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James Fallows.

James Fallows, longtime writer for The Atlantic Monthly and author of Breaking the News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy.

Thoughts about tomorrow: James Fallows weighs in on the election

James Fallows weighs in on the election

By Gayla Marty

Published on November 12, 2004

What to make of the 2004 elections? National correspondent James Fallows shed some light on that question Wednesday night in his talk, "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow." Fallows is not only a good writer, but a fluid and often funny speaker, drawing many laughs during the evening for his direct style and savvy look inside Washington and the media.

Speaking on the Twin Cities campus at the Cowles Auditorium, Fallows immediately fell into the conversational style that makes him a frequent television commentator.

Called one of the superstars in his profession, Fallows is a longtime writer for The Atlantic Monthly, most recently covering the Washington side of the Iraq war. Early in his career he worked as a speechwriter in the Carter administration. He's written seven books, including National Defense, for which he won a National Book Award, and Breaking the News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy.

"I know and like Teresa Heinz Kerry very much," Fallows said, "but when she greeted the [Democratic National] Convention in five languages, the guy next to me said, 'There goes Kansas!'"

His four-part talk moved at a fast clip to answer the questions: What happened in this election? Did it have to be that way? And what will this mean--in the short-term, the next one to two years, and in the long term?

The closest historical analogy to this election, he said, was Ronald Reagan's win in 1980. "It's the case of a 'won' election rather than a 'lost' election," he said several times during the evening, emphasizing that the Bush campaign did everything right and the Kerry campaign did almost everything as well as it could, but not well enough to win. The Republicans succeeded at mobilizing Christian evangelicals, Hispanics, women (especially married women), exurbanites, and the Jewish vote. And the Republicans were better at stating their case. While George Bush is not a good off-the-cuff speaker, "George Bush the debater is very good," Fallows said, "except in the first debate with Kerry."

Fallows's talk was one of two annual lectures sponsored by the Humanities Institute in the College of Liberal Arts. Cosponsors included the Department of Political Science and the Center for Writing.

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