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

Almost 6,000 Americans Have Already Voted for President

Maybe you are one of the millions of Americans who cannot wait for this election to be over, or alternatively, maybe you are paying no attention to this election. (There’s really no third option.)

But the weary countdown—46 days left!—misses an important fact: In many places, voting is already underway. Voting began in parts of Wisconsin on Monday. Starting Friday, anyone in Minnesota can cast an absentee ballot, and they need no excuse to do so. So can Virginia voters. Meanwhile, a slew of other states are already taking absentee ballot requests. The list includes some of the most hotly contested swing states, including Florida, Ohio, Iowa, and North Carolina. In those cases, there’s no way to know how the people getting their ballots will mark them, but there are ways to make some educated guesses based on who has made a request. Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida who runs the invaluable United States Elections Project, calculates that 5,649 people have already voted (as of publication—the number keeps climbing). 

Start with North Carolina. So far, about 61,600 absentee ballots have been requested, an increase over the pace four years...

Politicians Who Debate Hillary Clinton Have a History of Falling into an Obvious Trap

For her entire public life, Hillary Clinton has lived in a world whose rules and dynamics are dictated by men. Running for president is no different, except the stakes are that much higher. While Clinton has been engaged in a lifelong fight against gender discrimination, there has been one kind of situation where she has been able to use male sexism to her distinct advantage: televised debates.

Clinton, an experienced debater, has honed her skills over many, many years. Starting on her high school debate team, she then worked as a lawyer, ran for Senate, served as America’s highest-ranking diplomat, and been a presidential front-runner, twice. She has a grasp of policy few others possess. She is quick on her feet, and can throw a biting zinger. That she will be well-prepared is a given, almost something the public and press take for granted.

But while debates are usually the platform on which the candidates have a final, definitive opportunity to present themselves to the public before the election, what’s remembered about them is not so much the details of policy proposals but the explosive soundbites and gaffes—events that are amplified even more in today’s culture...

A Brief History of Presidential Candidates Standing in Front of Airplanes

Donald Trump’s latest complaint about Hillary Clinton is that she’s cribbing his style. “Do people notice Hillary is copying my airplane rallies,” he wrote in a Twitter post on Tuesday morning. “She puts the plane behind her like I have been doing from the beginning.”

The observation is strange not just because it’s petty, but because it ignores the long history of presidential campaigning. Candidates have been holding rallies in front of campaign planes for ages.

The campaign-plane backdrop makes sense, logistically, given the chaos of a jam-packed campaign. The fastest way for a politician to reach the most voters in the least amount of time is to have people come to them as they’re traveling. But the imagery itself is important, too. Private planes project wealth and power. So it’s easy to see why Donald Trump would want to promote such an image: He’s obsessed with both.

Image via Flickr user Gage Skimore


But there’s nothing original about addressing voters this way. In fact, the picture of a presidential candidate standing in front of a plane is deeply baked into the imagery of U.S. presidential campaigns.

The Unimpressive Chelsea Bomber Proves America is Winning the War Against Extremism

I think about terrorism all the time. Not because I feel personally unsafe. But because I know who’s out there: Folks who want a civilizational war.

In the wake of this weekend’s bombings in New York and New Jersey, I also know this is a particularly opportune moment for their narrative.

Some of these agitators are white, radical right-wingers, who preach about an ethnically and religiously pure America. They want to Donald Trump to be America’s next president.

Some are Islamic extremists, who want the West destroyed. These radicals of a different sort also want Trump to win, albeit for different reasons.

Trump is already using this weekend’s attacks to promote his narrative. It’s the wrong one. Not only because it won’t keep us safe—but because the US is already getting safer. We need to build on this momentum, not halt it. In the midst of our response to this weekend’s attacks in New Jersey, New York, and Minnesota, let’s not forget a few simple facts. We are fighting a war against extremist groups, and in the most important aspect of that conflict—fighting ISIL—we are winning.

But we can...

No Third-Party Candidates in the First Debate

The presidential debate lineup is set. And Gary Johnson isn’t on it.

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Friday that it has invited only Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to compete in the first general-election contest, on September 26. Though not entirely unexpected, the announcement is a significant blow to Libertarian Party nominee Johnson, the third-party candidate with the biggest chance to make an electoral impact this year. He’s spent months, if not years, publicly campaigning to get himself on the stage, arguing that debates are crucial to legitimizing his candidacy and to eliminating the two-party stranglehold on American politics. But with Friday’s announcement, Johnson is forced to sit out one of the most significant national events of the year. 

Though he’s not alone: Green Party nominee Jill Stein also did not qualify under the commission’s stringent criteria, which require candidates to average at least 15 percent support in select national polls. As the commission noted Friday, Johnson averaged 8.4 percent in those polls, with Stein averaging 3.2 percent. The libertarian always had more of a shot, though, in making the stage—he’d polled into the double digits in recent months, and...

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