That’s not a stupid question. There are often phrases or words relating to government, or certain mechanisms of the government that we hear frequently, but that are never clearly defined. It’s important to share that information. Neil deGrasse Tyson frequently talks about the importance of expanding “science literacy”, and I think “history literacy” or “civic literacy” is something that also needs to be improved upon.
The Congressional elections are called midterms when they happen in the middle of a Presidential term — Obama was elected in 2008, so the 2010 Congressional elections were midterms. His 2012 reelection makes the 2014 Congressional elections midterms. Biennially (every two years), all 435 members of the House of Representatives and 1/3rd of the Senate is up for reelection, but midterms only take place every four years.
"Midterms" is a good word for those elections, too. Midterm elections are really the first chance — a test, of sorts — for Presidents to get a clear understanding of national acceptance for their policies and an opportunity for their performance to be graded by the American people. A President whose political party loses a significant amount of seats in a midterm election can be in serious trouble. If it’s their first midterm election, it could warn of a major challenge in their bid for reelection. If it’s their second midterm election, failure can accelerate their status as lame ducks going into their final months in office.
I’m not one of those people who say that there are no stupid questions. There are A LOT of stupid questions. I see them everybody in my inbox. But this wasn’t one of them!
I’m a big Jerry Brown fan, and I think he’s doing about as good of a job as anybody could possibly do as Governor of California.
Plus, how can you not love a guy who actually said this at a press conference: “Analysis paralysis is not why I came back. I want to get shit done.”
Sounds like an interesting panel. I haven’t read that book. With the upcoming 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination this month, there have been so many books released about JFK over the past few months that it’s tough to keep track. I literally have a stack of about 15-20 JFK books that I’ve received in the past two or three months.
As for Howard Dean and Ed Rollins, I definitely know who they are. I was on the Howard Dean bandwagon in 2004 and still think he would have been President of the United States if the Democrats had stuck it out and nominated him instead of John Kerry.
Ed Rollins is a longtime consultant for Republican candidates, but he’s been very successful, is very good at what he does, and I have mad respect for the man. Plus, he was a former boxer and spent some of his formative years in Northern California (even Sacramento), so I have two things in common with him that makes me like him even more. Also, I believe Rollins started off working for Jesse Unruh, the Speaker of the California State Assembly (and a Democrat!), who is a legend in California politics and a guy I’ve always been fascinated by.
I have not read Klein’s book, but it sounds like something I definitely want to take a look at. From you description of it, I definitely agree with what he’s trying to say.
The reason why, as Klein’s subtitle says, American Democracy has been “Trivialized By People Who Think You’re Stupid” is because it works. Most American voters don’t take the time (and, sometimes, don’t have the time) to swim past the soundbites and headlines and get to the meat of the story on the issues and candidates during elections. I’m sorry, but the majority of the American people are “average” — that’s why we use that word — and “average Americans” are easy to cater to.
Anti-intellectualism is nothing new in American politics. I wrote about it a couple of years ago:
Anti-intellectualism has ALWAYS been a favorite of American political campaigns. For some frustrating reason, Americans don’t like somebody who is *too* smart. I don’t know about you, but I want my President to be the smartest guy in the country. Most of the time, campaigns just dumb things down because they know it appeals to the people. It’s one of the biggest things that bothers me about this country — dumbing things down works.
This is not a new tactic. It’s also not a dead tactic. In 2008, we had Sarah Palin and Joe The Plumber speaking for the “regular Americans”. The thing is, I don’t actually know any “regular Americans” who pride themselves on being simple people. Why this works in political campaigns is beyond my ability to understand. It is Walmart advertising and it is infuriating.
When did this start in Presidential campaigns? Definitely during the 1824 campaign that John Quincy Adams won against Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and William H. Crawford. It didn’t work in that campaign because the election was decided by the House of Representatives, but Jackson campaigned as the down-to-earth, man of the people. In 1828, he did the same thing and won. Other Presidents who used the same tactic successfully: William Henry Harrison in 1840; James K. Polk in 1844; Zachary Taylor in 1848; Franklin Pierce in 1852; Abraham Lincoln in 1860; James Garfield in 1880; Benjamin Harrison in 1888; Warren G. Harding in 1920; and Jimmy Carter in 1976.
Besides the Bush 43 campaigns, Carter is the most recent clear example of a President who completely dumbed down his abilities and personality for his Presidential campaign. In 1976, Carter campaigned against Gerald Ford as the smiling peanut farmer from Georgia who was ready to bring the Presidency back to the people. In reality, Carter was a graduate of the United States Naval Academy who studied nuclear physics, was a disciple of Admiral Hyman Rickover, and handpicked by Rickover to serve as the engineering officer on one of the first atomic submarines.
I don’t understand why this appeals to the American electorate. I don’t understand why it works. All I know is that it is not a good reflection on the American electorate as a whole. If anybody says, “Oh, I voted for him because he was dumber than the other guy”, they should have their right to vote revoked.
Unfortunately, delivering political candidates to people by dumbing things down works — and it will probably keep working. That’s why Lincoln is the poor rail-splitter instead of the clever, corporate railroad lawyer and Carter is Mr. Smiley Peanut Farmer instead of the nuclear physicist that he actually was.
I don’t know how to rectify it other than proving those stuffed shirts wrong. If you’re presented with Jed Bartlet vs. Robert Ritchie, you damn sure better vote for Bartlet and let them know that you want the smartest person possible sitting in the chair when decisions have to be made.
Let’s pump the brakes and slow down, okay? I like Cory Booker and I think that he’s a rising star, but he hasn’t even been sworn in and taken his recently-won seat in the U.S. Senate yet.
Because of the avalanche of news coverage, the prevalence of social media, and the rapidly-shrinking attention span of the average American, many people confuse “constant coverage” for “credible contender”.
We’ve already reached the point in American political life where everything is just one continuous campaign. It’s awful, but there’s no turning back from it now, unfortunately. What we can do, however, is take a breath and recognize that the fact that a politician is grabbing headlines or making himself/herself the main topic of conversation during a news cycle doesn’t mean that he/she immediately becomes a serious candidate for President or Vice President in an election cycle that is still over two years away from even the party primaries.
I’m not even specifically picking on Senator-elect Booker or the person who asked this question. It’s an issue that has come up with a number of other politicians over the past few months who happened to dominate a few news cycles because of this reason or that reason and then immediately have been spoken of as potential candidates in 2016.
Americans wonder how it ever reached the point that we’re at right now when we find ourselves locked in a constant campaign — a situation that results in problems like the government shutdown because politicians aren’t governing. They are either running for something or running away from something. Nobody wants to make difficult decisions or unpopular compromises during a campaign. Now, since we’re in a constant campaign, everybody is a candidate and nobody is a political leader.
We’ve reached that point because we’ve empowered the politicians that we put in office to see themselves as potential Presidential or Vice Presidential candidates since we mention that possibility whenever one of those politicians win themselves some news coverage for whatever the reason might be. By wild speculation over two years before primary season and three years before the general election cycle, we allow them to be candidates rather than public servants. Instead of doing the job they have, they shape themselves for the job that they want. And they do it because we let them.
It is one thing to look ahead to the 2016 election and think about Hillary Clinton’s possible candidacy. She’s no longer holding office. She doesn’t have a job to do every day on behalf of the American people. But when we start speculating about Cory Booker who doesn’t even have the exact date scheduled yet for taking his Senate seat, or debate whether or not Ted Cruz is eligible for the Presidency even though all he has done in office is grandstand, alienate leaders from both parties, and willfully obstruct progress, we give them permission to plunge into the constant campaign rather than do their job.
It’s time to stop that. And, just like I said during the shutdown when I pointed out that we have the power and ability to unseat every single member of the U.S. House of Representatives and 1/3rd of the U.S. Senate every two years, it is up to us, the American people, to make it clear that we are tired of the constant campaign. It’s our responsibility to make it understood that we want our elected officials to do the jobs that they have, not the jobs that they might want, or the jobs that others speculate that they might someday get.
Just like we — regular Americans like you and I — can change the face of Congress every two years through the ballot, we can end the constant campaign, too. Again, it is our job to make sure that our political leaders are doing their job — as public servants, not constant candidates in a never-ending political campaign. And, as we do that, let’s also remember that just because a politician is getting a lot of attention, it doesn’t mean that they are qualified or ready to run for President or Vice President.
Hubert H. Humphrey became a hero to progressives because of a ballsy speech that he gave at the 1948 Democratic National Convention in support of civil rights. HHH was Mayor of Minneapolis at the time and running for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota, so it was basically Humphrey’s coming-out party as a national figure and he didn’t disappoint. Instead of being cautious, Humphrey took the lead in fighting for a pro-civil rights section in the Democratic platform. HHH’s speech helped get it adopted as part of the platform and resulted in many Southern delegates walking out of the convention. Southerners formed the States’ Rights or Dixiecrat Party and nominated South Carolina’s Governor Strom Thurmond as a third party candidate for the Presidency that year. Thurmond actually won four states and 39 electoral votes but it wasn’t enough to play the spoiler and President Truman still won reelection.
Humphrey’s controversial/courageous speech at the ‘48 DNC was really good and ended with this memorable conclusion:
“My friends, to those who say that we are rushing this issue of civil rights, I say to them we are 172 years late. To those who say that this civil rights program is an infringement on states’ rights, I say this: The time has arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states’ rights and to walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights. People — human beings — this is the issue of the 20th century. People of all kinds — all sorts of people — and these people are looking to America for leadership, and they’re looking to America for precept and example.
My good friends, my fellow Democrats, I ask you for a calm consideration of our historic opportunity. Let us do forget the evil passions and the blindness of the past. In these times of world economic, political, and spiritual — above all spiritual — crisis, we cannot and we must not turn from the path so plainly before us. That path has already lead us through many valleys of the shadow of death. And now is the time to recall those who were left on that path of American freedom.
For all of us here, for the millions who have sent us, for the whole two billion members of the human family, our land is now, more than ever before, the last best hope on earth. And I know that we can, and I know that we shall began here the fuller and richer realization of that hope, that promise of a land where all men are truly free and equal, and each man uses his freedom and equality wisely well.
My good friends, I ask my Party, I ask the Democratic Party, to march down the high road of progressive democracy. I ask this convention to say in unmistakable terms that we proudly hail, and we courageously support, our President and leader Harry Truman in his great fight for civil rights in America!”
I think both parties need to dump their leadership in both chambers of Congress in order for things to have a shot at turning around. We are in the midst of a strange situation — the Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and the Senate are abysmal, don’t have the influence or power to whip their caucuses in line, aren’t respected by junior members within their own party, can’t work together effectively with the opposition or the President, and yet they are entrenched in their respective leadership positions. It’s as if the coach of a football team was terrible at his job, couldn’t win a game, lost the respect of his players, had no chance at out-coaching the opposition, but couldn’t be fired for some reason.
The House of Representatives isn’t a legislative body; it’s a tar pit. The Senate is no better. A big part of the blame belongs to us. It is our job to toss out shitty, ineffective, inefficient members of Congress. The Senate is tougher to do that with because they have six-year-long terms and only a third or so of the Senators are up for reelection every two years. But we have the ability to make changes in the House of Representatives every two years. We could fire every single member of the House and replace them with someone new in 2014. Will we? Of course not. The voters are partly to blame.
The senior members of the House and Senate — on both sides of the aisle — are largely to blame for the day-to-day bullshit that has brought the government to the place that it has been in for the last six years or so. Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Nancy Pelosi, Kevin McCarthy, and Steny Hoyer should not have jobs. They are the party leaders of the worst Congress in American history. I didn’t include the Senate whips — Dick Durbin and John Cornyn — because I think those two are the only party leaders in Congress who are worth a shit, but I wouldn’t put up a fight if they lost their jobs, too.
The party leaders in the House and the Senate should have control of their respective caucuses at all times. If not, they aren’t leading. I’m stunned at how little respect many of the junior members of Congress — even freshmen in the House of Representatives! — have for the leaders of their own party. Raul Labrador, a Republican member of the House, was elected in 2010. In 2011, as a freshman Congressman, Labrador stood up in a GOP conference told John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, “I didn’t come to Washington to be part of a team.” That’s right, as the Speaker of the House of Representatives — one of the five most powerful positions in the country when there is someone useful in the job — implored his fellow Republicans to work together, a freshman Congressman from Idaho straight up told him no in front of every other House Republican. Speaker Boehner should have remembered that disrespect and in 2012, he should have CRUSHED Labrador. He should have withheld RNC money from Labrador. He should have built up a primary challenger against Labrador. He should have pulled together every powerful Republican that can breathe and walk, flown them to Idaho, and campaigned against Labrador. Instead? Nothing. Labrador was reelected last year. That’s just one example.
The Democrats are just as bad. They control the Senate and they have a Democrat in the White House. But Harry Reid is the Senate Majority Leader and the Democrat from Nevada is, hands-down, the worst Majority Leader in American history. Nobody is intimidated by him, nobody is influenced by him, nobody respects him. And why should they? Why should the White House defer to him? In 2011, Vice President Biden met with Senator Reid to help pass the two-year extension to the Bush-era tax cuts. The White House wasn’t ecstatic about the deal that they made with Republicans to extend the tax cuts, but politics require compromises. Progress requires compromise.
So, when the Democratic President sent his Vice President to settle the issue with the Democratic Senate Majority Leader, how did Harry Reid decide to help out his President and Vice President? He said this to the President and Vice President of the United States:
"You guys went and did this deal. You go sell it. Not my deal, not my problem. Not telling you I’m against it, not telling you I’m for it, not yelling at you, just saying you guys made this deal. Hope you can line up the Senate Democrats behind you because I’m not going to."
Harry Reid wasn’t taking a stand because of a strong, ideological position that he was absolutely opposed to compromising on. No, Harry Reid was acting like a fucking baby because the White House closed a deal that Harry Reid simply couldn’t do on his own. If FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, or Bush 43 were President, Harry Reid would be working in a pawn shop in Las Vegas tonight. But Harry Reid is still the Senate Majority Leader.
I know that I am ranting, but the whole subject pisses me off because the problems are so clear and the solutions are so simple. The party leadership — Majority and Minority, Democrats and Republicans — from both chambers of Congress — House and Senate — NEED TO GO.
There is one more person who deserves some blame for how shitty the 112th Congress (9% approval rating, by the way) was and the 113th Congress has been, and he’s not a member of Congress: President Barack Obama. As I mentioned above, every President since Franklin D. Roosevelt, with the exception of Jimmy Carter, would have absolutely smashed individual members of the House and Senate, specific blocs of voters, and each chamber of Congress as a whole if they had been as intransigent, disrespectful, and ineffective as these last two Congresses have been. It wouldn’t have gotten as bad with many of those Presidents because they either had a mastery of the legislative process or they used the bully pulpit of the Presidency to win the public opinion war. President Obama has done none of these things. Junior Senators and freshman House members from Obama’s own party have no problem openly criticizing the President or opposing Administration goals. That should NEVER happen. Joe Manchin should be working in a coal mine in West Virginia instead of taking shots at his own President whenever he feels like it. Manchin’s predecessor, Robert Byrd, earned the right to be independent whenever he wanted, but even after 50 years in the Senate, Byrd knew to support his President. What’s even worse is that Obama’s top Cabinet members are legendary Senators — Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Whenever a President wants something from his Democrats on the Hill, he should get it. If not, Biden, Kerry, and Hagel should be laying the "Johnson Treatment” on anyone who needs it. They have to because Obama obviously doesn’t have that weapon in his arsenal. As embarrassing as Obama’s influence with his fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill has been, can you imagine how bad it would be without Joe Biden doing the dirty work with Congress over the past four years?
There’s a lot of anger in this post and I know that it is all over the place, but I am truly angry about this subject. As I said, the problems are clear and the solutions are obvious. And the past 80 years of Presidential/Congressional relations are a blueprint for what works and what doesn’t. We need new party leaders on both sides of the aisle in both chambers of Congress. And we need a President whose approach to dealing with useless Congresses and intransigent, disrespectful Congressmen is more FDR/Eisenhower/LBJ than Carter/Obama.
President Clinton and Bob Dole being Senate Spouses is pretty great. Clinton and Dole are right up near the top of the list when it comes to former campaign rivals who enjoyed a friendly relationship afterward. I think it would probably have to be Clinton and George H. W. Bush, though. I love reading about how close they are and how Clinton’s basically been adopted into the Bush Family.
Honorable mentions would go to Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford who bonded after their 1976 campaign against each other. Also, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie. Despite losing to FDR in 1940, Willkie gave Roosevelt his support as the U.S. entered World War II. FDR even sent Willkie to Europe as a special envoy during the war. Of course, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had themselves a little bit of a beef that turned into one of history’s most fascinating friendships as they aged.
Worst? The relationship between Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams was pretty nasty and I’d be stunned if there wasn’t some animosity between George W. Bush and Al Gore, but I’m going to go with Franklin D. Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover. At one point, FDR and Hoover were quite friendly, but issues heated up between them during the transition after FDR beat Hoover in the 1932 election. Once FDR was President, Hoover was treated as if he were radioactive. Despite Hoover’s massive success in relief efforts during the first World War, FDR asked nothing from Hoover. After FDR died, it only took a few days before President Truman contacted Hoover for advice and to put him to work.
I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt, but Kissinger isn’t exactly a king-maker when it comes to Presidential politics, so I don’t imagine it would have made that much of a difference overall. Huntsman’s bid for the Presidency in 2012 would have been more successful if he had been given more than 90 seconds to speak in the GOP debates. The moderators loved tossing questions at Herman Cain, Michelle Bachmann, and Rick Santorum because they were batshit crazy. It’s no fun to get reasonable, thoughtful answers from a candidate who is actually the most electable person in the entire Republican Party.
I always forget that Rudy Giuliani even ran for President. He might have had a shot at winning the Presidency if the election had been held in the six weeks following 9/11, but I can’t see him having much success otherwise.
Perry’s endorsement of Giuliani was definitely a curveball, but I recall reading that the two of them were actually pretty close friends who had a great deal of respect for each other. Also, I think Perry had a complicated relationship with John McCain at times and there was no way Perry was going to endorse Romney because the two of them obviously disdain one another. Their mutual dislike was apparent every time they shared the stage in a GOP debate in 2012. I’m pretty sure that stretched back to 2008 and perhaps earlier, so Romney was a no-go for Perry.
I don’t believe anyone was setting things up for a Giuliani/Perry ticket in 2008. It’s an odd pairing and I doubt Perry had any interest in the Vice Presidency.
I’m positive there are a few, but the only ones that come to my mind immediately are Jimmy Carter and Antonio Villaraigosa. If I read some of President Carter’s speeches from his time in the White House, I think about how he had a progressive vision that I really appreciate and that so much of what he said made sense, but I also feel that his personality leaves a lot to be desired. Maybe I have him pegged wrong, but he just doesn’t seem like a pleasant man to be around. Every living President has had a rocky or even antagonistic relationship with Carter at some point. Seems like Carter is the common denominator in those issues.
I can’t really judge Antonio Villaraigosa’s tenure as Mayor of Los Angeles, but he was a pretty talented leader in the California State Assembly, particularly his term as Speaker. However, there is definitely something very slimy about Villaraigosa — not quite John Edwards-ish, but in the neighborhood.
I can’t think of any others off the top of my head right now, but I’m sure there are more. The longer list would be the opposite — the politicians that I don’t like politically but do like a person.