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Barone’s Numbers

Michael Barone knows the political landscape of this country like most people know the landscape of their backyards. Moreover, he knows, in detail, how that landscape has evolved over the life of the Republic. He is, of course, the co-author of The Almanac of American Politics, which is to be found on the desk — and probably the night table — of every American politician above the rank of assistant dog catcher and every political reporter. The 2010 edition will be out August 15th. Better yet, he has a remarkable ability to make numbers speak, to tell their stories. Consider his latest column, entitled, No, Obama Can’t Govern like FDR in 1933. I’ve been in the American history business now for a long time, but until I read the column, I had no idea that a majority of the members of the House in 1933 were freshman — the last time that has happened. Nor did I know that the election of 1898 was the first time a majority of the members of the House were not freshman. As Barone points out, that tells us a lot about both the Progressive era of the turn of the 20th century and why FDR was able to move so much legislation through Congress so quickly in 1933.


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