Major Burn on Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Jill Lepore is increasingly my favorite writer on staff at The New Yorker. This is from her recent piece, “Long Division: Measuring the polarization of American politics,” which is locked online, available only to subscribers. So subscribe already.
Lepore talks up the data compiled by scholars such as Warren E. Miller of the University of Michigan, whose research has been funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation's Poliltical Science Program, inaugurated in 1966. She says the research suggests that both voters and legislators are more polarized than at any time since the U.S. Civil War. Then she writes:
What's really going on could be anything from party realignment to the unraveling of the Republic. It's hard to know, though, what with a polarized Congress keen to defund the very scholarship that might cast light on the matter. [Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, who introduced legislation to abolish the Political Science Program] is untroubled. “The University of Michigan may have some interesting theories about recent elections,” he allowed, “but Americans who have an interest in electoral politics can turn to CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, the print media, and a seemingly endless numnber of political commentators on the Internet.” This is a little like saying, when your kitchen is on fire, that it's O.K. because, in a cupboard above the stove, you keep fifty boxes of matches.