Jonathan Bernstein

Sterner Stuff

There must be something about hitting the end of a campaign cycle: two writers, David Brooks and Christopher Hitchens, both wrote despairing items this week about, well, as Slate subtitled the Hitchens piece: “What normal person would put up with the inane indignities of the electoral process?” Here’s Brooks: [P]eople who run for public office put themselves in a position in which everybody is inclined to believe the worst about them. The things that are ripe for ridicule become famous. The accomplishments fade from view.

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That's the title of an excellent essay by Hans Noel in the current issue of The Forum (pdf, free guest registration).  Actually, regular readers of my Plain Blog and of The Monkey Cage, Seth Masket, and Brendan Nyhan will know quite a few of these things (such as how few voters are really independents, but odds are you'll find at least a few that you didn't know -- and even better, Hans gives a bit more complete explanations for some things that we bloggers often give shorthand versions of. For example I've referred before to the idea that tabulating individual voter preferences into somethin

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Another terrific Ezra Klein interview, this time of former car czar Steve Rattner (and again: Ezra Klein’s interviews are one of the very best things on these intertubes. Consistently substantive, interesting...excellent). Rattner doesn’t like Congress. At all. That’s not surprising. First of all, because no one likes Congress. But, in this particular case, because of course a technocrat hired by the executive branch to solve a national problem is going to find Congressional meddling obnoxious.

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Seth Masket gives me a great opportunity to both plug a recent column he wrote with Steve Greene on the electoral effects of the health care bill, and to talk about one of my favorite topics, representation. Seth calculates that voting for the ACA seems to be costing Democratic Members of the House about three points in the polls, and speculates: [S]hould we be thinking of these representatives as heroes? After all, they cast a vote based on what they believed was right even though they knew it might cost them their jobs. Isn’t that something we should celebrate?

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The executive branch appointment process, both nomination and confirmation, is broken. I know it, you know it, the civil servants who work at the departments and agencies know it, the Senate knows it, and above all the people who who under normal circumstances would be eager to accept appointments know it. Two more data points from late last week. First, Ezra Klein spotted Steve Rattner’s lament about what he had to go through on his way to working for the government, including what he says was $400K to attorneys. That’s four - zero - zero - zero - zero - zero.

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I’m continuing to think about what the 112th Congress will look like next year if Republicans do about as well as expected in November... I think everyone should keep in mind one key difference between 1995 and 2011: experience. Famously, not a single Republican Member of the House in 1995 had ever served in a GOP-majority House (a handful had been part of Democratic majorities before party-switching). No one knew what the Republican way to run a committee, or a subcommittee, or the House floor was.

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I hate to disagree with Jonathan Cohn, but I think he used the wrong hashtag on his post about silver linings for liberals from a GOP landslide. Not #slatepitches. What he was looking for is #wishfulthinking. Or perhaps #betterdelusionsthancoldreality. I’m afraid that none of his three points really holds up. I’ll take them one by one: 1.

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Jonathan Chait is gobsmacked at the news that three-fifths of Democrats apparently think the 111th Congress hasn’t produced much: This is just nuts. This is, objectively, a very productive Congress. Now, right-wingers think it’s been productive at dystopian, freedom-destroying confiscations of wealth that remind them of an Ayn Rand novel. But clearly Congress is doing a lot.

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I like just about half of Nate Silver’s pushback against the idea that a third party serious run for the presidency is improbable (roundup here from Brendan Nyhan; Silver doesn’t take on the question of whether or not such an idea would be a good thing, just whether it’s plausible). I basically agree with Silver that it’s not at all improbable that a “serious” third-party candidate could emerge in 2012. I do think he overstates the chances that candidate would have of winning, however. As Silver notes, serious third party campaigns are by no means unusual.

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Yeah, I agree with Steve Benen. And Dave Weigel. And Brendan Nyhan. And Steve Kornacki. And especially with Jamelle Bouie, who writes that Tom Friedman “is clearly uncomfortable living in the world as it is, where voters matter, interests are heard, and political disagreement is important.

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