Step #3: Tone Down the Rhetoric

At a 2008 campaign rally, John McCain was approached by a woman who claimed she couldn’t trust Barack Obama because of false things she had “read about him.” McCain pushed back. “No ma’am. No ma’am,” the candidate said as he interrupted her rant. “He’s a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues.” At the same event, when a man said … Read More

Step #2: Follow Your Own Advice

The Republican Party has had remarkable success winning governorships, state legislatures, House and Senate seats. Yet they have been shut out of the White House for eight years and run a high risk of losing it again. Both of these outcomes can be traced to the same source: Republican base voters. Older white voters turn out, especially when they are angry or feeling threatened … Read More

Step #1: Choose Defeat Over Catastrophe

Last weekend, I promised that, once back in Philadelphia, I would offer some unconventional thoughts about how the Republican Party can survive the Trump phenomenon and position itself to compete with 21st century voters. My proposal cuts against the short-term thinking that drives the political process. It involves making five excruciatingly difficult choices that run counter to how parties are built to act, which is why I don’t … Read More

Five Excruciating Steps to Republican Renewal

It’s hard to count the number of people who have asked me whether the Republican Party can survive this election. And while I have been tempted at times to draw comparisons to the Whigs, today’s parties are highly institutionalized and decentralized. In many places the Republican brand is strong, and it’s hard to see the party being swept away even in the … Read More

Leverage vs. Letting Go

The California and New Jersey primaries have finally come and gone, and Hillary Clinton has claimed her place in history as the first presumptive female presidential nominee of a major political party. Her overwhelming victory in New Jersey was expected, her comfortable victory in California was not, but even before the votes were counted on the west coast the campaign had … Read More

Leaving Washington

I’m tired. I’ve now been in Washington for three weeks, where I have been engulfed by political myopia fed by a certain detachment from the rest of the country. Politics is Washington’s major industry, and like any company town it is infused with an insider’s sense of how things are done that can look quite different from how they appear on the outside. Normally at the … Read More


A garbage truck bearing the name “progressive” turns left as it exits Republican National Committee headquarters, June 2, 2016. No word on whether the Trump campaign was on board.    

Two Islands

Ten days ago, at the start of my DC program, I noted that few people I met in official Washington seemed to have a grasp of the political situation. With two-thirds of the program now complete, I would say that quite a few political professionals are rattled by Trump’s rise and confused about how it happened. To help them out, I offer the … Read More

Defending Trump

When Republicans appeared to be heading toward a divided convention we said the cost of denying Trump the nomination would be conceding the presidential election. But I thought this outcome might be better than allowing Trump to win the nomination and rebrand the Republican Party in his image. We are now getting the first glimpse of what that rebranding looks like and it … Read More

Covering Trump

Donald Trump’s ad hoc presidential campaign has upended official Washington as political professionals try to figure out how to deal with the outsider nominee-in-waiting who by every indication appears to be uninterested in toning down his outrageous tactics. Trump’s unconventional ways pose a particularly acute problem for political reporters. My students and I have had the opportunity to talk with several prominent … Read More

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