Jonathan Bernstein

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties and elections.

Recent Articles

Mission Affordabled: Why Obama’s Website Problems Aren’t “His Iraq”

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Yes, the Affordable Care Act website rollout has been a fiasco. And, as always happens when political catastrophe strikes, the wave of bad analogies has rushed in its wake. One in particular that’s gaining ground: Healthcare.gov is for Barack Obama’s presidency what the invasion of Iraq was to George W. Bush’s administration, complete with outraged liberal reactions to it.

Here’s the funny thing: it’s a bad analogy, which could turn out to be accurate … but probably won’t.

Four Reasons We Don’t Need to Count Down to a January Shutdown

AP Photo/ Evan Vucci

The government has re-opened, the debt limit disaster was avoided, and something resembling peace has broken out in Washington. The cynics, however, have been quick to note that all of this is only temporary, with the next shutdown deadline falling on January 15. This round of budget squabbling resolved basically … nothing, so another debacle is likely. Ted Cruz is already threatening a repeat of what he just put the nation through.

Don’t count on a sequel to the 16-day hell we just witnessed, though.

Why Madisonian Democracy Still Can't Have It All

AP Photo/The Daily Progress, Jonna Spelbring

This hasn’t been a good month for fans of Madisonian democracy.

One thing that most parliamentary systems are exceptionally good at avoiding is the kind of deadlock over policy that stilled our democratic government’s heart and has left us two weeks deep in a shutdown.

As a result, those who are skeptical of our separate institutions sharing powers are out in full force.

Dancing with the Shutdown Spin that Brought You

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Spin is overrated. Alas, it’s never going away. If there’s one thing that political scientists try, repeatedly, to convince the reporters and correspondents who cover politics of, it’s that fundamentals tend to matter a lot more than they think, and opinion manipulation matters less. Not none—but in many cases, not very much.

John Boehner Has Speaker Tenure for Life—If He Wants It

AP Photo/Cliff Owen

Don’t worry about John Boehner. Yes, there seem to be near-constant rumors and suspicions of a revolt against him, and Republican members of the House have been conspiring with Texas Senator Ted Cruz. It’s very unlikely to actually cost him his job. He’s probably going to survive and remain as speaker of the House just as long as he wants to. At least, as long as divided government and the Republican House majority last.

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