Friday, May 12, 2006

Voters' Authentic Yearning

By David S. Broder
Thursday, May 11, 2006; A27
Indiana politics was rocked last week by a story that went unnoticed outside the borders of the Hoosier state.

In the May 2 Republican primary, state Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Garton of Columbus, a 36-year veteran and one of the most powerful legislators in the nation, was soundly beaten by Greg Walker, a young accountant making his first bid for any office.

What happened in Indiana is a signal of the voter restlessness that imperils incumbents of both parties this year -- but especially the Republicans who control Congress.

It is also, I think, a symptom of a call for more accountability and leadership at all levels of government. In a time of war and wrenching economic change, the voters are beginning to demand more candor and more responsibility.

That is also the theme sounded by one of the current generation's best political reporters, Joe Klein, in his new book, "Politics Lost." The subtitle of the book is "How American Democracy Was Trivialized by People Who Think You're Stupid."

That makes it sound like an attack on political consultants -- the pollsters and media advisers who have come to dominate campaign strategy in the decades since Joe McGinniss wrote "The Selling of the President," about the Nixon campaign of 1968.

Klein, who now writes for Time magazine, scorns some of them, notably Bob Shrum, the Democratic speechwriter who has been involved in almost every losing presidential campaign in the modern era.

Any Democratic hopeful who hires Shrum for 2008 is on notice that he can expect nothing but grief from Joe Klein.

But in fact, Klein admires the skills of many others and says at the end of his screed that "there is a place for prudent consultancy in American politics," noting that Ronald Reagan "could never have been Reagan without a stage manager like Michael Deaver."

His real beef is not with the consultants but with presidential candidates who lack the convictions, the ideas and the backbone to run their races as themselves.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


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