The Monitor: The Punk Album that Predicted Our Politics

One night soon after we moved to Atlanta, I was hanging out at the Graveyard Tavern, killing time before a show.  I picked up the local indie music magazine and read a review of a new album by a band called Titus Andronicus.  As a history professor, I was both intrigued and mortified.  It seemed audacious on so many fronts: they were named after Shakespeare’s most notoriously violent play, a punk band attempting a concept album about the Civil War. Yes, that Civil War. The one with Stonewall Jackson and ironclads. It sounds like a recipe for a prog-ish, pretentious disaster, right? The Monitor ended up being one of my favorite albums—one that I continually go back to and enjoy for its … [Read more...]

Can We Imagine Something More? Reckoning with Naomi Klein’s No Is Not Enough

In his lecture “The Robbery of the Soil,” Rabindranath Tagore imagines the moon to have been once hospitable to life. This, he tells us, was the case until an intelligent species found life on it. This species soon busied itself with devouring and devastating this once thriving member of the solar system. Its acquisitiveness did not, obviously, lend it contentment and, instead, led to nature being stripped of its finite resources for this species’ infinite wants. To corner whatever resources remained, war among various sects of this species became unavoidable, and they ended up emptying their home of water and vegetation and reduced it to a desert. Life on the moon, ultimately, became … [Read more...]

A Hard Man in a Hard Time: Joe Manchin and the Fight for West Virginia

First of all, as a Democrat, this needs to be said: to Hell with Joe Manchin. He has long been a member of the party in name only, and is to put it charitably, a toady for the coal industry and the NRA. As West Virginia has shifted even further to the right, Manchin has recently distinguished himself by voting for most of President Trump’s cabinet, supporting U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, and declining to weigh in on the DREAM Act. If these stances weren’t enough, there is a lingering cloud of nepotism and avarice: his daughter, Heather Bresch, was both the recipient of a ill-gotten M.B.A from West Virginia University while her father was the governor and the C.E.O. … [Read more...]

Can Democrats Win by Peeling Off Pro-Life Voters? Probably Not

Journalist Lauren Duca received a lot of criticism in the Twitterverse from more moderate and conservative Democrats for her tweet above. Much of it was self-consciously pragmatic, the favorite word of a particular breed of serious pundit. Duca simply wasn’t thinking strategically. Any winning strategy for the Democrats in 2018 and 2020, they argue, must shave off at least some votes from conservative whites, especially in congressional races. But there’s a pragmatic reason why Duca is right. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s move, which opens up the probablity of the party recruiting anti-abortion candidates for House races, could alienate the Democratic base and dampen … [Read more...]

America and Russia: The Real Story Is Not What You Think

We here at Tropics of Meta--and our sister podcast Doomed to Repeat--have been thinking about Russia for a while. Remember when then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried a goofy PR gesture of handing Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov a "reset button," meant to symbolize a desire to renew relations between the US and Russia?  (The Russian word on the button actually meant "overcharged," not "reset." Foreshadowing much?) Remember when Mitt Romney said Russia was our "number one geopolitical foe"--and everyone laughed at this weird Cold War throwback? Well, when we sat down to start mapping out our new podcast series in the Summer of 2016, we were casting about for ideas, and we … [Read more...]

Telling the Story of Healthcare Reform (Again)

The Affordable Care Act was passed a mere few months after Tropics of Meta started, in early 2010.  Our friends gathered around a TV in Queens, New York that showing C-SPAN and the fateful vote.  It felt like a solemn moment in history, even if many of us were sorely disappointed by what ended up in the Rube Goldberg-esque bill that resulted.At the time, we tried to weigh in on what the whole thing meant.  The post, one of our first dozen or so pieces, shows the extreme risks of historians pontificating on fast moving events and uncertain, unpredictable outcomes yet to unfold.  We were preoccupied, understandably, by the lack of a public option that progressives had … [Read more...]

Beyond “Point-of-Production” Organizing: The Radical Potential of Building the Solidarity Economy

Participatory budgeting (PB) and workers cooperatives--two pillars of the solidarity economy--offer some of the best tools for building egalitarian, democratic political structures and a new kind of economy that works for everyone. PB humbly started in Porto Alegre in 1989 and has since inspired political movements across the globe, revolutionizing conceptions of the role of the citizenry in affecting everyday life. PB first arrived in America at Chicago’s 49th Ward and thereafter spread to New York City, Vallejo, California, and many other cities.[1] Though PB adapts slightly different procedural forms depending upon who administers it and where it is administered, it can generally be … [Read more...]

Carolyn Bourdeaux Is Running for Congress in One of the South’s Most Diverse Suburbs

Carolyn Bourdeaux is an associate professor of Public Management and Policy at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta.  She has just embarked on an ambitious campaign to unseat four-term Republican incumbent Rob Woodall, in a district that has been held by the GOP since the wave election of 1994.  If Carolyn wins, her predecessors in office would include former Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens and GOP-er-turned-Libertarian Party presidential nominee Bob Barr. If that sounds like tough territory, it's not necessarily.  Republican incumbents have run unopposed or faced only nominal opposition in the past in this district.  Black, Asian, … [Read more...]

Not One of Us: How a North Carolina Election in 1972 Presaged Today’s Politics

Remember the old saw about how history repeats itself, "first as tragedy, then as farce"? The 2012 political spoof The Campaign may be a farce, but it recalls a tragic election that changed the course of politics in America. In the film, Zach Galifianakis plays Marty Huggins, an eccentric upstart who challenges long-term Rep. Cam Brady, who expected to run unopposed. The film, directed by Jay Roach, mastermind of the execrable Meet the Parents series, does not offer sharp political satire, but it’s at least infected with a touch of Tea Party-era lunacy. Zach is not the first Galifianakis to run for office.  Forty-five years ago, his uncle Nick battled conservative commentator Jesse Helms … [Read more...]

Is Marine Le Pen a Jacobin? Globalization, Revolution, and the French Election

The 2017 French presidential election is a referendum on globalization. Immigration and international trade have emerged as central themes, eclipsing the issues and parties that dominated French politics for decades. Previous elections typically pitted an incumbent against a familiar face from the opposition, a candidate from the Socialist Party against a candidate from the post-Gaullist right. This model of alternating between two main political families, however, has long been quietly dying and is now thoroughly dead. In 2002, the Socialist candidate Lionel Jospin failed to make it past the first round of voting (which narrows the field to two presidential candidates), leaving the … [Read more...]