Virginia’s Libertarian Surge That Wasn’t

AP Images/The Roanoke Times/Rebecca Barnett

As Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli duked it out during the second debate of the Virginia governor’s race last month, Robert Sarvis was on the sidelines, ribbing both candidates on Twitter. Sarvis, who’s running for governor as a Libertarian, was polling at 7 percent, a surprisingly high number for a third party candidate in Virginia. He wasn’t invited to participate in the debate, and his irritation was plain. “Audience needs a shower after all that mudslinging,” he tweeted, adding, “Debate would’ve been more substantive with me on stage. That’s a sure thing. Next time, VA!”

The Evangelist

Two years ago on a summer morning, Jim Gilliam stood offstage at New York University’s Skirball Center. It was the second day of the Personal Democracy Forum, an annual gathering of civic-minded coders, hackers, and online organizers. Many in the crowd knew Gilliam as much for his appearance—he’s six-foot-nine, bald, ivory-pale, and impossibly thin—as for his brilliance as a programmer and his passion for progressive causes. Gilliam, who was 33 years old, had never spoken before such a large audience, and as he strode across the stage and looked out on all the people, he was terrified.

The Big Donors Behind the Shutdown

The big donors behind the crisis in Washington are finally being called out by the mainstream media. Yesterday, the New York Times had a major investigative piece about how the Koch brothers and other major conservative donors pushed the Republican Party toward its current extreme strategy of trying to stop Obamacare.

I have been saying the same thing for some time, citing the key role played by the Club for Growth in threatening House Republicans with electoral retaliation at primary time if they don't go all out on Obamacare.

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.

McCutcheon Money: How Citizens United 2 Could Increase the Power of Elite Donors

Next Tuesday, October 8, the Supreme Court is scheduled (pending shutdown nonsense) to hear oral arguments on McCutcheon v. FEC, a challenge to the total cap on the amount of money one wealthy individual is permitted to contribute to all federal candidates, parties, and PACs.

The current “aggregate contribution limit” is $123,200—twice the median household income in the U.S.  As you might imagine, this cap affects very few people; just 1,219 people were at, over, or within 10 percent of the limit for the 2012 election cycle.

I’m guessing you are not sitting on $150,000 you’d like put into politics next year—so, why should you care?

Racing to Run a City without a Motor

AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File

Perhaps the most amazing story of the Detroit mayoral race is that the candidates are running like it matters.

Eric Holder's Big Voting-Rights Gamble

AP Images/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Just about everyone who goes through a musical theater phase at some point falls in love with Sky Masterson of Guys and Dolls. In the movie version, Marlon Brando plays the gambler who will wager “sky high” stakes and finds himself singing “Luck Be a Lady” while rolling the dice to see if he gets the girl.

Going all in may be what you’d expect in a fictional-singing crapshooter, but it’s a bit more surprising in a U.S. attorney general.

Dave Bing’s Detroit

AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

You could say that Dave Bing is a celebrity politician. But Detroit’s mayor is so mild-mannered, it’s easy to forget that he’s a Hall of Fame basketball star who was drafted second overall in 1966, earned Rookie of the Year honors, and played in the NBA for 12 seasons—most of them, naturally, with the Detroit Pistons. The league chose him as one of its 50 greatest players in 1996, and the Pistons retired his number.

But that’s all history. When Detroiters elected Dave Bing to the city’s top office four years ago, it wasn’t because of his fame. It was because he was boring.

Angela Merkel, Black Widow, Seeks Partner

AP Images/Michael Sohn

The American press has widely reported on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s nickname: “Mutti,” which translates to “Mommy.” Less noted is her second nickname, which is also familial but decidedly less affectionate: “The Black Widow.” She has earned this second sobriquet because she kills her partners with whom she governmentally cohabits.

Virginia Is for Lovers of Politics as Usual

AP Photo/The Washington Post, Linda Davidson, Pool

Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate for governor of Virginia, was immediately sucking for air as last night's debate in Northern Virginia began. It took his opponent, Democrat Terry McAuliffe—former Democratic National Committee chair and Clinton World stalwart—just a few minutes and a few lines about how he'll bring business to the state before he was able to smoothly segue into this attack:

My opponent has spent most of his career on a social ideological agenda. He has pushed personhood legislation which would outlaw most forms of contraception, would make the pill illegal in Virginia. He bullied the Board of Health that would shut down the woman's health centers. Women are 50 percent of the workforce of the United States of America.

Angela Merkel's Boring Brilliance

AP Images/Markus Schreiber

Few European politicians have survived the financial crisis of 2008 unscathed, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel has proved to be an extraordinary politician. While most of her counterparts across Europe have been swept away amidst the turmoil that has resulted from the eurocrisis, Merkel keeps getting stronger. She just won her third general election, and this time, she brought her party within a hair of an absolute majority, something that hasn’t happened to the conservative Christian Democrats since 1957. She’s the first female chancellor in German history, and at the height of her power, which means her tried and true policy of slow, almost glacial change will continue.

Bloomberg's Rocky Mountain Rout

AP Images/John Minchillo

Tuesday’s recall elections in Colorado—the first ones in state history—resulted in two Democratic state senators losing their seats. It also resulted in an excruciating amount of spin about what the losses meant for gun-control efforts in other states and at the federal level. Colorado was among the first states to pass gun-control legislation in the wake of two mass shootings, one of which occurred at a movie theatre in a Denver suburb.

A New Progressive Era for NYC? Not So Fast.

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Our mission is to change our city in the name of progress,” Bill de Blasio said to the crowd assembled in a Gowanus, Brooklyn bar after midnight on Tuesday, claiming victory in New York City’s Democratic mayoral primary with just over 40 percent of the vote. New York's Public Advocate and progressive populist appeared to have pulled it off, stunning not just his opponents but also many of the city’s political professionals and financial elites. He had forged an Obama-esque coalition in the Big Apple. Indeed, the atmosphere at the event felt eerily familiar if you followed the 44th president’s 2008 campaign.

“We understand that making big change is never easy,” de Blasio said. “It never has been. And there are those who have said our ambition for this city is too bold, and that we’re asking of the wealthiest New Yorkers too much. That we’re setting our sights for the children of this city too high. That we’re guilty, guilty my friends, of thinking too big. Let me say this: We are New Yorkers.”

A True Liberal Mayor At Last?

AP Images/Bebeto Matthews

New York City is on the verge of electing its first progressive mayor in a generation.

What Happened to Christine Quinn’s Lead?

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

With Christine Quinn limping toward primary day, the question for many poll watchers is why more women haven’t supported her candidacy for the Democratic nomination in the New York City mayoral race. Though she’s the only woman running, and stands to be both New York City’s first female mayor and its first openly gay one, Quinn is coming in third among women. Only 19 percent of women likely to vote in the Democratic primary Tuesday support Quinn, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll—the last before tomorrow's election. Forty percent of women are behind public advocate Bill De Blasio, and 22 percent back former comptroller Bill Thompson.