Search Results for "democrat"

October
8th 2011
11-dimensional chessmasters checkmated by “reality”

Posted under American history & bad language & unhappy endings & wankers & weirdness

Scott Wilson has an interesting article in the Washington Post today about President Barack Obama’s political troubles and how they may be connected to his dislike for retail politics at any level–he never stays on a rope line for more than 15 minutes, big donors are shocked by how little face time they get, and he delegates the management of Congress to Vice President Joe Biden.  Members of Congress are getting a lot more sleep than back in Lyndon Johnson’s day–there are no more “Senator So-and-So, this is your President” calls at 2 a.m. 

But then, they’re apparently not the only ones getting plenty of rest.  Obama’s schedule shows striking deference to his children’s schedule and needs–but remember how we all laughed and laughed at President Ronald Reagan and “Mommie” being in their jammies by 7 p.m. to watch re-runs of Little House on the Prairie?  I’m not convinced that Obama’s days are significantly longer: Continue Reading »

68 Comments »

September
26th 2011
Gerstle on White’s Railroaded, Gilded Ages, and the corruption of democracy

Posted under American history & book reviews & class & race & unhappy endings & wankers

Via John Fea’s blog, I found Gary Gerstle’s review of Richard White’s Railroaded:  The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern AmericaBoth White and Gerstle in his review are writing history for our times, friends:

For a generation now, historians have been reluctant to write about capitalism. Cultural history has been the rage, even as developments in the Second Gilded Age (1980–2008)—the unleashing of private economic power, the dismantling of government regulatory controls, and the deepening of income inequality—were making clear the need for a new reckoning with capitalism as a historical force.

Against this background, it is significant that one of the most distinguished historians of our time, Richard White, has written a book about an epic story of the First Gilded Age: the building of the transcontinental railroads between the 1860s and the 1890s. From the moment the first of these railroads was finished at Promontory Summit, Utah, in 1869, these immense undertakings became an American obsession, eliciting both marvel and anger. The marvel was about the technological and organizational feats required to build these roads across vast and often difficult terrain and the profound ways in which these projects transformed America—economically, geographically, and politically. The anger was about the power accruing to the men who built these roads and their consequent ability to hoodwink investors, bribe congressmen, exploit farmers and other small shippers, and engage in speculative activities so dangerous that they periodically brought the entire U.S. economy crashing to the ground. No industry did more to galvanize anticapitalist fury or to generate movements for economic regulation during the First Gilded Age than the railroads. Continue Reading »

4 Comments »

September
25th 2011
Liberal racism: a possible explanation for an Obama loss in 2012?

Posted under American history & GLBTQ & jobs & race

Still, electoral racism cannot be reduced solely to its most egregious, explicit form. It has proved more enduring and baffling than these results can capture. The 2012 election may be a test of another form of electoral racism: the tendency of white liberals to hold African-American leaders to a higher standard than their white counterparts. If old-fashioned electoral racism is the absolute unwillingness to vote for a black candidate, then liberal electoral racism is the willingness to abandon a black candidate when he is just as competent as his white predecessors.

The relevant comparison here is with the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton. Today many progressives complain that Obama’s healthcare reform was inadequate because it did not include a public option; but Clinton failed to pass any kind of meaningful healthcare reform whatsoever. Others argue that Obama has been slow to push for equal rights for gay Americans; but it was Clinton who established the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy Obama helped repeal. Still others are angry about appalling unemployment rates for black Americans; but while overall unemployment was lower under Clinton, black unemployment was double that of whites during his term, as it is now. And, of course, Clinton supported and signed welfare “reform,” cutting off America’s neediest despite the nation’s economic growth. Continue Reading »

28 Comments »

September
11th 2011
What is the point of learning history?

Posted under jobs & unhappy endings

Last week, I found myself on a plane to Houston.  Although I ordinarily don’t talk to strangers on airplanes, I found myself drawn into conversation with a very affable and intelligent older man.  He told me he is an accountant, a successful business owner, and well-connected in Democratic politics in Denver.  He was interested to learn that I’m a history professor, and said he thinks that the reason the that the republic is in a shambles is widespread historical ignorance.  You know the old saying by heart, I’m sure:  if only we knew history better, people would be smarter and wiser, we’d vote for smarter and more honest politicians, and together we’d all make better laws and wiser public policy decisions.  (Maybe he was just a nice guy trying to make a connection to my rather abstruse line of work, which most people see as a vocation of buffs, hobbyists, and antiquarians.) 

I told the man on the plane that I completely disagreed with him.  Continue Reading »

36 Comments »

August
13th 2011
Hey, good lookin’

Posted under American history & art & fluff

What’cha got cookin’?

Is anyone else struck by his resemblance to this guy, back in the day? Weird.  I must have Texas on the brain.

Speaking of looks: Continue Reading »

5 Comments »

August
9th 2011
Tips for toads: no one votes for smartypants

Posted under American history & bad language & class & Gender & race & weirdness

Both the enemies of Republican presidential candidates and the enemies of Democratic presidential candidates are indulging in yet another predictable, pointless food fight about intelligence:  who haz it?  Who don’t?  And why do we care about college transcripts from 40 years ago?

First of all, let me be among the first to confess that I was a smug smartypants back in 1999-2000 who just couldn’t believe that anyone with a C-average had the chutzpah to run for President of the United States in the first place, let alone that anyone else would vote for him.  Was my face red–for the next eight years!  Much to my surprise, I discovered that in the end, the smug disapproval of college professors didn’t amount to a hill of beans when it comes to political opinion in this country.  My bad!

Well, liberals as well as some conservatives are getting in on the action this time around.  First, Tenured Radical alerted me to the leaked Texas A&M transcripts of Texas Governor Rick Perry.  I completely agree with her that college grades are a foolish thing to prattle on about, especially considering that most Americans haven’t gone to college at all.  (It’s almost as clueless and pointless as noting that a candidate used the wrong fork for the salad course, or that he doesn’t know how to tie his own bow ties.  Maybe so, but the complainer looks and sounds like an insufferable snob.)  Then I read an article by Bret Stephens that suggested that President Obama is perhaps kind of dim because he keeps insisting that his policies are working when plainly they haven’t.  I don’t agree with the author that Obama is “stupid,” but I think it’s fair to wonder what’s up with a presidency whose main policy objective seems to be full employment only for Tim Geithner and friends.  Continue Reading »

21 Comments »

July
25th 2011
Monday’s reading assignment: “What Were They Thinking?”

Posted under American history & wankers

UPDATED BELOW, 1:35 MDT

Via Shakesville, Corrente, and pretty much every other political blogger today–go read Elizabeth Drew’s “What Were They Thinking?” which gives an overview of recent political history as well as her prediction that history will not smile on the political leadership we’re stuck with today:

Someday people will look back and wonder, What were they thinking? Why, in the midst of a stalled recovery, with the economy fragile and job creation slowing to a trickle, did the nation’s leaders decide that the thing to do—in order to raise the debt limit, normally a routine matter—was to spend less money, making job creation all the more difficult? Many experts on the economy believe that the President has it backward: that focusing on growth and jobs is more urgent in the near term than cutting the deficit, even if such expenditures require borrowing. But that would go against Obama’s new self-portrait as a fiscally responsible centrist.

There’s lots of interesting gossip and inside baseball about the President’s re-election maneuverings, the different goals of Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and Eric Cantor; and the recent negotiations over raising the debt ceiling.  I agree with her perspective for the most part, but the last sentence of the article strikes me as wrong:

This country’s economy is beset with a number of new difficulties, among them that recovery from the last recession remains more elusive than was generally expected, while the US is confronting a variety of international economic instabilities, especially the large debts and possible default of several countries in the eurozone, bringing on unpopular austerity measures. Recent experience with what should have been a simple matter of raising the debt ceiling, normally done with no difficulty, is reason for deep unease about our political system’s ability to deal with such challenges.

Saying that the “political system” isn’t up to the challenges of 2011 and beyond is pretty vague–what does she mean?  The U.S. Constitution?  The two-party system?  It’s unclear, but as I’ve said here before:  it’s a mistake to see President Obama’s failures or the failures of the Democratic Party as failures of the U.S. Constitution or the political system in generalContinue Reading »

20 Comments »

July
24th 2011
Medicare eligibility: 65 or fight.

Posted under American history & jobs & the body & unhappy endings & wankers

Jeralyn Merritt explains her point of view on Medicare eligibility, which I share:

If President Obama backs raising the age of medicare, which won’t save the Government money in the long run due to the huge numbers of 65 and 66 year olds who will shift to Medicaid and who will break the backs of small businesses providing health care to elderly workers — and which will force middle class elderly workers who don’t have employer paid health care to pay premiums of ten thousand dollars a year or more for two more years, with huge deductibles and out of pocket costs, he doesn’t deserve a second term as Democratic President. Let him run as as Republican or go home to Chicago. He will have sold us out.

I am a knowledge worker who outside of voluntary gardening or home improvement chores has the privilege of working with my brain in a climate-controlled environment.  However, I have two elderly relatives who although mentally and physically disabled from infancy, Continue Reading »

13 Comments »

July
11th 2011
Skype interviews to supplant big conference interviews?

Posted under conferences & happy endings & jobs & students

Lynn Lubamersky, an Associate Professor of History at Boise State University, makes a pretty good case for using Skype instead of flying faculty and grad students around North America to (usually) northern cities in early January:

[S]ome history departments like mine have tried Skype to do initial screening interviews, and I think that it is a much more humane and effective method of seeing who is best for the job. At first, I thought that using Skype was useful because it is free, but that we should return to the AHA when the economy improves. But now I feel that interviewing via Skype is a better way to find the best job candidates.

Why? Because job-seekers are not required to travel across the country and the world to pay for the opportunity to be interviewed, and they have more control over the presentation of self. Instead of all the candidates appearing relatively the same in a sterile environment, the job candidates interview in their own offices or even kitchens, taking the opportunity to position themselves to best advantage.

I’m with her entirely–using Skype saves everyone’s time, money, and carbon emissions to boot.  And I think the arguments about the greater economic justice for using Skype make it an absolute slam-dunk.  I’ve been on search committees that wanted to inteview people at the American Historical Association’s annual convention, but because of a candidate’s recent surgery, recent or impending childbirth, or perhaps because of plain ol’ poverty, some prospects were unable to meet with us there.

But with respect to Lubamersky’s last point about the charm of seeing people in their home or work environments–I’m a little whingy about considering that at all when considering someone for a job: Continue Reading »

41 Comments »

July
8th 2011
Barack Hoover Obama, I presume

Posted under American history & unhappy endings & wankers

Didja hear the latest awesome news about the U.S. economy?

Well, Kevin Baker called his shot about Obama more than two years ago:

Hoover’s every decision in fighting the Great Depression mirrored the sentiments of 1920s “business progressivism,” even as he understood intellectually that something more was required. Farsighted as he was compared with almost everyone else in public life, believeing as much as he did in activist government, he still could not convince himself to take the next step and accept that the basic economic tenets he had believed in all his life were discredited; that something wholly new was required.
. . . . .

Much like Herbert Hoover, Barack Obama is a man attempting to realize a stirring new vision of his society without cutting himself free from the dogmas of the past–without accepting the inevitable conflict. Like Hoover, his is bound to fail.

Continue Reading »

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