The Fix: history

5 moments that show why Margaret Thatcher mattered in American politics

5 moments that show why Margaret Thatcher mattered in American politics

Margaret Thatcher, Britain's first woman prime minister, died Monday at age 87.

The longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th century, the "Iron Lady" held the office for more than 11 years, including all of the 1980s. During that time, she left a major mark on U.S. politics, mainly through her close relationship with President Ronald Reagan.

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The 10 most memorable State of the Union addresses (VIDEO)

The 10 most memorable State of the Union addresses (VIDEO)

President Obama will deliver his fourth -- and arguably most important -- State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday.

In looking ahead to Obama's speech, it's helpful to look back through history at some of the most memorable State of the Union addresses ever delivered. Some came ahead of monumental policy achievements or championed notable ideas, while others were delivered before major setbacks, and in one case, a resignation. Below, we take a closer look, in reverse chronological order. And as always, the comments section awaits your input on our choices, as well as what we may have overlooked.

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The reason Congress won't change (in two charts)

The reason Congress won't change (in two charts)

People may hate Congress, but they keep sending the same people back to Washington.

Despite historic levels of unpopularity with the legislative branch, turnover in Congress has actually been pretty normal in recent years -- if not on the low side historically.

To be sure, the partisan split in Congress has undergone significant change in recent elections. The three straight wave elections between 2006 and 2010 were the first time that that had happened in half a century.

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The growing divide between Republicans and Democrats, in one chart

If it seems like the divide between the Democrats and Republicans has widened considerably over the last few decades, it's because it has -- at least when it comes to the way the two parties view the president's job performance on the eve of his second inauguration.

Don't buy it? Just take a look at this chart from the Pew Research Center. The gap between Republicans' and Democrats' approval of the job President Obama is doing now is more than twice as wide as it was in 1957, when President Dwight Eisenhower was gearing up for his second term.

Since then, the Republican and Democratic parties have become ever more polarized, with the distance growing substantially under President George W. Bush and Obama.

In January 1997, President Bill Clinton's approval rating among Democrats was nearly three times what it was among Republicans. But that's nothing compared with today's numbers: Obama's approval rating among Democrats is more than six times what it is among Republicans.

Chuck Hagel's chances -- in 3 charts

Chuck Hagel's chances -- in 3 charts

As Chuck Hagel, the former Nebraska senator and now President Obama's nominee for secretary of defense, gears up for his confirmation process in the Senate, there is at least a possibility that he won't be cleared by the upper chamber to head up the Pentagon.

Just how often does the Senate oppose a Cabinet nominee to the point that he or she is rejected or withdraws? And for what reasons? Thanks to a research paper from James D. King, who heads the political science department at the University of Wyoming, we have the answers to these questions.

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George McGovern’s 5 most memorable moments

George McGovern’s 5 most memorable moments

George McGovern, the former Democratic senator and presidential candidate, passed away on Sunday at the age of 90. McGovern’s decades-long career in Washington and his liberal politics etched his place in the history books and the minds of many Americans. 

From his outspoken opposition to the Vietnam War to his 1972 presidential campaign and beyond, we look back at McGovern’s five most memorable career moments. (Did we miss any? The comments section awaits.)

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A recent history of second presidential debates (VIDEO)

A recent history of second presidential debates (VIDEO)

All eyes in the political world will be fixed on Hofstra University in New York Tuesday night, where President Obama and Mitt Romney will debate for a second time.

Second presidential debates present unique opportunities. For the candidate coming out of the first debate with momentum (in this case, Romney), it’s a chance for an encore on a national stage. For the candidate who struggled the first time around (Obama), it’s a do-over.

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The six most memorable moments in vice presidential debate history

The six most memorable moments in vice presidential debate history

Vice President Biden and Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan (Wis.) will square off Thursday in their one and only debate of the campaign. Vice presidential debates are opportunities for candidates to vouch for their running mates and slam the opposing ticket. For challengers in particular, the goal is also to appear capable of assuming the job of president. 

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President Obama and the curse of the first reelection debate (video)

President Obama isn’t the first incumbent president to fall victim to a tough performance in his first debate.

Recent history, in fact, is littered with presidents struggling to defend their records the first time out. And four of the last five presidents were judged to have lost their first debate.

Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter debated only once in 1980, and the debate was a disaster for Carter. Notable moments for Reagan included “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” and “There you go again,” and Carter was criticized for citing his daughter’s opinion that nuclear disarmament was the most important issue facing the country.

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Obama’s win-big-or-go-home problem

If Americans send President Obama back to the White House for a second term, it won’t be pretty.

And in fact, it will be almost without precedent.

A hard-fought Obama win — which is about the only way he’s going to win — would likely make Obama just the second president to be reelected by a smaller margin than he won in his first race.

The history of American politics demonstrates that presidents who seek a second term either lose outright or win reelection with an even bigger mandate than they had before.

Below are the 11 presidents who have won reelection, comparing their first margin of victory to their second margin. Another eight presidents lost reelection.

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All four GOP candidates face rare prospect of a home-state loss

If you’re a 2012 Republican presidential candidate, home might not feel so welcoming these days.

It’s possible that all four remaining GOP candidates could lose a state that they call home — a prospect Newt Gingrich noted in an interview over the weekend.
Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney could lose the primary in Michigan, the state where he was born and reared and where his father was governor. But he might not be the only GOP candidate to lose a home state. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

And even if only one or two actually do, it would be a pretty rare feat.

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