Friday, March 11, 2011

Question Day

Yup, it's question day! Haven't done one in a while, so why not? All topics anything about the budget process? Presidential nominations? Filibusters? Whatever -- anything on Congress, presidency, elections, politicians, political movies: you ask 'em, I'll try to answer. Leave questions as comments here, email me, or tweet to my attention.


  1. More of a request than a question, but could you have a post linking to all your Iron Laws of Politics? Always enjoy them, just not sure how many there are.


  2. How long, in your opinion, will it take for Republicans to embrace a David Cameron-style leader that doesn't immediately scare away independent voters with such intense focus on social issues... and/or one that even makes previously-unthinkable statements about the importance of the environment or providing even a modicum of a safety net for the poor? I suppose I'm describing Mitch Daniels, but it seems like rationality and an ounce of compassion are missing from many prominent Republicans.

  3. I enjoy your work and the ideas you put out...question: Do you think true political re-allignments are possible anymore? With the technology the parties use to target voters and the rapid media cycle, won't prties be able to react and recalibrate before the damage is done (ex. the Dem's losing the South after civil rights). A current example is Texas...if it started to turn "purpleish" wouldn't there be massive adjustment by the republicans to keep relevant as a party in presidential elections? One last much more "broken" will congress have to become before everyone there systemic changes. It seems the co-equal branches thing is now something of the past. Congress abdicated its role in declaring war (to the Presidency) the economy (to the Fed) and regulatory matters (to the Bureaucracy. Thoughts? Keep up the good work

  4. You have said that outside of the fundamentals the biggest variable in an election is the quality of the candidate. What qualities make a candidate a good one?

  5. I asked this in one of the Romney threads, but do we have any evidence that "authenticity" is really important electorally? I'm pretty sure I could argue that the the winning Presidential candidate is almost always the more "authentic" one, but that's subjective, and says nothing about the primaries. Do we have anything objective that speaks to that, or do you have an opinion on it?

    Also, I like it any time you talk about how Presidents have structured their White Houses and cabinets and made decisions. No specific question, but if you just wanna show off how much you know about that stuff, I'll read it. :)

  6. Here's something I was wondering when reading about the latest "birther" bill Republicans are trying to pass in some state to try to knock Obama off the ballot in 2012. Would such a bill even be Constitutional? Isn't it up to the electoral college and the House of Representatives to judge whether a candidate is eligible?

  7. I read this quote the other day from the state senate president in WI saying that by taking away collective bargaining, Obama will have a harder time winning Wisconsin in '12. What's your take on that? Do Republicans really think that people vote Democrat because the unions tell them to? Is there any merit to such an idea at all?

  8. Jonathan, what are your thoughts on the climate change issue moving ahead? All the science points to the fact that this situation is just going to get worse in the future, especially the longer it takes us to do anything about it (specifically, to price carbon) in the present. At what point, if any, do you see the Republican party or its corporate backers who dislike environmental regulation being open to compromise on this issue? Put another way, at one point do you see Republican political leaders (Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, etc.) and/or issue leaders (Rush, Bill O'Reilly, whomever) being open to compromise and actually taking action to address climate change? Will New York City literally have to be swallowed up by the ocean for that to happen? Climate change is causing an existential freakout among many Democrats, so it would be nice to know when the opposition party (or our own Rockefellers and Manchins) might think it worthwhile to help us do something about it.

  9. A general question:

    To what extent do you think Presidents have the capacity to change the terms of the policy debate among elites?

    To expand a bit, as a liberal and someone who supported Obama in the 2008 primaries, I've generally been disappointed that he hasn't often aggressively challenged the conventional wisdom of political elites. To name a few examples: he hasn't challenged the basic logic of American hegemony abroad; he hasn't challenged the deeply ingrained budget deficit idealism of most of Washington's chattering classes; he hasn't attempted to move the immigration debate away from a law enforcement framework, etc.

    To be clear, I don't think that doing any of these things would have made Democrats much (if any) more likely to win the 2010 elections, nor do I think they would boost Obama's re-election chances much. I'm not even sure they would make liberal policy outcomes more likely in the short term. But it does seem to me that they would lead to a better prognosis for liberal policy goals in the medium (5-20 year) term.

    During the health care debate, many liberals were frustrated with the fact that as Obama and Democrats moved rightwards on policy grounds, the terms of the debate also moved rightwards, as Republicans portrayed whatever Obama happened to support as socialism and the end of the American way. But shouldn't this process also work in reverse? For instance, imagine if Obama declared tomorrow that he was in favor of full unconditional amnesty for all undocumented immigrants, and a tripling of the cap on legal immigration. Wouldn't that allow Republicans to take a far more centrist position (e.g. "path to legalization") and yet still credibly portray themselves as opposing the President from the right? And conversely, wouldn't it allow Democrats to take a far more liberal stance, without media and other non-partisan elites painting them as out of the mainstream? (My impression is that a significant portion of the media tacitly defines the center-left mainstream as whatever the President happens to support, with anything to the left of that being seen as a fringe view.)

    Policy wonks such as myself are often frustrated about how persistently ignorant about policy many political elites (most notably journalists and officeholders) are. But doesn't this have an upside as well as a downside? That is, if someone doesn't really have any organic, cogent thoughts on a policy issue, it should be relatively easy to change their opinion, simply by changing the ideological/partisan heuristics which govern their behavior.

    Or am I just coming up with an argument to convince myself that if Obama behaved in a way I would find viscerally gratifying, that it would also be strategically savvy?

  10. Is there any way for Democrats or Republicans to prevent particularly odious lower level officials from turning up like a bad penny in successive administrations of the opposite party? I am thinking currently of David Axlerod and John Yoo, but I guess Donald Rumsfeld is a good example too.

    It might make my head blow clean off my body if I see Axlerod or Yoo in another administration, but my sense is both that I am totally powerless to affect the situation and that Axlerod is not close to done with administration appearances.

    I can't imagine that the identities of presidential staffers influence voting. Is there any other mechanism available? All I can think of is public shame, which probably will keep Yoo out of the West Wing, and confirmation battles, but there are lots of positions that don't require confirmation.


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