Thursday, December 28, 2006

National Stuff

There was a brazen armed robbery at Parasol's. Sorry for the misleading post title, you didn't need to go to a national newspaper to read about it this time. New Orleans City Business covered the first robbery, but the local media largely ignored it. At the start of the mayoral campaign the local media pretty much buried a sensational crime story, but the city's web site says that Nagin defeated the media to get re-elected. Does Nagin really believe that nonsense?

For the real national stuff, Richard Valeriani had a truly loopy piece in today's Huffington Post:
If it hadn't been for Chevy Chase, Gerald Ford would have been elected President in his own right in 1976.

How can a man whose bio says:
He was also the Washington correspondent for the Today show when news was news.

get things so wrong? He also mentions the Nixon pardon and vice-presidential politics, but he's either dishonest or he has a faulty memory of the Seventies. I suppose that I should be kind to a senior citizen who seems to recall Ford pardoning Vietnam draft dodgers, but how can he forget WIN Buttons? One of my lasting memories of Gerald Ford isn't actually of Gerald ford; it's of some old vaudeville performer that I saw the Today Show one morning when I was in eighth or ninth grade --I wasn't a budding policy wonk, Today used to be the family TV when I was getting ready for school. Anyway, I remember that the guy was there on behalf of the White House and he handed WIN buttons and sang a song about whipping inflation now. As a thirteen or fourteen-year-old I could only wonder what kind of idiot thought that he could solve the nation's economic problems with a pep rally. I turned 15 on the day that Carter was elected, and it was as obvious to me that he would win then as his loss would be four years later. The primary cause was the same in both cases: stagflation. I guess reporters have always been too busy worrying about trivia to notice what was obvious to normal people even fourteen-year-olds. Then again, four years later, most voters cared more about the economy than Iran. It's amazing to me how often people forget about stagflation and the misery index when they about politics in the seventies. As far as the gist of Valeriani's argument, a commenter got it right:
Doubtful. In November of 1976, SNL had been on the air a mere year and the shows demographic was that of high school age and the young collegians of the day. The great mass of the electorate of 1976 did not watch and did not know of Chevy Chase. Those outside of the demographic that were aware of his 'prats,' came to the knowledge by way of urban talk and re-reportage. In 1976, the young voter, as today and every election since the 18 year old enfranchisement of the national vote, talk a good game but failed to show in the numbers required to be counted.

The voters in the booths in November of 1976 were unmoved and unaffected by SNL or Mr. Chase.

More relevant that November day was April of 1975, and then the Mayaguez.

That's especially valid if you consider the electoral vote in the 1976 election. That's an amazing electoral map from today's perspective, but I can't imagine that SNL gave Carter any of his states. Certainly not New York. I don't agree with that last link, but I may have overstated my case somewhat. Still, a sitting president isn't vulnerable when the nation's at peace, unless the economy's doing poorly. The Seventies began with Nixon attempting wage/price controls and ended with Cater (later Reagan) unsuccessfully pressuring Volker to ease the Fed's tight money policies.

Other bloggers at the Huffington Post were less than enthusiastic about John Edwards' campaign announcement. Michelle Pilecki certainly makes a good point, although it may be somewhat overstated. Harry Shearer makes the point even more strongly, I think he overstates the case. Edwards could have mentioned federal responsibility, I don't think it was right time to present a case against the ACoE. I'll have to find a copy of Edwards announcement, I assumed that Edwards brought up the fact that most of the good work was done by volunteers to point out the shortcomings of the government response. While he's somewhat reserved about Edwards' announcement, the T/P's John McQuaid agrees that it wasn't the time to go into the cause of the 17th street canal breach.

I had a somewhat petulant post about Edwards' announcement up for a couple of hours yesterday. I'll admit that when I heard he was announcing his campaign from the lower ninth ward during a week that I'd be off from work, I was looking forward to seeing it live. I still don't know why the details of the announcement weren't publicized in advance, I hope that it involved crowds in a residential area. I'd hate to think that involved wanting a hand-picked audience; we've been knocking Bush for that for six years.

I don't think it's quite fair to accuse any Democrat who changed from New Democrat to populist of being a calculating phony. In economic matters I was more conservative at thirty than twenty, but more liberal at forty than thirty. Though I remembered concepts like external costs from economics and Aristotle's golden mean from philosophy (think about it) too well to become a full-fledged market-worshipper, I'll admit to having been sold on NAFTA. When Socialism and even Keynesianism when out of fashion, it took most people a while to realize that the new god kinda sucked. Unless a politician's positions are constantly changing or you can show me the definite advantage to be gained by a change, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt -- and hold him to his promises. Economic liberalism isn't necessary to win the Democratic nomination and Edwards isn't that liberal; he will give specific plans to pay for his proposals.

My take on the next election cycle is that economic populism is indeed on the rise and will show surprisingly strong in what have recently been socially conservative areas. (I'm thinking specifically of Jim Webb as the prototype here) So in that way... I think it can be said that Edwards is calculating. I actually don't consider my take on this a complaint as I welcome a broader national discussion of progressive economic policy.. as well as the rebuilding of New Orleans. Still I do have my doubts about the man's sincerity... but doubting the sincerity of a man running for President is hardly a reach.
I thought that Gephardt was calculating when he went from being a neo-liberal (he was briefly described that way) to being a big labor Dem. The only reason I thought that was because he made the change so quickly. He may have just been a fast learner --yeah right.

I think that economic populism is on the rise because people realize ( at least subconsciously) that there was an overreaction to the failure of planned economies. The opposite of a bad isn't a good -- the Aristotle reference, if it was too oblique. The problems with NAFTA and privatization helped make it obvious the the new god sucked (the best thing Thomas Frank ever wrote, IMO).
Funny, the rest of the country is finally starting to realize that privatization has its problems, but we're still running to jump on that bandwagon in New Orleans.
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