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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Editor’s Corner

The GOP and Two Democratic Reform Models

Note: this item was originally published on December 1, 2008
As you probably know, there’s been a lot of intra-Republican talk lately about how to recover from the 2008 elections, and more generally, from the disastrous trajectory of the Bush administration.
And as you may also know, most of the participants in this debate begin by asserting that the problems of the GOP are not fundamentally ideological, or if they are, it’s just a matter of insufficient conservatism, or insufficient consistency. Those would-be reformers like Ross Douthat who suggest the old-time religion of small-government conservatism could use a reformation aren’t making a lot of headway. Nobody’s much in the mood to topple any Ronald Reagan statues.
It’s not surprising, then, that the hot item in Republicanland right now is a manifesto entitled: “Rebuild the Party: A Plan for the Future” put together by two young conservative campaign operatives turned bloggers, Patrick Ruffini and Mindy Finn, along with redstate.org managing editor Erick Erickson. Two candidates for RNC chair have already endorsed the “plan” as their own, and the reaction in the conservative blogosphere has been predictably avid.
What jumps out at any reader of “Rebuild the Party” is the virtual invisibility of any ideological issues, and the extent to which the “plan” is a faithful imitation of the nutsier and boltsier sections of Crashing the Gate, the book-length 2006 netroots manifesto written by Markos Moulitsas and Jerome Armstrong. There’s lots about the revolutionary nature of the internet as a vehicle for organizing, fundraising, and communications; lots about the need for a younger and more diverse generation of activists and candidates; lots about rebuilding party infrastructure and competing in all fifty states.
There’s some rich irony in this heavy dose of progressive-envy, since much of the netroots thinking that the Conservative Young Turks are slavishly echoing was itself based on a close reading of the rise of the conservative movement. But more importantly, the “rightroots” movement is missing a key ingredient that helped make the netroots blueprint so successful: a preparatory period of ideological ferment. On the center-left, that occurred in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as a result of the much-maligned but essential “neo-liberal” and “New Democrat” movements.
For all the Clinton- and New Democrat-bashing amongst the netroots, most honest progressives would admit that what happened in 2006 and 2008 was made possible in the first place by earlier party reform efforts that challenged the self-conception of the Donkey Party as a coalition of shrinking interest and identity groups huddled together to protect “their” pieces of the New Deal/Great Society legacy from the conservative onslaught. There wasn’t much of a positive message or agenda, and not much of a strategy for a progressive majority beyond the hope that the GOP would fatally overreach (as they eventually did under Bush, Rove and DeLay).
It’s reasonable to argue that Clinton’s New Democrats themselves overreached through too many compromises, too much Washington-think, too much adulation of globalization and other market forces, and too little respect for the legitimate needs and interests of traditional constituencies. But as Markos and Armstrong recognized in Crashing the Gate, some crucial work was accomplished in opening the party to new ideas; in neutralizing conservative wedge issues by addressing long-neglected public concerns like crime, welfare dependency, and bureaucratic inertia; and in challenging interest-group tunnel-vision and litmus tests. After all, the “fighting Democrats” of the Dean campaign or the 2006 comeback weren’t just 1970s liberals with better technology, and the Obama campaign wasn’t just a hipper version of the McGovern or Mondale campaigns.
It took a second wave of reform in this decade to complete the picture by reconnecting the Democratic Party to its grassroots and its activists, and to constituencies that may have been maginalized during the Clinton years, while reviving the progressive espirit de corps and extending it beyond the Left’s old redoubts.

The relationship between Obama and the Progressives – is it a “battle for the President’s soul” or a “natural division of labor?”

Note: this item was originally published on November 25, 2008
The rapidly mushrooming debate about the relationship between the Obama administration and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party suffers from an unnecessary lack of clarity because many of the commentators do not make a clear distinction between two very distinct ways of visualizing the issue.
The first, which might be called “the battle for the President’s soul” perspective, visualizes progressives and centrists or conservatives as engaged in a permanent tug of war to win the President’s support for their agenda. In this perspective, each cabinet appointment and each policy decision the President makes represents one more episode in a perpetual struggle to pull, pressure or cajole the President toward progressive approaches and solutions
For progressive Democrats who entered politics during and after the Clinton administration, this way of thinking about a new administration seems entirely natural and indeed almost completely self-evident. By late 1980’s most progressive movements had become increasingly Washington-focused and political campaign-oriented, in contrast to previous eras of independent progressive grass-roots organizing and mobilization. For many younger progressives, working for political candidates and campaigns was actually their sole form of progressive activity. As such, it made sense for them to feel that a victorious campaign naturally ought to deliver a very clear and explicit ideological “payoff” to progressives after the election, one properly proportionate to the effort they invested during the campaign and the degree of their success.
But during past eras of major progressive social movements – the trade union movement of the 1930’s and the civil rights movement of the 1960’s — there was a very different perspective. It could be called a “natural division of labor” point of view. A Democratic President was basically assumed to be a ruthlessly pragmatic centrist who would make all his moves and choices based on a very cold political calculus of what was necessary for his own success and survival. He might have private sympathy for some progressive point of view but there was generally no expectation among social movement progressives that he would “go out on a limb” for progressives out of a personal moral commitment to some social ideal. As a result, the most fundamental assumption of progressive political strategy was always the need to build a completely independent grass roots social movement, one that was powerful enough to make it politically expedient or simply unavoidable for the political system to accede to the movement’s demands.
In a widely read 1966 essay, “Non-violent Direct Action“, historian and civil-rights activist Howard Zinn clearly expressed this view:

“.What the civil rights movement has revealed is that it is necessary for people concerned with liberty, even if they live in an approximately democratic state, to create a political power which resides outside the regular political establishment. While outside, removed from the enticements of office and close to those sources of human distress which created it, this power can use a thousand different devices to persuade and pressure the official structure into recognizing its needs.”

This same traditional progressive movement view was recently restated in a Nation magazine editorial by Katrina Vanden Heuvel.

…it’s worth remembering another template for governing. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was compelled to become a bolder and, yes, more progressive President (if progressive means ensuring that the actual conditions of peoples’ lives improve through government acts) as a result of the strategically placed mobilization and pressure of organized movements.
That history makes me think that this is the moment for progressives to avoid falling into either of two extremes –reflexively defensive or reflexively critical. We’d be wiser and more effective if we followed the advice of one of The Nation’s valued editorial board members who shared thoughts with the Board at our meeting last Friday, November 21.
It will take large scale, organized movements to win transformative change. There was no civil rights legislation without the [civil rights] movement, no New Deal without the unions and the unemployed councils, no end to slavery without the abolitionists. In our era, this will need to play out at two levels: district-by-district and state-by-state organizing to get us to the 218 and sixty votes necessary to pass any major legislation; and the movement energy that can create public will, a new narrative and move the elites in DC to shift from orthodoxy. The energy in the country needs to be converted into real organization…
We need to be able to play inside and outside politics at the same time. I think this will be challenging for those of us schooled in the habits of pure opposition and protest. We need to make an effort to engage the new Administration and Congress constructively, even as we push without apology for solutions at a scale necessary.

The choice between this “natural division of labor” social movement perspective and the “battle for the President’s soul” perspective is important because the choice of the conceptual framework one uses has a number of very large consequences.

Anatomy of Conservative Self-Deception

Note: this item was originally published on November 11, 2008
For those Democrats who were settling down with a bag of popcorn to watch an orgy of ideological strife among Republicans, it’s beginning to become apparent that the war may be over before it began. Sure, there’s plenty of finger-pointing and personal recriminations over tactics and strategy, some of it focused on the McCain-Palin campaign, and some looking back to the errors of the Bush administration. There’s clearly no consensus on who might lead Republicans in 2010 or 2012. But on the ideological front, for all the talk about “movement conservatives” or “traditionalists” at odds with “reformers,” it’s a pretty one-sided fight. And one prominent “reformer,” the columnist David Brooks, pretty much declared defeat yesterday:

The debate between the camps is heating up. Only one thing is for sure: In the near term, the Traditionalists are going to win the fight for supremacy in the G.O.P.
They are going to win, first, because Congressional Republicans are predominantly Traditionalists. Republicans from the coasts and the upper Midwest are largely gone. Among the remaining members, the popular view is that Republicans have been losing because they haven’t been conservative enough.
Second, Traditionalists have the institutions. Over the past 40 years, the Conservative Old Guard has built up a movement of activist groups, donor networks, think tanks and publicity arms. The reformists, on the other hand, have no institutions…..
Finally, Traditionalists own the conservative mythology. Members of the conservative Old Guard see themselves as members of a small, heroic movement marching bravely from the Heartland into belly of the liberal elite. In this narrative, anybody who deviates toward the center, who departs from established doctrine, is a coward, and a sellout.

Now there’s nothing particularly new about this dynamic. It’s exactly the way conservatives reacted to the 2006 debacle, and in fact, to virtually every Republican defeat since about 1940 (with the exception, of course, of 1964). They’ve never been shy about saying that “moderate” or “liberal” Republicans are not only wrong, immoral and gutless, but are in fact losers. And there’s nothing new as well about their take on George W. Bush; it’s pretty similar to their ex post facto take on Richard M. Nixon: a potentially great leader surrounded by venal hacks who sacrificed principle in an illusory search for short-term political gain and personal riches and power.
There are, however, two aspects of contemporary conservative self-justification that strike me as somewhat new.

Predictive Theories: How Did They Grade Out?

Note: this item was originally published on November 10, 2008
As we all sort through various theories for what happened on November 4, and what it all means, Mark Schmitt of The American Prospect performs a public service by looking back at some of the predictive theories bruited about during the campaign season, and grading their eventual accuracy.
He gives his highest grade to the model advanced back in 2002 by TDS Co-Editor Ruy Teixeira and The New Republic’s John Judis in their book, The Emerging Democratic Majority, which, as Schmitt notes, made “predictions [that] were close to an exact map of the Obama demographic.”
He gives somewhat lower but still positive grades to Tom Schaller’s signature efforts to predict a Democratic majority that ultimately did not depend on southern votes; the “economic determinist” models that predicted a Democratic victory based on macroeconomic indicators; and those such as Michael Lind who drew attention to the enduring resistance of Appalachian voters to Obama’s candidacy.
David Sirota’s “Race Chasm” theory, which projected into the general election Obama’s success in states with many or few African-American voters, gets a “C-minus.” A “D” is assigned to the “wine-track” theory that Obama would become just another Democratic candidate attractive to elites but repellant to working-class voters. And “Fs” go to the prophets of a vast “Bradley Effect,” and to those who thought disgruntled Hillary Clinton voters would swing the election to McCain.
Finally, Schmitt gives a big shout-out to Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com, whose demographics-and-polls based analysis of the entire campaign from Iowa to November 4, was spot-on, culminating with very accurate predictions of the final popular-vote margin and the state-by-state results. Since Nate’s background is in sabermetrics (the statistics-based analysis of baseball), you’d have to say that he had the kind of year that was the equivalent of winning both the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards.
In any event, Mark’s report card is good clean fun, at least for those who didn’t get assigned failing grades.

All the Polls Can Tell Us

Note: This item was originally published on November 3, 2008
While channel surfing very early this morning, I dwelled for a moment at Fox, and heard the usual cawing about the presidential race tightening. But unless I’m mistaken, the pre-spin there seemed half-hearted, as did the talk about an obscure Obama relative living in the country illegally.
We’re now finally at the point where polls have told us everything they have to say, and here’s Nate Silver’s assessment as of 3:00 a.m. today:

McCain’s clock has simply run out. While there is arguable evidence of a small tightening, there is no evidence of a dramatic tightening of the sort he would need to make Tuesday night interesting.
Related to this is the fact that there are now very, very few true undecideds left in this race. After accounting for a third-party vote, which looks as though it will come in at an aggregate of 2 percent or so…I am showing only about 2.7 percent of the electorate left to allocate between the two major-party candidates. Even if John McCain were to win 70 perecnt of the remaining undecideds (which I don’t think is likely), that would only be worth a net of about a point for him. Frankly, McCain’s winning scenarios mainly involve the polls having been wrong in the first place — because of a Bradley Effect or something else. It is unlikely that the polls will “tighten” substantially further — especially when Obama already has over 50 percent of the vote.

When it comes to the state-by-state contests, the situation is even clearer. All of the states that seem to be close at the end of this campaign–FL, MO, OH, NV, NC, IN and VA–are states that John McCain must carry. But even if he carries them all, he still loses.
To sum it all up, if McCain somehow wins, it will produce the largest demolition of the public opinion research profession since Dewey and Truman 60 years ago–perhaps even larger, since the two national pollsters of that era didn’t bother to test opinion during the last week in 1948.

The Futility of “Redistribution” Attacks on Obama

Note: this item was originally published on October 28, 2008.
It’s been obvious for a while that attacks on Barack Obama for favoring “redistribution of wealth” and other “socialist” beliefs is the final gambit of the McCain-Palin campaign. They’re reached this essentially ridiculous position for a variety of reasons:
(1) It’s highly congenial to conservative “base” voters, who think virtually all Democrats are “socialists,” and who also view much of the New Deal/Great Society legacy as “socialist.”
(2) It’s also arguably persuasive to some swing voters, who may not like or trust either candidate, and are trying to figure out who represents the greatest risk.
(3) It intersects with the McCain campaign’s heavily tax-and-budget based approach to the economy, which it is intensifying in the absence of anything much to say about what he would do to deal with the actual economic crisis the country faces.
(4) It also intersects with the sleazier aspects of the McCain/GOP/conservative assault on Obama, aimed at painting him as a dangerous radical who “pals around with terrorists” and is secretly close to anti-American, black nationalist, and perhaps even Jihadist Islamic elements.
So anything Obama’s ever said and done that can be twisted into support for “redistribution of wealth” is being avidly promoted by the GOP. The latest example is a 2001 Chicago public radio intereview in which Obama the law professor discusses the reluctance of the judicial branch to engage in “redistributive” efforts.
This is really, really a reach, as Obama legal advisor Cass Sunstein explains at The New Republic. Obama was in fact articulating approvingly a conservative legal theory about the hamhanded nature of direct judicial intervention into social policies that don’t involve fundamental rights:

In answering a caller’s question, he said that the court “is just not very good at” redistribution. Obama added, with approval, that the Constitution “is generally a charter of negative liberties.”
Obama’s principal claim–about the institutional limits of the courts–was made by many conservatives (including Robert Bork) in the 1960s and 1970s: Courts should not attempt to guarantee “positive” rights, or interpret the Constitution to redistribute wealth. Obama is squarely rejecting the claim that was made by many liberal lawyers, professors, and judges at the time–and that is being made by some today.

So this latest attempt to show that Obama’s a “socialist” is almost completely bogus.
But facts aside, there are two other reasons these sort of attacks aren’t getting much traction.
First of all, most Americans generally understand that there are a variety of longstanding and very popular policies in this country that involve “redistribution of wealth” to some extent or other. Certainly Medicare and Medicaid aren’t “pay as you go” programs. Nor is public education. And the basic principle of progressive taxation is inherently redistributive.
Second of all, we are at a point in U.S. history when upper-income and corporate complaints about “redistribution” are going to fall on an awful lot of deaf ears, given the consequences of regressive conservative economic policies over the last eight years. As I noted in an earlier post about progressive taxation, a majority of Americans right now appear to actually support the use of the tax code to redistribute wealth from the rich to lower-and-middle class folk, which is what Obama is unfairly being accused of covertly supporting.
In general, the McCain-Palin campaign’s attack lines on “redistribution” and “socialism” are poorly timed, as were earlier efforts to brand Obama as an “extreme liberal.” This is one election cycle where given the choice between the economic policy status quo and a more liberal approach, “change” is the preferred option regardless of how it is mischaracterized with alarmist terms.

Look Out Dems: Here Comes the Mother of All Smear Jobs

Note: this item was originally published on October 12, 2008
Conservatives are going to start claiming that the 2008 election will be “stolen by goons and hooligans,” that “Dems caused the financial crisis” and that Obama is a ”secret radical/terrorist sympathizer” — and they are going to throw John McCain right under a bus if he doesn’t play along.
Dedicated movement conservatives can read the poll numbers as well as anyone else and, in the last few days, they have started to see that John McCain may very well lose this election.
They can live with that. They have been in opposition before – like the Clinton years – and they can figure out a political strategy to follow once they are in opposition. But they are also aware that an Obama victory poses a threat of unprecedented dimensions to their brand of conservatism. It is the kind they like to call “existential” – a threat to their very existence.
Coming after an intensely fought election campaign with a compelling — indeed mediagenic, rock- star cultural conservative like Sarah Palin on the Republican ticket, a strong Obama victory would imply:

That most Americans don’t actually share cultural conservative’s vision of themselves as “the real America,” opposed by only a minority of educated elites.
That most Americans don’t share the view that Obama and Democrats are essentially un-American and unpatriotic.
That most Americans do, in fact, believe that it was eight years of Republican pro-free market policies that created the current economic crisis.

This, conservatives simply cannot accept. As a result, in the last few days, we have seen the beginnings of the new conservative narrative start to emerge from Steve Schmidt’s Rovian media operation within the McCain campaign. The key elements of this new narrative are as follows:

1. That Barack Obama is not only actually a secret radical/terrorist sympathizer but that there has been a vast and concerted conspiracy by “the mainstream media filter” to hide this truth from voters.
2. That leading Dems including Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank and Harry Reed are the primary culprits in the current financial crisis
3. That primarily Black “goons and hooligans” are going to steal the election.

Each of these new tropes has been launched by one or more of the major McCain campaign ads in the last few days and each is widely repeated and reinforced by extensive viral e-mail campaigns.
As a result, each of these notions is already being reflected directly back to McCain in the remarks his supporters are making to him at his town meetings – remarks like the woman who insisted that Obama is actually “an Arab” or “a terrorist” or the men who argued that McCain should get “the names of the people responsible for the crisis and punish them” and that “goons and hooligans” are going to steal the election.
When McCain finally felt obligated to speak up and disagree with these distortions last Friday he was roundly booed by his own supporters – and it will only get worse after the election. If McCain does not rigidly stick to the new conservative script that Steve Schmidt has handed him to read and he loses the election, the conservatives – including Sarah – “et tu, Brutus” – Palin – will turn on him like wild hyenas.
If you think Democrats have been mean to McCain this year, just wait until you hear the conservatives rip him apart after the election. They will call him a “weakling,” “a bumbling fool” and a “senile, doddering old man who let an easy victory escape him.”After all,” they will add knowingly, “he was never really a true conservative to start with.” This “the loss was all McCain’s fault” rationalization will actually provide the fourth and final element of the new conservative narrative.
This may seem cruel, but conservatives really have little choice except to explain the election in this way because a key part of their world view is an unrelenting insistence that politics is a simple morality play of good vs. evil — with themselves invariably in the heroes’ role. In this storyline Conservatives are always basically right and always essentially pure – they do not make fundamental mistakes or display major moral and ethical failings (if an individual conservative does any of these things, it simply proves that he or she was not actually a “real” conservative to begin with).
Thus, the new Steve Schmidt conservative narrative will make it possible for conservatives to continue to claim after the election that the American people don’t really support Barack Obama (they were tricked), that Republican policy did not really cause the current economic crisis (Democrats did) and that true conservatism was not really rejected by the American people (just the overly timid and bumbling John McCain).

The New “Welfare Queens”

Note: this item was originally published on October 10, 2008
Throughout this long presidential campaign, there’s been endless discussion of race as a factor. But until recently, such talk revolved around hard-to-assess white fears about Barack Obama’s racial identity, along with efforts to conjure up the ancient hobgoblin of the Scary Black Man via images of Obama’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright.
Now, in the wake of the ongoing financial crisis, racism has entered the campaign conversation from an unexpected direction. In the fever swamps of conservatism, there’s a growing drumbeat of claims that the entire housing mess, and its financial consequences, are the result of “socialist” schemes to give mortgages to shiftless black people whose irresponsibility is now being paid for by good, decent, white folks.
Some of this talk is in thinly-veiled code, via endless discussions on conservative web sites (though it spilled over into Congress during the bailout debate) attributing the subprime mortgage meltdown to the effects of the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, which was aimed at fighting the common practice of mortgage “redlining” in low-income and/or minority areas (basically, a refusal to make any mortgages, regardless of the creditworthiness of individual applicants, in such areas).
In truth, the CRA didn’t require lending to unqualified applicants (though it did provide that applicants’ credit-worthiness could be established through means more sophisticated that standard credit scores), and in any event, CRA doesn’t even apply to the non-bank lenders responsible for the vast majority of bad mortgages. (Sara Robinson has a very useful primer on CRA at the OurFuture blog).
A closely associated and even more racially tinged element of the conservative narrative on the financial crisis focuses on lurid claims about the vast influence of ACORN, a national non-profit group active in advocacy work for low-income Americans. Among its many activities, ACORN has promoted low-income and minority homeownership, mainly through personal counseling. More to the point, though it’s unrelated to any of the claims about ACORN’s alleged role in the financial crisis, the group worked with Barack Obama back in his community organizing days on the South Side of Chicago.
Now as it happens, I’ve never been a huge fan of ACORN, mainly because its ham-handed voter registration efforts in recent years have supplied Republicans with their only shred of evidence that “voter fraud” is a legitimate concern in this country. But ACORN, a relatively marginal group, had no real influence over toxic mortgage practices, which again, to state the crucial point, had little to do with CRA-enabled loans to low-income and minority homeowners. Google “ACORN financial crisis” and you’ll be treated to an amazingly huge number of articles and blog posts on the subject, virtually all of them from conservatives. None of them, so far as I can tell, establish that the group has had any significant involvement in mortgage decisions, mainly because most subprime loans were made in areas where ACORN activists would never set foot. ACORN is being singled out by conservatives for a leading role in the crisis simply because it’s crucial to the whole CRA/Socialist/Minorities/Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac/Obama narrative about the financial crisis. And that narrative is not simply all over the internet: it’s common on the airwaves as well, from Lou Dobbs to an assortment of “analysts” at Fox.
While some conservatives are careful not to get too explicit about the racial underpinnings of this argument, others aren’t.

Is There a Psychological Explanation For John McCain’s Recent Behavior?

[Note: this post by James Vega was originally published on September 30, 2008] In the very brief recent period between John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate and his erratic behavior during the last few days, very serious and fundamental questions about McCain’s character, behavior and temperament have become widespread.
But observers have found difficulty in fitting McCain’s various behaviors into any single recognizable pattern. Each critique focuses on a different and apparently unrelated issue – his instability, recklessness, tolerance for mendacity and self-righteousness among others.
There is, however, one very interesting psychological framework that actually does seem to fit the broad pattern of behavior we are now seeing.
Consider the following personality profile:

1. The person is impulsive and does not think about consequences – he or she seems to embrace the philosophy – “just do it”
2, the person is a risk-taker and thrill-seeker. His or her conduct often seems reckless and blind to possible damage or harm. There is a lack of normal prudence and caution.
3. The person exhibits an attitude of “the rules don’t apply to me.” The person clearly understands the difference between right and wrong and even becomes outraged and furious when other people violate the rules. But the person simply cannot apply these rules to his or her own conduct. These individuals’ own violations are always “no big deal” or somehow justified by circumstances.
4. The person exhibits a significant degree of self-centeredness and narcissism – He or she seems to operate according to a philosophy of “it’s all about me”. These individuals have an inability to see events in a larger context than how they affect the person him or herself.

Gee. Seems pretty on the mark, doesn’t it.
Yet, in fact, the description above is actually a profile that is familiar to many people in the juvenile justice system – it is a description of the behavioral syndrome seen in many adolescents – often from stable, good families — who become enmeshed in the criminal justice system because of repeated delinquent behavior like speeding, drunk driving, promiscuity, low-level drug dealing or burglary (not for survival but “just for kicks”) and a whole panoply of other juvenile misbehavior.
Traditional psychological approaches were not very successful in developing a coherent theory to explain this behavioral syndrome. Until the mid-1980’s, in fact, the attempts to understand these different personality characteristics were usually presented in separate chapters of standard textbooks.
The revolutionary advances in cognitive neuroscience in the last 20 years, however – and particularly in CT and fMRI based brain imaging – have provided a dramatically new perspective. It has been found that, although these different personality characteristics are localized in a variety of locations within the brain, they all appear to be mediated (“densely interconnected,” in neurophysical terms) through the prefrontal cortex.
This fact, together with the discovery that the prefrontal cortex often does not completely develop until the early 20’s, has led to a tremendous rethinking of youthful delinquency. An emerging body of legal theory, in fact, considers that neural imaging of the prefrontal cortex may even provide a legal basis for a defense of diminished capacity in young adults.
But what does this possibly have to do with a 72 year old man with a long career in political life? John McCain is clearly not going to hotwire a Mustang and drive off on the beltway at 90 miles an hour.
The answer is that some individuals consistently tend toward the expression of these personality characteristics throughout their entire lifetimes. In McCain’s case simple observation also suggests two additional conclusions:

1. That the above noted, seemingly unrelated personality characteristics which McCain is exhibiting are actually part of a single, coherent behavioral syndrome.
2. That, for whatever reason, the expression of these characteristics in John McCain’s behavior has dramatically increased in recent months.

A number of years ago I observed as a leading expert in delinquent behavior delivered the news to the distraught parents of a young man that there was no easy answer or quick fix for their son’s behavior. The expert concluded:

“You just have to wait and trust that time will help to reduce his problematic conduct. In the meantime, just use common sense – don’t go out of town and leave him alone in the house, and –whatever you do – don’t give him the keys to the car.”

Gee, that sure sounds like good advice to me, doesn’t it.

The Best Sound-Bites and Brief Quotes From the Democratic Convention in Denver

(Note: this item from the TDS staff was originally published on September 6, 2008)
In modern politics it has become increasingly important to be able to present the Democratic perspective in either very brief, one or two sentence sound-bites or short, one paragraph summaries of major issues and perspectives.
The format of many political discussions on television and radio allows each participant to speak only a few words at a time before being interrupted. Many “roundtables” and other print discussions give each individual commentator space for only one or two paragraphs.
In this kind of communication environment, having a set of sharply worded, succinct statements of the Democratic position on major issues becomes critical.
The speakers at the recent Democratic Convention produced dozens of first-rate sound-bites and short, one-paragraph summaries of this kind. The TDS staff have brought together a large group of these quotes in a convenient format for use by Democratic spokespeople, citizen advocates and grass-roots supporters.
We believe you will find this collection quite useful during the coming weeks.
Read more……