Thursday, January 20, 2011

Chris Murphy to join Bysiewicz in race for Lieberman's seat

Rep. Chris Murphy announced his candidacy for Senate today, becoming the second Democrat to run for retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman's Connecticut seat and setting up the first of what are expected to be many high-profile Senate primaries in 2012.

"I've decided to run for the United States Senate in 2012 because I believe that I can be a stronger voice for the issues that matter to Connecticut, like creating good jobs and ending these costly wars, in the Senate," Murphy said in a statement released this morning.

Murphy is set to make a more public announcement early this evening at the Waverly Inn in Cheshire, Conn., according to a source who asked to be anonymous because the decision is not yet public.

Murphy joins former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, who launched her campaign Tuesday, in the Democratic primary. Lieberman announced Wednesday that he would not seek reelection.

The matchup between Murphy and Bysiewicz will be one of the biggest primaries in the country, with both candidates claiming strong political operations and plenty of name ID to start with. Both campaigns have internal polls showing their candidate with a lead. There's also the possibility that the race could grow to include a really big name -- Ted Kennedy Jr. -- and/or another congressman -- Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) -- which would make it one of the biggest Senate primaries in recent history.

But it will by no means be the only high-profile primary.

Already, Republicans appear headed for a busy season. Competitive primaries are forming for open seats in North Dakota and Texas, as well as the primaries to face Sens. Jim Webb (D-Va.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.). And that's not to mention the Republican incumbents who could face viable primary challenges, including Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), John Ensign (R-Nev.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine).

Democrats appear headed for primaries to face Sen. Scott Brown (D-Mass.) and potentially for seats in North Dakota and Texas left open respectively by the announced retirements of Sens. Kent Conrad (D) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R).

The GOP could also have a primary in Connecticut, where two 2010 Senate candidates -- former Rep. Rob Simmons and former wrestling executive Linda McMahon -- are looking at running.

Get ready for another fun Senate primary season. The Republican presidential race won't be the only game in town.

Obama shifts political staff, will launch campaign in March or April

President Obama is moving his political operation outside the White House and will launch his reelection campaign in March or April.

With the biggest parts of a staff reshuffling behind him, Obama has approved some more moves for his political team, shifting his political director to the Democratic National Committee and sending two key operatives to serve as deputy campaign managers in what will be his campaign headquarters in Chicago.

In addition, we now have an official time frame for the campaign's launch. In an e-mail to members of the Democratic National Committee, Chairman Tim Kaine announced the staffing moves and said Obama's 2012 campaign "will be based in Chicago starting in March or April of this year."

Obama is effectively shutting down his political affairs office in the White House and moving his campaign staff elsewhere, in order to keep the two entities separate and avoid the turf battles and disparate messaging that sometimes occur when a sitting president is running for reelection.

He is expected to formally begin his campaign for president by filing the necessary paperwork in a couple of months. At that point, he can begin raising money for the effort and filling out his staff -- the latter which has already begun.

The staff moves, first reported by the New York Times, include moving White House Social Secretary and former campaign finance chair Julianna Smoot and Democratic National Committee executive director Jen O'Malley Dillon to Chicago to serve as deputy campaign managers.

Smoot's exit leaves a vacancy in the social secretary job for the second time in 11 months. Smoot replaced Desirée Rogers after Rogers fell victim to the gate-crashing incident at the White House.

Kaine said O'Malley Dillon will leave the DNC after the committee's meeting in February.

Patrick Gaspard, who is now the White House political director, will move to the DNC to assume Dillon's role, a senior administration official said. Political operations at the White House will be consolidated under David Plouffe, the former campaign manager who has recently arrived as senior adviser.

Obama long ago settled on Jim Messina, currently a White House deputy chief of staff, as his new campaign manager. The new leadership trio of Messina, Smoot and O'Malley Dillon all served on the president's 2008 campaign, but will be in more prominent roles in 2012.

O'Malley Dillon ran Obama's battleground states effort last time around. Prior to that, she ran former Sen. John Edwards's (D-N.C.) presidential campaign in Iowa.

"In making these transitions, I am pleased with the vital role that our DNC will play throughout the 2011 and 2012 election cycles, both advancing the President's agenda and keeping our Democratic Party strong," Kaine said.

Obama is making a rare move by hosting his reelection headquarters outside of Washington -- a further sign of his desire to keep to two operations separate.

Obama's Tucson speech will not 'change the tone' of politics

President Obama's speech at the Tucson memorial Wednesday night garnered praise from both conservatives and liberals, but it's unlikely to change the tone of our political discourse.

For some reason, though, this idea seems to have gained traction.

By not pointing fingers or seeking to score political points, they said, Obama positioned himself well as he readies his State of the Union Address for Jan. 25. That speech will lay out his goals for the year ahead, his first with a divided government.

"The president's speech last night was potentially seismic for him," said Richard Greene, a communications strategist who has written on history's most unforgettable speeches. "Every time the president shows himself in this very warm, very human light, a light that everyone can relate to, he softens up the argument against his agenda."

Whatever good will the president has earned among conservatives will dissipate quickly. As Greg wrote earlier this week, calls for civility are usually short-lived in Washington -- and by historical standards, the incivility of our political discourse isn't as unprecedented as it seems. There are reasons for partisanship -- Republicans and Democrats simply want different things. Should Republicans in Congress decide to cooperate with the president, their tone will have to change -- after, all there's no cooperating with a tyrant -- but that will be because they see some benefit in doing so, not because Obama gave a gracious speech in Tucson.

Likewise, many of the presidents usual antagonists in the conservative media, such as Glenn Beck, praised the president for his speech. But, ultimately, Beck's audience wants to hear baroque conspiracy theories about generations-long liberal schemes to subvert the United States; they're not there to hear him offer balanced, wonky critiques of how the HAMP program has failed to stem the foreclosure crisis. They want to hear him explain why the president is trying to destroy the country. That's why they come to him in the first place.

A few weeks from now, if not a few days or hours, that's what they'll get. A single speech by the president cannot shift the market incentives of the ideological media, nor the underlying structural incentives that create polarization and partisanship in the first place.

Steve Cohen: I regret that Goebbels crack created "distraction," but Republicans are still liars

Dem Rep. Steve Cohen, who refused to back off last night in the face of criticism of his reference to Goebbels and the GOP's "big lie" technique, is out with a new statement on the matter:

Taken out of context, I can understand the confusion and concern. In speaking about the Republican message of "government takeover of health care" that has been drummed into the heads of Americans and the media for more than a year, I referenced the non-partisan, Pulitzer prize-winning judgment that named the Republican message as the "2010 Lie of the Year."

"While I regret that anything I said has created an opportunity to distract from the debate about health care for 32 million Americans, I want to be clear that I never called Republicans Nazis. Instead, the reference I made was to the greatest propaganda master of all time. Propaganda, which is called "messaging" today, can be true or false. In this case, the message is false.

"I would certainly never do anything to diminish the horror of the Nazi Holocaust as I revere and respect the history of my people. I sponsored legislation which created one of the first state Holocaust Commissions in America and actively served as a Commission member for over 20 years. I regret that anyone in the Jewish Community, my Republican colleagues or anyone else was offended by the portrayal of my comments. My comments were not directed toward any group or people but at the false message and, specifically, the method by which is has been delivered.

"It is disappointing that my comments have been used to distract from the health care reform debate. It is my hope that we can return our focus to the matter at hand-health care for 32 million Americans."

Parse this and it's clear Cohen is not budging. He reiterates that he didn't compare Republicans to Nazis, and rejects the claim that his remarks diminshed the Holocaust. Meanwhile, he's expressing regret that his remarks allowed others to create a distraction from the health debate. And he regrets the fact that some people were offended by "the portrayal" of what he said, not the comments themselves.

Meanwhile, by making the unabashed claim that today's GOP health care "messaging" is "propaganda" by another name, Cohen is standing by his core allegation about a massive Republican campaign of mendacity. He's not backing off one bit.

FORD-LASA Special Projects

LASA is pleased to announce the fourth cycle of the Ford-LASA Special Projects competition, made possible by a contribution by the Ford Foundation to the LASA Endowment Fund. Funds provided will support such activities as trans-regional research initiatives, conferences, working groups, the development of curriculum and teaching resources, and similar projects organized and carried out by LASA Sections or by ad hoc groups of LASA members. Proposers are encouraged to think creatively about how this funding might be used to advance the principles of hemispheric collaboration among Latin American Studies scholars and teachers. Proposals that do not assign priority to this objective will not be considered for funding.

Proposals should identify the participants in the proposed activity, the objectives of the project, and the process by which those objectives are to be achieved. The total amount requested in each proposal may not exceed $12,500. Grants may be combined with other sources of funding, and may be used to initiate projects that continue with funding from other sources. No project or group will be funded more than once.

Proposals of no more than five (5) single-spaced pages in length must be received by the LASA Secretariat by March 15, 2008. Proposals will be reviewed by a panel of four LASA members appointed by the President for each program cycle, chaired by the Vice President of LASA. Applicants will be informed of the results within two months after the submission deadline.

Preference will be given to projects that involve trans-regional collaboration in the Western Hemisphere, and which are intended to result in publication of project results. It may be possible for LASA to disseminate project results, including conference papers, through its website, which would not preclude eventual publication in other media. Project directors are encouraged to consider submitting a panel proposal based on their work for presentation at the June 2009 LASA Congress. Within 18 months of the announcement of the award recipients, the project directors will be required to submit a report on the activities undertaken with Special Project funding, suitable for publication in the LASA Forum.

New book on courts & policy in Brazil

Drawing on the experience of the Brazilian federal courts since the transition to democracy, Judging Policy examines the judiciary's role in debating and formulating public policy in Latin America’s largest democracy. During a period of energetic policy reform, the high salience of many policies and a judicial structure conducive to policy contestation ensured that Brazilian courts would become an important institution at the heart of the policy process. Through a study of the full federal court system, this book develops a framework with cross-national implications for understanding how courts influence policy actors' political strategies and the distribution of power in new democracies.

Political Party and Political Legitimacy

Political party is an organization that is locally articulated, that interacts with and seeks to attract the electoral support of the general public. It plays a direct and substantive role in political recruitment and education. Political party is also committed to the capture or maintenance of power, either alone or in coalition with others. It becomes the vehicle for mass political participation based on political culture and ideology. In a democratic polity, political parties play a significant role that they become the backbone of the polity. The quality of democratic political system depends on the ability of the political parties to absorb demands and aspirations of the people and deliver them back as a product of political process. With Indonesia's return to democracy in 1999, operational controls on political parties and the ban on the establishment of new parties were lifted. This situation has allowed greater opportunities for all Indonesians to actively participate in Indonesia's transition to democracy.

Similarly, moral acceptance of the subjects to the authority of the rulers is deemed important for the justification of their right to rule. Legitimacy relates to the acceptance of power by the people and the process whereby power gains acceptance by the people which essentially includes the process of mobilization of support through ideology, institution building, system of rewards and punishment, performance or manipulation. It involves the capacity of the system to engender and maintain the belief that the existing political institutions are the most appropriate ones for the society. Furthermore, legitimacy brings about stability and possibility to create changes and improvements in the society. It also expands the authority of the ruler as well as limiting it. Legitimate government will bring about political stability and eventually deliver what the voters expect. Thus in order to create political stability and changes in the society, rulers or regimes need to have legitimacy, the moral right to rule, failing of which crisis of legitimacy and stability is the consequence. Democratically administered elections will provide a thoroughfare for a party or coalition of parties to gain necessary political legitimacy to rule.

In the same vein, the electorate in a democratic polity plays a very significant role: it can either establish or bring a government down. No party or parties shall possess any moral right to rule or legitimacy unless it receives endorsement from the electorate. As such, government is merely a form of representation of the people through a democratic process called elections. Once installed, a government is expected to be effective: to run its large administration efficiently and to set goals for policy that are realistic and achievable, and within the broad outlines of its election program. Moreover, it is expected that the government is to be publicly accountable: "the government must be able to give an account of their actions and policies, to explain and justify them to an appropriate audience." The government must act within the terms and conditions of their authority, and conform to standards of conduct that are appropriate to their office.

However, in emerging democratic society like Indonesia, many of a time we find out that once elected, the representatives tend to forget the fact they are essentially subjected to being publicly accountable. They neglect their constituents who have successfully catapulted them to power. Once elected, they would mostly indulge in their own business and greedily reaping the "fruits" of being successfully elected as the "respected members" of people's representatives while neglecting their foremost responsibility and duty as people's representatives: to articulate, defend and support the interests, preferences and grievances of those whom they represent. Instead of focussing on their professional responsibility as people’s representatives, personal gains becomes their main agenda in office. They ignore the fact that they are there for a reason: to serve the public at large.

To rectify this situation, one should return to the fundamentals of representation. Political representation essentially implies “government of, by and for the people”. In parliaments, whether at the national, provincial or local levels, the representatives are obliged to articulate the aspirations and supports from their constituents, and turn them into policies or laws, which would affect not only their constituents but also the public in general. Sound judgment and bold arguments of these representatives are thus functions of a good policy or law. Without them, everybody loses, including those who are not their direct constituents.

Such fundamentals will highlight the need for people's representatives to fully comprehend their duties and responsibilities in a system of political representation. They must realize that the positions they are holding come with huge responsibility. They are merely the extension of people's power and their ultimate duties and responsibilities are being professionally serving the public, not only their own constituents but the public at large. The representatives should be held accountable to the people whom they supposedly represent.

Problems of Participation
Thursday, February 12, 2009 3:09 PM
Larry Diamond has noted in one of his works that one paradox of democracy is that in some circumstances a political system can be made more stably democratic by making it somewhat less representative. At the same time, electoral system is the central rule of the game determining who governs in a polity. Its position is so important that careful steps should be taken before taking any decision to adopt any kind of electoral system, be it the proportional representation, the district system or the mixture of the two. This is what has so far been done by the so called political reformers in the post-Suharto Indonesia. In the name of limiting ethnic or regional movements and promoting more stable politics by encouraging broad-based parties, Indonesian political reformers purposely adopted an electoral system that provides necessary means to achieve the agenda of "stable democratic polity" in Indonesia.

Through a combination of spatial registration for political parties, pressures for smaller parties to amalgamate into larger ones, reductions in the electoral system's proportionality requirement, and regional vote-distribution requirements for presidential elections, political reformers in Indonesia have attempted to engineer the development of a few large parties with a national reach. However, the results of both 1999 and 2004 general elections showed the opposite. Instead of resulting in a moderate multi-partism, the general elections further fragmented the already fragmented party system. While the numbers of parties have reduced significantly in the 2004 general elections, on the contrary, parliamentary fragmentation increased. Measures to promote nationally focused parties and limit the enfranchisement of minorities have had some modest successes, but have not fundamentally changed the nature of electoral politics.

So far as the process of political engineering in Indonesia is concerned, it has been focussing more on protecting the incumbents and the continuance of the status quo. It is yet to focus on utilizing the opportunity to engineer substantial political transformation. Even though legislative framework continued to be enhanced through enactment of new laws prior to the successor election with the aim of creating more credible electoral process and achieving more representative results, this incrementalism has resulted in the elections being tightly scheduled creating major logistical complexity with little time for appropriate planning. Moreover, the drastic reduction in the district magnitude in the 2004 general elections has considerably raised the threshold for electoral victory and made it much more difficult for smaller parties to win seats than at previous elections, when districts were based on entire provinces. This electoral arrangement is considerably more advantageous to the large, well-organized, established parties than towards smaller, new parties, and threatens the prospect of wider political representation.

Several observers had suspected that the prolonged last minute preparation may be deliberate to avoid public scrutiny to the internal political process of the parties in putting forward nomination and as a cloak to shift public attention from demanding political accountability. Furthermore, the tight scheduling is believed to have benefited political elites close to the central party boards and deprived regional candidates. Political oligarchy has been holding captive the efforts to achieve the common good and to improve the process of political representation.