TIME 2016 Election

Jeb Bush Bets on a Sunshine State of Mind

Jeb Bush
Jeb Bush Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush flashes a power watch before giving his keynote address at the National Summit on Education Reform in Washington on Nov. 20, 2014. Susan Walsh—AP

The son and brother of Presidents past moves towards a campaign of his own built around a psychological diagnosis

At a time like this, joy is an awfully strange thing to build a presidential campaign around. But here’s Jeb Bush, and he just can’t stop talking about that most delightful and fleeting of human emotions as he edges towards becoming the Republican frontrunner in 2016.

It started months ago, when he began speculating in public over whether the country, and his own party, could handle a candidate with a “hopeful, optimistic message.” “In my case that means, can one do it joyfully?” he told The Today Show in April.

He slipped from the spotlight, but never dropped the talking point. In November, he mentioned the “joy in my heart” when asked by the Wall Street Journal about a presidential run. Then on Monday, at a commencement address in the primary state of South Carolina, he implored students to reach for joy in all they did. “I think we need to have candidates lift our spirits,” he said, one day before announcing his formal intention to explore a campaign. “It’s a pretty pessimistic country right now.”

That’s the bet of the third man named Bush to pursue the presidency in three decades. After a 13 years of relentlessly bad news and increasingly divisive politics, the former Sunshine State governor thinks the country might just be ready for some sunshine of its own. Joy will be his weapon against who accuse him of ideological weakness, hereditary entitlement or establishment blandness. If he ever does face Hillary Clinton in a general election campaign, he can repurpose the vibe to counter rival whose laugh has been so honed by political necessity as to echo in mechanical rhythms.

Relentless and even irrational optimism, of course, is not a novel pose for a presidential contender, but it is hard to remember a candidate so committed to a psychological analysis of the political landscape this early in the cycle. To hear Bush tell it, the nation is “mopey,” beaten down by war, economic stagnation and the furious politics that accompany each.

To Bush, the solutions are right in front of all of us, if only we can pop some Prozac and kick the blues: Reform the immigration system to flood the nation with brilliant entrepreneurs from a abroad, open the taps of domestic energy production, kick the K-12 education system in the rear and fix the tax, regulatory and entitlement nonsense that hangs like a weight around our future. “We are moping around like we are France,” he said on Dec. 1. “The crisis of opportunity is we are not seizing the moment. We are not aspiring to be young and dynamic again.”

To his own party, the shrink’s critique has a neat corollary. “You don’t do well in bringing people together if you are carping, criticizing, turning around and saying you are not as good as me,” he said in an interview with Florida reporters broadcast on Sunday.

That line of attack—which transfers the fight from ideology to feeling—could serve him well in what is certain to be a brutal primary against a monstrously unwieldy field of politicians far more conservative, religious and attuned to tapping the ever-evolving grassroots Id than him. It’s also a message that is likely to work against his most fearsome rival for the establishment crown, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose spirit animal is more carnivorous than cuddly.

“He is going to be a very effective candidate if he runs, because he is going to talk about the future without backing down or pandering to the Tea Party side,” explains Charlie Black, a Republican lobbyist who’s long run in presidential politics started in 1976 on the Ronald Reagan campaign.

The question for Bush is whether there are enough Republicans left, and partial to voting in early primary states, who will put the promise of glee before their deep feelings of grievance and need for reform. Bush last ran for public office in 2002, long before conservatives, libertarians and the Tea Party decided that his family’s tradition of big government conservatism was the problem, not the solution. As Bush has wisely observed, his best route victory in 2016 will require him to lose the debate stage policy argument in the primary while still finding a way to get more votes.

That’s a tough circle to square if all you are working with are facts and figures. But joy exists outside the realm of what is. That’s why we all seek it out: To make something else of who we are.

TIME Immigration

President Obama Distorts Amnesty to Sell His Executive Actions

U.S. President Barack Obama pauses while speaking about immigration reform during a visit to Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nevada
President Barack Obama pauses while speaking about immigration reform during a visit to Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nov. 21, 2014. Kevin Lamarque—Reuters

When Presidents abuse words, the nation should notice

President Obama has rolled out his executive action on immigration with a talking point that guts the meaning of a word for political ends. As a general rule, democracies should take notice when their leaders do this.

“I know critics call this ‘amnesty,'” he said today in a speech in Nevada, describing his decision to give temporary legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants. “It’s not amnesty. Amnesty is what we have now.”

The Merriam Webster dictionary, an American English standard, gives us this definition of “amnesty”: “the act of an authority (as a government) by which pardon is granted to a large group of individuals.” The Oxford dictionary gives two definitions: “an official pardon for people who have been convicted of political offenses” and “an undertaking by the authorities to take no action against specified offenses or offenders during a fixed period.” The word “pardon” in both cases is defined to mean a forgiveness for an offense.

As a word in politics, “amnesty” has been as contested as any in recent years. What is not contested is the fact that those immigrants who reside in the United States without documentation have broken the law, even if that law is not widely enforced. In Arizona v. United States, the recent Supreme Court case that overturned a harsh state immigration law, Justice Anthony Kennedy summed up current federal law like this: “Unlawful entry and unlawful reentry into the country are federal offenses. Once here, aliens are required to register with the Federal Government and to carry proof of status on their person. Failure to do so is a federal misdemeanor.” The punishment can include a small fine, possible imprisonment and, “upon the order of the Attorney General,” removal from the country.

Opponents of comprehensive immigration reform label any effort “amnesty” if it treats undocumented immigrants with any official leniency short of prompt punishment under current law and deportation. For the pro-immigration reform camp, a reform proposal is only “amnesty” if it fails to include some penalty, even a different one than those prescribed, for having initially broken the law. This camp argues that the Senate-passed immigration reform proposal, for instance, was not “amnesty,” since it required immigrants to pay a fine before establishing a legal path for them to stay in the country.

President Obama is doing something more convoluted and alarming with the word “amnesty” than both of these camps. His action grants temporary and revokable work permits and legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States, if they pay back taxes and pass a background check. There is no fine. He is taking these actions under current law, using the discretion given to the Attorney General over enforcement. He argues that this is not “amnesty,” even though he is granting clear temporary forgiveness, since there is no official pardon, just a mass delay of enforcement.

But Obama goes further. “Amnesty is what we have now,” he says of the current system, in which millions live in violation of a law that is generally not enforced. The suggestion here is that the current lack of enforcement is itself a sort of unofficial pardon. So he is arguing at the same time that granting a new pardon is not amnesty and that allowing an existing pardon to continue is amnesty. He can’t have it both ways.

These two conflicting thoughts become harder to manage when the pardons are compared to each other. The White House says that the core rationale for the President’s actions is “humanitarian,” since the new rules will make it easier for families with undocumented parents and documented children to stay with each other. Implicit in this is the conceit that the new pardon (a temporary work permit and legal status) is less severe than the old pardon (a lack of enforcement).

Those undocumented immigrants who do not receive the President’s dispensation will be undeniably worse off: they will continue to live under the threat of deportation, they will be restricted in their ability to travel outside the United States, and they will continue to lack the ability, in most cases, to find legal employment. President Obama is not arguing otherwise. The premise of his action is that he is making the lives of 5 million better and more fair.

In the end, Obama has made a mush of meaning. Why does this matter? Because words matter. They mean specific things. And that meaning must be defended, because words facilitate the basic premise of open and honest debate that undergirds a democratic system. As George Orwell wrote, in the definitive essay on this topic, “[I]f thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” War is not peace. The sun is not blue. Six is not less than five.

There are lots of ways Obama could have chosen to make his case that his executive actions provide the nation an improvement over the status quo. Corrupting the meaning of a word, however, is not a noble one, nor is confusing the debate. It is, to use another word with a clear meaning, deceptive.

TIME Immigration

The Latin Grammy Awards Celebrates Obama’s Immigration Plan

A political moment turns into a cultural celebration on Spanish-language television

The 2014 Latin Grammy Awards were delayed by 17 minutes Thursday night so President Obama’s announcement on immigration could be carried live with Spanish translation on Univision.

But that wasn’t the only impact President Obama had on one of the most-watched Spanish-language broadcasts of the year. From the first minutes of the show, his decision to give legal status to nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants was celebrated as an affirmation of Latino power. Host Eugenio Derbez, a Mexican actor and comedian, started off the theme in his opening remarks. Here is a translation:

Good evening. Welcome to the Latin Grammys, an award that today celebrates 15 years of excellence in Latin music at an international level. What a way to start the night. On Univision we are celebrating that, little by little, millions of Latinos in this country are beginning to benefit. It was about time that the rights of Latinos were recognized, because it was long ago that we stopped being a minority. Latinos are an important part of what moves this country. What is more, Latinos are already part of this country, gentlemen. And what a better stage to celebrate this great news than this one of the Latin Grammys, because if you notice, Latinos have always used music to cross borders. What’s more, I have an uncle who crossed the border inside a piano.

That joke was segue to a bunch of more traditional award show one-liners.

Later in the night, the theme continued when Spanish crooner Enrique Iglesias accepted the award for Song of the Year. He gave a shout out to the President’s actions in his acceptance speech.

Good evening. We’re here in France, in Paris, and we want to send you a very big hug. We wish we could be there with all of you celebrating. This night is not only historic for all the Latino artists, but for all the Latino people who live in the U.S. A big hug. Thank you.

Then Carlos Vives, a Colombian singer, accepted an award further into the show. “I want to dedicate this especially to President Obama,” he said at the end of his speech, holding up his golden gramophone trophy.

The White House, which had scheduled the remarks to coincide with the Grammys, seemed pleased by the result. Shortly after Iglesias made his comments, the official White House Twitter account retweeted the news of his shout out.

In 2013, 9.8 million people watched the Latin Grammy Awards on Univision, making the channel a top-three network for the night in the U.S.

TIME Immigration

Obama to Give Legal Status to Almost 5 Million Undocumented Immigrants

Official calls executive actions "temporary and reversible"

President Barack Obama announced Thursday he is granting temporary legal status and work permits to almost five million undocumented immigrants living in the country illegally, the largest single immigration action in modern American history.

More than four million undocumented immigrants who are the parents of U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident children will receive new legal status under Obama’s executive action, if they have been living in the country for at least five years, pay back taxes, and pass a criminal background check.

Obama, who will formally take the action on Friday at an event in Las Vegas, will also offer temporary status to several hundred thousand immigrants who came to the country as children, but did not qualify for his action on deferred deportations in 2012. This group includes those who were born before 1981 and those who arrived in the U.S. between June 15, 2007 and Jan. 1, 2010.

MORE: Republican governors blast Obama’s immigration plan

“Mass amnesty would be unfair,” Obama said in an impassioned address to the nation from the East Room of the White House. “Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character. What I’m describing is accountability—a commonsense, middle ground approach: If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up.”

A senior Obama Administration official described the action as a “pretty routine application of enforcement priorities” in a briefing for reporters Thursday afternoon. “It is not a pathway to citizenship. It is temporary and it is reversible.”

The last time such a large number of undocumented immigrants got legal status was through legislation President Ronald Reagan signed in 1986, which gave a path to citizenship for about three million people. There are currently about 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.

The plan, which will be put into place by memoranda and the actions of cabinet officials, will also include new priorities and procedures for detaining and deporting those undocumented immigrants not granted special status. The new deportation priorities will focus on removing criminals, gang members, and those who have arrived in the U.S. since Jan. 1, 2014.

“Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids,” Obama said. “We’ll prioritize, just like law enforcement does every day.”

“Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger—we were strangers once, too,” Obama added, quoting Exodus. “My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants We were strangers once, too.”

The President and his team decided not to extend the special legal status to the parents of undocumented children, a group that could have covered several hundred thousand additional immigrants. “We made a determination that the law essentially did not support that,” the official said. In a publicly-released memo, the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel wrote that in its opinion Obama could not justify granting deferred action to the parents of those covered by the 2012 “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” program.

MORE: Republicans brace for an immigration fight with Obama

That temporary legal status, which was granted to hundreds of thousands of child arrivals in 2012, will now have to be reviewed every three years. Obama compared his action to those taken by every Republican and Democrat for the past 50 years, telling lawmakers on Capitol Hill that if they question his authority to act, “I have one answer: Pass a bill.”

In a video statement released before Obama’s speech, Speaker of the House John Boehner criticized Obama for acting unilaterally. “The President has said before that he’s not king and he’s not an emperor, but he’s sure acting like one,” he said. “And he’s doing it at a time when the American people want nothing more than for us to work together.”

Some Republican governors have threatened to sue to undermine Obama’s action, while on Capitol Hill, GOP lawmakers have threatened to use legislation to try to block or defund the plan. Senior Administration officials said the expansion of temporary legal status would be funded through fees, and therefore could not be defunded by Congress. But Obama aides have not ruled out other legal routes to try to block the measure.

A third Administration official said the President would not sign any such effort into law. “That in and of itself would be something the President would veto,” the official said.

Read next: Hillary Clinton Backs President Obama’s Immigration Announcement

TIME Newsmaker Interview

Univision’s Jorge Ramos Calls Obama’s Immigration Actions a ‘Triumph For The Latino Community’

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Jorge Ramos’ Sunday-morning show, Al Punto, often draws more young viewers than its English-language competitors Photograph by Charles Ommanney for TIME

The most influential Latino news anchor is taking a stand and wants you to notice

Shortly after President Obama scheduled his Thursday primetime address to announce new executive actions on immigration, his top White House communications advisor, Dan Pfeiffer, took to Twitter to boast. “Great timing,” he wrote, noting a rather glaring non-coincidence.

As it turned out, Obama had arranged to start speaking at the very moment Univision, America’s largest Spanish-language television network, planned to begin broadcasting the 2015 Latin Grammy Awards, one of the network’s biggest shows of the year, with a 2014 viewership of nearly 10 million.

Indeed, Univision promptly announced that it would delay the start of the live event to take Obama’s remarks, in translation, ensuring the President a massive platform in the most crucial political demographic, even as many of the English-language networks said they would skip the address. The chances are high that the leading lights of Latin pop music will follow up his words tonight with on-stage celebrations of the President’s actions.

The White House, not to mention its Republican rivals, long ago learned the power of a network most American cannot even understand. And at the center of that network is one of the most aggressive and influential newsmen in America, Jorge Ramos, who I profile in this week’s TIME magazine. (The full article is available to subscribers. Subscribe here for the print and digital versions; it costs just $40 a year.)

It is an exciting time for Ramos, who in recent years has remade himself as a bilingual journalist agitator, fighting for his audience to get immigration reforms in the United States and political reformation in his native Mexico. “It’ll be a triumph for the Latino community,” Ramos wrote to me in an email yesterday, after the President’s announcement was set. “It’ll demonstrate our newfound power. This is not something that we got; this is something that we fought for.”

For Ramos, the importance of the move was difficult to overstate. “This will be the most important immigration measure in 50 years—since the 1965 change in immigration law. In terms of numbers, it’ll have a wider impact than the 1986 amnesty,” he continued. “Although, it’ll be temporary, Republicans will have a very hard time rejecting it and not being seen as anti-immigrant or anti-Latino. Also, this will have a tremendous impact on the 2016 presidential campaign.”

If you don’t know who Ramos is, you probably will soon. He is the host to Noticiero Univision, a nightly Spanish language newscast; Al Punto, a Spanish-language Sunday political show and America with Jorge Ramos, an English language news magazine on Fusion. (His Univision news shows regularly beat their English language rivals among young viewers.) He writes a bilingual newspaper column that published internationally, and appears regularly as a pundit on English-language cable networks, like CNN and MSNBC. Polls among the U.S. Latino community rank him as the most trusted and influential Hispanic in America, beating all other political leaders, and his Q-score among Latino audiences places him between soccer magus Lionel Messi and the pop starlet Shakira.

You can read more about him, his activism, and his troublemaking approach to journalism in the magazine. But I have posted below some lightly edited excerpts from one of our interviews. We spoke about the scandals in Mexico, his past interviews with Mexico’s current President and some allegations that have been hurled against Grupo Televisa, the Mexican media giant that is one of the owners of Univision. We also spoke about the difficult balance he strikes between journalist and advocate.

TIME: So if you say that if [Obama grants legal status to] two million, the White House is being too timid. How do you know? What are you basing that on?

JORGE RAMOS: It’s very simple. We have at least eleven million people who are in this country as undocumented, without papers. So if you’re only going to help two million, it is not enough. It is clearly timid and wouldn’t be bold enough. Of course you will change the lives of two million people. But it is not what is expected from the community. And we’ve got to say that. The problem has to do with the expectations. When Obama came to power in 2008, right before the election, he promised us that he was going to introduce immigration reform during his first year in office.

What is the outer edge of how far you would be willing to go as a journalist who wants to advocate for his audience?

The limit is, I am a registered Independent. I would never say to whom I vote. I would never pressure anyone to vote for one party or another. That would be way too much.

What is your role as one of the few journalists from Latin America who can actually get [interviews with Latin American political leaders] interviews on television, and then ask whatever question you want? Do you feel an accountability role for those countries? Are you serving those populations too?

Well what I can tell you for instance is I feel with much more freedom to ask those questions. Because I can come back to the States and enjoy complete freedom of speech. If I had stayed in Mexico, instead of coming to the United States, I am absolutely convinced that I would have been a censored journalist. And a very sad one. Because I wouldn’t have been able to ask the same questions that I ask from this side of the border. There’s no question about it. There’s no question that I have more freedom than many journalists in Mexico who are criticizing the Mexican president.

Do you think [Mexican President Enrique] Peña Nieto lied to you when he said I’m not a millionaire?

I don’t know. But my role is to question him. And my role is to make sure that he’s not lying. And if he’s lying, that he’s accountable for that. And this is new.

In one of your columns recently you suggested that it wouldn’t be a bad idea if the Mexican legislature to try to take him from office?

But no one is doing that, no one is doing that.

You were suggesting it, no?

I’m reporting that there are thousands of Mexican who want Peña Nieto to quit, no? To resign. So here’s what I think our role as journalists—Congress is not investigating Peña Nieto. The Attorney General is not investigating Peña Nieto. Most of the media in Mexico are not questioning Peña Nieto. So somebody has to do it. And I think it is our role to do that. Precisely to do that. And I have the opportunity to do it from the United States to question what Peña Nieto is doing, what President Maduro is doing in Venezuela. With much more freedom than Mexican and Venezuelan journalists. I mean there is no freedom of speech in Venezuela. So how can you question President Maduro from Venezuela?

Do you think Televisa played a nontransparent role in the election of Peña Nieto?

What I can say is that Peña Nieto spent much more, much, much more than all the other candidates. And that millions of Mexicans question if he won fairly, no? And that’s – and that might be even an understatement. And that’s why Peña Nieto I think right now is having serious problems. Not only with his complete failure when it comes to security issues. And a questionable house owned by his wife. But also in terms of being legitimate in front of millions of Mexicans who don’t think that he won fairly.

My favorite line from [your book] Lo Que Vi is where you say that the joy of being a journalist is that you can preserve the restlessness and rebelliousness of youth.

That’s beautiful. I’m 56 and I still have the privilege of acting as a young reporter. Which is beautiful. Because when you’re young, young, you’re questioning everything. As a journalist you are forced to question everyone all the time. And therefore stay young, no? And that’s the beautiful part. And then, what I found fascinating about our profession is that you can actually talk to those who are never used to being questioned. And look, it’s only—we consider it only philosophically as journalists that it is truly our role to question those who are in power. And I think our most important social responsibility is to make sure that they don’t abuse their power. And I think this comes from being brought up in a very close, censored society like the Mexican society. But then, if I apply the same model here to the United States, then I very early understood that my role was to represent a minority. To represent Latinos, and especially to represent immigrants. For many different reasons. First because I’m an immigrant. I mean I can’t avoid that.

In one of the Fusion pieces you did on the border, you were standing next to the fence and you said it reminds you of the Berlin Wall. Why?

Because it is incredible, that nowadays you have open borders in Europe. And that’s a taboo issue here in the United States. I mean you can go – a few months ago I went from Spain to France, I paid 6 Euros at the border. There was no police, no agent, no one stopping me. And here in the United States, we can’t even discuss the possibility of something like that. I’m not arguing for open borders. But it’s a taboo issue.

Do you feel that your responsibility at Univision or here is to challenge your audience as well? The representing them and talking about DREAMERS and talking about what Boehner’s obstructing. Do you try and do stories on the other side of immigration? Like the unions being upset that wages on jobs are going down in meat packingplants because there’s undocumented workers working in them?

Of course, yeah but I think we have to concentrate on the really big issues. And the really big issues is that you have a community that is underrepresented politically. You have a community with eleven million people who are living in the shadows and in fear. And we only have three senators. We are 17% of the population. And we only have three senators.

And two of them don’t say what most of the population [says on immigration].

Exactly. So I think that explains why our role on Univision and on Fusion is different than what you would expect from NBC, ABC, or CBS, CNN and Fox News. Because a population who has no voice, or very little, or very few voices, needs to express themselves. I mean who is going to speak for all of the immigrants in this country? I mean who is going to tell John Boehner that he is blocking immigration reform? I mean, who is going to say that? It was – in an ideal world, one Latino senator and many members of congress of Hispanic origin would have gone to Boehner and told him in his face, you’re blocking immigration reform. That didn’t happen. So it is our role to do that.

Democrats [have] said—and you know these people and they’ve said it to you—that you’ve been unfair to the President because he’s the greatest President ever for the Latino community if you look at his push for minimum wage which disproportionally helps [Latinos], Obamacare covering Latinos disproportionately, economic progress, there are some measures that Latinos are improving, coming out of poverty quicker than others. What do you say to that criticism?

Well that he just didn’t keep his promise in the most important, symbolic issue for Latinos. When you have a community in which one out of two members is a foreigner, and you don’t deal with that issue as you promised, of course you’re going to be criticized. But I think I’ve been – as a journalist more than being objective, I think my role is to try to be fair. I try to be fair with both democrats and Republicans. I criticize fiercely President Obama for not keeping his word. For delaying action on immigration. And I’ve criticized fiercely Republicans for blocking immigration reform. They will lose the White House if they continue doing that. So I think, in that sense, I’ve been fair, or if you want, unfair to both.

TIME 2014 Election

How This Election Marks the End of the Post-Partisan Dream

Mitch McConnell Campaigns Across Kentucky As Midterm Election Nears
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell delivers a stump speech during a campaign stop at Brandeis Machinery & Supply Company in Louisville on Oct. 31, 2014 Luke Sharrett—Getty Images

There's not just a red and blue America, there are red and blue districts, states and even years

Every two years, the call goes out from hill and dale: “This is the most important election of our lifetimes,” politicians trumpet to the crowds. Democracy, after all, prefers a fight with stakes, especially in America.

Then came the 2014 election, when no one even lifted a horn. There were stakes, and certainly fights, just never a feeling that it mattered all that much. In a nation mired in discontent—less than one in four still said they were satisfied with the direction—the people no longer found choosing the lesser letdown satisfying. A week away, one poll showed just 29% of voters held a positive view of the GOP; only 36% could say the same about Democrats. Enthusiasm for voting, as measured by Gallup, dropped to 2002 levels.

Now we come to the final hours of this miserable season. It’s likely, though not certain, that when you wake up Wednesday, Republicans will control the Senate for the first time since 2006, give or take a recount in the West or a runoff in the South. But don’t expect that result to tell you much about the direction of the country. The generic ballot is dead even, with Americans preferring Democratic and Republican Congressional control in equal measure, a shift from 2010, when Republicans enjoyed a clear advantage.

Other indicators contradict as well. Republicans lost no governors in 2010, but find themselves playing defense in four states. Republicans in Maine, Kansas, Wisconsin and Florida could all go down, consumed by local missteps and general malaise. Democrats have made a close Senate race in deep red Georgia, and an independent has spooked a Republican stalwart in Kansas.

Take it all instead as a grim starting point for the next phase of American political history. When the polls are finally settled and the new suits take their place, the dream of the last decade, which began with Barack Obama’s 2004 keynote at the Democratic National Convention, will end. “There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America. There’s the United States of America,” Obama said. The nation sent him to the White House to make it so. Then the divisions won.

They define us now more than ever, both in geography and time, and there is no leader in American political life with a credible plan for getting us out of the rut. Republicans dominate not just in red states and red districts, but in red years, the midterm cycles where only about 90 million show up at the polls. Democrats have the blue states and districts, and presidential years, when 130 million people, including all of Obama’s “Cousin Pookies,” cast their ballots.

Each side is assured a piece of the pie, and neither has incentive to move from its positions. “When you step in the voting booth, you’re making a choice not just about party, not just about candidates,” President Obama told his crowd Sunday, at an event in Philadelphia. “You’re making a choice about two very different visions of America.”

What he didn’t say was the fact that has tortured his second term: neither vision will become a reality anytime soon. Asked months ago by NBC’s Chuck Todd for the rationale behind the Senate staying Democratic in 2014, the best the President could muster was “it makes a big difference if we’ve got at least one branch in Congress that is presenting these ideas, making arguments.”

Message control, in other words, has replaced governing. Anyone with a television knows it has consumed campaigns, as well. Instead of leaders looking to debate ideas, or even to express ideas, candidates appeared trained like parrots to repeat the same vapid lines over and over again. With no way of dealing with the economic anxiety that dominates, they fanned fears around Ebola, immigration and women’s reproductive rights. The only campaign ad anyone will remember 10 years from now was a former Iowa farmer, Joni Ernst, saying she knew how to castrate hogs.

The irony of this new cynicism runs deep. The Republican Senate strategy was to endlessly repeat in races across the country that Democrats “voted with the President 90% of the time.” The line worked on two levels. It motivated the GOP base by evoking Obama. And it served as a character attack for the rest of country, who actually want to see their government function again. American voters want candidates who can think for themselves.

If the line sounded familiar, it’s because Democrats used it on Republicans in 2006, when they retook Congress, and Obama used it again in 2008. “It’s not change when John McCain decided to stand with George Bush 95% of the time, as he did in the Senate last year,” Obama said.

Chances are, the line will work again in 2016, in 2018 and in 2020. Another $4 billion, or $5 billion, or $6 billion will be spent spreading the message in each of those years. Voters will choose again to buck the status quo, and will soon find themselves once again right where they started, facing down the most important election of their lifetimes.

TIME

Predict Who Will Win the Senate in 2014

Forget Nate Silver. Anyone can be a political handicapper. Place your bets on whether the Democrats or the Republicans will be victorious on Election Day

The professional election handicappers in Washington and New York are trying to cut you out of the process. They are using their fancy number machines to predict which party will control the U.S. Senate next year. The Washington Post says Republicans have a 91% chance of getting at least 51 seats, while the The New York Times and ESPN’s Nate Silver say there is a 63% chance.

But you shouldn’t let them do it alone. In America anyone can handicap an election. We’ve provided each candidate’s political strength and liabilities. And we’ve left out the political party to make you think harder about the individual candidates. So have at it. Tell us all who is going to win in each of the next ten races, and we’ll tell you who will win the Senate. Then share on Twitter and Facebook.

 

*Polling numbers from RealClearPolitics.

TIME

The Incredible Rise in Campaign Spending

The cost of running for Congress has increased more than 500 percent since 1984. Here's an interactive look at how campaign expenditures have outrun inflation, health care, and even the rising cost of college

The NBC affiliate in Des Moines, Iowa, added an hour to its nightly newscast this year to profit from all the political ads ahead of the Nov. 4 midterm elections, but demand was still too great. “There is only so much inventory I have,” explains WHO-TV station manager Dale Woods. It is the same in tight races all across the country. Nearly bottomless campaign and super-PAC bank accounts have been unloaded on airtime, mailings and get-out-the-vote efforts. And in recent years, the spending growth has accelerated.

Since the mid-1980s, the amount dumped on elections by campaigns and outside groups, as measured by the Federal Election Commission, has grown 555 percent—faster than even the alarming increases in the costs of health care and private college tuition. The reasons, say political scientists, include growth in the national economy, the razor-thin margin determining congressional control and changes to campaign-finance rules. Expect the trend to continue. Senate races in North Carolina and Kentucky this year could cost more than $100 million, and the estimated spending on TV ads in Alaska and Iowa already tops $11 per eligible voter.

Methodology

Sources for interactive: Federal Election Commission summary files; Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; U.S. Census Bureau; St. Louis Fed; National Center for Education Statistics. Outside spending data for the years 2006-2012, which are missing from FEC summary reports, are courtesy of the Center for Responsive Politics.

The total value of an election is calculated in two parts: Campaign spending and outside spending. Campaign spending consists of all expenditures except authorized transfers of funds to other committees, as well as party-coordinated spending, and includes primary elections. Outside Spending encompasses third-party expenditures that are made without the knowledge or consent of the candidates, but only includes transactions that are explicitly used to advocate for or against a candidate.

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