Patrick Caldwell

Patrick Caldwell is a writing fellow at The American Prospect.

Recent Articles

Racism's Over!

The new laws to restrict voter access to the polls are unlikely to change before the 2012 election. Republican-controlled legislatures elected in 2010 have systematically changed voting laws across the country—restricting early voting, photo ID, etc.—using their power to disenfranchise blocks of voters that typically support the other party. Voting rights advocates have fought back in a handful of states. In Maine, a repeal of same-day registration that passed earlier this summer will be subjected to a referendum vote next month. But Democrats have little recourse to stop these laws from hitting the books in most states. There is, however, still hope that the Obama administration will use the executive branch's powers to block a handful of the most egregious changes. Section Five of the Voting Rights Act forces states with a history of discrimination in their voting policies to receive preclearance from the Department of Justice or a federal court before changing their laws, and...

Will Rick Perry Execute Another Innocent Man?

Rick Perry's struggles with the GOP base can largely be traced back to the debate in late September in which he called opposition to tuition assistance for illegal immigrants "heartless." Given his subsequent drop in the polls, he is now contemplating skipping future debates. But for liberal audiences, the most chilling moment of Perry's brief debate history came when he defended Texas' status as the country's execution leader. Perry practically reveled with glee as he described dolling out the "ultimate justice" (at the time, I noted his sharp departure in tone from the last Texas governor who ran for president). It was a truly disturbing moment because evidence from one case in Texas indicates that at least one innocent man, Cameron Todd Willingham, was put to death during Perry's tenure as governor. And Perry may be on his way to executing another innocent man. Hank Skinner was convicted of killing three people—his girlfriend and her two children—and sentenced to death in 1995. His...

DOJ Might Strike Down Photo ID Laws

When Republicans gained control of state legislatures across the country in 2010, they began a systematic effort to restrict voting access, disenfranchising likely Democratic voters in the process. Five states passed strict ID laws, which will require voters to present a form of government-issued photo identification to get their ballot on Election Day. Some of those laws are still on hold thanks to Section Five of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The law requires states with a history of discrimination against minority voters to receive preclearance from either the Department of Justice or a federal court for any change to voting procedures. The burden of proof lies on the states, which must show that the changes will not harm minority voters. Photo ID laws in South Carolina and Texas are currently under review at the DOJ. Now the Obama administration might be on the verge of striking down these Republican electioneering laws, according to a leading House Democrat. At a meeting with...

Getting the Details Right

The political corner of the Internet shared a nice laugh yesterday about Herman Cain's latest campaign ad. Cain's chief of smoking chief of staff Mark Block went on Fox News to explain the video. Megan Kelly asked if it was directed at farmers or workers in Detroit, rather than the West- and East-coast liberals in the media (contra the newsrooms staffed by chain smokers where I've worked). "I tell you, you walk into a veterans' bar in Iowa and they're sitting around smoking, and we are resonating with them," Block said. As National Journal notes , in 2008 Iowa banned indoor smoking for most venues, even bars frequented by veterans. I lived in Iowa at that time and my memories are full of disgruntled friends leaving their drinks to go shiver outside the bar doorway as they railed against the new law. It's a silly, immaterial flub for Block, though it is yet another sign that Cain is not running a real presidential campaign. Walk through most Iowa small towns and you'd spot the crowd of...

Herman Cain's Unlucky Strike

You must watch Herman Cain's latest campaign ad, via James Fallows. It starts off as a typical dry commercial with Cain's chief of staff hyping his candidate, but gets great right at the 40-second mark: Fallows questioned if this was an Onion parody, but that is in fact Cain's Chief of Staff, Mark Block. If memory serves me right, I've noticed him (or else it was some other dapper mustachioed man) taking cigarrette puffs around Cain's bus at stops this fall. I won't begrudge a political staffer who needs a boost to help him through his time in small town Iowa, but the way the last shot lingers over the smoke is just too much. Though as Tim Murphy points out at Mother Jones , this isn't Cain's first foray into bizarre campaign ads.