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When is a new voter law unconstitutional?

Dom, 09/08/2015 - 19:02

ON AUGUST 6th 1965 President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act (VRA), a sweeping law that would do much to protect the right to vote for all Americans, including those who have historically suffered from discrimination at the polls. When it was first passed, Southern states were systematically suppressing the black vote, in some cases violently. Over the coming decades, the law was tweaked to ban all voting practices that effectively deterred certain groups of voters. But many presumed that time and racial progress would ultimately make the law unnecessary.

Alas, 50 years on, the law continues to be cited in a number of cases involving mischief at the polls. On August 5th the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down part of a controversial voter-identification law Texas passed in 2011, one of the strictest in the country, which the state argues protects the “integrity of...Continue reading

Who were the debate's winners and losers?

Vie, 07/08/2015 - 23:38

LAST night’s Republican debate was wildly entertaining, at least as far as American political debates go. The presence of Donald Trump, a billionaire reality-TV star and GOP front-runner, brought energy and excitement to what is ordinarily a soporific rehearsal of canned platitudes punctuated by one or two moments of diverting conflict. Americans tuned in. Thursday's event was the most-watched primary debate in history.

Those who hoped to catch the bumptious Mr Trump brazenly riffing got what they wanted. Mr Trump was the biggest personality on stage, and he got more airtime than the others. However, rather than overshadowing his mainstage competitors, Mr Trump may have boosted their fortunes by giving them a much larger audience than they otherwise would have enjoyed.

Marco Rubio, a spry Florida senator, distinguished himself with poise, an appealing positive vision, and a thoughtful grasp of policy detail. He declined to take on Mr Trump’s vague bluster directly, but took advantage of the opportunity to appear crisp, competent and...Continue reading

The candidates offer quite a show

Vie, 07/08/2015 - 07:38

WHEN it became clear that the first televised debate of the 2016 presidential season would feature ten Republicans on a sports arena stage in Cleveland, Ohio, with Donald Trump at the centre, pessimists braced for a circus. Optimists predicted that the high stakes would force a serious exchange between candidates who—for all their foibles—are mostly smart, accomplished men with distinctive conservative ideas about how to run the country. Few guessed that the evening would manage to be both at the same time.

At some point soon after the Fox News debate kicked off at 9pm, some kind soul supplied the press room at the debate site in Cleveland with bowls of popcorn. This was appropriate. The very first question was a cliffhanger: would all ten candidates pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee, and not run as an independent? As soon as the question was posed, everyone understood what was afoot. For Fox News is not just any news channel, and it is no mere observer of Republican Party politics. It is a player, owned and run by people, notably Rupert Murdoch, whose hard-nosed commercial instincts combine with an equally hard-headed...Continue reading

Carly Fiorina on the rise

Vie, 07/08/2015 - 03:28

MOMENTS after dominating a televised debate for second-tier Republican presidential candidates tonight, Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of the technology firm Hewlett-Packard (HP), entered a packed spin-room at the debate site in Cleveland. Ms Fiorina swiftly attracted the largest scrum of any of the seven contenders in this “Happy Hour Debate” held at 5pm Eastern time. That made sense. While the six men on stage with her had often waffled and blustered, she had put in a polished, if tightly scripted, performance that included the debate’s sharpest jabs at the Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton.

The political Twitterverse had already declared her the winner and was now predicting a poll bump that would carry her into the pack of the top-ten contenders allowed to participate in the main, prime-time debates. Internet news sites announced that a new favourite for the vice-presidential slot on the Republican ticket had emerged. A reporter from Fox TV had fresh statistics on social media traffic during the debate. “Carly, good news for you,” he shouted. “The Google searches on you matched those on Donald Trump.”

And that,...Continue reading

How to bring down the Donald

Vie, 07/08/2015 - 02:14

TEN is a fraction of the number of candidates in the Republican presidential field, but about five too many for anything resembling a real "debate". Tonight's crowded spectacle on Fox News at least holds out the promise of entertainment, if not incisive intellectual exchange. All eyes will be on Donald Trump, a billionaire real-estate investor whose loud-mouthed antics have pushed him to the top of the national polls. All the men sharing the stage with Mr Trump, except Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, have a great deal more political experience than the Donald. None, however, can beat Mr Trump's reality-TV resume. That makes him a formidable opponent in what is, in effect, the first installment of a reality-TV competition.

Jeb Bush, formerly the governor of Florida, is running second in national polls. Mr Bush is campaigning from the centre-right, and counting on name-recognition and fund-raising heft to bring him through the primaries. Should he manage to capture the nomination, he will be nicely positioned for the general election. Mr Bush's best approach this evening is simply to project a "presidential" air of competent self-possession while emphasising the...Continue reading