Chart of the day

Interesting look at public opinion on extra-marital affairs from Yglesias (originally via Monkey Cage)

Of note is the decreasing tolerance for extra-marital sex.  Also of note, the more educated you are, the more tolerant you are of extra marital affairs.  As a highly-educated person, I don’t think I’d end up in the “always wrong,” category.  I’m reluctant to embrace the always standard for most forms of behavior.  If there was an “almost always wrong,” I’d go with that, but if the next option were “sometimes wrong,” I’d probably go with the “always” as I’m probably closer to that.  Short version of social science commentary: not only are the question wordings very important, so are are the wordings of the available response categories.

As for the socio-moral (can I say that?) commentary… Perhaps I shouldn’t say this since I know my wife reads my blog, but I think people place to much focus on sexual fidelity in a marriage.  In truth, there’s all sorts of ways that you can be unfaithful to your spouse that are not sexual liaisons with another person, but that is what our society is all hung up on.  Mind you, I have no intentions of violating this myself, but it has always struck me as crazy that many people see a single extramarital mistake as reason to end an otherwise okay marriage.  Now, of course, in many cases, an extra-marital encounter is a symptom of a troubled marriage and the straw that breaks the camel’s back, but, as a society, I think we place too much emphasis on that particular aspect.  I would argue that it is just as damaging (if not more so) to a marriage to show a pervasive lack of trust, respect, confidence, etc., towards a spouse.  Yet, there’s this idea that if somebody sexually cheats the marriage must be de fact over whereas if that same spouse works to undermine his/her partner’s confidence in a business venture or as a parent, that’s just something to be worked on.

Republicans standing at the next urinal

When it comes to thinks governing human behavior, there’s laws and there’s there’s social customs and norms.  It would be against the law to attack me in the men’s room, however, there’s nothing against the law saying that you cannot come and stand at the urinal next to me when there’s plenty of other free ones.  It would just be weird and creepy.  There’s a lot of things we don’t do, for better and worse, because you just don’t do it.  It violates social norms and customs.  Traditionally, Congress has been much the same way.  There’s the actual rules of the place, and then there’s the long-standing norms.  The reason that Republicans in Congress have been so successful in getting their way of late, is that they basically decided if its not an actual rule, just a norm, that damn the norms, full speed ahead.  In short, when it comes to conducting themselves in Congress, Republicans are standing at the next urinal.

That was going to be the end of my post, but I came across this excellent piece by long-time Congressional observer/scholar, Norm Ornstein, approrpriately titled, “Worst.  Congress.  Ever.”  And it’s not because of the Democrats (also worth noting, Ornstein definitely plays things down the middle and is employed by the conservative thinktank AEI).  I would actually assign it to my Intro Class this coming year, but I’m not actually going to be teaching Intro this year for the first time in a long time.  Since it’s going to lose that big audience, maybe you should just read it instead :-).  It’s quite good.  (Or, if you are JP, you can assign it to your class).  Anyway, here’s the part most relevant to my comments:

In 2006, I wrote a book with the Brookings Institution’s Tom Mann called The Broken Branch: How Congress is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track, in which we reflected on the high level of dysfunction in Congress that had been building since the 1990s. From the Clinton years through the middle of George W. Bush’s second term, partisan division had been accompanied by a growing ideological gulf in Congress, and along with it had come a decline in institutional loyalty and other norms, the near disappearance of meaningful debate and deliberation, and a sharp decline in the “regular order,” the adherence to and respect for the rules and procedures that normally operated in the legislative body.  [emphasis mine].

And, there’s no false symmetry here.  It is predominantly, though admittedly not exclusively, Republicans who are responsible for this.  There’s a reason this is the worst Congress ever.  And it starts with an R.

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