Politics and Current Events

All eyes on Wisconsin

June 5, 2012
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All eyes on Wisconsin

From Politicians Don’t Pander: Political Manipulation and the Loss of Democratic Responsiveness by Lawrence R. Jacobs and Robert Y. Shapiro: The Declaration of Independence was animated by a demand for “consent of the governed” and the promise of popular control has inspired a long and, at times, violent struggle for the right to vote by all Americans, the full and equal right to freedom of speech and assembly, and other essential rights. Does the American government respond to the broad public or to the interests and values of narrowly constituted groups committed to advancing their private policy agendas? On one side lies democratic accountability; on the other a closed and insular government that is ill-suited to address the wishes or wants of most citizens. When politicians persistently disregard the public’s policy preferences, popular sovereignty and representative democracy are threatened. The responsiveness of national policymakers to what most Americans prefer has declined and remained low for almost two decades. Can we rely on competitive elections to fend off muted responsiveness to centrist opinion?   After all, congressional Democrats suffered stunning setbacks in the 1994 elections following Clinton’s campaign for an unpopular health care reform plan and the Republicans’ congressional majorities were reduced . . .

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Welcome to the Great Society

May 22, 2012
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Welcome to the Great Society

Forty-eight years ago today, then-president Lyndon Johnson formally introduced his platform for the “Great Society” at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor’s commencement on May 22, 1964. Coined by speechwriter Richard N. Goodwin (who also wrote for Robert F. Kennedy—he’s still living, and is the spouse of historian Doris Kearns Goodwin), the Great Society sponsored a series of social initiatives that helped Johnson win election later that fall in a landslide victory, and many of them—decades later—remain with us today, including Medicaid, Medicare, and the Older Americans Act. Several agencies and institutions were first endowed by Great Society–funded legislation, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Among the landmark legislation passed in Johnson’s term was the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, Civil Right Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Civil Rights Act of 1968; the Social Security Act (1965), the Food Stamp Act (1964), and the Immigration and National Services Act (1965); and, the Elementary and Higher Education Act (1965), the Higher Education Act (1965), and the Bilingual Education Act (1968). The Cigarette Labeling Act. The Motor Vehicle Safety Act. The Clear . . .

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Police Power and Twenty-First Century America

May 21, 2012
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Police Power and Twenty-First Century America

I. In Cop Knowledge: Police Power and Twentieth-Century America, Christopher P. Wilson writes about narratives of police power in mass culture—from crime fiction and film to the denizens of contemporary political discourse who make use of the squad room, the beat, and the badge. His conclusion? That the stories we tell about police power are intimately linked to the course and outcome of modern liberalism, including a current resurgence of neoconservatism. II. In January 2003, Slavoj Žižek penned the article “Gerhard Schroeder’s Minority Report and Its Consequences,” which explored themes from Steven Spielberg’s adaptation (2002) of the Philip K. Dick short story—in which criminals are arrested before they can commit their crimes, thanks to the efforts of a specialized police department, working under the government’s protective wing. For Žižek (and also for Spielberg, who went on the record), the police state evoked by the film was clearly transposed to U.S. international relations post-9/11, where the Bush doctrine suggested with a heavy hand that American military might should remain “beyond challenge” in the foreseeable future. Žižek goes on in the piece to point out the election of Gerhard Schroeder—the German Social Democrat, and a candidate who ran on a platform against the U.S. occupation of . . .

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Chicago 1968 >>>>>>>> Chicago 2012

May 15, 2012
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Chicago 1968 >>>>>>>> Chicago 2012

INTRODUCTION We choose our aphorisms wisely. George Santayana cautioned us against our doom in repeating the past and we pushed it to the point of cliché. Let’s incant with Karl Kraus, instead. “The ugliness of our time has retroactive force.” BODIES This coming weekend brings the 2012 North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) twenty-fifth anniversary summit to Chicago, exactly almost a half-century after we hosted the 1968 Democratic National Convention. We’ve traded Daleys for Rahm; our police force is run by a former football player instead of a former army provost-marshall; and the odds of inadvertently thwacking Dan Rather in the stomach have been significantly reduced by his retirement from network television— According to NATO’s website, the organization has a threefold focus for their meeting: the Alliance’s commitment to Afghanistan through transition and beyond; ensuring the Alliance has the capabilities it needs to defend its population and territory and to deal with the challenges of the 21st century; and strengthening NATO’s network of partners across the globe. According to the Nation, Occupy Chicago’s social network and media feeds, and Timeout Chicago, those protestors native to Chicago and in town for anti-NATO demonstrations have prepared for dialogue and protests surrounding the summit . . .

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Alan Gilbert, a man of (many) words

April 20, 2012
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Alan Gilbert, a man of (many) words

What follows below is a list of proper nouns mentioned by Alan Gilbert, author of Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting for Emancipation in the War for Independence, during an interview with 3 AM magazine: Richard Gilbert, United States, Harvard, World War II, Wobblies, Schenley Industries, New York, Ayub Khan, Pakistan, Little Rock, Central High, New York Times, South Africa, Emma, Democrats, Taj, Americans, Adamjee, East Pakistan, West Pakistan, Ashraf Adamjee, Wouter Tim, Marx, Indian Ocean, Chestertown, Maryland, Freedom Summer, Walden School, New York, Andy Goodman, James Cheney, Michael Schwerner, Vietnam War, Bernard Fall, Denis Warner, Jean Lacouture, Stanley Hoffmann, Barrington Moore, French, German, English, Government 1a, Carl Friedrich, Max Weber, Adam Smith, Emile Durkheim, Sigmund Freud, David Hume, I. F. Stone, Herbert Marcuse, McGeorge Bundy, May 2nd Movement, London School of Economics, Ralph Miliband, Labour Party, Ecole Normale, Paris, Althusser, Montesquieu, Das Kapital, England, Michael Walzer, Dita Skhlar, Artistotle, Hilary Putnam, John Rawls, Dick Boyd, SDS, Alan Garfinkel, Forms of Explanation, Norm Daniels, Cornell, Nick Sturgeon, Richard Miller, David Lyons, American Council of Learned Societies, Marx’s Politics: Communists and Citizens, Leo Strauss, Karl Loewith, the Right, Adolf Hitler, Plato, Thomas Hobbes, J. J. Rousseau, Alex Rosenberg, the Iliad, Simone Weil, Chicago, Africa, Obama, Bin Laden, . . .

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Announcing the 2012 Guggenheim Fellows

April 13, 2012
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Announcing the 2012 Guggenheim Fellows

  The 2012 class of Guggenheim Fellows was announced this week by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, inciting some exuberant responses on the part of several winners (check out Terry Teachout’s Twitter feed). The Guggenheim has long been hailed as the “mid-career award,” honoring scholars, scientists, poets, artists, and writers, who have likely published a book or three, professed a fair amount of research, and are actively engaged in projects of significant scope. The fellowship possesses some tortured origins—(John) Simon Guggenheim, who served as president of the American Smelting and Refining Company and Republican senator from Colorado, seeded the award (1925) following the death of this son John (1922) from mastoiditis (Guggenheim’s second son George later committed suicide, and more infamously his older brother Benjamin went down with the Titanic). Among this year’s crop (we dare say more forward-leaning than previous years?) is a roster of standout “professionals who have demonstrated exceptional ability by publishing a significant body of work in the fields of natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and the creative arts,” affiliated with the University of Chicago Press: Creative Arts Christian Wiman, editor of Poetry magazine and author of three poetry collections, coeditor of The Open Door: . . .

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Op-Ed Feature: Carl H. Nightingale on Segregation

February 14, 2012
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Op-Ed Feature: Carl H. Nightingale on Segregation

Carl H. Nightingale, author of Segregation: A Global History of Divided Cities (forthcoming Spring 2012), read the Manhattan Institute’s January report “The End of the Segregated Century” and was left anything but speechless. Though the NYT’s coverage of the report diffused some of its findings, with experts weighing in on the “pervasive decline of residential segregation” vs. the relatively “limited” progress in achievement and employment gaps, Nightingale here sheds new light on the report’s inaccuracies and the limits of certain statistical methods in fully charting segregation, lest we not “triumphantly” announce its premature end. Research-driven, provocative, and sound, Nightingale’s full text follows below. *** Keep Our Eyes Wide Open on Segregation By Carl H. Nightingale The opinion makers at the Manhattan Institute want us to stop talking about racial injustice in America. That is the message we should take from its recent report “The End of the Segregated Century,” by Edward Glaeser and Jacob Vigdor, two fellows at the conservative think tank. Using a sensational title, a few moderate-seeming phrases, and a raft of scientific-seeming “segregation indexes,” the report has distracted us into a statistical battle over how much segregation there is. Its goal is to close our eyes to . . .

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Imagining the State of the Union: Part II

February 1, 2012
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Imagining the State of the Union: Part II

Yesterday, we asked scholar Sandra M. Gustafson, author of Imagining Deliberative Democracy in the Early American Republic, to comment on President Obama’s recent State of the Union address. This afternoon, she’s joined by James T. Kloppenberg, author of Reading Obama: Dreams, Hope, and the American Political Tradition, who engages with the history of other deliberative democrats and evaluates where Obama’s words fell for a spectrum of interested parties, while remarking on the conflict and compromise that informs both authors’ books. Thanks again to Professors Gustafson and Kloppenberg for sharing their thoughts with us! ** “Obama’s 2012 SOTU: Keeping Open the Invitation to Deliberate” by James T. Kloppenberg Champions of conciliation face an uphill battle in 2012. As Sandra Gustafson notes, ours is a contentious culture. Of course that’s nothing new. As Barack Obama emphasized in The Audacity of Hope and as he has observed many times since, conflict is as American as apple pie. The first settlers in New England began squabbling before they got off the ships that carried them across the Atlantic. William Penn’s utopian vision of a peaceful Pennsylvania vanished in a firestorm of criticism. Most of those shipped to the southern colonies arrived as slaves, servants, . . .

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Imagining the State of the Union: Part I of II

January 31, 2012
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Imagining the State of the Union: Part I of II

Following President Barack Obama’s recent State of the Union address, we thought it a fitting occasion to invite a dialogue from two leading scholars of civic rhetoric and the democratic tradition. Today, Sandra M. Gustafson, author of Imagining Deliberative Democracy in the Early American Republic, examines the metaphor of war in Congressional politics and evaluates President Obama’s use of military imagery, in light of his initial post-partisan appeal. Tomorrow, she’ll be joined by James Kloppenberg, author of Reading Obama: Dreams, Hope, and the American Political Tradition, who accounts for our own projections onto the President and explores Obama’s use of moderate policies and progressive language. We’re delighted to host both of them on the blog, and hope you’re as intrigued by their analyses as we are. ** “Fighting for Cooperation” by Sandra M. Gustafson President Barack Obama opened his fourth State of the Union address with a paean to the American armed forces. In a tribute designed to showcase important achievements of his first term, he celebrated the end of the Iraq War, which Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta declared over on December 15, 2011; the assassination of Osama bin Laden earlier that year; and the diminished power of the . . .

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Why Iowa?: The median state on the media

January 10, 2012
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Why Iowa?: The median state on the media

As New Hampshire voters take to the polls in today’s Republican primary, more and more media analysis continues to emerge on the role played by the Iowa caucuses, and whether or not such a “primary” position is warranted by the state’s demographics. In Why Iowa?: How Caucuses and Sequential Elections Improve the Presidential Nominating Process, David P. Redlawsk (five-time former Iowa precinct caucus chair), Caroline J. Tolbert, and Todd Donovan argue that not only is Iowa’s impact warranted, but it reveals a great deal about other informational aspects of the campaign. Iowa’s exceptionally well-designed caucus system brings candidates’ arguments, strengths, and weaknesses into the open and—most importantly—under the media’s lens. A recent piece by John Sides for the NYT‘s FiveThirtyEight blog focused on Iowa’s dramatic finish, where a late surge by Rick Santorum left Mitt Romney with a narrow, eight-vote victory. Sides’s appealed to media data and commentary from the Why Iowa? authors, in addition to polling data from Nate Silver. The result? In Sides’s words: Why does this matter? Mr. Redlawsk and his colleagues demonstrate that not only do candidates who do relatively well in Iowa do better in New Hampshire—see also Nate’s analysis—but this shift in media attention . . .

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