Monday, October 6

Worth reading

Tim Dickinson on John McCain (Rolling Stone):

"In its broad strokes, McCain's life story is oddly similar to that of the current occupant of the White House. John Sidney McCain III and George Walker Bush both represent the third generation of American dynasties. Both were born into positions of privilege against which they rebelled into mediocrity. Both developed an uncanny social intelligence that allowed them to skate by with a minimum of mental exertion. Both struggled with booze and loutish behavior. At each step, with the aid of their fathers' powerful friends, both failed upward. And both shed their skins as Episcopalian members of the Washington elite to build political careers as self-styled, ranch-inhabiting Westerners who pray to Jesus in their wives' evangelical churches.

"In one vital respect, however, the comparison is deeply unfair to the current president: George W. Bush was a much better pilot."

Joshua Kurlantzick on the global trends for democracy and authoritarianism (New Republic)

"In its latest report on global democracy, Freedom House glumly admitted, "2007 was marked by a notable setback for global freedom ... a profoundly disturbing deterioration." For the second year in a row, the number of countries sliding backward in Freedom House's analysis was vastly greater than those making progress toward democracy. And many nations that had previously achieved the ranking of "Partly Free" in the organization's index have failed to progress toward democratic consolidation. At the same time, the most undemocratic states on earth, places like Burma and North Korea, made no progress toward reform last year.

"Some of this is the fault of the Bush administration, whose halfhearted support for democracy around the world has given democratization a bad name. At the same time, new democracies have not figured out how to secure their new political systems beyond their first elections. And the corruption and instability resulting from these half-successes have undermined public confidence and given succor to new authoritarian leaders. After years of confidence, some advocates of democratization now are wondering: Has democracy reached its global limits?"

George Packer on the struggle to get white working class votes for Obama (New Yorker):

"Obama has had particular trouble with the prized demographic group that once delivered the Presidency to Roosevelt and his successors. Anecdotally, and in polls, unusually large numbers of working-class voters seem to remain undecided or determined to sit the election out, as if they couldn’t bring themselves to vote Republican this year but couldn’t fathom taking a chance on Obama. Roger Catt, a retired farmer and warehouse worker, who lives in a small town near Eau Claire, Wisconsin, characterized the choice this way: “McCain is more of the same, and Obama is the end of life as we know it.”"

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