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US Politics

On May 9, President Donald Trump fired the director of the FBI James Comey in a risky and largely unprecedented move. Initially, members of the Trump administration argued that Comey was fired because his incompetent handling of Hilary Clinton’s email scandal had cost him his legitimacy. Why would President Trump fire the head of an agency that symbolizes the integrity of law enforcement and rule of law of which the American system is so proud? In American history only one other FBI director has ever been fired. In 1993, President Bill Clinton fired William Sessions, a Republican hold-over from the Ronald Reagan administration. As the Nixon Presidential Library was at pains to point out, not even President Richard Nixon dared to …
Ben Rhodes

Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign undoubtedly inspired a movement of young progressives across America, and few believed in the sprawling idealism more than Ben Rhodes, a young New Yorker who ultimately rose to become Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor. It is this proximity to power, especially during a historic presidency, that makes Rhodes’ second book, After the Fall: Being American in the World We’ve Made, worth considering.  After the Fall centers on an author grappling with a reality—in America and across the world—that has shaken his faith in the “happy democratic endings” he and Obama once held as an ultimate goal. Based on a four-year, cross-continent journey, he explores politics from Russia and Hungary to China and Hong Kong to trace …
"US Supreme Court" by zacklur

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare) is the latest in a series of failed attempts by Republicans to repeal the law. From its passage in 2010, the ACA has been responsible for reducing the uninsured population significantly through its key provisions requiring individuals to purchase health insurance, extending coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions, and expanding Medicaid for low-income Americans¹. Republican legal challenges to the ACA started within hours of its signing. Filed by states, associations, and individuals, several cases made it to the Supreme Court, which rejected challenges to the ACA in 2012, 2015, and, most recently, June 2021. These legal defeats coincide with other failed attempts by …

The storming of the American Capitol building on the 6th of January 2021 during a session to formalize Joe Biden’s presidential victory made headlines around the world. For many Americans, the fact that there was an armed attempt to disrupt a democratic transition of power was a worrying sign of democratic backsliding and the consequence of years of extreme partisanship. The siege suggested a grim vision of America’s political future. However, 40 years ago, the Spanish political system was able to recover from a similar event, in what could be an instructive experience for contemporary America. In February 1981, the Spanish political system, which had rapidly democratised following the death of General Francisco Franco in 1975, faced its first real …

In February 2020, the Trump administration made a deal with the Taliban. Under what became known as the Doha Agreement, the US and all foreign forces promised to depart Afghanistan by May 2021, so as long as the Taliban held up its side of the deal to 1) enter into peace talks with the US-backed Afghan government and 2) ensure Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists. So far, the agreement is technically being implemented. Peace negotiations began in September 2020, though they have yet to produce results. The Taliban have also stuck to the letter if not the spirit of the deal by holding off attacks against US and Allied forces (although attacks against the Afghan government and civilians have continued). However, with the May deadline fast approaching, President …

The chasm between what the presidencies of Trump and Biden mean for the ‘special relationship’ between the US and the UK has starkly demonstrated how dependent the UK is on the occupant of the White House for its relationship with the US. It would be easy for the UK to forget the lessons it learned from engaging with Trump, who put less value on the bilateral relationship with the UK, because of the comparative enthusiasm of President Biden. However, it is exactly  the experience of  the Trump era that should convince UK policymakers to think about how to insulate the UK from volatility in the White House. US-UK cooperation on areas like security and defence will never be in question, but the likelihood of a broad trade deal, …
Woman receives an injection

As we enter 2021 and the Covid-19 pandemic rumbles on, optimism for the coming year relies heavily on successful vaccine rollout. Attention is now increasingly focussed on the practicalities of distribution, which will involve prioritisation and difficult policy decisions. Few argue about those groups right at the top of the list like care home residents, or healthcare staff working in high risk settings. However, an important population is less on the radar: people in prison. There are around 11 million people in prison around the world. Most will be in environments that make social distancing and other measures to reduce transmission, now a routine part of day-to-day community life for most, much more challenging. Such conditions can make prisons vulnerable …
Marihuana plants

Welcome to the OxPol Blogcast, a podcast where we will be sharing research, analysis, and experiences from members of the University of Oxford’s Department of Politics and International Relations. On each, episode we will talk to a guest about a piece they’ve written for the OxPol Blog. Then, we’ll discuss their larger research agenda, their insights on conducting political science, and their time at Oxford. On the 3rd episode of the OxPol BlogCast, host Chase Harrison talks to recent DPhil graduate Jonas von Hoffman about the results of recent drug legalisation referendums in the United States. We compare those to legalisation movements across the Americas before chatting about his experience studying a more taboo topic in academia.  
Rubble in front of a wall/fence with graffiti reading "V+XO Peace + Love". Over the fence, three different wall structure prototypes are visible.

Joe Biden’s presidential victory has brought temporary relief for many undocumented and mixed-status families in the US. Biden promised to reverse several of Trump’s executive orders on immigration and refugee policy within his first 100 days in office including reinstating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, ending the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) also known as “Remain in Mexico,” and creating a “road map” to citizenship for the approximate 10.5 million undocumented immigrants in the US. While Biden’s immigration agenda contains federal and local level priorities, little emphasis has yet been placed on the bilateral scale with the US’s southern neighbour, Mexico. Yet, bilateral immigration negotiations should be a priority for administrations on both sides of the border. In …