John P. Avlon
Editor's note: John P. Avlon is a CNN contributor and senior political columnist for The Daily Beast. He is the author of "Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America."
Congressional corruption scandals are dominating headlines just as campaign season is heating up - and Democrats might get beaten back by the same tide that swept them into office in 2006.
The past two weeks have seen a 13-count case against 40-year incumbent Charles Rangel of New York and the announcement of an ethics trial against California's Maxine Waters.
All this comes as a jury decides the fate of the buffoonish former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, accused of conspiring to sell President Obama's Senate seat. Their three states represent a significant part of the Democrats' political base.
It's an ugly picture of cronyism and corruption that seems to be replayed every few years. As libertarian humorist PJ O'Rourke famously warned: "When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators."
John P. Avlon
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America is facing trillion dollar deficits and unprecedented national debt. The Tea Party movement has channeled populist anger at out-of-control Washington spending and generational theft.
Now a bipartisan deficit reduction panel has begun to propose solutions to these urgent problems - but official Washington's response seems to be a collective roll of the eyes. Talk about a profile in cynicism.
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For The Daily Beast
Don’t screw with South Park—and don’t ever try to intimidate us into accepting Sharia law.
That’s the message Americans are sending upon news that the comedy team of Trey Parker and Matt Stone had received a fatwa-esque death threat for their 200th episode, which featured the Muslim prophet Mohammed dressed in a bear-mascot suit.
The obscure New York City-based Islamist supremacist group Muslim Revolution issued the warning alongside graphic images of the murdered Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh. Their message read: “We have to warn Matt [Stone] and Trey [Parker] that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show. This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them.”
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/04/13/art.obama.hcreform.jpg]Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of John P. Avlon.
John. P. Avlon
Special to CNN
Newt Gingrich called President Obama "the most radical president in American history" at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference last week.
The leader of the 1994 Republican Revolution is a smart man and a historian, so he must know better. But he's also exploring a run for president, an action that frequently suspends good judgment in pursuit of sound bites. Perspective is the first thing abandoned in hyper-partisan attacks.
So here is a look at five presidents who, it could be argued, exceed Obama in the "radical" sweepstakes.
1. Franklin D. Roosevelt: How about this for radical: a president who overturned the two-term precedent set by George Washington and ultimately won four terms in an era when dictators were in vogue worldwide. He also proposed expanding the Supreme Court to pack it with his own appointees, attempting to fundamentally alter the separation of powers. And his New Deal created the basis for the modern welfare state in the U.S., whose apex under self-styled inheritor Lyndon Johnson provoked a backlash that ushered in a generation of conservative resurgence.
2. John Adams: The nation's second president has been getting a well-deserved reappraisal, thanks to David McCullough's magisterial biography. But Adams' signing of the Alien and Sedition acts during the threat of war - effectively outlawing anti-government dissent and curtailing freedom of speech and freedom of the press - was a radically anti-democratic action and a black mark on this Founding Father's otherwise honorable service to our nation.
3. Andrew Jackson: The man on the $20 bill was the original populist president, a general who fought Washington elites, British soldiers and native American tribes alike. Old Hickory's wars with the Second National Bank, Congress and the Supreme Court were legendary. His native American removal policies rescinded previously agreed-upon treaties and brought about the infamous "Trail of Tears" that led to the deaths of thousands.
Eight of the self-styled Hutaree militia members arrested this week.
Special to CNN
We’ve seen a ratcheting up of violent rhetoric and even violent plots in recent weeks. This edition of Wingnuts of the Week takes a look at a new Code Pink “citizen’s arrest” of Karl Rove and the real arrest of the Hutaree militia.
Militia movements exist well off the grid when it comes to conventional domestic politics. But the arrest of the Michigan-based Hutaree anti-government militia group raised new questions about the increasingly ugly and fear-fueled fringes of the political landscape.
The small, self-style Christian militia group (members say “Hutaree” means “Christian warrior”), led by father David Stone, was arrested by the FBI early this week on charges that they plotted to murder a local law enforcement officer and then bomb his funeral procession to up the body count in an attempt to spur a civil war in the United States.
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John P. Avlon
Special to CNN
Today's bipartisan health care meeting is being called a summit, a term that brings to mind diplomatic missions during wartime. That's a fitting description for the atmosphere in Washington. Political opponents are considered enemies.
Health care is just the latest example of government dysfunction; it's been derailed by hyper-partisanship, over-spending and the disproportionate influence of special interests.
Independent voters, the largest and fastest growing segment of the electorate, hold the balance of power in American politics, but they have once again been shut out of the debate. The professional partisans in Washington ignore them at their peril.
Many Americans associate broken government with the chaos that followed Hurricane Katrina and the anxieties that accompany the current manic recession. But the roots of independent voters' frustration go deeper.
Editor’s note: John P. Avlon is a senior political columnist for The Daily Beast and author of "Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics," and "Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America." Previously, he served as chief speechwriter for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and was a columnist and associate editor for The New York Sun.
John Avlon will be on tonight to discuss the stimulus program, the Obama Administration's agenda and what we can expect from the President's State of the Union address tomorrow. Read this excerpt from his book.
The Rise of Independents
The future lies with those wise political leaders who realize that the great public is interested more in Government than in politics . . . The growing independence of voters, after all, has been proven by the votes in every Presidential election since my childhood—and the tendency, frankly, is on the increase.
—Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1940
In the more than sixty years since FDR predicted the rise of independence in the American electorate, analysis of congressional voting records shows that Washington has grown more polarized, driven by ideology and disdaining compromise, than at any time in the recent past.
This trend has especially been on the increase since the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, and continued to grow with the anti-Clinton fervor of the 1994 Newt Gingrich–led Republican Revolution. As columnist George Will has written: "Some ideologically intoxicated Republicans think Democrats are not merely mistaken but sinful . . . Some Democrats, having lost their ideological confidence, substitute character assassination for political purpose."
This polarization has been cemented by redistricting—creating safe congressional seats for incumbents to occupy without the built-in check and balance of a credible opposition candidate. Currently, 90 percent of congressional seats are considered "safe." Once upon a time in America, people chose their congressmen; now congressmen choose their people.
As Congress has grown more partisan, however, the electorate has grown steadily more Centrist, with the number of self-identified moderates rising from a bare plurality of 36 percent in 1980 to 50 percent in 1998 and 2000. At the same time, the number of Americans who are reluctant to identify themselves completely with either political party has been steadily rising.
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As a heated wingnut summer heads to a close, we look at a new GOP “socialist” attack on President Obama for speaking to school children, a ‘brain dead’ attack on Democratic centrists and, in a bonus round, a callous conspiracy theory just in time for the 8th anniversary of 9/11.
President Obama is slated to give a speech to America’s school children next Tuesday on the subject of taking personal responsibility for their success in school.
Last time I checked, personal responsibility and socialism were opposite concepts, but that didn’t stop Florida GOP Chair Jim Greer from firing off an unhinged press release.
Special to CNN
President Obama's decision to address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday is a gutsy gamble - a recognition that the health care reform debate has gone off the rails and needs to be recentered.
At stake is the credibility of one of the president's core campaign appeals to the American people - that he could be a bridge builder who would heal the hyper-partisanship that defined domestic politics during the Bush years.
After a fractious summer, expect the president to call for common ground and try to elevate the debate. He should point out, rightly, that health care reform has been pursued since Harry Truman and that never has such a broad coalition supported reform that decreases costs and increases access.