Fresh Air

How novel–a president who favors transparency over secrecy, openness over furtiveness, the rule of law over the rule of executive power.  One of President Obama’s first acts was to order federal agencies to “adopt a presumption in favor” of requests under the Freedom of Information Act.  His next act was to order recommendations to improve federal government transparency. As reported in the Washington Post President Obama wrote–

The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears . . . In responding to requests under the FOIA, executive branch agenciesshould act promptly and in a spirit of cooperation, recognizing that such agencies are servants of the public.

Servants of the public. What a transformational concept.

Party of the Past

Not so long ago the Republican Party was ascendant.  More new voters registered Republican than Democrat and Republican clubs sprouted on college campuses.  Karl Rove spoke of a “permanent Republican majority,” the institutionalization of us-versus-them exclusivity at all stages of electoral politics.

No more.  The media is filled with stories of the inroads Obama made in supposedly impregnable Republican camps–yesterday’s NY Times reported on Obama’s courtship of young white evangelicals.  He didn’t capture a majority of their vote, but did make sizable gains over recent Democratic presidential candidates.  The results are the logical outcome of years of divisiveness:  continue to pit “Real Americans” against those you deem less worth and wind up in a half-empty hall with deflated victory balloons and a puzzled expression on your face.  Frank Rich’s Op-Ed captures it:

The post-Bush-Rove Republican Party is in the minority because it has driven away women, the young, suburbanites, black Americans, Latino-Americans, Asian-Americans, educated Americans, gay Americans and, increasingly, working-class Americans. Who’s left? The only states where the G.O.P. increased its percentage of the presidential vote relative to the Democrats were West Virginia, Tennessee, Louisiana and Arkansas. Even the North Carolina county where Palin expressed her delight at being in the “real America” went for Obama by more than 18 percentage points.

I also recommend Nicholas Kristof’s Op-Ed, Obama and the War on Brains.  Kristof sees Obama’s election as a reversal of the Republican worship of anti-intellectualism.  While electing intelligent leaders is no automatic cure–Jimmy Carter was smart–we are living in the wreckage wrought by eight years of proud ignorance.