Friday, September 12, 2008

Short Takes: Yemenite Music and Comments on Election 2008 for Congress

This video is a nostalgic slide show of scenes from Yemen set to Yemenite Jewish music. About a thousand Jews remain of that ancient community in Yemen. The majority continue to make great contributions to the cultural life of Israel.

Sectarian violence in Yemen threatens the peace and tranquility of the Jews who are the remnant of that ancient community. Islamic rebels intent on embarrassing the government in that country have driven Jews from their homes and villages, in violation of even the minimal protections afforded the "people of the book" under Islamic law. ( see story link below,7340,L-3394316,00.html


Congress 2008: The Gap Narrows

Since the Republican convention, the gap between the Democrats and the Republicans has narrowed considerably. The USA Gallup poll actually places the Republicans ahead by five points in a generic congressional race. Real Clear Politics, which averages all of the polls together has the Republicans behind by 5.4%, which a considerably narrower gap than has prevailed in the months leading up to the Democratic and Republican conventions.

A number of factors seem to be at work. Recent American military success in Iraq has undercut disenchantment with the war as a factor in the Democrats’s favour.

Disapproval of Congress is far higher than that of the Bush administration. Nancy Pelosi has as majority leader put a face on voter’s concerns. Democratic intransigence on energy policy, particularly offshore drilling issues has gone against the majority of public opinion.

The colourful and intriguing candidacy of a young woman governor from a new state has attracted a lot of public attention. Her ideas and beliefs resonate with many. When the election is a contest of ideas, the Republican Party does not function at a disadvantage. Casting an election as a contest of ideologies tends to benefit congressional candidates. Most people realise that a President who shares their values needs the cooperation of Congress.

McCain and Palin have succeeded in connecting with voters. A heartfelt conviction that can survive a telepropter malfunction goes a long way. The coattail effect of a successful Presidential candidate helping candidates for the Senate and House might now be coming into play.

Feminist ideas have made deep inroads in America. But religious traditions remain a strong and guiding force. Palin’s nomination represents the possibility of harmonising the two ideological strains into something new.

The Presidential race will claim a lot of attention in the final weeks leading up to the election in November. How well the winner will do after Innauguration Day in January 2009 will depend upon the composition of Congress. The poll numbers for Senate and House seats is looking better for John McCain.But they still have a way to go. A contest of ideologies and a focus on the record of Congress would be good for the Republicans. It would also lengthen the coattails of McCain and Palin.

There has been a major shift in political debate leading up to the election in November. Public interest in the people at the head of the Democratic and Republican tickets has lent a clarity to the election contest.

There is a place for investigating candidates and exposing their records. This may be perceived by some as negative reporting. Journalists who follow this path are only doing their job. But the contest of differing visions for America’s future can and should remain a recurring theme.

Hillary Clinton once correctly said that “It takes a village to raise a child.” This saying points correctly to the role of society and its institutions in shaping development. A President with a vision for society needs a Congress willing to share it and not to thwart it. This seems to be more of a possibility than it ever was a few months ago. A lot can happen in the next few weeks before the election. But those who want change have to make it happen, through dialogue and by presenting their case. Hope is in the air.

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