“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” — Isaac Asimov
The economy was stronger in 2016 than several previous election years
Research suggests factors beyond the control of any U.S. president, not their actual policies, set the course of the economy. Yet with voters, President-Elect Donald Trump will secure much of the praise or blame when it comes to the impact of his agenda over the next four years.
Here are six charts that illustrate the economy that Trump — who wants to focus on “jobs, jobs, jobs” — will inherit from President Barack Obama and how it compares with historical standards.
Gross domestic product is chugging along, growing at a 1.7 percent pace in the year through the third quarter. That’s slower than what most prior administrations faced, and comes against a backdrop of weak global demand, aging demographics and tepid corporate investment. Trump has said he’s aiming to achieve 3.5 to 4 percent average annual growth, even as real GDP expansion is projected to average just 2.2 percent next year and 2.3 percent in 2018, according to economists.
Nominating conventions have a often been a venue for chaos, incompetence and embarrassment
George Bush and Dan Quayle at the Republican National Convention in the Houston Astrodome, August 20, 1992. (Credit: AP/Joe Marquette)
In anticipation of the upcoming Democratic and Republican conventions later this month, it seems appropriate to brace ourselves for something historic. After all, Hillary Clinton is the first woman ever to be nominated by a major party, as well as a traditionally polarizing figure who only recently managed to win the endorsement of her chief rival, Bernie Sanders. Meanwhile, Donald Trump is, if anything, more controversial, so much so that many of his rallies have been marked by outbursts of violence.
To understand what might occur when each candidate is nominated, it helps to look at other national conventions from our recent history.
Conventions that have led to third-party insurgencies (Republicans in 1912, Democrats in 1948)
The two most conspicuous examples here include the Republican convention of 1912and the Democratic convention of 1948. On both occasions, an incumbent president who had just been renominated faced staunch opposition from interparty factions that opposed large sections of his agenda: In 1912, it was President William Taft, who was accused of being too conservative on economic issues by former president Theodore Roosevelt and the progressives, and in 1948 it was President Harry Truman who was criticized for taking too strong a stance in favor of African-American civil rights by predominantly Southern segregationists. Because neither faction got what they wished, both conventions ended with the dissatisfied bolting and running third-party alternatives — although it’s notable that, while the dissident progressives wound up winning more votes than the actual Republican nominee in 1912 (in part because Roosevelt had always intended to challenge Taft in the general election if he couldn’t get nominated himself), Strom Thurmond’s third-party campaign as a Dixiecrat failed to thwart Truman’s election in 1948.
Convention history is dotted with dramatic, even farcical, events that have changed the course of politics.
A legion of political journalists is heading to Cleveland this month with a sense of anticipation that’s been absent for decades: at long last, a national convention with the prospect that something unexpected might actually happen.
After decades of suspenseless, pro forma conventions where the identity of the party’s nominee has been known for months in advance and every moment has been as scripted as a corporate product launch, the Republican National Convention at least holds out the possibility for something approaching unpredictability.
Will Trump face a delegate walkout? Will Ted Cruz’s army whip together the votes to change convention rules and unbind delegates? Will the party, in a wild election season, find some way to break out of the droning, made-for-TV coronation that the conventions have become?
Boring conventions weren’t always the norm. Throughout most of American history, in fact, raucous and mercurial gatherings were the rule rather than the exception. The unexpected was routine—grand speeches, lost battles, dragged-out fights with meaningful implications for the course of the country.
‘I am so grateful to you’: Clinton declares victory in race for nomination
Hillary Clinton has cemented her status as the Democratic nominee for president with convincing primary wins in California, New Jersey and New Mexico, calling on supporters of her rival, Bernie Sanders, to unite behind her historic candidacy.
But on a night when it became clear that Clinton would secure a majority of pledged delegates, Sanders refused to bow out, telling supporters that their fight would continue to the Democratic National Convention in July.
The senator’s defiant remarks came after Clinton effectively declared victory in her overall battle against Sanders at a rally in New York.
“He’s not just trying to build a wall between America and Mexico, he’s trying to wall off Americans from each other,” Clinton said, taking aim at the policies and slogans that have become the hallmark of her Republican rival, Donald Trump. “When he says let’s make America great again, that is code for let’s take America backwards.”
The average American eats a little less beef — and way more cheese — today than in 1972.
At Flowing Data, Nathan Yau collected 40 years of data on Americans’ eating habits from the federal Food Availability Data System, which tracks how much Americans eat. Here’s 40 years of diet evolution in just over 10 seconds:
Some foods are perennial favorites. Apples, the unchallenged No. 1 fruit for more than 40 years, are as American as apple pie. Gluten-free might be trendy, but wheat flour isn’t budging from the top of the “grains” list. Consumption of seafood and pork has been fairly steady.
But in other ways, Americans’ eating habits have changed dramatically. It’s worth slowing down and speeding up the animation at Flowing Data to see these trends unfold:
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s terror attacks in the Belgian capital of Brussels, has become grimly familiar to the world after its Middle Eastern conquests and now its growing terrorist campaign abroad. But to understand this group — how it became so powerful, what it wants, why it commits these attacks — you have to understand the long and surprisingly tangled story of its rise. And that story, told here from its first moments through today, begins not in Iraq or Syria, but far away in Afghanistan:
You will notice that perhaps the key player in ISIS’s rise was someone who never lived to see the group fight under that name: a semi-literate Jordanian who fought under the name Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Often described as “a thug” who had nothing of the charisma or the ideological sophistication of Osama bin Laden, Zarqawi nonetheless founded the group that would later become ISIS, and pioneered a style of jihadist terrorism far more extreme than even al-Qaeda.
The modern Middle East has rarely been tranquil, but it has never been this bad. Full-blown civil wars rage in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Nascent conflicts simmer in Egypt, South Sudan, and Turkey. Various forms of spillover from these civil wars threaten the stability of Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia. Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia have risen to new heights, raising the specter of a regionwide religious war. Israel and the Palestinians have experienced a resurgence of low-level violence. Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates have weathered the storm so far, but even they are terrified of what is going on around them. Not since the Mongol invasions of the thirteenth century has the Middle East seen so much chaos.
Moreover, it is unlikely to abate anytime soon. No matter how many times Americans insist that the people of the Middle East will come to their senses and resolve their differences if left to their own devices, they never do. Absent external involvement, the region’s leaders consistently opt for strategies that exacerbate conflict and feed perpetual instability. Civil wars are particularly stubborn problems, and without decisive outside intervention, they usually last decades. The Congolese civil war is entering its 22nd year, the Peruvian its 36th, and the Afghan its 37th. There is no reason to expect the Middle East’s conflicts to burn out on their own either.
Ancient Rome was a village that grew into a world empire. At the peak of its territorial reach, AD 117, it stretched from the British Isles to Mesopotamia and from the Rhine to the Sahara. Its history spans more than a millennium. Before the Western Roman Empire collapsed in the late fifth century, Romans enjoyed a standard of living not seen again in the West until the mid-nineteenth century. They had flush toilets, granite countertops, indoor heating, and even cosmetic dentistry. The government that safeguarded this way of life styled itself Senatus Populusque Romanus, or “the Senate and the People of Rome.” An advertisement for the link between Rome’s citizens and its elected leaders, the abbreviation “SPQR” was proudly displayed everywhere.
Rome’s classical era spanned the last two centuries BC and the first two centuries AD. At the beginning of that period, Rome already commanded a sizable empire, governed by democratic principles. By the end of it, Rome had become increasingly authoritarian but was still at peace internally. Engineering, literature, philosophy, theater, and the arts flowered; with lasting effects, Romans crucified Jesus and destroyed Jerusalem’s Second Temple. The events and personalities that populated this age are Rome’s most famous.