5 Best Thursday Columns

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  • Joshua Green on the Tea Party's Future  After Tuesday's elections, it's clear the Tea Party is no longer merely a fringe political movement. But just how big can it be? The Boston Globe columnist looks for answers in the fate of the New Right, which "gave rise to an earlier conservative insurgency" in the 1978 midterms. Green argues that while the New Right's wins in '78 were smaller than the ones enjoyed by the Tea Party Tuesday, their influence would "eventually shape the modern Republican Party," starting with Ronald Reagan. Like this year, the nation's sharp rightward shift in 1978 was "largely unanticipated...the New Right that emerged from [the midterms] had great effect nationwide, not only energizing activist conservatives to displace entrenched liberals from Congress, but by redefining the nature of conservatism as it was understood in Washington, and thereby shifting the country to the right." It was the "ethos of [the 1978 election] that proved so enduring" and set the stage for the age of Reagan. The enduring narrative of the 2010 midterms might end up being how "Republicans recommitted to pursuing, and not just talking about, the Tea Party ideal of a smaller, more modest government."
  • Ben Bernanke on the Fed's Latest Asset Purchases Writing in The Washington Post, the Federal Reserve Chairman defends the Federal Open Market Committee's decision to buy up $600 billion of longer-term Treasury securities by mid-2011. Bernanke says high unemployment and low inflation prompted the decision. "Although low inflation is generally good, inflation that is too low can pose risks to the economy - especially when the economy is struggling. In the most extreme case, very low inflation can morph into deflation (falling prices and wages), which can contribute to long periods of economic stagnation." Low inflation numbers "indicate that the economy has considerable spare capacity, implying that there is scope for monetary policy to support further gains in employment without risking economic overheating." Because short-term interest rates are already about as low as they can go, the decision was made to "support" the economy by buying up the securities. Acknowledging that "purchases of longer-term securities are a less familiar monetary policy tool than cutting short-term interest rates" in the United States, Bernanke is confident the move will not lead to inflation (as some fear), noting, "We have made all necessary preparations, and we are confident that we have the tools to unwind these policies at the appropriate time."
  • Nicholas Kristof on Changing the President's Tune  "To a disconcerting number of people I talk to, Mr. Obama comes across as remote, detached, inauthentic and arrogant," writes The New York Times columnist. "All that’s deeply unfair, I think, but it’s the stark reality." While Kristof believes Obama's policies staved off another Great Depression, his inability to sell his accomplishments turned the public against him. Kristof certainly hopes that the president didn't "[absorb] too much of Mario Cuomo's dictum: 'We campaign in poetry, and we govern in prose.'" He hopes that Obama's "prose" isn't so dry during the next two years and proposes that confronts the economic crisis "emotionally as well as intellectually." To do so he should start by arguing, sweating and "slugging" back at his political opponents.
  • Steven Metz on al-Qaeda in Yemen  Following attempted terrorist attacks from Yemen, policymakers are concerned the country might devolve into the next Afghanistan. The New Republic contributor argues, though, that although the ungovernable nation offers a "perfect safehouse" for al-Qaeda, that is not necessarily a good argument for United States "increas[ing] its security and development assistance." We've already tried doing that in Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, he points out, and "America doesn’t have the capacity to fill vacuums in every far-flung precinct." Though "Yemen is truly a mess ... Al Qaeda's rise" there shows U.S. strategy to be little more than "a game of whack-a-mole--when al Qaeda gets 'whacked' in one place, it simply burrows on to the next."
  • The Economist on the End of Palinism  The outcome of the midterms was a "blow" to Sarah Palin, who presented herself as a kingmaker but had "decidedly mixed results." Her greatest strength was not the value of her endorsements but the "much-needed infusion of money and attention" she brought to candidates, notes The Economist . Now, as new faces appear after the election, Palin's prominence seems likely to wane. "So now the spotlight swings to people like Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, who in addition to being the face of the opposition are actually, having been in elected, in a position to do something about it," the correspondent writes. "As for Mrs Palin, we won't hear so much from her until she makes a decision about 2012."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.