No, American Citizenship Is Not Necessarily Inclusive

american crucible

The rise of Donald Trump has induced a collective shudder through much of America.  For many, the GOP nominee is jeopardizing our most cherished ideals, a broad and capacious sense of who could be an American citizen, and norms that forbid open and outright expression of racist sentiment. The last Republican president at least had the decency to insist that Islam is a “religion of peace,” however destructive his policies might have been to actual Muslims, at home and abroad. Liberals and more than a few conservatives find themselves saying, This is not us.  This is not the America we know. Michael Gerson recently penned one of the more impassioned statements in this genre, looking aghast … [Read more...]

Dog Days Classics: Digging Joan Didion in the Age of Feelings

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In her review of 2015’s The Last Love Song, Tracy Daugherty’s biography of famed writer Joan Didion, Meghan Daum noted the influence that the California essayist and novelist cast upon many a writer over the years. That The Last Love Song serves as the only biography of Didion, she noted, seemed odd. “Given the number of writers who, especially early in their literary lives, go through a period of Didion-mania intense enough to put most of her vital statistics permanently at their fingertips (the rain-soaked silk curtains in the apartment on 75th Street! the house on Franklin Avenue! the Corvette!),” Daum wrote, “you would think we’d have seen at least as many biographies of her in the past … [Read more...]

Newt’s Predictably Gonzo Dissertation: Belgian Colonialism For the Win!

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Eric Foner once said that the worst possible form of government would be government by academics.  Anyone acquainted with higher education and academe knows in their bones that this is among the truest statements ever uttered by man. The typical faculty meeting is enough to prove the point, but look at the facts: America has only had one president with a PhD, the political scientist, former Princeton president, and priggish racist Woodrow Wilson.  That went well.  (As the estimable W.E.B. Du Bois put it in 1918, watching Wilson preen before the fawning masses of war-torn Europe, “He smiled and bowed right and left and seemed to have no apprehension of the difficulty, perhaps the … [Read more...]

When Trump Loses

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By now, we should all be tired of hearing how Trump has tossed the playbook out the window. He opened his campaign by calling Mexicans rapists, insulting POWs, and verbally assaulting women. He called prominent members of his own party “pathetic” and “losers.” He was an insurgent with no ground game, no donors, and no shame. He did it his way, and Republican voters have rewarded him with elevation to the position of de facto leader of his party. Democrats once rubbed their hands with glee at the prospect of running a general campaign against a party with Trump at the head of the ticket. Now they are nervous. Trump has not just narrowed the polling gap with Hillary—he has obliterated … [Read more...]

Nixonian Trump?: The Similarities and Differences between The Donald and Tricky Dick

Jose Perez and Robert F. Patton, Nixon/Agnew Coloring Book, 1969, David S. Broder papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

In a satirical take on the 1968 election, Jose Perez and Robert F. Patton produced The Nixon-Agnew Coloring Book, in which Hubert Humphrey in the form of a bird named “Hubird” narrated events and instructed readers on how to decorate the characters therein. Having lost to Dick Nixon in the ’68 race, Hubird admitted the new president had worked for it: “This is President Nixon. See him run, And run, and run, and run. He finally made it. Color him Patient.” Later in the book, Hubird basically calls Nixon a used car salesman, but you get the idea.[1] Nixon secured victory—301 electoral votes to Humphrey’s 191 and George Wallace’s 45, with less than 45 percent of the popular vote. In … [Read more...]

The GOP’s Confederacy of Dunces

ignatius reilly

Here are a few of the oft-repeated explanations for the rise of Donald Trump: racism; economic anxiety; his supposed outsider appeal; America isn’t great anymore. As the inside-the-beltway crowd and the media grapple with reasons why the Donald’s message (if you want to call it that) has resonated with millions of American people, it seems they are missing the point. The real story here – what Trump’s risible and horrific place in American politics truly reveals – is that a large swathe of Americans are deeply, deeply uninformed. Sure, it’s not the most popular thing to say, to point your finger at America and exclaim “you’re an idiot!” But, it’s statistically borne out, particularly on the … [Read more...]

How the GOP Is Shredding North Carolina’s Moderate Image – and Threatening Its Economy

A scene from a "Moral Monday" protest in Raleigh, 2013

When it comes to attracting businesses and jobs, the state’s far-rightward shift is simply bad branding Republicans in North Carolina have been busy remaking the state in the last three years, slashing education spending, restricting rights to voting and abortion, and curbing environmental regulations. Yet nothing has captured international attention quite like HB2, a law that bars local communities from passing anti-discrimination ordinances and denies transgender people access to the restroom of the gender they identify with. Such legislation is part of a nationwide movement to roll back LGBT rights, but not every state has responded in the same way. For instance, Georgia’s Republican … [Read more...]

The Walk of Shame: Voting for Newt Gingrich in 2012

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Long ago, I was a registered Republican. I might have been a ride-or-die liberal, but I had the brilliant plan of voting in GOP primaries in order to throw the nomination to the wackiest, most fringe candidate—which, at the time, seemed to be Pat Buchanan. We’ve come a long way, baby! I never got the chance to do that, since a truly contested Republican primary never happened in my home state. By the time I moved to New York, I registered as a Democrat so I could intervene in the contest between Howard Dean and Johns Kerry and Edwards (the latter the most “john” of all). By 2008, Rush Limbaugh had caught wind of my original plan and advised his supporters to go vote in states where there … [Read more...]

Marco Rubio: The Eddie Haskell of Republican Politics

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) (L) is interviewed by National Journal's Major Garrett during the Washington Ideas forum, at The Newseum in Washington October 5, 2011. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS) - RTR2S9FR

I didn’t really grow up in the South, but then again, neither did Marco Rubio. (As all good geographers know, Miami is officially somewhere in the Middle Atlantic, in an indeterminate and ever-shifting place between Metuchen and Washington Heights, like the island from LOST.) But we both know the quintessentially Southern importance of good manners and due deference to elders. Marco is the Student Body Vice President who comes over and charms your mom by saying, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Cummings. You have a lovely home.” Which is why he can’t really be brought to say a bad word about a certain Manhattan real estate billionaire—“I’ve made a decision here with Donald Trump, you … [Read more...]

The Orange Menace and the Angry Snowman: A Cautionary Tale

I'm with menopausal

“Borderline/Feels like I'm going to lose my mind/You just keep on pushing my love/Over the borderline,” sang Madonna in the Gen X 1980s classic. In so many ways, last night’s GOP debate epitomized the Material Girl’s 1983 dilemma. Whether it was Mike Huckabee’s work as a bassist in a J. Geils cover band (“My Angel is a centerfold”… named Kim Davis), Teddy Cruz’s bizarre pronunciation of Ayatollah Khamenei—it sounded like Common Knee, who I am pretty sure was a Native American leader in colonial times—or Jeb! Bush’s uncanny Will Ferrell impersonation, the Republican candidates seemed to cross borders real and imagined all night. The orgiastic love fest for the late Ronald Reagan edged ever … [Read more...]