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Analysis and Comment (85)

If Democrats win governorships in battleground states, their fortunes in the House of Representatives will improve considerably – in the long term. EPA/Michael Reynolds

Why the US midterms matter – and why Democrats see a silver lining

If the polls are correct, the headlines on November 5 following the US midterm elections will proclaim that Democrats have suffered a major defeat. The Democrats will likely lose the Senate. President…
Scourge of the elite. Miguel Ariel Contreras Drake-McLaughlin

Bradlee was a bold editor who helped us understand the world

Ben Bradlee, the former editor of the Washington Post, who has died at the age of 93 was a crusading and courageous editor. He played a central role in exposing duplicity and deception at the highest levels…
Attendees photograph Hillary Clinton speaking at Pennsylvania rally in support of Democratic candidate for governor. Mark Makela/Reuters

Midterm politics: the back story is the thing

Foundation essay: This article is part of a series marking the launch of The Conversation in the US. Our foundation essays are longer than our usual comment and analysis articles and take a wider look…
The outside is being renovated, but what about the inside? Jim Bourg/Reuters

How to make the House of Representatives representative

Foundation essay: This article is part of a series marking the launch of The Conversation in the US. Our foundation essays are longer than our usual comment and analysis articles and take a wider look…
The blurring of the line between the military and the police, especially in the US, is now on the political agenda following recent events in Ferguson, Missouri. EPA/Roberto Rodriguez

Urban combat: Ferguson and the militarisation of police

Anyone watching the footage coming out of Ferguson, Missouri in recent days would be forgiven for thinking they had tuned into a scene from a combat zone, rather than suburban America. There has been a…
In telegraphing toughness on foreign policy issues, Hillary Clinton hopes to send the message that the US will act like a great power when she’s president. EPA/Michael Reynolds

Clinton fires first shot in battle to show she’ll be different as president

Few people expected the opening shots of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign to be fired across the bow of the Obama administration. Yet in a recent interview, the former secretary of state took aim…
Excessive use of force? EPA/David Carson

Michael Brown, Ferguson and the nature of unrest

The death of Michael Brown is heartbreaking, and Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family and his community at this very difficult time … I know the events of the past few days have prompted…
Five-year-old Dahlia Zabrano-Tercero at a July vigil for young Central American migrants in California. David Maung/EPA

Life for child migrants is even harder beyond the US border

Between 2003 and 2011, 8,000 to 40,000 unaccompanied migrant children from Central America were stopped every year on the southern border of the US. When this number boomed to more than 57,000 during the…
In the late ‘90s, Monica Lewinsky became part of US political lore and pop culture, inspiring this Los Angeles mural. So what can she add to her story now? Hector Ponce 1999/Flickr

Lewinsky, Clinton and ‘Zippergate’ redux 2014

It’s scarcely a surprise that, a decade on, we’re still interested in hearing from a president’s mistress. It’s even less surprising that, a decade on, that mistress still wants to talk. The whys of our…
This train will not be stopping at jail. Ed Schipul

The 1% game the system and the rest no longer want to play

Every year I ask my class on “Wealth and Poverty” to play a simple game. I have them split up into pairs, and imagine I’m giving one of them $1,000. They can keep some of the money only on condition they…
The Obama administration’s revised drone warfare policy is currently being put to the legal and ethical test. World Can't Wait

Killing Americans abroad: has Obama’s policy really changed?

When is a government entitled to kill its own citizens? That’s the question at the centre of recent revelations that the Obama administration might conduct a strike against an American suspected of plotting…
Stand Your Ground laws, used as a defence in high-profile US murder trials, implicitly justify a new breed of vigilante who has little regard for human life. Fibonacci Blue

‘Stand Your Ground’: America’s violent culture written into law

Earlier this week, a Florida court began hearing arguments in the murder trial of an older, white man accused of murdering an African-American teenager. If you think this sounds familiar, you’re right…
Simply standing in front of a class and telling children how we are used to doing things ‘just won’t work’, according to leading American education expert Linda Darling-Hammond. AAP/Dan Peled

In Conversation: Maxine McKew and Linda Darling-Hammond

Watch the video of Maxine McKew interviewing Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond below. Australian schoolkids are scoring higher than their US counterparts in maths, science and literacy, but a visiting…
US president Barack Obama used his State of the Union address to motivate his party’s base, but will it work ahead of the mid-terms in November? EPA/Larry Downing

State of the Union: it’s what you didn’t hear that really matters

Barack Obama may have delivered the annual State of the Union speech before Congress, but his real audience was the Democratic base that his administration needs to mobilise before this November’s midterm…
Has US president Barack Obama seized on the right issue at the right time by targeting income inequality in his State of the Union address? EPA/Larry Downing

State of the Union: Obama’s timely answer to Americans

Just over half a century ago, after his presidency began with the Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba, John F. Kennedy sought out advice from his recently defeated rival, Richard Nixon. The two men had a special…
US president Barack Obama is set to address Congress to map out his agenda for the year. What’s he likely to say? EPA/Pete Marovich

State of the Union: can Obama emerge from the shadow of 2013?

On Tuesday evening (Washington time), US president Barack Obama will deliver his sixth State of the Union address. It comes at an important moment in his presidency. He has little to show for the first…
‘Corporations are people’ – and so, apparently, is Mitt Romney. Gage Skidmore

With Mitt, Netflix shows human side of a hamstrung candidate

Mitt, a newly released documentary about former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, provides an up-close look at the exhausting presidential election process in the U.S. This is no House of Cards when…
Whatever Barack Obama says, the fact is the US president reined in spying powers in response to public knowledge gained from leaks about NSA activities. EPA/Shawn Thew

Obama’s concession on spying makes implicit case for leaks

All eyes were on US president Barack Obama when he announced his plan to reform the National Security Agency (NSA) and its ability to collect phone metadata. Three main changes will be pursued: the government…
Same as the old boss? Christie’s stubborn style is back to haunt him. Gage Skidmore

Chris Christie is just another old-fashioned New Jersey boss

Chris Christie has always encouraged voters to see him as anything but a politician. His lips seem to curl with contempt whenever he mentions New Jersey’s state capital, Trenton. He has long portrayed…
Australia has now been caught up in the web of Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks about spying. How might it affect relations with countries in our region? EPA/Ole Spata

Spies like us: Australia, America and the Asia-Pacific

Who would have thought it? Governments, it seems, have been spying on each other. As revelations go, this may be slightly less surprising than the news that the British tabloids are entirely without scruples…
NSA director Keith Alexander has been forced to defend his agency’s operations after a series of revelations, exposing mass data gathering and surveillance programs on US citizens and world leaders. EPA/Shawn Thew

Political wheel may be turning on the NSA’s surveillance programs

It is now clear that the US government’s National Security Agency (NSA) has undertaken an unprecedented surveillance program. NSA’s aim is to monitor all communications of every American, and this is no…
A house divided: the shutdown and debt ceiling crisis may be over, but partisan gridlock has brought politics in Washington to a standstill. EPA/Michael Reynolds

A culture of dysfunction: is Washington headed for Groundhog Day?

The US debt crisis is over for now, but legislators have just kicked the can down the road. In this series on the US debt ceiling, academics from Australia, the UK and the US assess the lingering global…
Reading the fine print of the Affordable Care Act. US government

Obamacare can’t make sense in a divided America

The US debt crisis is over for now, but legislators have just kicked the can down the road. In this series on the US debt ceiling, academics from Australia, the UK and the US assess the lingering global…
Republican senator Ted Cruz has become the face of the Tea Party movement during the shutdown and debt ceiling crisis. But how has the Tea Party changed since its inception? EPA/Michael Reynolds

US debt crisis heralds the return of the Tea Party

The US debt crisis is over for now, but legislators have just kicked the can down the road. In this series on the US debt ceiling, academics from Australia, the UK and the US assess the lingering global…
Tough crowd. Gonna get tougher. White House

Electoral deadlock means no end to Republican extremism

After 16 days of anxiety, grandstanding and acrimonious finger-pointing, the experiment in American democracy that was the government shutdown has been run, and for the Republicans, the results were devastating…
Did US president Barack Obama and his Democratic Party emerge as victors from the now-concluded government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis? EPA/Martin H. Simon

Where to from here? The post-shutdown state of US politics

The confrontation - and the ultimate resolution - over the debt ceiling and the government shutdown has, to date, been the defining moment of US president Barack Obama’s second term. It offers an important…
While the US government remains shut down, the long game for Republicans like Speaker John Boehner remains the debt ceiling crisis. EPA/Jim Lo Scalzo

Raise the roof: the politics of the US debt ceiling crisis

The US government shutdown is in its second week, but attention in the country has shifted elsewhere: to the looming debt ceiling crisis. On October 17, the US runs out of money to pay its bills. Both…
US president Barack Obama has been quick to blame the Republican Party for the state of government shutdown. EPA/Jim Lo Scalzo

US government shutdown: worse may yet be to come

At midnight, the United States government was shut down after Congress could not agree to a deal on changes to president Barack Obama’s signature health-care legislation, Obamacare. Around 800,000 non-essential…
Yolo. EPA/Michael Reynolds

Boehner risks his reputation in Obamacare shutdown

Republican Speaker John Boehner faced a choice between two unappetising gambles on Monday night. One option was to cut a deal with Democrats to continue federal government spending at present levels, and…
President Barack Obama’s health care bill is behind a looming US government shutdown by Republicans. AAP

Explainer: why the US government is facing (another) shutdown

The dysfunctions of America’s federal government, primarily caused by Republican intransigence, have created a menagerie of strange new political beasts: fiscal cliffs, sequestrations, nuclear options…
A little less conversation, a little more action please. Stefan Rousseau/PA

UN General Assembly another venue for Obama’s inaction

And so the annual autumn ritual of American masochism begins again in New York. Like inviting your least likeable in-laws to detail your worst features to your nearest and dearest after an agreeable Christmas…
US president Barack Obama has been criticised recently for not taking a hardline enough approach on military action in Syria. EPA/Michael Reynolds

In praise of prevarication: Barack Obama’s Syria strategy

Being the most powerful man in the world isn’t what it used to be. US president Barack Obama is currently being ridiculed for his apparent inability to decide how to handle the conflict in Syria. American…
Hail to the chief: Obama is a tonic for the troops. Wikimedia Commons

Barack Obama’s constitutional contortions over Syria

Tensions in the Middle East rose considerably this morning when Russian radar detected the launch of two rockets in the eastern Mediterranean, triggering alerts across the region. After initially claiming…
The Obamas have adopted a second dog, Sunny, to go with Bo. What do the pets presidents have say about them? The White House

Politics on four legs: presidents and their pets

A dog saved Richard Nixon’s political career. In September 1952, Republican presidential nominee Dwight Eisenhower was furious with Nixon, his running mate in the coming presidential election. Nixon, who…
The act of kissing a baby is a key plank of what campaign strategists and commentators consider to be ‘retail politics’. AAP/Alan Porritt

Explainer: what is retail politics?

Shaking hands. Kissing babies. Throwing snags on the barbie, or wandering through a suburban shopping centre. These are the familiar scenes of “retail politics”, a campaign style in which candidates sell…
Eight years after her failed tilt at the Democratic Party nomination, will Hillary Clinton run for (and win) the US presidency in 2016? EPA/Khaled Elfiqi

Will Hillary Clinton be the next US president?

Hillary Clinton is about to take over Americans’ television lineup. CNN plans to produce a documentary on her. NBC wants to do a miniseries about her political career. In response, Reince Priebus, the…
Kevin Rudd has recruited three strategists from the US to help his election chances, continuing a trend of the ‘internationalisation’ of campaign craft. AAP/Dean Lewins

Yes we can: will imported talent get Labor over the line?

Kevin Rudd has imported three members of US president Barack Obama’s successful 2012 campaign team to advise on Labor’s September 7 re-election efforts. This announcement has already achieved one of the…
The natural conclusion from the conviction of Bradley Manning is that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is now firmly in the sights of US prosecutors. AAP/UPI Media

With Bradley Manning convicted, what now for Julian Assange?

Bradley Manning’s conviction for espionage marks the closing stages in the US Army private’s personal battle. Yet for Julian Assange, founder of whistleblower website WikiLeaks and Australian Senate candidate…
The acquittal of George Zimmerman, accused of the murder of black teenager Trayvon Martin, suggests there still exists deep-seated racial injustices in the US. EPA/Joe Burbank

The accumulated injustices of the Trayvon Martin case

The criminal justice system has always been at the sharp end of race relations in the United States. Not only have African Americans been treated more harshly than whites as suspects and offenders, they…
Let them come to Berlin: the crowds from 2009 stayed away in 2013. Wikimedia Commons

Communication failure: ‘Brand Obama’ tired and tarnished

An illustrious predecessor of Barack Obama once wrote: “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” But Thomas Jefferson didn’t have to live with today’s 24-hour…
Marriage equality is one step closer in the US. vpickering

A day of dignity for the US as Supreme Court defeats DOMA

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act. The ruling allows the federal government to recognise same-sex marriage, granting gay couples…
Rapper Kanye West’s new album Yeezus reflects on race and discrimination in present day America. EPA/Ferdy Damman

Yeezus saves: Kanye West, hip hop and the language of slavery

This month, rapper Kanye West’s highly anticipated new album Yeezus was released at perhaps one of the coolest launch events ever. His latest single New Slaves was simultaneously featured on 66 screens…
The trial of US Army private Bradley Manning - alleged to have leaked classified information to whistleblower website WikiLeaks - is underway. EPA/Michael Reynolds

WikiLeaks and aiding the enemy: the court martial of Bradley Manning

Even before his trial commenced, United States Army private Bradley Manning must have known that he would be spending a significant time in prison. Think decades rather than years. Manning pleaded guilty…
A US flag lies in the wreckage of the Benghazi consulate, stormed on September 11 2012 in an attack that saw the US ambassador and three others killed. EPA/Stringer

Back to the future: Benghazi, Republicans and the urge to impeach

Are US Republicans set to attempt to impeach another Democratic president? Utah representative Jason Chaffetz suggested US president Barack Obama could face impeachment over his administration’s response…
Partisan gridlock in US politics has led to the recent failure of Barack Obama’s gun reform agenda, which did not get through Congress last week despite public support. EPA/Spencer Platt

Dysfunction by design: why American politics is in gridlock

For all its international power, the United States government seems increasingly powerless to make laws for the benefit of its own people. The recent failure to implement popular gun control measures in…
The US remains the most militarily powerful nation on Earth - but will budget cuts bring it back to the fold? EPA/Zurab Kurtsikidze

Budget cuts: will American military power suffer?

The maelstrom surrounding budget cuts that has engulfed the United States over the last twelve months seems no nearer to reaching a satisfactory conclusion. The U.S. Congressional House and Senate currently…
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at a press conference announcing major new gun control reforms. EPA/Jim Lo Scalzo

Many massacres later, Obama gets serious on gun law reform

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The Founding Fathers of the American Constitution might…
President Obama pardons a turkey named Liberty in 2001 in a traditional presidential ceremony held every year. EPA/Michael Reynolds

Talking turkey: President Obama and his paltry pardons

The Myanmar government hailed Barack Obama’s recent trip to Burma, the first US president to visit the former military regime, by pardoning 56 prisoners. On his return to the US, President Obama will pardon…
The next four years in office for Barack Obama (and VP Joe Biden) will define his presidency and historical standing. EPA/Shawn Thew

Forward for four more years: how Obama won his second term

Barack Obama’s re-election won’t generate the same exuberance as 2008. The lofty rhetoric of “Hope” and “Change” has been replaced by the much more sombre message of “Forward”. And while four years ago…
President Barack Obama would be well advised to catch some sleep on the plane during his whirlwind tour. EPA/Michael Reyonds

Obama’s all-nighter: fast, furious and foolish

Politicians of all persuasions often claim they need little sleep to lead their nations. Thatcher, Hawke, Abbott, Rudd, Berlusconi and Clinton are all examples of this “on the job 24 hours per day” club…
President Obama’s sporting prowess has helped his popularity among the wider American electorate. EPA/Kevin Dietsch

Presidential politics: the true US national pastime

For many Americans, it seems, politics is the ultimate sport, the true national pastime. Like athletes, political candidates are written about and widely seen as heated rivals – for popularity, power…
President Obama addresses the American Latino Heritage Forum in Washington last year. EPA/Olivier Douliery

Explainer: the Latino vote in the US

In the first of The Conversation’s video explainer series - produced in collaboration with SBS Online - Dr David Smith from the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney discusses the importance…
Who will occupy the White House next? Our experts give their insight. Matt Wade Photography

Race to the White House: Tim Lynch, Nick Sharman

Welcome to the first of our weekly podcasts dissecting US politics in the run-up to the presidential election. Each week we’ll be talking to Australia’s top US experts on the ins and outs of the Romney…
Mitt Romney introduces Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate. EPA/Jim Lo Scalzo

Saving Privat(izing) Ryan: Mitt Romney selects a running mate

On Saturday, August 11, “before the press and just about everyone else” was notified, the Mitt Romney campaign used a mobile phone app to inform supporters that Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan would be…
Presumptice Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney managed to offend his British hosts on his recent visit. EPA/Neil Munns

Romneyshambles: how not to win foreign friends and influence important people

On its trip abroad, the Mitt Romney campaign would have done well to heed the advice US presidential candidates are given in a selecting a VP: “First, do no harm.” Upon arrival in the United Kingdom, however…
The US is growing in popularity down under … have we all got Obamamania? AAP/Scott Barbour

Has Australia fallen for Obama’s soft power?

When Barack Obama was under fire for his foreign policy inexperience in 2007, he told the New York Times that his unique biography could be a vital instrument in a new American foreign policy. “If you…
A sign spray painted on snow indicates a polling station for Alaskan voters on Super Tuesday. EPA/Michael Dineen

The stand-off between Mitt Romney and the Republican base continues

For Democrats, the Republican presidential primaries remain the gift that keeps on giving. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the front-runner for the Republican nomination, once hoped to seal…
Voters elect delegates who pledge support to a particular candidate. EPA/Michael Reynolds

Explainer: Super Tuesday

Super Tuesday is billed as the most important day for any US presidential nomination contest, and this year it’s more fascinating than ever. Fewer states are voting than usual and the Republican party…
President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet at the White House in early March, 2012. EPA/Martin H Simon

On Iran, Obama shows he loves Israel a little too much

A key facet of America’s extended, depressing election campaigns is that every serious presidential candidate has to prove their fanatical, unswerving devotion to the Israeli government. As part of this…
Mitt Romney has targeted voters in different market segments in his bid to win the Republican nomination. EPA/Michael Nelson

Would you like fries with your vote? The rise of political marketing

One of the more interesting techniques emerging from the United States Republican Nomination Primary Contest has been the strategy being used in television advertising by some candidates, in particular…
Mitt Romney is struggling to gain traction with the base of the Republican party. Can the media be to blame? AAP/Jim Lo Scalzo

Stuck in the middle: Mitt Romney’s trouble with the media

Despite his solid performances in the early Republican primaries, Mitt Romney’s candidacy for the Republican nomination is still facing a crisis of legitimacy. Social conservatives have questioned his…
Another election campaign, another out-of-this-world promise. Erik S. Lesser/EPA

A US moon colony? Does Newt Gingrich’s idea have a legal basis?

In Florida last week, Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich asserted that, under his leadership, the US would establish a “permanent moon base” by 2020. What’s more, he claimed, “it will be American…
Rick Perry failed to distinguish himself among an uninspiring field of contenders. EPA/Jim Lo Scalzo

Oops … I was wrong: why Perry fell and Gingrich is rising

I stated on The Conversation last August that Rick Perry would become the next President of the United States in 2013. Instead, the Texas governor dropped out of the race last week, unable to establish…
Senator for South Australia Cory Bernardi has attracted controversy with some of his right wing views. www.corybernardi.com

In Conversation: Senator Cory Bernardi

Welcome to our In Conversation between Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi and Dr Timothy Lynch, lecturer in American politics at Melbourne University. Since being appointed to the Senate in 2006, the Senator…
Governor Chris Christie (far left) with President Obama at a 9/11 memorial service. AAP

A weighty issue for the USA: can a fat man be president?

Of all the many health-related, stamina-centred, role-model unworthy criticisms of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie joining the Republican 2012 hopefuls, the most perplexing are allegations of his lack…
The Cronulla riots saw ugly attacks on people of “Middle Eastern appearance”. AAP

9/11 anniversary: reflections on the ripple-down effect

It’s about that moment; if you’re old enough it’s the indelible memory of JFK being shot. As a teenager I was listening to the car radio when I heard. For Gen X it’s 9/11, the midnight phonecalls, the…
Karl Rove was never far from President George W Bush’s side. AFP/Stephen Jaffe

Spinning it: the power and influence of the government advisor

MEDIA & DEMOCRACY: Today, Anne Tiernan looks at how voters have become consumers of political marketing, as part of The Conversation’s week-long series on how the media influences the way our representatives…
Minnesota’s three-week shutdown saw basic government services stripped back. Flickr/mngop

Minnesota shutdown broadens the blue-red chasm in US politics

Minnesotans have breathed a sigh of relief after the state’s Republican-led legislature signed off on a budget deal negotiated with Democratic Governor Mark Dayton, ending a three-week state government…

Columnists (1)

Research Briefs (9)

Americans support tougher gun laws

The majority of Americans support stronger gun control policies, including gun owners and members of the National Rifle Association…

Voters take candidates on face value

In modern politics, a candidate’s image is everything, linguistic anthropologists researching US presidential campaigns have…