Is Trump Sui Generis?


Given Donald Trump's ongoing meltdown, all of this may be moot. But even a catastrophically failed presidential campaign has ramifications that can unfold for years, even decades to come, as well as lessons to teach us about the country. After all, many at the time saw Barry Goldwater's 1964 landslide loss as a fluke; the takeover of a mainstream party by a noisy, right-wing minority supposedly spelled the end of conservatism as a political force in the country. Yet historians now recognize that, even in defeat, Goldwater pointed the way to a major conservative revival. In contrast, Walter Mondale's historic drubbing in 1984 said a great deal about where the Democratic Party was coming from … [Read more...]

VP Debate 2016: Send in the Clowns!


Needless to say, somewhere Smokey Robinson is wondering “WTF?” or patting himself on the back for seeing into the future, maybe both. All over the heartland, real clowns are stalking the populace, horrifying rural and inner city populations alike.  The TV mini-series It turned 25 last year, and it’s as if the anniversary served as a dog whistle for a clown resurgence: a nation of Pennywises rising from obscurity. In almost parallel development, this year’s presidential campaign feels like an Edward Hopper painting, Stephen King novel, and three-ring circus all wrapped into one. The GOP debates functioned as a proverbial clown car with an array of insane candidates emerging to grasp an … [Read more...]

Reagan’s 1966 Gubernatorial Campaign Turns 50: California, Conservatism, and Donald Trump

"Reagan for Governor" pins from the David S. Broder Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.

On October 27, 1964, Ronald Reagan, in an attempt to right a flagging Barry Goldwater campaign, stepped up to a Los Angeles podium and proceeded to address a national television audience. The speech, “A Time for Choosing,” thrust Reagan into the national spotlight. As a spokesperson for General Electric, he’d given the speech hundreds of times to receptive audiences around the country, yet, as historian H.W. Brands argues, no oration in U.S. history “ever did more…to launch a national political career.” Never an office holder, Reagan had never even campaigned for an elected position. He had only been a Republican for two years, having identified with liberal causes for much of his life as a … [Read more...]

Is Hillary the Most Qualified Nominee for President Ever? HRC’s Résumé in American History

Hillary Clinton Attends Georgetown Institute For Women, Peace And Security Award Ceremony

“I can say with confidence: There has never been a man or a woman—not me, not Bill, nobody—more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as President of the United States of America.” –President Barack Obama at the 2016 Democratic National Convention In his speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, the President praised Hillary Clinton’s peerless résumé and called her the most qualified person ever to seek the presidency. Although the President is doubtless the foremost expert on the qualifications for his own job, his claim is inherently subjective. So how do Hillary Clinton’s twenty years as First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State really stack up against the other … [Read more...]

Shouting in Silence: 9/11 and the Importance of Saying Nothing Revisited


As August comes to a close, the dog days of summer end, leaving before everyone the distance of Fall. For some like myself, Fall remains the premier season of the year. The air cools, football, England’s Premier League (EPL), and basketball commence and the business of work begins. In its own way, Autumn initiates a sort of professional renewal. For New Yorkers (and yes those in Washington D.C. as well) though, Labor Day marks the uncomfortable memory of an impending milestone many would rather forget, 9/11. Unfortunately as the fifteenth anniversary of this national tragedy approaches, a cacophony of rhetoric seems to be greeting it. When I orginally wrote this post a couple of years back, … [Read more...]

Colin Kaepernick’s Critics Only Care about Symbolism and Ignore Substance


As for many American boys, sports were a staple of my life growing up in the 90s and it was rare to hear about contemporary athletes taking stands on political or social issues. Sure, there was Mohammed Ali, Jim Brown, John Carlos and Tommie Lee, but that was a different era and the urgency that impelled their activism seemed out of place at the time (in the mind of a white, middle class kid). The reigning most-famous athlete in the world at the time, one Michael Jordan, made it clear that he was not interested in wading into politics. When asked to support Harvey Gantt, an African American running against racist Republican North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms in 1990, Jordan reportedly (and … [Read more...]

Kaepernick’s Protest Gesture and the Militarization of Professional Sports


Colin Kaepernick’s recent gesture has shaken up the sports world because he has refused to take part in one of professional, and amateur-level, sports’ most normalized rituals: the playing of the national anthem. The gesture has made an impact not solely because he is denouncing the current state of US race relations, but because his gesture exposes some of the real contradictions in professional sports as key sites for normalizing nationalism, militarism, hetero-normative-patriarchy, and social darwinist ideology. This nexus is perhaps best described as the militarization of professional sport. Spending too much time watching professional sporting events might even lead one to believe … [Read more...]

Artisanal Despair and Farm-to-Table White Nationalism: Watching Trump in Austin


On Tuesday, after watching hip youngsters juggle dildos in protest of Texas’s new campus carry law (cocks not glocks!), I headed over to the Trump rally in east Austin. It’s a strange place for a Trump rally, and not just because it’s a blue island in a vast red sea. Austin's unemployment rate checks in at 3.6 percent, its population growth rate—around 20 percent—is one of the highest in the country, and it’s also the safest of Texas’s big cities. It’s not exactly the place where you’d expect a depiction of the country as a crime-ridden, impoverished hellscape to be well received. But it mostly was, though you can probably chalk this up to the basic nature of campaign rallies. I’ve been to … [Read more...]

The Triumph of the TA: Graduate Students and the Future of Postindustrial Labor


On Tuesday afternoon, I got the most welcome news I’ve gotten in a long time. In a 3-1 vote, the National Labor Relations Board reversed a Bush-era decision that denied graduate student employees at private universities the right to unionize. This news might seem both trivial and esoteric.  After all, the wording of the last sentence implies an exceedingly narrow and likely small slice of the overall workforce—that’s the esoteric part. And the fact that it has to do with, to a significant extent, PhD students at the likes of Yale, NYU, and Columbia—well, we are not exactly talking about an eleven-year-old toiling in the dark Satanic mill of yore.  Such students might seem privileged and … [Read more...]

The Miranda-Obama Collaboration (From Hamilton to Puerto Rico)

Hamilton Burr musical

On March 14, President Barack Obama welcomed the company of the hit Broadway musical Hamilton to a special White House performance.  In his introductory remarks, Obama celebrated Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop rendering of Alexander Hamilton’s “quintessentially American story,” and quickly identified the reason why the show has become a “cultural phenomenon.”  “In each brilliantly crafted song,” said the president, “we hear the debates that shaped our nation, and we hear the debates that are still shaping our nation.” Shifting to the same playful tone that has characterized his other recent public appearances, Obama even staked a claim to his own role in getting the show off the ground.  He … [Read more...]