I shall post videos, graphs, news stories, and other material there. We shall use some of this material in class, and you may review the rest at your convenience. You will all receive invitations to post to the blog. (Please let me know if you do not get such an invitation.) I encourage you to use the blog in these ways:
To post questions or comments about the readings before we discuss them in class;
To follow up on class discussions with additional comments or questions.
To post relevant news items or videos.

There are only two major limitations: no coarse language, and no derogatory comments about people at the Claremont Colleges.

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Monday, January 31, 2011

Perhaps the RNC needs a bailout?

Speaking of the legacy of Steele

Parties and Leaders

Four Strategic Postures


President's Party........GOP 04, Dems 08...............GOP 06....Dems 10

Out Party.....................GOP 10, Dems 06...............GOP 08....Dems 04

Current House leadership

Current Senate leadership

Party leaders are not always in sync with their presidents:

Nancy Pelosi Strikes Sharp Contrast

In Chapter 2 of the Connelly book, the author paints a picture of Nancy Pelosi as a Democratic leader whose mission is to strike a sharp contrast with Republicans by offering alternatives. Connelly also notes that Pelosi is not interested in moving to the center to attract swing voters but rather wants to move the party to the left in order to energize the Democratic party base. A State Column article reports that Pelosi, as minority leader, is continuing her objective to provide a contrast to the majority party who wants to eliminate the Presidential Election Campaign Fund:

“In response to the Citizens United ruling, Democrats worked to restore transparency, fairness, and accountability to our political process. Last Congress, with bipartisan support, the House passed the DISCLOSE Act to require corporations to stand by, and donors, to stand by your ad—why are you running and hiding? And to keep foreign-owned entities from participating in our elections.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Senate Republicans

As we shall discuss this week, a congressional party's strategy hinges on its numbers, on the composition of the other body, and the partisan identification of the president. When these variables change, so does strategy.

A week ago, Greg Sargent wrote of a poll showing that Americans want the president to be more conservative:

Today's Gallup poll, I think, reveals anew why this insight of McConnell's was so crucial. What McConnell was really saying here is that if any Republicans signed on to Obama's proposals, it risked suggesting to the American people that Obama's governing approach was moderate or even somewhat centrist -- something that could command some agreement. By contrast, when no Republicans signed on to Obama's proposals it made it far easier for them to paint Obama's agenda as ideologically off the rails to the left, which is exactly what they did.

If no Republicans were willing to sign on to Obama's proposals, that had to indicate that something was seriously amiss and that there was cause for real alarm about the overreaching nature of his agenda, right? And judging by the outcome of the midterms, this strategy worked.

Indeed, it's no accident that in the wake of Obama's successful passage of legislation with bipartisan support -- the tax deal, the New START treaty, the repeal of don't ask don't tell -- the new NBC/WSJ poll finds that the number who think Obama is "moderate" has suddenly jumped to the highest ever of his presidency. As McConnell recognized, denying Obama bipartisan support during his first two years made it far easier to paint him as an out-of-control old-style big government liberal -- and as a result, now the public wants him to keep moving to the right in the new era of divided government. Brilliant.

In the first two years of Barack Obama's presidency, Mitch McConnell raised the art of obstructionism to new levels. When McConnell and his united GOP troops couldn't stop things from getting through the Senate, they made sure the Democrats paid a heavy price for winning.

But now, the Senate minority leader who used to refer to himself as "the abominable no-man" faces a very different challenge: Can he actually deliver?

"The first two years, it was frankly pretty simple. From my point of view, they didn't try to do anything in the political center in the first two years, so there was no particular appeal" in trying to get things done, McConnell said in an interview, as he traveled his home state during a recent recess. "The biggest difference will be deciding when we are actually in a position to work with the administration, and when we aren't."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Tweets on the Hill

The New York Times reports:

Adam Sharp fits in well in the Beltway political scene where he used to work — first in the office of Senator Mary L. Landrieu, and then as the executive producer for digital services at C-Span. But his new job, as Twitter’s Washington liaison, requires a slightly different skill set.

Now Mr. Sharp, a 32-year-old with brown hair, glasses and a sprinkling of pale freckles across his face, is the human embodiment of Twitter, an energetic and smiling ambassador for that ubiquitous blue bird, ready and willing to answer questions, troubleshoot and offer free tips.

When Twitter hired Mr. Sharp late last year, his job was not to convince a few slow-to-adapt House members that they needed to get with the times. Instead, he is trying to help the thousands of politicians and government employees already on Twitter to use it better.

Since he officially began work on Dec. 1, the job has been evolving. (When Republicans regained control of the House, Mr. Sharp helped the chamber’s new leaders seamlessly switch their Twitter handles to reflect their new roles, John A. Boehner, for example, upgraded from @GOPLeader to @SpeakerBoehner.)

“His job strikes me as making lots of friends and helping lots of people, and who would not return a phone call from Twitter these days?” said Howard Mortman, the communications director for C-Span, who worked with Mr. Sharp. “I think he is getting incredible access, the kind of access many folks would be jealous of, because he is offering a service that many people want these days.”

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Politico article hailing renewed Democratic embrace of moderation cites Former Sen. Evan Bayh’s (D-Ind.) belief that “Democrats might have kept control of the House if they pursued a more moderate course during President Barack Obama’s first two years in office.
It is not quite a revolutionary thought, but offers a footnote perspective to our Connelly reading which discusses the choice which House Democrats made in 2002 between Nancy Pelosi and Martin Frost for Minority Leader. They stuck with Pelosi’s more liberal route to distinguish themselves from Republicans and offer a positive agenda, renewing the commitment upon gaining the majority. At least it worked for eight years.

It is also interesting to note that Democrats are not the only ones shifting a step right. My own Congresswoman, Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) worked hard in a moderately Democratic district the entire election to be cast as a moderate Republican. She avoided Tea Party rallies and candidates. I was surprised to see her seated next to Michelle Bachmann at the SOU address and identified by national news sources as a Tea Party Republican--something I doubt her office would encourage in my local papers.

SOTU Seating Chart

With all the discussion of bipartisan niceties after the terrible tragedy in Arizona, many Congressional Democrats and Republics vowed to intermingle with respect to their seating arrangement at the State of the Union. The New York Times put a seating chart allowing us to see exactly who was sitting next to who. A notable exception to this trend was Michele Bachmann (R-MN), who sat between fellow Tea Party Republicans Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-WA) and Jean Schmidt (R-OH).

Two Congresses, Two Chambers


But it is not possible to give to each department an equal power of self-defense. In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates. The remedy for this inconveniency is to divide the legislature into different branches; and to render them, by different modes of election and different principles of action, as little connected with each other as the nature of their common functions and their common dependence on the society will admit. It may even be necessary to guard against dangerous encroachments by still further precautions.

A Senate session.

A House session:

One major difference between the chambers is that few House members run for president, and seldom get far when they do (see Duncan Hunter and Dennis Kucinich). But a fairly large fraction of senators have gone for the White House.
  • Lamar Alexander (R-TN) 1996, 2000
  • Tom Harkin (D-IA) 1992
  • Orrin Hatch (R-UT) 2000
  • John Kerry (D-MA) 2004
  • Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) 2004
  • Richard Lugar (R-IN) 1996
  • John McCain (R-AZ) 2000, 2008
  • And of course rememember President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary of State Clinton.

Senate Rules Reform

Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), whom I worked for this past summer, tried to reform the Senate filibuster at the beginning of this session of Congress. Although, his efforts were not entirely successful, he did move party leaders toward more modest reforms such as limiting the executive branch nominations subject to Senate confirmation, making it more difficult for senators to anonymously block nominations or legislation, and ending certain stall tactics.

Here is a Politico article on the subject.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Stories Behind the Visitors in the State of the Union Galleries

The Washington Post had an article today about the "Skutnik Guests" at the State of the Union. Interesting to see an article about something we had just talked about in class.

During tonight's State of the Union Address, Obama's Skutnik Guest was Daniel Hernandez Jr., the intern who rushed to administer first aid to Rep. Giffords after she was shot in Tucson. Coincidentally, his birthday is today.

Tea Party Response to State of the Union

Michelle Bachmann, founder of the House Tea Party Caucus, gave her own response to the President's State of the Union Address for the Tea Party Express tonight. The speech featured the Constitution as the background, colorful graphs to illustrate the deficit under Obama compared to Bush, and the picture of U.S. soldiers raising the Flag on Iwo Jima to show American exceptionalism and unity. Both Bachmann and the GOP downplayed the idea that her speech competed with Paul Ryan's Republican response.

Is there precedent for additional groups like the Tea Party giving a response to the State of the Union, or is this something new?

Washington to Expect a Different Kind of Freeze

During tonight's State of the Union Address, it has been leaked that Obama is to call for a five-year spending freeze. However, given that we know who controls the purse, will Congress answer his call? (A question for debate)

Don't get too excited about the details:
"He is expected to sidestep specifics, instead calling for members of both parties to work together to tackle the problem, according to congressional and administration officials." --TWP, Anne E. Kornblut and Lori Montgomery

Read the full article here, on The Washington Post website.


Political scientist Keith Poole has adetailed historical measure of partisan polarization. These data show a partisan gap that seating arrangements will not close.

Click graph for enlarged view:

Monday, January 24, 2011

Title for a Male FLOTUS

In class, the question was raised about what to call the male spouse of a female president. This Washington Post column by Miss Manners addresses the issue. Apparently,

"If anything is sillier than first lady, it is first husband, unless this is necessary to distinguish him from a marital successor also on the scene. He would be the host, and addressed simply by his name and “Mr.” or another honorific he held, such as general or governor."

Of course, this solution would mean the man's title couldn't become an acronym. Such is life.

Members of Congress and Life on the Hill

Thursday, January 20, 2011

News is Power

As you read your Politico and/or Real Clear Politics feed in the weeks ahead, you'll be simulating true D.C. work. A New York Times Article reports that "Dozens of young aides throughout [Washington]...rise before dawn to pore over the news to synthesize it, summarize it and spin it, so their bosses start the day well-prepared."

The simulation has already begun.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tucson Tragedy Hits Home for CMC Student

The following is a link to an article I wrote for the Port Side a week ago based on my interview of Isabelle Heilman a Tucson-native CMC student who felt close to the Gabrielle Giffords shooting.

From the article:

The assassination attempt on Congresswoman and Scripps alumna Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona this past Saturday sent shockwaves through the Claremont community. Yet for one CMC student, the tragedy truly hit home.

Isabelle Heilman (CMC ’13) hails from Tucson and lives in Rep. Gifford’s 8th District. The scene of the tragic shootings was the Safeway grocery store where Heilman’s family shops every Saturday. According to Heilman, the shootings occured only “two minutes away from my house.”

Health Care Comments

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sunday, January 16, 2011

GOP Does Not Rule. Madison Does.

As you read James Madison Rules America, think of this Jake Sherman article in Politico:

Despite the chest-thumping rhetoric about slashing budgets, repealing health care and staunch oversight of the federal government, House Republicans are trying to get across a competing message: We are not in charge.

This message from the Republican majority, repeated publicly and behind closed doors at their winter retreat, amounts to a quick bid to ramp down high expectations in the early days of the new Congress.

“We also understand that we as Republicans do not control this federal government — the other party does,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said plainly, before introducing Govs. Rick Perry (Texas), Haley Barbour (Miss.) and Bob McDonnell (Va.) here.

The message holds mixed fortunes for the GOP. Too much over-thinking on who is in charge will elicit charges the GOP is trying to pass responsibility to Democrats, who indeed control the Senate and the White House. But it could also serve as a useful tool to lower expectations among voters who believe the new House majority will be able to complete ambitious tasks like repealing Democrats’ health care overhaul.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mitch McConnell

In The Atlantic, Joshua Green profiles Mitch McConnell:

McConnell, 68, is owlish, phlegmatic, and gray, and often looks bothered, as though lunch isn’t agreeing with him. He has been described as having “the natural charisma of an oyster.” Yet you sense that this is not so much a burden as a choice, that he has pared away any qualities extraneous to his political advancement. McConnell has the relentless drive and ambition you frequently encounter in Washington. But unlike so many others, he longs to be not president but majority leader of the Senate—a position conferred by his peers and not voters, so geniality and popularity with the press don’t interest him. “Every answer he ever gives is geared toward strategy within the Senate,” says his friend Senator Robert Bennett of Utah, meaning this as a compliment.


“Reporters underestimate how powerful the calendar is,” says Jim Manley, the former communications director for Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate leader. “Say you want to break a filibuster. On Monday, you file cloture on a motion to proceed for a vote on Wednesday. Assuming you get it, your opponents are allowed 30 hours of debate post-cloture on the motion to proceed. That takes you to Friday, and doesn’t cover amendments. The following Monday you file cloture on the bill itself, vote Wednesday, then 30 more hours of debate, and suddenly two weeks have gone by, for something that’s not even controversial.” All of this has slowed Senate business to a crawl.

“We worked very hard to keep our fingerprints off of these proposals,” McConnell says. “Because we thought—correctly, I think—that the only way the American people would know that a great debate was going on was if the measures were not bipartisan. When you hang the ‘bipartisan’ tag on something, the perception is that differences have been worked out, and there’s a broad agreement that that’s the way forward.”

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