Ron Elving

Several U.S. presidents have been known for their love of reading history, especially biographies and most especially biographies of former presidents.

If President Biden did not have this White House habit yet, now would be a good time to pick it up.

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In a video series originally published in 2017, NPR explains the filibuster – a 60-vote threshold for most legislation in the Senate.

Not long ago, the idea of another American Civil War seemed outlandish.

These days, the notion has not only gone mainstream, it seems to suddenly be everywhere.

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Well, joining us now is NPR's Ron Elving. Ron, Happy New Year. Good morning.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Happy New Year. Good to be with you, David.

Newspaper headline writers joke about keeping "Democrats in Disarray" set in type, just to be ready the next time it's needed.

In any given year or season, that "standing head" pops up about as often as "Weather Snarls Traffic" or "Middle East Peace Talks Collapse."

Consider the headline or TV-screen-crawl you've seen (a lot) since the October consumer price index hit the news. It said something like: "Inflation Hits 30-year High, Democrats Doomed."

Year over year, things cost 6.2% more this October than last, and the steepest increases were for food and energy — especially energy. Gas prices proclaim their ascent high in the air over street corners everywhere.

Let's assume you have spent at least a few minutes this week thinking about former President Donald Trump or something he has said or done. So ask yourself: Did anything seem different? Was it the same thought process with the same attitude as when you thought of him, say, two weeks ago?

On Tuesday, Virginia and New Jersey will have their Election Day and count votes that have already been coming in for governor and other state offices. Watching intently with widened eyes will be the national media, which by poll-closing time may seem wild with anticipation.

Because these two states alone hold statewide elections one year after the presidential election, they have come to attract far more attention for these votes than they would otherwise receive.

The Republican Party has tackled countless controversies since its birth in the 1850s, but it is hard to find a precedent for the posture it finds itself in today.

Most of what Republicans espouse as a unified minority in Congress comes straight from the party's identical platforms for 2016 and 2020.

But a glaring new feature has been added to the party's agenda at the insistence of former President Donald Trump. Its adoption among Republican candidates and officeholders bespeaks his undiminished grip on the GOP's most passionate voters.

Democrats in Washington are divided.

You've no doubt read and heard news reports that detail the recent infighting, as headline writers for weeks have been digging to find synonyms for discord, disarray, dissent and disagreement.

The party is portrayed as split, on the outs and at odds.

And in the game of Washington power politics, party unity matters. Disunity kills.

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Speaking sorrowfully to the nation from the White House last week, President Biden lengthened a chain that was already far too long, a chain of presidential remorse — and vows of revenge — over the loss of American lives in faraway conflicts few Americans understand.

"We will not forgive, and we will not forget," said Biden, with an intensity he rarely shows, speaking of the deaths of 13 U.S. military personnel at the Abbey Gate to the Kabul airport are the latest additions to an honor roll that was also far too long.

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