Video of the day

Ummm, so a friend just shared this with me a couple days ago.  Totally bizarre.  And my kids totally love it.  And damnit– I can’t get it out of my head!

Of course, given that it’s already received over 115 million views, you are more likely thinking– “and Steve just found out about this?!”

Judis on the Republican party crack-up

I thought about just adding this to the “quick hits” when I read it last night, but it’s too good not to get it’s own post.  Few people understand political party coalitions like John Judis, so his take on what’s going on with the Republican Party is especially interesting.  The headline is a bit over the top– “we could be witnessing the death throes of the Republican Party” but it’s not unreasonable to suggest we could be seeing the end of the Republican Party as we know it (much like the 1960’s and 70’s saw the end of the Democratic Party as one dominated by its entrenched Southern wing).  Here’s some good parts (but, if you have any interest at all in the topic, you ought to read the whole thing):

American party coalitions are heterogeneous, but they endure as along as the different groups find more agreement with each other than with the opposition. After Republicans won back the Congress in 1994, they developed a political strategy to hold their coalition together. Many people contributed to the strategy including Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove, Paul Coverdell, Paul Weyrich, and Ralph Reed, but the chief architect was probably Grover Norquist, a political operative who, along with Rove and Reed, came of age in the early Reagan years. The strategy was based on creating an alliance between business, which had sometimes divided its loyalties between Republicans and Democrats, and the array of social and economic interest groups that had begun backing Republicans.

In weekly meeting held on Wednesdays at the office of his Americans for Tax Reform, Norquist put forth the idea that business groups, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), but also including the specialized trade associations, should back socially conservative Republican candidates, while right-to-life or gun rights organizations should back tax cuts and deregulation. What would bind the different parts together was a common opposition to raising taxes, which Norquist framed in a pledge he demanded that Republican candidates make. Business could provide the money, and the single-issue and evangelical groups the grassroots energy to win elections…

Since the late 1960s, America has seen the growth of what the late Donald Warren in a 1976 book The Radical Center called “middle American radicalism.” It’s anti-establishment, anti-Washington, anti-big business and anti-labor; it’s pro-free market. It’s also prone to scapegoating immigrants and minorities. It’s a species of right-wing populism…

This anti-Washington sentiment, which is loosely identified with the “Tea Party,” has overshadowed and transformed grassroots Republicanism. Republican leaders like DeLay were able to keep the evangelicals and other social conservatives in line by battling gay marriage or late-term abortions. But as I recounted three years ago, many of these social issue activists have been absorbed into the Tea Party’s anti-government, anti-establishment ethos…

Under pressure from grassroots radicals and the new outsider groups, the old Republican coalition is beginning to shatter. The single-issue and evangelical groups have been superseded by right-wing populist groups, which are generally identified with the Tea Party, although there is no single Tea Party organization. These groups can’t easily be co-opted by the party’s Washington leadership. And the business groups in Washington, who funded the party over the last two decades, have grown disillusioned with a party that appears to be increasingly held hostage by its radical base and by outsider groups…

What is happening in the Republican Party today is reminiscent of what happened to the Democrats in the late 1960s and early 1970s. At that time, the Democrats in Washington were faced by a grassroots revolt from the new left over the war in Vietnam and from the white South over the party’s support for civil rights. It took the Democrats over two decades to do undo the damage—to create a party coalition that united the leadership in Washington with the base and that was capable of winning national elections. The Republicans could be facing a similar split between their base and their Washington leadership, and it could cripple them not just in the 2014 and 2016 elections, but for decades to come.

We’ll see exactly what comes, but Judis has a record of prescience.  Most prominently projecting an “emerging Democratic majority” as the increasing non-white portion of the electorate that strongly identifies Democratic would give the Democrats an ongoing and strengthening majority.  Something we are clearly seeing, gerrymandererd House districts aside.

Photo of the day

From the National Geographic Tumblr:

Argentine gauchos race across a lake near Beron de Astrada, November 1980.Photograph by O. Louis Mazzatenta, National Geographic

Argentine gauchos race across a lake near Beron de Astrada, November 1980.PHOTOGRAPH BY O. LOUIS MAZZATENTA, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Quick hits

For your weekend reading pleasure…

1) Inside the minds of dogs using MRI’s.

2) The president should simply unilaterally raise the debt ceiling, claim Emily Bazelon and Eric Peosnr.

3) Damn are refrigerators use a lot of energy.  And like most things Americans own, they’re bigger than what the rest of the world uses.

4) Interesting rationale for changing the Redskins name to ‘Skins.

5) Fascinating essay on what it means to artificially prolong life when an elderly, terminal patient has a pacemaker.

6) State business tax climate has almost nothing to do with a state’s economic prosperity.  Neither Yglesias nor me are surprised.

7) Driverless cars bring up a host of ethical issues as well as the obvious technology ones.  I love that this article references the famous trolley problem on moral action that I first learned about back in a fabulous Radiolab episode.

8) Maybe the competitiveness difference between men and women is really more about social structure rather than innate biological differences.  Some interesting evidence (plus another interesting book to put in my queue).

9) Back in my days of being in a gifted/talented magnet junior high, I recall more than one teacher commenting on a seeming relationship between kids who excelled at school and those that played musical instruments.   New studies suggest cognitive benefits from studying music at an early age.  The article is titled “using music to close the achievement gap.”  Alas, in the real world I’m sure it is disadvantaged kids who are least likely to learn music and thus it likely serves to heighten the achievement gap.  We’re talking about a huge investment in music programs for poor kids before it would help to close the gap.  Oh, despite the fact that both Kim and I played instruments until we went to college (and I started piano at 6) we’ve had no musical training for any of of children yet.  I feel bad about that.

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