James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘2010 election’

Election Day: A boost to Obama’s 2012 campaign

Posted by James McPherson on November 2, 2010

So how many House seats with the Democrats lose today? A record is unlikely, thanks to modern gerrymandering by both parties. The Democrats lost a record 116 House seats in 1894, exactly 20 years after the GOP lost 96.

This election is likely to be closer to the 53 the Democrats lost in 1994, the 56 they lost in 1946, or the 57 Republicans lost in 1910. And while dramatic, it’s hardly likely to be earth-shattering (despite the claims you’ll hear tonight on the cable news networks).

Keep in mind that the GOP must pick up a net of 77 seats to have the SAME 255 seats that Democrats now hold. And even if Republicans were to win EVERY Senate seat that’s open they’d have a smaller majority there than Dems do now.

In fact, the Democrats aren’t likely to lose even enough to cost them the Senate majority. I predict they’ll end up with 51 seats, perhaps one or two more if Sharron Angle and/or Joe Miller manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory (though we may not know the final outcome in Alaska for a couple of weeks or more).

We’ll likely have a GOP-controlled House that can’t do much because there will be a Democratic Senate (which also won’t be able to do much) and a Democratic president who will be able to campaign against a “do-nothing Congress” in his re-election bid, as Harry Truman did in 1948. We’ll have two years of gridlock, or the parties will figure out how to work together.

Either may help Barack Obama two years from now, especially if Sarah Palin runs for president and John Boehner turns out to be the kind of House leader I expect: Think Newt Gingrich with less charisma. Come to think of it, the GOP gave us that not long ago.

Also keep in mind that a lot can happen in the next two years, as I was reminded when I came across this poll last week. Two years before Obama was elected president, 37 percent of people had “never heard of him.” In a disgusting example of American ignorance, 30 percent now say the same about Boehner.

Posted in History, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Hey birthers: Obama impeachment not an option

Posted by James McPherson on September 19, 2010

OK, so we have to accept the fact that nutty conspiracy theorists, like the Biblical poor, will always be with us. But do the wacky purveyors of those theories  have to keep suggesting to their poor deluded followers that if those followers get fired up enough, somehow Barack Obama will magically be impeached?

“Naturally Floyd Brown is the ringleader,” writes The New Republic about the whimsical impeachment effort. Yes, that Floyd Brown, of Willie Horton fame. The article is actually posted on one of Brown’s websites, as if writer Jonathan Chait weren’t making fun of the movement. At least three of Brown’s readers didn’t get it either, judging from the comments.

Brown’s site seems to offer some variation on the “impeach Obama” theme every week, without offering either a clear rationale for the impeachment (“’cause he may be a secret Muslim and won’t show us a ‘real’ birth certificate that we can accept—waaaah!”), or, perhaps even more importantly, the recognition that impeaching a president and removing him from office is nearly impossible.

How near impossible? Well, it’s never been done. Two presidents have been impeached by the House of Representatives, an action that takes a simple majority (which the GOP–but not birther loons–will likely have after the 2010 election).

But booting Obama from his seat would then require a vote by two-thirds of the Senate. And Floyd, you know–even if you keep pretending otherwise to stir up your fans and further line your own pockets–that just ain’t gonna happen.

Republicans may gain a majority in the Senate (though let me go on record today as predicting that Dems will maintain at least the 50 seats they need–with Joe Biden as the tie-breaker–to hold the Senate). But for the sake of my GOP friends, lets assume a Democratic apocalypse. Let’s even go so far as to assume they win every single one of the 37 seats up for election this year (they won’t come close, but play along for a moment).

Guess what: Democrats now hold only 17 of the open seats, while Republicans have 20. So the worst that could happen–and again, nothing close to that will–for Democrats is that they go from a 59-41 majority to a 42-58 minority. In other words, under the worst possible scenario, Democrats will end up almost as bad off as the Republicans in the Senate ARE RIGHT NOW.

Thanks to distorted filibuster rules, those minority Republicans have stopped the Democrats from achieving much of their agenda during the past two years. You think the Dems will suddenly be jumping up and down to help Republicans oust a Democratic president–even if every Republican suddenly turned into a birther?

Even Floyd Brown can’t believe that. For a look at a more realistic view of how the Senate will look, check out Real Clear Politics. And then if you’re an Obama hater maybe you should start thinking about something remotely plausible, like the defeat of Obama in a real, legal election–just like the one he won in 2008.

Posted in History, Legal issues, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

Election ads to be even more obnoxious in 2010

Posted by James McPherson on January 21, 2010

Scott Brown’s election to the Senate, while interesting, isn’t the event this week that will have the biggest effect on the future of the American political process. A much more important (and activist, considering the overturning of legal precedent without corresponding new facts) decision is the one today by the Supreme Court to ban corporate spending limits on political speech, killing the McCain-Feingold act in the process.

McCain, still confused over whether as a Republican he’s supposed to be a shill for big business or a protector of the people, offered a weak criticism of the decision. The 5-4 decision (aren’t they all, anymore?) extends the conservative corporate tradition of treating corporations as if they are individuals (except with much more money and less moral guidance than most people have).

Frankly, as a near-First Amendment absolutist, I have mixed emotions about the decision from a theoretical perspective. From a practical view, however, I have little doubt that future campaigns will be even more negative and more riddled with lies and smears than past elections. An already-broken political process in which most Americans already get their political information from clearly biased pundits and paid advertising will become even worse.

With the news media flailing and perhaps less likely to have the ability to provide meaningful perspective to political events–even if they had the will to do so and more Americans had the will to pay attention–those who care about the process would be well advised to bookmark FactCheck.org, PolitiFact.com, Snopes.com, TruthOrFiction.com, Open Secrets, SourceWatch.org and USAspending.gov, and plan to check them often.

Posted in History, Legal issues, Media literacy, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »