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The Next Four Years Week

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The nation's future, dimly seen

Posted By on 11.15.12 at 09:13 AM

...called functioning government
  • . . . called functioning government
The Republican Party will search its soul for answers, taking comfort in the knowledge that if their standard bearer hadn’t been such a stiff, and so many of the down-ticket candidates complete morons, they’d have taken over Washington. A bloodletting will loom on the horizon but cooler heads will prevail. We can stand for the same eternal values we’ve always stood for, party leaders will reason, but that doesn’t mean we have to bring them up.

Much will be made of the 2012 gerrymandering scandal—which saw the Republicans comfortably retain control of the House of Representatives even though Democratic candidates collectively received more votes. Is this small-d democracy? shrill voices will cry. But cooler heads will prevail. Turn every district into a swing district and the House would be dangerously destabilized, they will argue. There would be no senior leadership. We would drive off the legislative giants who are elected when young and then accrue power unchallenged for the next 24 years. Sizable majorities in both parties will be persuaded.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Could the natives be restless?

Posted By on 11.14.12 at 06:45 AM

Nancy Wade and campaign workers Sam Holloway and Walter Pituc
  • Courtesy of Walter Pituc
  • Green Party congressional candidate Nancy Wade with campaign workers Sam Holloway and Walter Pituc
On election night I was in one of presumably few places in Chicago where the name "Rahm Emanuel" drew boos. The campaign for Green Party congressional candidate Nancy Wade was hosting a viewing party at the Globe Pub, and the message to Chicago Democrats was "stop drinking the Kool-Aid."

"In Chicago we live in something more like a dictatorship than a democracy," said Wade, who served on her local school council before becoming involved with the Occupy movement and MoveOn. "We have no votes for the school board, no votes for the park board . . . "

On the issue of representation Wade wasn't alone: an advisory measure in favor of an elected as opposed to a mayorally appointed school board drew 86 percent of the vote in the 327 precincts where it ran on last week's ballot. Now some Chicago aldermen are pushing for a citywide referendum on the issue, a move that was earlier blocked by a parliamentary maneuver that had certain people crying foul.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mr. Smith Screws Up Washington

Posted By on 11.13.12 at 04:00 PM

James Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  • James Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
In the history of American movies, has there ever been a scene with more pernicious consequences than the filibuster in Frank Capra's classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington? Well, maybe Travis Bickle's mirror monologue from Taxi Driver, but even Travis could hurt only one person at a time. Perhaps you've never seen Mr. Smith, so let me lay it out for you: Jefferson Smith (James Stewart), a greenhorn senator hand-picked by a malevolent political boss (the magnificently slimy Edward Arnold), learns that a pending appropriations bill will fund a graft-lousy dam project backed by his powerful sponsor. To prevent the bill from passing before this plot can be revealed to the public, Smith takes to the Senate floor to stage a filibuster and speaks for hour after hour, a lone hero standing up for what's right.

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Monday, November 12, 2012

This week we wonder: "What will the next four years look like?"

Posted By on 11.12.12 at 08:36 AM

The cover in question
  • The cover in question
When Barack Obama was elected to his first term four years ago, the Reader put out an issue with a cover that made some people upset: a drawing of Obama was featured with a banner that read, "Don't screw this up." After all, the enthusiasm surrounding Obama's election was so great that all people hoped was that the president-elect would follow through on all the promises—and act in accordance with the sparkling rhetoric—he spouted on the campaign trail. After four years, an apt banner for the next four years might be, "Let's try and do better than last time."

Not to say that Obama did a terrible job (health care!), but Guantanamo is still open, financial regulation is probably not what it could be, and there are these things called Predator drone missile strikes. I'd guess that the hope among Obama's supporters is that the "change" we heard so much about during the first campaign is more apparent the second time around—but hey, that's why I preface that statement by saying "I'd guess." If there's anything I learned during this election, it's that everyone feels differently.

That's why, for this week's Variations on a Theme, Reader staff will be writing about what they imagine the next four years under Obama will look like. Whether it's new Supreme Court justices, new taxes, or just anything new that's not more of the same, everyone has a different wish in mind for what's on the horizon in the next almost-half decade. And in case you missed last week's Variations on a Theme, Dread Week, check out what people were thinking just before and just after a decision was made.

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