US Politics and the campaign for moral equivalence


Amazing scenes last night as the Republicans took Ted Kennedy's old seat in Massachusetts in a special election. The seat had been in Democratic hands since JFK won it in 1952. Probably a combination of national and campaign-specific issues at play (it seems the Democratic candidate ran a fairly lacklustre campaign). Independents have turned against the Democrats, having been firmly on their side since 2006. There is a general sense of anger about the rising deficit and the perceived lack of focus on job creation. There is an opposition to the proposed health-care legislation that I find frankly bewildering. Their current system seems a mess. From what I read about the version passed in the Senate, it seemed like fairly moderate and sensible change. The 'Tea Party' movement is the new force in conservatism, and they were behind the Republican here. Unsurprisingly, they're an odd bunch and represent that anti-intellectual strand of American society that has seemed to periodically rise and fall in prominence throughout American history.

Anyway, the immediate upshot of this result is that the Democrats lose their 'super-majority' in the Senate, the odd rules that mean that you basically need 60 votes out of 100 to get anything done. This means that the health-care legislation is hanging in the balance, as the Democratic House leaders have said that they won't pass the Senate version. This would mean that in order to get anything done, the Democrats would probably need to get the Republican leadership on board. This means it will be a watered-down version of the legislation at best. The Republican's blocking minority, and the general received wisdom that this result has happened due to a perceived lack of focus on job creation, means that climate change legislation is now unlikely to happen this year. There is no way that there will be more Democrats in Congress after this year's midterms, so it's hard to see how the remainder of Obama's first term sees much getting done.

As a general comment, American politics seems to be a mess. It's nigh on impossible to get anything done, as they are in a semi-permanent election campaign. The poisonous atmosphere (on both sides) and 24-hour news cycle created by the partisan cable news networks and websites over the last 20 years make it impossible to find consensus, as your grassroots will call any compromise a surrender. Hard to see how that doesn't get worse. If the national crises of war and economic meltdown of the last five years have only served to make the atmosphere more bitter, it's hard to see how it ever improves.


auld kennedy must be spinning in his grave


Tis some fucking disgrace alright that Obama and his ilk can't even hold the Kennedy seat in Massachusetts.


Its a pretty stunning anti Democratic Whitehouse if they couldn't retain a seat that was 32 points ahead in the last election.


This is truly amazing. As someone who lived in Mass for the bones of 4 years you'd meet very few Republicans at all, except out in Salem or the likes. The wealthy, the blacks and the Irish were all heavily democrat in Mass, so this is some turnaround. Its almost like someone winning on the wrong side of town in Belfast.

Things must be really bad on the ground, even though my contacts there (mostly in building trade) are starting to motor again.


Racism, which I hate.


Well I was referring to his particular brand of democrat, this wouldnt have happened under Hillary, but yours works too


Up Republicans!


Theres more registered Independents in Mass then registered Democrats , Mass has had Republican govenors from 1991 - 2007 .


These independents have all flocked to the right as well, which is what fucked the dems here. Braz has captured the tone of the situation fairly well, the right wing press have a fierce grip on the US flag and are waving it to great effect. The atmosphere is truly poisonous and the reality is anything to the left of tax cuts for the wealthy is now an act of socialism within the prevailing political mindset. The democrats will eventually recover from this loss but to what end? Corporate interests are now so deeply entrenched that even modest reform seems impossible. Frightening stuff.


On the , ahem, money.



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Ronald Reagan doesn't feel like saying anything!!!!!!!!


That is probably true. Being quite a liberal part of the US it would make sense. I was giving anecdotal evidence of course.


Obama has just announced a plan to enact a new Glass-Steagall Act. Why the fuck it took him so long is a story in itself but this is going to be very, very interesting.


Wow. This is more far reaching than I expected. Three main planks to this announcement:
- Banks would no longer be allowed to invest in hedge funds or private equtiy.
- They would not be allowed to engage in proprietary trading.
- The market share of liabilities that one bank could hold would be limited.

These would be huge if they were ever brought into law. It really should have been the second thing he did after getting a stimulus passed. Politically, it could be a momentum shifter. If the GOP is seen to be blocking this legislation, which they inevitably will, it could really hurt them.


Vinnie talking about all this now.


I've always liked Marion McKeon (sp?). Used to read her in the Tribune and listened to her on with Matt Cooper. Lara Marlowe is a poor replacement for her there now that I think about it. Never liked her.


One more important piece of news today. The Supreme Court has struck down a large pillar of campaign finance laws that disallowed corporations from spending money to advocate for or against a candidate in an election. This will have huge consequences, further heightening the power of industry lobby groups. More bad news for American politics, and worrying signs that Kennedy is no longer the crucial swing vote on the bench, but is now firmly part of what would be a 5-4 conservative majority.


Obama always made the point that he wanted to be a slow burning President. No point in being a quick hero, the fall is even longer.


The main affect of this will probably be that banks will spin off their hedge fund arms and just charge them on the business they give them. Since the banks wont be liable it'll probably lead to even bigger problems.