Patrick Caldwell

Patrick Caldwell is a writing fellow at The American Prospect.

Recent Articles

Iowa's Tea Party King

My article in the Prospect 's October issue is up at the homepage . It's a long feature, but here's a quick version: After the Iowa Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2009, social conservatives at the local and national levels joined forces to attack the court. They used a once-obscure procedure of judicial selection to kick three judges off the bench, though the ruling on marriage still stands as law. What's probably most interesting here at TAPPED is how this judicial election made Bob Vander Plaats -- the guy who led the campaign against the Iowa judges -- into a key figure for the 2012 presidential election. Once he succeeded in his efforts, Vander Plaats formed a group that has been vetting Republican presidential candidates. This summer, he received national attention when he asked them to sign a pledge that hammered home his normal litany of anti-gay rights positions, but he took things a little too far by suggesting that African American families were better off...

Disorder in the Court

How an anti-gay-marriage campaign upended Iowa's model judiciary

The Iowa Supreme Court publishes, on average, a little more than 100 decisions a year. Each ruling goes online first thing Friday mornings. When Varnum v. Brien went live at 8:15 A.M. April 3, 2009, the court's website crashed when more than a million visitors tried to read the opinion. In a unanimous decision, the seven supreme court justices--five Democratic and two Republican appointees--had ruled that Iowa's ban on marriage for same-sex couples violated the equal-protection clause of the state constitution. When county clerks began issuing marriage licenses three weeks later, Iowa became the third state with legalized same-sex marriage. The Massachusetts and Connecticut courts had previously ruled that banning marriage for same-sex couples was unconstitutional. So had California, but in 2008 voters reversed that decision with Proposition 8. The location of those first rulings didn't surprise opponents of marriage equality. These were, after all, the states that had elected John...

Why a Battle of the Budget is Looking Unlikely

While Obama's jobs proposal and the Super Committee have dominated Beltway chatter this week, the more urgent issue of the moment is the looming threat of a government shutdown. Here's where things stand: The House and Senate have yet to pass the 12 appropriations bills that will fund the government's 2012 budget, and current spending is set to expire on October 1. When the same problem arose at the beginning of the year, John Boehner and House Republicans used the threat of a shutdown to get additional cuts. This time around, because Congress and the administration already came to a deal on 2012 spending as part of the debt ceiling deal passed in August, we aren't supposed to go through that again. Unless, of course, House Republicans renege on the deal. TPM 's Brian Beutler explains where there could be grounds for a fight: That leaves open the possibility that Republicans will try to husband some of that money -- a few billion dollars worth -- to pressure Democrats to deal with...

On Executions, Even George Bush Looks Compassionate Next to Perry

(Photo: Flickr/ simminch ) Comparisons between Rick Perry and George W. Bush have become routine since the current governor announced his presidential campaign. It's a natural assumption given their shared conservative credentials and Texas backgrounds. But at last night's debate , Perry showed himself to be even more extreme than Bush in at least one area: their description of the death penalty. Where Bush's 2000 rhetoric strove to portray him as considered and deliberate before executing a criminal, Perry's image was that of a cold-blooded killer last night. When Perry was asked if he ever "struggled to sleep at night" about the 234 executions during his watch, Perry left no doubt that he's resting just fine: I’ve never struggled with that at all … in the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you’re involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas,...

September Madness

Last night's GOP debate shows it's now a Romney-Perry game.

(AP Images) GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Perry at the MSNBC GOP Presidential Candidates Debate
With the specter of Ronald Reagan -- or at least the looming presence of his old airplane -- as the backdrop, the Republican presidential candidates met in California last night for a debate cohosted by NBC News and Politico. It was the fourth of this campaign, but the first to include all the major candidates; Texas Governor Rick Perry, the current frontrunner in national polls, took to the stage for the first time, and whereas past debates had largely showed the degree to which the candidates agreed with each other, last night they began -- finally -- to attack each other on policy. Eight Republicans crowded onto the stage, but there seemed to be only two real candidates in the race: Perry and former pack leader Mitt Romney. The two clashed within moments after the debate's open, and they drove the topics of conversation. The two began by disagreeing over which of the former governors had the better record on job creation. "Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you...

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