web analytics

I really like this take on the show that posits the show’s political content as being primarily aimed at Washington pundit types. This actually makes an enormous amount of sense–virtually no Democrats, even of the ever-shrinking conservative variety, would actually advocate cutting Social Security in order to create a temporary jobs plan. Or consider impeaching a president of their own party, or setting out to cripple teacher’s unions, etc., though one could quite easily imagine the Dowds and Friedmans and Noonans of the world loving it if they did. So at the very least (most?) the show provides an excellent look at what our media overlords want a president to do.

But of course the political content of the show is beside the point. It’s a pulpy mess that is well-acted and produced. It looks authentic, and in our present Age of Hype, that’s often more than enough. And the show contains so many of the elements of recent, legitimately great shows: middle aged male antiheroes, moral ambiguity, breakneck plotting, etc., that quite a few people actually think it should be considered on the same level as, say, The Sopranos or Breaking Bad. It gets Emmy nominations. The media reports on it accidentally being leaked. Yadda yadda yadda. These people are all fools. Those other shows, despite their flaws, managed to get across truths about living in America in our present time. The American House Of Cards can’t even tell the difference between real politics and whatever the hell “centrist” pundits think it is. It makes no points worth making. It remains a poorly-observed portrait of American politics, and Underwood as a character remains uncompellingly amoral, free of the sorts of internal conflicts and clashes of values and ideas that make shows worth watching. The UK series made the conflict between Urquhart’s ambition and his decency the heart of the show. Hell, up until the last season of The Sopranos, it was at least plausible that Tony Soprano could choose a different path, and his internal struggles made up what was great about the series. Conflict of this type does tend to make for good drama. There is no substitute for it, though there are imitations.

Also too, this is right on the money. Admittedly, if you do not require a show about politics to have any idea about how politics works, I guess it’s addictive product. But there are better sources of this sort of thing.

Lev filed this under: ,  

The Guardian has an interesting roundup about where Wisconsin’s progressives go from here. I admit that I am not in a position to chart that strategy, but if I were a Wisconsin progressive, I think my main concern would be that despite enormous enthusiasm in both 2012 and 2014 to defeat Scott Walker, in neither event were Democrats even able to field a top-tier challenger to Walker. In the former, the choices were two candidates who had recently lost statewide races, one to Walker himself. In the latter, the best alternative wound up being someone who had never run in an election before and had minimal government experience. I do think that Mary Burke did a pretty good job under very difficult circumstances, but she was obviously not the first name on the list for good reason.

Where was Russ Feingold? Herb Kohl? Ron Kind? Now it appears that Feingold is going to try a Senate comeback and Kohl is an old man who might well be done with politics. Kind is a “rising star”–mediaspeak for young, telegenic and neoliberal–but would still obviously be preferable to Walker. The only explanation for his not running seems to be career reasons/fear. It’s possible he had other reasons that are better than that that we don’t know about. In any event, the simplest explanation for why Scott Walker won in ’12 and ’14 is that nobody who could have stopped him did so. How did that happen? This question needs to be answered.

Lev filed this under: ,  

This is a pretty crazy story. I hadn’t realized that Hubert Humphrey was an initial skeptic of Vietnam from within the Johnson White House, and went so far as to write a lengthy memo outlining all the reasons not to get drawn into the conflict. (My favorite is that sure, Republicans may attack us for having “lost” Vietnam, but they just lost 45 states in a campaign where they were perceived as warmongers, so ignore them.) Needless to say, LBJ disagreed quite strongly, and the next time it came up Humphrey backed up the hawkish line. His initial instincts were entirely correct though. But you can always play the “what if the Kennedys hadn’t rigged the West Virginia Primary and Humphrey becomes president” counterfactual. It is is one of the less popular ones, even though he might well be the only plausible president of the 1960s who ultimately may have avoided getting us into Vietnam.

Lev filed this under: ,  

Disappointing, perhaps. But hardly a surprise. Walker going after unions again is like Matthew McConaughey saying something dumb. You’d rather it didn’t happen, but it’s never a shock.

On the other hand, a Russ Feingold return is a considerably greater surprise, and a happier one indeed.

Lev filed this under: , ,  

Ronald Reagan holds roughly the same place in modern conservative ideology than Vladimir Lenin did in Soviet ideology. You could never criticize Lenin in the USSR and get away with it–after all, it was his beautiful, perfect vision toward which we comrades all strove! His imperfect successors only could be criticized in deviating from his path. Lenin was held to embody the revolution, of course. In real life, as Edvard Radzinsky’s Stalin book makes clear, Lenin was very much a conventional politician who changed his mind, dissembled and made unacknowledged flip-flops. Reagan was likewise. Both became mascots after death–in retrospect, the only thing holding the GOP back from the full bloom of current Reagan idolatry from 1988-2004 was the inconveniently alive, deeply sick man holding up the works. After he died, he could finally be turned into an ideological deity. All ideologies must have them, after all.

My basic view is that conservatism isn’t going to be able to move forward without getting over Reagan. But then again, once the Soviets dumped Lenin, it was all over for them.

Lev filed this under: ,  

Apparently the number of people wanting a ground war with ISIS is sharply increasing. Pres. Obama could, you know, try to argue that these beheadings are intentionally meant to draw us into another protracted ground war, only he can’t because those were essentially the basis for his whole air war in the first place. And now events are overtaking him.

Quite a lot of liberals have had Obama’s back on the ISIS war. I wonder what happens if ground forces become involved. Considering how flawed the strategy of “I’m going to concede this minimal action to my hawkish critics after enormous strain, but this far and no farther!” is on simply a conceptual level, it was only a matter of time before it blew up completely in his face. I guess we’ll see if that happens.

Lev filed this under: ,  

Always this talk of the threat militant Islam poses to the West. I don’t deny that Europe has real things to worry about, but for America I just dunno. I mean, there is the threat of sporadic attacks, which I’m not minimizing, but apart from that, what is it were terrified of again? Farfetched scenarios where they acquire a nuclear bomb? Nonexistent fifth columnists secretly plotting to implement Shari’a Law? (A worry, by the way, that is utterly banal if one has studied Islam a little and knows what Shari’a consists of.) The implausible notion of militant Islam becoming a mainstream political orientation?

It really is like people just want to live in fear. There’s no reason to.

Lev filed this under: