March 10, 2011 [LINK / comment]

R.I.P. David Broder

One of the most respected journalists and political commentators in Washington, David Broder, has passed away at the age of 81. As the front-page article about his life in the Washington Post note, he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for covering the Watergate scandal. Former Post editor Ben Bradlee once said that, unlike most other poltical writers in Washington, Broder "knew politics from the back room up -- the mechanics of politics, the county and state chairmen..." He was widely praised for his thoughtful, balanced approach and his detached analytical perspective. Broder has been a regular on Meet The Press for decades, and was especially good at asking very probing questions that put the guests on the spot. He did not play the flattery game at all, unlike many others in his profession, and his honesty and integrity clearly showed. Like one of his colleagues, George Will, Broder was a big fan of baseball and was delighted when the Washington Nationals began playing in 2005.

Over the years, I have cited Broder's writings more times than I can count. As just a sample of his wisdom, in November 2004, he denounced gerrymandering for creating a legislature that is largely immune to public opinion. (That's a relevant point right now; see below.) In September 2005 criticized President Bush and congressional Republicans for reckless spending, with which I concurred. In July 2007, he defied conventional wisdom about Washington politicians being "out of touch" with average Americans. Instead, he wrote: "A particularly virulent strain of populism has made official Washington altogether too responsive to public opinion." (That was years before the Tea Party even got started.) And in January 2009, he wrote that President Bush's greatest failure was in refusing "to ask any sacrifice from most of the American people..."

I walked past Mr. Broder at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association in Washington, in September 2005. I wanted to say something complimentary to him, but hesitated until it was too late. C'est la vie. As a tribute (extremely modest) to Mr. Broder's career, I am going to mark his passing by getting started blogging about politics once again, after a hiatus of exactly four (4) months. (Last politics blog post: November 10, 2010: "Bipartisan budget compromise?".)

Redistricting begins soon

I was recently compiling population data for use in a redistricting exercise for my U.S. Government class, so I updated my Virginia politics page with some new maps. The Virginia General Assembly will reconvene in April to decide on how the congressional, state senate, and delegates district lines will be redrawn. Much of the preliminary work has already been done, and it is clear that some districts will have to grow significantly, and others will have to shrink. Since the two parties share in control of the state legislature (Democrats in the State Senate and Republicans in the House of Delegates), they will be forced to compromise when it comes to redrawing congressional districts. Presumably, each party will take customary advantage of their majority status in their respective chambers.