Daily Archives: August 10, 2011

Jonathan Chait offers the president some advice: don’t go all negative on Mitt Romney (as the president’s advisers are reportedly advocating), just remind people he’s a Republican.

Americans turned against the GOP en masse at the end of the Bush administration and never turned back. Republicans won the midterm elections in part by simply escaping public wrath against Democratic-controlled Washington, and in part by exploiting a much smaller, older, whiter electorate than you’d see in a presidential year. But very high-profile, very crazy Republican rule in the House of Representatives has rekindled and actually deepened the public’s distrust.

Today’s CNN poll is quite striking. In October of 2010, both parties were viewed about as favorably by the public (Democrats stood at 46% favorable/47% unfavorable, Republicans 44/42.) The Democratic party today is about the same — 47% view it favorably, 47% unfavorably. But the Republican Party’s favorability has collapsed — 33% of Americans view it favorably, 59% unfavorably. That -26% favorability gap is lower than the party’s rating before the 2006 election (-14%) or the 2008 election (-16%.) The GOP is completely toxic.

I agree that the poll is striking, and I will be glad if it means that the GOP is punished for its recklessness over the debt-ceiling fiasco. But I don’t read the 2010 elections as a case of “simply escaping public wrath against Democratic-controlled Washington” or “exploiting a much smaller, older, whiter electorate than you’d see in a presidential year”. I read them as saying that Obama and the Democrats have to be stopped. The GOP have over-interpreted that victory as a mandate for the radical dismantling of the public sector. But Obama should not make the mistake of under-interpreting it.

It’s a Theodore Dalrymple moment, I’m afraid. I’ve been watching the news from London and the UK with dismay–but not, altogether, with surprise. The cultural conditions for this orgy of criminality have long been apparent on the streets of many British town centres every Friday and Saturday night: areas simply given over to menacing gangs of feral teenagers roaming around as if they own the place, which they do.

My parents told me some years ago that they no longer dared to venture into their local town centre (Bolton) after dark. I was glad to hear it. For a while I had a flat near Piccadilly Circus in central London. The wall of a building nearby–two steps from the square, mind you, not in a back street–had been designated a late night urinal. To get to my front door late at night, I used to walk past a line of men pissing. Now and then a policeman would amble by this sight unperturbed–though to be fair I never saw an officer avail himself of the facility. Less common was the sight of a young woman squatting to relieve herself–something you would rarely see before midnight, at least on a main thoroughfare such as Haymarket, and probably no more than once a week. (“Couldn’t you at least use the gutter?” I used to think.)

Clive Crook’s blog

This blog is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

I have been the FT's Washington columnist since April 2007. I moved from Britain to the US in 2005 to write for the Atlantic Monthly and the National Journal after 20 years working at the Economist, most recently as deputy editor. I write mainly about the intersection of politics and economics.

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