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Nov 04 2014

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

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Zephyr Teachout: What ever happened to ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’? A manifesto

The super-rich have just bought another election. They own American democracy. Here’s how to take the power back

ne early morning in Brooklyn a few months ago, when I was still running for governor of New York, I encountered a man talking to himself, agitated and loud. As I passed him on the sidewalk, he turned to me and started muttering, a blend of insults and epigrams. And then, just as I was about to vanish down the stairs into the subway, he yelled with a full throat:

   I am the captain of my ship. I am the master of my soul.

I was shaken, and not a little moved. This man is all of us, protesting that we still have control over ourselves despite the obvious evidence otherwise.

Because I was on the way to a political event, I felt it more broadly. We – America – we are that man, yelling about our own self-government, broadcasting these elections, trying in bluster to defy this simple, terrifying truth: we are not governed by ourselves. We have given up control of the ship. [..]

So we need to hold on to whatever remaining levers of power we have left. We need a populist movement made of candidates and protests and clear demands, with two key prongs: [..]

Joe Nocera: Guns and Public Health

Mike Weisser is my favorite gun dealer. The longtime proprietor of the Ware Gun Shop in Ware, Mass., Weisser, 70, estimates he has sold more than 40,000 guns in his career as a wholesaler and retailer. He also has a nice little business teaching a gun-safety course that Massachusetts requires of all new gun owners.

“I love guns,” he told me unabashedly when we spoke the other day. With a chuckle, he added, “I just bought one yesterday.” [..]

But he has also been relentless in taking on the N.R.A. He does not believe that the Second Amendment means that people ought to be able to take a gun anywhere they want. He includes in his emails a quote from the novelist Walter Mosley: “If you carry a gun, it’s bound to go off sooner or later.” A website called AmmoLand has described him as “basically a double agent agent [sic] working to undermine our Second [Amendment] rights with his articles.”

Of all the things Weisser advocates, the issue he is most passionate about is the need for doctors to become part of the debate over gun safety. More than that, he believes that doctors need to be talking about guns in terms of their effect on public health, both to their own patients and to the public at large. In his view, “doctors allowed themselves to get pushed out of the gun debate” during the time of the assault-weapons ban and other gun restrictions that were passed during Bill Clinton’s presidency. “When the debate was about smoking, it was always a health issue, and doctors played a central role,” he says. “But the debate over guns became about their social utility rather than the public health aspects. And that is exactly how the N.R.A. wants the issue framed.”

John Nichols: Why Tonight Is Not Just About Senate Control

If Republicans make significant gains in Senate races Tuesday, then politics will be following pattern. Presidents who are elected by big margins initially and then re-elected comfortably tend to have a lousy time of it in their sixth years. [..]

If Republicans pick up the six seats they need to secure clear control of the Senate tonight-or after runoff elections in Louisiana and Georgia-that will be big news. But the real question is what happens with the governorships.

In a wave election, the party that wins big in congressional races also wins big in the states. That’s what happened in 2010, when Republicans took the US House, shifted plenty of Senate seats and made big gains in statehouses. That’s also what happened in a number of historic wave elections.

But will it happen tonight?

Jason Weeden and Robert Kurzban: Elections 2014: Your Very Predictable Vote

As America completes another costly, polarized and exhausting election cycle, it’s commonplace to characterize our society as being divided into warring tribes of liberals and conservatives. But this view oversimplifies the causes of our political differences.

Most people aren’t ideologically pure, and most don’t derive their opinions from abstract ideologies and principles. People are more strongly influenced by the effects of policies on themselves, their families and their wider social networks. Their views, in short, are often based on self-interest. [..]

If the United States set policy simply by polling its residents, it would look quite different. There would be greater spending on the poor, health care, Social Security and education. Immigration would be reduced. School prayer would be allowed. Anti-American speech by Muslims would be restricted. Abortion would be legal in cases of rape and fetal deformity, but illegal if the abortion was motivated by not wanting more children, by being poor, or by being single.

Why doesn’t America look like this? Negotiations at the federal level result in more conservative economic policies, and more liberal social policies. That’s because they involve one set of highly educated, wealthy representatives negotiating with another, and the policies that result reflect their own core interests.

Leslie Savan: Why the Media Are Ignoring the Dangerous Ideas of Joni Ernst and Other Extremists Now on the Cusp of Power

Joni Ernst, who may become Iowa’s next senator, denies climate change, supports a personhood amendment and says she’d use her “beautiful little Smith & Wesson” to defend herself “from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.” She’s also seriously flirted with a John Birch Society-backed conspiracy theory about an evil plot called Agenda 21.

But all you’d know from the corporate media is that Ernst made a really catchy ad about castrating pigs and that she is supposedly (but not really) the victim of a sexist remark made by outgoing Democratic senator Tom Harkin.

Norman Ornstein, the pundit who was once quoted all over until he dared to say that Republicans are the real obstructionists, explains such grand omissions brilliantly:

The most common press narrative for elections this year is to contrast them with the 2010 and 2012 campaigns. Back then, the GOP “establishment” lost control of its nominating process, ended up with a group of extreme Senate candidates who said wacky things-Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, Sharron Angle-and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in races that should have been slam dunks. Now the opposite has happened: The establishment has fought back and won, vanquishing the Tea Party and picking top-flight candidates who are disciplined and mainstream, dramatically unlike Akin and Angle.

It is a great narrative, a wonderful organizing theme. But any evidence that contradicts or clouds the narrative devalues it, which is perhaps why evidence to the contrary tends to be downplayed or ignored. Meantime, stories that show personal gaffes or bonehead moves by the opponents of these new, attractive mainstream candidates, fit that narrative and are highlighted.

Zaid Jilani: The looming disappointment of Michelle Nunn

A more populist campaign could have re-energized Georgia’s politics and saved the Senate for the Democrats

The nation’s political eyes have been on Georgia for the past several months, which, according to polls, has teetered on the edge of slipping into the blue column for the first time in 12 years. The races for governor and the U.S. Senate have been competitive (though Republicans have a clear edge going into Election Day), not to mention a host of down-ticket elections, for the first time since 2002. The state’s changing racial demographics and aggressive registration of minority voters is generally credited with this trend.

For much of the country, the Senate race in particular is crucial because it may decide who controls Congress’ upper chamber come January. But for Georgians, living in a state plagued by all sorts of bread-and-butter issues – high unemployment, massive numbers of people without health care and very high rates of child poverty – the campaign offered little substance and lots of slogans. This is perhaps why the race as well as control of the Senate is slipping out of the Democrats’ grasp.