We've written a lot about Arnold Schwarzenegger's tendency to veer in policy approach -- conciliatory in even-numbered years, confrontational in the odd ones. Now that's he's been reelected running as a conciliator, will he again turn confrontational in 2007?
So far, the signals say no. Schwarzenegger has made many statements suggesting he will continue to make nice with Democrats. Now he's sent an even stronger symbolic message. He's chosen Willie Brown, a former Democratic speaker of the Assembly, to chair his inaugural festivities.
That's right, the same Willie Brown who bedeviled Sacramento Republicans for decades and was the prime target of their ire during his 14 years as speaker. Brown did go out of his way to predict Schwarzenegger's landslide win and didn't shy from dumping on his Democratic opponent.
"I think that Mayor Brown's choice shows the governor's commitment to bipartisanship," Reed Galen, executive director of the inaugural committee, told the Sacramento Bee. No kidding.
The last thing I want to get involved in is speculation about the next presidential election, but I think some of the initial reaction to the prospects of Barack Obama is worth a comment. Not the adulatory response he's receiving, but the skepticism you hear about him here in Washington.
This by now is rote. Howie Kurtz makes the point that Obama hasn't undergone the level of scrutiny he'll receive as a declared candidate. It is a safe assumption that someone will find some dirt that will scuff him up a bit. And there is the fact that Obama is a black man, which is a source of as much guessing about his ultimate prospects as Hillary Clinton's gender. (Here's a contrarian view.)
Finally, there is the point that Obama lacks experience. He was only elected to the Senate two years ago. (His eight years in the Illinois state Senate doesn't seem to count for much in this accounting.) He lacks experience and a record of achievement. Etc.
Well, I wonder whether people who don't follow politics for a living care quite as much about these things.
I received this familiar-sounding message from Colorado Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff the other day:
"Our agenda is ambitious: to build the best public schools in America, to become the renewable energy capital of the world, and to bring health care to all Coloradans."
Hmmm, where have I heard that "renewable energy capital of the world" line before? Perhaps here:
"Offering Iowans a consumer tax credit to purchase these clean burning vehicles is a perfect opportunity to help make Iowa the renewable energy capital of the world." -Iowa Gubernatorial candidate Jim Nussle, AP, 10/8/06
But maybe here:
"From ethanol to biodiesel to biomass digesters, the technology to turn our plant and animal products into energy is driving a new wave of economic development in our state. That's why I am working hard to make Michigan the alternative energy capital of the world." -Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, States News Service, 9/20/06
Or could it have been here?
"Illinois (is) a major grower of corn and soybeans, and the coal supplies have been cleared up in Illinois. And because of that, we can begin to literally be the energy capital of the U.S., of the world. -Illinois gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka, Belleville News-Democrat, 9/1/06
"We need to focus on making Georgia the alternative-fuel capital of the world." -Georgia gubernatorial candidate Cathy Cox, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 4/28/06
Apparently, the only things more renewable than fuels are clichés.
Here's a neat Web site: Santa Monica, California has a real-time map of where parking spaces are available in its downtown and at the beach. You can move your cursor onto a location to find out how much you'll pay if you park there. Then, if you click, you can zoom in to get a closer look.
Maps like this are only one piece of the future of parking technology, which might also include online reservations, in-car navigation systems that direct you to an open spot and variable pricing depending on demand.
For now, the biggest problem with Santa Monica's effort may be that out-of-towners, the people most likely to need directions to parking, aren't likely to know that this Web site exists. If every city has a parking availability Web site in the future, that won't be a concern any longer.
This is outside our normal scope, but fans of French-style protectionism will enjoy this passage from 1491, Charles Mann's fascinating and unusually well-written book about North American history, pre-Columbus, and how many new things contemporary archeologists are finding out about it.
Mann notes that the wool-wearing European explorers quickly swapped their itchy garb for local cotton -- a fashion that quickly caught on back in the old countries. He says in a footnote:
"When cotton became readily available there in the eighteenth century, it grabbed so much of the textile market that French woolmakers persuaded the government to ban the fabric. The law failed to stem the cotton tide. As the historian Fernand Braudel noted, some woolmakers then thought outside the box: they proposed sending prostitutes in cotton clothing to wander Paris streets, where police would publicly strip them naked. In theory, bourgeois women would then avoid cotton for fear of being mistaken for prostitutes and forcibly disrobed. This novel form of protectionism was never put into place."
There's often newsroom debate about how to refer to members of various subgroups of Americans. Some editors think that "Native Americans" is still in vogue, which it isn't (paceWikipedia), while others will argue with reporters about whether it's more kosher to call those from Spanish-speaking heritages "Hispanic" or "Latino." Amitai Etzioni says no to both those terms.
Etzioni, about as well-known a sociologist as a sociologist can be, has published a Neiman paper on use of the term "Hispanics." Surveying the media landscape, he notes that more and more reporters refer to Hispanics as though that were a racial category, which it is not.
Hispanics belong to ethnic groups -- note the plural. Etzioni wishes that the media would refer to groups such as Mexican Americans and Cuban Americans, noting that these groups may have greater differences between them than either has with whites.
Following an election, it's always good to check in with Rhodes Cook, my old coworker at CQ and author of an important political newsletter. We talked over the phone about very broad lessons from the 2006 elections -- not about what issues were important, but macro issues about targeting voters and the shape of the electoral map.
We talked, actually, not just about macro issues but microtargeting -- the big buzzword of this cycle. Both parties did their best to get individualized messages to specific voters based on what was known of their political inclinations and things like consumer habits. This was in contrast to the old model of targeting messages to precincts.
This all grew out of the sense, from the 2004 election, that Karl Rove had come up with a grand new strategy. Target messages to your base and you can win in an evenly divided electorate. As Rhodes notes, the old idea was that each party starts with about 40 percent support and fights over the remaining 20 percent in the middle. As has been widely noted, the middle -- the independents and moderates -- made their clout known in this year's elections, calling Rove's genius status into question.
"Each election forces one to revisit such topics as to what's effective in voter mobilization or who you aim at," Rhodes said. "It is surprising that they [the Republicans] went the other way and were as successful as they were as long as they were with this base strategy. You don't want to box yourself in so you can't make a good play for that 20 percent."