Democracy in America

American politics

  • Challenging Brat

    Could Democrats take Virginia’s 7th district?

    by J.S | RICHMOND

    FOUR years after he defeated Eric Cantor, then the second most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives, in the primary for Virginia’s 7th congressional district, Dave Brat (pictured) has himself become the target of an uprising. National Democrats, energised by voters’ distaste for President Donald Trump, have their sights on the seat, which was last won by a Democrat in 1963. 

    The 7th district, which covers some of the suburbs of Richmond and surrounding countryside, includes a Trump-friendly, thinly populated farm belt where Mr Brat is certain to win comfortably. But the vote-rich suburbs could pose more of a challenge.

  • Planned Parenthood

    Donald Trump’s self-defeating war against abortion

    by M.S.R. | WASHINGTON, DC

    THE best way to prevent abortions is to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Family-planning clinics, which provide contraception, are good at that. In the past four decades they have helped slash America’s abortion rate. Yet this week President Donald Trump’s administration said it would begin the process of curbing abortions by cutting funding to some clinics. This is obviously self-defeating.

    The administration plans to introduce a new rule under which clinics that provide abortions, as well as contraception, would lose federal funding through “Title X”, a federal grant programme for family-planning. The rule wouldn’t prevent federal money being used for abortions.

  • You bet

    The Supreme Court lets states legalise sport gambling

    by S.M. | NEW YORK

    AT THE dawn of the republic, the Federalist Party advocated a strong national government with an energetic executive, while anti-Federalists worried that too much power at the centre would make for a monarchy, not a democracy. They wanted power to go to the peripheries. But “federalism” has since become synonymous with states’ rights. Devolving power from Washington, DC to states and localities has been a priority of the modern Republican Party. The current era is changing that. Donald Trump's administration is clamping down on states that are loosening marijuana laws or failing to cooperate with federal authorities to deport undocumented immigrants.

  • Notorious RBG

    How Ruth Bader Ginsburg became a trailblazer for gender equality

    by S.M. | NEW YORK

    IN HER first argument before the Supreme Court—20 years before Bill Clinton would nominate her to be America’s 107th justice—Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked nine men to put themselves into the shoes of an air-force lieutenant who had been treated differently because she was a woman. In 1973, Sharron Frontiero challenged a rule giving male airmen automatic housing benefits for their wives while women could do the same only by proving their husbands were dependent on them.

  • Talking about tax cuts

    On Marco Rubio’s interview with The Economist


    AN INTERVIEW Lexington conducted with Senator Marco Rubio last month caused a stir. Mr Rubio and this columnist had a wide-ranging chat in his Senate office around the broad theme of re-gearing conservatism for an age of economic disruption. It was an interesting discussion, in which Mr Rubio showed himself to be a more thoughtful and original politician than his public pronouncements sometimes make him sound. Lexington said as much in this column. The controversy arose from a criticism Mr Rubio made of the tax reform passed last year. It now requires a response from The Economist.

    But first, a bit more background.

  • Q&A

    Transcript: An interview with Marco Rubio


    Senator Marco Rubio takes a seat at a table in his Senate office, carrying a notepad, on which he says he is drafting a speech on his thoughts for a new reform conservative agenda. Lexington had requested an interview with him, several weeks previously, to discuss precisely this.

    Lexington:  The speech?
    Marco Rubio: Yeah, I’m kind of giving a framework on our, I say domestic policy, but really it’s the challenges that every, advanced, industrialised Western country, and maybe some in Asia are, are facing. You see it manifest politically, but you see it manifest socially and culturally, so…

    You’re planning a speech in the Senate on this?

  • Mixed up

    When did Donald Trump make it “crystal clear” the travel ban was not a Muslim ban?

    by S.M. | NEW YORK

    ORDINARILY, at the end of a Supreme Court oral argument, the chief justice announces that “the case is submitted”, the gavel bangs, and nothing more is heard until the ruling is released weeks later. Not so with Trump v Hawaii, the battle over the legality of Donald Trump’s travel ban that was heard on April 25th. A puzzling claim in the closing seconds of the Trump administration’s defence for barring 150m people, mainly Muslims, from America, has inspired a rare letter of correction from the solicitor-general, further damning statements from the White House and a counter-letter to the justices on behalf of the challengers.

  • Meet the new establishment

    Democrats and Republicans breathe a sigh of relief after the primaries

    by V.v.B. | COLUMBUS, OHIO

    MARY TAYLOR has been John Kasich’s lieutenant-governor since he was elected governor of Ohio in 2010. She backed all of his policies loyally, including the expansion of Medicaid and health insurance for the poor, and did not criticise Mr Kasich’s “Never Trump” campaign during his presidential candidacy. Yet when she campaigned to be the Republican candidate for the next governor of Ohio Ms Taylor claimed somewhat improbably that she had not talked to Mr Kasich in a year and that he had not endorsed her.

  • Out of the deal

    Donald Trump’s huge Iran gamble

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

    PRESIDENT Donald Trump placed the biggest bet of his presidency on the afternoon of May 8th. To the horror of European partners but the delight of such allies as Israel, he pulled America out of the Iran nuclear deal signed in 2015. He acted on a hunch that Iran’s leaders—if only they are subjected to unprecedented economic pain—will break and abandon all manner of hostile activities, from nuclear weapons development to support for terrorism and involvement in the bloodiest proxy wars of the Middle East.

    Mr Trump, the consummate pitch-man, sold the move as a dead cert.

  • The circus rolls into town

    Previewing the year’s first multi-state primary election day

    by J.F. | WASHINGTON, DC

    ON TUESDAY, voters in four states head to the polls. 

    West Virginia features a three-way Republican primary to determine who will challenge Joe Manchin in this autumn’s Senate race. For most of the 20th century, coal dominated West Virginia’s economy and Democrats dominated its politics. Democrats were the party of organised labour, and in few places was the right to organise bought with as much blood as in West Virginia. But over time, Appalachian coal mines grew less productive; today most coal is mined from open pits in Wyoming. The plummeting price of natural gas and renewables hastened America’s shift away from coal.

  • A row about Roe

    Iowa passes one of the harshest abortion bills in America

    by S.M. | NEW YORK

    ABORTION remains America’s most incendiary wedge issue. According to the most recent Gallup poll, 49% of Americans consider themselves pro-choice, while 46% say they are pro-life. Those numbers haven’t changed much in the past two decades, and the Supreme Court’s abortion-rights ruling in Roe v Wade, 45 years on, continues to serve as a lightning rod. States began nipping at Roe soon after it came down, and in 1992, the justices upheld several abortion regulations while extending Roe’s core promise to permit women to end their pregnancies up to the point of fetal viability, or about 24 weeks’ gestation.

  • #NeverAgain

    Gun politics after Parkland

    by C.K. | WASHINGTON, DC

    IN THE months since a teenage gunman slaughtered 17 people at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in February, a student-led campaign has organised two mass walkouts from schools and country-wide demonstrations. On May 4th, President Donald Trump and Mike Pence, the vice-president, will appear at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Dallas—suggesting the politics of guns in America has shifted little since the protests. But there are reasons to believe the newly energised movement for gun control is having an impact.

  • ICE crackdown

    Donald Trump’s top immigration enforcer retires

    by C.K. | WASHINGTON, DC

    ON 30th April, Thomas Homan, the Acting Director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), the federal agency charged with enforcing American immigration law, announced his retirement. Mr Homan was nominated by President Donald Trump to lead the agency last November, but the administration had not submitted the necessary paperwork to the Senate. That may be in part because his confirmation process would have been contentious; Mr Homan has been a zealous champion in Mr Trump’s battle against undocumented immigrants.

  • Cruel and unusual

    The Supreme Court will consider whether an execution will cause needless suffering

    by S.M. | NEW YORK

    AMERICA has executed just nine people so far this year. That figure tracks a sharp decline in the use of capital punishment since 1999, when a record 98 inmates were put to death. But the Supreme Court is still called upon to weigh in on eleventh-hour appeals and other death-sentence challenges. On April 30th, the justices agreed to hear the case of Russell Bucklew, a Missouri inmate whose rare medical condition, cavernous hemangioma, could make his planned lethal injection a torturous experience in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on “cruel and unusual punishments”. 

    The justices put a hold on Mr Bucklew’s execution on March 20th, but it was a close call.

  • Left behind?

    Trump voters were motivated by fear of losing their status

    by V.v.B | CHICAGO

    IN THE newly revived “Roseanne”, a popular sitcom about a white blue-collar family in the Midwest, the main character, Roseanne Connor, explains to her leftie sister why she voted for President Donald Trump. “He talks about jobs, Jackie”, she says. By putting these words in the mouth of the matriarch, the creators of “Roseanne” reflected the widely held assumption that blue-collar voters, especially in the rustbelt in the Midwest and north-east, voted for Mr Trump because they felt poor and feared they would get poorer. The reality seems to be more nuanced.

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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