Scandalmania is distorting our discussion of three different issues, sweeping them into one big narrative -- everything is a "narrative" these days -- about the beleaguered second-term presidency of Barack Obama. Forgive me for feeling cynical and depressed about our nation's political conversation.
Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee, one of the earliest members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, has made curbing urban bloodshed a personal cause. Every year between Mother's Day and Memorial Day, he organizes a "Cease-Fire Sabbath" that enlists clergy around the city to preach against violence. It's a faith-based initiative that everyone can believe in.
Perhaps the Almighty did inspire those who drew the boundaries of South Carolina's 1st Congressional District. They packed it with so many Republicans that Mark Sanford was able to engineer a comeback in the polls by debating a flat piece of cardboard bearing the image of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
To pretend that the president can magically get an increasingly right-wing Republican House and Senate contingent to do his bidding is either naive or willfully misleading. The GOP really does hope that blocking whatever Obama wants will steadily weaken him. But the president also needs to ask himself why even his supporters are growing impatient.
Perhaps because the cynicism that dominates contemporary political discourse militates against taking any politician’s words at face value, surprisingly little analysis is devoted to what President Obama actually says in his principal public addresses. Americans are so busy figuring him out, they have stopped hearing him.
The presidents with whom Barack Obama is often compared, Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan, did not face the obstacles he does. Obama has every right to be frustrated: When Republicans obstruct, he takes the blame. But even though his assessment of the situtation is correct, his response to it should be different.
At his 2009 inauguration, President Obama pledged to close Guantánamo within a year. Many of those imprisoned there have been held for more than a decade without facing any charges, and in recent months, an increasing number of desperate detainees have engaged in hunger strikes to call attention to their plight.
Why is it that conservative Republicans who freely cut taxes while backing two wars in the Bush years started preaching fire on deficits only after a Democrat entered the White House? Probably because their central goal is to hack away at government. Then along come academic economists to bless the anti-deficit fever with the authority of spreadsheets.
When the news from Boston first hit, there was an immediate divide between those who saw an Islamic terrorist attack and those who saw the hand of domestic, right-wing extremists. We then moved, without delay, to show how the event proved that our side was right in any number of ongoing debates. The response suggests that we live in an age of shrink-wrapped, prepackaged opinions.
The blood runs cold when one fully appreciates how vulnerable Western policymakers are to slogans and magical thinking. The Reinhart-Rogoff case is the latest, and certainly will not be the last, in which the credulity and carelessness of experts wreak havoc among millions of ordinary people.
As her memoir My Beloved World makes clear, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has spent a lifetime challenging offensive remarks about minorities and the poor.
Lawrence Wright's Going Clear is less a general history of Scientology than a consideration of some of its particular aspects as a “new religious movement.”
David Nasaw, professor of history at the City University of New York, makes clear in this extraordinarily fine biography that Joseph P. Kennedy was a man of many parts, few of which make him a prospective candidate for canonization.
Victories often contain the seeds of future defeats. So it is -- or at least should be -- with the Senate's morally reprehensible rejection of expanded background checks for gun buyers.
Religious Freedom & State Power
A Wondrous Bundle of Contradictions
Bills deceptively described as “technical fixes” to the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial-reform law have both Republican and Democratic backers. So far, neither the White House nor the Treasury Department has taken an active role in opposing these bills, which threaten to undermine one of the most important legislative achievements of President Barack Obama’s first term.
The documentary format of The Gatekeepers is tame, the content explosive, splicing interviews with archival footage outlining the history of Shin Bet since the 1967 Six-Day War and the contours of Israeli policy vis-à-vis its Arab nemeses. The House I Live In takes us on a dismal road trip through our nation’s inaptly named corrections industry, issuing a verdict both unanimous and harsh.
The accounts from the Sandy Hook families have been so wrenching that it is common to say that a gun bill is being carried along "on a wave of emotion," implying that we are acting in a way we would not act if our judgments were based on pure reason or a careful look at the evidence. This has it exactly backward.
Margaret Thatcher and David Kuo represented two sides of the conservative disposition and two forms of the "conviction politics" for which the Iron Lady was known. Because of that, they have much to teach us about the debate we need now.
Obstruction of legislative measures that a majority of voters support reveals the deep structural tilt in our politics to the right. This distortion explains why election outcomes and the public's preferences have so little impact on what is happening in Washington. At the moment, our democracy is not very democratic.
These days, the Repuiblican party is all about trying to improve its image. But on guns, it may prove once again that when it matters, extremists rule.
When William F. Buckley Jr. founded the National Review, he proclaimed that its mission was to “stand athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.” American conservatism as we have known it for three generations began with this imperative, which has now led it to a political impasse. Yelling “Stop!” may be good theater but it does little to thwart history.
What Is Marriage? is clear, tightly reasoned, and a remarkably fast read for a dense philosophical argument. It should be instantly recognized as the leading statement of the case against same-sex marriage. But is it right?
Rand Paul, the libertarian senator from Kentucky, has inadvertently called our attention to a deep contradiction within American conservatism.
It is now nearly forty years since the bishops of the Appalachian region of the United States published This Land Is Home to Me, a historic pastoral letter “on powerlessness in Appalachia.” Two generations later, poverty in Appalachia remains.
A conservative judge dedicated to the principle of judicial restraint might be expected to defer to the legislative branch in its exercise of powers explicitly granted to it by the Constitution. But Antonin Scalia and his fellow Republican-appointed justices seem inclined, in this case, toward clear judicial activism.
With signs of cooperation on gun control and immigration, and Rand Paul's filibuster against President Obama's drone policy shaking philosophical categories in a healthy way, life and substance are returning to our political debates.
There are, believe it or not, grounds for hoping that the sequester, stupid as it is, might open the way to ending our budget stalemate. It starts with Senate Republicans like Lindsey Graham and others who are open to President Obama's outreach.
Divisions in the church are usually seen as mimicking those of secular politics. Conservatives or traditionalists are pitted against liberals or progressives. But Timothy Radcliffe, a Dominican friar and the former head of his order, suggests a more fruitful way to understand the Catholic split.
The old formula held that when government was divided between the parties, the contending sides should try to "meet in the middle." But the current Republican leadership doesn't know the meaning of the word "middle," so intimidated has it become by the tea party. Here's what President Obama can do.
Antonin Scalia speaks favorably, and provocatively, of a “dead” Constitution. But an eighteenth-century reading of the Second Amendment doesn't serve a public that supports sensible control of the guns in use today.
Why the reluctance among conservative opponents of gun control to criticize America’s gun culture, with its vocal enthusiasm for weapons designed specifically to kill people as efficiently as possible?
After nearly two decades in which established opinion insisted that it would never again be possible to pass sensible regulations of firearms, the unthinkable is on the verge of happening.
Washington is wasting time on an artificial crisis driven not by economics but by ideology, partisan interest, and an obsession over a word -- "sequester" -- that means nothing to most Americans. But from the perspective of Republicans, the more months we fritter away on this dumb, fake emergency, the better.
The idea of politics as all-ideology, all-the-time is a relatively recent invention. Education reform, for instance, was a thoroughly bipartisan cause in the 1980s. But it will take considerable courage for Republicans to move their party back to a time when conservatives and progressives did not have to disagree on everything.
Free from the need to save an economy close to collapse and illusions that Republicans in Congress would work with him readily, President Obama has made clear his determination to shift the center of gravity in the nation's political conversation away from anti-government conservatism.
Recent comments from Republicans like Bobby Jindal and Eric Cantor suggest awareness among the leadership that the party moved too far to the right, and the GOP now seems to be backing off long-standing positions on tax increases, guns, and immigration. But does the new flexibility really signal a change in direction?
Efforts at immigration reform have come surprisingly far, surprisingly fast, and we should hope the progress continues. The current immigration regime is a dysfunctional and often cruel system that imposes huge economic and humanitarian costs on citizens and noncitizens alike, with few justifying policy benefits.
The final HHS rules are the product of a genuine and heartfelt struggle over the meaning of religious liberty in a pluralistic society. "What we've learned," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, "is that there are issues to balance in this area. There were issues of religious freedom on two sides of the ledger"—the freedom of the religious institutions and the freedom of their employees who might not share their objections to contraception.
Conservatives who excoriate government "intervention” in the economy miss this point. Government does not just “intervene” in markets; government defines markets by creating their rules. Prudent rules shape the market so that it minimizes conflicts between self-interest and the common good.
Until Barack Obama was re-elected, party competition translated into Republican efforts to block virtually everything the president wanted to accomplish. But on immigration, the parties are now competing to share credit for doing something big. It's wonderful to behold.
What’s the matter with white people? Answering that question is the objective of Salon editor Joan Walsh’s new book.
Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader, perfectly encapsulated the effort to diminish the importance of all else (including growth) when he declared that "deficit and debt" constitute the "transcendent issue of our era." No, it's not.
Like Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama hopes to usher in a long-term electoral realignment. The Reagan metaphor helps explain the tone of Obama's inaugural address, built not on a call to an impossible bipartisanship but on a philosophical argument for a progressive vision of the country rooted in our history.
That President Obama has shed any illusions about his unique gifts as a national healer will increase his capacity to help us leave behind many of the debates that have torn our political world asunder. Tempered by the struggles of his first term, he now seems more at ease declaring exactly what he is for and what he is seeking to achieve.
The Deficit Scolds' Unsound Logic
President Obama went big in offering a remarkably comprehensive plan to curb gun violence, and good for him. We are in danger of having mass shootings define us as a nation. As a people, we must rise up against this obscenity.
Racial differences do not permit disfavoring African Americans in the university admissions process, but the opposite question, whether we may favor African Americans over white applicants, is now a heated question pending in the Supreme Court.
Lessons From the Picket Line
We are about to have a major foreign policy debate in the guise of a confirmation battle over Chuck Hagel's nomination as secretary of defense. President Obama should use this opportunity to stand up for his broader vision of how American power can be sustained and used.
The Bishops' Case Against the Mandate
Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, attention to sensible gun control has not waned. But a political truth that must be faced: Nothing positive will happen on this issue unless a substantial number of Republicans insist that we act.
Confronting Gun Violence
Should our politicians dedicate themselves to solving the problems we face now? Or should they spend their time constructing largely theoretical deficit solutions for years far in the future to satisfy certain ideological and aesthetic urges?
A lot was wrong with how Congress, particularly the House of Representatives, dealt with the so-called fiscal cliff. But in the end, some very important and positive things happened: A significant number of Republicans voted to raise taxes, the tax code has become more progressive, and an election had real impact on public policy.
Capitalism & the Good Life
Beware of any entitlement reform described by its advocates as “win-win.” Such proposals are almost always too good to be true. The proposal to raise the age of eligibility for Medicare from sixty-five to sixty-seven is a good example.
How often must we note that no other developed country has such massacres on a regular basis because no other comparable nation allows such easy access to guns? And on no subject other than ungodly episodes involving guns are those who respond logically by demanding solutions accused of "politicizing tragedy."
Conservatives who were once genuinely interested in finding market-based alternatives to government-provided health insurance have, since the rise of Obamacare, continued to make choices that are dysfunctional, even from their own point of view.
One school of thought on the right rejects adjusting to a new electorate; strategies for future victories are based on a naked use of government power to alter the political playing field. Michigan's Republican-led right-to-work law is an example.
Breaking with the Present?
The truth is that costs for most medical interventions are going down. It's the spending that's going up, thanks to the very effectiveness of modern health care.
President Obama's victory blew up the framework created by the 2010 elections, which forced him to play defense. Now, he finally has room to move. That's the only way to understand the ongoing budget talks.
Without making a single substantive concession, Republicans get loads of praise just for saying they are willing to ignore those old pledges to Grover Norquist. But kudos for an openness to compromise should be reserved for those who put forward concrete proposals to raise taxes.
Rightward Tilt Clouds the Christian Message
In our tendency to lay so much stress on the role of famous generals, we forget both the centrality of midlevel military leadership and the daily sacrifices and bravery of those in the enlisted ranks who carry out orders from on high.
When disaster strikes, swift relief and just recompense are expected for survivors. How best to compensate victims is rarely clear. Kenneth Feinberg has spent his career sorting through such conundrums.
Barack Obama should not be afraid to consider the hopes and expectations of the people who voted for him. But he should also think about the worries of those who voted against him. The two groups have more in common than we (or they) might imagine.
As Republicans dig out from a defeat that their poll-deniers said was impossible, they need to acknowledge many large failures. But President Obama and his party need to understand the difficulties they may face.
Revisiting ‘Economic Justice for All’
It is said after every election that the victors should put politics aside and work for the good of the country. If President Obama believed this pious nonsense, he would put his second term in jeopardy.
What Can Obama Do in a Second Term?
With the election over, responsible members of both parties acknowledge that a long-term budget deal, one that gets entitlement spending under control but also increases tax revenue, is necessary for the health of the economy and for restoring confidence in the nation’s political institutions.
Barack Obama took on a militant conservatism intent on reducing the responsibilities of government and cutting taxes on the wealthiest Americans. In the process, he built an alliance of moderates and progressives who still believe in government's essential role in regulating the marketplace and widening the circle of opportunity.
The Catholic Right’s False Nostalgia
If Teddy Roosevelt fought against the policies of the Gilded Age, President Obama is fighting a Republican Party determined to bring the Gilded Age back and undo the achievements of a century.
As the 2012 campaign closes, "working together" is in vogue because the few voters still up for grabs tend to be more moderate and less ideological. But beneath the embrace of comity lurks a central fact about American politics now: Democrats believe in compromise far more than Republicans do.
A Partisan Abuse of the Church’s Moral Teachings
President Obama almost certainly needs states like Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin to win re-election, and if he does, manufacturing is destined for a larger role in the American economic conversation.
It turns out there was no profound ideological conversion of the country two years ago. If Mitt Romney thought the nation was ready to endorse the full-throated conservatism he embraced to win the Republican nomination, he wouldn't be throwing his past positions overboard.
Ayn Rand, an atheist, considered charity a sign of weakness. Paul Ryan’s Randian views—notably his budget plan’s drastic cuts to food stamps, which now aid 46 million—have not sat well with many Catholics.
While Barack Obama may lack a crisp set of sound bites, he's been far more straightforward about challenges like the deficit than Mitt Romney--whose own five-point plan is quite vague and looks a lot like the five-point plans put forth by earlier Republican presidential candidates.
Starving the Government Won't Work
For Barack Obama's supporters, the fact that the president played offense and had a strategy was reason enough for elation. But the most electorally significant performance was Mitt Romney's: Under pressure this time, the former Massachusetts governor displayed his least attractive sides.
Does regulation of an Orthodox practice associated with circumcision constrain the free exercise of religion?
New Mitt Romneys appear on a monthly, weekly and sometimes daily basis. His campaign has been an exercise in identifying which piece of the electorate he needs at any given moment and adjusting his views, sometimes radically, to suit this requirement.
Kennedy's keen awareness of the power of appearances helped him (and the rest of us) get through the Cuban Missile Crisis without a nuclear war—and without seeming to yield to nuclear blackmail.
Two books sketch the fragmentation that pose obstacles to the efforts of President Obama, or any national political leader, to promote a more common vision.
What a difference a week makes. Vice President Joe Biden stayed in Rep. Paul Ryan's face for the entirety of Thursday's vice presidential debate. In the process, he forced Ryan, and by extension the Romney campaign, onto the defensive for a large part of the evening.
Many factors will influence the outcome of the election. Swing states matter, as may voter turnout and voter-suppression efforts, job numbers, and events abroad. But is race playing any role in the 2012 election?
Sen. Sherrod Brown seems to invite the hostility of wealthy conservatives and deep-pocketed interest groups. He can live with that: His uncompromising advocacy on behalf of workers and progressive policies on other issues have helped him build a formidable organization across Ohio.
Translating Moral Principle into Public Policy
In this year’s first presidential debate, Mitt Romney told a great many half-truths about his platform and his record, but he told them all with stunning self-assurance. No one seemed more stunned than Barack Obama.
Who better than a group of women who have consecrated their lives to the Almighty to remind us that our decisions in November have ethical consequences? Those who serve the impoverished, the sick and the dying know rather a lot about what matters -- in life, and in elections.
Having campaigned as a moderate when he ran for governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney veered to the right to win the Republican presidential nomination. But with polls showing him behind in the swing states, he used the debate to remake himself one more time, deciding to sound concerned about the middle class.
Our antiquated Electoral College should give Republicans an advantage: By guaranteeing every state three electors regardless of population, the system offers outsized influence to smaller, mostly Republican rural states. But In 2012, the system is working in President Obama's favor.
In this week's debate, Mitt Romney has too much to do. President Obama has a great deal to lose. Romney's is the most difficult position. Obama's is the most dangerous.
In Tampa, Republicans reveled in the glories of private enterprise. In Charlotte, Democrats celebrated togetherness. But in the weeks after Obama’s acceptance speech, interest in the election as horse race has nearly blotted out the substance of the president’s address and its relation to the broader themes of the campaigns.
Elections are supposed to decide things. The voters render a verdict on what direction they want the country to take and set the framework within which both parties work. But President Obama's time in office has given rise to a new approach. Republicans decided to do all they could to make the president unsuccessful. How can Washington work again?
In his impatience with those he accuses of casting themselves as "victims," Mitt Romney misses the real story of government in the lives of most Americans. So often, we combine our own exertions with a little assistance along the way -- the GI Bill, Social Security survivors' benefits, public education -- to become self-sufficient and independent.
Polls showing an Obama upturn since the conventions suggest the Obama-Clinton politics of balance is far more popular than ideological conservatism, and it seems part of` a trend toward moderation in many countries.
Christopher Hayes argues that our highly competitive social and economic system is decaying, turning our elites into an increasingly socially isolated ruling class that passes its privileges on to its often mediocre children. And many of those undeserving heirs fail, causing Americans to lose trust in their leaders.
What the Bishops' Voting Guide Overlooks
Political Journalism in the Digital Age
The GOP seems to have given up on attracting more minority voters in time for the 2012 election, and has switched to another strategy: Pass laws that make it harder to vote. Some have been blocked as violations of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but others have been upheld.
A specter is haunting the affluent societies of the West. Across the rich countries, and across the political spectrum, there is an unstated but palpable longing for a return to the 1950s.
That Bill Clinton played such a central role at the convention reflected the extent to which it should be seen as a three-day tutorial designed not only to defend President Obama's economic stewardship, but also to advance a view of government for which Democrats have often apologized.
Like his recent predecessors, President Obama has moved on policy and personnel in ways designed to avoid the time-consuming gridlock that sometimes results from procedures mandated and constraints imposed by the Constitution. But in this election season, candidates on both the left and right need to show humility, restraint, and patience.
Polarization, incivility, and partisan squabbling are weakening our system's ability to respond to major national crises, and recent events provide cause for more concern. Two new books investigate why this is happening now.
The Obama Democrats who gather in Charlotte this week have a big advantage over Tampa's Romney Republicans: Last week's GOP convention gave President Obama a peek at Mitt Romney's playbook.
Having given conservatives everything they had asked for -- from switching his positions on abortion and immigration to picking their favorite as his running mate -- Mitt Romney used his acceptance speech to try to convert some of President Obama's 2008 supporters into Republican voters.
Something odd is happening in Mitt Romney's Republican Party. The GOP is marketing the concept that a great many Americans need to suffer before they can prosper.
President Obama and Mitt Romney have chosen running mates who reflect their political philosophies. Both vice presidential candidates are also Roman Catholics, the first time this has happened in American history. Yet despite the obvious sincerity of their faith, their moral and political views reflect the positions of their political parties more than those of their church.
In 1964, George Romney walked out of the Republican National Convention during Barry Goldwater's acceptance speech, protesting his party's sharp turn rightward. This week, Mitt Romney is set to achieve what his father never could. But this family triumph will not represent a vindication of his father's principles.
Why hasn't one of this year's most exciting Senate candidates put the election away? Because Massachusetts voters like Scott Brown, a Republican incumbent who is making them forget that he's a Republican.
A new suit challenges President Obama's 2012 National Defense Authorization Act on the definition of "support" for terrorism, and the possible expansion of presidential power beyond constitutional limits.
There is a difference between Obama saying that Romney and Ryan want to alter Medicare fundamentally, which is true, and the GOP saying that Obama wants to undercut Medicare, which is not.
If conservative ideologues are over the moon at having their favorite conviction politician as Mitt Romney's vice presidential running mate, many Republican professionals -- particularly those running this fall -- are petrified.
Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan underscores how liberals and conservatives have switched sides on the matter of which camp constitutes the party of theory and which is the party of practice. Americans usually reject the party of theory, which is what conservatism has now become.
Here's your chance, conservatives. If you truly hate the Affordable Care Act, put your money where your ideology is and return those rebate checks you'll get from your insurance companies.
Progressives should put aside their disappointment with Barack Obama. The alternative is a presidency that would shred safety nets and regulations while running the country according to the cruel and primitive forms of individualism not seen since pre-New Deal America.
Overwrought warnings from both campaigns suggest there will be no end to the current stalemate.
In fending off calls to release more of his tax returns and complaining about “personal” attacks, Mitt Romney tries to avoid the serious debate Americans want about the role of private equity firms such as Bain in the modern economy.
The Republican Party seeks to eke out a narrow victory in November on the basis of a radical program. It's a gamble that could pay off.
The gun lobby barely had to say a word before the media sent advocates of saner gun regulation shuffling off in defeat. In a political version of Stockholm syndrome, even those who claim to disagree with the National Rifle Association's absolutist permissiveness on firearms lulled themselves into accepting the status quo by reciting a script of gutless resignation dictated by the merchants of death.
Cutting back government, gutting unions and reducing taxes on the rich won't re-create an America of opportunity. On the contrary, we need more active and thoughtful government policies to become again the nation we claim to be.
Banks in Control of Their Customers
Two Colorado moderates and an Ohio liberal identify the keys to creating a philopsophically coherent cross-coalition of critical blue-collar and middle-class voters.
We do a disservice to ourselves and the Founders alike if we take them out of history and demand that they settle arguments that we ought to settle on our own.
Voters are showing resistance to the core conservative claim that job creation is primarily about rewarding wealthy investors and companies through further tax cuts and less regulation.
Republicans complain that President Obama’s executive order makes permanent immigration reform more difficult—an ungrounded assertion intended to obscure the fact that most Republican lawmakers still want nothing to do with real reform.
The broad structure of the largest domestic achievement of the Obama legacy remains intact as the chief justice wisely avoids the far shoals of conservative ideology.
Antonin Scalia has long ignored the obligation to be or even appear impartial, but offering a bench statement questioning President Obama's decision on immigration should be the end of the line.
Ongoing Analysis & Opinion
A modest proposal: build an alliance of public-spirited citizens who can help destroy the incentives for the very rich to buy the election.
Events of recent weeks suggest that if progressives do not speak out on behalf of government, they will be disadvantaged throughout the election-year debate.
The failed recall of Gov. Walker gives conservatives confidence and progressives pause, but both sides need to consider the bigger picture.
In this election, we're not having an argument that pits capitalism against socialism. We are trying to decide what kind of capitalism we want. In light of the rise of inequality and the financial mess we just went through, it's a discussion we very much need to have now.
When states scramble to balance their budgets in the face of declining revenue, prison funding is often near the top of the cut list. Access to a prison chaplain is widely considered a privilege granted to the undeserving rather than a right. This attitude is unworthy of a civilized nation with strong Christian roots.
We are about to have the worst presidential campaign money can buy. One state is showing us the way back to sane campaign-finance law.
The perils of income inequality
Bishops & Electoral Politics
It's understandable if unfortunate that the controversy surrounding the killing of Trayvon Martin has polarized the country along both racial and ideological lines. But there is one issue that should not have any racial connotations: the urgency of repealing "Stand Your Ground" laws.
Santorum's parting gift to Romney
Conservatives are not accustomed to being on the defensive. They have long experience with attacking the evils of the left and the abuses of activist judges. They expect their progressive opponents to be wimpy and apologetic. Not this time.
Right before our eyes, American conservatism is becoming something very different from what it once was. Yet this transformation is happening by stealth because moderates are too afraid to acknowledge what all their senses tell them.
The Silence at the Center of Our Politics
Climate change is not just another big national problem—like long-term unemployment, health-care costs, or the national debt—that can be kicked down the road and solved later. It is a planetary emergency. When will our policy acknowledge that fact?
Can conservatives finally face the fact that they actually want quite a lot from government, and that they are simply unwilling to raise taxes to pay for it?
Super PACs Place Their Bets
I’m a 65-year-old African American. I was excited enough by the election of the nation’s first black president that I would have cut him a thousand miles of slack. But the last thing I expected was that I would watch him meekly accept humiliation by his political opponents. And the second last thing I expected was that I would go into 2012 looking at the upcoming presidential election as a lesser-of-two-evils affair.
How Romney made his millions
What Clint Eastwood & Rick Santorum Have in Common
How Bad Policies Brought Us a New Gilded Age
Can the federal government finally say no to Big Oil?
How Sargent Shriver Built the Peace Corps
Is Mitt Romney Right about Envy?
What Newt Learned from Nixon
Thanks to Mitt Romney and such well-known socialist intellectuals as Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich, the United States is about to have the big debate on the nature of modern capitalism that should have started back in 2008. The focus will be on whether some kinds of capitalism are bad for the system as a whole.
Should Obama have signed the National Defense Authorization Act?
If the Republicans want to have a genuinely searching debate about the future of their party, they'd send Santorum and Huntsman off for the long fight.
Can Obama overcome post-election disappointment?
The president channels his inner Roosevelts
Two pols who speak their minds
The problems the United States faces are large but not insoluble. Yet sensible solutions can't be enacted. Why? Because an ideological bloc that sees every crisis as an opportunity to reduce the size of government holds enough power in Congress to stop us from doing what needs to be done.
Will the Occupy movement play into the hands of its enemies by living up to the stereotypes they are trying to create? Or will it instead move to a new phase that builds on its success?
The deficit hawks in Congress are ardent promoters of the economic well-being of future generations. And yet, when you look at the cuts, both those proposed and those enacted by these wizards of finance, you have to ask what kind of future they imagine will follow from their slashing frenzy, if not for their own children and grandchildren then for everyone else’s.
How Americans can save themselves from plutocracy
If Congress simply fails to act between now and January 1, 2013, the tax cuts passed under President George W. Bush expire, $1.2 trillion in additional budget cuts go through under the terms of last summer's debt-ceiling deal, and a variety of other tax cuts also go away. Are you still sure that a "failure" by the congressional supercommittee to reach a deal would be such a disaster?
What Perry & Cain Say about Today's GOP
This week's elections around the country were brought to you by the word "overreach," specifically conservative overreach. Given an opportunity in 2010 to build a long-term majority, Republicans instead pursued extreme and partisan measures. On Tuesday, they reaped angry voter rebellions.
Americans are waking up to income disparity
Paul Ryan Decries the Politics of Division
When the Vatican Confounds Conservatives
It starts with food
This is a party that was once innovative in thinking about affirmative uses of government. The GOP instituted the Homestead Act and created land grant colleges, the interstate highway system, student loans, the Pure Food and Drug Act and, yes, a prescription drug benefit under Medicare. What happened?
Does Rick Santorum Understand What Keeps a Household Together?
In which our reporter joins Wall Street's new occupants
Zero and 9.1. Those figures aren’t the won-lost record of the Red Sox during the final week the season. They are the Labor Department’s statistics for the number of jobs created in August, followed by the official unemployment rate for the same month. No wonder President Obama belatedly hastened to propose a major job-creation plan to a joint session of Congress.
It’s hard to imagine a group of people that's more a product of this singularly nutty moment. Every serious GOP candidate is either a Tea Partier or is desperately trying to look like one. The anti-Obama protest movement is now steering the selection of an anti-Obama protest candidate, and the result is an awfully sad crew of presidential wannabes.
Why Elizabeth Warren Makes George Will Nervous
The only popular movements of modern times that made any difference to the United States were the civil-rights campaign and the anti-Vietnam-War demonstrations of the 1960s. Not even the Great Depression produced a popular protest that changed anything. What will Occupy Wall Street accomplish?
The Week that Changed Politics
Why hasn't there been a Tea Party on the left? And can President Barack Obama and the American left develop a functional relationship? That those two questions are not asked very often is a sign of how much of the nation's political energy has been monopolized by the right since Obama took office.
When socialism saves capitalism
The Republican establishment is said to have grave qualms about Gov. Rick Perry. Here's the problem: the GOP establishment squandered its authority by building up the Tea Party's brigades and then fearing them too much to do anything to check their power. Worse for those who think Perry would be a general-election disaster is the growing confidence among conservatives that President Barack Obama will be easy to beat.
Our political system is not accustomed to the kind of battle that is going on now. President Barack Obama has been slow to adjust to it. The voters are understandably mystified and frustrated by it. In the meantime, the economy sits on the edge between stagnation and something worse.
An Interview with Ken Burns
Social Security has been an object of suspicion ever since it began in 1935. Conservative critics warned it would be a stalking horse for socialism, the death of thrift and charity, and a crippling burden on employers. It turned out to be none of these things, and instead became one of the most successful and popular government programs in the nation’s history.
Why so many Americans remain unemployed
What we lost in the decade since 9/11
How workers vanished from our national consciousness
Obama's poll numbers are dropping. Time to mount an offensive
When former President George W. Bush joins President Barack Obama at “Ground Zero” in lower Manhattan on September 11 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States, the nation will be reminded, if only for a few hours, that the preservation of democracy requires real sacrifices and the willing embrace of duties, not just the pursuit of private interests and freedoms.
The Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
Both Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann frequently decry federal power. Perry has suggested Texas might secede from the union. Bachmann has called President Obama's federalist views "anti-American." Either a bad case of constitutional amnesia has beset Perry-Bachmann or there was a grave failure in their high-school civics courses.
President Obama should not be constrained by what the Tea Party might allow subservient Republican leaders in Congress to do. He should state plainly, eloquently, and in detail what he thinks needs to be happen. Neither history nor the voters will be kind to him if he lets caution and political calculation get in the way.
For President Obama, these are the days of never hearing an encouraging word. Not since his own supporters were losing faith in his presidential campaign in the summer of 2007 has Obama confronted so many bad reviews and such widespread frustration and angry criticism from his own side.
Is Accommodation a winning hand?
From the archives: Defending FDR's National Recovery Administration
The first week of August 2011 will be remembered as a singularly irrational, wasteful, and shameful moment in the political and economic history of the United States. It reflected much of what is wrong with the priorities of our political elites and the obsessions of those who now hold effective veto power over our government.
How persuasively is the church making its case against gay marriage?
Thinking clearly about a slogan & a slur
Up with moderation
The debt 'crisis' distracts from the real problem: unemployment
Time for the GOP to cut the Tea Party loose
An interview with Cardinal George
The debt 'crisis' has kept the government from doing its job
Danger remains in the the debt debate
Four Myths about Government Spending
Our love affair with capital punishment
When the Tea Party comes home to roost
What our Declaration really said
Does moderate Republican Jon Huntsman stand a chance?
Whatever the punditocracy may have made of Mitt Romney's formal announcement of his presidential candidacy last week, we could all give the guy credit for trying to reassure us that not everything in politics has changed.
Why Paul Ryan is losing the argument
When Qaddafi is finally deposed, the world may agree that “all’s well that ends well.” But first, some questions: Why did France & Britain lead the way? Why did the United States join the effort? How humanitarian is this humanitarian intervention? Is Qaddafi’s fitting end being achieved by doubtful means?
While the United States remains utterly frozen in a debate about budget deficits and all the things that government shouldn't do, other countries are marrying public and private resources to make themselves stronger and more competitive.
Unlike the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, this tragedy comes not from the stupidity of man, but from the hand of nature. And unlike hurricanes, which arrive gradually and affect a wide area, tornadoes are localized, sudden, and furious. For that reason, they raise questions of theodicy in an acute way.
The atomization of American society
It's likely you didn't hear much about the controversy over John Boehner's recent commencement speech at Catholic University. There are many reasons for this, but one of them is that Boehner's critics were civil and respectful.
Republicans holding the debt ceiling increase hostage to their efforts to eviscerate programs know perfectly well that Congress will not risk a financial crisis. They even acknowledge this.
The U.S. government faces few challenges more important than renewing people’s trust in the honesty and fairness of our financial institutions and economic system.
If you’re a fan of the History Channel, you’ll feel right at home watching Robert Redford’s recreation of Abraham Lincoln’s murder near the beginning of The Conspirator.
We’re still debating whether what we’re doing in Libya can rightly be described as war, though bombs dropped amid an “intervention” are just as deadly. But where’s the debate over whether it’s fair or accurate to assert that Republicans in Congress have not-so-stealthily declared a “war on women”?
Saving Motown worked
Who is Obama? Now we know
As the United States gradually emerges from its worst recession since the 1930s, Washington has again turned its attention to the nation’s debt.
A review of Daniel Patrick Moynihan: A Portrait in Letters of an American Visionary, edited by Steven R. Weisman, and Age of Fracture, by Daniel T. Rodgers
Why so few conservatives become professors
The idea that "false choices" are distorting our politics is under attack. I want to defend the concept for both substantive and personal reasons.
The GOP candidates might be more formidable if President Obama were less strongly favored. And over time, what Congress does will be shaped by the campaign's direction. Views of 2012 are heavily influenced by the metaphors that prognosticators invoke. Will it be 1984, 1988, or 1992?
The American ruling class is failing us—and itself.
President Obama has finally decided to take his own side in the philosophical struggle that is the true engine of this nation's budget debate. After months of mixed signals about what he was willing to fight for, Obama laid out his purposes and his principles.
What budget cuts can tell us
U.S. democracy is stalled because powerful, unaccountable economic and political elites capable of domination are geared up, while those whom they would dominate are largely gearless.
In no serious country do threats to shut down the government become a routine way of doing business. Yet in our repertoire of dysfunction, we are on the verge of adding shutdown abuse to the abuse of the filibuster in the Senate. The GOP, however, was rewarded for going to the brink.
The Ryan budget reveals the Right's extremism.
Will Obama take on the GOP's irresponsible budget plan?
Did the GOP overplay its hand in the Midwest?
Republicans changed attack strategies in response to Obama's moves after the 2010 election designed to place himself above partisan infighting and to cast him as a nonideological voice trying to talk reason to politicians mired in the past's unproductive bickering.
Why won't Obama stand up to the NRA?
The GOP is using a bogus metaphor to cut programs & bust unions
What Wisconsin can teach Washington
Wisconsin is said to have a large budget deficit, which makes it no different from the federal government, most other states, and probably most municipalities in the United States. What makes Wisconsin different is that Gov. Walker is trying to cut costs by redefining the relationship between the state and public-sector unions.
Richard Nixon espoused what he called "the madman theory." It's a negotiating approach that induces the other side to believe you are capable of dangerously irrational actions and leads it to back down to avoid the wreckage your rage might let loose.
This book proposes a new narrative for understanding the past three decades of our democratic life, a “thirty-year war” in which a long slow struggle through much of the 20th century for greater equality of income and wealth has been reversed.
What can we do to prevent another Tucson?
Why the Wisconsin fight matters
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has chosen the low road.
Consider the political conversation in our nation's capital. You'd never know that it's taking place at a moment when unemployment is at 9 percent, when wages are stagnating, and when the United States faces unprecedented challenges to its economic dominance.
Secularism & Democracy
How should we respond to the Tucson shootings?
After Obama delivers his budget proposal to Congress today, it will be hard to pretend anymore that the president and House Republicans even live in the same political galaxy, let alone have a chance of reaching lots of bipartisan agreements.
When the paper trail disappears
How Obama can define moderation
On January 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy began his presidency with a speech at once soaring and solemn. Fifty years on, we have not heard an inaugural address like it. Tethered to its time and place, it still challenges with its ambition to harness realism to idealism, patriotism to service, national interest to universal aspiration.
Health care & the new civility
How Gun Laws Enabled Jared Loughner
Are we committing economic suicide?
Gabrielle Giffords & the rhetoric of violence
After a tough 2008 and 2009, Wall Street and big companies made a strong comeback in 2010. By conventional wisdom, that is a harbinger of a broad, strong recovery. But these are strange times, and we may be seeing the economy of the super-rich finally decoupling from the rest of us.
Is the GOP interested in solving real problems?
There is already a standard line of advice to Speaker-to-be John Boehner that goes like this: Democrats overreached in the last Congress by ignoring "the center." Republicans should not to make the same mistake, lest they lose their majority, too. That counsel is wrong.
How are we to square the achievement of so many goals that have long been on progressive wish lists with the resounding defeat suffered by supporters of these measures in November?
The Civil War should be a no-spin zone
Bipartisanship is not the same as political moderation.
The country's desire to reverse its sense of decline was central to Obama's victory. Consider his emphasis on "Hope" and "Change We Can Believe In." Those sentiments were responses to fears of lost supremacy and explain the religious overtones of the Obama crusade.
What does President Barack Obama think of those who fought and bled to pass his bills in Congress (in some cases losing in this year's election for their pains) while also defending him against wild charges from the right wing?
Three defeated Democrats offer their party advice on making Washington work again.
Where is Obama's conciliatory impulse leading the Democratic Party?
The church in the public square
What the success of the Tea Party portends
Did Obama Learn the Wrong Lessons from Carter?
Republicans are risking the nation's security for short-term political gain
In mid-November, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops discussed a report detailing an extensive “review and renewal” of its domestic-poverty program, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. The reevaluation came in response to complaints that the CCHD’s grant recipients were involved in efforts that contradict Catholic teaching.
Nancy Pelosi promised a vote if 14 members of Obama's deficit-cutting commission could agree on a plan. If John Boehner and his new GOP majority are as serious about deficit cutting as they say, he should make clear he'll hold such a vote in the next Congress since there will be little time for debate in the lame-duck session.
For liberals, the publication of Bush’s memoirs has largely been an occasion for revisiting the areas in which they rate his presidency a catastrophic failure. It’s hard for liberals to fathom that there are any parts of the Bush legacy we might miss. But there are.
Obama, the bishops & the bomb
The lame-duck session of Congress that kicks off this week will test whether Democrats have spines made of Play-Doh, and whether President Barack Obama has decided to pretend that capitulation is conciliation.
Funny, isn't it? When progressives win, they are told to moderate their hopes. When conservatives win, progressives are told to retreat.
The results of the midterm elections were both emphatic and ambiguous: a strong message was sent, but no one is entirely sure what it is. It’s easier to say what Americans are feeling right now—frustration, impatience, and, increasingly, anger—than to know what policies they expect their elected representatives to adopt.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calmly assessing the political cyclone that routed her Democratic majority and will, at least temporarily, force her to vacate one of the best offices in the city, with its inspirational view of the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.
The election was a setback for Democrats, not permanent defeat
The 2010 midterms will go down as one of the most fiercely fought campaigns in our political history. What was this strife all about? Yes, there were policies to fight over. But above all, there was a tsunami of money.
Discuss that and other issues at dotCommonweal's open thread on the midterm election results.
The place of passion in politics
"People want to know you're fighting for them when they're hurting," argues Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Murphy. If enough incumbent Democrats like Murphy survive on Tuesday, they will contain the damage of a difficult night.
What will the nation’s politics look like if, as expected, the Republicans take back the House on November 2? Indiana’s Mike Pence, chairman of the House Republican Conference, issues a warning and a prediction. “There will be no compromise on repealing Obamacare,” he said. “There will be no compromise on stopping Democrats from growing government and raising taxes. And if I haven’t been clear enough yet, let me say again: No compromise.”
Is Joe Sestak leading a Democratic surge?
Secret money is corrupting our democracy.
Let us contemplate the joys of being in the political opposition when unemployment in your state tops 10 percent.
Christopher Lasch & the American predicament
It's not as bad as you think
The GOP's disturbingly brilliant midterm strategy
Carl Paladino & the politics of anger
How 'Citizens United' is deforming our elections
Can Virginia Democrat Tom Perriello Run on his convictions & win?
Damage & disappointment on the Gulf Coast
With the unemployment rate still hovering near 10 percent, Americans are understandably dissatisfied with the pace of economic recovery and apprehensive about the country’s future. What is perhaps less understandable is the degree of rancor toward President Barack Obama and the federal government as a whole.
More & more Democrats are running on the reforms
Obama's trip to Madison reflected the White House's realization that there is no substitute for a president making a coherent argument, taking on his opponents, and acknowledging his dependence on those who brought him to office.
The emergence of the Northeast as a Democratic firewall has been a long time in the making. The realignment of the South with the GOP, which made the party more conservative, called forth a counter-realignment among Northern moderates. That trend is accelerating.
The outsized influence of the extreme Right
Where are the serious Republicans?
Why isn't anyone talking about Obama's tax cuts?
What charter-school advocates don't want you to know
GOP hopefuls Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina have much in common: Both are wealthy executives-turned-candidates, both want to dismantle "big government," and both want to win at any cost. Their victories would further frustrate the Democrats—and Obama's reelection chances.
A short & unfinished history
How the Fourteenth Amendment became controversial
Where have all the moderate Republicans gone?
Instead of acknowledging that the government can no longer afford tax breaks for everyone, conservative politicians are calling for deep spending cuts—at precisely the moment when the private sector and states most need the federal government’s support. The politicians solemnly advertise their anxiety for future generations that will have to repay this debt; they seem somewhat less worried about a generation of children whose schools are being gutted by state cutbacks.
In deciding Citizens United, the Supreme Court broke with decades of precedent and said Congress had no right to ban corporate or union spending to influence elections. In order to fix that mistake, three GOP senators will have to step up.
Until Obama's Labor Day speech in Milwaukee and his Cleveland-area statement of principles today, it was not clear how much heart he had in the fight, or whether he'd ever offer a comprehensive argument for the advantage of his party's approach over the other's. Now we know.
The nation's extraordinary prosperity from the end of World War II to the 1970s was in significant part the result of union contracts that, in words the right-wing hated Barack Obama for saying in 2008, "spread the wealth around." A broad middle class with spending power to keep the economy moving created a virtuous cycle of low joblessness and high wages.
By insisting that "it's time to turn the page," the president was talking about more than Iraq. He was also trying to turn the page on a particularly rough period for the Democrats and for his presidency.
The Democrats are in a hole because Obama has not engaged in an extended dialogue about what holds his achievements together, or why his view of government makes more sense than the GOP's attacks on everything Washington might do to improve the nation's lot.
Yesterday's anti-Catholicism & today's Islamophobia
Republicans are in the midst of an insurrection. Democrats are not. This vast gulf between the situations of the two parties—not some grand revolt against "the establishment" or "incumbents"—explains the year's primary results.
The principled case that must be made is that the brand of conservatism seeking power this year is irresponsible, incoherent, and untrue to the best of its own traditions.
How not to settle the gay-marriage question
Liberals may lament the administration’s failure to make progress on immigration and climate-change legislation in this congressional session, but it may be time to shift energies to protecting what has already been passed.
When I sat down last week at the Capitol with Dodd to talk about his thirty-six years in Congress, he didn't change my attitude toward the longest-winded legislative body in the world. But he reminded me of something missing in our public life: an ebullient joy about what democratic politics can accomplish.
A review of Ill Fares the Land, the late Tony Judt's final book
Dear Republicans, do you really want to endanger your party's greatest political legacy by turning the Fourteenth Amendment to our Constitution into an excuse for election-year ugliness?
Don't for an instant imagine that the comeback of the nation's rescued car companies, particularly General Motors, will change the way we debate government's role in the economy. When it comes to almost anything the government does, ideology trumps facts, slogans trump reality, and loaded words ("socialism") trump data.
The notion that when we are fighting two wars, we're not supposed to consider raising taxes on wealthy Americans is one sign of a country that's no longer serious.
The minute you say there are racist elements in the Tea Party—reflected in signs at rallies, billboards, and speeches from some of its major figures—the pushback goes from cries of persecution to charges that those who are criticizing divisiveness are themselves the dividers.
Andrew Linzey was among the first to open up the field of “animal theology." This book is neither his best nor his most original work, but it is still worth recommending to anyone unfamiliar with his arguments.
Conservatives have long decried “activist” judges who supposedly “legislated from the bench,” but the Roberts Court is hardly shy about breaking new legal ground.
When bishops speak about health-care policy, Catholics don't have to agree
Barack Obama's campaign promise of change did not include a pledge to transform American conservatism. But one of his presidency's major legacies may be a revolution on the American right in which older, more secular forms of politics displace religious activism.
Democrats should feel a lot better than they do. They enacted major health-care reform, pulled the country out of economic spiral, and are about to pass the biggest reform of Wall Street since the New Deal. The GOP seems to be making itself unelectable. Yet Democrats are petrified—and this was true before the oil spill made matters worse.
Lessons from the BP debacle
Might the USCCB be wrong about the health-care law?
It will take some time before a new array of justices on the Court rethinks the labored departure from precedent made by the majority in Citizens United. Meanwhile, much corporate mischief will have been done.
American couples’ ambitions for personally fulfilling marriages have never been higher nor—given the high rates of divorce—more elusive.
How the Obama administration deals with a challenge even more complicated than it looks will determine the kind of summer the president has and the kind of election the Democrats will face this fall.
It should become the philosophical shot heard 'round the country. In a speech that received far too little attention, former Supreme Court Justice David Souter took aim at conservatives' favorite theory of judging. Souter's verdict: It "has only a tenuous connection to reality."
Behind the jobless recovery
The fact that the answer to that question seems as murky as the water around the exploded oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico suggests that this is an excellent moment to recognize that our arguments pitting capitalism against socialism and the government against the private sector muddle far more than they clarify.
Compromise is not a dirty word in democratic politics, nor is the balancing of conflicting goods foreign to the church’s tradition of casuistic moral reasoning. So why do so many American bishops appear to spurn both in their prolife advocacy? Do they really think the hardest line is always the best one, or the most persuasive?
How the bishops conference gets health-care legislation wrong
Why Washington's conventional wisdom of impending Democratic catastrophe is one of the best things Obama's party has going for it.
A review of John Cassidy's book How Markets Fail
How dirty a word?
Arizonans have plenty to be anxious about, but indulging in a crude nativism won’t stop the flow of undocumented immigrants or prevent violent crime along the border.
This year's elections may exacerbate the difference between our two political parties, but not in the way most people are talking about. Republicans will end the year a more philosophically coherent right-wing party. But the Democrats will, if anything, become more ideologically diverse.
Brace yourself for several months of occasionally biting but essentially meaningless political theater over the nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.
Ever heard the one about the guy who hated government until a deregulated Wall Street crashed, an oil spill devastated the Gulf of Mexico, a coal mine collapsed, and some good police work stopped a terrorist attack?
Among elected officials, journalists, and average citizens, intensifying partisan polarization is thought to be one of the dominant political trends of our times. Yet it has proved remarkably controversial among political scientists.
The Democrats’ financial-reform plan doesn't go far enough.
Maybe the next time someone calls Barack Obama a socialist, the president shouldn't issue a denial. He might instead urge his accuser to read the hearing transcript of this week's congressional testimony from the Goldman Sachs guys in their beautiful suits.
The New York Times's worldview is secularist and secularizing, and as such it rivals the Catholic worldview. But what makes the Times unique is that it is not just the nation's self-appointed newspaper of record. It is, to paraphrase Chesterton, an institution with the soul of a church.
Why President Barack Obama's next Supreme Court nominee is so important
HBO looks at New Orleans in 'Treme'
Only after disasters such as the collapse at Upper Big Branch Mine do we remember that regulations exist for a reason. We will eventually learn what went wrong at the mine and whether the safety violations were part of the problem. But then what will we do?
The men and women of the IRS collect the revenue that allows the government to finance our troops who are in harm's way, help our wounded warriors, and do so many of the other things the vast majority of us want our government to accomplish. Yes, if you support our troops, you have to support the work of the Internal Revenue Service.
An interview with filmmaker Woody Allen
Where do Catholics look for hope?
A gay parent on choosing Catholic school for her kids
In praise of Rep. Bart Stupak's courage
If this film, which contrasts kindly abortion-clinic workers with loony prolife activists, is what passes for an evenhanded view of both sides of the abortion debate, prolifers still have a long way to go with the media.
Yes, the fight for health care seemed very much like the Greek myth: Every time the White House found itself on the verge of rolling the health-care stone up the hill, some event -- say, Scott Brown's win in Massachusetts -- would force it to start over with a new strategy.
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli seems determined to use an attack on health-care reform to bring us back to the 1830s. Cuccinelli, to cheers from the Tea Party crowd, went to court this week to overturn the new law, which he says conflicts with a Virginia statute "protecting its citizens from a government-imposed mandate to buy health insurance."
America needs more than populism from the Right
In approving the most sweeping piece of social legislation since the mid-1960s, Democrats proved that they can govern, even under challenging circumstances and in the face of significant internal divisions. The result is a historic victory for President Barack Obama.
There is a pathetic quality to our discussion of deficits and fiscal responsibility because we never face up to how much we need government to do. Our debates are also characterized by a politically convenient amnesia.
A review of the book Why Not Socialism?
In a city where the phrase bipartisan initiative is becoming an oxymoron, the urgency of containing the damage the Supreme Court could do to our electoral system creates an opportunity for a rare convergence of interest and principle.
If we learn nothing else in 2010, can we please finally acknowledge that our partisan divisions are about authentic principles that lead to very different approaches to governing?
Fisher reveals how a Hollywood-born, bestselling Jewish novelist and a skeptical Greek Orthodox director came to a tell a story grounded in papal encyclicals and Catholic social teaching.
It is easy enough to despair over political paralysis and animosity in Washington, and economic uncertainty here and abroad. Yet even when it comes to the often ugly business of secular politics, despair remains a sin.
Why has this middle-of-the-road president inspired such enthusiastic counter-organizing, and called forth such venom? The most popular theory on the left is that Obama's race is a big part of the story, and that we are seeing a reaction among some whites against his multiracial, multicultural political coalition.
If President Barack Obama gets to sign a health-reform bill, as I believe he will, one reason may be Rep. Jay Inslee's difficult experience renovating his kitchen.
Last month’s 5–4 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission did not surprise students of this conservative-leaning Court. Still, the Court’s privileging of the “rights” of artificial legal entities over the democratic needs of the American public remains indefensible.
The Problem Of Climate-change Politics
Joe Biden on the Economy & American Power
Who on the national stage today would knowingly blow up his or her political future for the common good, no matter how important the issue? Pushing through health-care reform could be politically perilous for today’s Democrats, but wouldn’t that be better than caving on such an important moral issue?
Why abortion shouldn't derail health-care reform
It turns out there were core contradictions in the promises Barack Obama made to the country in 2008. They caught up with his party on Tuesday in Massachusetts.
Reaching agreement on a health-care bill is harder in theory than it will be in practice. Between now and the day the measure goes to President Obama's desk, there will be many crisis points, much posturing, and dire warnings of impending failure. There are real differences between the the House and Senate bills. The last few votes are always the hardest to get.
Time to turn indignation at what happened on Wall Street into prudent reform.
Not even the most optimistic Democrats think their party can escape losing seats. But with so many states now unexpectedly in play, surprise Democratic victories could offset some Republican gains. On the other side, retirements -- not to mention the moves of a certain president and vice president out of the Senate -- have opened terrain for the Republicans that would normally be blocked.
The Democrats are at each other's throats over health care legislation that should be seen as one of the party's greatest triumphs. They are being held hostage by political narcissists and narrow slivers of their coalition. An increasingly bitter and negative Republican Party may not be able to win the midterm elections, but Democrats definitely can lose them.
The stars may—just—be aligned to squeeze a national health-care bill out of Congress within the next month or two. Both houses have (barely) passed bills, and now they must cobble together a lowest-common-denominator consensus that can survive one more vote in each house. President Barack Obama is almost certain to sign anything they send him.
The U.S. bishops & health-care reform
Why Insurance Is the Wrong Way to Think About Health Care
Here we turn our attention, as we often do, to the uncertainties and dangers facing the nation as a whole.
Will Catholic schools become charter schools?
Wishful thinking in Sacramento
Meeting the nation’s long-term obligations won’t be possible without a stable economy.
That’s the number of people who will starve this year—more than ever before.
If the uninsured can’t count on the do-gooders to help them, where else can they turn?
How mean-spirited will we allow our politics to become?
A review of Jackson Lears's 'Rebirth of a Nation'
Could the issue of abortion derail health-care reform legislation?
Why Obama should have kept the Council on Bioethics
The biggest obstacle to health-care reform is political escapism.
How Obama can win the battle for health-care reform
Obama & the autoworkers
Obama Meets the Catholic Press
Why the death penalty’s complete elimination is a long way off.
Obama, Sotomayor, and the wisdom of John Noonan.
The surprising incoherence of President Obama’s stem-cell research announcement.
Why we need new labor laws
Keeping the "faith" in faith-based initiatives
What will "choosing our better history" mean under President Barack Obama?
Can we forgive the Bush administration?
Cleaning up after the Bush administration
The unborn need more than prophets.
The American people have turned to a man with a first-class mind & temperament. He’ll need both.
From the archives: a review of Archbishop Charles Chaput's Render unto Caesar
What voting is—and isn’t
Is there a double standard at work?
With just two months left in the campaign, where do the candidates stand?
It’s time for the country to get serious about renewable energy.
A Catholic feminist reflects.
It’s a matter of conscience.
Hard truths about the ’American Way of Life’
Why did the California Supreme Court follow in the wayward footsteps of Massachusetts?
A life-long Democrat explains how his party lost his vote.
Why the House of Representatives was right to say no to warrantless wiretapping
Time to listen to the planet.
Hope is a theological virtue.
The second piece in our ’Issues 2008’ series asks what’s become of welfare reform.
Rethinking religion’s public role
Why this interminable election cycle may not be all bad—for voters and candidates
An unjust anomaly in federal prison-sentencing rules is finally corrected.
What’s at stake in the debate over Attorney General-nominee Michael Mukasey?
Almost nothing the Bush administration does works and almost nothing it says adds up.
Global warming is an undeniable threat. It’s time for the Bush administration to act like it.
America’s "liberating tradition" isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.
How Deval L. Patrick became the first African-American governor of Massachusetts.
Whatever happened to political compromise?
Will the much-needed clean-up of Bush administration policies start on Nov. 7? What’s at stake in the midterm elections?
Candidates are finally talking about climate change on the campaign trail. Why?
In the race for governor in Ohio, it’s the Preacher vs. the Pastor.
Abortion isn’t the only issue to consider when casting your ballot.
Will the Democrats ever overcome their ’religion problem’?
What does the unlikely pairing of evangelicals and Catholics mean for U.S. politics?
Where is the Catholic vote and what should it look like?
In his State of the Union address, George W. Bush said the unsayable: America is addicted to foreign oil, and we must wean ourselves from it. Coming from an oil man, it was a surprising admission. How serious Bush is remains to be seen. The Editors.
"Like John Roberts, Judge Samuel Alito appears to be a very decent person, a meticulous legal craftsman, and a man of deep conservative conviction. His all-but-certain elevation to the U.S. Supreme Court promises to fulfill the hopes of the Republican Party’s right wing and the fears of many others, especially abortion-rights advocates." The Editors on the latest Supreme Court nominee.
"Despite threatening disarray on nearly all fronts, President George W. Bush moved quickly and with characteristic political focus to nominate Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. to replace Harriet Miers as his choice for the seat on the Supreme Court that will eventually be vacated by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor."
While the Democratic Party lost interest in Catholic voters, the GOP was eager to snap them up. As Daniel Finn, who teaches economics and theology at St. John’s University, Minnesota, argues, the strategic importance of religious voters “has burgeoned to the point where a presidential campaign scorned the conventional wisdom of courting undecided, middle-of-the-road voters and triumphed instead by turning out its church-going base.” Clearly, church-going voters are useful to politicians. But, Finn asks, are politicians useful to churchgoers?
How did the Democratic Party lose the Catholic vote? As Mark Stricherz explains, it was the brainchild of Democratic strategist Fred Dutton, who, in the late 1960s and early ’70s, hoped to broaden the party’s constituent base but ended up weakening its historic ties with Catholic voters. Dutton’s motives were not anti-Catholic, Stricherz explains: “he simply misjudged the importance of Catholics to the Democratic Party.”
What are the politics we need today? Historian David O’Brien has a few ideas. “Democrats have been able to repackage the Republican message in more attractive dress,” O’Brien argues. Taking on both parties, O’Brien offers a manifesto of the common good: “Democracy requires all of us to take responsibility for our history. Let’s find a party that will help us do that.”
"John Roberts’s performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee was lauded as brilliant by his advocates and as evasive by his critics. Perhaps brilliantly evasive is the best way to characterize his vague and incomplete answers to questions about his judicial philosophy. If one of the purposes of the hearings was to inform the American public about the philosophy and moral convictions of a man who might preside over the Court for decades, it failed."
"With the Republican Party in control of both houses of Congress as well as the White House, it will be a neat trick if Republicans can parlay their own failures of leadership and management in the aftermath of the hurricane into a further justification of the party’s antigovernment, tax-cutting agenda." The Editors on Katrina.
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s retirement may not dramatically change the direction of the court, especially on issues like abortion. Since six justices currently support Roe, it is likely that the appointment of two or even three new justices would be required before that decision could be overturned.
Since the Great Depression, the American people-whether rich or poor-have had an ace in their back pocket. You might lose your shirt in the stock market, get frisked in an embezzlement scheme, suffer a medical catastrophe, or be pulled under by a periodic recession, but one thing was certain: the American people were pledged to stand by you in your old age.
With all the rhetoric one hears on Social Security these days, you’d think the whole system was headed for disaster. Truth is, it’s not, explains Charles R. Morris.
President George W. Bush has been criticized for his slow response to the tsunami disaster and for the “stingy” amount of U.S. government aid ($15 million) he was initially willing to offer the victims. The president has since raised that amount to $350 million, but governments of smaller and less wealthy nations have contributed much more proportionally than the United States. Bush is unimpressed by such comparisons and used the relief effort to slyly deprecate what government can do in such situations, extolling the private generosity-and thus the moral superiority-of individual Americans.
"Looking back over the results of the presidential election, pundits now agree that the war over terror, not the war over “moral values,” led to John Kerry’s defeat. Still, that doesn’t mean that values are off the political agenda. As the Democrats look ahead to the congressional elections of 2006, they will again confront one of the more troubling aspects of the “values” divide: the growing marriage gap." Barbara Dafoe Whitehead reports.
"There are two kinds of defeats in electoral politics," explains former Clinton adviser William A. Galston: "Some are expected, even felt to be inevitable (Mondale in 1984). Such losses are sad for the losers, but they do not lead the losing party to reflect on fundamentals. Other defeats are stinging because they are unexpected (Dukakis in 1988)." Kerry’s loss falls into this category. What happened?
A sadness has set in. Throughout my small town in southeastern, Appalachian Ohio, people ask, “How’s it going?” Typically you hear, “Could be better.” Most skulk away after saying this; few need elaboration. Some neighbors can’t bring themselves to tear down their Kerry/Edwards yard signs. There’s even nostalgia for the morning of November 3, when we learned Bush led in our state but that provisional ballots hadn’t been counted. The hope, odd as it seems now, was to become the next Florida. Then the hope died, and it was final. A president who led us into war without planning for the peace and who relished handing money back to the rich was reelected.
"George W. Bush does not deserve a second term as president. His record of miscalculation, error, and deceit with regard to the invasion of Iraq alone should have been enough for voters to return him to Texas. For that to happen, however, Senator John Kerry had to convince the American electorate that he had a clear plan of action for dealing with the problems we face as a nation during a time of terrorism and economic uncertainty. Kerry failed to do that."
Catholics face a curious choice in this year’s presidential election, writes Margaret O’Brien Steinfels. When Bush, a Methodist, is touted as the Catholic candidate and Kerry, a Catholic, is painted as a heretic, Steinfels writes, “you know that the Catholic community has been chopped and blended in the great American food processor.” Still, Catholic values can still inform a citizen’s vote. Steinfels explains how.
With less than a month to go, I’m planning not to vote in this November’s presidential election. I’m not happy about this situation: it’s rare that a day goes by without the difficulty of my decision pressing itself upon me in one way or another. My children, for both of whom this election is the first they’re old enough to vote, find it puzzling, since I constantly encourage them to take their new civic status with all the seriousness they can muster. My wife, who belongs to the anything-but-Bush school (as do most of my colleagues), finds it reprehensible because she thinks that not voting only makes it more likely that our president will be reelected. And the U.S. Catholic bishops and the pope have clearly and repeatedly pressed upon me, as a Catholic, the importance of my civic duty to participate fully in the political life of my country-which certainly means voting. All this I take very seriously: it is my duty to vote, and yet I’m planning not to.
This week, Commonweal asks three Catholic writers to explain their votes for president. Thomas Higgins sides with John Kerry, even though “he wasn’t my first choice to be the nominee of the Democratic Party.” Robert Royal argues that, while his attachment to George W. Bush is hardly overwhelming, “my own enthusiasm in this election, I will confess, is that the Republicans are not Democrats.”
At the dual risk of being a prig and a bore, let me begin with what the scholastics called the via remotionis (crudely: what something is not). I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Republican Party. In the Catholic ghetto where I grew up, I never laid eyes on a known Republican until I was in high school. And while I accept that, alas, man is by nature a political animal, I have always thought that you really have to be some kind of dumb to expect much of, identify with, or invest yourself wholly in any political party, including the Republicans.
Has the Republican Party cornered the religion-rhetoric market? The received wisdom is that voters who go to church regularly side with the GOP. But the conventional wisdom is wrong, argues Amy Sullivan, an editor at the Washington Monthly. “Many Americans, it turns out, are Democrats precisely because of their religious beliefs, not despite them.”
In their open letter to John Kerry, the Editors of Commonweal have some questions for the first Catholic presidential candidate in forty-four years.
Now that his home state has legalized same-sex marriage, John Kerry may forever be branded a “Massachusetts liberal.” But Massachusetts is not quite as liberal as some would have you believe. The Bay State has the lowest divorce rate in the nation, far below states in the Bible Belt. Journalist William Bole reports.
I voted for George W. Bush and I’m heartily sorry now,” says psychologist and former Commonweal columnist Sidney Callahan. Being prolife is about more than abortion.
From the archives (1993): the debate over gays in the military