TPM Cafe: Opinion

Rick Perlstein is the national correspondent for the The Washington Spectator, where this article first appeared. His most recent book is The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan.

Suddenly, with a single flap of the Angel of History’s wings, America has experienced a shuddering change: the American swastika has finally become toxic—a liberation that last month seemed so impossible that we’d forgotten to bother to think about it.

One doesn’t waste energy worrying over the fact that America controls over 700 military bases in 63 countries and maintains a military presence in 156; or that Israel has staged a civilian-slaughtering war approximately every other year since 2006; or that in America there is no constitutionally guaranteed right to vote or that unregulated pyramid schemes fleece Middle Americans out of $10 to $20 billion a year or that a private organization runs our presidential debates, sponsored by the same corporations that underwrite Democratic conventions … on and on and on: permanent annoyances.

Like the Confederate flag.

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As the Invisible Primary of 2016 intensifies and candidates refine their appeals, a key issue will be their ability to convince caucus and primary voters that they’ve got the stuff to defeat the hated partisan foe. That’s all the more urgent as events—from the U.S. Supreme Court to Vienna—conspire to make this a truly high-stakes election.

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The Washington Examiner’s Byron York recently asked Donald Trump if he believes the candidacy of third-party billionaire Ross Perot threw the 1992 presidential election to Bill Clinton. Trump, not missing a beat, responded affirmatively: "Totally. I think every single vote that went to Ross Perot came from Bush. Virtually every one of his 19 percentage points came from the Republicans. If Ross Perot didn't run, you have never heard of Bill Clinton.”

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Tough, principled diplomacy from the United States has produced historic results. On Tuesday, the P5+1, a coalition of world powers led by the U.S., reached an agreement with Iran that would prevent that country from acquiring nuclear weapons. Although successfully rolling back Iran’s nuclear program without risking a single American life should be hailed as a resounding success across the country, the success of our diplomats abroad has put longtime opponents of the talks in an awkward space.

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Scott Walker is on a mission to bring his midwest Protestant values to Washington—he even called his candidacy “God's plan.” The Wisconsin governor is jumping on the campaign trail just as he leaves a path of fiscal destruction in his wake at home. Walker has transformed his state into a petri dish for model conservative policies that have systematically assailed unions, women's rights and public benefits.

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In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution protects the right of same-sex couples to marry and that states are required to issue them marriage licenses. Yet many public officials have publicly encouraged people to break the law. Among them are attorneys, such as Texas governor Greg Abbott and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. They may frame their opposition as standing up for what’s right. But according to the ethical rules of lawyers, public officials who are attorneys defying the Supreme Court by refusing to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies or encouraging others to do the same should be disbarred.

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Hillary Clinton signaled yet again that she’s really going to run a savvy, future-oriented campaign this time around by giving a speech at New York City’s New School on Monday, where she called out the “gig economy” for spreading job insecurity. “Many Americans are making extra money renting out a small room, designing websites, selling products they design themselves at home, or even driving their own car,” she explained. She praised this new economic model for “creating exciting economies and unleashing innovation,” but worried that it raised questions about “workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future.”

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In an order signed late Friday afternoon, the federal judge presiding over the federal trial of two former members of N.J. Gov. Chris Christie’s inner circle issued a subpoena ordering the governor’s lawyers to hand over notes and computer files used to produce the so-called Mastro Report.

Named after Randy Mastro, a partner at the white collar firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, the taxpayer-funded report was crafted at Christie’s behest in early 2014 to support his claim to have had no knowledge of the planning of four-day-long lane closures at the George Washington Bridge. According to federal prosecutors, the target of those closures was Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat who declined to endorse Christie’s 2013 re-election campaign.

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Two weeks ago Senator Claire McCaskill, a Hillary Clinton enemy-turned-supporter, told Morning Joe’s audience what they already knew, that Bernie Sanders is “frankly, a socialist.” Whereas Obama denied the socialist accusation, Sanders affirms it, and the “s” word has done little to stifle the senator’s popularity. A week after responding to McCaskill, Sanders held a 10,000-person rally in Wisconsin. The following day, his aides announced his campaign has raised $15 million, and the following weekend he dressed down to stroll through a wholesome Fourth of July parade in Iowa, where the latest polls show the Clinton-Sanders gap has been cut nearly in half.

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