The Atlantic Politics Daily: The Plight of the Undecided Voter

New Hampshire votes. For some (still!) undecided voters, “it’s like when you’re in college, and your paper’s due tomorrow.” Plus: The Sanders doctrine.

It’s Tuesday, February 11. In today’s newsletter: New Hampshire votes. For some (still) undecided voters, “it’s like when you’re in college, and your paper’s due tomorrow.” Plus: The Sanders doctrine.



Live free or try (to vote for a favorite Democratic candidate).

Voters in libertarian-ish New Hampshire headed to the polls today—and unlike last week’s historic blunder of an Iowa caucus—there won’t be a faulty app or byzantine vote-counting rules to mess up an influential early primary. Though the entire state has about as many people in it than say, the greater Richmond, Virginia area, it plays an outsize role in shaping the narrative of the rest of the 2020 race.

Here are some key factors to watch for as you wait for the final tallies.

1. Is Warren nearing the end of the road? Last fall, Elizabeth Warren was steadily rising in the polls, positioning herself as the candidate to beat come primary night. But now that day is here, and Warren is closer to an afterthought than to being the frontrunner. Read my colleague Adam Harris reporting from Manchester on Warren’s last stand.

2. Bernie Sanders is the runaway favorite to prevail tonight (take a spin in the time machine and read our piece about his 2016 victory in the state). The continued Sanders rise could be a dream scenario for one other Democratic candidate in particular.

3. New Hampshire voters also take their special position in the Democratic primary seriously. And for one voter in the state who is still (!) undecided, that’s a lot of pressure: “It’s like when you’re in college, and your paper’s due tomorrow,” she told Elaine Godfrey. Her list of favorites has narrowed to a manageable … seven or so candidates.

4. The state’s special position is under more scrutiny than ever. New Hampshire looks nothing like America as a whole, let alone a Democratic Party whose members are disproportionately nonwhite. If the winner of the state goes on to lose to Donald Trump, could New Hampshire lose its coveted status?

—Saahil Desai


1.“If Republicans want black votes, their strategy should be simple: End racial segregation.”

President Trump has been wooing African Americans of late, but these gestures won’t do all that much to win over black voters, Ismail K. White and Chryl N. Laird argue.

2. “Perhaps there could be a North and South California, or an East and West Massachusetts. A new state of Long Island … would be more populous than most of the presently existing states.”

It’s not a stretch to argue that American presidential elections are undemocratic: Two of the past three presidents have received fewer votes than their opponents, and Republicans have been able to take control of Congress even when winning fewer total votes than Democrats. But the way to address minority rule isn’t reversible legislation; it’s carving out more states, this Minnesota-based attorney argues.

3. “Indeed, anyone charged with defending the Constitution is morally and legally bound to disobey an illegal order.”

The president and his generals have often disagreed, but what happens when those military officers sworn to defend the Constitution must defy a presidential order? The military isn’t ready for that kind of crisis, one former U.S. navy pilot writes.



The Sanders Doctrine

What would President Sanders do? Our staff writer Uri Friedman, who covers national security and global affairs, explored what a Bernie Sanders presidency mean for America’s military presence in the world.

“Isolationist,” one frequent assumption about Sanders, certainly isn’t the right label.

Many European officials consider Sanders “a left-wing isolationist,” Gérard Araud, the former French ambassador to the United States, explained. They’re as “terrified” by the prospect of his presidency as of a second Trump term, because it would sow doubts about America’s continued commitment to NATO and sustaining the U.S.-led international system.

For many in the United States and the wider world, Sanders is a relative cipher on international affairs. But since his first presidential bid, in 2016, he has developed a serious set of foreign-policy views.

Read the rest.


Today’s newsletter was written by Saahil Desai, an editor on the Politics desk, and Christian Paz, a Politics fellow. It’s edited by Shan Wang, who oversees newsletters.

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