One of the things state legislatures must do this spring is draw new congressional districts. According to a report at Politico this morning, Tea Party activists have engaged the fight in several states although not always in the same way. In New Jersey, they appear to oppose gerrymandering that has created an essentially safe district for long-time Congressman Frank Pallone, while in Louisiana, the Tea Partyers are engaged in some gerrymandering of their own on behalf of their favorite Rep. Jeff Landry. In the event, to the extent the Tea Partyers oppose gerrymandering, that is a good thing: In more balanced, evenly divided districts, their influence diminishes. Their power resides in their ability to win a GOP primary, putting forward a more extreme candidate in an essentially safe GOP district. As we saw in the Senate races in Delaware, Colorado, Alaska and Nevada last November, where there is no gerrymandering, the kind of Tea Party candidate that can win a GOP primary can't win a general election in November.
I am all for political compromise in normal circumstances. Indeed, our system was designed to require compromise, moderating ideologies, forcing diverse, changing interests to work together to achieve anything. The competition of interests is, in fact, now understood to be one of the greatest guarantees of liberty in our great democracy, and if that competition does not end in compromise, it can all too easily end in disaster.
That said, the effort of the bipartisan “Gang of Six” to address the problem of the nation’s long-term debt is deeply troubling. “Everything is on the table” is the mantra of these Senators who include such stalwart conservatives as Tom Coburn and such stalwart liberals as Dick Durbin. But, should everything be on the table or, better to ask, how are these issues being put on the table?
At first blush, I was a bit surprised at the news that former UK prime Minister Tony Blair went to Pastor Rick Warren's Saddleback Church for one of those evening "conversations" the good reverend hosts. What could the newly converted RC, and lifelong Labor leader have in common with a conservative megachurch pastor?
Alaska's leading constitutional scholar, Sarah Palin, sent out a tweet about last week's Supreme Court decision in the Westboro Church case. She clearly was not in tune with the eight members of the Court who sided with Westboro's free speech rights. Now, she is walking back her tweet. Justin Elliott at Salon.com has the story.
The episode raises a strategic question for any future campaign by Palin - who is going to tell her to stop tweeting? And, the episode again shows the GOP's problem going into 2012. Anybody read any tweets from Romney, Pawlenty or Barbour this weekend? Of course not. Palin can affect the debate in a cost-free way that none of her potential rivals have achieved. She may not understand the difference between the Establishment Clause and the free speech guarantees of the First Amendment, but she understands, and has mastered, the art of modern communications in ways that leave her rivals in the dust.
The WaPo's Outlook section had a really great article yesterday about why unions matter to the entire middle class. Professors Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson detail the role that unions have played in American history, a role that has diminished in recent years. As the percen tage of workers in unions has declined, income inequality has exploded. That is not good for America. In the long run, it is not even good for the very rich. Gross income inequality invites the kind of class warfare Americans have always shunned. If there really is a moderate center of the electorate, they should be paying close attention to the attacks on labor in Wisconsin and Ohio - and they should shudder.
In her last semester of college, my mother was student teaching at the Horace Porter Elementary School in Columbia, Connecticut. She was teaching a lesson on the Soviet Union. One of her less bright students unhelpfully went home and told his parents that Miss McDermott was “teaching communism.” This was the early 1950s, so predictably, my mother was removed from her student teaching assignment and hauled before the president of her college. Fortunately, in the classroom that day was another student teacher, a decorated veteran of World War II who assured the college authorities that my mother was teaching about communism not advocating for it. She was allowed to graduate.
Here is the link to my interview earlier today with Michel Martin on NPR's "Tell Me More."
Can I just say that it is such a great honor to be associated with John Allen! His report today on the New Evangelization and his other report on the culture of Rome are both of them such first class pieces of reporting and writing.
I will be talking with Michel Martin on NPR's "Tell Me More" today about Pope Benedict's comments about the Jews and deicide. You can find local times on their website and I will post a link to the audio when I get back.
The unemployment rate dipped again, despite analysts predictions it might move north, falling to 8.9 percent. Last month, according to figures released this morning, 192,000 new jobs were added to the economy. That is not enough - and it could be offset by cutbakcs in state and local governments if the Tea Party has its way, but it is nice to find some good news on the business pages.