Nine Takeaways on the Dobbs v. Jackson Leak

(Note to readers: today was supposed to be Part II of my Six Months Out preview of the midterms. In it, I was going to tell you who was going win the Senate. I even had the podcast episode ready to drop at the same time. But apparently some leaker, working in cahoots with Politico, didn’t want you to have that information yet, so they’ve distracted me with the most dramatic Supreme Court development in decades. I’ll push back my Senate preview to tomorrow.)

(Sorry this took so long. I have a job.)

WHOA! For so many reasons, the leaked draft of the majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson is the most important Supreme Court story I can remember. Let’s waste no time. In honor of the nine justices who are now eyeballing each other like characters in an Agatha Christie novel, here are nine things to know about this dramatic development.

Continue reading “Nine Takeaways on the Dobbs v. Jackson Leak”

The 2022 Midterms: Six Months Out

It’s now six months before the party of inflation and mandates takes on the party of overturning free and fair elections. I can’t wait to see who America picks!

Four years ago, when we were six months away from the 2018 midterms, I made official predictions from which I never wavered: the Democrats were going to take the House but the Republicans would hold the Senate. I was right then, and I’m going to be right again now.

Six months out from the 2022 midterms, let’s take a look at the race for the two chambers of Congress.

Part I: The House of Representatives

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How Our Parties Switched: Part VII (Conclusion)

Against all odds, you’re back. Despite the last six parts of this series, you’re here for the seventh. I’m humbled. As your reward, today I really will tell you How Our Parties Switched.

For those that arrived here as a result of a googling accident, let’s recap my last two posts. Parts I through III focused on the words “liberal” and “conservative,” including how parties congeal around each of these ideologies, a pattern in our country that goes back to the 13 American colonies. Parts IV through VI then walked you through the evolution of our two-party system, from the federalists and antifederalists arguing about the Constitution, to the Federalists and Democratic-Republicans splitting on their interpretations of that Constitution, to the Federalist collapse, to the Democratic-Republican fracture, to the quick rise and fall of the Whigs, and finally to the founding of the Democratic and Republican parties, our two major parties since the 1850s.

I also noted how historians organize this party evolution. We’ve covered a few “party systems,” which so far have reflected the different stages of American partisanship:

  1. The First Party System (1792-1824) reflected the fight between our first two official parties, the Federalists and Democratic-Republicans, culminating in the former’s collapse and the latter’s hegemony over American politics.
  2. The Second Party System (1828-1852) is organized around the next battle, triggered by Andrew Jackson’s divisive leadership fragmenting the Democratic-Republicans. His followers became the successors of the Democratic-Republicans and called themselves the Democratic Party, which exists to this day. Their anti-Jackson opponents formed the short-lived Whig Party.
  3. Next, the Third Party System (1856-1892) is the first stage during which we have our modern two parties. The Democrats continued, but the Whigs, as a result of their softness on slavery, were replaced by the abolitionist Republicans.

An important element of these evolutions was that the regions of the country, despite the partisan transformations outlined above, retained remarkably consistent ideologies. Although I determined it was in appropriate to call any of our major parties purely “liberal” or “conservative,” I did try to isolate a pattern that we could use:

The last few paragraphs of Part VI arrived at the early twentieth century, when Democrat William Jennings Bryan, in the presidential election of 1908, lost to Republican William Howard Taft. In that election, the Democrats still swept the “Solid South,” while Republican popularity remained up north.

However, despite the parties’ continuity from the late nineteenth to twentieth century, I noted that the “winds of change” had already begun blowing across the American political landscape.

So, dear and dedicated readers, we are finally read for…

Part VII: How Our Parties Switched

Continue reading “How Our Parties Switched: Part VII (Conclusion)”

How Our Parties Switched, Parts IV-VI

Parts I through III of “How Our Parties Switched” was all about context. I unpacked the historical meanings of “liberal” and “conservative.” We took a look at the political tendencies of the British-American colonists up through the American Revolution and Articles of Confederation period, each a victory for liberals who wanted to change traditional systems of government by giving power to individual states, with voters having power over those states.

I left off with the drafting of the Constitution in 1787, which attempted a conservative course-correction by re-centralizing authority into a federal government while limiting the people’s power over that government. However, not all Americans trusted this turn toward the right, so a debate emerged across the 13 states: to ratify or not to ratify?

It is in this debate where we see the emergence of two political factions that become the progenitors of our two major parties. It’s best to first familiarize ourselves with these two factions if we want to understand How Our Parties Switched.

Continue reading “How Our Parties Switched, Parts IV-VI”

PPFA Appears on Someone ELSE’S Podcast!

Hello, PPFA readers (and listeners!). I’m hard at work at the next post in my “How Our Parties Switched” series, but I have something that might tide you over in the meantime. I recently appeared on a super fun podcast called “Backyard Road Trips,” which is also the name of its website. Hosted by old buddies Zack Lamothe and Jim Wheeler, the podcast is a great time, both as a listener and as a guest.

In the episode, we talk about my book “Who Made the West: A Ranking of the 30 Most Influential Figures in Western History.” We also discuss why I write; why I write footnotes; what I think of the state of politics; what I hope to accomplish when I teach; how I try to efficiently balance family, work, and PPFA; and more.

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How Our Parties Switched, Parts I-III

(It’s a long one today. Perhaps you’re prefer podcast form? Available at Apple and Spotify)

I’d like to describe you the geographic base and general ideology of an American political party, and see if you can guess which one I’m talking about. This party is stronger in the north than in the south. It’s more popular in urban areas than rural ones, and it’s more popular on the coasts than it is in the heart of America. The party stands for a centralized government with national policies. On civil rights and other social issues, this party is seen as the more liberal, or progressive, of the two major parties. This party has also historically advocated for an income tax to help redistribute money to help pay for government initiatives.

Which American political party did I just describe?

You actually don’t have enough information to answer. You must first ask a follow-up question.


Now I’ll describe another party. This party is more popular in the south than it is in the north. It is more popular in rural areas than urban ones, and it’s more popular inland than on the coast. The party advocates for states’ rights and therefore resists nationalized policies, including high income taxes that fund an overly powerful and expensive federal government. It resists the government legislating on who businesses hire, who universities accept, and what the Supreme Court can tell states to do. On cultural and social issues, this party is conservative, favoring traditional value systems over new ones.

What party did I describe this time?

Again, to answer the question, you first must know the answer to that follow-up question. When in American history did this party exist?

The party I first described sounds a lot like the modern Democratic Party. However, it also sounds like the Republican Party from the mid-nineteenth century into the early part of the twentieth. That second party I described sounds a lot like the modern GOP, but it also could describe the earlier Democratic Party.

So what’s the deal? Have you ever wondered why and how did the parties switch?

You came to the right place.

Continue reading “How Our Parties Switched, Parts I-III”

New PPFA Podcast Episode: An April Fools Challenge!

Happy Friday, Happy April, and Happy April Fools’ Day!

I just dropped the latest episode of the Presidential Politics for America’s podcast. In it, I dust off an old gimmick and convert it into a podcast episode. I summarize five absurd historical events… but only four of them are true. Your challenge is to pick the one that isn’t.

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From Afghanistan to Ukraine: Strategy, Tactics, & Biden’s Foreign Policy

(This post is also available as a podcast episode.)

You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone but diehard partisans say that President Biden has been a strong president.

His promise to bring America together has failed. His unrealistic prediction that Republicans would snap out of it once the election evicted President Trump from the White House has not manifested. His presidential press conferences, rare as they may be, are the most worrying of my lifetime, save only those of his predecessor. Although the American Rescue Plan protected a fragile recovery, it was fair for critics to worry about the long-term effects on prices and productivity, and even those critics may have underpredicted inflation, now at a 40-year-high of 7.9%. Meanwhile, his Build Back Better budget plan never got through Congress — a Congress his party controls.

For these and several other reasons, I think Republicans are virtually assured of a House takeover this November (perhaps the Senate as well), and Biden’s inability to stop it will make him look even weaker. His greatest singular accomplishment to his party and our country remains that he won an election his opponent was determined to steal, a victory that gave his party control of the executive and legislative branches and our democracy control of itself. Since then, however, victories for this overmatched chief executive have been few and far between, and he should do us all a favor and not run again in 2024.

When his party loses control of Congress in January, his domestic agenda will be even more ineffectual, making his foreign policy all the more critical when either he runs for re-election or the Democrats scramble to replace him. For that reason, and with the Ukrainian conflict now in its second month, I want to consider Biden’s foreign policy through the lens of the two primary crises he’s faced: the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the ongoing Ukrainian conflict.

It’s been a mixed bag. Although I actually agree with Biden’s strategy in Afghanistan, his tactics were abysmal. Then, in Ukraine, it was the strategy that was laughable but the tactics laudable.

Here’s what I mean.

Continue reading “From Afghanistan to Ukraine: Strategy, Tactics, & Biden’s Foreign Policy”