to depend on how well Obama and Congress deliver on this one issue. Not that there's any pressure on him, or anything. It's just the future of the nation and the prospects for his party riding on it."

Donklephant - Nick B: - "Obama’s not actually planning on covering everyone. The plan is that 3% would still refuse to buy insurance, even with an individual mandate. By “cost-cutting” Obama means mostly that health costs will not continue to grow at double-digit rates a year. The projections are that they will continue to grow that quickly, and these projections are already factored into the budget. There are some actual cost-cutting measures in the bill (such as dumping Medicare Advantage) as well."

Stinque: - Chicago Bureau: "Uh-oh — he’s got TELEPROMPTERS. Look out, America!"

Andrew Sullivan: "The way he said "determined" suggested to me he meant it. He's all-in. A note on the recession just to show he has not forgotten the economy in favor of healthcare. And a nice reminder of the dreadful economy he inherited."

CatoInstitute twitter: "Obama determined to be the last pres to take up health care? R U kidding? We'll need to reform it every year if the gov't is in charge. - MC"

DWSUWF - Switching to CATO, computer is slow, too many sites using live feeds, doesn't everyone have television?


"...everyone does their part."

Vodkapundit - Stephen Green: “…unless everybody does their part…” My part consists of… the people under my roof. Now you go do your goddamn party. Mmmkay - “Misinformation.” Well, that’s a step up. Pelosi called protestors Nazis. The President thinks of you as mere liars."

DailyKos - McJoan: - ""Improving our healthcare system only works if everyone does their part." That has to include the insurance industry, too."

Wonkette: "Politicians tend to get hyperbolic to achieve short-term goals. CUT THIS OUT YOU GUYS...The Plan is all about security, providing health care for people who don’t have it, and health care will cost less for people who do. See? Problem solved. Everyone turn on Dancing With the Stars."

Andrew Sullivan: "This is the campaign Obama, appealing to the center against the old politics. Classic Obama pivot: describe the right and the left and then say he is in the middle. And the Burkean twist: "I believe it makes more sense to build on what works and fix what doesn’t, rather than try to build an entirely new system from scratch."

CatoInstitute twitter: "Obama won't put bureaucrats btwn U & your doctor except for the bureaucrats he proposed to put between U & your doctor"

DWSUWF - Ok - the live part of this "live blog" is not working out that well. The pizza just arrived. I need a beer. Lets just call this a pseudo-live blog and I'll dribble out a few more updates over the next couple of hours.

Whited Sepulchre - "BTW, the goal of live-blogging these things is to have them posted the minute the speech is over, just to prove you can think and type that quickly. In geek circles, you get extra points for being able to do this. "

DWSUWF - Yeah ok, thanks for that Allen. I understand you like the designated hitter rule. Nuff said.

"public option"

Vodkapundit - Stephen Green
: "Eff me. The president is LECTURING people he needs to win over. How’s that gonna go over, you think? He’s trying to sell the Government Option as a “choice” still. But of course. The over/under on the Government Option crowding out everything else is about five years.”

DailyKos - McJoan: - "Not so good: weak defense of public option. Did a good job of defining it as the center by calling single payer the "left," but by arguing that it wouldn't really do that much, "Let me be clear, only an option for those who do not have insurance, less than 5% of Americans will sign up," isn't much of a strong defense of the public option."

Wonkette: "I want a public option to keep the health insurers “honest.” BUT BUT BUT trust me, it will be like… the shittiest plan… no one will even be able to sign up… STOP YELLING AT ME, LONE WINGNUT."

Stinque - Nojo: "Rahm’s been pushing the public option off the gangplank all along. He doesn’t care about results — he wants a deal... My Progressive friends, talk to Rahm’s hand."

Andrew Sullivan: "His description of the public option - that it can provide more efficient treatment because it doesn't need to make large profits and because it will have less overhead - is the best framing I've heard. He's framing the public option in the conservative language of competition and consumer choice."

CatoInstitute twitter
: "Gov't doesn't compete with private producers. It drives them out of business--with an inferior product!"

Whited Sepulchre - "Now he gets to "the public option". He says consumers do better when there is "choice" and "competition"... you can't compete with an organization that can print its own money. Totally false use of the word on Obama's part. The post office, Amtrak, etc etc etc woulda gone under years ago if it weren't for government subsidies. And that's what yer gonna see with Obamacare....The public option would only be for those who don't have insurance. He thinks less than 5% of Americans would sign up. And the public option would have to pay for itself with money printed on the spot. Somehow. I know it blows your mind to think the money would just appear, but it will happen."

DWSUWF -This is what I heard the president say - "The public option will not be in the legislation. You know it. I know it. Barack Obama knows it. Rahm Emmanuel knows it. Bob Dole knows it. The right knows it. The left knows it but need to kid themselves for a while. We are letting them down gently. It's ok. They love me anyway."


" we pay for this plan"

Vodkapundit - Stephen Green: "Obama promises not to “add a dime” to the deficit. I’m not supposed to drop the f-bomb here, but your about to get f*cked on your taxes. I apologize. Obama, however, won’t apologize. Sorry if tonight’s drunkblog is crankier than usual. But I drank too much last night, and woke up in an ice-filled bathtub minus my tonsils and my feet.

DailyKos - McJoan: - "What's good so far: called out "lies" in the debate. Reminding everybody that the Bush tax cuts and wars created huge deficits."

Wonkette: “I will pay for shit, unlike you people, who did not pay for various wars and corporate giveaways, ever.” Republicans make some weird sound in response. MEHHHGNNGNNGNG."

Stinque - Chicago Bureau: “More than material things.” TAX INCREASES FOR EVERYBODY! Suck it, GOP."

Andrew Sullivan: Now that's the truth: "Part of the reason I faced a trillion dollar deficit when I walked in the door of the White House is because too many initiatives over the last decade were not paid for – from the Iraq War to tax breaks for the wealthy. " [ DWSUWF adds -Not to mention a $900B Stimulus bill and a 9,000 earmark budget I signed - thereby taking the the trillion dollar deficit I inherited and doubling it in two months!!!]

Cato Institute twitter: "Mr. President-if you can find $600 billion worth of waste in existing gov't programs, why do you want to create another?"

Whited Sepulchre - "You know, that might be possible. Let people go to nurses and other practitioners for care. Get the damn lawyers out of it. Go here for details. It'll never happen. Now he's talking about how much waste and care there are in Medicare and Medicaid. They're going to eliminate that waste. Woulda done it sooner, but they wanted to save the waste so it could be eliminated now. During this crisis. I think that's what he said. I'm on beer #5. This is hurting more than I thought it would."

DWSUWF - Of all the arguments I hear from Obama and Democrats, I think the very dumbest, is when they try to explain away Obama's quadrupling the deficit, by pointing at Bush's doubling the deficit. What exactly are they saying? Bush was bad, so we can be worse? Bush committed a venal sin, so we can commit a mortal sin? What is it? Simple fact - If you accept that the Bush administration was bad on spending and deficits -AND THEY WERE - Then you must accept that the Obama administration is far far worse in a much shorter period of time. Is that really what they are trying to say?

Hmmm. Apparently my caps lock key is sticking.

"We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it."

Vodkapundit - Stephen Green: "For the record, I’m disgusted. And I need another drink. If I’m feeling up to it, I’ll post a little Oh I’m So Wise summary later tonight at Or possibly not. But here’s the short version: Obama will see a brief spike in the polls, but not enough. He delivered a divisive speech to a divided nation — and that’s no way to spur a divided Congress into action.

DailyKos - DemFromCT: - "That's a powerful cap to an important speech which will help Obama's positioning as a bipartisan figure and as a grown-up discussing serious things. By itself, The Speech won't do a thing. But he's better off now than a few hours ago."

Wonkette: Well that wasn’t so bad. How would we even know? We were just typing the whole time. The end of the speech seemed rather good, though. Secret death letters from Ted Kennedy! Of course all of the news will just be about the obnoxious wingnut shouting. He will have a goddamned show on Fox News by Saturday."

Stinque - Chicago Bureau: FINAL VERDICT — he did the best he could under the circumstances. He took back the momentum. But, yes: if the future mimics the past, it will not work out. But this gives him the higher ground. Best outcome possible. Let’s see what the Sunday douchebags (St. Bob of Schieffer excepted from that douchebag remark) have with this."

Andrew Sullivan: "A masterful speech, somehow a blend of governance and also campaigning. He has Clinton's mastery of policy detail with Bush's under-rated ability to give a great speech. But above all, it is a reprise of the core reason for his candidacy and presidency: to get past the abstractions of ideology and the easy scorn of the cable circus and the cynicism that has thereby infected this country's ability to tackle pressing problems. This was why he was elected, and we should not be swayed by the old Washington and the old ideologies and the old politics. He stands at the center urging a small shift to more government because the times demand it."

Cato Institute twitter: "There are too many Americans counting on us to succeed." Yes. Drug industry lobbyists. Health insurance lobbyists, etc... -M. Cannon"

Whited Sepulchre - "He's doing a great closing here. It's emotional B.S., but very well-written. Going faster than I can type. Oh, BTW, most of this won't kick in until after the next Presidential election. Did you know that? And that Congress and most federal employees will be exempt? If you remember those things when listening to this rhetoric, you hear it in a whole new light. I'm just sayin'. "

DWSUWF - Done. NYT coverage and transcript is on the tubes. I'll just sip this 15 year old Laphroiag, sleep on it and update with any great thoughts that may or may not emerge between now and then.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

The post after 09/09/09 09:09 will be live blogging the live bloggers covering the President's speech to a joint session of Congress.

Announcement: DWSUWF will be reprising the wildly popular "Live Blogging the Live Bloggers" series tonight.

It has been almost a year since this blog's last LBTLB effort. Tonight's coverage will be notable for several reasons. For one, this will be the first LBTLB not covering a political debate. We are not sure how well the format will work in a non-debate setting. But then, we were never sure how well it worked in a debate setting.

For those unfamiliar with the form, we select a variety of bloggers from across the political spectrum, and live blog their live blog efforts, ripping copying selections of their content and pasting it here. I don't know who we will include tonight, but bloggers we have ripped used before, include Daily Kos from the left, VodkaPundit or Ed Morrissey at HotAir from the right, either David Weigel at Reason or the Atlantic's Megan McArdle for a libertarian point of view and Moderate Voice or Donklephant as a voice from the center. Snark has also been drawn from Wonkette and/or Stinque as needed. Suggestions for potential live blogging sources are welcomed.

There are risks. DWSUWF is assuming that many other bloggers will indeed be live-blogging the President's speech. If not, we will have no one to rip quote and the whole concept crashes and burns in an epic fail. We expect this will not be a problem. After all, it is the bottom of the ninth and expectations are high for this historic speech which is clearly a last ditch effort, and a game changer that will reenergize his health care reform effort. Unless of course, it is too late to turn it around.

Finally, this post is notable because the fortuitous combination of date, timing, and numerology permit us to offer this video of the Beatles and the longest set up for the least funny, and most forced video pun in the history of blogdom. You are welcome.

UPDATE: We are off and live-blogging - sort of.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Carnival of Divided Government XXXIII -
Special Labor Day Edition

Welcome to the 33rd edition of the Carnival of Divided Government- The três et trîcênsimus Special Labor Day Edition.

Labor Day - The unofficial end of summer. A holiday first imported from Canada in 1882 and made official by Grover Cleveland in 1894. Bloggers taking note of the day include Jules Crittendon I’ll celebrate the way I usually do … working, and damned glad I have a job , Shay Riley is taking the day off, while for Walter Brasch it is a day for a historical screed, and Stephen Green reminds us "Also steak". Your loyal blogger is working his ass off trying to get this Carnival posted, so he can move on to beer and grilling a skirt steak that has been marinating for 24 hours (seasoned for fajitas).

As explained in earlier editions, we have adopted Latin ordinal numeration to impart a patina of gravitas reflecting the historical importance of the series. In this the Carnival of Divided Government três et trîcênsimus (XXXIII), as in all of the CODGOV series, we select volunteers and draftees from the blogosphere and main stream media writing on the single topic of government divided between the major parties (leaving it to the reader to sort out volunteers from draftees). Consistent with this topic, the primary criteria for acceptance in the carnival is to explicitly use the words and/or concept of "divided government" in submitted posts. A criteria that, to our endless befuddlement, is ignored by many of the bloggers submitting posts, which sadly results in DWSUWF reluctantly ignoring their fine submissions.

We begin with a remarkable letter from President Dwight D. Eisenhower, sent in reply to one Robert J. Biggs, a WWII veteran. Biggs wrote the president looking for more strength and certitude from Ike, saying Americans needed "more of the attitude of a commanding officer who knows the goal and the mission and states, without evasion, the way it is to be done." Ike took the time to write a long, thoughtful and honest letter to Mr. Biggs:
"As you know, for four years our government has been a divided government, with the Administration confronted by a Congress controlled by the opposition--and the two working, if not in opposition, at least at cross purposes much of the time. An example is the sparring that seems to go on constantly over our defense situation--and specifically over our missile position. It is difficult indeed to maintain a reasoned and accurately informed understanding of our defense situation on the part of our citizenry when many prominent officials, possessing no standing or expertness except as they themselves claim it, attempt to further their own ideas or interests by resort to statements more distinguished by stridency than by accuracy."
As an exercise to the reader, DWSUWF suggests rereading the above paragraph substituting "health care reform" for "missile position" and "defense situation". Ike continues, explicitly defining the burden and responsibility that our messy, democratic, divided government puts on the citizenry:
"Even if this division in the government did not exist, I doubt that citizens like yourself could ever, under our democratic system, be provided with the universal degree of certainty, the confidence in their understanding of our problems, and the clear guidance from higher authority that you believe needed. Such unity is not only logical but indeed indispensable in a successful military organization, but in a democracy debate is the breath of life. This is to me what Lincoln meant by government "of the people, by the people, and for the people. ... But while this responsibility is a taxing one to a free people it is their great strength as well--from millions of individual free minds come new ideas, new adjustments to emerging problems, and tremendous vigor, vitality and progress."
The legion of bloggers and pundits complaining about the tone of the health care debate, and the difficulty of passing a health care reform bill of which the hoi polloi seems insufficiently appreciative, would be well advised to re-read Ike's letter. Hat tip to Septimus at The Whig Blog who found and excerpted this link in a recent New York Times Op-Ed by Max Blumenthal.

This excerpt of Ike's letter is offered in response to Gal Josefsberg, who submitted the slightly off-topic "Open Letter to our Elected Officials" to this carnival looking for a little more strength and certitude from our elected officials:
"Stop talking to us about policy and holding town hall meetings, and start inspiring us. Give us the great speeches you are capable of giving. Coin a phrase like “America Reborn” or “Rebuilding America”. Give us a symbol like Rosie the Riveter."
Ok Gal - You get a twofer. Rosie the Riveter at the top of this post, and President Eisenhower's reply to a virtually identical request from over a half century ago.

In DWSUWF's most recent post we noted a multi-year multi-election theme to be found in the financial press and broadcast media - to whit - investors prefer divided government and this preference is reflected in the stock market. While we doubt a statistical correlation will stand up to scrutiny, it is undeniable that a preponderance of investors believe a correlaton exists.

Randy Goldring is a financial consultant in Southern California. He draws some obvious parallels to the Clinton administration and professes his belief in a a divided government/stock market correlation in his post "Deja Vu All Over Again":
"I see Republicans making tremendous gains in the 2010 Congressional mid-term elections. They might even retake the House. A Republican party that many said was on life support just six months ago, would then become the incremental brakes on the steamroller that is Obama’s agenda... I believe that towards the end of next summer, signs of a Republican resurgence in the mid-term elections will be a tremendous stimulant to stock prices. Americans seem to prefer divided government."
The frequently used "seems to prefer divided government" construct always sticks in my craw. If voters truly like it better, rather than "seems to prefer", why not consciously vote for it every time?

DWSUWF favorite Ryan Sager is not looking for correlations between divided government and markets. Blogging at True/Slant, he is looking for any correlations with presidential popularity, and determines divided government is not correlated, but in fact - "It's the Economy Jackasses":
"Even when we have divided government, views of Congress and the president move in tandem. Clinton was under threat of impeachment by Gingrich and his GOP majority, yet people’s views of the president and of Congress stayed positively correlated. Why? Because voters aren’t deciding independently how they feel about President Clinton and the Republican majority — they’re simply expressing an opinion about how they feel toward government in general. And how they feel toward government in general comes back to the economy. And, presidential blow job or no, the economy was awesome."
Ryan links to an interesting bit of divided government scholarship written by Matthew Lebo for Congress and the Presidency. We'll be adding it to our sidebar scholarship links.

McQ at QandO Blog sharpens the horns of a dilemma currently impaling Congressional Dems, particularly those from conservative districts, in "The Political Hazards of HealthCare Reform":
"As they finally did with George Bush and the Republicans, I believe Americans are again realizing not just the benefit but the necessity for divided government to keep both sides “honest”. Government needs a bit of competition too. And if Democrats ram health care reform legislation through, whether with our without Republican support, they’re most likely to see such “competition” become reality in 2010."
DWSUWF agrees with McQ's analysis, but is not as optimistic. It is just too difficult to unseat incumbents in the House of Representatives. Barring a "Mark Foley" level of scandal or similar level of corruption from the Democrats exposed immediately before the election, the GOP will pick up seats, but will remain a minority in both houses in 2010. 2012 is another story.

Professor Peter von Nostrand is blogging at Bull by the Horns, but appears to be shoveling something from the other end of the animal in his post "This Seems Wrong":
"I'm not saying you're a bad person if you love yourself some DG, (Divided Government) but I am more in favor of a party Democrats holding most of the keys to power at one time so that accountability is more straight forward. And of course, anyone who knows anything about the role of Southern Democrats in the 20th century - or "Blue Dogs" now - knows that even unified government is can be divided enough already."
I'd think a professor would be a bit more rigorous about definitions. A great deal of scholarship has been invested in books and papers exploring the repercussions of "Divided Government" using this definition: One party does not hold the executive branch and majorities in both legislative branches. A government divided between liberal Democrats, centrist Democrats, conservative Democrats, corrupt Democrats and Democratic ideologues is a definition of a different state - "One Party Rule".

John Pitney, author of Epic Journey takes note in his blog of Gary Andres' Weekly Standard article (as did DWSUWF) and finds it to be diametrically opposed to the expectations set in his book - "United vs. Divided Government":
"In 2008, voters opted for unified Democratic control of the government. That outcome, however, guarantee the Democrats a lock on Washington for years to come. On the contrary, Gary Andres argues, divided government may loom."
Yeah- I'm betting Gary got that one right. We are just not hearing that much about the U.S. being a "center-left country" or a "permanent realignment" in the electorate like we were when his book was published earlier this year.

Jennifer Rubin writing in Commentary is wondering "Would a GOP Congress Help?":
"Whether it would be good for him and his presidency is another story. Plainly he and the Democrats lack the internal discipline to come off the left ledge of their party. The gap between the still center-right public and the president is vast. So the theory goes, better to have moderation “forced” upon him. But divided government, as we saw following the Republicans’ losses in 2006, doesn’t necessarily make for a successful period of governance for the president. Obama can’t be forced to be an effective chief executive. It is easy to imagine an increasingly irritated and beleaguered Obama in a constant political food fight with Congress if Republicans roar back in 2010."
Like many conservatives, Jennifer pooh-poohs the benefits of our short two year reprieve of divided government after the six years of Single Party Republican Rule. As DWSUWF pointed out at the time:
"Divided government is not a cure-all, but the fact is - our divided government state since 2007 has begun to reverse the damage of the 2001-2006 One Party Rule. Six years of abusive single party control is not going to be undone by 20 months of divided government. Yet, as a direct consequence of electing a divided government in 2006, we have a new Secretary of Defense, a new Attorney General, a marginal improvement in both the Patriot Act and FISA vs. the Bush/Cheney versions, a great deal more oversight revealing many of the abuses of the six years of single party control, a revised strategy in Iraq resulting in an improved security situation, and a reduction in the rate of spending growth rate in 2007. These improvements, though marginal, are not insignificant. It is the nature of divided government that improvements will be incremental and that is exactly what we have seen thus far."
Unfortunately, even those marginal improvements have almost all been reversed since the imposition of Single Party Democratic Rule. It just seems so painfully obvious to DWSUWF what voters need to do.

Pat Howard, managing editor for the Erie Times, attempts to steer the paper on a centrist course, but is explicit about his preferences in "Where politics meet technology, its hard to escape the noise":
"I consider myself an Independent, with views roughly typical of conservative Democrats or moderate Republicans. I'm registered as a Democrat because that party's primaries are the votes that count in the city of Erie, where I live. I prefer divided government -- the presidency and Congress split between the two parties -- because overreaching by zealots both left and right is what worries me most."
As do I Pat, as do I.

As noted here before, there is a lively on-going discussion of the merits of divided government at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen. Most recently, Scott Payne weighed in using his native Canada as an analog to advance his thesis in "Divided and Conquered":
"Here in the frozen tundra, because we have a Parliamentary style of government with five major parties (depending on who you ask), we also have the possibility of forming a a minority government — the ultimate in divided government. And, in fact, for the past five years, Canada has had a minority government in power. In theory, if we follow Mark’s reasoning, this should lead to a more stable and responsive government of the people, by the people, and for the people... Stable my eye.

Now, I know that this is not a scenario that would play itself out in the context of US politics as y’all don’t have a parliamentary system where government can fall due to a vote of non-confidence, but the point here isn’t so much about procedure as it is about the atmospheric impacts that divided government can have on political discourse in general. The fact of the matter is that the divided state of government in Canada has not led to a sense that government is either more stable or more responsive, but rather a general feeling of frustration at government’s ineffectiveness and inability to serve the people it is supposed to. And while government gridlock might be the stuff of dreams for libertarians like Mark and Jaybird, for a majority of Canadians (and I would dare to speculate a majority of Americans) said government inaction due to partisan bickering is an extremely sore point."
An interesting comparison.

First point - It is not clear to DWSUWF that a "stable government" should be considered a primary objective in any country. Totalitarian governments are notoriously stable, sometimes for decades, until they suddenly become unstable due to revolution, war, or economic collapse. It strikes me a "stable government" is the exact opposite of a "responsive government" in a dynamic pluralistic society.

Second point - Speaking strictly from the POV of this blog, the analogy is not relevant. To be clear, this is not a criticism of Scott's post, which was drafted into this carnival. This blog advocates and promotes the benefits of a divided government for the United States federal government. As a matter of interest, we'll comment on other governments, whether state, local, or foreign - but advocate only for divided federal government in the US. The reason is simple, it is only the US federal government where we feel there is sufficient scholarship on divided government that we can comfortably predict the beneficial results of that state.

Third and most important point - The distinction between the Canadian example and the USA, is that our constitutional government was designed from the ground up to be a divided government as explained clearly by constitutional architect James Madison in Federalist #51. If partisan unity overrides the checks and balances built into the Constitution, then our government is not working as designed.

Historian Joseph Ellis coined a beautiful phrase that succinctly sums up how our unique constitutional government is conceived - the "enshrinement of argument". Once again, I am compelled to quote myself from a prior carnival:
"What a perfect phrase to describe our Constitution and our national zeitgeist - "the enshrinement of argument". In this political season, with the mind numbing and meaningless appeals to "unity" amid the disparagement of partisanship, polarization, and debate, it is useful to recall that this country was built (and the constitution designed) on the expectation and promotion of continuous conflict and argument. For the founders, "unity" and "government power" was a dangerous mix to be feared and avoided. It smacked of monarchy. Checks, balances, divided government and pitting "ambition against ambition" was exactly the state they sought to enshrine."
A parliamentary government, by contrast, is designed to elect a unified government for as long as the electorate considers said government to be representative of the majority. Once could argue that a divided government is contrary to the spirit and design of a parliamentary system, while a unified government is contrary to the spirit and design of the U.S. Constitution.

Norbert Sluzewski makes exactly this point in his history lesson posted at Naked Liberty -"Know your America - the 16th Amendment":
"But what was most remarkable about the Constitution’s structure was that it created no single source of power. With the distribution of authority among the executive, legislative and judicial branches, this distributed structure of checks and balances recognized an inherent human flaw that: If given the opportunity to avail himself of excesses, man inevitably will. Even the most benevolent monarchy or dictatorship eventually succumbs to this flaw. The Founders uniquely understood this and sought to establish a Republic in which no single man, group, state or other entity could dominate or unduly influence the direction of the nation."
Unfortunately, what they did not anticipate, was that single party discipline can overcome and negate the "distributed structure of checks and balances" between the executive and legislative branches. An oversight that can only be rectified by voters electing a divided government. Every time.

Traditionally, we conclude this Carnival by including one "off-topic" submission, as a grudging acknowledgment and proxy for the many off-topic submissions received. Off-topic in this context meaning - no mentions of "divided government" or gridlock.

For this edition we offer Vichuda presenting "Indonesia Unite Against Terrorism" posted at Kota Medan Guide, and a reminder that patriotism and unity in the face of terrorism is not a uniquely American quality:
"Since the terrorist attacks with suicide bombings to 2 luxury hotels" JW Marriott and Ritz Carlton Hotels in Jakarta, the online community has united to show their support to fight against terrorism especially Indonesians.By using Twitter, everyone has united by twittering the word #indonesiaunite with their comments to pass on their support with their personal messages."
And with that we conclude this edition.

Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for all of the submissions (on-topic or not).

Since this carnival is focused on the topic of Divided Government, and seeing how voters spectacularly rejected the idea in the last election with no real prospect of restoring divided government before 2012, this carnival has been on a reduced publication schedule. Instead of monthly, we have been publishing quarterly or - you know - whenever DWSUWF feels like it.

But, with independent support for Obama falling away, with the Democrats deciding whether they are one party or not, with the specter of divided government rising from the grave, we are again going to pick up the pace.

Look for the next edition of The Carnival of Divided Government quattuor et trîcênsimus (XXXIV)- Special Halloween Edition on or about October 31. Submit your blog article at carnival of divided government using our carnival submission form.


Some other Carnivals and links of interest:

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Investors Love Divided Government - 2009 Edition

Attributing stock market moves to political processes is a dicey proposition at best. That does not seem to deter either the right or left, who are always quick to jump on any day to day fluctuation in the market as either a validation or refutation of a particular policy in the news.

That said, it is undeniable that what happens in Washington D.C. does have a profound effect on Wall Street. A recurring sentiment expressed in financial print and broadcast media is that markets love gridlock and divided government. Whether or not a correlation can be statistically proven to be true, it is in the nature of markets that if a preponderance of the investor class believes a correlation to be true, then it is true. At least, for a period of time as a self fulfilling prophecy.

In what has evolved into an annual post, DWSUWF has reported on this recurring theme in 2006 (and again), 2007, 2008 and now 2009. This latest entry is from CNBC "Squawk Box" last week. It starts as a health care discussion but tacks in another direction:

"Airtime: Fri. Aug. 28 2009 | 5:10 AM ET
Tony Crescenzi, of Pimco, and Jim Iuorio, of TJM Institutional Services, share their thoughts on health care reform."
Interesting to note that the meme is consistent regardless of whether we have Republican or Democratic single party rule in place.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.