There’s a Chance American Democracy Is Not Doomed

During the Obama era, a number of liberal writers, including this one, have grown fascinated with the prophecies of the late political scientist Juan Linz. Noting that presidential systems (as opposed to parliamentary ones) have a persistent tendency to collapse into coups, Linz argued that failures were endemic to their design. They created two elected bodies, both of which could claim popular legitimacy, without any strong mechanisms for settling power struggles between them.

Matthew Yglesias surveys American political history and its rising polarization through the prism of Linz’s analysis, and concludes that our political system is doomed. The U.S. was the exception to the otherwise-universal worldwide trend of presidential systems falling apart only because its unusually loose parties lacked the motivation and partisan willpower to push their powers to the limit. Now it is only a matter of time until a crisis brings it down. (“What if a disputed presidential election coincided with a Supreme Court vacancy? What if the simultaneous deaths of the president and vice president brought to power a House Speaker from the opposite party? What if neither party secured a majority of electoral votes and a presidential election wound up being decided by a vote of the lame duck House of Representatives? What if highly partisan state legislatures start using their constitutional authority to rig the presidential contest?”) And this is not even considering other, lower-probability scenarios.

Yglesias’s case is convincing, and he may be right. There is, however, another possibility he does not consider. Perhaps the most dangerous thing about American politics is not its institutional design but the unique power of its right wing. And perhaps, since the far right’s power is not immutable, American presidentialism can outlast it after all.


Obama Takes Preemptive Jab at Netanyahu Ahead of Speech to Congress

On Monday Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu kicked off his trip to the U.S. by striking a conciliatory tone, telling the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that his speech to Congress "is not intended to show any disrespect to President Obama or the esteemed office that he holds." Apparently, Obama was unmoved (possibly because he didn't even watch Netanyahu's AIPAC address). In an interview with Reuters several hours later, Obama said the current rift between the U.S. and Israel is "not a personal issue" and isn't "permanently destructive" to the relationship between the two countries. Then he offered some thoughts on why no one should trust Netanyahu's assessment of the situation with Iran.

As for the GOP, they’re officially too excited. »

Hillary Clinton Only Used Her Personal Email Address at State Department

Take a moment to enjoy the "Texts from Hillary" meme one last time, because henceforth the image of Hillary Clinton scrolling through her BlackBerry with her eyes concealed by dark sunglasses will have an entirely different meaning. On Monday evening, the New York Times revealed that as secretary of State Clinton "exclusively" used her personal email address to conduct government business — and, in fact, didn't even have a government email address. While routinely using personal email would be an issue at many companies, it's illegal for federal officials, and the paper reports that her office made no effort to have her communications preserved on State Department servers.



Stop Making Dudes Named ‘John’ and ‘David’ CEOs

The Upshot blog over at the New York Times created a "Glass Ceiling Index" that compares how many women hold jobs at the top of the career ladder compared to men named John, Robert, William, or James. The results were upsetting. The Jameses, Roberts, Johns, and Williams of America outnumber women in CEO tallies at S&P 1500 firms, in lists of economics professors, on corporate boards, and among House and Senate Republicans.

As for the White House, Justin Wolfers writes, "The United States, which has never had a female president, has had six named James, five named John and four named William. Thus, even if Hillary Clinton were to be elected, the Glass Ceiling Index would be 15."

The only less-than-depressing thing to come out of the analysis is this correction, which would look very odd out of context: "An earlier version of this article, and an accompanying chart, gave an incorrect ratio for the number of Jims, Bobs, Jacks and Bills to women in the American population. It is 0.12 to 1, not 0.24 to 1."

Scott Walker Confirms 2016 Candidacy With Immigration Flip-flop

After coming in second in CPAC's mostly meaningless straw poll, Scott Walker is through playing coy about his presidential ambitions. In a New York Times report on GOP candidates wooing rich donors, Walker referred to his current position as Wisconsin's governor in the past tense, saying, "Oh, I think along the way I’ll be at plenty of dairy events and farm events and factories just like when I was governor." He also gave himself a new title while explaining to Fox News Sunday that he's reversed his position on immigration after saying in 2013 that he could support a pathway to citizenship. "I don't believe in amnesty, and part of the reason why I've made that a firm position is I look at the way this president has mishandled that issue," Walker said. "My view has changed," he added. "I’m flat-out saying it. Candidates can say that."

Rand Paul Won the CPAC Straw Poll for the Third Year in a Row

Congratulations to Rand Paul, Son of Ron, for winning the Conservative Political Action Conference's straw poll for the third time in a row. Paul the Younger took 25.7 percent of the vote, while Wisconsin governor Scott Walker came in second place with 21.4 percent. (The Washington Post reports that around 3,000 CPAC attendees participated in the poll this year.) Texas senator Ted Cruz came in third (11.5 percent), Ben Carson came in fourth (11 percent), and Jeb Bush rounded out the top five with 8 percent.


GOP Can’t Find Votes to Pass Its Own DHS Bill

Republican leaders in the House tried to prevent the midnight shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security by passing a stopgap bill that would fund the department for three weeks, leaving time for both parties to debate what should be in the final budget. It didn't work.

The final vote was 203 to 224, with many conservative and tea party Republicans voting nay, as well as most of the Democrats in the minority. Conservative Republicans want to include a provision defunding President Obama's executive order on immigration, while House Democrats want to vote on the bill that would fund DHS through the year, which has already passed in the Senate. With only a few hours left to go before the end of the day, options for avoiding shutdown are running out. Representatives were warned that additional votes tonight and this weekend may be necessary. 

Russian Opposition Leader Boris Nemtsov Reported Dead

Russian news outlets have reported that Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister under Boris Yeltsin and prominent critic of Russian President Vladmir Putin, was shot in the streets of Moscow, near the Kremlin, on Friday night. One of Nemtsov's fellow opposition leaders, Illya Yashin, told one Russian news website, "Unfortunately I can see the corpse of Boris Nemtsov in front of me now. At the Bolshoy Zamoskvoretsky Bridge. I see the body and lots of police around it."

The politician, who led several opposition parties over the course of his career, was scheduled to help lead a march on Sunday. 

The Guardian notes that it has been a decade since the last assassination of a politician in Moscow. 

Video of the day

Charlie Rangel Opens Debate With Fake Phone Call

Congressman Joe Garcia Picks Ear, Eats It on Live TV

Sarah Palin Thinks Chelsea’s Baby May Make Hillary ‘Open Her Eyes’ About Abortion


In The Mag

Back on the Trail

When Mark Sanford decided to run for office again, he asked his ex-wife, Jenny, for her blessing. Whether he has her vote is another matter.

By Jason Zengerle

Reading List

Wonkblog Jan. 21, 2013

The Case for Deficit Optimism

For all the sound and fury, Washington’s actually making real progress on debt.

By Ezra Klein
Salon Jan. 15, 2012

The NRA's Democratic Helpers

Harry Reid and other pro-gun Democrats leave Obama in need of unlikely allies.

By Steve Kornacki

From the Archives

New York Magazine / Nov. 5, 2010

Boehner's Army

After November's glitch, Boehner, McConnell and Congress strike familiar poses.

By John Heilemann
New York Magazine / Jan. 25, 2009

With Friends Like These

Obama drew progressive ire from day one.

By John Heilemann
New York Magazine / Nov. 30, 2008

Hiding In Plain Sight

How one undocumented family lives in our sanctuary city.

By Jeff Coplon