Tuesday, March 11, 2008

eliot spitzer

I have a passing acquaintance with Eliot Spitzer, who is a friend of a portion of my family, although I have never been a political admirer. Certainly I don't condone his behavior, and it may well be that he will have to resign. But there is something unseemly about the glee many are expressing over his fall, including some who probably voted for him before (he was elected overwhelmingly two years ago).

One has to wonder about the effect of these scandals, as well. One effect is that New York State will likely be handed over to a Lieutenant Governor (David Paterson) who, while able and admirable, was not elected Governor and has no obvious political constituency. It must be remembered that, while the country was occupied with the similar Clinton scandals, Al Qaeda was plotting the Twin Towers attacks.

One has to wonder also about the fickleness of popular opinion. In medieval Rome, the bodies of dead Popes were dragged through the streets by mobs, who reveled at the chance to disgrace that which was no longer holy. We like to think of ourselves as more civilized, decent . . . and, most of all, forgiving. But are we?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

and if you want to hear more . . .

I will likely be switching a portion of my blogging, or at least my political blogging, over to my campaign website


for the next 6-8 months. I'll continue to blog here about Italy, law schools, and other items that the voters in my district may care less about. Those of you who want to follow my thinking, about the Pennsylvania primary and other matters, may wish to tune in to both sites.

A presto [until the next time.]


obama, clinton, pennsylvania

The newspapers, which until recently left Clinton for dead, have announced her latest comeback, and (as predicted here) gotten tougher about Obama and his limitations. Many believe that she is now an equally or more likely nominee. Maybe, but let's consider a few facts:

1. Obama has a 100-150 delegate lead which will probably grow with the Mississippi primary later this week. There are only 300-400 undecided superdelegates together with remaining primaries which will likely split on a close to 50-50 basis. To make up even a 100 delegate disadvantage, Clinton would have to win the remaining superdelegates by about a 2:1 margin, or convince previously decided delegates to switch. Neither appears especially likely.

2. Most of the "secondary" factors--polling results, fundraising capacity, and the personal attractiveness of the candidates--actually favor Obama. Thus, the situation is different from (say) the 1976 Republican contest, where Ford clung to a slight delegate lead but Reagan commanded more enthusiasm and won most of the later primaries. In the caucus states, which are the best indicator of commitment and enthusiasm, Obama actually does better.

3. It is very common for a frontrunner to stumble in later primaries as voters suffer a degree of buyer's remorse and, perhaps, a subconscious desire to prolong the contest. Thus, Reagan lost several late primaries to George H.W. Bush in 1980, Carter to Kennedy, and so forth. Both of them were nominated.

There is a very good piece by Chris Satullo in today's Inquirer about Pennsylvania and its differences from other states. Satullo concludes that many of these favor Clinton. I am somewhat less sure. While portions of the State (notably the western half) resemble Ohio, there are more suburban yuppies together with a larger and more concentrated Black vote, notably here in Philadelphia, which will unquestionably break heavily in Obama's direction. Moreover, people will have a longer time to get to know the candidates, which usually helps Obama more than Clinton, whom they already know. I would rate it a tossup: although as the comedian said, it's not my problem.

bowling (cafe-ing) alone?

I found myself recently with an hour between appointments in Center City Philadelphia and so retired to my favorite Italian caffe for a a bit of newspaper reading. I sat down at my table and after a few moments noticed something strange. It wasn't the coffee, a particularly well-brewed Italian espresso (that's why I go there), or the newspaper--though I was surprised to learn that the Tribune, an African-American daily, covers local politics much better than the Inquirer, a supposedly national daily. Rather it was the sound, or lack of it, that surrounded me.

Every spot in the caffe was taken, but no one was talking. Instead, each table was occupied by a single twenty- or thirty-something person and their laptop, the click-clack of the keys being interrupted occasionally by a private laugh or a furtive cellphone conversation, generally to confirm an appointment, and then back to the keyboard. As if feeling the need to reaffirm their humanity, one male and female, who happened to be seated next to each other, began ever so slightly to flirt with one another and trade notes about their respective on-line experiences. Otherwise, one could have been in a law school library, except that the library is usually a little bit more social. Every fifteen minutes or so, someone got up to refill their coffee.

I have been puzzled, all election year, by talk of "community" and "sacrifice" by young people who seem to actually experience little of either. But maybe that's the point. People who have grown up behind their keyboards, so much so that even an Italian caffe--the entire purpose of which is to socialize--becomes an isolating experience, are desperate for a politics that will provide what is otherwise missing to them. Whoever provides it is going to be in good shape for a long time to come. Whoever doesn't, watch out.