Joseph Nye, one of the leading political scientists among those who specialize in international relations, has an excellent commentary at The Huffington Post, which I became aware of via PoliBlog. Nye describes the warrentless wiretaps as “an act [of] arrogance that the administration can ill afford when it needs the support of moderates in perilous times.”
My reactions is the same as Steven’s title at PoliBlog, and, further, his elaboration after a more lengthy excerpt from Nye: EXACTLY.
As Nye notes the domestic surveillance, bypassing legal procedures, is part of Cheney’s campaign to strengthen the executive, without the consent of political actors outside the inner circle of the executive branch. Of course, it is precisely in response to this process of executive usurpation that I undertook to post the excerpt from Madison’s “Political Reflections” on F&V‘s left sidebar (and a linked page that elaborates).
I also second Steven’s remark that is is astonishing (though perhaps it should not be) that so many Bush partisans don’t even find this usurpation of elementary checks and balances and civil liberties particularly bothersome.
I don’t know much about Mississippi politics, except that it is solidly Republican for presidential elections. The Moderate Voice reports that President Bush is trying to get Trent Lott tun run for reelection (and this is ironic, TMV notes). The GOP fears that Lott’s retirement could hand the state to former state Attorney General Mike Moore, a Democrat. That the GOP might be worried about holding a Mississippi seat is remarkable.
In the special-election race for the US House district in northern San Diego County, California, vacated by the Crooked Duke, national Democrats are planning to assist leading Democratic candidate Francine Busby. The theory is that the district, which will vote in a first round on April 11, could be a bellweather of Democrats’ national ambitions to make gains on a “culture of corruption” theme later in 2006. But the strategy is hardly without risk: The district is so safe that it is hard to imagine an upset. In fact, that is exactly what it would be: an upset of major proportions, if the Democrats were to win this seat.
National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee communications director Carl Forti notes, “You are not going to defeat someone by saying they are from the same party as Tom DeLay and Cunningham —- that is not a reason to vote against someone.” That is probably right. The district’s majority will be happy with any of several Republicans in the running for the seat.
“It’s already too late for Republicans, but Democrats (had) a chance to have a single candidate on the ballot,” [...] adding that the prospect of a split Democratic vote is a “real concern.”
Really, it shouldn’t be much of a concern. It would actually be easier for Busby (or any Democrat) to win this race in a runoff than in the first round. In fact, the “runoff primary” system that California uses for special legislative elections has the unusual feature of providing a higher threshold for victory in the first round than in the runoff–the reverse of every other type of runoff system in use. A candidate must win a majority of all votes cast for the race to end in one round. Failing a majority, the top vote-getter from each registered party advances to a runoff, in which a plurality suffices. In the CA-50, this runoff will be the same day (in June) as the closed-party primary for the regular general election in November.
The (very faint) hopes that Democrats have in this race have always been that either:
(1) the Republican nominee is too far to the right for even this district, such that moderate Republicans and independents defect to Busby in June, or
(2) there is a third-party candidate in the runoff who splits the Republican vote and lets Busby win with less than 50%.
In other words, Democratic voters, in the first round, ought to rally behind the most far-right Republican candidate–given that the leading vote-getter within the party could have 15% or so of the total votes cast–or find a Gilchrist-like candidate to back tactically, rather than worry about another of their own jumping into the race.
Even if one of the above scenarios were to turn out, Republicans could correct it in the June primary by nominating someone else (in an election in which only their own registered voters may participate) and thus have a stronger candidate against short-termer Busby in November.
The idea that Busby could get a majority in the first round was always fantasy, whether she is the lone Democrat or one of several running.
The national Democratic party is in a real bind on this. The special election means it will look like forfeiture if they don’t get involved, yet it will be spun as a major defeat for their fall theme of a “culture of corruption” when they lose.
Previously on CA-50:
Hurricane Duke (a post by Philip Kllinkner at PolySigh in July, to which I posted a lengthy comment, although I was at that time mistaken about the special-election rules for legislative races)
IF YOU WANT to meet the future political leaders of the United States, go to Iraq. I am not referring to the generals, or even the colonels. I mean the junior officers and enlistees in their 20s and 30s. In the decades ahead, they will represent something uncommon in U.S. military history: war veterans with practical experience in democratic governance, learned under the most challenging of conditions.
I guess I can hope that they learn to appreciate proportional representation!
Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. said in a 1984 memo that he believed the president’s top lawyer should be shielded from being sued for approving illegal, warrantless wiretaps on the grounds of national security, an issue that has flared anew and could complicate his Senate confirmation next month.
I wonder what, if any, effect this will have on his confirmation chances.
I don’t normally obtain my politics and policy-making news from the travel section of the newspaper, but this item–the print version of which has been on my desk since Dec. 11–caught my eye for a serious flaw in our appointment process that is affecting the future of the US national rail system, Amtrak.
Arthur Frommer notes that not only was the highly regarded president of Amtrak, David L. Gunn, fired by the board of directors (see Rip Track’s November archives), but also that board separated the profitable Northeast Corridor from the rest of the system and is readying some serious cuts in service elsewhere. (more…)
The quote that I recently added to the right sidebar of Fruits and Votes comes from Henry Droop’s essay, “On the Political and Social Effects of Different Methods of Electing Representatives,” published originally in 1869. The essay includes some rather remarkable and still-timely insights into the functioning of two-party politics and how various forms of proportional representation would improve representation and governance.
Unlike most contemporary advocates of electoral reform, Droop emphasized not the representation of minority views from outside the mainstream (think Greens, Libertarians, etc.) but the enhanced representation of moderate and nonpartisan voters that proportional representation would bring about.
The full paragraph from which the sidebar quote is drawn reads as follows:
As every representative is elected to represent one of these two parties, the nation, as represented in the assembly, appears to consist only of these two parties, each bent on carrying out its own programme. But, in fact, a large proportion of the electors who vote for the candidates of the one party or the other really care much more about the country being honestly and wisely governed than about the particular points at issue between the two parties; and if this moderate non-partisan section of the electors had their separate representatives in the assembly, they would be able to mediate between the opposing parties and prevent the one party from pushing their advantage too far, and the other from prolonging a factious opposition. With majority voting they can only intervene at general elections, and even then cannot punish one party for excessive partisanship, without giving a lease of uncontrolled power to their rivals.
As an American voter, frustrated by the current polarization of our two parties–the “win at all costs model” decried in an excellent post on December 23 by James Joyner about the “Kosification” of party politics–Droop’s words ring true. Moderate, or swing voters, indeed are faced with giving a lease on power to an “out” party that they do not fully trust and that does not really represent them, or else seeing the incumbents continuing to push their advantage too far.
Joyner notes that one of his own core premises is “that policy matters and that honest debate over policy is essential to good governance,” and decries the focus of blogosphere activists like Kos for their almost total focus on tactics, rather than policy. As he also notes, it is not just Kos and Democrats; it is a bipartisan phenomenon, but Democrats are currently the party needing to win before they can get serious about policy.
Nonetheless, the “win at all costs” polarization is corrosive. Joyner again:
Ordinary voters are more likely to be turned off by the rancorous atmosphere and the core electorate will likely be more energized than ever to make sure that the “bad guys” lose.
What the “Droopian” logic quoted here highlights is the extent to which the climate Joyner decries is a product precisely of a politics that creates no room for other parties to gain access to the policy-making processes–other parties that might care more about ideas than about “win at all costs,” precisely because in a multiparty context, “winning” is not being the sole party responsible for governing. Rather, winning is a complex process of building alliances in a context in which power is not so starkly defined as winners vs. losers.
Prior to some time in the last two decades–some time before the 1992 election, as I have argued before–the two US parties were not so sharply differentiated, and so there were many more openings in the center for cross-party policy coalitions. Obviously, the prominence of politicians willing to reach across the partisan divided before 1992 was helped by the fact that it was an era usually characterized by divided govenrment, and when power was not divided, the Democrats were such a “big tent” that even the Carter (and to a lesser extent, Johnson) years often looked like divided government.
There is at present no break in the sharp differentiation of partisan lines foreseeable. But, despite appearances, this nation manifestly does not consist of “only these two parties.” Most voters care more about good governance, and not about the conflicts between party leaders increasingly beholden to their sharply differentiated activist cores.
Only with multiple parties can the real diversty of interests that exists in society check and balance each other in our representative institutions, and thereby depolarize the increasingly ugly bipartisan climate that turns off more and more “ordinary voters.” It is for this reason that I consider Droop’s ideas to be an expansion of James Madison’s famous treatise on “factions” in Federalist 10.
(This post is a variant of my overview of Droop and representation that is linked at the sidebar quote; I also develop some of these ideas in the page I recently linked to the blog’s banner.)
boz offers some reflections on why several pre-election polls in Bolivia said that Evo Morales would not break 35% when in fact he broke 50% (and, apparently, with plenty of room to spare). He finds (as do I) that the most plausible explanations lie in pollsters’ reliance on models that failed to take account of how much more motivated to turn out were Morales’s supporters compared to those of other candidates, and the likelihood that a lot of voters decided very late in the campaign.
No, it is not really my intention that every day F&V has a different look. But as legions of daily (what, only daily?) readers have noticed, I have been rearranging and otherwise modifying the look of the place the last few days. It’s more or less “complete” now, and in addition to putting the links to my other sites and to the various feeds (Atom, RSS) underneath the banner, I have added some quotations–one to the banner and one at the top of each sidebar. These quotations contain links to essays that collectively express the mission and core values that motivate F&V.
Here is one way to create a cooler microclimate effect:
This is the hedgerow down the hill, on the coldest part of Ladera Frutal, where I have my corralito planted with deciduous fruit trees. In a low-chill region, one can maximize one’s chances of getting fruit by “cheating” on the chill hours. One way to do that is to plant one’s highest-chill varieties (like the cherry and apricot varieties depicted here) in an area where they will be shaded in the winter. Naturally, one has to avoid the trees’ being shaded in summer, when sunlight is needed to ripen the fruit.
One way to accomplish this is to plant close to taller evergreens, as with the mature Marsh grapeftuit trees than can be seen on the exterior of the corralito. When the sun is low in the sky, as on this first full day of winter, only the tops of the trees will be in sun. But when the sun is higher in the sky in summer, three trees will be bathed in sunlight except at their very low back sides.
The hedgerow style of planting itself helps with the chill, because the dense planting trees help trap cold air (further aided by the groundcover seen here), while the dwarfing that results from the trees’ crowding one another keeps most of the fruiting buds low to the ground. The ground remains significantly colder in winter than the air a few feet above. After I prune this hedgerow in the coming weeks, all the trees will be shorter, as I will leave only the low branches.
Along this hedgerow, the overnight temperatures often can be a degree or two colder at night than is the case out in the open, and the shade keeps the daytime high a few degrees cooler, too. A few degrees here and there, over three months, can add up to a hundred or more chill hours, making the difference between no fruit and a good set on varieties marginal to one’s climate.
I celebrated the first day of winter yesterday with some Anderson Valley Winter Solstice. Tastes almost like a rich caramel, particularly on tap. (The bottle benefits from several months to a year of aging.) One of my all-time favorite winter brews.
From the description by the brewery:
From the first sip of Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale , your senses will be aroused with the vision of a glowing fire, warming the hearth and home, as gently drifting snow flakes silently blanket the trees outside.
Yes, that sounds like winter here at Ladera Frutal. (more…)
There was a clear majority throughout this end-of-session debate for the defense bill, but the Senate had previously shown its absence of a majority (not merely absence of a 60% cloture vote) on ANWR. Similarly, there had been a clear majority for extending some provisions of the “Patriot Act” but no majority for making certain provisions permanent.
The Republican leadership, including the executive branch, had decided on a tactic of my way or the highway–that is, a polarization strategy, posturing a willingness to let both the defense bill and the about-to-expire provisions of the “Patriot Act” fall of the proberbial cliff. The tactic fell apart yesterday when Republican senators swerved just short of the precipice, leading to compromise and passage of versions of both bills on which there was broad consensus.
This means that the “Patriot Act” will come up again in June [see update below], some months before the midterm elections. (ANWR probably will, too.) Good. It will make it part of the campaign. May the “best” party win. (Unfortunately, I have to say that last remark only with irony, given that only a small minority of voters will have a chance to cast a meaningful vote in this election–i.e. one in a race that could tip either way.)
Most likely, in six months, the PA will be extended yet again, as a result of irreconcilable divisions between the parties in the heat of a campaign. If so, again, good. Let the Congress take it up after the 2006 election.
It is evident that the Republican leaders are no longer confident that time is on their side, or else they would not have sought MY WAY NOW, instead of compromise, as their first strategy.
UPDATE: On Dec. 22, both chambers agreed, via voice vote, to a PA extension of only one month, House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner having pushed for as short an extension as possible. Sensenbrenner threatened to throw off the entire compromise the Senate had agreed to earlier (and discussed above). He did not get the de-polarize memo, apparently.
If by my laws you walk, and my commands you keep, and observe them,
then I will give-forth your rains in their set-time,
so that the earth gives-forth its yield
and the trees of the field give-forth their fruit.
--Vayikra 26: 3-4