Democracy in America

American politics

  • Stormy Daniels in the lion’s den

    Donald Trump is more popular than ever with white evangelicals

    by M.S.R. | WASHINGTON, DC


    IN CASE anyone should think American white evangelicals are actually in favour of extra-marital affairs with porn stars, Robert Jeffress, a well-known pastor from Texas, offered a helpful explainer last month. “Evangelicals still believe in the commandment, Thou shall not have sex with a porn star”, he told Fox News. “However, whether this president violated that commandment or not is totally irrelevant to our support of him.”

    It was useful to have this cleared this up.

  • Mind the gap

    Hiral Tipirneni is unlikely to win a special congressional election in Arizona

    by J.D. | PHOENIX

    THE Democratic wave that propelled the party to surprise victories in special elections in Alabama and Pennsylvania seems unlikely to reach Arizona’s eighth congressional district. In a special election on April 24th, voters will choose a successor to Trent Franks, who resigned in December following revelations that he had discussed surrogacy with two female staffers. This week, a poll by Emerson College showed the candidates neck-and-neck. But early voting, by which a majority of votes in this election will be cast, suggests a much higher turnout among Republicans than Democrats.  

  • A taxing case

    The Supreme Court seems divided over sales tax on online purchases

    by S.M. | NEW YORK

    BILLIONS of dollars and long-standing interstate e-commerce rules are at stake in a case that came before the justices on April 17th. The case revisits an old Supreme Court rule that retailers shipping goods to states where they have no physical presence cannot be forced to collect sales tax from their customers. This standard is outdated, South Dakota's attorney-general told the justices, and deprives states of “massive sales tax revenues that we need for education, healthcare and infrastructure”. 

    The conflict in South Dakota v Wayfair Inc arose in 2016 when the Midwestern state noticed that more of its residents were shopping online.

  • Lies, ties and the law

    James Comey against the president


    IN A televised interview on April 15th, James Comey tore into the president who sacked him as FBI director last year. Donald Trump, he said, in an appearance intended to publicise his forthcoming book, “lies constantly”, runs his administration like a mob boss, treats and speaks of women like they are “pieces of meat” and is, for these and other reasons, “morally unfit” to be president.

  • Womenomics

    How American women got stuck in the kitchen

    by M.S.R. | WASHINGTON, DC

    IN 1986, “American Women in Transition”, a study by the Russell Sage Foundation, described the vast changes then afoot in American society. Some twenty years previously, it says, in what sometimes reads as old-fashioned language, few mothers had jobs; by the early 1980s “three fifths of wives with school-age children were working outside the home”. This extraordinary change was reflected in the popular culture of the 1980s, from movies like “Working Girl” and “9 to 5” to books like Helen Gurley Brown’s “Having it all”.

    Back then, America led most of the rich world in terms of the proportion of women who worked.

  • A year on the bench

    High profile cases may pull Neil Gorsuch in different directions

    by S.M. | NEW YORK

    ONE year ago, Neil Gorsuch took the oath of office as America’s 113th Supreme Court justice. Donald Trump’s nominee to replace the late Antonin Scalia was confirmed in the Senate by a historically slim 54-45 margin more than a year after Republicans refused to even consider Merrick Garland, Barack Obama’s nominee. When Justice Gorsuch took his seat on the bench on April 10th 2017, the Supreme Court had only dozen cases left to be heard that term. Today, as Justice Neil Gorsuch nears the end of his first full term, he faces some difficult votes. He and his eight colleagues have considered a smaller caseload than usual.

  • Check your privilege

    Why the FBI overrode attorney-client privilege to raid Michael Cohen’s office

    by S.M. | NEW YORK

    ON THE morning of April 10th, a day after the FBI raided the office and home of his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump declared on Twitter: “Attorney-client privilege is dead!” Moments later he tweeted, "A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!" It is true that communications between a lawyer and client are ordinarily protected from the prying eyes of investigators. The attorney-client privilege means that a client can speak candidly, providing his lawyer with information necessary to develop an effective legal strategy. Even an admission of having committed a crime in the past must be kept in confidence. How then did the FBI secure a warrant to raid Michael Cohen’s papers? 

  • A changing congressional climate

    A bipartisan group of lawmakers is pushing for action on climate change

    by J.P. | WASHINGTON, DC

    AMONG the many things that divide Democrats from Republicans is climate change. Fully 73% of Democratic voters say they are worried about global warming, compared with 32% of Republicans. Yet last month Elise Stefanik, a Republican congresswoman from New York (pictured above), co-authored a letter with a Democratic colleague urging President Donald Trump to reconsider his decision to purge climate change from the list of threats in the National Security Strategy. Another ten Republicans signed it (as did 94 Democrats). Many are members of the Climate Solutions Caucus in the House of Representatives. 

    The caucus is as atypical as a climate-friendly Republican.

  • A broken ladder

    Black boys are the least likely of any group to escape poverty

    by C.K. | WASHINGTON, DC

    THAT African Americans are poorer than the American average is well-established. In 2016, the median household income of black Americans was $39,500 compared with $65,000 for non-Hispanic white Americans. Lower parental income and education levels are often cited as reasons for this gap. But a new paper suggests that there is more to it than that. It finds that black men fare worse economically than white men even if they are raised in households with similar incomes and educated similarly. A black boy brought up in a wealthy family is as likely to become poor in adulthood as he is to remain prosperous.

  • Doctor’s oath

    Ralph Northam pushes for Medicaid expansion in Virginia

    by J.S. | RICHMOND

    RALPH NORTHAM, Virginia’s new Democratic governor, soundly beat his Republican rival, Ed Gillespie, by harnessing antipathy for Donald Trump. Virginia was the only Southern state that the president lost to Hillary Clinton in 2016. But Mr Northam's landslide win in November was also due to his promise to bring 300,000 uninsured Virginians under the umbrella of Medicaid, a federal health-care programme for the poor and disabled.

    The governor's young administration now has a problem: there is no consensus in the Republican-controlled legislature for his chief policy goal.

  • Slippery gerrymanders

    The Supreme Court struggles with partisan redistricting

    by S.M. | NEW YORK

    THE toughest part of being a Supreme Court justice is not deciding who wins. It is writing the opinion explaining why the winning party should prevail. And since Supreme Court decisions serve as guides to courts in future cases, a majority opinion needs to do more than provide a justification for why A wins over B. It must anticipate similar cases that could arise and draw lines showing how those ought to be resolved.

    On March 28th, in a case contesting a Maryland map from 2011 that painted a solidly red congressional district blue, the justices seemed to feel a particularly heavy burden. This is not surprising.

  • You're fired

    Donald Trump ousts David Shulkin as VA secretary


    “WE’LL never have to use those words on our David" said Donald Trump last June. He was referring to his reality-television catchphrase, “You’re fired”, and David Shulkin, his secretary of veterans affairs. But on March 28th Mr Shulkin was fired, by tweet, and Mr Trump announced that Ronny Jackson (pictured), his personal doctor and a career naval officer, would succeed him. Mr Shulkin, the lone member of Barack Obama’s cabinet still in the job, had been in a precarious position since a scandal erupted in February over a luxurious trip to Europe last year, taken on the taxpayer’s dime. The ensuing controversy revealed a VA department in a state of revolt.

  • Welcome to the revolution

    Students lead a vast protest against gun violence

    by I.K. | WASHINGTON, DC

    ON MARCH 24th, less than 40 days after a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, hundreds of thousands gathered near Capitol Hill in Washington, DC to protest against America’s lax gun laws and implore Congress and President Donald Trump to fix them. The vast crowd—which included toddlers perched upon shoulders, students, teachers and parents—thronged down Pennsylvania Avenue, block after block. Many carried signs denigrating the National Rifle Association (NRA) and chanted a modern version of an old protest slogan: “Hey, hey, NRA, how many kids did you kill today?” 

  • Thunder Bolton

    H.R. McMaster out, John Bolton in

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

    IN PROFESSIONAL wrestling, a fake form of combat mistaken for the real thing by some fans, a “carpenter” is a skilled wrestler of middling fame, whose job is to make rising stars look strong and intimidating.

    Remember that jargon—and President Donald Trump’s long-standing love of professional wrestling—when trying to understand the seemingly bizarre appointment of John Bolton as the third national security adviser of the Trump administration, replacing Lieutenant-General H.R. McMaster, a hard-charging army officer and intellectual who rubbed his president up the wrong way.

    Judged as an act of high statecraft, the appointment is one to furrow brows in capitals worldwide.

  • White and proud

    How Republicans embraced identity politics

    by C.K. | WASHINGTON, DC

    SOME Democrats blamed identity politics for Hillary Clinton’s defeat in 2016. Mark Lilla, a historian from Columbia University, suggested in the New York Times that Democratic identity politics “encouraged white, rural, religious Americans to think of themselves as a disadvantaged group.” But new research suggests that identity politics is not a phenomenon primarily connected to the Democratic Party. Social and cultural identity is more closely tied to partisan support among Republicans.

    Republicans and Democrats have become increasingly polarised in terms of their racial, religious and ideological makeup.

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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