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Writing the book on 'Politics to the Extreme'

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Notes from the cold, but warming soon, political trail...

Following up on the stimulating pre-election conference they sponsored just before the 2012 presidential election, Cal State Channel Islands political professors Scott Frisch and Sean Kelly have published a book of academic papers written by presenters at the conference, which was called "Politics to the Extreme."

The book of the same name is published by Macmillan and includes a forward by renowned political scholars Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann. Those two, authors of the book, "It's Even Worse Than It Looks," were the headliners at last fall's conference on the Camarillo campus.

Among the provocatively titled chapters are "The Gingrich Senators, the Tea Party Senators, and Their Effect on the U.S. Senate"; "Party Polarization, Member Incivility, and Legislative Productivity: A Two-Dimensional Perspective on Conflict and Moderation in Congress"; and "Let's Play Hardball: Congressional Partisanship in the Television Era."

Another chapter, "Profile Politics: Examining Polarization through Congressional Member Facebook Pages," was authored by California Lutheran University political science professor José Marichal.

As someone who attended every session at the conference, I can testify that the insights of these scholars are extraordinarily valuable in understanding both the extent and the root causes of the extreme polarization that infects the U.S. Congress today.

AND SPEAKING OF POLARIZATION: A largely unspoken reason that explains the decision by Rep. Paul Ryan, Speaker John Boehner and the House Republican leadership to approve a compromise budget deal after they had shunned compromise in the past is that they sought politically to lock in what they perceived to be their advantage surrounding the missteps and uproar over the rollout of Obamacare.

By approving a budget deal that forecloses the possibility of another government shutdown until after the 2014 elections, they guaranteed that there will be no repeat of the debacle that unfolded this fall -- one that, polls showed, badly hurt their standing with voters. They are now guaranteed that there will not even be speculation of another shutdown that could remind voters of what happened in 2013.

Thus, they believe, there will be nothing to divert the public attention's from their ongoing attacks on Obamacare.

That being the case, it is hardly surprising that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is now moving to try to turn the tables on the Obamacare issue. Democrats are banking that the hit they took over the initial implementation of health care reform will fade as the program actually takes effect.

They hope that they can then remind voters of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act -- and score points by calling attention to the efforts of Republican incumbents and challengers to obstruct and overturn health reform.

Toward that end, the DCCC today announced the release of a web ad called "Faces of Repeal," featuring the testimony of people who have been helped by the insurance reforms.

Although he has never served in Congress, a localized press release seeks to paint Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Julia Brownley, as among the forces advocating repeal.

"The web ads and website are filled with the stories of Americans who describe how Assemblyman Gorell's repeal would damage their lives - on top of taking the country back to a broken system that led hardworking Americans into bankruptcy and let insurance companies do whatever they want to raise rates, drop coverage and deny care," the press release says.

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95 percent accurate
Over the last 25 presidential elections, Ventura County voters have backed the winner 24 times, or over 95 percent of the time. It is one of only a handful of counties in the nation that has been such a predictable bellwether.
about Timm Herdt
Timm Herdt
The Ventura County Star's Sacramento Bureau Chief Timm Herdt on state issues and politics from Sacramento to Ventura County. He can be contacted at therdt@vcstar.com