Marco Rubio: The Eddie Haskell of Republican Politics

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...]

A Guide to Recognizing Your GOP Candidates

We at ToM know how hard it has been to keep up with the GOP nomination race, especially since the remaining members of INXS, Eddie Haskell, and Mr. Mxyzptlk jumped into the race.  So we've put together this handy guide that should help our readers make sense of the crowded Republican field. Scott Walker: The Killa from Vanilla. Not sure about evolution, compares unions to ISIS, and has a definite case of helmet hair -- in other words, the trifecta! (Seriously, watch out for this guy. He’s like Alex P. Keaton without the charm or, you know, human feeling. A Terminator for people who thought Arnold Schwarzenegger was too “ethnic.”) Lindsey Graham: Gomer Pyle goes to … [Read more...]

Cry into Your Craft Beer, Democrats. All Is Not Lost

As John Green often does in his Crash Course US history lectures, I’d like to consult Me from the Past. My own Me from the Past is from yesterday at 4PM, when it still seemed possible that Mark Begich’s GOTV strategy could lead to a surprise win and Bruce Braley’s ground operation would bring out Democrats in Iowa and North Carolina might actually reelect a Democratic Senator for the first time since Sam Ervin in 1968. What a wonderful world that would be! But we know it’s not necessarily a wonderful world we live in. Republicans basically swept the table last night, and Democrats can only console themselves by not losing Senate seats in New Hampshire and Virginia that should have easily … [Read more...]

People Like Us: Hollywood Looks at Middle America in Nebraska, August: Osage County, and Dallas Buyers Club

Hollywood has always had trouble with “flyover country.”  The movie industry had its roots in New York, particularly Manhattan and Queens, early in the twentieth century, before aspiring auteurs and entrepeneurs set their sights on the lower costs, 365-day sunshine, and lack of organized labor in Southern California.  While states like North Carolina and Georgia have since made significant inroads into the film business through a cunning use of tax incentives, the TV/film/entertainment complex remains rooted in the coastal capitals of New York and Los Angeles. More important than any business strategies or tax incentives, though, has been the cultural domination of Eastern elites and … [Read more...]

After the Fracture: An Age of Disaggregation and Reaggregation

In recent years, I have taken to calling the Sixties lecture in my U.S. history survey “The Age of Fracture.”  Of course, I start by telling my students that I borrow the title from a famous historian at Princeton, but then I explain that I beg to differ with his periodization and nomenclature. Here I will propose that the last quarter of the twentieth century mostly occurred after the fracture, and that the period Daniel T. Rodgers examines so masterfully in Age of Fracture might be better understood (using his own terms) as a transitional time of disaggregation and reaggregation. First of all, let me give credit where credit is due. Age of Fracture is a marvelous and thought-provoking … [Read more...]

Why Fracture? The Problem of Causation in Rodgers’s Book

I’ve written before at ToM about how Dan Rodgers's work influenced me as an undergrad at UNC-Charlotte.  In his 1987 book Contested Truths, the Princeton historian explored the ways that American thought about “the state,” “the people,” “liberty” and other fundamental political terms changed over time.  The book opened my eyes to the study of political culture, and the ways that language and rhetoric shape the implicit norms and values that inform all of our debates about public policy.  Like the work of linguist George Lakoff, it showed how we frame issues in ways that often matter much more than actual facts or figures. So where does that leave us with Age of Fracture, Rodgers’s epic … [Read more...]

Debating Dan Rodgers’s Age of Fracture

I’ll never forget the moment I ran into a graduate student whose confidence oozed out of his pores. There I was, fresh out of college, excited about a book I had just purchased that I believed would tell me all I needed to know about the decision to go to war in Vietnam. The confident graduate student snatched the book from my hands, quickly glanced at the blurbs on the back cover, and then proceeded to skim the endnotes and bibliography. In less than two minutes, he handed it back to me, declaring “there’s absolutely nothing new in this book. Don’t waste your time.” Well, okay…It’s easy now for me to see what he was doing, and, despite the arresting ridiculousness of such a know-it-all … [Read more...]

Frankie Fitzgibbons, the Coen Brothers, and the Free Market

Some of them want to use you Some them want to get used by you Some of them want to abuse you Some of them want to be abused The Eurythmics’ synth-pop anthem seemed to speak for something about the 1980s—a cold, cool attitude that if you wanted it, you could find it on the free market (no matter how self-destructive it was).  Yet Annie Lennox’s lyrics also evoked a classical kind of of sexual supply and demand.  The whole system would approach equilibrium between those who wanted to abuse and those who wanted to be abused, and ultimately the market would align everyone’s interests, resulting in a kind of kinky harmony—the greatest good for the greatest number. Other pop cultural … [Read more...]

What Will Be Revealed Today?

The latest most-important-election-of-our-lifetimes is upon us.  Almost every election seems to get spun this way, although in 2000 many Americans did not believe that it mattered which Tweedle Dee/Tweedle Dum party got elected (including several of us at ToM who voted for Nader [audible hissing]).  We saw how that turned out. At least since the terrorist attacks of 2001, each election has appeared to be an epochal battle for the soul and the very destiny of America—from liberals who could not conceive of the war-mongering, civil-liberties-trampling George W. Bush winning reelection, to conservatives who find it impossible to understand how America can endure another four years of the … [Read more...]

Post-Modern Debate: The VP Clash in Poetic Form

[Editor's Note: Psyched about about Mittens and Barry this evening? As an homage to American political culture, Pavement, and poet John Ashbery, ToM's Clement Lime offers up his poetic take on the Biden-Ryan fracas.  Constructed from gchat conversations about the VP debate and in the style of Ashbery's legendary work The Tennis Court Oath, the poem will hopefully spark the inner politico in all of us.] What channel are you watching the debate on? CNN PBS CSPAN bitches, Biden leads with the grin! White, long haired, erotic. I speak for myselves, post-sober, or mice elves. I'm drunk on Paul Ryan workout photos! You all mind if I just listen to DJ Screw records all night … [Read more...]