The political class has finally begun to make sense of Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-Va.) out-of-nowhere primary defeat to economics professor David Brat. Two principal subjects have emerged: the Tea Party and Cantor himself.
In the narrative involving the former — Tea Party being shorthand here for very conservative voters — Cantor started off as a Tea Party spearhead who led a strategy of total opposition to President Obama that culminated victoriously in Republicans taking the House in 2010. Once Cantor was in power, however, he had to make the kind of decisions (like not defaulting on the country's debt) that failed to satisfy the base's unslakable thirst for total warfare. For versions of this story, see Dave Weigel at Slate and Brian Beutler at The New Republic.
The narrative that Republicans themselves prefer is that Cantor was a soulless ladder-climber who had completely lost touch with his constituents in Virginia's 7th District. They point to the fact that Sen. Lindsey Graham handily won his primary in South Carolina despite being one of the more moderate Republicans out there, and that Cantor tellingly spent Election Day at a Starbucks in D.C. hobnobbing with corporate lobbyists — not in his hometown. Republicans prefer this storyline because it is the one that gives them a prayer of uniting their excitable base with a more moderate platform that can actually win national elections.
So which one did Cantor in? The answer, most likely, is a bit of both. The problem for Republicans is that no figure at a national level has so far been able to thread this needle, and Cantor's demise is some pretty strong evidence that it may not even be possible. Ryu Spaeth
During a press conference on Thursday for what historians will one day refer to simply as The Pledge, Donald Trump found time to rave about Kanye West, saying, "I would never say bad about [Kanye] because he says such nice things about me." It wasn't the first time Trump has name-dropped the rapper — in fact, the two have a long and occasionally tense history.
Trump has been known to call West a good friend, and they even sound eerily similar when they speak. For his part, West has at times clashed with the current administration, a frequent target of Trump's.
Still, Kimye spent the night of the first Republican debate chilling with Hillary Clinton, and Kim Kardashian also tweeted a selfie before the rendezvous, calling Clinton "our next president."
The 2016 election, in other words, could be a test of loyalties for West. Here's a peek at the history between him and The Donald name-checking each other:
2015: Trump on West: "I'll never say bad about Kanye West. I love him. But maybe in a few years I'll have to run against him and take that back." Earlier in the week, Trump also said: "[West is] a nice guy. I hope to run against him someday."
2014: Trump on if he got a Kimye wedding invite: "Well, I don't know that I'd be invited, but I definitely wish them the best of luck. I know them well and they're both very nice people so I hope they do well."
2010: Kanye West in "So Appalled": "I'm so appalled/Spalding balled/Balled in and Donald Trump taking dollars from y'all/Baby your fire and your girlfriend hired/And if you don’t mind, I'ma keep you on call"
2009: Donald Trump: Following the Taylor Swift controversy, he calls West "disgusting," demands a boycott of all things Kanye West.
Donald Trump swore off the possibility of a third-party run on Thursday, when he announced signing a pledge of loyalty to the Republican Party. Trump, who famously refused to rule out a third-party bid in Fox News' big GOP debate in August, said Thursday that he had been treated "with great respect" since ascending to the top spot in the GOP presidential polls, and that he sees "no circumstances under which I would tear up that pledge." By signing the pledge, Trump will avoid complications of getting on primary ballots as a Republican, and also rob opponents of an attack line at the next debate. Jeva Lange
Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, who defied the Supreme Court's order to issue same-sex marriage licenses, was jailed Thursday after she was found in contempt of court. Davis, citing her religious beliefs, stopped issuing marriage licenses — to any couples, gay or straight — in June after the Supreme Court ruled same-sex couples had the right to marry.
Lawyers for four spurned couples asked a judge to impose fines to force her to comply. Davis has previously said she was prepared to go to jail for her actions. Jeva Lange
If SAT scores are any indication, then hundreds of thousands of teenagers graduated in 2015 unprepared for college. According to College Board, which owns the test, SAT scores plummeted to their lowest average in a decade, despite the test being overhauled in 2005. The average score for the class of 2015 was 1490 out of 2400, down 7 points from 2014. Scores dropped across all three sections — in reading, writing, and math.
Only 42 percent of students who took the SATs earned a score of 1550 or higher, a troubling statistic considering the College Board calls this threshold the "college and career readiness" level. The scores were also lower for minorities: Only 23 percent of Hispanic students and 16 percent of African-American students made the 1550-or-higher cutoff. Poverty, language barriers, and low levels of parental education are cited by The Washington Post as possible factors in the dismal scores.
Although a new version of the SAT, with an essay-optional writing section, will be given to the class of 2016, it would likely take a major education overhaul to surmount the troubles students encounter when they hit high school level classes. "Simply doing the same things we have been doing is not going to improve these numbers," Cyndie Schmeiser, the chief of assessment for the College Board, told The Washington Post. "This is a call to action to do something different to propel more students to readiness." Jeva Lange
The Bernie Sanders campaign still faces an uphill battle challenging the Clinton juggernaut for the Democratic nomination, but there's one place where he's already won: Reddit.
If you're not familiar with the site, Reddit is a massive online forum that allows users to "upvote" and "downvote" user-submitted content, and it's divided into subreddits, which are single-topic forums users can subscribed to or ignore according to personal interests.
Sanders currently has more than 80 subreddits devoted to his cause, including one for every single state plus Washington, DC. The primary subreddit of the bunch, r/SandersforPresident, has nearly 100,00 subscribers, meaning there are lots of upvotes constantly pushing pro-Sanders content into the view of Reddit's 203 million monthly visitors. State-based subreddits have played a key role in organizing for real life events, too, helping Sanders pack stadiums with thousands of supporters.
This is not the first time Reddit has cottoned to a presidential candidate: In 2008 and 2012, Ron Paul was Reddit's choice for aggressively upvoted underdog, to the point that frustrated non-Paul supporters created an r/EnoughPaulSpam subreddit in protest. Bonnie Kristian
While Donald Trump himself may speak at the level of a fourth grader, the controversy surrounding his campaign has had the positive side effect of making Americans brush up on their vocabulary skills.
The editors of Merriam-Webster's online dictionary have noticed spikes in research on a number of campaign-related words, and Trump, says Merriam-Webster Associate Editor Kory Stamper, "has brought up the motherlode of lookups." He has particularly inspired curiosity about "demagoguery" and "misogyny."
But Trump isn't the only candidate unintentionally making us a little smarter this campaign season. The release of Hillary Clinton's emails, for instance, fueled interest in "louche," a word used by one of her advisers to describe House Speaker John Boehner.
Stamper expects these lookup trends to continue throughout election season. "It's going to be a long, verbose 14 months," he said. Bonnie Kristian
When pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP (Truvada), first hit the market, critics were skeptical of the pill's claims that it could keep clients HIV-free if it at the same time lured people into believing they could have safe sex condom-free. However, 657 clients and more than two years later, it looks like that has, in fact, been the case: Not one person on the pill caught the virus, The New York Times reports.
However, critics who suggested the security provided by PrEP — which is close to 100 percent successful — would lead to a false sense of security about sexually transmitted diseases appear to have been correct. Gay men in the study did use fewer condoms, and about half became infected with syphilis, gonorrhea, or Chlamydia within a year. Forty percent said their condom use decreased, although the vast majority said their number of sexual partners remained the same. At least there's this: While HIV (which can develop into AIDS) is controlled with antiretroviral drugs taken for life, most other STDs are treated with a run of antibiotics. Jeva Lange