Jonathan Bernstein

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

Recent Articles

Governor, You’re No Rudy Giuliani

AP Photo/Mel Evans

Yes, Chris Christie is a viable presidential candidate for 2016. Ignore anyone who compares him to Rudy Giuliani; that’s totally the wrong comparison. Is he a frontrunner? It’s too early to tell, but Christie boosters need to explain how he gets around some pretty serious obstacles.

The basic way to assess presidential candidates, this far out, is whether they meet basic tests for viability. It’s no exact science, but viable candidates must have conventional qualifications and fall within the mainstream of their party on most issues of public policy. Fail one or the other, and as candidates from Michele Bachmann (Member of the House) to Gary Johnson (out of the mainstream) to Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich (both!) have discovered, you’ll get nowhere near the Oval Office.

Christie, assuming he is re-elected, easily meets the first test, and he almost certainly meets the second one. After all, candidates don’t have to have a perfect record of supporting every party position from birth; they only need to be close enough to the broad mainstream that when there are differences, they can find ways to have convincing conversions (as candidates from George H.W. Bush to Al Gore to Mitt Romney have had on abortion) or to at least fudge the issue (as Romney did on guns and LGBT issues).

So Christie is no Giuliani.

Majority Power Play

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

The Senate deal on executive-branch nominations is holding: Not only did the Senate confirm each of the seven nominees for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that it agreed to during a showdown over the filibuster in mid-July, last Wednesday it even confirmed a director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)—the first time the Senate has appointed a director to the agency in seven years.

Is Obamacare a Republican Job Creator?


AP Photo

Almost 50 years ago, Congress passed and Lyndon B. Johnson signed the law establishing Medicare. It was, soon, wildly popular—so much so that to this day Republican opposition to the program can only be expressed in terms of  “saving” Medicare from supposed instability.

Three Things You’ve Got Wrong about the Filibuster

AP Photo/Columbia, File

AP Photo/Henry Griffin

With the Senate showdown on executive branch appointments—and eventually filibuster rules—moving towards the moment of truth, it’s a good time to revisit some of the myths surrounding one of the hallowed chamber’s most perplexing procedures. Here are three:

The ACA's Obamacare Problem

The law is going to make health care better for many Americans. A lot of them just won't realize it's the same thing as the Obamacare they hate. 

AP Images/Evan Vucci

Obamacare is well on its way to being permanently unpopular. A problem for supporters of health-care reform? Not really—because the Affordable Care Act could become just as untouchable as Medicare or Social Security. That’s right—get ready for “keep your Obamacare away from my Affordable Care Act!”