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Are EU Exit Referenda Good for Democracy?

Referenda are important instruments of democratic politics. They have been used since the late eighteenth century in various circumstances of political life, most often in relation to constitutional change or issues of self-determination. In contemporary democratic societies, there is pressure to submit contested political questions to popular vote, in order to reduce tensions between popular will and governance. Even democratic governments which are not constitutionally obliged to do so now feel compelled to consult the people directly. 

Brexit, the UK’s referendum on whether to stay in the EU, reflects this tendency. It is not the first referendum on EU matters. And yet, there is novelty here: the people were deciding directly whether to leave an organization of democratic states, …

ABC NEWS - 7/28/16 - Coverage of the 2016 Democratic National Convention from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA which airs on all ABC News programs and platforms. (ABC/Fred Watkins)  | Flickr
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At DNC Obama Reaffirmed Central Vision: Why it Matters for Democratic Politics Today

One of the things that Barack Obama delivered in his speech at the Democratic National Convention, which has to rank among his truly great speeches, was a powerful restatement of his central orienting vision of political community and democratic citizenship, which he first presented during his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2007-2008. After all the trials and tribulations of his presidency, it’s clear that he still remains committed to that vision, like it or not. In fact, anyone who follows Obama’s speech closely and compares it with some key speeches he gave in 2008 will notice that he went out of his way to emphasize some of the continuities. …

We the People © Wang | Flickr
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No-Rule: Thinking about Obama v. Trump Through Hannah Arendt and C.L.R. James

Barack Obama delivered a rousing speech at the recent Democratic National Committee Convention in support of Hillary Clinton’s bid for the Presidency. At the crescendo of the address, Obama exhorted: “We’re not a fragile people. We’re not a frightful people. Our power doesn’t come from some self-declared savior promising that he alone can restore order as long as we do things his way. We don’t look to be ruled.” Let’s think through this understanding of ruling for political leadership.

Obama argues that Donald Trump, Clinton’s primary opponent for the nation’s highest elected office, embraces an elite conception of leadership grounded in a sovereign leader ruling over a mass. Trump is not only mendacious according to Obama; …

Trump supporters come in all shapes and sizes
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Jo Freeman Captures the Republican National Convention

Noted feminist, political scientist, and photographer Jo Freeman went to the Republican National Convention. Amongst the madness, Freeman managed to capture a humanity rarely seen on the political stage. It’s a reminder to us all that, at the end of the day, the foundation of our nation’s political economy lies with the American people. Here they are. 

ABC NEWS - 7/18/16 - Coverage of the 2016 Republican National Convention from the Convention Center in Cleveland, Ohio, which airs on all ABC News programs and platforms.   (ABC/ Ida Mae Astute)
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The 1950s, American Greatness, And Trump’s Brand Of Nostalgia

If you’re unfamiliar with the advertising firm of Ogilvy & Mather, consider this: What James Madison did for the US Constitution, Ogilvy did for advertising. Ogilvy was a champion of pragmatism and a fierce romantic, a combination that made for advertising that reflected the cultural fantasies of the moment while remaining accessible to consumers. Ogilvy built an empire on giving consumers precisely what his advertising made them want: “In the modern world of business,” he proclaimed, “it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create.”

If we analyze historic ad campaigns to discover why they were successful, we probably would hear the Marlboro Man speaking to us from beyond the grave (though quite likely through a voice box). …