Jonathan Bernstein:

The 17th Amendment.

Yeah, that’s the one that provided for direct election of senators. If you’re a political junkie you probably are vaguely aware that it’s a tea party fetish, but it’s apparently more than just something that one of the goofier speakers dressed in costume and a funny hat might mention; it’s actually smack dab in the middle of an important election (for those not up on their Texas basics, the lieutenant governor is a big deal in the Alamo State). Nor is it just a fringe position; incumbent David Dewhurst joins one of his three challengers in supporting repeal, while one of the tea party challengers dissents because without it, Ted Cruz might not have been elected the Senate.

Regardless of the merits of repeal (and there are few; direct election was a good idea), there’s something really striking about this. I mean, beyond the obvious point that the overwhelming majority of the electorate is apt to think this is not only a terrible idea, but a totally crackpot idea.

Charlie Cook:
Here’s a question for conservatives and Republicans: Going into the 2012 Election Day, or even in the last few days before Election Day, did you think Mitt Romney was going to win? A couple of months ago, did you think the strategy of threatening to shut down the government or prevent raising the debt ceiling, to force the outright repeal or defunding of Obamacare, would really work? Romney lost by 4,967,508 votes, 126 Electoral College votes, and 3.85 percentage points. That’s not very close. Obamacare isn’t going to be repealed this year, and it’s not going to be defunded.

So the question is whether conservatives and Republicans should begin to worry if their instincts—specifically, their judgment on matters of politics and policy—are a bit off. Maybe “spectacularly wrong” would be more accurate. Does that worry anyone on the right or in the Republican Party? Are they concerned that continuing to follow such awful political instincts could lead to catastrophic consequences for their movement and their party?

Nate Cohn:
The electoral map divides the country neatly into blue states and red states. But blue states include vast conservative stretches; and most red states harbor liberal enclaves, too. In recent years, as partisan polarization has grown, some political minorities in these disaffected areas have proposed a radical solution: state partition.

It has happened before. Maine, for instance, was once part of Massachusetts. And while none of the current movements really has a shot, the eleven instances mapped here (including that to grant the District of Columbia statehood) have at least attracted the support of elected officials.

What would happen if all of them succeeded? Each new state would get two senators and its share of electoral college votes. We ran the numbers and recalculated the 2012 presidential race.

More politics and policy below the fold.

David Ignatius:

Many Republicans have been muttering over the past few weeks of political craziness that the tea party’s hold on the GOP must be broken to protect their party’s health — not to mention the country’s. So I’ve been asking people what a movement to break the extremists’ power would actually look like.

I put the question to a half-dozen prominent Republican strategists and analysts and to one particularly influential Democrat, David Plouffe. The answers convince me that a grass-roots movement to rebuild the GOP as a governing party is possible, but only if it’s a disciplined, well-financed effort that mobilizes voters in the Republican-leaning districts where the tea party is strong.

So Chris Christie or Jeb Bush has to lead the nutters out of the wilderness? See the discussion above about the 17th Amendment.

Michael Gerson:

The trends that helped elevate a series of politically unserious Republican candidates in 2012 — including Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann — have grown only stronger. It is instructive how easily Sen. Ted Cruz has gotten to the right of Sen. Rand Paul. Who will be able to gather momentum to Cruz’s starboard? Ben Carson? Allen West? Republican primary voters tend to make more sober political choices in the end. But the process itself creates a durable image of radicalism and instability.

This leaves Republican governors as the most functional element of the party — and many are not only functional but impressive. They have the best prospect of making a tough critique of Obamacare while proposing a credible alternative. But the longing for a great leader is also a form of confession: that a divided party is in need of saving.

Ryan Lizza:
Rather than another round of Bowles-Simpson commissions on the deficit, perhaps what we need is a commission that could recommend some reforms in processes that would make Washington less dysfunctional. It’s not hard to think of a few relatively simple changes to the system that would have a major impact.

My list would start with the return of more money to politics. One of the reasons Boehner is such a weak Speaker is that he doesn’t have the carrots and sticks that his predecessors previously used. The House banned the use of earmarks, which were a traditional tool to keep recalcitrant members in line. In a four-trillion-dollar annual budget, a few million dollars here and there to lubricate the gears of Congress seems like a very small price to pay if it would create a more productive legislative body. Indeed, last night Mitch McConnell, or someone working on his behalf, won a couple billion dollars for a dam project in Kentucky, which seems like a decent outcome if it helped prevent a default.

The political system could also benefit if the national parties, which can act as moderating influences in elections, were allowed to spend more money on individual campaigns.

Laura Helmuth:
I take back every bad thing I have ever said about Twitter. It’s fast, responsive, and efficient, and it’s the medium of record when gossip breaks. Like pretty much every other science journalist in the world, I’ve been glued to Twitter for the past several days. It all started when a biologist named Danielle Lee, who writes a blog called the Urban Scientist, tweeted that some minor-league editor had called her an “urban whore.”* Really, that is what he called her. To show support for her, people started renaming their own blogs with the word whore using a #WhoreItUp hashtag. The insult was infuriating and the response heartening, but things got more serious when Scientific American removed Lee’s blog post about the exchange. The magazine issued a misleading explanation, then an apology, then it finally reposted her story with a not entirely satisfying update.

Then it got better. I mean, sorry, it got worse—what follows is all terrible and sad. But it’s also fascinating and useful to examine.

A deeply disturbing harassment story. Well worth the read.
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