E.J. Dionne , Jr.

Outside Right

WASHINGTON—This year's elections may exacerbate the difference between our two political parties, but not in the way most people are talking about. With incumbent Democratic Senators under threat in two more primaries on Tuesday, the conventional view is that Republicans and Democrats will emerge from this election more ideologically polarized than ever. Primaries will push Republicans to the right and Democrats to the left. That's only half true. Republicans will, indeed, end the year a more philosophically coherent right-wing party.

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WASHINGTON—Britain produced an electoral earthquake all right, but not the one so many expected. The real lessons have less to do with two-party systems than with how economic change has challenged old strategies on both the right and the left. The Conservatives under David Cameron came in first with the most votes and the most seats.

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WASHINGTON—Ever heard the one about the guy who hated government until a deregulated Wall Street crashed, an oil spill devastated the Gulf of Mexico, a coal mine collapsed, and some good police work stopped a terrorist attack?       Rarely has the news of the day run so counter to the spin on the news of the day. It's hard to argue that the difficulties we confront were caused by an excessively powerful "big" government. Rather, most of them arose from the government's failure to do its job in the first place.

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Washington—Maybe the next time someone calls Barack Obama a socialist, the president shouldn't issue a denial. He might instead urge his accuser to read the hearing transcript of this week's congressional testimony from the Goldman Sachs guys in their beautiful suits. Capitalism has not taken a hit like this since Mr.

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Inside Out

Gambier, Ohio—Ohio's U.S. Senate campaign offers an excellent preview of what this fall's midterm elections will be like: Everyone in the race wants to be an outsider, everyone pledges to break with politics as usual, and everyone is talking about jobs. Those running against Washington include Republican Rob Portman, even though he was elected to Congress in 1993 after working for the first President Bush and then held two high-level jobs in George W. Bush's administration.

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Night Shift

WASHINGTON -- There is a dispiriting and, yes, heartbreaking sameness about how we respond to mining disasters. The catastrophe at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, W.Va., has taken at least 25 lives. An entire community stands in solidarity with the families of the victims, and hopes that some miners still trapped may yet be rescued. We celebrate the stoic sturdiness of mine workers who pursue their craft with pride, bravery, and full knowledge of the risks it entails. Then we get to the questions about what might have been done to avert the disaster.

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Pope, Repent!

WASHINGTON -- How in the name of God can the Roman Catholic Church put the pedophilia scandal behind it? I do not invoke God's name lightly. The church's problem is, above all, theological and religious. Its core difficulty is that rather than drawing on its Christian resources, the church has acted almost entirely on the basis of this world's imperatives and standards. It has worried about lawsuits. It has worried about its image. It has worried about itself as an institution and about protecting its leaders from public scandal.

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Vital Center

Here is the ultimate paradox of the Great Health Care Showdown: Congress will divide along partisan lines to pass a Republican version of health-care reform, and Republicans will vote against it. Yes, Democrats have rallied behind a bill that large numbers of Republicans should love. It is built on a series of principles that Republicans espoused for years. Republicans have said that they do not want to destroy the private insurance market. This bill not only preserves that market but strengthens it by bringing millions of new customers.

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Fallen

Washington—One of the tragedies of the viciously politicized battle over health care reform is the defection of the nation's Roman Catholic bishops from a cause they have championed for decades. Indifferent to political fashions, the bishops were the strongest voices in support of universal health coverage, a position rooted in Catholic social thought that calls for a special solicitude toward the poor. Yet on the make-or-break roll call that will determine the fate of health care reform, bishops are urging that the bill be voted down.

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Muscle Shoals

WASHINGTON -- For those who feared that Barack Obama did not have any Lyndon Johnson in him, the president's determination to press ahead and get health care reform done in the face of Republican intransigence came as something of a relief. Obama's critics have regularly accused him of not being as tough or wily or forceful as LBJ was in pushing through civil rights and the social programs of his Great Society. Obama seemed willing to let Congress go its own way and was so anxious to look bipartisan that he wouldn't even take his own side in arguments with Republicans. Those days are over.

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