How Far Apart? Divisions in American Politics (Part II)

This is the second piece of my two-part series for Aslan, discussing why partisanship and anti-systemic forces have drastically divided American political culture in recent years. The first piece can be found here.

It was fine drama. The vice-presidential debate between incumbent Joe Biden and challenger Paul Ryan was substantive, engaging, and filled with tragic-comedy (at least from Biden). Unlike their running mates, Biden and Ryan displayed the divisions between the national parties that were glossed over by the surprise appearance of “Mitt the Moderate” one week prior. In a time of economic hardship, they sought to embody the two different visions of America that are meant to move us through recovery, define our future trajectory, and even redefine our past. From the left we are a nation of communal action for the betterment of all; from the right we are a nation of empowered individuals who succeed on their own merit. Read the rest here!

How Far Apart? Divisions in American Politics (Part I)

Please check out my latest article up at Aslan about divisions in American political culture. It is the first in a two part series.

Watching the first presidential debate last week, Americans may be forgiven for losing sight of the differences between the candidates in the details. Republican candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama managed to agree both on broad themes and policy specifics. When asked about their understanding of the role of government, both heralded foremost our military and our education system. The military is usually the darling of the Republicans, education the sweetheart of the Democrats. But here they were, Romney declaring, “I love great schools!” (see this graphic for all of Romney’s loves), Obama touting his role as Commander-in-Chief, and both nodding in approval of the other across the split screen. Moreover, thanks to some significant backtracking on Romney’s part, they were also in agreement not just about funding for schools, but also about taxing the rich, the importance of regulations, and even healthcare mandates. Read the rest here!

Why One Man’s Views on Israel Matter More Than the Rest of Us

My latest piece is now available for reading here. It is part of my just-launched column at Aslan Media!

As is often the case, Israel is dominating the discourse on US foreign policy. In the last week or so, there has been renewed debate about the viability of the “two-state solution” with the Palestinian Authority once again on the verge of financial collapse, the posting of bigoted ads in New York City subway stations equating Israel with civilized man and its resistors with savages, the almost monotonous warmongering over Iran, and the release of a surreptitiously taped video of Mitt Romney dismissing not only 47 percent of Americans but also the Palestinians, their leadership, and the peace process to boot. The annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly offered another chance for world leaders and their eager followers in the media to debate/discuss/dissect Israel in US foreign policy. I am personally staggered when an American president, with our men and money operating at war in another country, mentions Israel five times more than Afghanistan in his speech to the UN. Read the rest here!

Campaign 2012: Domestic Issues Trump Foreign Policy Concerns

In my latest article for Aslan Media, I’ve written about the brief shift of focus towards foreign policy and the subsequent return to domestic issues in the presidential campaigns. As I hope to show, the domestic focus is an ever-increasing trend among the American public.

When Michael C. Hudson and I began penning an article on the foreign policy implications for the Middle East under the next presidential administration, we wanted to underscore an issue neglected in a campaign season defined by the economy. Soon enough, our issue and region of choice were brought to the forefront by the shocking deaths of American diplomats in Libya and the rapid spread of small-scale but dramatic demonstrations outside US embassies throughout the Muslim world. It is an unfortunately sensational storyline. Featured are an anti-Semitic/Islamic fraudulent expat, a soft-core porn director, and a preacher of vitriol on the one hand, and opportunistic politicians maximizing the anti-Western sentiment of their (in some cases overly-militarized-thanks-to-the-West) followers. Add to that an exploitative Republican presidential candidate, significant Islamophobia, and a deleterious 24-hour news cycle, and we have a production nearly as distasteful as the film that started it all. Read the rest here!

Obama versus Romney on the Middle East

In this article, Michael C. Hudson and I discuss the foreign policy implications of a Romney or Obama presidency. Please read it on Al Jazeera English!

If you have been following the presidential campaigns lately, you would be excused for missing the candidates’ ideas about foreign policy. America is still conducting the longest war in its history, is witnessing a shift in global power eastwards, is apparently impotent in the face of an imminent collapse of the Eurozone, is paying historically high commodity prices, and is standing by as the Middle East transforms. But in both the Republican and Democratic Party conventions, all that and more seemed to matter little in the face of one thing: the Economy. But foreign policy also matters, especially in a global environment that is challenging American hegemony; and Middle East policy matters a lot – a region important not just for its oil but because it is undergoing seismic social and political transformations. Read the rest here!

I’m only at the beginnings of my project, but this is precisely the sentiment that I have already encountered extensively.

Working-Class Perspectives

In between the Republican and Democratic conventions, I was asked to review an article concerning the attitudes of displaced workers toward their plight. The study suggested that cultural narratives shape the social and political consciousness of those suffering economic distress in both positive and negative ways.  The article made me think about the convention speeches and the impact that they may have on working- and middle-class listeners whose lives have been disrupted by the Great Recession. How might they use the words and cultural narratives suggested in the convention speeches?

The New York Times actually tracked how often the Republicans and Democrats used certain words at their conventions. Other than the names of the presidential candidates, God, and taxes, the most common terms at both conventions were work, jobs, families, opportunity, economy, and success. All of these terms are closely associated with the American Dream, which was…

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News & Views

A roundup of news and analyses from and about Ohio – 10 September 2012

Over the last two weeks politicians and analysts alike have sought to give and take credit for Ohio’s economic recovery. My favorite piece is “Did Barack Obama Save Ohio?” by Matt Bai for the New York Times Magazine on 5 September 2012. You can listen to the discussion here, read more about Ohio’s centrality in the campaigns here, and see how the parties’ are sparring here. I have my own take on the centrality and reality about Ohio in the elections, “Are You Listening Ohio? It’s Me, Washington.”

“State of Working Ohio 2012,” a report released by Policy Matters Ohio on 2 September 2012. This report spurred a lot of discussion and offers critical insights (and reality checks for the overly-optimistic) on the nature of Ohio’s recovery.

“Federal judge orders Ohio to allow early voting on 3 days before Election Day,” by Jim Provance for the Toledo Blade on 31 August 2012. A blow to Secretary of State Jon Husted’s in the battle over voting rights in Ohio. But, this isn’t over yet: Husted is appealing the decision.

“USDA Declares Most of Ohio a Disaster Area,” WOUB/npr/PBS on 5 September 2012. After a long period of drought, federal assistance will help Ohio’s farmers. Here’s a breakdown of the corn production which is so vital to the state’s economy.

“School cuts cost Ohio a lot now, more later,” by David Kushma for the Toledo Blade on 9 September 2012. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities sees the state’s policy of cutting $1.8 billion from public schools as making it less likely that “Ohio will have the workforce it will need to succeed in the future.

“Unglamorous but effective ways to create more jobs,” Bloomberg, 2 September 2012. As it turns out, public and private collaboration in Ohio is one of the best examples of collaboration for the nation to follow. In other words, neither Romney nor Kasich nor even Obama and his bailout are going to do it alone.

“Steel Shipments Reviving Ohio River Valley,” by Keith Schneider in the New York Times on 5 September 2012. Change and continuity in the rust belt.