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Activism and the End of Slavery

In the United States, a common argument surrounding the Civil War is that it was unnecessary because slavery was dying out on its own. Economically unviable in the face of industrialization, it would have gone extinct on its own. But is this true? In short: no. The notion that slavery would have eventually vanished without government intervention due to fundamental economic concerns originates from both misunderstandings and deliberate distortions of history.

Stuck with Two Parties

It’s been a tough year for American politics, enough that talk of third parties has been revived recently. But our system just isn’t conducive to supporting more than two parties. To understand why, we can look to Duverger’s law. Named for the French sociologist who first described the phenomenon, Duverger noted that first-past-the-post elections combined with single-member electoral districts inevitably favor a binary party system. Third parties cannot make inroads because they can never garner enough support to act as anything other than spoilers–which makes them an unrealistic option for effecting real change.

Satire is Dead

An obituary for a genre whose time has finally gone. Born over 2000 years ago and popularized in the Roman Empire, satire has endured as a genre of humor through the rise and fall of empires and kingdoms, through revolutions, plagues and famines, crusades and pogroms, noblemen of good breeding and, on the other hand, British monarchs. Often misunderstood, sometimes confused with its siblings irony, sarcasm, parody, and farce, satire has remained a reliable tool in the hands of comedy writers for generations.

Trump's Broad Support Base

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump has more diverse support than one might imagine, even if it’s probably not enough to win him the Presidency in November. By now, you’ve probably seen videos from Trump rallies, and how his supporters behave in and around them. Videos like this (warning for hateful language, racial slurs): No one is surprised to see Trump getting support and endorsements from white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and other hate groups.

No, the DNC Didn't Rig the Primaries

There’s a resilient meme going around that the Democratic National Committee–the national organization for the Democratic Party–“rigged” the primary elections to ensure Hillary Clinton’s victory. The recent DNC email leaks and subsequent fallout are cited as “evidence” of this. Is there anything to it, really? I’m going to assume that, if you’re reading this, you’re a reasonable person reading in good faith and expect to be treated like a rational, thinking adult.

Hillary's Victory, but Bill's Spotlight

After an entire primary cycle in which we’ve been forced to consider whether America is ready for a woman to be nominated for President, the front page stories about that nomination… focus on her husband. Former President Bill Clinton delivered a powerhouse speech this week, no doubt about it. He reminded us once again of the qualities that put him into the White House in the first place: his charm, his wit, his power over the spoken word.

Can we Eliminate Corruption?

If you ask most people, corruption is everywhere–our government is corrupt, our businesses are corrupt, everything is corrupt. You can’t escape it. Is this even a problem we can fix? Americans in particular love to gripe that our government is corrupt. This is akin to saying water is wet, though. Every government is corrupt, as every government is inhabited by human beings who are imperfect, and some of whom are unethical.

Trump's Russia Connections

Just how connected is Donald Trump to Vladimir Putin and the Russian government, anyway? Yesterday, I wrote a bit about speculation that Donald Trump has significant ties to the Russian government–that the praise he heaps upon Russian President Vladimir Putin is more than distant admiration, but a signal that he is the Russian government’s puppet. John Marshall of Talking Points Memo had an interesting piece about these connections, which then got a fact-checking rebuttal.

Decision 2016: Convention Update

Wherein I discuss some odds and ends regarding the two party conventions and the election in general. Last week’s Republican National Convention was not the disaster it could have been. Delegates who didn’t want to Trump to be the nominee attempted to stage a revolt through a procedural vote, but failed. There were some isolated reports of threats against delegates who weren’t supporting Trump but, as far as I can tell, no actual violence.

Who is Mike Pence?

Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s recently announced running mate, was my Congressman when I lived in Indiana. I have a special loathing for the man. Currently the governor of Indiana, Mike Pence achieved infamy relatively recently when he signed a bill into law that legalized discrimination against LGBT people. That he soon passed a revised version in response to public outcry got less press–the damage had been done. But this is hardly the worst entry in Pence’s resume.