More, explaining that a lightning rod is not necessarily a scapegoat, but a scape valve, someone to atract the polemic, wether intentional or not (or the main outlet to the ones that needs venting criticism)
All of this—the debate, the drama, and the history—provides a useful perspective on the current budget impasse. In particular, three points bear consideration.
First, Pennsylvania has a long history of budget fights leading to late budgets. Indeed, the current Rendell era is tame by historical standards. In these earlier tempests, reason eventually prevailed, public policy survived, and state government more or less muddled through. That will happen this time too.
Second, budget impasses are not necessarily bad or to be avoided. Public budgets are decision-making tools designed to establish priorities and resolve discord. They are the political lightning rods that absorb much of the conflict in the American governmental system. When there is deadlock or stalemate, budget battles provide a way to work out the differences that exist among the many competing interests that struggle over budget priorities. That working out process can be hard to endure, but impossible to avoid.
Smith grew in influence and prominence in his years in the state legislature, but Finan points out the lightning rod for Smith's career may have been the devastating Triangle Shirt Waist factory fire in 1911.
As vice chairman of the Factory Investigating Commission, Smith toured 1,800 factories across the state with other lawmakers and submitted more than 30 laws to protect workers, especially women and children.
These were the first examples of Al Smith's desire to reign in the laissez-fair policies that led to conditions at the Triangle and other factories. Smith knew good government must mean service to citizens.
After Obama's Speech
March 21, 2008 Episode no. 1129
LAWTON: Obama's speech was in large part a response to a storm of criticism surrounding Jeremiah Wright, who just retired as senior pastor at the Senator's home church, Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Wright has long been a lightning rod for controversy, but the situation escalated in recent weeks after television outlets played clips of some of his most incendiary statements from over the years strung together.
Democrats are turning their fire on Scott Rasmussen, the prolific independent pollster whose surveys on elections, President Obama’s popularity and a host of other issues are surfacing in the media with increasing frequency.
"Whether intended or not, Rasmussen polls have been used by conservative voices as talking points, and when that happens on one side it inevitably produces a reaction from the other," explained Mark Blumenthal, a polling analyst and the editor and publisher of Pollster.com. "Rasmussen produces a lot of data that appear to produce narratives conservatives are promoting, and that causes a reaction."
Nothing, however, sets off liberal teeth gnashing more than Rasmussen’s daily presidential tracking polls, which throughout the year have consistently placed Obama’s approval numbers around 5 percentage points lower than other polling outfits.
"He polls less favorably for Democrats, and that’s why he’s become a lightning rod," said Charles Franklin, a University of Wisconsin political scientist who studies polling. "It’s clear that his results are typically more Republican than the other person’s results."
"He’s been underpolling Obama all year," said Boehlert. "People start thinking, ‘There’s something going on here.’"
Rasmussen, of course, is hardly the only pollster to come under fire this election cycle — just the one who attracts the most sustained criticism.