Jonathan Bernstein

Paul Waldman says: I doubt anyone would deny that at the moment, the Republican Party takes a harsher view of apostasy than their Democratic counterparts.  You know, I think I might be tempted to deny it.  Now, I’ll agree in one set of cases: primary elections in inhospitable states or districts.

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The countdown is on for a major rules confrontation in the Senate beginning Wednesday, the first day of the 112th Congress. Here's a reset of how I see the issues. 1. In the historic 111th Congress, we finally saw the triumph of the complete 60 vote Senate. Nothing passed without 60 votes (and, because minority Senators often fully exerted their rights under Senate rules, many things did not pass despite having more than 60 votes because Senate floor time is scarce).

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There’s just so much to get to in Matt Bai’s latest, in today’s NYT, on the 2012 presidential contest. First of all, Bai swallows whole the myth of “next in line” in GOP nominations contests. Next, I don’t really understand what he’s trying to say in his glance at history. Yes, Ford/Reagan in 1976 was the last contest that was a “thriller” in the sense of not being decided until the end (actually, the only one like that on the GOP side under the modern nomination system).

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Steve Benen has a fine item ridiculing the “shower issue” when it comes to DADT repeal implementation.

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Before Normalcy

I've been annoyed about today's Ross Douthat's column all day, so I suppose I should write something about it. Here's the paragraph that annoyed me: The fantasy was the idea that Barack Obama, a one-term senator with an appealing biography and a silver tongue, would turn out to be Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Robert F. Kennedy and Mahatma Gandhi all rolled into one. This fantasy inspired a wave of 1960s-style enthusiasm, an unsettling personality cult (that “Yes We Can” video full of harmonizing celebrities only gets creepier in hindsight) and a lot of over-the-top promises from Obama himself.

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Why didn’t the neutral press buy the idea that the lame duck session was illegitimate? It’s an idea that has surface appeal, I would think. Huge landslide: why should Democrats be allowed to exploit a Constitutional quirk to pass a large chunk of their now-discredited agenda? Jonathan Chait, for example, basically buys the idea. So why didn’t the neutral press, the Broders of the world, get all up in arms about the fraudulent lame duck session? My guess? (And, yes, it’s only a guess). I suspect that the GOP cried wolf once too often.

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Reform!

I’m very happy to see that the incoming majority Republicans are planning to read the Constitution in the House of Representatives on the second day of the 112th Congress. This is extremely good news. Along with the new requirement that every bill explicitly cite the Constitutional authority under which it is legitimate, reading the Constitution out loud will guarantee that no new legislation will violate our basic charter.

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With reapportionment in the news today, there’s been some tweeting about a recurring Big Think kind of reform: increasing, perhaps radically increasing, the size of the House of Representatives. David Dayen: Why is increasing the size of the House of Representatives, so 1 lawmaker doesn’t represent 700,000 people, just completely off the table? And Reihan Salam: Montana has 989,415 people and one member of Congress. We need to increase the number of House members to at least 650.

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I recommend an excellent essay from political scientist Josh Huder about why Congress is so unpopular, both in general and right now. As he notes, it has to do with the nature of the institution itself, not the (mis)behavior of its Members: “disapproval is built into the institution’s DNA.” Best cite: to a study that shows passage of major legislation actually tends to hurt Congressional approval, although note that the finding there is not uncontested.

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Great stuff today about Mitt Romney, with the highlight being David Frum’s defense of Romney as the Olive Garden candidate: I sometimes imagine that Romney approaches politics in the same spirit that the CEO of Darden Restaurants approaches cuisine. Darden owns Olive Garden, Longhorn steakhouses, and Red Lobster among other chains. Now suppose that Darden’s data show a decline in demand for mid-priced steak restaurants and a rising response to Italian family dining. Suppose they convert some of their Longhorn outlets to Olive Gardens. Is that “flip-flopping”?

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