Jonathan Bernstein

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

Recent Articles

Once Upon a Time, There Was a President ...

flickr/United States Government Work

AP Photo

Last week I wrote about why the myth of the magical hero-king— what others call the "Green Lantern" presidency—just won’t die. The reason? Because it seems the myth is in the interest of the presidents themselves!

King Obama the Magical

AP Photo/John Bazemore

Brendan Nyhan’s “Green Lantern” theory of presidential politics—the (incorrect) belief that when things don’t turn out how a president wants it was because he didn’t want it deeply enough—has been all over the Internet lately. And, no matter how false that image of the presidency might be, it’s probably not going away. The idea of the president as a Magical King serves everyone’s interests—beginning with man in the Oval Office himself.

How to Stop the Next IRS Scandal

Flickr/Adam Fagen

The root of the recent scandal at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)—in which the agency admitted to singling out Tea Party groups for special scrutiny—is simple: terrible campaign-finance laws. 

It’s All about the Primaries

AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt

He’s already given political culture one of the great euphemisms ever for having an affair. And now the Appalachian trail walker, Mark Sanford, has become a terrific example of one of the core ideas of political parties and democracy: It’s all about the primaries.

Sanford won back his old House seat in a special election on Tuesday. Smart liberal commentators noted that Republicans had little choice. Paul Krugman:

Bad Flight Plan

Flickr/vmarta, Kent Wein

The decision by Senate Democrats last week to restore funding to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)—which was cut when the “sequester” took effect in March and led to flight delays that angered a wide swath of Americans—was a clear loss for Democrats in the ongoing budget wars. Rather than cave and reverse the cuts, Democrats should have used the public discontent about budget cuts as leverage to pressure Republicans. They squandered this opportunity.