Ari Berman is a contributing writer for The Nation magazine and an Investigative Journalism Fellow at The Nation Institute. His new book, Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America, will be published in August 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. He has written extensively about American politics, civil rights, and the intersection of money and politics. His stories have also appeared in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and The Guardian, and he is a frequent guest and commentator on MSNBC and NPR. His first book, Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics, was published in 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. (Photo by Ports Bishop)
Last winter, in the early stages of his run for the presidency, Barack Obama said he'd consider accepting public financing for the general election if his Republican opponent would do the same and agree to a set of ground rules, including limiting spending by party committees and outside 527 political advocacy groups.
That statement by Obama came before he assembled the most impressive fundraising juggernaut in modern political history, thanks in large part to an explosion of small donors giving over the internet. If Obama accepted public financing in the general, he'd have $85 million to spend between the end of his party's convention in late August and November 4. Obama realized he could raise far more than that for the late stages of his campaign and do so in a generally honorable way. (John McCain, in turn, refused to limit spending by the RNC or referee 527 groups active on his behalf). So today his campaign announced it would opt out of public financing in the general. As the great economist John Maynard Keynes once said, when accused of inconsistency: "When the facts change, I change my mind -- what do you do, sir?"
The facts changed for Obama. "It's not an easy decision, and especially because I support a robust system of public financing of elections," Obama said in a message to supporters today. "But the public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who've become masters at gaming this broken system."
The state of Iowa was the star of this political season for over a year. The Hawkeye state launched Barack Obama's candidacy, derailed Hillary Clinton's and turned Mike Huckabee into a GOP power-broker. All eyes were on Iowa--and then the political circus left, on to New Hampshire and the 48 caucuses and primaries that followed.
Now Iowa needs your attention again. Key parts of eastern Iowa, in case you haven't heard, are underwater, the result of catastrophic flooding. Nearly half of the state is considered a disaster area. "The economic costs of the devastating floods were also beginning to seep in," the New York Times reported today, "tourism officials, who depend on the short summers, were bracing for washed-out seasons; farmers in many states stared out at ponds that had once been their fields of beans and corn; and officials were preparing to shut down 315 miles of the Mississippi River, a crucial route for millions of tons of coal, grains and steel."
John McCain has made it clear that his campaign intends to aggressively court supporters of Hillary Clinton, include her major base of women voters.
Now top women Clinton supporters have a message for McCain: not so fast.
"The McCain campaign has been talking about the mythology of trying to pick up HRC supporters," says Ellen Malcolm, president of EMILY'S List. "This is a pipe dream, because he's out of touch with their lives and the issues they care about."
In early April I visited the political battleground of suburban Philadelphia to interview a bunch of former Republicans who'd registered as Democrats to vote for Barack Obama in the April 22 primary. These interviews formed the basis of my latest Nation article, "Pennsylvania's 'Obamicans.'"
The story is largely set in Doylestown, one of Philly's oldest and most picturesque exurbs. It's a swing town in a swing area in a crucial swing state. As such, the political trends in Doylestown and the rest of Bucks County are pretty indicative of what's going on throughout Pennsylvania and the rest of the country.
The article is subscription-only on our website (so become a subscriber!), but I'm posting an edited excerpt below for the loyal readers of this blog.