Democracy in America

American politics

  • Burdensome and wrong

    Will the justices strike down California’s abortion notification law?

    by S.M. | WASHINGTON, DC

    SINCE 1992, when the Supreme Court barred regulations posing an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion, pro-life and pro-choice forces have battled over how far states may go in circumscribing the right first recognised 45 years ago in Roe v Wade. But in a case on March 20th involving a California law that is designed to expand access to abortion, Anthony Kennedy—the Court’s perennial swing justice—appeared to flip the standard on its head. 

  • Chasing a Blue Dog

    A Democratic face-off in Illinois’s third district

    by V.v.B | CHICAGO

    ON MARCH 20th, Democrats and Republicans in Illinois are holding primaries to select their candidates for governor, 18 congressional seats, attorney-general, secretary of state and other local offices. The gubernatorial race is getting the bulk of media attention: Bruce Rauner, a singularly vulnerable Republican governor, is fighting for his political life. But the race in the third congressional district in the south-west of Chicago is unusually interesting: Dan Lipinski , a seven-term congressman is running neck-and-neck with Marie Newman, a marketing executive who has never before sought office.

  • Exodus

    More Puerto Ricans leave for the mainland

    by C.K. | WASHINGTON, DC

    THE calamity brought by Hurricane Maria to Puerto Rico in September led to predictions of an exodus. The island’s troubles have continued: 10% of Puerto Ricans still have no electricity and days ago power cuts in San Juan, the capital, left residents in and around the capital without power for days. The island’s government reckons that by the end of 2018, 200,000 people may have left for the mainland; surveys suggest that many of them will stay away for good.  

    This would be an acceleration of a trend. Since 2005, when Puerto Rico suffered an economic downturn, Puerto Ricans have been leaving for other parts of America.

  • Hall of mirrors

    America sanctions Russians for election-meddling and cyber-attacks


    STEVEN MNUCHIN, the Treasury secretary, enjoys several spectacular powers. One is the right to sign dollar bills. Another is the power to impose sanctions that exclude foreign actors and entities from the American financial system—which given the dollar’s role as a reserve currency is tantamount to banishment from the world of international finance and business. Senior officials who have watched Mr Mnuchin at work say that he takes his sanctions powers seriously, and is an enthusiast for using the Treasury as an arm of American hard power.

  • Walk this way

    Students across America walk out over gun violence

    by S.M. | NEW YORK

    ON MARCH 14th, one month after terrified teenagers streamed out of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during a massacre in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people, thousands of students across America walked out of their schools to stage a peaceful protest against gun violence. 

    Youthful energy turned quickly to sombre remembrance outside a high school on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, as 17 students took turns standing on a chair to announce the name and age of a victim. As a cold wind swept the sports field where the teens huddled—holding hands and linking arms—the first volunteer called out, “Jamie Guttenberg, 14 years old, ENOUGH”.

  • PA-18

    Democratic smiles in Pennsylvania’s special election

    by V.v.B. | PITTSBURGH

    “MARINE, prosecutor, patriot, Catholic. Democratic nominee for Congress in the #PA18 special election on March 13th, 2018.” Conor Lamb’s description of himself on Twitter sums up neatly why the 33-year-old newcomer to local politics is the perfect candidate for a congressional district in south-western Pennsylvania that is overwhelmingly white, socially conservative and working-and middle class.

  • Rexit

    Donald Trump sacks Rex Tillerson


    IT WAS announced, like so many of the president’s big decisions, in a tweet. “Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job”, wrote Donald Trump on the morning of March 13th. “Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service!” Mr Trump, who appears not to have warned Mr Tillerson of his impending removal, also announced that Gina Haspel, deputy director of the CIA, would replace Mr Pompeo, becoming the first woman in that role. “Congratulations to all!”

    What did for Mr Tillerson? In a subsequent press conference, the president said they “got along actually quite well. But we disagreed on things.

  • Tied in Trump Country

    Can the Republicans avoid embarrassment in Pennsylvania?


    ATOP a hill sits St Bernard, a Catholic church with glorious murals depicting scenes from the book of Revelation. Next to it is the similarly impressive Mount Lebanon Evangelical Presbyterian church. And to its right is the Mount Lebanon United Methodist church. Worshippers at the three adjoining grand churches in this hilly suburb of Pittsburgh are assiduous Christians, mostly middle- and working-class and overwhelmingly white. They are pretty representative of the electorate of Pennsylvania’s bizarrely shaped 18th congressional district, which consists of a slice of Pittsburgh’s suburbs and a slew of small rural manufacturing towns.

  • History in the making?

    The pros and cons of a summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un

    by D.S.O.R. | WASHINGTON, DC

    TO SUPPORTERS of Donald Trump, March 8th’s news that the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un wants to meet America’s president, and soon, only goes to prove the potency of a foreign policy that blends toughness with just a dash of crazy. To Mr Trump’s sceptics, it is as obvious that such an unprecedented summit would be a terrifying gamble. After the announcement that Mr Trump is willing to meet Mr Kim as soon as May, much of the professional Korea-watching community rose up on social media and cable news to deplore the blustering, impulsive and fact-scorning 45th president as the last man they would send to negotiate with the ruthless, carefully prepared North Korean regime.

  • Tariff time

    Donald Trump imposes levies on metal imports

    by H.C. | WASHINGTON, DC

    WHAT next for world trade? That is the question governments worldwide are asking after President Donald Trump, flanked by gleeful workers, imposed tariffs of 10% and 25% on imports of steel and aluminium respectively on March 8th. The two industries are small enough that, taken alone, Mr Trump’s new policy, though extraordinary, is unlikely much to dent America’s strong economy. But the president has lobbed a grenade towards the rules-based order governing international trade. If, as some fear, a trade war now ensues, the consequences for the world could be profound (see cover leader and briefing).

  • Russia and the 45th president

    What is Donald Trump hiding? The answer may bore you

    by J.P.P.

    VLADIMIR PUTIN marked his state-of-the-nation address on March 1st by announcing the development of a new, unstoppable nuclear missile that NATO has apparently nicknamed “Satan 2”. People who know about rocketry think this technology may be either unfeasible or not very useful, but that is beside the point. The jumbo-nuke is intended as a statement and, given that Russia is already in breach of arms control treaties that held good even through the cold war, it is not the sort of statement that can be shrugged off as merely the deluded ramblings of an ageing strongman. What, then, was the response of the president of America to this apparent threat?

  • Sessions versus California

    The Trump administration sues California over sanctuary protections

    by S.M. | NEW YORK

    DONALD TRUMP, impatient with mounting resistance to his hard-line stance on immigration, is deploying a weapon more frequently wielded by his opponents: litigation. On March 6th, the Department of Justice (DoJ) filed a lawsuit in a federal district court in Sacramento outlining three ways California has “preempted” federal immigration law and “impermissibly discriminate[d] against the United States”. Immigration is a federal matter, the suit argues, not a policy that varies from state to state.

  • Messing with Texas

    A Democratic war in Texas’s seventh district


    FEW people beyond Texas’s seventh district had heard of Laura Moser before her own party tried to discredit her. Late last month, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) took the rare step of publishing embarrassing opposition research on the journalist and activist who wants to take on John Culberson, a Republican, in the mid-terms in November. Its effort may have backfired spectacularly: in the primary on March 6th Ms Moser came a close second to Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, a lawyer. They will now compete in a run-off in May.

  • Tariff rifts

    Gary Cohn resigns as Donald Trump’s economic adviser

    by J.E.F. | WASHINGTON, DC

    MOST resignation statements are anodyne falsehoods designed to paper over whatever disagreements led to them. That is how Gary Cohn’s sounds at first. “It has been an honour to serve my country and enact pro-growth policies to benefit the American people, in particular the passage of historic tax reform,” said Mr Cohn in a statement issued by the White House on March 6th, before signing off with expressions of gratitude and good wishes for the president. Read that sentence again, however, and what it does not say speaks volumes.

    Mr Cohn, who was head of the National Economic Council and Donald Trump’s top economic advisor, was always an awkward fit for this White House.

  • Possible progress

    How to read North Korea’s offer of talks


    ON THE eve of the first summit between leaders of North and South Korea, in June 2000, America’s then-ambassador to Seoul sent a secret cable to his masters in Washington, DC. In it, Stephen Bosworth pondered whether the talks might be an unprecedented chance to lower nuclear tensions on the Korean peninsula, or whether they might prove a trap, should a naive South Korean public lose their fear of the Stalinist North and question why American troops were still needed on their soil.

About Democracy in America

Analysis of American politics, in the spirit of Alexis de Tocqueville’s eponymous study of American society


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