Jay Cost


Jay Cost is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard and the author of A Republic No More: Big Government and the Rise of American Political Corruption.

Stories by Jay Cost


The View from 1787

What would Madison make of Donald Trump?
Feb 15, 2016

Donald Trump sits atop national polls for the Republican nomination, with supporters arguing he is precisely the person to fight special interests, return power to the people, and “make America great again." If he were alive today, James Madison would surely disagree. The writings of the nation's fourth president offer several strong admonitions against rallying to the Trump banner.

Judging the Trump candidacy by Madison's standards is worthwhile, for two reasons. First, some of Trump's biggest fans consider themselves constitutionalists—and nobody was more important in the design, ratification, and defense of the Constitution than Madison. For 30 years, from 1787 until 1817, he was at the center of every

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Yes, Trump Can Be Defeated

5:30 AM, Feb 01, 2016
Sound theory and solid data suggest Trump can be taken down. Read more

Jeb Bush's Solipsistic Campaign

7:02 AM, Jan 27, 2016
What exactly is Team Bush up to? Read more

Why Hasn't the GOP Stopped Trump?

5:30 AM, Jan 25, 2016

Donald Trump is not a conservative. He is only recently a Republican. He is losing in the polls to Hillary Clinton. He is mean and abrasive, and he manifestly lacks the temperament to be president of the United States.

So why is the Republican party letting him skate by? Indeed, there are reports that some in the “establishment" are sidling up to the real estate mogul.

This question has been on the mind of sensible, public-spirited conservatives, as Trump continues to float above the fray—largely untouched by other candidates and enjoying a huge bonanza of free publicity from the press.

What gives?

The answer gets to the nature, and limits of the modern political party.

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The Long Game

A guide to counting delegates.
Feb 01, 2016

The conventional wisdom about Republican presidential nominations goes something like this: Either (1) a single candidate wins Iowa and New Hampshire, then sweeps the rest of the field; or (2) the winner in Iowa fails to take New Hampshire, and we wait a few weeks for South Carolina and Nevada to figure out who the nominee will be. Either way, the whole thing wraps up early, and the later contests do not matter.

These scenarios have played out, though, when the top candidates have been generally acceptable to the majority of Republicans. Under those circumstances, letting Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada sort out the candidates makes sense: The rest of the party will endorse that selection.

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Trump v. Cruz: Game On!

5:30 AM, Jan 18, 2016

The battle between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz has finally begun. A few thoughts on this long-anticipated fight:

(1) The timing is noteworthy. Whereas other candidates—above all Jeb Bush—have been trying, with limited success, to hit Trump for some time, Cruz has held back. Here's why: The decision-making process of primary and caucus voters must dictate the timing; they are only now beginning to engage, so now is the time that attacks can really influence the outcome.

Consider, for instance, the late movements in Iowa in 2012, when Rick Santorum came out of nowhere to defeat Mitt Romney narrowly. Consider also 2008. Even though Mike Huckabee had already broken away by this point, there was still notable

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2016 Forecast: Fog

Why the GOP race abounds with uncertainty.
Jan 18, 2016

After nearly a year of buildup, the Republican nomination process is finally set to begin. What do we know about how things will unfold?

Precious little, as it happens. This is the most open Republican nomination battle in a generation, if not more. The large number of candidates, the unpredictable behavior of Donald Trump, and the lack of a clear frontrunner all conspire to make this race as hard to predict as defeating Garry Kasparov in a game of three-dimensional chess. Time and again, predictions about the state of the race have been quickly exposed as erroneous.

These forecasting errors could persist. In fact, there are four very good reasons why we might not have our first clue about the real shape of the race until

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The Triumph of the Outsiders

Trump and Rubio and Cruz; oh my.
Dec 28, 2015

With just over a month until the Iowa caucuses, the Republican nomination field is taking clearer form. Of the original 17 candidates, only 4 can be said to remain in top contention: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Ben Carson.

What to make of these candidates, and what does their preeminence tell us about the Republican party as it heads into the presidential election year?

Of the top four, only Carson is following a well-worn path. While his personal story is unique, his appeal is traditional. The early date of the Iowa caucuses has long meant that candidates with a strong connection to evangelical Christians endeavor to use Iowa as a springboard to the nomination.

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The Disloyal Opposition

We need a better form of partisanship.
Dec 07, 2015

If you were to acquire political information only from former and current officials of the Obama administration, you would think the Republican party is borderline seditious. President Obama himself regularly castigates Republican motives as un-American. Last week, in a typical tweet aimed at Republican presidential candidates, he said, “Slamming the door in the face of refugees would betray our deepest values. That’s not who we are.”

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The Rules Matter

The decline of the GOP establishment and the rise of Trump.
Dec 14, 2015

The Trump phenomenon continues apace, immune to the boorishness and ignorance of its avatar. It does not seem to matter what Donald Trump says or does—he continues to lead the Republican field by a wide margin.

Often overlooked when scrutinizing Trump's dominance are the rules of the Republican nomination process. These are not a sufficient condition for Trump's ascent, but they are certainly a necessary factor. The GOP's rules used to work well for the party because its voters and leaders trusted and respected one another. But this mutual geniality has been replaced with condescension and suspicion, which has created a massive power vacuum for a demagogue like Trump to fill.

The rules of a political institution

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She Botched It

What we’ve learned about Hillary Clinton’s performance at the State Department
Nov 09, 2015

The mainstream media, liberal pundits, and even some conservative analysts gave Hillary Clinton high marks for her performance at the October 22 hearing of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, and they scored congressional Republicans negatively. The day was widely deemed a huge win for Clinton and a crucial moment in turning her campaign around.

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Fix the Filibuster

But don’t destroy it
Nov 02, 2015

We hear endlessly these days from the left and the right that our political system is “broken.” The left’s principal complaint is that it is too hard to pass their desired legislation. Liberals pine for a parliamentary system, where the majority party in the legislature controls public policy. Our Founders, however, devised a novel structure of checks and balances that makes enacting legislation difficult. If that constitutional design is functioning as intended, it can hardly be said to be “broken.” 

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Hillary Changes the Definition of ‘Work-Related Emails’

6:10 AM, Oct 23, 2015

Late in yesterday’s

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What the Hell Is Going On?

The fraying of the national political consensus.
Oct 12, 2015

The latest political happenings—the rise of Donald Trump, John Boehner’s surprise resignation as speaker of the House of Representatives, Hillary Clinton’s slide against the septuagenarian socialist Bernie Sanders—remind me of a verse from the old Rolling Stones song “Jigsaw Puzzle”:

Oh, there’s twenty-thousand grandmas.

Wave their hankies in the air.

All burning up their pensions

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Can Biden Defeat Her?

The party hasn’t decided yet.
Oct 05, 2015

By most accounts, Joe Biden is very close to running for president. His entry would shake up the Democratic race. But could he possibly defeat Hillary Clinton?

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Desperately Seeking Consensus

Where is the Republicans’ Goldilocks?
Sep 28, 2015

Judging by the number of House and Senate seats, governorships, and state legislative seats it holds, the Republican party is stronger than at any point since the 1920s. Yet, going by the presidential nomination battle alone, the party is a mess. There are too many candidates, a few of whom are distracting the public with their self-aggrandizing shenanigans, spurred on by ratings-hungry cable-news networks.

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The Art of the Donald

Why has Trump risen so far, so fast?
Sep 21, 2015

The Donald Trump candidacy has inspired a hundred writers to pen a thousand think pieces about the meaning of it all. Is Trump’s surge the sign of a new breed of populism? Is it the Tea Party reborn? Is it the reemergence of the old Ross Perot-Pat Buchanan strand of protectionism? Does it signal a right-wing nativism similar to what is bubbling up in Europe? 

Maybe what’s going on is simpler: The Trump surge is, primarily if not entirely, about Donald Trump. 

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The Annals of Corruption

Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy ranks way up there.
Aug 24, 2015

Hillary Clinton is a scandalous candidate for president of the United States. Most people acknowledge this, at least judging by her plummeting poll numbers. A raft of stories gives the distinct impression that she and her husband have been running an elaborate pay-to-play operation. Donations to the Clinton Foundation may have produced favorable State Department policies dealing with Russia-owned U.S. uranium deposits, Haitian relief efforts, and foreign banking interests.

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Nothing But Disappointment: Trump, Immigration, and the GOP

1:56 PM, Aug 17, 2015

Donald Trump’s campaign web page is telling.

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Good News: The Democrats Ditch Jefferson

He Never Belonged To Them Anyway!
9:15 AM, Aug 14, 2015

With South Carolina removing the Confederate flag from its capitol grounds, state and local Democratic parties seem to have developed an urge to purge. Salena Zito of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports on an effort to get rid of the party’s founders:

[In] state after state, the new racial and identity politics of the modern Democratic Party is erasing them from its history.

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Why They Like Him

The Republicans’ principal-agent problem.
Aug 10, 2015

Donald Trump is not going to be the next nominee of the Republican party. The flamboyant businessman has made billions in real estate, but politics is another matter. He manifestly lacks the temperament to be president, and his conversion to the Republican party is of recent vintage. As the field narrows, and voters look closely at the other candidates, Trump will fade.

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Jay Cost: Trump Has Supporters, But Does He Have Voters?

Hosted by Michael Graham.
12:50 PM, Aug 06, 2015

THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with staff writer Jay Cost about Donald Trump's supporters.

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They Really, Really Don’t Like Him

Our unpopular president.
Aug 03, 2015

Barack Obama is not popular. This plain and simple fact may surprise those who read only legacy journalists, who often elide this inconvenient truth. A recent Associated Press write-up is illustrative:

Even as the public remains closely divided about his presidency, Barack Obama is holding on to his support from the so-called “Obama coalition” of minorities, liberals and young Americans, an Associated Press-GfK poll shows, creating an incentive for the next Democratic presidential nominee to stick with him and his policies.

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Hillary’s Headache

Bernie Sanders can cause her a lot of pain.
Jul 20, 2015

Bernie Sanders, the socialist senator from Vermont, is surging in the polls against Hillary Clinton. A Quinnipiac University survey has him within 20 points in Iowa, while three of the last four polls have found him within 15 points in New Hampshire. Judging by state polls alone, Sanders is in about as good a spot vis-à-vis Clinton as Barack Obama was at this point in 2007. So perhaps it is time to ask whether Sanders can pull off a similar upset.

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Running on Empty

So much for ecstatic modes of living.
Jul 06, 2015

In 1969, a young Hillary Rodham was chosen to give a commencement address to the graduating class of Wellesley College, and she used the occasion to deliver some fairly radical remarks. She spoke of her generation feeling “that our prevailing, acquisitive, and competitive corporate life, including tragically the universities, is not the way of life for us.

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Party On

There are far worse things than partisanship.
Jun 29, 2015

It has never been easy to be a conservative in “polite” society, but these days it seems to be getting harder. We live in an age when opposition to liberalism is increasingly deemed illegitimate.

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The GOP, the Black Vote, and the Confederate Flag

Hosted by Michael Graham.
2:25 PM, Jun 22, 2015

THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with staff writer Jay Cost on his piece "Fighting for the Black Vote" and the recent debate about the confederate flag.

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Fighting for the Black Vote

Hillary Clinton is a demagogue, but the GOP is AWOL.
Jun 22, 2015

Speaking at the historically black Texas Southern University earlier this month, Hillary Clinton gave a fiery speech on voting rights. She accused Republicans of spearheading “a sweeping effort to disempower and disenfranchise people of color, poor people, and young people from one end of our country to the other.”

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Leave Hamilton Alone!

And take Jackson off the $20.
1:35 PM, Jun 18, 2015

On Wednesday, the Treasury Department

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Every Man a Political Donor

A revolutionary campaign finance idea.
Jun 15, 2015


Writing recently in the Daily Beast, John Pudner of Take Back Our Republic, a conservative reform group, offered an interesting proposal for improving our campaign finance system. He suggested that each political donor receive a tax credit worth up to $200:

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