John Judis

John B. Judis is an editor at large at Talking Points Memo and the author of The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics.

Recent Articles

Shut Down the College

E ven the best political systems cannot eliminate corruption, venality, and civil strife, but they are supposed to limit their sway. Enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, the American electoral system was designed to do that, yet the recent presidential election has revealed serious weaknesses in the way a president is chosen. The country appears to have escaped lasting damage--except perhaps to the reputation of the Supreme Court--but if these structural flaws are not addressed, we could face a much more profound political crisis in the coming decades. Two assumptions that formed the basis of our original electoral system have become dangerously outdated: first, the need to provide small states with an incentive, through added electoral votes, to remain within the federal union; second, the need to check popular democracy with the power of disinterested elites. These assumptions informed the electoral college at its creation and the rules that have governed...

Below the Beltway: Goo-Goos Versus Populists

S ince the election, almost every group in town has been meeting to develop a position on campaign finance reform. The Brookings Institution's Tom Mann has organized a working group that holds luncheons and has its own web page ( www.brookings.edu/gs/campaign/home.htm ). Organizations from Common Cause to Citizen Action are holding meetings of what they call the "reform community." Norman Ornstein, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, summed up much of the prevailing mood at a Brookings luncheon November 13. "I used to think of the problem of campaign finance as a low-grade fever," he said. "But in this election, the system suffered from a massive heart attack." To date, the groups are advancing two different kinds of plans. Common Cause favors the McCain-Feingold bill, which was introduced last year by the Republican senator from Arizona and the Democratic senator from Wisconsin. The Center for Responsive Politics and other public interest groups are emphasizing voluntary...

Al Gore and the Temple of Doom

T he Clinton re-election campaign of 1996 exemplified much that is wrong with our campaign finance laws. The campaign turned a small loophole in our campaign laws--which allows parties to raise unrestricted money for "educational" expenditures--into a yawning cavity. Campaign officials also broke existing laws against laundering contributions and raising money from foreign nationals. But did Vice President Al Gore engage in serious illegal actions that would have merited investigation by a special prosecutor? And even if not, is there something about his conduct in that campaign, or in previous campaigns, that makes him unfit to be president? George W. Bush and the Republican Party plan to answer yes to all of the above. Before the election is over, they hope that Americans will be repeating the phrases "no controlling legal authority" and "raising money from Buddhist monks" in their sleep. But...

No Holds Barred

C ongress is supposed to represent the voters, and it sometimes does. Although much of the left opposed welfare reform, the final bill probably reflected what a majority of voters wanted Congress to do. Likewise budget balance. Yet when issues impinge on the power of business, Congress doesn't always do what the public wants. Since the late 1970s, powerful business lobbies have enjoyed veto power over legislation they see as threatening. They have exercised that power primarily through Senate Republicans who can use that chamber's arcane rules to throttle any bill that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, or the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) doesn't like, even if the public and a majority of the Congress support it. This fall they killed a strong auto safety bill and seemed to have killed the patients' bill of rights. About a month ago, nothing seemed more certain than the passage of a new auto safety bill that would...

Abandoned Surgery: Business and the Failure of Health Reform

Business once seemed a potential ally in national health reform. Then it turned around and became instrumental in reform's defeat. The inside story of what happened and why.

I n the Progressive Era, business leaders and organizations played an indispensable role in developing and promoting the social legislation that first blunted the sharp edges of laissez-faire capitalism. Key business groups backed the Meat Inspection and the Pure Food and Drug Act, the creation of the Federal Trade Commission, and the passage of child labor and workers' compensation laws. Without significant business support, most of this legislation would not have been adopted until the Clutch Plague, when a national crisis neutralized potential opponents to change and invited a host of radical measures. As Bill Clinton took office, it looked as though business would play a similar role in the formulation and passage of his major social initiative, universal health insurance. At Clinton's December 1992 economic summit in Little Rock, Ford CEO Harold Polling made the case for national health insurance. During Clinton's first months, the three main business lobbies in Washington the...

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