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From the campaign trail
November 6th, 2012
01:05 PM ET

OPINION: If it's close, watch out

By Julian Zelizer, CNN Contributor

Editor's note: Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of "Jimmy Carter" and of the new book "Governing America."

(CNN) - Election night could be a long one. Many of the polls continue to show a tight race with the candidates remaining in a dead heat in the swing states. Whoever wins the election, it might not be by much.

Close elections have produced challenges for the victor once he starts his term in the White House. If voters don't provide a clear mandate, presidents often find that they have added challenges when dealing with Congress, as legislators have far less fear about the commander in chief.

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Filed under: CNN Opinion • Politics • Voices
OPINION: Do facts matter?
Vice President Joe Biden said "facts matter" in his debate with Paul Ryan, but does that turn out to be true in politics?
October 16th, 2012
04:00 PM ET

OPINION: Do facts matter?

Editor's note: Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of "Jimmy Carter" and of the new book "Governing America." Join him for a live chat on Twitter from noon to 12:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday @CNNOpinion about whether facts still matter in politics today.

Princeton, New Jersey (CNN) - The fact-checkers have been out in force for months.

With the presidential and vice presidential debates fully under way, and both parties claiming that their opponents are liars, websites and news shows are inundated with experts and reporters who inform voters about whether candidates are making claims that have little basis in fact.

Like the card game "B.S," in which players call fellow players when they lie about what card has been put into the collective pile, the fact-checkers shout out to Americans when they find that politicians are injecting falsehood into the news cycle.

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OPINION: Three hurdles for Obama, Romney
September 17th, 2012
03:25 PM ET

OPINION: Three hurdles for Obama, Romney

Editor's note: Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of "Jimmy Carter" and of the new book "Governing America."

(CNN) – Now that the conventions are over, CNN Contributor Julian Zelizer says the final phase of campaign begins. Given how close this race is, and the handful of states that will determine the outcome, each of these three challenges has the capacity to produce a significant swing in November:

1. The advertising wars:

[0:33] "Whether voters like it or not, the truth is that much of the fall revolves around character assassination on television and the radio, and now the Internet."

2. The presidential debates:

[1:30] "It will be a high visibility moment when both candidates can shine or stumble as a result of their physical actions and rhetorical skills."

3. The "ground game":

[2:19] "Even in an age of the Internet and smart phones, have dedicated people working to get out the vote in communities throughout the country can have a huge impact."

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OPINION: Can Obama split the GOP?
Julian Zelizer says President Obama's immigration move won't fracture the GOP.
June 27th, 2012
12:04 PM ET

OPINION: Can Obama split the GOP?

(CNN) –  Historically, presidents have succeeded in dividing the opposition party. But, as CNN contributor Julian Zelizer says, Obama's move on immigration won't fracture the GOP. Instead, the move will likely be thrown back at him and characterized as a politically expedient action taken in an election year.

"Republican Dwight Eisenhower turned the table on Democrats in 1956 and 1957 when he moved out front on civil rights legislation. In this period, the Democratic Party was deeply divided on what to do about racial inequality." [1:45]

"This decision was made through the executive branch's authority, thereby diminishing the payback that comes from winning a battle on the legislative front, which requires building political support and mobilizing the public behind an idea." [2:18]

CNN Opinion: What really kills family values
Cast members of "Death of a Salesman" take a curtain call at their Broadway opening on March 15 in New York City.
May 3rd, 2012
03:36 PM ET

CNN Opinion: What really kills family values

By Julian Zelizer, CNN Contributor

Editor's note: Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of "Jimmy Carter" (Times Books) and of the new book "Governing America" (Princeton University Press).

Princeton, New Jersey (CNN) - Seen from the perspective of 2012, the stunning Broadway revival of "Death of a Salesman" offers a powerful reminder that economic policy and family values go hand-in-hand.

Although many current politicians like to separate these two issues, the economic foundation of the family is central to its long-term health. In this classic play by Arthur Miller, premiered in 1949 to mesmerized audiences that had lived through the Great Depression, the protagonist is salesman Willy Loman, who is mentally broken down from his constant travel and struggle to make ends meet.

"A small man can be just as exhausted as a great man," says Loman's wife, Linda. Loman's son Biff is unable to find a job and fulfill his father's hopes. Biff and his brother, Happy, are worried about their father's mental health, which is rapidly deteriorating.

When Willy tries to find a job where he can stay in town to take better care of himself and his family, he ends up losing his job. The story disintegrates from there, culminating with Willy tragically committing suicide with the hope that Biff will use the life insurance money to start his own business.

Too often, politicians ignore the kinds of strains that economic problems cause for families.

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