At a time when unions hold an ever-diminishing role in American life, Andy Stern commanded a remarkably high profile. To his supporters, the longtime head of the Service Employees International Union was the savior of organized labor, who had found a way to expand the ranks of his union when almost every other one in the private sector was shrinking.
In the days after the Aurora horror I was considering floating a theory about the past decade’s decline in support for gun control even in the face of a string of mass shootings. I never got around to it, and put it on the back burner. Well, here we are just a couple weeks later and I once again have what we in the news business call a “peg” for my argument—another half dozen shot dead by a well-armed nutcase. So, here’s my idea: that the Supreme Court seriously undermined the prospects for gun control efforts long before its 2008 ruling in D.C. v.
When I’m not deep in a presidential election season, I do like writing about subjects other than politics, including the whole realm of urban policy/economic development/land use. It was that interest that led me, two years ago, to write a long magazine piece critiquing the remarkably lucrative enterprise that had grown out of Richard Florida’s 2002 best-seller, The Rise of the Creative Class.
THERE WAS ONCE A TIME, not so very long ago, that, whenever Elizabeth Warren sat down with a liberal interviewer, a lovefest was practically guaranteed. “I know your husband’s backstage. I still wanna make out with you,” Jon Stewart purred in early 2010 to the then-60-year-old Harvard professor whose rimless glasses perpetually slip down her nose. But when Warren appeared recently at Boston’s Kennedy Library to discuss her bid for the U.S. Senate with local public-radio fixture Christopher Lydon, the conversation wasn’t so effusive.
If there’s one thing politicos across the spectrum can agree on these days, it’s that the 2012 campaign is awfully “small.” In today’s Washington Times, Charlie Hurt slapped the s-word on President Obama, who has “become like an old, washed-up rock star, playing to small and smaller crowds but never quite able to get that old magic back.” We had Obama himself, in his comments on the Aurora, Colo. shootings, making what was surely a thinly veiled reference to the tit-for-tats of the campaign: “What matters at the end of the day is not the small things.
Mitt Romney arrives back stateside and just like that, his refusal to release more than a year or two of tax returns is back in the news. Harry Reid is telling people that a big Bain Capital investor told him that Romney told him that he didn’t pay any taxes for 10 years. OK, that sounds like something out of a junior-high cafeteria, but then again there’s also an easy way for Romney to knock it down.
As Republicans have ramped up on their attack on Barack Obama as a wannabe socialist who doesn’t believe that successful businessmen are responsible for their own fortunes, I’ve been struck by an odd and little-noticed countervailing push: the desire by some conservative writers to disassociate their side from triumphant capitalists. I spotted it a few weeks ago in Nick Lemann’s New Yorker review of several books on inequality, including my colleague Tim Noah’s The Great Divergence and Spoiled Rotten: How the Politics of Patronage Corrupted the Once Noble Democratic Party and Now Threatens t
Yesterday, I wrote a post in this space pleading with the political press corps to make an attempt to hold campaigns to basic standards of context and accuracy, in light of the supremely cynical ads running around the country taking wild liberties with Barack Obama’s “you didn’t build that” riff. I got some nice backup last night from Jon Stewart, who not surprisingly made the case in far more entertaining and persuasive terms. But apparently neither of us are getting through.
The 2012 campaign got off to a hopeful start in the never-ending battle between truth and cynicism. When the Romney campaign put up an ad last November that took a 2008 line of Barack Obama’s blatantly out of context—“If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose,” a line that was paraphrasing a John McCain adviser—the political press corps jumped all over it, and essentially shamed the Romney campaign into backing off that attack, no easy thing to do given that Romney advisers initially defended the ad with an “anything goes” breeziness.
Last night, I had the good fortune to be part of a small gathering of reporters assembled by a quartet of top political scientists who have embarked on an effort to analyze voter opinion in the 2012 election at a level of depth and nuance beyond what we’ve managed in past years. A centerpiece of the effort is their attempt to gauge voter response to the ads that are already crowding the airwaves in battleground states.