It's been a while since I've posted, largely due to a busy travel schedule and end of the semester preparations. Most of November was spent preparing for a conference presentation in Philadelphia, wrapping up some assessment work at MSU, and getting my classes to the finish line, which is now in sight. Classes end on December 2nd and finals end on December 9th. My students have no finals, just papers. So I'll be busy reading those once they come in before taking a much needed break until the 10th of January.
So what has transpired over the past month in the world of American politics? Several important events to be sure...and I'm sure I'll miss some along the way.
1) The remarkable rise of Herman Cain as the GOP's anti-Romney seems to have come full circle as his poll numbers have shrunk after a series of missteps, including his campaign's unorthodox handling of the sexual harassment allegations against Mr. Cain. The allegations, some apparently well-documented, others blowing in the breeze, didn't hurt Mr. Cain as much as his unclear and occasionally contradictory refutations of them did. Following the allegations Mr. Cain's weakness on foreign policy and national security issues was exposed in consecutive Republican debates, fumbled answers to direct questions at a sit down interview with a Wisconsin reporter, seeming not to understand that Cubans speak Spanish, and so on. Some will argue that this is evidence of a conspiratorial left-wing media out to destroy a viable GOP candidate. I think, rather, it is evidence of a candidate not yet ready for primetime.
2) Dovetailing with the fall of Cain from grace has been the meteoric rise of Newt Gingrich. Newt has gone from the high single digits in most pre-November polls to the lead in several early primary states as the GOP desperately seeks anybody but Romney to be their standard bearer, even if this means nominating a man who has been divorced three times, suffers from foot in mouth disease, and thinks it might be a good idea for grade school children to work evenings as janitors cleaning up their schools. Newt is nothing if not an idea man...in many ways the right-wing version of a policy wonk like Bill Clinton was for centrist Democrats. There is no doubt about Gingrich's talents and abilities but the practical implications of his policy preferences are as yet unknown. Can he hold on until Iowa and snag a few early victories? Probably because he is really the only other candidate in the race qualified to be president apart from the two Mormons, Romney and Huntsman.
3) The Super Committee failed spectacularly at cutting $1.2 trillion from future deficits, largely because the GOP was adamant about not raising taxes on the 1% to offset some of the cuts in benefits and services they proposed on the 99%.
4) The Occupy Wall Street movement gained some traction and got plenty of good press over the past few weeks along with some not so good news as they were evicted from their camps in many cities. I had the chance to visit one of these camps in Philadelphia last week and while I share many of their concerns I have my own qualms about their methods. On the one hand, ensuring that a sector of society that is usually invisible is noticed is a good thing. On the other, failing to police their encampments and ensure sanitary conditions is not. While in Philly, OWS marched down Market Street and seemed to be well received by those gathering on the sidewalks as they passed by. The demonstrations there were peaceful and well ordered as the police department cleared pathways for the demonstrators and ensured public safety. Kudos to the Philly PD for a great job.
I'm sure there is plenty I missed over the past few weeks as well. If there's anything you'd like to see posted here just drop me an email or make a comment. Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.