Leaving Earth

I dunno.

All this stuff about moderating the tone of political debate in America in the wake of the Tucson shootings.

I don't see that the Republicans have anywhere to go except screaming and shouting for the time being. When Obama came on the scene, what he clearly brought to politics was a sense of gravitas and measured debate - an academic style of arguing. Like when he did his race speech after all the Jeremiah Wright criticisms.

So if a Republican politician responds by being measured and civilised, he's basically playing to Obama's strengths, and he's going to lose. So what's he going to do? Scream and shout and get crazier and crazier until Obama is drowned out and the playing field is levelled.

So I predict the Beckism and Palinanities will continue.

(As an aside, this shows what a polarising thing the office of President has become. The Pres, by espousing anything, automatically has half the nation against it (the healthcare mandate, which was invented by Republicans, is a good example) - surveys show this. I think the reason is that he's more like a constitutional monarch than people realise - the founders created a strong congress, so he can be successfully opposed, so there's an incentive to oppose, because it makes the opposition look successful, and the Pres like a loser. But he is a focus: presidential elections are the ones people care about, although they are arguably less important than congressional elections, for example.

And this speaks to a weakness in the American constitution in the modern world: the complexities of society today can't be addressed without legislation, which is not the Pres's job. But, unfortunately, Congress is very reluctant to act without a leader, because they're human. So they look to the Pres, whose job it isn't (particularly when he's a constitutional law scholar) to lead them.

So, in congress, which needs to take a lead to get things done, you have the president's party, which is leaderless, and you have the other party, which is incentivised up to oppose. And the situation doesn't change, because the people look at the president and wonder why he can't get anything done, and pay no attention to congress.

Or something.)


Excellent post by Krugman, summing up an awful lot.

I think, though, that he's only talking about one kind of virtue, the kind that always saves for a rainy day, and looks down on the feckless and luckless.

The other kind, that gives generously even when it's risky to do so, and gives to the undeserving, I think still ought to work pretty well - better than ever, in fact.

Tour of the Northern capitals #4

This time next week I will be in Washington, DC, visiting alpheratz for a couple of days before going on to spend two weeks in San Antonio.

#1 was Newcastle, the capital of Geordieland, from where a lightning visit to
#2, Edinburgh, to see the Købke exhibition, was made, with my parents.
#3 was a weekend in Copenhagen with Sarah.