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American Daily: October 16, 2015

October 16, 2015

Those conservatives in the House say they want a speaker who will not be a top-down leader, but will give members more of a say in what legislation sees action on the floor and who controls committees.

Webster says that is the mode in which he ran the Florida House of Representatives when he was the speaker in Tallahassee from 1996–98.

This is a Republican Party problem, which has serious implications for Congress as an institution and for American governance more broadly. Republicans are paying the price for having encouraged government-hating candidates to seek office with the expectation that they could undo Obama’s 2009-2010 achievements. Their constitutional ignorance and political naiveté was breathtaking. But Republican establishment leaders, who had few policy differences with the new radicals, soon became victims of the forces they helped unleash. Their party reminds us of the nullification forces in the antebellum South. The champions of “The New Nullification,” as we refer to it in our book, have left damage and chaos in their wake. More is likely to follow.

But the dynamic here shows why some of the scenarios people have been spinning these last few months, in which a Sanders victory in Iowa or New Hampshire sets in motion a cascade effect that costs Hillary the nomination, have always been so unlikely. The analogies to 1968, in particular, with Sanders playing Eugene McCarthy to Hillary’s L.B.J., ignore the fact that Johnson was at that point genuinely hated by a substantial portion of the Democratic base. But Hillary isn’t hated by Democrats; they still like her, even if the rest of the country doesn’t at the moment, and they like Sanders in part because liking him seems like a way to make her more likeable (that is, more liberal) as well. And that, in turn, puts a pretty hard-seeming ceiling on his insurgency, because the party doesn’t want to turn against the frontrunner in a truly fundamental way, and so the arguments that a normal insurgent would need to deploy against her — again, character arguments above all — are likely, if deployed, to hurt him as much or more than her.
  • The one question hawks need to answer about Syria.

Stephens’s attempt at an answer gets to the crucial distinction between foreign policy outputs and foreign policy outcomes that Spoiler Alerts has harped on in the past. When hawks talk about taking action in Syria, they tend to focus on their desired outcomes: checking Russian and Iranian power, ousting Assad, defeating the Islamic State and ending the slow-motion humanitarian disaster. These are attractive goals that the current administration is not pursuing. Hawks sound very good when they talk about foreign policy outcomes in Syria.

Is Donald Trump truly one of a kind—a sui generis sensation in U.S. politics? As Americans try to make sense of the businessman-turned-Republican presidential frontrunner and how he’s come to dominate the polls and the airwaves in the 2016 cycle, Politico Magazine decided to consult the archives: Is there a historical figure the Donald resembles—a model who can help explain his rise? We asked some of the smartest historians we know to name the closest antecedent to Trump from the annals of American history. Some maintained that he is a unique product of the era of reality TV, social media and the 1 percent. But others saw similarities to politicians, personalities and tycoons past, from Italy’s former bunga-bunga prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to the last billionaire to disrupt presidential politics, Ross Perot, to segregationist populists like George Wallace. If history repeats itself, consider this a preview of where Trump’s candidacy could go from here.

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