TPM Cafe: Opinion

With a Republican Senate majority increasingly plausible, there’s more talk about what will actually happen in an all-GOP-run Capitol next year. What should the Republicans do? House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy suggested they will “prove they can govern.” But many more anticipate the same old standoffs between the Republicans and the president whose second term they tried and failed to prevent.

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The biggest prize in the 2014 midterms is control of the U.S. Senate. Georgia’s race between Democrat Michelle Nunn and Republican David Perdue is now at the very heart of that national fight. The candidates are essentially tied in the polls with less than a week to go.

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The recent attacks on military and law enforcement personnel in Canada and the U.S. raises the specter of “lone wolf” terrorist attacks, making Muslims suspect. Such thinking is superficial and reactionary. In the age of modern Islamophobia, it is a situation of owning a hammer and thinking everything is a nail. Looking at so-called “lone wolf” attacks in more detail and in a larger context reveals disconcerting issues in mental health care and media representations of Islam.

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Last week was awful. Gun violence struck still another American school and Canada's War Memorial. We learned that U.S.-led air strikes have killed 32 Syrian civilians so far. Perhaps worst of all, despite all of this, we probably spent more of our week talking about the ongoing Ebola faux-outbreak.

News feeds on the sensational — one of tragedy’s closest cousins. But not all tragedies are suited to a 24-hour news cycle or our flighty national attention span. Some spiral beyond the public's capacity to follow along. When it’s a missing airplane in the Indian Ocean, it’s largely irrelevant whether or not we keep watching. But when it’s the slow movement of the wheels of justice responding to Mike Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri, the dynamics are different.

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One of the great debates surrounding every midterm election is whether the many congressional and state contests have been “nationalized” or are instead subject to “local factors.” This question is to some extent a reflection of the perpetual argument between political analysts (usually political scientists) who emphasize “fundamentals” that follow similar patterns around the country, and those (usually journalists or self-lionizing political consultants) who emphasize the ebb and flow of particular campaigns and the quality of candidates and their many help-meets.

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Election Day is one week from tomorrow, and as pollsters and pundits have been projecting for months, there is a high possibility that by the time the votes are tallied, we will have a Republican controlled House and Senate.

The question everyone is asking (or should be) is what is on the GOP agenda when it comes to restricting access to abortion and birth control, and do they have the power to make any of it actually happen? The answers are lots of things, and yes they do.

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At the ballot box, there are two different electorates — and the difference between them makes a big difference for policy outcomes.

“Democrats have become increasingly reliant on precisely the groups most likely to sit out midterms, while Republicans score best among those most likely to show up,” says Ron Brownstein, writing in the Atlantic about the difference between presidential-year electorates and midterm electorates like the one politicians face in two weeks.

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