In a country that is highly polarized, as ours is today, finding bi-partisan points of agreement is not so easy. But, it is imperative for President Barack Obama to find new ways of working with the Republicans because they are not likely to be going anywhere. Americans see divided government as a way of ensuring moderation, but it can just as easily produce gridlock. Obama must decide on what issues to stand firm and what issues to work for compromise.
As mentioned, instead of the usual Q & A this week and next, because of the election, I am using this space to feature analysis from prominent Catholics on the recent election.
Over at the newly launched website of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, Professor Steve Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy research and Catholic Studies at Catholic University, has an analysis that is both very smart and very depressing. You can read it here.
The Holy Father invoked the memory of the saintly former archbishop of Milan today while calling for priests to renew their faith.
Borromeo is of special significance to those of us who care deeply about Vatican II as well. What did a Council Father at Trent have to do with Vatican II?
If you are in Connecticut, or want to download the show, I will be appearing tomorrow at 1 p.m. on the "Colin McEnore Show" on WNPR in Connecticut, where I am visiting my Dad.
Nate Silver, who authors the indispensible fivethirtyeight blog at the New York Times, writes that polls missed an average 2.3 percent advantage for Democrats in states with large Latino populations. Silver does not examine the impact of down-ballot races that featured Latino candidates. But, he does note that pollsters are going to have to look at this in the future: Latinos who prefer to speak Spanish are also especially likely to vote Democratic, and pollsters that do not conduct bi-lingual polls may miss a key, and growing, part of the electorate.
Brits are famously uncomprehending about America's political system, but that is not what is wrong with an essay by William Oddie at the UK's Catholic Herald, entitled, "Now we have a Catholic Speaker of the House who actually believes what the Church teaches." The odious Mr. Oddie misunderstands the faith, not the politics, in his little piece of propaganda.
In most recent elections, precise gerrymandering has made most House races non-competitive. And, it is still odd to my ears that we were all surprised that so many House races were "in play" this year when it was about 91 that were in play, out of 435. The Founders, of course, required House elections every two years so that the lower chamber would be close to popular sentiment. But, because of re-districting, the reflection of popular will has come more often in Senate races, where you can't re-district, than in House races.
Tuesday, the system worked as intended. The popular will created a wave the swept the Democrats out of control of the House but the Senate races were much more stable. Indeed, the word "Senate" is dervied from the Latin for "old man" and certainly, candidates like Sharron Angle and Linda McMahon and Christine O'Donnell and Ken Buck seemed to lack the wisdom such a designation implies. The "old men" like Harry Reid, Dick Blumenthal, Chris Coons and Michael Bennet prevailed, and it appears that Patti Murray, who is neither very old nor a man, will also be returning to Washington.
Hate to brag, but over a month ago, I wrote about how Hispanics in Nevada, many motivated by down-ballot races for the state legislature, were likely to carry Sen. Harry Reid across the finish line. Well, so it came to pass, Ben Smith reports at Politico. Reid got a whopping 90& of the Hispanic vote in his race against Sharron Angle. In California, Carly Fiorina garnered a mere 28% of the Hispanic vote, despite the efforts of conservavtive Catholics groups like the American Principles Project to get Latinos to "Votas Tus Valores," as their bus tour said. Professor Robert George, who runs the APP, may need a primer in basic electoral politics: People "value" not having their family members deported more than they value the Gold Standard.
You could hear the depression in President Obama’s voice yesterday as he appeared alternately contrite and defensive at a press conference. It is far from clear that he is not still of a mind to think that if he had just done a better job explaining his policies, the election result would have been different. I do think the White House should have done a better job explaining its policies, but all the explaining in the world does not obscure the fact that the White House and Congress spent too much time on health care and other issues when the American people wanted them focused on the economy. Why did the White House and Congress spend so much time on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this year? To make sure they get the 3 percent of the electorate that is gay? The policy is obnoxious, to be sure, and it should be repealed, but it was clear by the first of the year that whenever the President opened his mouth, if he was not talking about jobs, he was talking about the wrong thing. The same goes for Obama’s speech to the nation when combat troops left Iraq: Why give your first Oval Office address on something other than the economy?
Congressman Tom Perriello, a one-time Catholic missionary and human rights activist, lost his bid for re-election in Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District. Republican Robert Hurt took 51% of the vote in the sprawling Virginia district to Perriello’s 47%. Perriello was the only member of Congress to have the President come to his district to campaign for him, but the election-eve rally in Charlottesville was not enough to generate Democratic enthusiasm at the polls.
In fact, Perriello did worse this year in Albemarle County than he did in 2008, polling 57% to Hurt’s 42%. In 2008, Perriello won the county with 63%. In Charlottesville City itself, Perriello won 80% of the vote but the turnout was not strong enough, despite the President’s visit, to offset his losses in the more rural parts of the district.