The scenes of violence that emerged from London last week—the burning buildings and rampant looting, the police and firefighters under attack—were undeniably upsetting, but that’s not to say they were unfamiliar. The riots not only bore a strong resemblance to several recent instances of violent crime in the United States, they hearkened directly to the incendiary outbursts of racial violence that plagued this country from 1965 to 1968—from Watts in Los Angeles, to Detroit, to the H Street corridor in Washington D.C.
In this election, you can glimpse the brutish future of American politics. This new age of brutishness may or may not include the Tea Party. But, even if the Tea Party dissipates, the anger undergirding it will not. The Tea Party has expertly articulated a widespread grievance: that the government is redistributing money from hardworking Americans to the idle and undeserving. Of course, this is hardly a new charge.
The victory of Scott Brown in the fight for Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat shines a light on a trend in American politics that ought to deeply trouble progressives. When Barack Obama ran for president in 2008, he decisively demonstrated that he was not bound by Democratic orthodoxy. He called for merit pay, expanding charter schools, and firing incompetent teachers. He supported President Bush’s faith-based initiatives providing federal money to religious charities.
The health care debate has exposed the ideological tension in Barack Obama’s political coalition between moderates and liberals. But it has also offered hints of how another, less obvious divide built into the Democratic majority could wreak havoc on the administration during the years to come. In 2008, the Democratic Party blossomed into a successful alliance of the upscale and the downscale--wealthy and needy marching hand in hand, sharing animosity to George W. Bush and the war in Iraq. The extent to which Democrats are relying on the far extremes of the income spectrum is striking.
COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA WILLIAM “RUSTY” DEPASS named his dogs Goldwater, Reagan, and Bush. He is, needless to say, a conservative man, one who lives in a conservative state where the psychological scars of the Civil War still run deep. Six bronze stars on the west wall of the Capitol building here in Columbia mark the trajectory of Sherman’s 1865 cannon fire from across the Congaree River. A state senator points me to the deep gouges on the building’s banisters—gashes left, hesays, by the sabers of Union officers charging the stairs on horseback.
Earlier this year, Republican Conrad Burns, locked in a tough struggle to defend his Montana Senate seat, cut anot-terribly-original ad attacking his Democratic challenger. "JonTester joins liberal judges opposing proven anti-terror programs,is against the Patriot Act, and his position on Iraq is constantlychanging," the script read. But, if Burns's line of attack—theDemocrat as flip-flopping friend of activist judges with no appetitefor fighting terrorism—was decidedly familiar, the response fromhis opponent was anything but.
Picking Bob Menendez was a gamble—that much is clear. When Jon Corzine left the Senate to take over as governor of New Jersey last year, he named Menendez, a longtime Democratic congressman from Hudson County in the northeastern part of the state, to serve out the remainder of his term. It didn’t take long for that decision to look like a significant miscalculation. Running at a time when the national political landscape favored Democrats, Menendez, improbably, seemed headed for defeat.
When I came to Washington from Baltimore in 1974, I had reason to be interested in a profound question: Do Republicans make better poker players than Democrats? My $15,000 salary at the Baltimore Sun remained unchanged, but the mortgage on my new house was four times the old one. So my Friday night game, which often lasted until 6 a.m., became a matter of survival. Seven years later, I moved over to The Washington Post with a modestly improved salary, a second mortgage, brutal tuition bills, and a higher-stakes poker game.