When American Politicos First Weaponized Conspiracy Theories

Outlandish Rumors Helped Elect Presidents Jackson and Van Buren and Have Been With Us Ever Since

From claims that NASA faked the moon landing to suspicions about the U.S. government’s complicity in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Americans love conspiracy theories. Conspiratorial rhetoric in presidential campaigns and its distracting impact on the body politic have been a fixture in American elections from the beginning. But the period when conspiracies really flourished was the 1820s and 1830s, when modern-day American political parties developed, and the expansion of white male suffrage increased the nation’s voting base. These new parties, which included the Democrats, the National Republicans, …

Preaching Civility Won’t Save American Democracy

Only by Learning to Communicate as Citizens, Not Propagandists, Can We Avert Political Tragedy

It’s obvious that our political discourse is broken. People don’t just yell at one another on cable television, they also do it in restaurants, and on social media. Our communities …

It’s Hard to Be an American Traitor, Even If You Try

Legal Scholars Tell Warren Olney Why Treason Is So Difficult to Commit in the United States

Why is it so hard to commit treason in the United States?

The short answer—offered at the debut of a Zócalo/KCRW event series, “Critical Thinking with Warren Olney”—amounted to this: America …

How Trump’s Staff Could Save Him from Himself

Collegiality and Careful Deliberation Can Overcome Cronyism and Chaos

The stupefying deeds of the Trump White House are passing in such a blur these days that it is hard to parse the incompetence. From policies foreign and domestic that …

Is California Too Exceptional to Be Part of the U.S.?

We're a Progressive Check on Red-State Power—but We Unbalance the Constitutional System

America is terribly polarized.

And it’s all on account of California.

The trouble is not merely that California itself is such a politically polarized place. Or that California contributes to the many …

How Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric Drove My Generation into Politics

Trump’s Cynical Policies Make the Same Mistake That California Republicans Made 20 Years Ago

It’s often said that California is just like America, only sooner. We confront the same issues as the rest of the nation, just earlier. Perhaps no issue exemplifies that sentiment …