Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sunday Reading

2016 Already? — Think you’re tired of this election?

No matter what happens on Election Day in November, when Mr. Obama wakes up the next morning, he will no longer be the future of his party. If he loses, attention will immediately turn to which Democrat might be able to pick up the pieces from the deep disappointment of his one term. If he wins, the party will begin turning to who might be able to accomplish the difficult task of winning a third straight term for one party. Already, the jockeying for 2016 has begun.

Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland, a possible candidate, traveled to South Carolina for its primary two weeks ago to give interviews criticizing Mitt Romney, the Republican front-runner. Andrew M. Cuomo, the New York governor, had a successful first year by going to the left on same-sex marriage and to the center on the budget. The candidate looming above all others is Hillary Rodham Clinton, who would instantaneously become the front-runner if she entered the race but who says she is retiring from public life when she steps down as secretary of state at the end of Mr. Obama’s current term. Democratic strategists and fund-raisers are divided over how seriously to take that vow.

Whoever the candidates turn out to be, they will inevitably need to define themselves in relation to Mr. Obama, even if they don’t say so. (After George Bush called for a “kinder and gentler” society in his 1988 Republican convention speech, Nancy Reagan reportedly asked, “Kinder and gentler than whom?”)

Mr. Obama cast himself in 2008 as a more ambitious Democrat than Bill Clinton had been, one who wanted to begin a new era of American politics, as Ronald Reagan had. Mr. Obama may yet succeed, at least partly, if he can win re-election and cement the legislation of his first two years.

The Politics of Facebook — Rebecca Rosen tells us why you might get “friended” by Barack Obama or Rick Santorum.

According to a new report from Pew, the Facebook users who have the most friends, were tagged in the most photos, and received the most wall posts, were more likely than average users to attend political rallies and meetings offline. Additionally, those who used Facebook’s “groups” feature were also more likely to try to convince other Facebook friends to vote for certain candidates. (In general Facebook users were more likely than average Americans to vote in an election.)

It makes sense that an overall pattern of engagement extends beyond Facebook to the greater world. And this was true before Facebook too — people who are more social, more engaged, also have higher rates of civic participation.

But because Facebook is now where so many of those people — these highly engaged citizens — spend their time and communicate, the Facebook game is rising in importance for political campaigns. Voter contact — asking someone personally to vote — is thought to be the most effective way to get people to the polls, and it’s all the more so when the people making the contact are friends not strangers. Facebook, with its dense and active networks, offers campaigns a more efficient way of making those contacts. On Facebook, there is the potential to reach more people, whom they assume to be friends, without sending people into the streets to walk door to door.

The Dickens You Say — Mackenzie Carpenter reports on the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens.

NEW YORK — The visitors have been coming at a steady trickle, reverent, bemused, squinting at the crabbed handwriting in the anguished letters from his American tour (“They will never leave me alone … I shake hands every day … with five or six hundred people”), the missives on mesmerism, philanthropy, storytelling, Christmas books, and his own manic energy.

Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday is Tuesday, and although the author of A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, and A Tale of Two Cities obviously isn’t around to enjoy this tiny, exquisite exhibition at the Morgan Library & Museum in midtown Manhattan, he would no doubt be pleased at all the attention his birthday is getting — while simultaneously outraged that readers can now get his novels on Kindle at no charge.

A grand ceremony is planned for Tuesday at Westminster Abbey, where Mr. Dickens was buried in Poets’ Corner upon orders from his No. 1 fan, Queen Victoria. There’s a Twitter feed, mostly earnest but not always (“Breaking News: Times Literary Supplement accused of hacking Dickens’ telegrams”); a Dickens festival in China; a half marathon at Rice University in Houston (Mr. Dickens walked at least 8 to 10 miles a day), a full roster of PBS programming to add to more than 320 films made of his work, and the upward of 90 biographies published so far.

Still, is this anniversary marking a renaissance for Mr. Dickens or an elegy?

“Very few young people know Dickens and his work unless they read some of it in high school,” said Michael Helfand, an associate professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh who specializes in Victorian literature. “Young people don’t read long books any more, excepting Harry Potter.”

Perhaps, but “I go into the gallery frequently, and there are a good number of young people coming in to see the exhibition who weren’t brought in by their parents,” said Declan Kiely, curator at the Morgan Library, which possesses the world’s second-largest collection of Dickens manuscripts and letters after the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Doonesbury — Bringing sexy back.