Election 2011: Your Homework Assignment

In the wake of the good political news last night, especially from Ohio, let us pause and consider these questions from Charlie Pierce over at Esquire (penned before the results were in).  Because at the end of the day, they are the ones that matter.  And if we can’t answer them, then anything that happened yesterday will be less than a footnote.

Let’s assume that Kasich gets kicked around, the way it looks like he might, and the way he thoroughly deserves to be, god knows. What happens next? Is there really an actual movement building here, a parallel mobilization among the largely white middle class that would parallel the one taking place in the Occupy camps around the country? Or will the people on the lawn go back to sneering about the drum-beating hippies sleeping in the parks? Will they all leave the state capitol in Columbus and go back to listening to the hundreds of sub-Limbaughs on their local radio stations, telling them that teachers have it too good because they have summers off, or that firefighters are gaming the disability system, and that “government” is merely a way for all of Them to steal Our money, and that voting is just a waste of time? Do they all go back to worrying about The Deficit, which is merely convenient shorthand for all the things they don’t want to pay for? Do they all go home and prepare themselves, through ignorance and apathy, to vote for the next John Kasich who comes along?
What are the answers to these questions?  And what are we supposed to do about it?

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

2 thoughts on “Election 2011: Your Homework Assignment”

  1. These are the questions that matter. Are these the mushy middle, the unquantifiable, unfindable, indescribable American polity that determines elections, yet seems indeterminate? Are they our friends and neighbors who might pay attention but have no strong, principled ideas about political theory, have no real ideology? Are they won over primarily by advertising, overheard punditry, talking points from their more partisan acquaintances?

    If the question is about these people, who the heck knows, right? All we can do is hope they’re listening to us and not someone else.

  2. “Are they our friends and neighbors who might pay attention but have no strong, principled ideas about political theory, have no real ideology?”

    Do people like this actually exist? I don’t know any. How could someone be informed and have no opinions? What kind of strange creature they must be. And with our polarized media, it would almost be a kind of achievement. An annoying one, to be sure.

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