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Must Read Op-Eds for October 11, 2011

NAKED IN MASSACHUSETTS BY FRANK BRUNI NEW YORK TIMES A sense of humor is the first casualty of any fiercely fought campaign. And Brown vs.

NAKED IN MASSACHUSETTS BY FRANK BRUNI NEW YORK TIMES A sense of humor is the first casualty of any fiercely fought campaign. And Brown vs. Warren (if she gets the nomination) will be one of 2012’s fiercest. His victory in a special election in early 2010 not only stunned but galled Democrats: a photogenic, ineloquent upstart took the seat left vacant by the death of Ted Kennedy, the roaring liberal lion of the Senate. And the party’s success in getting it back could prove decisive in preventing Republicans from wresting control of the chamber.  Both parties will flood the state with money — Warren on Monday announced an impressive two-month tally of $3.15 million in donations — and both parties’ candidates will be shoehorned into the election cycle’s abiding clichés and conceits, whether they fit or not. Warren and Brown don’t, at least not neatly.

THE MILQUETOAST RADICALS BY DAVID BROOKSNEW YORK TIMESThe Occupy Wall Street movement may look radical, but its members’ ideas are less radical than those you might hear at your average Rotary Club. Its members may hate capitalism. A third believe the U.S. is no better than Al Qaeda, according to a New York magazine survey, but since the left no longer believes in the nationalization of industry, these “radicals” really have no systemic reforms to fall back on. They are not the only small thinkers. President Obama promises not to raise taxes on the bottom 98 percent. The Occupy-types celebrate the bottom 99 percent. Republicans promise not to raise taxes on the bottom 100 percent. Through these and other pledges, leaders of all three movements are hedging themselves in. They are severely limiting the scope of their proposed solutions. The thing about the current moment is that the moderates in suits are much more radical than the pierced anarchists camping out on Wall Street or the Tea Party-types... Don’t be fooled by the clichés of protest movements past. The most radical people today are the ones that look the most boring. It’s not about declaring war on some nefarious elite. It’s about changing behavior from top to bottom. Let’s occupy ourselves. THIS TIME, IT REALLY IS DIFFERENT BY JOE NOCERANEW YORK TIMESI don’t know that anything at this point could re-center the political debate, so unyielding are the two parties. But as Congress prepares to take steps, through the deliberations of the already deadlocked supercommittee, that will likely further wound our ailing economy, “The Way Forward” ought to at least give our politicians pause... The paper’s central premise is something I’ve been hearing from Alpert for more than a year now: this time, it really is different. What he and his co-authors mean by that is that the bursting of the debt bubble three years ago was not just a severe example of the ups and downs that are an inevitable part of American capitalism. Rather, it was the ultimate consequence of the modern global economy... It is impossible to do justice to “The Way Forward” in this space. It is rich in supporting data, deeply nuanced, with as clear-eyed a view of our economic predicament as I’ve ever read. Though it is not exactly beach reading, by academic standards it is quite accessible. THE OCCUPY PROTESTS: A TIMELY CALL FOR JUSTICE BY EUGENE ROBINSONWASHINGTON POSTAlready, after less than a month, commentators are asking whether the Occupy protests can be transformed into a coherent political force. For now, at least, I hope not. We have no shortage of politicians in this country. What we need is more passion and energy in the service of justice. We need to be forced to answer questions that sound simplistic or naive — questions about ethics and values. Detailed policy positions can wait. At some point, these protest encampments will disappear — and, since the nation and the world will not have changed, they’ll be judged a failure. But I’ve got a hunch that this likely judgment will be wrong. I think the seed of progressive activism in the Occupy protests may grow into something very big indeed.ROMNEY'S CHANCE IN S.C. BY MICHAEL GERSONWASHINGTON POSTRomney does not need to win South Carolina, but supporters see an outside shot at victory. A divided Republican primary might be taken with 30 percent of the vote... But the whole scenario depends on primary voters remaining scattered among several conservative options. The bad news for Romney is that a majority of his party wants an alternative to his nomination. The good news for Romney is that it hasn’t settled on one. Meanwhile, Romney will need more conservative supporters... who are convinced that defeating Obama is the overriding political priority. South Carolina’s homegrown political genius, Lee Atwater, used to say that electability doesn’t win primaries. This election could test the theory.HOW THE CAMPAIGN SEASON GOT SO LONG BY LARRY J. SABATOWALL STREET JOURNALThe First Amendment guarantees candidates an unfettered campaign of indeterminate length. If you wanted, you could today declare for president in 2016 or beyond. A handful of ambitious politicians have doubtless already written the announcement in their heads. Luckily for the rest of us, they will say nothing publicly... A statute or constitutional amendment establishing a system of March-to-June regional primaries—with rotating order so that every state gets to be part of the first group every fourth election—would help. Even better, why not have the order of the regionals determined by lottery on New Year's Day of the election year, so that candidates wouldn't know until then where to begin their ground efforts? That would shorten the campaign season. Of course, this reform is likely to be enacted on the 12th of never. Until then, we'll just have to content ourselves with a crazy-quilt, eternal campaign—an electoral purgatory of our own creation.JEFFRESS THROWS JESUS UNDER THE BUS BY JOE SCARBOROUGHPOLITICOHerman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and Perry all exercised their right to remain silent in the face of Jeffress’s outrageous statement. What courage. But what’s new? For years now, GOP leaders have sat silent as extremists called political rivals everything from “Nazi” to “Racist”to “Marxist.” Now we can add “Cultist” to the GOP lexicon. Show some courage, Gov. Perry. Stand up to a powerful supporter, because sometimes being tough requires more of a man than shooting a coyote in the face.