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Life & History Consists Of Broad Themes—It Is Not A Series Of Fragments

The painting above is Twilight In The Wilderness.

It was painted by Frederic Edwin Church in 1860.

Here is what it says about this painting in the book American Art and Architecture by Michael J. Lewis—

Church did not fragment his colors into intense local passages but subordinated them to an overall chromatic scheme…As with a musical composition, there is a dominant key signature against which contrasting harmonies resonate.   

That’s right!—Life is a few broad themes. Individual events take place within the broad themes. These broad themes last through time.

In the 1796 Presidential election, John Adams won nine states and Thomas Jefferson won seven states.

All nine states Mr. Adams won in ’96 were carried by John Kerry in 2004.

Of the seven states won by Mr. Jefferson, George W. Bush won six of them in ’04. ( Pennsylvania was the only state to switch, as it were, from Mr. Jefferson to Mr. Kerry.)  

As a general matter, the Adams’ states were in the North and the Jefferson states were in the South.

These regions of the country had different patterns of initial settlement. In the early years of the nation they had different institutions and different cultures to a greater extent than seen today.

The 2004 results would suggest, with admittedly some simplification, that despite the passage of 208 years, initial differences between the regions have formed broad general themes that have exercised some control of American political history.

Which, I’m sure, is just the point Mr. Church was getting at in his painting.

A great book to learn about the early years of the United States is American Colonies–The Settling Of North America by Alan Taylor. 

Frederic Edwin Church lived 1826-1900. Here is some information about Mr. Church

The above links to Mr. Adams, Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Bush are from the first-rate presidential resources at the Miller Center for Public Affairs at the University of Virginia.  

March 13, 2008 Posted by | Art, Books, Colonial America, History, Political History | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Daily Political Coverage Is A La Brea Tar Pit From Which Time Spent Never Escapes

Update 2/23/09–Please click here for an update of the recent big discovery of fossils at the La Brea Tar Pit.

I was flipping channels tonight and came across CNN.

The listing at the bottom of my screen said CNN would be broadcasting Mississippi primary coverage for two hours.

I wondered what they could possibly say about the Mississippi primary for two hours.

Barack Obama was near-certain to win, it was the only primary today and Mississippi is a small state. 

Of course, I knew they had nothing of any note to say.

I watched for 15 minutes. Those are 15 minutes I won’t get back.

Flash–Obama wins as expected and Governor Spitzer likes hookers.

Coverage of any House or Senate races? Maybe a Governor’s race? Coverage of relevant issues?

Sure.

I can’t imagine it is six weeks to the Pennsylvania primary.

What will the cable news networks talk about for six weeks?  

Daily political coverage is like the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. 

Here are facts about the La Brea Tar Pits. 

Sometimes the ice-age beasts would just fall in and sink away.

That was me just flipping channels tonight.

Other times a vicious predator would see a creature that had fallen in and pounce in expectation of a meal.

That’s when you think you’ll find something interesting, but its the same old long-winded junk. 

I’m not a reflexive media-basher.

But this coverage, especially on the cable news networks, is endless and a waste of your time.

Even for the newspapers, which for the most part do try to do a good job and do try to be fair, something new in the Obama–Clinton–McCain triangle does not happen every day.  

If you don’t already, read the international pages of the paper!

At bottom is a picture of the political coverage bubbling up from below and trying to lure you in.

Resist it with a book or by talking to people you care about.

Don’t fall in—at least not every day.

March 12, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, Politics, Things Watching Tv Made Me Think About | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Texas U.S. House District 22—Facts, History & Views

Texas U.S. House district 22 is up for grabs in 2008.

Here are some facts, history and views on this race. 

Texas U.S. House district 22, previously held by disgraced former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, is now held by Democrat Nick Lampson.  

( Here is a photo of Mr. Lampson. He is happy in this picture.)  

Here is some information about Mr. Lampson from the 2008 Almanac of American Politics

Lampson grew up in Beaumont; he got his first job sweeping floors at age 12 when his father died. After graduating from Lamar University, he taught science in Beaumont schools, leading the first local Earth Day celebration in 1979, and then taught a real estate management course at Lamar; he also headed a home health care company. In 1977, he was elected Jefferson County tax assessor; he claimed to cut the cost of tax collections during his 18 years on the job. In Lampson’s previous House stint, he had a moderate voting record and was a member of the New Democrat Coalition. He promoted the Johnson Space Center from his Science Committee assignment and also looked after local needs from his perch on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. In 2003, Lampson fell victim to the 2003 redistricting plan that was designed to oust Anglo Democrats like him. Republican Ted Poe defeated him 56%-43% the next year in the newly formed 2d District.

On the Republican side, an April 8 runoff will decide the nomination.

One of the two Republicans in the runoff, Pete Olson, a former chief of staff to far right-wing Texas Senator John Cornyn, is a conventionally awful conservative Republican.

Mr. Olson is your man for more war, more tax cuts for the rich and no progress on universal health care.

The other candidate, former Houston City Councilwoman Dr. Shelley Sekula Gibbs , is uniquely awful.

Due to a quirk in electoral law, Ms. Sekula Gibbs served a two-month term in the U.S. House between Election Day 2006 and Congressional Inauguration Day 2007.

Here is an account of that term from the Associated Press after staffers resigned citing mistreatment by Ms. Sekula Gibbs  —

The staff members have a combined thirty-plus years of experience working on the Hill,” Mr. James wrote. “Never has any member of Congress treated us with as much disrespect and unprofessionalism as we witnessed during those five days.”

Ms. Sekula-Gibbs has raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill, largely because of the resignations. Earlier, she told reporters she planned to resolve such thorny issues as tax cuts, immigration reform and the Iraq war — all in less than two weeks of a lame-duck Congress”

Despite how lousy the Republicans are, voting for Mr. Lampson is a judgement call.

On one hand, in 2006 Mr. Lampson  campaigned to the right in order to win a Republican-leaning district. George W. Bush won 64% here in 2004. Sometimes you do what you have to do.

On the other hand, Lampson’s 2006 campaign seemed at times further to the right than required. Specifically egregious in my view was an ad criticizing Dr. Sekula Gibbs for routine city council votes on water and sewer rate hikes.

Cities have to be able to function.

Here is Representative Lampson’s campaign page

You could argue that as long as Mr. Lampson supports Nancy Pelosi for House Speaker and votes with Democrats as often as political realities allow, why not take the best you are going to get in tough circumstances?

Or, you could argue that we are not always obligated to take the least-bad option. Sometimes you can just leave a blank spot on your ballot. If we always take the least-bad option, we’ll just end up being used.

For example, as a lifelong resident of cities, I’ve long felt Democrats take the votes of black folks in every election, but often offer little in return.  

On Election Day, you might be able to stomach Mr. Lampson and vote for him. Or you might feel it is all too much. We’ll see how obnoxious Mr. Lampson’s campaign is in 2008.     

This is a basic dilemma in districts where a candidate for the minority party in the area has to contort his or herself to get elected.

( Photo of contortionist.)

The 22nd Congressional district of Texas is in the Houston metropolitan area. A focus in the district is on the growing suburban city of Sugar Land. 80,000 of the 22nd’s 800,000 people live in Sugar Land. (Here is a history of Sugar Land.) 

The district includes portions of Fort Bend, Brazoria, Galveston and Harris counties. While Sugar Land is in Fort Bend ( Which is a big place with nearly 500,000 people), roughly half the district lives in Harris County.

Other communites in the 22nd include Pasadena, Santa Fe, La MarqueWebster, La Porte and Pearland.

Some these places are aging industrial areas while others are newer suburbs.

In contrast to booming Sugar Land, Pasadena is an established center of industry. 140,000 people live in Pasadena. (Here is a history of Pasadena.)

( Photo of Pasadena, Texas.) 

Houston suburbs are very ethnically diverse. This is a strong point of Houston and the Houston area. The 22nd is counted as 8% Asian, 9% black and with 20% of Hispanic origin.  

An important source of jobs in this Republican district is the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. Republicans are fine with government spending when they are the ones cashing the checks.

(Relative importance of Texas-22 as seen from moon. Here are some basic facts about the moon. )

 

Good luck to liberal and progressive voters in Texas U.S House district 22—You’ll need it!

March 11, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, Houston, Politics, Texas, Texas Primary '08 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Presidential Campaign Sweeps Across Nation Like Radiation in On The Beach

The novel On The Beach takes place after a nuclear war.

Most people on the Earth are killed by the initial a-bomb blasts or soon after as the result of radiation sickness.

The remaining people are left to wait for the radiation to arrive.

On The Beach is about people in Australia who are among the last survivors.

They are waiting for the radiation.

After the radiation comes, nobody is left.

This year’s presidential nominating season is somewhat like On The Beach.

There was the first quick blast of caucuses and primaries between Iowa and Super Tuesday.

Then the pace slowed down. It was one month between Super Tuesday and the primaries this week.

Now it is a long six-week wait to Pennsylvania.

(Though Wyoming and Mississippi will get the wave in the next few days.)

The good folks in Puerto Rico are at the end. The campaign hits them in the first week of June. 

Texas was nailed last Tuesday.

We were bombarded with robocalls, TV ads and campaign appearances.

Now it’s over.

Given that Texas will likely be barren of two-party competition at the presidential level this fall, its likely we will see little more of the candidates.

Imagine how electoral vote free Puerto Rico will cease to exist for the candidates after its delegates are awarded.    

On The Beach was written by Nevil Shute. It was published in 1957.

March 8, 2008 Posted by | Books, Campaign 2008, Politics, Texas, Texas Primary '08 | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

History Of The Mississippi Primary

 

In a state never swift to embrace democracy for all, the Mississippi presidential primary has a brief history.

It was not until 1988 that a real two-party presidential primary was held in Mississippi.

In 2008, the Mississippi primary will be held March 11.

Just over 2.9 million people live in Mississippi.  61% are white and 36% are black. That is the highest percentage of black people of any state in the nation.

Here are some basic facts about Mississippi.

In 2004, George W. Bush won Mississippi 59%-40%.

For many years Mississippi was a one-party Democratic Solid South state that used a whites-only primary.

Here is one link about the white primary.

Here is another.

The great Fannie Lou Hamer  (photo above) led the fight for an integrated Mississippi Democratic Party at the 1964 Democratic convention in Atlantic City.

She had some success, but this was one event of many during the Civil Rights era that led many–though not all–white citizens of Mississippi to join the Republican party.

In 2004, Mississippi whites voted for George W. Bush by 85%-14%. Blacks voted for John Kerry 90%-10%.

( President George W. Bush.)

With the Republican party in control of much of Mississippi–though Democrats still control the state House of Representatives—it could be argued that the Republican primary is an updated white primary.

A difference is that black people are legally allowed to vote in the Republican primary. It’s just that they have little reason to want to do so.

The winner of the first Democratic presidential primary, held on Super Tuesday 1988, was Jesse Jackson. He beat Al Gore 45%-35%. Mike Dukakis ran a distant third.

This was great progress for Mississippi. But it also showed that many Mississippi whites had become Republicans.

(Please click here for a history of Super Tuesday.)

(Jesse Jackson in 1983)

In 1992 George H.W. Bush, and in 1996 Bob Dole, won easy Republican victories over candidates that ran from the right.

Pat Buchanan ran poorly in both ’92 and ’96.

David Duke gave it a shot in 1996.

He was rejected by Republican voters.

Again, on one hand this was progress. Yet on the other hand, it reflected a mainstream Republican party that white voters felt comfortable with on issues of race.

2000 and 2004 produced unremarkable results in Mississippi. Republicans did not hold a primary in 2004 since President George W. Bush was the certain nominee.

Please click here for other political history posts on Texas Liberal. 

(The Largemouth Bass is the official fish of Mississippi.)

March 7, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, History, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments