Torch-Eyed Elephant Stampede!

Included among the insightful postmortems on the “GOP Stampede” [Dec. 1/8], we progressives can’t overlook the role that a corporate-owned and -operated press plays in our political dysfunction. When media coverage fixates on personalities—the more outrageous and emotionally fraught, the greater the spotlight—the right cheers. When the press favors simplistic sound bites over in-depth coverage of complex ideas, the right cheers louder.
Barbara Allen Kenney
santa fe

The recent midterm elections were a sad day for democracy in America. It demonstrated that the way to win elections is not to put forth superior ideas, but to deploy a manipulative strategy. The Republicans who were swept to victory offered no ideas for governing. They won by simply trashing Obama. The grand strategy of the Republicans all along has been to block the administration at every turn, create gridlock, sabotage our own institutions, cause millions of Americans to suffer, create enormous anger and frustration against government, and then at election time to capitalize on this discontent by blaming the president. And the worst part is that the strategy worked!
Casey McCutcheon
new york city

The December 1/8 issue tells us about the struggle to fix the climate, and dysfunctional voting rights, and net neutrality. William Greider tells how Wall Street controls our parties and ends with “Dems will become the party of the past, defending wrong ideas that failed and losing more elections.” After reading all this I felt exhausted. When will we ever be a nation of justice and equality? But then it seemed so clear that since both parties are bought and owned by Big Money, we need to have mandatory public funding of federal elections, with strict laws concerning advertising by corporations, organizations and individuals.
Bill Nerin
gig harbor, wash.

Thank you for addressing the multiple reasons for the “GOP Stampede.” We also need to assign blame to the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, and Senate majority leader Harry Reid. Both must share responsibility for the midterm election loss and should be stripped of their leadership roles. Another key player in the loss is the president. He did not show up in campaigns in all states. By not doing this, he enabled those in his party who “ran away from him” and who consequently lost their bids.
Gavin Kelley
los angeles

I agree with everything John Nichols says about the compromised and lackluster campaigns of most Democrats, but he neglects to mention a huge factor: GOP computer manipulation of vote counts. Jonathan D. Simon points out in his eye-opening book Code Red: Computerized Election Theft and the New American Century the disconnect between successful left-leaning ballot questions and the election of right-wing politicians opposed to these issues. One outstanding piece of evidence is that polling organizations, to maintain their reputation for accuracy by making their predictions conform to election results, routinely give the GOP 10 percent more than their polls would indicate, which they term the “red shift.” Similarly, exit polls and Democratic Party–based polls continually underestimate GOP results. The unavoidable suspicion is that the GOP is simply stealing elections by shifting votes in computers they control, but not enough to raise too many eyebrows.
Joel Simpson
union, n.j.

Progressives are fighting back after the disastrous midterms, but I feel they too often forget the root of their troubles. They have never recovered from the slayings of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King Jr. Imagine if they had lived and the GOP had lost Goldwater, Nixon and Reagan. Robert Kennedy was journeying to the left of his brother, and King was working on an economic program to match his civil rights work when we lost them.
Michael C. Hudson
san francisco


Droning On

In “Grim Reapers” [Dec. 1/8], Jenna Krajeski says that drones have become a “national obsession” featured not just in the novels she discusses “but in movies, television, poetry, video games and the visual arts.” It is worth noting the way this constant cultural exposure has helped us become accustomed to UAVs. But there is an important step in the normalization process: public schools.

In Dayton, Ohio, students at a regional high school for science and math learn how to solve military problems using drones. (Interesting aside: an elective course at this school is taught not by trained teachers, but by two airmen from the nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.) Among the Army’s fleet of “mobile recruiting vehicles”—sixteen-wheel interactive classrooms that travel to hundreds of schools across the country—are three that include… UAV simulators. Ten-year-old Johnny might be far too young to enlist now, but when the “Army STEM Experience” visits his school, he can still feel what it’s like to rain missiles via remote control. Oh, to be a kid again!

As noted in recent reports by National Public Radio and the Government Accountability Office, drone pilots suffer from low morale and high turnover, and they are difficult to recruit. The Pentagon’s solution, then, seems to be: get ‘em while they’re young.

Seth Kershner
lee, mass.


Black & White & Gray All Over

I read, with difficulty, “Marrying for Money” [Dec. 1/8]. I am surely not the only aging reader who struggled with its faint gray print. Have you hired a hotshot graphic designer/marketer who has persuaded you to compete with the visual presentation of, say, Time or the supermarket tabloids? I’m not canceling my subscription, but if I find I physically can’t read it…
Loren Hagen
oak park, ill.

A glitch. Black is back. —Ed.


Hanging Up Her Pencils

After thirty-five years at The Nation, I’m packing up my red pencils and my sign quoting Robert Gottlieb (“I have fixed more sentences than most people have read in their lives”). I’m closing my dog-eared Webster’s New World Dictionary and New York Times Manual of Style, shutting down the computer and wandering into the sunset.

I’ve loved editing your letters, our puzzles and Nation copy covering everything from Jimmy Carter installing solar panels on the White House roof to Obamacare. Farewell, and may the force be with you.

Judith Long
Copy chief
Letters page editor
Puzzle page editor