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Analysis and perspective about what's happening in the political realm.

Why Democrats and Republicans Speak Different Languages

On Thursday night, Donald Trump and other speakers at the Republican National Convention talked about “radical Islamic terrorism,” “illegal aliens,” and “Crooked Hillary.” In a few weeks, at the Democratic National Convention, you likely won’t hear any of these terms. The Obama administration refuses to associate terrorism with Islam, for fear of legitimizing it. Democrats are far more likely to talk about “immigrants” and “undocumented workers” than aliens. And it will be quite shocking, at a level far beyond Ted Cruz’s speech on Wednesday night, if a keynote speaker addresses Hillary Clinton with her nom de Trump.

For several decades now, Republicans and Democrats have become more polarized. There are plenty of reasons for that, including the demise of the Southern Dixiecrats and the geographic sorting of the country into ideologically homogenous neighborhoods. But the two major parties are now divided by a common language: Democrats discuss “comprehensive health reform,” “estate taxes,” “undocumented workers,” and “tax breaks for the wealthy,” while Republicans insist on a “Washington takeover of health care,” “death taxes,” “illegal aliens,” and “tax reform.” When did the two major political parties create their own vocabularies?

Around 1990. That’s according to a fascinating new paper...

The Five Most Likely Contenders to Be Hillary Clinton's Vice President

Former secretary of state and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is expected to name her running mate for the 2016 general election any day now. Until recently, that list was somewhat long—it included secretary of housing and urban development Julián Castro, former governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick, secretary of labor Tom Perez, former governor of Montana Brian Schweitzer, California congressman Xavier Becerra, and Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren.

There were many that speculated that Clinton might select Warren in order to shore up the further-left reaches of the Democratic party, voters that united around Vermont senator Bernie Sanders’s primary challenge. Others said she would select Castro, Perez, or Becerra to appeal to Latino voters.

These ideas may well have been part of the strategy to date; but Donald Trump’s selection of Mike Pence as his running mate was a game changer. Given Spence’s establishment bona fides, Clinton aides feel their candidate is now free to choose a more run-of-the-mill running mate, someone that might appeal to the bloc of white, male voters that are overwhelmingly suspicious of, if not outright opposed to, a Clinton presidency.

Today’s shortlist reportedly includes Virginia senator Tim Kaine, agriculture...

Why the Vice Presidency Matters

When Richard Nixon ascended to the White House in 1969, he was the first president since John Adams to enter office with two terms of vice-presidential experience under his belt. In his eight years under Dwight Eisenhower, Nixon remade the office, bringing new stature and power to the post. Arguably, no one had become president with a better idea of what made a good vice president. And arguably, no one made a worse decision in picking a running mate. 

So why is it that running-mate experience failed to translate into running-mate wisdom for Nixon? His secret White House tapes, archived and analyzed at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, offer new insights into Nixon’s fraught relationship with his vice president, Spiro Agnew. But more than that, they capture a moment in the new executive vice presidency that shows just how much the office has changed—and that help better evaluate Donald Trump’s and Hillary Clinton’s running-mate decisions.

Any discussion of the vice presidency usually kicks off with one of the dozens of quips about the uselessness of the office. Agnew contributed to the genre, observing that the vice presidency was “that rare opportunity in politics for...

What Anti-Trump Activists Can Learn From Chicago ‘68

So far, anti-Trump protests at the Republican convention in Cleveland have been relatively small in number, with marches in the hundreds, not thousands, and mostly peaceful.

On the campaign trail, however, anti-Trump activists have, on a few occasions, as in San Diego, turned confrontational and even violent.

Based on the research in my book, “Chicago ‘68,” on the effect of mass protests on elections, anti-Trump grassroots activists would be wise to avoid angry confrontation that might lead to violence and focus instead – as most have – on getting progressive sympathizers involved in the electoral process.

The obvious case in point, here, is the protests that took place at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago.

Protesters at that convention had a right to be angry. In 1968, the presidential nominating process had been rigged. The citizens’ right to make their votes and their voices heard had been trampled. Party bosses rejected voters’ overwhelming support for the antiwar candidacies of Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy, nominating instead Hubert Humphrey, a candidate who had won not a single primary.

In that fraught moment in American history, as thousands of demonstrators – peaceful anti-war protestors and radical revolutionaries alike – came to Chicago, they were met with...

Nearing the Exit, Obama Escapes Defining Scandal

House Re­pub­lic­ans’ long-awaited re­port on Benghazi re­veals why it was a clas­sic Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion scan­dal.

The 800-page re­port al­leges nu­mer­ous fail­ures that, to­geth­er, fatally com­prom­ised the se­cur­ity of Amer­ic­ans in Benghazi and pre­ven­ted their res­cue in the 2012 at­tack. But the House GOP’s latest Benghazi probe, which stretched more than two years, again failed to sub­stan­ti­ate al­leg­a­tions of a “stand down” in forces, or re­veal clear mal­feas­ance by Hil­lary Clin­ton in re­la­tion to the at­tacks.

If this sounds fa­mil­i­ar, that’s be­cause it is.

On more than one top­ic, probes of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion have de­tailed policy and per­son­nel fail­ures, yet haven’t found the kind of high-level mis­con­duct or stark cor­rup­tion that can shape a pres­id­ent’s leg­acy.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has cer­tainly suffered its share of screw-ups, but the bar...

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