The rise in white supremacist shootings could change the politics of gun control

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Protesters hold a rally against gun violence in Times Square in response to recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Denton, Ohio on August 4, 2019 in New York City. Photo: Go Nakamura/Getty Images

The weekend’s deadly massacres in El Paso and Dayton served as a grim reminder of past inaction on gun policy. Even posting the famous Onion headline “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens” on social media has become a kind of ritualistic cliché.

In the past, such atrocities have quickly faded from the public consciousness because gun-rights groups are better organized than their gun-control rivals, as well as able to more effectively inspire their members to vote their beliefs at the ballot box. …


Trump is sowing the seeds for democratic erosion, but he’s doing so through smaller, more insidious actions

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Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty

Does Donald Trump present a threat to American democracy, or is the system restraining him? As last week’s debate over the census citizenship question illustrates, the answer is often both. That’s why it’s so difficult to reach a consensus about the nature and magnitude of the danger he poses.

A typical controversy in the Trump era starts when the president or an administration official challenges some previously uncontroversial democratic norm. This challenge becomes fodder for anti-Trump forces, who present it as an imminent threat to democracy as we know it. Bureaucratic and legal resistance then frequently limit the scope of…


Tune out the pundits. Polls showing Trump in trouble mean almost nothing this far from Election Day.

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Image via CBS News

Do the polls really show Donald Trump is headed for big trouble in his reelection campaign? That’s what you might think from watching coverage of early polls of the 2020 general election. In reality, though, it’s just too early to learn much from surveys testing how Trump would fare against various Democrats. Unfortunately, media reports frequently fail to convey this uncertainty, which may lead people to underestimate Trump’s chances.

How do you fill air time more than a year before the general election? One common approach is to engage in breathless hype around the so-called trial heat polls that pit…


In order to stop politicians from becoming lobbyists, we need to pay them more

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Credit: Saul Loeb/Getty Images

Late Monday night, the Democratic leadership in the House decided to delay a vote on a spending measure that would reinstate a cost-of-living adjustment for members for Congress. Their reasoning was simple: bad optics.

Though congressional salaries have been frozen since 2009, even this modest pay increase was immediately demagogued by legislators on both sides of the aisle. Republican Senator Richard Shelby denounced the proposal, stating, “To go out and say we’re going to get a pay raise, that’s the wrong message and that’s not going to happen.” His GOP colleague Ben Sasse went even further: “Instead of writing a…


The president seems to be following a familiar playbook with his threat to impose sweeping tariffs on Mexico to gain leverage on the immigration issue

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Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

One of Donald Trump’s signature moves as president is to act as both arsonist and firefighter, taking credit for resolving pseudo-crises that he in fact initiated. The latest example came Friday, when Trump declared another immigration crisis at the country’s southern border with Mexico, and threatened to impose tariffs on all goods imported from the country if it didn’t take action to stem the flow of migrants. This latest escalation will likely end in Trump taking credit for an expected decline in immigration.

These tactics, of course, are not without precedent. Politicians frequently claim there is a crisis when they…


We need our national leaders to defend the integrity of our elections

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Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The greatest danger of Donald Trump’s presidency is that seemingly abnormal things become seen as normal. After more than 10,000 false or misleading claims, even the president’s outrageous assertions that Democrats support the murder of live infants barely seem newsworthy.

What’s even worse, however, is that other political actors have started to normalize this behavior and adjust their expectations accordingly. First, Republicans acquiesced to Trump’s controversial campaign in 2016. Most stood by when Trump fired the FBI director for investigating him, said there were very fine people on both sides of a white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, and endorsed the…


History shows that skeptics seize on redacted information to fuel their theories

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Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

As the political world anxiously awaits the release of Robert Mueller’s report Thursday morning, much of the focus has been on what we won’t see. It’s quite likely the version that’s released to the public will be heavily redacted. …


Trump’s win taught us that weaker parties can allow demagogues into office

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Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

For anyone concerned about democratic norms and the rule of law, the 2016 election offered a clear lesson: Parties need to exercise more control over candidate selection. In this era of high partisanship, the official party nomination puts any candidate within striking distance of the presidency. This great power thus carries a profound responsibility: to deny the party endorsement to would-be demagogues. So why are Democrats reducing the role of party elites in the primary process this time around?

The changes Democrats have made to the nomination process were prompted by Hillary Clinton’s win over Bernie Sanders in the 2016…


Social media is creating real problems for the world, but moral panics still far outweigh reality. That’s a recipe for policy disaster.

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Credit: darenwoodward/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Even now, more than two years after the 2016 election, the debate over the influence of social media on our political system still relies largely on scary anecdotes (Twitter’s 50,000-plus impostor accounts are sowing chaos!) and speculation (YouTube is turning our younger generations into conspiracy theorists!). As a result, governments around the world are taking actions to counter misinformation campaigns, many of them based on flawed understandings or illiberal impulses. It’s time for this debate to get serious and start drawing on actual research and evidence.

A quick reality check first. Social media is creating real problems for the world…


Trump’s failures in office shouldn’t obscure the threat he poses

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Photo: Martin H. Simon/Pool/Getty

Just as physicists spend decades seeking to resolve the seeming paradox that a photon is both a wave and a particle, observers of U.S. politics continue to struggle with the reality that Donald Trump is both an exceptionally weak president and an authoritarian threat. Since 2017, many commentators have treated this question as binary, suggesting that Trump’s failures as a president should invalidate any concerns over what his White House tenure might mean for the future of our democracy. But that’s an incorrect — and dangerous — assumption.

The latest example of this line of thinking comes in New York…

Brendan Nyhan

Professor of Public Policy, University of Michigan

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