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A Republican rally in Fairfax, Virginia. ‘The party’s core is white men, married white women, evangelical Christians, the elderly and rural voters.’ Photograph: KeystoneUSA-Zuma/Rex
The Republicans: over-reaching and underscoring
In 2006, Kansas Republican Sam Brownback was crowned “God’s Senator” by Rolling Stone magazine. As he struggles for re-election as governor in this reliably conservative state, he is now praying for divine intervention. In 2010 he won the governorship by a 30-point margin. This year he is in a dead heat with his Democratic challenger, who has the support of more than 100 Republicans, most of them former or current state-wide office holders.


Kay Hagan addresses a crowd on the campaign trail in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, on Wednesday.
Photograph: Adam Jennings/AP
North Carolina: the state where Republicans went too far
Kay Hagan should be toast by now. Since she became one of North Carolina’s two US senators in 2008 – the same year that Barack Obama won it by a narrow margin – the state has not been kind to Democrats. In 2010 Republicans took control of both houses of the state assembly for the first time since 1898 and Richard Burr won re-election to the US Senate with the highest vote share a Republican has received since the state began directly electing its senators. In 2012 Republicans won the governor’s chair, Mitt Romney took the state, and the state’s delegation in the US House of Representatives flipped from majority Democrat (7-6) to majority Republican (8-5).
Why is Florida's fifth district so odd? Gary Younge on a slice of America where democracy doesn't work – video
How Racism Stole Black Childhood
When former president George W. Bush was questioned repeatedly about his cocaine use and heavy drinking as a young man, he responded jokingly, “When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible.” There is a wry logic to such an answer, even if Bush hardly exemplifies its most important lesson: there’s only so much maturity one can expect from those who are not fully mature. (His shenanigans continued well into adulthood. He was arrested for drunk driving when he was 30 and didn’t stop drinking until he was 40. “He tried everything his father had tried,” wrote his former speechwriter David Frum. “And, well into his forties, succeeded at almost nothing.”)


Hillary and Bill Clinton in 1997, who both continue to be relevant in American politics nearly 15 years after his presidency.
Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP
The American dynasties dominating the midterm elections
When asked last year about the prospect of having yet another son run for the White House, former first lady Barbara Bush said she thought it was a bad idea. “There are a lot of great families,” she said. “It’s not just four families, or whatever. There are other people out there that are very qualified. We’ve had enough Bushes.” If Jeb Bush, Barbara’s second son, does run, he might well be up against former first lady Hillary Clinton, making Barack Obama’s tenure an eight-year interlude in an otherwise unbroken 36-year stretch in which either a Bush or a Clinton was on the presidential ticket.


Ben Bradlee and Bob Woodward at the All the President’s Men premiere in 1976.
Photograph: Ron Galella/WireImage
Stern fellows remember Ben Bradlee: 'Like everyone else, I was in awe of him'
Of the many legacies of the late Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, perhaps none has had so great an impact on British journalism as the Laurence Stern fellowship. The fellowship, which welcomes a young British journalist for an internship at the Post each summer, was established following the death in 1979 of its namesake editor, a top newsroom talent and one of Bradlee’s closest friends. Stern “had a fascination with all things English”, according to the National Press Foundation, which manages the award.


A clean-up in Dallas, Texas, after a suspected Ebola case. ‘There have been three confirmed cases in the US and none in Mexico – if anyone should be sealing the border to protect themselves it should be the Mexicans.’ Photograph: Larry W Smith/EPA
Ebola has exposed America's fear, and Barack Obama's vulnerability
In a column ostensibly explaining why moderates struggle in the Republican party, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen last year wrote: “People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York – a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts – but not all – of America.”


Demonstrators march in St Louis, Missouri, but police shootings and racism have been absent from the midterms.
Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images
With so many issues off the agenda, no wonder the midterms are a turn-off
Midterm elections, or as Stephen Colbert calls them “the most tedious fall chore of all”, are a strange affair. Nationwide votes without national candidates (much like parliamentary elections) where the president’s performance is on the minds of voters even when he’s not on the ballot. Turnout drops but the consequences can be considerable and the outcomes memorable: 1994 brought us Newt Gingrich and welfare reform; 2006 was the beginning of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid; 2010 was the Tea Party and Obama’s ”shellacking”.


Protestors in Ferguson, Missouri.
Michael Brown jury: putting a value on a black life in the United States
In September 1955, an all-white jury took just 67 minutes to acquit Emmett Till’s killers. Till, 14, said either “Bye, baby” or wolf-whistled at a white woman in a grocery store in Mississippi. Three days later his body was fished out of the Tallahatchie river with a bullet in his skull, an eye gouged out and his forehead crushed on one side. “If we hadn’t stopped to drink pop,” said one juror, “it wouldn’t have taken that long.”


Theaster Gates surrounded by some of the reclaimed raw material of his trade. Photograph: Sara Pooley
Theaster Gates, the artist whose latest project is regenerating Chicago
In 2007 Theaster Gates held a series of soul food dinners on Chicago’s South Side to honour his mentor, Yamaguchi, a gifted Japanese potter who fled Hiroshima for Mississippi, where he had heard there was a special kind of clay. There Yamaguchi married a black woman and created a unique ceramic style by blending Asian and African-American techniques. They built a pottery, and brought people together to talk about equality. To Gates, who had spent some time studying in Japan, he bequeathed the task of “fostering social transformation” by “convening dinners in cities with extreme racial and social tension just beneath well-articulated geographical boundaries”. On the wall, in an 85ft strip of vinyl, was a timeline that covered everything from the Ming dynasty to slavery, including Yamaguchi and Gates’s birthdays. At the table was Yamaguchi’s son, representing his father and endorsing Gates’s efforts.


Carmen Segarra, who was fired after standing by a scathing report on Goldman Sachs.
Photograph: Adam Lerner/AP Images
Carmen Segarra, the whistleblower of Wall Street
In a 1978 political essay, Power of the Powerless, the Czech dissident (and later president) Vaclav Havel paints a scenario of a greengrocer who has been sent a poster announcing “Workers of the World Unite” by the authorities along with his vegetables. Explaining why the grocer would put the poster up in his shop window, Havel writes: “He does it because these things must be done if one is to get along in life. It is one of the thousands of details that guarantee him a relatively tranquil life ‘in harmony with society’.”
Karen Lewis (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Run, Karen, Run!
On August 5, at a Young Chicago Authors event, Mayor Rahm Emanuel read the late Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise.” A poem so explicitly written in the voice of a black woman (“Does my sexiness upset you? / Does it come as a surprise / That I dance like I’ve got diamonds / At the meeting of my thighs?”) must have sounded odd coming from his lips.
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Stranger in a Strange Land – Encounters in the Disunited States
book review
'It often takes an outsider to look inside. This is especially true of the United States.'
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