Abby Rapoport

Abby Rapoport is a freelance journalist, and former staff writer at The American Prospect. She was previously a political reporter for the Texas Observer

Recent Articles

Three Reasons Why State Polarization Is a Big Deal

Flikr/Americans Elect
Those of us who report on state-level politics usually brag about how much better it is than following Congress. On our beat, after all, bills actually get passed and become law—unlike in D.C., where the Senate can’t even vote for lack of cloture and the House just keeps reapproving the repeal of Obamacare in some endless Politico version of Groundhog Day . In state legislatures, deals get made, budgets get passed (even balanced, if that’s your thing), and not every single issue is defined by a Democratic-Republican split. Turns out we’ve been overstating things. A new study shows that polarization —the ideological gulf between the average Republican and average Democrat—is growing in state legislatures. Political scientists Boris Shor ( University of Chicago) and Nolan McCarty (Princeton University) combined survey results from the Project Vote Smart office-holder questionnaire with roll-call votes, comparing the average Republican and Democratic...

Washington, Colorado, and the Headaches of a Legal High

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes
When Colorado and Washington State passed ballot measures legalizing marijuana last November, they weren’t just the first states in the country to do so—they were the first governments in the world to do so. While other nations and states, most notably the Netherlands and California, have decriminalized marijuana possession, the drug is still technically illegal. That means that while it’s tolerated by law enforcement, the government need not concern itself with a full-scale system for regulation and taxation. But there are advantages to legalizing the drug; Washington and Colorado can have a hand in making the product safer while they benefit from tax revenues. Both states are in the early stages of creating systems for taxation and regulation; the Washington State Liquor Control Board released a set of standards earlier this month, while Colorado’s state legislature has passed a series of recommendations from a task force. The differences between the two...

Disaster at Close Range

AP Images/ J. Pat Carter
As the reports from Oklahoma got worse and worse Monday afternoon, it was increasingly hard not to take some emotional distance. “Why didn’t they leave?” I asked myself of the Moore, Oklahoma, residents as the death toll began to climb. As scenes of flattened buildings and huge gray clouds rolled across the television, I told myself we would have left—somehow. The CNN and MSNBC anchors went over and over the sheer enormity of the tornado, a mile at its base, with more than two and a half miles of debris swirling around it, until news began breaking of the little children, stuck in their elementary schools when the funnel cloud touched down. ”Would we have sent children to school if there was any chance of a tornado hitting?” I thought. “Surely not.” It’s all stupid, of course—the things you tell yourself to feel at least a little safe. No one in Moore, the populous suburb outside Oklahoma City, could have anticipated the...

Five Voting Fights You’ll Care About Come Election Time

AP Images/Dave Martin
Remember last year when we all cared about voting policies? Back then, newspapers were filled with updates on different states’ legal battles over strict voter ID—the laws that require photo identification to cast a ballot. Republicans pushed the laws, ostensibly to combat fraud, but Democrats and voting-rights advocates argued that the actual goal was to suppress likely Democratic voters, since poor and nonwhite communities disproportionately lack ID. With Republicans controlling an unprecedented number of state legislatures in the wake of the 2010 Tea Party wave, voter-ID bills began popping up across the country in 2011 and 2012. Similar battles emerged when some states tried to remove names from voter rolls too close to an election. Then there was early voting; Republicans, most notably in Florida and Ohio, cut back early voting days and hours, and voters in several Florida counties faced hours-long lines. Then Obama won, created a commission to find solutions and...

Ted Talk

The Tea Party doesn't expect its politicians to get things done; it sends them to Washington to previent things from being done. 

Early this spring, when rumors began circulating that freshman Senator Ted Cruz of Texas might run for president in 2016, liberals found the idea just as delightful as their Tea Party counterparts did—though for different reasons. What could do more to hurt the Republicans’ comeback chances than a candidate who’s so extreme that his own caucus-mate, John McCain, publicly labeled him a “wacko bird”? If Cruz ran and lost in the primaries, he could either become a disruption and embarrass the party or force the eventual nominee to move way to the right. If he somehow won the nomination, he’d surely be the second coming of Barry Goldwater in 1964. Run, Ted, run! Cruz’s rise to national notoriety had been sudden and, for many outside the Tea Party, baffling. Just one year ago, Cruz was a long-shot challenger in the Texas GOP Senate primary, an obscure, second--generation Cuban American and Ivy League–educated solicitor general. He had never...