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Green Government and Business

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New Republic

New Republic

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    “Cat Person” and the New Universe of Literary Criticism
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    An explosion of online literary criticism is settling down into an interesting heap of debris. Over the last few days our feeds—I say “our,” since together we form the kind of collaborative group that Stanley Fish would call an “interpretive community”—have rumbled with talk about “Cat Person.” Kristen Roupenian’s story of a bad date has invited a lot of different readings and prompted a lot of good conversations. We’ve talked about genre, narrative voice, “relatability,” and creating bodies with words. Some of us were unimpressed, while others snarled at the unimpressed’s incomprehension of Roupenian’s achievement. All agreed that it was an unusual phenomenon, a short story going viral, and that was a kind of news.

    Since the story was about the awkward, sometimes menacing push-pull between a young woman and her older male date, various outlets have woven this piece of fiction into the ongoing conversation about sexual harassment, as if it were a personal essay or reported piece. “It has women saying, in other words, ‘Yeah, us too,’” wrote Olga Khazan in The Atlantic. While it is totally legitimate for a reader to respond that way, as an approach to criticism it turns the story at hand into a tool for digging in the hole of reality, rather than an imagined world that has its own rules.

    The truly interesting thing about those articles, however, is that they demonstrate the huge gap between the new literary criticism taking place online and the media’s ability to respond to it.

    In this case, the media has been thrust in the position of the literary critic, drawing lines between the artwork and the broader culture. This isn’t a bad development, exactly—it’s great that a short story is making headlines. But it is also worth noting that the boundaries of literary criticism, at least as they are traditionally conceived, are being exceeded across the internet. The response to “Cat Person” is the latest evidence that we have entered new territory for online criticism, and no one quite knows what to make of it.


    Rupi Kaur is a good example of the unsatisfying way in which literature, social media, and criticism intersect these days. When the 25-year-old poet hit the bestseller list, she got the smirky profile treatment in The Cut, which made Kaur look a bit silly for caring more about book jackets (“I’ll collect a lot of covers that inspire me”) than their contents. This gentle mockery stemmed from Kaur’s astonishing career trajectory. She seemed to have spun her popularity on social media into literary fame, to the detriment of Poetry writ large.

    But this missed the key to Kaur’s appeal, which, in Instagram and in print form, lies in her facility with graphic design. She uses words like objects, placing them in relation to other objects (her own face, a flower). Even though her poetry is not very good in my opinion, I think that her Instagram posts are very good, according to the particular visual standards of that medium. But “criticism” as a genre wasn’t capable of expressing that appreciation, partly because there is no Times critic who writes on social media, about social media. Those who understand Kaur’s appeal are left to have their own conversations, in their own app.

    “Cat Person” is a short story, not a book, so until Roupenian publishes her collection it is not eligible for a review in one of the influential old literary criticism hubs. Instead, it has been treated as a quasi-news story, to be caught before its moment on Twitter has faded. It is being digested by critics whose job it is to digest cultural news, then regurgitated to readers as more fodder for the news cycle.

    So when a literary phenomenon happens on social media, readers get the story-about-the-story, a commentary on how the conversation played out before it’s even finished. It’s the “Here’s Why You Can’t Stop Talking About ‘Cat Person’” style of take, and it treats you—the conscious and collaborative reader—like a consumer. This state of affairs is horribly unfair. It does no justice to the richness of literary conversations online.

    What We Talk About When We Talk About Cat Person

    — rahcel (@COMETHRUGIRL) December 11, 2017

    But then again, neither do book publishers. The marketing of literature on social media remains an embarrassment to readers and writers. In trying to sell debut novels, a book publicist will cannibalize the tools of Kaur-esque Instagram-lit and photograph the book’s jacket on a pretty table, beside a manicured hand and a bunch of flowers in a ceramic vase. Again, this is a mismatch: The publishing houses treat the book like a lifestyle commodity, while trying to tap into social media’s interest in literature. Thousands of people on Twitter did not go wild over “Cat Person” because they love lattes and tulips.

    Literary critics, news journalists, and marketing specialists alike are all failing to connect with this online community of readers. Each group is hanging in difficult tension with the idea of belonging to that community. The latte-posting corporate account is trying to say, “Hey, I’m one of you—buy my stuff!” The aloof literary critic is saying, “I’m not one of you, and I’m going to pretend you don’t exist.” Worst of all, perhaps, is the journalist who is neither here nor there, both outside and in, merely reflecting what you have already thought, but not quite.


    If we return to Stanley Fish, we might get a better sense of where the journalist goes wrong when he reports on online readerships. When a writer comes along to a conversation and inserts his take, his claim is that “his interpretation more perfectly accords with the facts,” as Fish writes in his 1980 work Is There a Text in This Class? Here’s what’s really going on with “Cat Person,” the writer opines, and cuts through the wreathing fog of ignorance that surrounds it. But the commentator’s actual purpose in this effort is to convince us of “the version of the facts he espouses,” by, first of all, making us submit to a certain framework at the outset—“the interpretive principles in the light of which those facts will seem indisputable.”

    In other words, the way that a journalist presents the conversation (“A Viral Short Story for the #MeToo Moment”) conditions us to believe that he has the answers, even though “the facts” in this case are an invention. What he is really doing is layering more fictions on to fictions. The writer’s “greatest fear,” Fish writes, is that “he will stand charged of having substituted his own meanings for the meanings of which he is supposedly the guardian; his greatest fear is that he be found guilty of having interpreted.” Journalists like to pretend that they’re flourishing the noble sword of truth, and to prove it will dabble in the “aggressive humility” of posing as a reporter when really they’re acting like critics. They pretend merely to describe a phenomenon, when really they are doing what every other social media user is doing, all day long: interpreting.

    Ironically enough, interpretation is precisely what Kristen Roupenian has described as the core of “Cat Person.” In an interview with New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman, she said that a bad-date incident in her life “got her thinking about the strange and flimsy evidence we use to judge the contextless people we meet outside our existing social networks, whether online or off.” The only thing that characterizes the woman’s sense of her date is his volatility. Her image of him is “based on incomplete and unreliable information, which is why her interpretation of him can’t stay still.”

    As a journalist who is guilty of Fish’s charges, it seems to me that this is what thinkpiece authors are doing when they “report on” the life of literature on social media. When I sit down to deliver my take, I have to pretend that I’m uniquely privy to “the facts,” while simultaneously convincing you to see things in a light of my own casting. But in this particular case, it won’t do. “Cat Person” is a story about a lack of information, and the layering of interpretations that its protagonist assembles to “understand” her date. Reader: beware anybody who comes to you promising investigative truths about fiction. Reporting on literature is “interpretation in another guise because,” Stanley Fish writes, “like it or not, interpretation is the only game in town.”


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    The Luther Legend
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    Martin Luther shattered Christendom and transformed the West, making the modern world possible and inevitable. This is the consensus among historians, whether they see this sixteenth-century monk as an epochal hero, bringer of enlightenment and tolerance, or as the pre-eminent agent of our spiritual and cultural ruin. In other words, Luther is at the center of a long and contentious dispute about the origins and nature of the modern world.

    Granting Luther’s courage and his gifts, which were great enough to make his legend almost plausible, almost able to stand up to informed and critical appraisal, I will propose that, to put the matter plainly, this is not the way history works. The opposing sides in the debate about Luther are both deeply invested in his legend, which has given it seemingly unquestioned authority. This matters because what might be called the legitimacy of the modern era, which emerged in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, is a question that often takes as its point of departure that gaunt monk nailing his theses to a church door. It is strange to speak of the “legitimacy” of an era. But it is appropriate in this case because many writers have for a long time believed that the modern ought not to have happened, that the world before Luther was a worthy human habitation, and that after him it was a desolate place, oppressive to the human spirit despite its material brilliance and success. They interpret the transformation of the European world as the fall of an ancient religious order and, depending who tells the tale, as the rise of a soulless individualist materialism, or something of the kind. A recent book announces that Luther “rediscovered God,” clearly an overstatement. More typically the modernity he is supposed to have initiated is treated as essentially secular. This is also an overstatement.

    There were people of very great consequence active in Luther’s world—the Grand Turk, Charles V of Spain, Francis I of France, Michelangelo. Among Luther’s other important contemporaries, Copernicus surely deserves a mention, and Magellan and Columbus. And there was the Henrician Brexit, the withdrawal of England from papal and Roman authority by Henry VIII that would make Britain, for the purposes of European power alignments, Protestant, a matter of great historical consequence. Henry VIII did not owe any debt to Luther or reform his church along Lutheran lines. There had been near-breaches between Rome and various English kings over the centuries, preparing this final one. Yet great political alliances, and new conceptions of the earth and the heavens, are not assumed to have a part in the emergence of the modern whenever Luther is put at the center of the frame.

    In historical terms, Luther is singular in the fact that his place is secure, even despite the whole power and weight of papal opprobrium, of outlawry and condemnation for heresy, that were brought down upon him. He had important precursors whom he names, who have effectively disappeared from history under this same weight, notable among them the fourteenth-century theologians John Wycliffe and Jan Hus. For generations the followers of these precursors were suppressed, they and also their books publicly burned. Though the influence of their movements persisted for centuries, and though they may indeed share with Luther some credit or blame for the making of the modern world, they have slipped into obscurity. It seems that the word “heresy” impresses historians deeply, that it carries the suggestion of an irrational, possibly sinister zeal, marginalizing all those who are stigmatized by it. Luther’s giantism is in part an effect of an isolation from his context that is deeply misleading, however well it serves hagiographers and demonizers.


    Luther was a brave and brilliant man, but he was not the innovator he is made out to be by those who venerate him, those who detest him, or those who simply carry on in milder form with the assumptions about him that were established in the old days of raging religious polemic. One scholar finds that “in the late Middle Ages there were basically two options with regard to salvation; the teachings of Thomas Aquinas and William of Ockham.” This statement is typical in assuming that all thinking on this great subject was confined to the upper reaches of Latinate intellectualism. Luther’s actions and his doctrines need to be looked at in light of the fact that there was an emerging vernacular intellectualism associated with the strong and persisting movements of religious dissent to be found throughout Europe from at least the twelfth century forward.

    Many of these dissenting groups shared central tenets among themselves and with Luther as well. In fact their beliefs were consistent enough with one another and over time to constitute an alternative religious tradition, occluded but never extirpated by the dominant church. Such movements are often and dismissively called populist, though their doctrines are as moving and refined as any Europe produced. It is characteristic of these movements that their leaders are highly educated: Professor Wycliffe, Professor Hus, Professor Luther. Their books were destroyed as often as they were found, and yet they had a potent literature.

    Luther read the letters of Jan Hus from a century earlier. He had Hus’s letters published in Wittenberg, provided a preface, and wrote admiring comments in his copy. Thomas Cranmer owned a copy, as well. Luther says of the anonymous Theologia Germanica, written around 1350, that it taught him more about the nature of God than anything other than the Bible and St. Augustine. The Theologia, dating from the time when Wycliffe was active, is an early example of a German-language metaphysics written to be accessible to those who were not educated to read Latin, the language of the church and the universities. Meister Eckhart, perhaps the first writer of theology in German, lived until 1328. Johannes Tauler, his younger contemporary, whom Luther is known to have read, preached and wrote in German, and is considered an early master of the language. Like Eckhart he was a Dominican, a leader in a largely lay movement called the Friends of God. Its adherents were men and women from all ranks of society. It emerged in and spread through Bavaria, Switzerland, the Rhineland, and the Low Countries. Tauler’s surviving sermons are exquisitely gentle. The Theologia envisions a reconciliation of Jesus with Judas. It is a lovely thing, not mysticism so much as an exploration of religious consciousness within the terms of Christianity. Though its German is said to be unpolished, its thinking is certainly not. It would seem that Luther’s thought should be considered in light of acknowledged influences, and that these books would be of particular interest because they had, tellingly, an underground life. They are seldom mentioned.

    The theologian John Wycliffe, who died in 1384, was later declared a heretic.Bob Thomas/Popperfoto/Getty

    In nailing his Ninety-Five Theses to a church door, Luther perhaps intended no more than to provoke an academic debate. Church doors were regularly used then to announce public events. The theses’ explosive reception could well mean that the questions the professor had posed for debate were live issues far beyond the university. The printing press, developed in the 1440s, was a factor, of course, in spreading these debates among a wider range of people. The Protestant Reformation could hardly have happened without it. And Luther was important in establishing print culture, since his books and pamphlets would be in high demand all over Europe for decades. Luther wrote in German or translated his Latin writing into German. That population so seldom noticed by historians, the literate who did not read Latin but were eager for access to theology, scripture, and history, and current affairs as well, were highly receptive to what he wrote.

    The emergence of this public, a middle class of sorts able to buy books, is demonstrated in the surge in publishing that characterized the Reformation period. Letters of Obscure Men, a book associated with Ulrich von Hutten, which predated Luther’s Theses by two years, is a satire on the church and the universities, intended as a defense of the humanist and Hebraist Johannes Reuchlin. It was banned on publication and was nevertheless read all over Europe. The survival and distribution of forbidden books in premodern Europe and even the numbers in which they were burned would say at least as much about the intellectual culture of the time as any university curriculum. Early presses could be dismantled and moved piecemeal, a fact that was still important at the time of the American Revolution. This made the banning of printed books much less effective than one might suppose. Before the press, we must assume organized and continuous copying of manuscripts.


    Another factor very seldom mentioned in accounts of Luther’s world is the flourishing of a dissenter nation bordering Germany and deeply entangled with it. Bohemia had been Hussite for a generation when Luther was born and it remained Hussite for a generation after his death. In 1412, Jan Hus, a priest and professor at the University of Prague, took offense at the sale of indulgences there and preached against them. As was often the case, the indulgences were offered by the pope to raise money for a crusade, this one against the king of Naples. Hus’s preaching led in due course to papal bulls being sent to Prague excommunicating him. Students burned the bulls. Hus was forbidden to preach, so he left Prague and traveled around the countryside, preaching in Czech. He was summoned to the Council of Constance to defend himself against the charge of heresy. He told his judges there that he could not recant any teaching of his that could not be proved wrong on the basis of Scripture. Though he had come to the council on a safe conduct, he was imprisoned, then burned, together with his books, in 1415.

    Though Hus had died a century before Luther posted his theses, his fate was still well known. Executions of the kind were meant to be cautionary. Hus’s death was made especially memorable by the fact that it caused outrage in Bohemia that spurred a revolt and changed the character of religious culture in the very center of Europe. Hussite Bohemia split with Rome so radically that it became the object of five papal crusades, all of which it repelled. These are not events that could have passed unremarked in Europe at large. Crusader armies were made up of soldiers from many countries, who can hardly have failed to bring back news from Bohemia. One of these armies included a thousand English archers, most of whom no doubt returned home, since the crusader army disbanded before battle was engaged.

    Perhaps Shakespeare, who, like Luther, did not live to see the end of Hussite Bohemia, gave the landlocked country a coast because it was singular, elsewhere and otherwise, like Prospero’s island. The Hussites were largely peasants, supported by like-minded nobles. Shakespeare’s scenes set in Bohemia use peasant characters for comic effect. But the words Perdita speaks, defending the aesthetics of the natural over the artificial and refined, could be applied as well to the ambitious use of demotic language, a practice that, at the time Shakespeare wrote, was still new. Hus’s followers had made a translation of the Bible that was as important to their language as Luther’s would be to German. And a literature grew up around it, said to be very fine, though it was lost in the extirpation of Bohemian-language culture that followed their final defeat by Rome in 1620. When Shakespeare wrote, however, this fragile, rather democratic experiment was still being made.

    When Luther read Hus’s letters he said, famously, “We are all Hussites.” Behind Hus was John Wycliffe, the distinguished Oxford philosopher and theologian also denounced as a heretic in 1415 along with Hus, though he had died in 1384. With others, he made the first complete translation of the Bible into English. He was associated with the poets Geoffrey Chaucer, John Lydgate, and John Gower as well as William Langland, the itinerant cleric who wrote Piers Plowman. Wycliffe wrote and preached in English as well as Latin, so his influence was intense at home and significant in Europe. Though he wrote before the printing press, copies of his books were numerous enough to make good bonfires. Hundreds of them were burned in Prague during Rome’s early attempts to stem his influence there. Hundreds more were burned in Rome and, of course, in England. Before his death, while he is sharing out among his friends things he has left in Prague, Hus tells one of them he can have any of Wycliffe’s books he might want. Lollards, Wycliffe’s followers in England, were students and lay preachers who surreptitiously, by dark of night, brought Scripture in English to the poor.

    In this they were like the Waldensians, also known as the Poor Men of Lyon, whose origins can be traced to 1170. They too used vernacular Bibles and produced a literature, of which a few long poems survive. Like the Lollards, they withstood suppression and persecution until they were finally absorbed by the Reformation. Waldensians brought the belief in Communion in two kinds to Bohemia, where it became central to Hussite identity. Hus corresponded with Sir John Oldcastle, the Lollard knight who led a revolt against Henry V. Jean Calvin’s cousin, Pierre Robert, called Olivetan, made a new translation of the Bible from the original languages for the French Waldensians. The young Calvin seems to have written the introduction. Connections like these arise at random as one reads in the period, which suggests that there are many more to be found. Luther asks, “How many Saints must you imagine those of the inquisition have, for some ages, burnt and killed, as Jan Hus and others, in whose time, no doubt, there lived many holy men of the same spirit!” This was in response to Erasmus’s argument that the fathers and saints of the church should be accepted as authoritative interpreters of Scripture. The reformers also had fathers and saints.

    These are important instances of the fact that Europe before Luther was by no means a religious monolith. There were ideas abroad more radical than his. Indeed, these dissident movements had already challenged the papacy and the priesthood, transubstantiation, indulgences, relics, icons, and clerical celibacy. Twelve “Lollard Conclusions” had been nailed to a door at Westminster in 1395 and were subsequently read in an elaborated form in Parliament. They say, for example, that “any man or woman in the law of God can consecrate [the bread and wine of Communion] without the supposed miracle,” and “manslaughter (either by war or any pretended law of justice, for any temporal cause, or spiritual revelation) is expressly contrary to the New Testament, which is the law of Grace, full of mercy.”


    Distinctive thought was too deeply entrenched in dissident cultures to be open to negotiation in coming years, when divisions within the Reformation became important. The dependence of all these suppressed communities on the text of Scripture was a thing they had in common with Luther. But their existence outside the highly structured world of institutional Catholicism was very remote from Luther’s long immersion in monastic life, which by all accounts he embraced with exceptional zeal. Communities in hiding would necessarily forgo images and sanctuaries. They would not only cease to think of these things as a part of religious experience but, as communities, would identify with secular simplicity as a setting for true worship. And they would leave very little physical evidence of their presence, except in their books.

    This is perhaps the origin of the Protestant schism. Luther was intractable in his position concerning the sacrament of Communion, but this would not have been so important if the other side had not been equally intractable. Luther’s great departure from what would become majority Protestant practice and belief was his doctrine of consubstantiation, which retained for most purposes the Catholic understanding of the consecration of the elements of the Eucharist. This may sound merely technical to people unfamiliar with the terms of theological controversy, but in these terms it has been a matter of profound consequence. As a priest Luther was deeply moved, even terrified, at performing the consecration of the host, the climax of the Mass, when bread and wine were believed by him to become the actual body and blood of Christ. As a reformer he retained a version of the Mass and insisted on a “real presence” of Christ in the consecrated elements. Sacramentarians, as he called those who took exception, felt that this doctrine preserved an unacceptable difference of status between priests and laypeople, a degree of dependence on one side and authority on the other that the Reform should reduce or eliminate.

    Many modern readers, at the conscious level, at least, are not accustomed to the idea that the form of worship asserts a view of cosmic reality. In Catholicism, the priest is thought of as a mediator through the sacraments between God and his people. In Protestantism, no human mediation is called for because the relationship between God and the individual is thought of as direct. Of course the saints in Catholic tradition experience a direct relationship with God, and the Protestant traditions, in most instances, greatly value their two sacraments and their clergy. But the tendency in the first is to assume a cosmic hierarchy, and in the second to assert a fundamental equality of Christians before God. The distinction made here is far too simple, but it is justified historically by the importance in Protestantism and its precursors of lay preachers, sometimes including women, and of teaching and preaching in the vernacular. Their clergy were set apart from their adherents by preparation, five years of training in the case of the Waldensians, who memorized the gospels of Matthew and John as well as sections of the writings of Paul. This movement was distinguished by its radical poverty, voluntary at first, then, as it was persecuted and dispersed, as a fact of life. So the pastor and believer had poverty in common.

    A critical-minded sacramentarian might wonder what anything other than a “real presence” might be. Jesus said, “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name there am I also.” Certainly this would describe any communion service. Flannery O’Connor spoke with some contempt of the idea that the Eucharist is merely symbolic. But when the whole of its meaning is considered, it can never be “merely” anything. Whether it enacts the sacrifice of Christ or simply commemorates the transformation of cosmic reality through the proximate human presence of God in the world, it would seem to be too replete with meaning for any of its forms to be deficient. Still, this was a breaking point, regrettable if the triumph of the Reformation was the thing to be desired.

    Luther’s commitment to this outcome, the success of the Reformation movement, compounded as the movement was of groups whose theologies did not precisely align with his and were farther than his from Catholicism, seems to have flagged over time. It clearly was not unmixed to begin with. This suggestion is not consistent with the view of him as saint or as demon, but it should not be dismissed on the grounds of its unfamiliarity—quite the opposite, given the myths that have always surrounded him, the interpretation of his life that gives its impact the fundamental simplicity of an ax blow.

    My model of the emergence of the modern world centers on the rising importance of literacy in the vernacular, much accelerated by the greater availability of books of every kind and their declining cost—this, of course, combined with an awareness of the ambient world, which was neither calm nor stable. The Turks were an imminent threat to Vienna, and rivalry between the kings of France and Spain was distracting the leaders of Europe from dealing with the problem. In 1527 the armies of Charles V, the elected Holy Roman Emperor, sacked Rome and made a prisoner of the pope. Abuses of sculptures and paintings, apparently committed by soldiers from Germany, aren’t surprising, since anticlericalism and German hostility to Rome had a very long history before the Reformation. Charles’s motives, which amounted to a desire to consolidate power, are somehow never quite impugned, though he certainly would have known how invasion affects a city. In this case, his armies, then plague, reduced the population by four-fifths.

    Turbulence seems to have been unexceptional. Two centuries earlier, when Wycliffe and Hus were active, there were two and then three popes at the same time. One of them, a John XXIII who has lost his place in the sequence of popes, attended the Council of Constance where Hus was condemned, but fled the city alone by night disguised as a poor man to escape the demand of another Holy Roman Emperor that he resign the papacy. The council subsequently denounced John for every wickedness imaginable, including heresy. The serene order called Christendom was clearly an ideal rather than an achieved state of things, though of course ideals can have great power. In any case, the emergence of the modern world seems to have been largely an upsurge of ideas and information and oppressed dissent, new wine in old skins. It threatened and transformed power structures that had been in part shored up by the dominance of Latin, not only in religion but also in learning and law.


    Luther’s Theses, written in Latin but translated and published in German, not by him, are titled “Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences.” Indulgences, as they were understood and practiced at the time, were an intrinsic part of a model of reality that saw the passage of all but the most perfect souls from death through a condition, visualized as a region, called purgatory. There they suffered for sins not absolved in life through the ministrations of the church. These sins were considered debts to God that must be satisfied by suffering. Their pain was extreme and indeterminate, the end of time being its outer limit. Dante’s Purgatorio is a regime of condign punishment, where behaviors contrary to their faults are imposed on the sufferers and embraced by them, since they are the redeemed and will ultimately enjoy heaven. Other writers immerse them in flames. In any case, the church was believed to have what is called a treasury of merits. Holy people, saints and martyrs, and Mary and Jesus above all, were believed to have merits far in excess of those necessary to salvation. These supererogatory merits were at the disposal of the pope, who could, in effect, offer them for sale. The proceeds were to be used by the church, whether to fund a crusade or, in this case, new buildings. When Luther wrote his Theses, money from indulgences was being used to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The indulgences could shorten the time of suffering of a friend or family member, though by no specified amount. It is touching and excruciating to think how effectively these campaigns raised money. The poor were asked to choose between their living families and, say, a parent who had passed through a hard life and a hard death into a state of prolonged extreme suffering.

    Writers on the subject tend to say this suffering is mitigated by the vindication of God’s justice and the ultimate prospect of heaven. A contemporary of Luther’s who became St. Catherine of Genoa wrote a treatise on purgatory. In it she says that souls in purgatory feel an always increasing joy at the knowledge of God’s justice and grace. She speaks of the fires that torment them as interior, and as the flames of divine love. “Yet their joy in God does by no means abate their pain.” The selling of indulgences suggests that purgatory was not a state in which compassion would allow anyone to remain if it were possible to shorten the experience for her.

    Luther proposed that “Christians are to be taught that he who sees a man in need, and passes him by, and gives [his money] for pardons, purchases not the indulgences of the pope, but the indignation of God”; and “if the pope knew the exactions of the pardon-preachers, he would rather that St. Peter’s church should go to ashes, than that it should be built up with the skin, flesh and bones of his sheep”; and “Why does the pope not empty purgatory, for the sake of holy love and of the dire need of the souls that are there?” and more to the same effect. He says, “To repress these arguments and scruples of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the Church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christians unhappy.” Since printed copies of the Theses spread like wildfire through Germany and beyond, it should probably be assumed that they did raise issues that were of great moment to “the laity.”

    Born over a century before Luther, Jan Hus preached against indulgences.Universal History Archive/UIG/Getty

    This cosmic model of hell, purgatory, and heaven, merits and indulgences, with all they assume about the nature of sin, merit, and grace, about the nature of God and the soul, and of suffering, and about the church and the papacy as well, were exclusive to the Catholic Church. The texts produced by other traditions, whether it was the German-literate population who read them or Luther himself, would offer another coherent cosmology according to which the grace of God is sufficient to erase all memory of fault or sin among his redeemed. The anonymous writer of the Theologia Germanica says, making the extremest case, “If the devil would come to true obedience he would turn into an angel and all his sin and wickedness would be amended and atoned and all at once forgotten.” Sola gratia, salvation by grace alone, must be understood against the background of a doctrine of God as requiring that, before salvation can be fully realized, sin must be repaid by suffering, a conception of God as in some degree satisfied by merits earned by others and applied to those fortunate mortals who left wealth or a devoted family when they died.

    Purgatory and indulgences did not remain central for Luther in these terms. But the issues they raised for him persisted implicitly. For example, his detractors ascribe to him a gloomy anthropology, in response to his teaching that every human act is tainted with sin. This idea arises quite naturally from his earlier belief in the doctrine of purgatory, which is a response to virtually universal, and inadvertent, sinfulness. Cardinal Cajetan, by whom Luther was interrogated, wrote, “All possible evil is truly predicated of us and of our works in so far as they are ours. But on the other hand infinite good is truly found in the same works as products of divine grace.” St. Catherine says, “That which man judges to be perfect, in the sight of God is defect. For all the works of man, which appear faultless when he considers them, feels, remembers, wills and understands them, are, if he does not refer them to God, corrupt and sinful.” Then she says, “For, to the perfection of our works it is necessary that they be wrought in us but not of us. In the works of God it is he that is the prime mover, and not man.” Whether Luther was aware of her or she of him, St. Catherine was his contemporary, and her thinking about human sinfulness and what he would call the “bondage of the will” is not dissimilar to his. One is in bondage either to one’s own will, which inevitably vitiates one’s actions, or to the divine will, which makes them truly good. The humanist Erasmus, in his Discourse on Free Will, intended as a rebuttal of Luther, asserts that “mankind is lazy, indolent, malicious, and incorrigibly prone to impious outrage,” and “people are universally ignorant and carnal-minded. They tend toward unbelief, wickedness, and blasphemy.”

    The influence of thought outside Catholicism should not at all preclude attention to powerful influences within it. And comparisons among those who share a period and culture are always useful. Luther by himself might seem gloomy and misanthropic, but he is not at all exceptional by the standards of his time. Luther differs from orthodox writers in taking “works” to be corrupted in being self-interested, that is, in being undertaken to help secure one’s own salvation. There is an ambiguity around the word “works” that Luther himself does not explicitly clarify. In ordinary use it can mean fasts, prayers, pilgrimages, and the buying of indulgences, as well as giving alms to the poor. By his lights gestures and ceremonies can have value in disciplining oneself, but charity toward one’s neighbor, of which giving of alms is only one expression, is free and Christian when it is done without thought for one’s own benefit. Relying entirely on God’s grace in the matter of one’s salvation means abandoning all thought of merit, all spiritual self-interest.


    The question at the center of the controversy surrounding Luther concerned the very nature of the church. Western Christendom seemed little inclined to acknowledge the fact that there was an Eastern Christendom, the great ancient tradition centered in Constantinople, that never accepted the papacy, the predominant authority of the bishop of Rome. For us “church” is associated with institutions—buildings and bureaucracies as well as creeds and customs and public observances. But unnumbered “house churches” have existed in every setting where Christianity or sects within it are under threat, in fourteenth-century England, in modern China, and in the communities to whom Paul sent his letters. The best we can do is to grant the word the broad meaning and the wide variety of interpretations it has acquired in the course of its history. These were fully present in the religious culture of the Middle Ages.

    Luther conceived of a church in some ways very close to Catholicism. For example, the Augsburg Confession, intended to find a principled truce with Rome, retains a Latin Mass. It had been usual for generations for writers to criticize the Catholic Church for how it got money and how its money was spent, for slothful, ignorant, or immoral priests and so on. Boccaccio’s Decameron offers an example of satire on the subject, as does Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Luther’s criticism was more fundamental, not concerned with abuses that arose from time to time and could be addressed by institutional reforms.

    In reply to Erasmus’s rebuttal of his criticisms, Luther thanks the renowned scholar for seeing and addressing what is most central to his argument, that is, his rejection of freedom of the will. In principle, theological questions always have implications much broader than the terms of debate seem to imply. As a philosophical question, free will and its antithesis, determinism, enlist psychology, biology, environment, and ethics. As a theological question, it has to do with the relationship of God to humankind as individuals, particularly in the matter of their salvation. The role of the church above all is to make salvation meaningful as a word and attainable as an object, as it has done historically through teaching and example and through its sacraments. The great teacher and exemplar is Jesus of Nazareth, whose birth was an incarnation of God, whose death was a sacrifice made to put humankind at peace with God, and whose life enacted the love and truth that would conform our lives to the nature and the will of God.

    “From faith there flows a love and joy in the Lord. From love there proceeds a joyful, willing, and free mind that serves the neighbor and takes no account of gratitude or ingratitude, praise or blame, gain or loss,” and “Our trust in him means that we are Christs to one another and act toward our neighbors as Christ has acted toward us.” This is from a tract titled “The Freedom of a Christian,” sent by Luther to Pope Leo X in 1520 to clarify his position on freedom and what he called “bondage.” He received no response. Luther describes a relationship to God and neighbor most Christians would recognize at least as an ideal. But by divorcing merit from “works,” a word which here means serving one’s neighbor, and by resolving them into joy and love, he places the soul outside important structures of the church that were offered as the means of salvation. So, conciliatory as his words may sound, they actually restate his case. The pope no doubt noticed this. The following year, Luther was excommunicated.

    However, the most radical challenge to the church was the doctrine of predestination put forward by Wycliffe, by Hus, and then by Luther. In support they could cite the formidable St. Augustine. But the authority and the traditions of the church were overwhelmingly against them. The issue was whether one was free to achieve personal salvation by meritorious acts or renunciations or through the good offices of the church. Predestination precluded this.

    Scripture is not clear on the question of free will or determinism, or it is not interested in the distinction. Erasmus, in his response to Luther, advises a middle course between these opposites, having made a case for free will on the basis of Scripture, which he does not finally consider determinate. However, he objects strongly to Luther’s having raised the question. He says, “Some things can be noxious because, like wine for the feverish, they are not fitting. Hence such matters might be treated in discourses among the educated or also in theological schools, although it is not expedient even there I think unless done with caution. Definitely, it seems to me, it is not only unsuitable but truly pernicious to carry on such disputations when everybody can listen.” Wicked men might become worse if they were aware of these arguments. Luther, perhaps more aware of the accessibility of the thoughts and writings of Wycliffe and Hus, or of the growing pressures of print and vernacular literacy, dismisses the idea that the laity were to be excluded from these disputes. Ultimately the writings of Erasmus as well as Luther were condemned by the church.

    The questions raised by the doctrine of predestination are real and profound. When Hus, then Luther, said he could not recant, did he feel as if he were acting freely or as he was destined to act? Both at once, no doubt. In any case, the mere word “predestination” tends to distract critics from the fact that Wycliffe, Hus, and Luther were indeed major reformers, men who called on others to examine their beliefs and their lives, and to adhere with a new zeal to the laws of Moses and the teachings of Christ. They were not in any sense passive, as belief in predestination supposedly implies they should be. Their immediate impact is clear. Peasant revolts arose in the time of each of them, directed not at the Reformers, as recent interpretations of popular sympathies might lead one to suppose, but against the traditional religious and political order, which would have appeared to them to be weakened. Of the three, one rebellion, in Bohemia, succeeded. Two, in England and Germany, failed. The shameless brutality with which they were crushed in both cases may be taken as a measure of the inhumanity against which they rose up.


    Two terrible scandals mar Luther’s life. One was his response to the Peasants’ War, in which he urged extreme violence against the rebels. The other was his writing against the Jews, whom he assailed in very similar, very violent terms. There is no excuse to be made for this, but a reason for it might have been that the existence of communities considered heretical was tenuous. Whole villages of Waldensians had been slaughtered. Wittenberg, where Luther lived most of his life, was protected by important German princes, but to tip it in the slightest degree toward association with any disfavored population would be to put it at risk.

    Wittenberg did fall, to that same Charles V who had depopulated Rome. Luther was dead by then. His wife died from injuries she suffered fleeing the city. Luther acted irrationally and discreditably toward peasants and Jews, a fact probably related to his having lived for years under a death sentence. Heresy was considered so highly communicable then that his friends, children, colleagues, and students were all imperiled together with him. He was far from the first in his culture and times to attack the Jews or despise the poor. These things contrast very jarringly with the most Christian of his insights, as they contrast jarringly with the self-perceptions of Christendom.

    The Peace of Augsburg, signed in 1555, which for a while established a truce between Catholics and Lutherans within the Holy Roman Empire, did not acknowledge other Protestant groups, who had little or nothing in the way of princely protection and who remained liable to prosecution as heretics by both Catholics and Lutherans. Luther was no longer alive, but his readiness to dissociate himself from vulnerable groups seems to have survived him.

    Fierce old history bedeviled Europe after Luther as it had before him. Wars there found religious pretexts or were responses to papal crusades, which, as modern historians tend to forget, were carried out within Europe itself, for example the thirteenth-century Albigensian Crusades, which exterminated an entrenched “heresy” and also greatly enlarged the kingdom of France. More than one reason can always be found for any war. It is interpretation that assigns priority to one or another. The Luther legend, the idea that one man and one set of events shattered a great order and brought down chaos, minimizes a terrible continuity in the affairs of the continent before and after the Reformation. Power was shifting as the resources and competences that come with literacy spread through the population. By what means and how extensively it spread no one can know. Depending on circumstances, it could be incriminating and was concealed. We do know that for centuries ragged cloaks hid worn Gospels and that furtive worshippers gathered at night to hear them read. We know forbidden books were cherished at great risk. And we have some of those books, which spoke to the unlearned in their own languages, and were as fluent in high thought and visionary gentleness as anything ever written by a Christian hand.

    © 2017 Marilynne Robinson


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    Is the Republican Tax Plan Intentionally Sloppy?
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    The Republican tax bill being negotiated this week is like a Sudoku puzzle: daunting to novices, but in the hands of an experienced master, a simple case of plugging in numbers. The opportunities for gaming the new rules will make tax lawyers unspeakably rich for the rest of time, finding endless opportunities to shelter, transform, or reassign income to lower their clients’ payments. And there’s another group poised to get in on the tax loophole fun: state governments that, in a few simple steps, can and probably will nullify the biggest sources of revenue in the bill.

    All of this fits with a longstanding conservative project: Starve the government of taxes, and use that as a rationale to slash social spending. This would achieve their goal of re-channeling government benefits from the working poor, who require safety net assistance, to oligarchic holders of dynastic wealth. Considered in this light, one wonders whether the hastily drafted, loophole-ridden tax plan was purposely built as a leaky boat.

    In a research paper published last week, “The Games They Will Play: Tax Games, Roadblocks, and Glitches Under the New Legislation,” 13 tax scholars explained how wealthy Americans can work the tax bill for further advantage. Because the business tax rate, both for corporations and “pass-through” businesses (like neighborhood stores or partnerships), would be so much lower than the income tax rate, it gives people incentives to essentially become businesses. “To achieve the tax savings, no longer be an employee,” the paper’s authors wrote, “instead be an owner.”

    For example, people could push their salaries through corporations they set up, or invest through them, sheltering earnings in a low-tax vehicle. It’s mainly a strategy for the rich, since the poor need their salaries to—well, live on. This can work with pass-throughs as well; an employee taking salary from a company will take home less than an independent contractor. There are supposed to be restrictions on “service providers” in law firms or financial companies from pass-through benefits, but they are easily evaded. Lawyers working for a firm can characterize themselves as “associates” in a pass-through business that the firm contracts for services. Associates in the pass-through can then take up to $500,000 in earnings at the lower rate.

    The sneaky side benefit for corporations here is that they don’t have to provide benefits to an independent contractor, like they do a salaried employee. The tax bill forces everyone onto solitary islands for the purposes of tax strategy, but paid time off, holidays, sick days, and even health benefits could get lost in the exchange. This relieves corporations, which already get their tax rate reduced from 35 percent to 20 percent, from having to pay those benefit costs.

    States can use similar tax avoidance to benefit constituents. For example, one of the biggest revenue-raisers in the bill is the repeal of the tax deduction for state and local income taxes (SALT). This disproportionately affects high-tax blue states that provide more services to their citizens, like New York and California. But Daniel Hemel, an associate professor at the University of Chicago, explained how states can get around SALT repeal.

    Under the bill, employers can still deduct state and local payroll taxes. So states could just re-classify state income taxes as employer-side payroll taxes. Let’s say you earn $100 from a company in a state with a 5 percent income tax. Under current law, you would take home $95. But if the state shifted to an employer payroll tax, you would be paid your $95 without any state income taxes, and your employer would pay the $5 to the state. But the employer would get to deduct that from its federal taxes, canceling out the cost. There’s no difference for anyone, except that SALT repeal has vanished for wage income.

    California is already looking at this workaround. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that SALT repeal would raise $829 billion in revenue; with one weird trick, much of that money disappears.

    States have also explored ways to preserve the individual health insurance mandate, another revenue source in the bill. Some of the ideas include automatic enrollment for those eligible, a “continuous coverage” requirement that penalized those who dropped out of insurance with higher premiums later, or simply a state-level version of the mandate. These options would prevent the expected spike in insurance premiums and the increase in the uninsured. It would also reduce the $338 billion in expected federal savings, mostly because the government would still have to pay subsidies for those who don’t lose coverage.

    There were certainly a host of drafting errors, late-night oversights, and flat-out mistakes in the House and Senate versions of the tax bill. Lawmakers made the corporate tax rate and the corporate alternative minimum tax the same number, effectively nullifying dozens of corporate tax credits. They built in odd cliffs that will give some high-earners marginal tax rates of 85 percent or even over 100 percent in some cases. They created an investment income standard that will deeply harm small investors.

    All of these will lead to more gaming to avoid pitfalls. The research paper highlights some examples. A provision that encourages sales of products abroad could lead to “round-tripping,” where a company sells a product overseas to earn low-tax export income, only to have the product shipped right back. A one-year delay in the change to the corporate tax rate will lead companies to write off costs in high-tax 2018, or to buy equipment in 2018 and sell it in 2019, taking advantage of the rate change. “The wealthy and well-advised will benefit disproportionately from these errors of oversight and haste,” write the tax scholars.

    While some problems arose out of oversights, I have to wonder if others were intentional. The less revenue the bill creates, the more Republicans can use that rhetorically to moan about the deficit and push for austerity. It’s not like anyone’s eager to fix the many glitches: The goal is to finish reconciling the House and Senate bills by Friday. And as Politico reported on Monday, “The Trump administration and Republicans in Congress are hoping to make the most sweeping changes to federal safety net programs in a generation, using legislation and executive actions to target recipients of food stamps, Medicaid and housing benefits.”

    In this sense, a badly botched tax bill helps conservatives. They don’t want the government to be perceived as being flush with cash. They want as much money to leak out as possible—and they know that only the well-to-do can afford the accountants necessary to take maximum advantage of the tax laws. Subsequently, they respond by demanding cuts to social spending. The result is a huge transfer of wealth, from the poor to the rich. That’s the real game here.


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    Roy Moore Will Haunt Republicans for Years
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    Campaigning with Steve Bannon in Fairhope, Alabama, a week ago, Roy Moore struck a messianic note. “We’ve got to go back to God, we’ve got to go back to restore the morality of this country,” said the Republican candidate, who is running in a special election for Alabama’s Senate seat. Quoting Ephesians 6, Moore exhorted his supporters to “take up the armor of God” in what had become a spiritual battle for the nation’s soul. “We’ve struggled, but we’ve overcome,” Moore said. “And I think that on December 12 we’ll see an election that the world won’t forget.”

    Moore has since retreated from the campaign trail, apparently to avoid uncomfortable questions about allegations that the 70-year-old molested and preyed on teenagers when he was in his 30s. But he does have reason to be hopeful that he has “overcome” those charges: After being abandoned by his party in the immediate aftermath of the allegations in October, mainstream Republicans—including President Donald Trump—have come rushing back, with the notable exception of Alabama’s senior senator, Richard Shelby. Electing a Republican was ultimately more important than Moore’s numerous drawbacks: the charges of pedophilia, his well-documented Islamophobia and homophobia, his contempt for the federal judiciary, even his bizarre comments about slavery, which in earlier years would have been enough to sink a candidate.

    Moore is also right that this is an election that won’t soon be forgotten. Win or lose, Moore’s candidacy will haunt the Republican Party for a long time.

    The decision to stand behind Moore is a foolishly short-term one. Trump, who like most Republicans backed the establishment candidate Luther Strange in Alabama’s primary, is eager to prove that he’s still a kingmaker, even with poll numbers in the 30s. In the last big election, Virginia’s gubernatorial race in November, Trump’s favored candidate, Ed Gillespie, lost. If Trump can’t get a win in deep-red Alabama, then that will undermine his clout with other Republicans, whose relationship with the president is partly based on whether he can help them win elections.

    Trump has another reason for supporting Moore, one that he shares with congressional Republicans. The GOP enjoys a slim majority in the Senate—with only 52 Republican senators, three “no” votes can sink any legislation passed by simple majority. While Republicans were able to pass a tax reform package with 51 votes, they’ve been stymied in their attempt to repeal Obamacare. Moore, who has campaigned against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the GOP establishment as much as he’s campaigned against his Democratic opponent Doug Jones, will be more of an unpredictable vote than a generic Republican. But he’ll still be more reliable than Jones.

    Recent precedent may have also played a role in the decision to back Moore. It was Trump himself who survived multiple allegations of sexual misconduct to prevail in his election. After the release of the Access Hollywood tape in October 2016, numerous Republicans jumped ship when it looked like Trump was about to lose badly, only to come back into the fold when partisan considerations reasserted themselves. Trump won and Republicans were rewarded with a unified Republican government. All’s well that ends well.

    But though Trump won the election, that doesn’t mean that his party has paid no consequences for supporting him. Trump’s victory resulted in an enormous, complex backlash that we are only just beginning understand. Early indicators suggest that Republicans are heading toward a bloodbath in the 2018 midterms, which will be a referendum on Trump’s presidency and what Trump stands for: misogyny, yes, but also much more, including xenophobia, racism, and a disdain for the rule of law.

    Backing Moore only makes the GOP’s Donald Trump problem worse. Taken together, Moore and Trump represent the worst of the contemporary Republican Party. Democratic ads in 2018 and beyond will surely make the connection. An accused child groper and an admitted pussy-grabber: This is the Republican Party that must be voted out.

    But it gets worse. Even before Moore came along, the Republican Party’s reputation was in terrible shape. Republicans in Congress have spent most of the year trying to take health care away from millions and giving massive tax cuts to millionaires, billionaires, and corporations—all while raising taxes on millions of middle-class taxpayers. The embrace of an alleged child predator for the sake of passing a massive tax giveaway to the wealthy is a plotline so on-the-nose it would be rejected by Veep.

    And yet here we are. It’s no wonder that only 28 percent of millennials think that Republicans care for “people like them,” according to a recent poll. Trump, tax reform, Obamacare repeal, Moore—these are things that will take more than an election cycle to recover from. These are toxic people and toxic policies, and to combine them will have severe repercussions. In 2016, Trump was often treated as an aberration, by both Democrats and the media. Eleven months into Trump’s presidency, it’s simply impossible to make the argument that he and Moore are outsiders. They are the Grand Old Party, and that doesn’t change even if Moore loses, as some Republicans privately hope he will.

    Democrats learned this year that the past will haunt you in unpredictable ways. Many on the left are just beginning to reckon with the consequences of Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct and Democrats’ decision to stick by him in the 1990s. That alone should alarm any Republican supporting Moore for short-term reasons, or even out of antipathy toward liberals.

    Moore may very well win on Tuesday. But regardless of the outcome, Republicans have already lost. Even a strong finish by Moore won’t help a party that’s so tethered to Trump and the culture war that it just backed a credibly accused child molester for the Senate. Moore’s candidacy is evidence of a rot in the GOP that is not simply here to stay—it’s growing.


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    What Liberals Can Learn From Conservatism
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    According to my dictionary, a conservative is “a person who is averse to change and holds to traditional values and attitudes.” A radical, by contrast, is someone who advocates “thorough or complete change” and “departure from tradition.”

    Which term best describes President Trump?

    He’s a radical, of course. At every turn, Trump has challenged our most sacred national traditions: freedom of the press, the rule of law, independent courts, and more. He’s not a conservative; he’s the opposite of one.

    So our own challenge, as citizens, is to defend those institutions. It doesn’t matter if we’re Democrats, Republicans, independents, or none of the above. We are all conservatives now, in a dictionary sense. Or, at least, we should be.

    But we’re not acting like it. On the GOP side, people who would otherwise indict Trump’s reckless behavior have ignored it. The only Republicans in Congress who have firmly called him out Trump (Jeff Flake, Bob Corker) are on the way out; almost everyone else has turned a blind eye, holding their noses all the while. That’s not leadership; it’s cowardice.

    Meanwhile, too many of my fellow Democrats have decided to fight Trump by questioning his legitimacy, not just his politics. And that bears an uncanny echo to Trump himself, who built his White House campaign on the “birther” lie about Barack Obama.

    To be fair, I haven’t heard anyone suggest that Trump wasn’t born in the United States. But I’ve heard plenty of people proclaim that he’s not a “legitimate president”—to quote Representative John Lewis—because the Russians allegedly swung the election to him.

    Wait, wasn’t it Trump who kept warning on the campaign trail that the election was “rigged”? John Lewis is a genuine American hero, and Trump is a charlatan, but Lewis’s remark was Trumpian to the core. Lewis doesn’t know whether Russian interference decided the election, any more than you do. Saying so—without real evidence—undermines not just our electoral institutions, but also the special prosecutor whom we have charged with investigating the Russian attacks on them. If we already know the answer, why bother to ask?

    Ditto for the much-heard claim that fewer people voted for Trump than for Hillary Clinton, so she should be president rather than him. Under our Constitution, the person with the most electoral (not popular) votes wins. You might think it’s time to revise that practice; I certainly do. But there’s a system for changing it, which is outlined in—yes—the Constitution. Donald Trump became President under the process that has governed America since 1787. So if you say he is “Not My President,” you’re not just dissing Trump; you’re saying that the rules are illegitimate when they yield an outcome you don’t like.

    Sound familiar? Again, it’s exactly how Trump operates. If a court rules against him, it’s because of the judge’s ethnic bias; if the FBI investigates him, it’s because the agency is in “tatters” and “the worst in history.” And so on.

    Then there’s the Twenty-Fifth Amendment gambit, which might be the most Trump-like of all of the attacks on the president. Every time he slurs a word, the blogosphere lights up with claims that he is physically or mentally incapable of holding office.

    Please. The charge is based on rumor and innuendo—Trump’s own signature idioms—rather than on fact. And it also undermines the Twenty-Fifth Amendment itself, which allows the vice president and a majority of the cabinet to recommend the removal of a president who is unable to function as one.

    If you look at the congressional debate surrounding the amendment, which passed in 1967, you’ll see that it was designed to remove people who were clearly and unmistakably handicapped. Indeed, New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy—brother of the murdered president—warned that the amendment might become a weapon for removing leaders who were physically capable but politically unpopular.

    Not to worry, replied Indiana Senator Birch Bayh. “We are not getting into a position ... in which when a president makes an unpopular decision, he would immediately be rendered unable to perform the duties of his office,” said Bayh, a central figure in the campaign for the Twenty-Fifth Amendment.

    To be removed, in short, you had to be absolutely and unambiguously incapable—like John F. Kennedy was, in the hours between when he was shot and when he died. That’s what his brother and the other authors of the amendment envisioned. Stretching it to cover Trump ignores that history, which is—again—just the kind of thing that Trump does.

    Enough already. Desperate times don’t call for radical measures; they call for conservative ones. So it’s time for everyone who loves our country—and its historic traditions—to rally behind them. If you don’t like President Trump, do what the Constitution says: Vote him out. (And if the special prosecutor finds that Trump colluded with Russia—or impeded justice—impeach him.) The best way to challenge Trump is to double down on our constitutional heritage, even as he makes a mockery of it. And the worse way is to imitate Trump, all in the guise of maligning him.


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    The Brutal Origins of Gun Rights
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    We will never know for certain who was the first person shot dead in the Americas. Visitors to the Jamestown Settlement Museum in Virginia can see the skeleton of a young man, no older than 19; the pellets of lead that killed him are embedded in a shattered knee. Known only as JR102C, the man’s identity has been the subject of much debate. The strongest theory holds that he was a dashing young military officer named George Harrison, and that he was killed in a duel.

    But this European settler was hardly the first human being in the “New World” killed by a gun. Forensic scientists excavating sites in Peru have found at least one gunshot fatality nearly a century older, an Inca man shot through the back of his skull by a conquistador. He appears to have been a noncombatant, possibly executed after a 1536 uprising, his body dumped in a mass grave alongside those of women and children. Many of their remains show signs of mutilation and abuse. No one can even pretend to guess at his name or theirs.

    These early cases of gun violence belong to a history of settler-colonialism and ethnic cleansing. As the writer and historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz argues in her brilliant new book, Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment, America’s obsession with guns has roots in a long, bloody legacy of racist vigilantism, militarism, and white nationalism. This past, Dunbar-Ortiz persuasively argues, undergirds both the landscape of gun violence to this day and our partisan debates about guns. Her analysis, erudite and unrelenting, exposes blind spots not just among conservatives, but, crucially, among liberals as well.


    These days, debates over the Second Amendment invariably turn on interpreting the connotation of “militia” in the stipulation that: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Liberals will often argue that gun ownership was always intended to be tethered to participation in institutions like the early Colonial Army or today’s National Guard. Conservatives tend to retort, in so many words, that “the people” were always meant to have guns as such, since an armed citizenry functions as a putative check on tyrannical government over-reach. When polled, a majority of Americans say they believe the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms, regardless of participation in formal militias, whether “for hunting” or, as the Supreme Court ruled in 2008 District of Columbia vs. Heller, for lawful “self-defense.”

    A distinguished scholar of Native American history, Dunbar-Ortiz dismisses these debates as a red herring. As she pointedly notes, at the time of the Second Amendment’s drafting, other lines elsewhere in America’s founding documents already provided for the existence of formal militias, and multiple early state constitutions had spelled out an individual right to bear arms besides. What the Second Amendment guarantees is instead something else: “the violent appropriation of Native land by white settlers … as an individual right.”

    LOADED: A DISARMING HISTORY OF THE SECOND AMENDMENT by Roxanne Dunbar-OrtizCity Lights Publishers, 176 pp., $16.95

    Our national mythology encourages Americans to see the Second Amendment as a result of the Revolutionary War—to think of it as a matter of arming Minutemen against Redcoats. But, Dunbar-Ortiz argues, it actually enshrines practices and priorities that long preceded that conflict. For centuries before 1776, the individual white settler was understood to have not just a right to bear arms, but a responsibility to do so—and not narrowly in the service of tightly regulated militias, but broadly, so as to participate in near-constant ad-hoc, self-organized violence against Native Americans. “Settler-militias and armed households were institutionalized for the destruction and control of Native peoples, communities, and nations,” Dunbar-Ortiz writes. “Extreme violence, particularly against unarmed families and communities, was an aspect inherent in European colonialism, always with genocidal possibilities, and often with genocidal results.”

    The colonists’ use of guns was brutal. Drawing on the work of the military historian John Grenier, Dunbar-Ortiz describes how early colonists practiced what came to be known as “the first way of war” or “savage war.” Unlike war between “civilized” European nation-stations, in this mode of warfare Anglo settlers organized “irregular units to brutally attack and destroy unarmed Indigenous women, children, and old people using unlimited violence in unrelenting attacks.” Settler “rangers” pursued ethnic cleansing with the single-minded goal of depopulating land that they could then claim for themselves per a legal ownership scheme (“fee simple” land titles) that was considerably more advantageous than anything available to them on the European continent. Along the way they instituted practices like scalp-bounties.

    This program of acquiring territory through genocide predated the settlers’ aspirations of independence from the British Crown. In no small part it even fueled it, since the Colonial government at times sought to restrain or at least control it. When Americans did establish independence, the program found expression in the Second Amendment, as Dunbar-Ortiz writes:

    Although the U.S. Constitution formally instituted “militias” as state-controlled bodies that were subsequently deployed to wage wars against Native Americans, the voluntary militias described in the Second Amendment entitled settlers, as individuals and families, with the right to combat Native Americans on their own.

    Although some readers will doubtless contest it, this is a critical intervention in debates over the Second Amendment. Instead of seeing its tortured language about the militia as a kind of archaic oddity, as something that must either be “updated” or explained away, Dunbar-Ortiz instead grounds the Second Amendment in something much bigger. She puts it at the front-and-center of the history of violence in America. This history encompasses far more than just the era of early colonization and the Revolutionary War, and Dunbar-Ortiz does not flinch from taking it on its full scope.

    As Loaded proceeds, Dunbar-Ortiz traces the ways in which gun ownership has been the cornerstone of America’s growth into a “militaristic-capitalistic powerhouse.” In her account, guns are the reason that white people maintained control of the social order despite nominal changes in which parties or groups might claim power. For example, Dunbar-Ortiz notes how, in parts of the South before the Revolution, a class of armed white civilians was employed by the Colonial courts to serve as “searchers,” not just to track down fugitive slaves, but to detain freed blacks besides. Distinct from the formal militia, which was preoccupied with battling Native Americans, these “searchers,” subsequently known as “patrollers,” continued their work after the overthrow of the British, deploying a variety of tactics including the creation and printing of the first Wanted ads.

    After the Civil War, these groups of armed whites morphed once more, continuing to harass and terrorize emancipated black Americans, becoming either Klansmen or police (or, not infrequently, both at the same time). For these foot soldiers of white supremacy, the titles and group affiliations might change, but their roles—and the centrality of guns to those roles—remained the same. Indeed, as Dunbar-Ortiz notes, many Confederate veterans publicly associated with each other long after the war through so-called “rifle clubs,” often barely-disguised fronts for Klan activity. Granted, at times, in such a short but information-packed book, accounts of such continuities may feel schematic; but at others, they can feel revelatory, as when Dunbar-Ortiz compares “savage war” to the rampages of contemporary mass killers. Throughout, and even when uneven, her narrative is devastating.


    Loaded is also a story of many individuals. The trope of “the hunter,” for example, recurs frequently in current debates over guns, even though hunting is no longer the leading reason Americans give for gun ownership. Dunbar-Ortiz traces the common image of the gun-bearing hunter to the folk-hero image of Daniel Boone, the frontiersman whose exploits in Kentucky were the stuff of legend even during his lifetime in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Yet, as Dunbar-Ortiz observes, Boone’s celebrity was largely the work of another man, John Filson, a real estate speculator who wrote under Boone’s name. He simply wanted to encourage settlers to buy claims over land that was already heavily populated by Native Americans. So much for the image of the rugged American frontiersman, gun in hand, experiencing his primordial oneness with the wilderness, so beloved by gun rights advocates.

    Likewise, Dunbar-Ortiz sounds the legacy of figures like pro-slavery paramilitary leader William Quantrill. Quantrill led a band of pro-slavery “bushwhacker” guerillas who carried out violent raids against pro-abolition communities in the Kansas and Missouri territories before and during the Civil War. In one instance, Quantrill and his men attacked Lawrence, Kansas, butchering some 160 civilians, including children. Yet as time passed, and it became expedient to forget and move beyond the violence of the Civil War, Quantrill and his men, who were famous for wielding six-shooter revolvers, became integrated into fuzzy legend of “the West.” They ceased to be seen as “bloody, murdering Confederate guerillas” and became “righteous outlaws.”

    Some of these profiles may be richer and more-in-depth than others, but together they form a tapestry that is grim and compelling indeed. The right’s talk of preserving American greatness, Dunbar-Ortiz proposes, comes directly from this violent history. From Reagan’s race politics to Trump’s nativism, leaders on the right have articulated the principles that groups of armed American extremists practice. “White nationalists are the irregular forces—the voluntary militias—of the actually existing political-economic order,” she states, succinctly. “They are provided for in the Second Amendment.”

    Among the stories Dunbar-Ortiz tells, is, fascinatingly, her own. As a Leftist activist in the 1970s, Dunbar-Ortiz participated in a “women’s study-action group” in Louisiana which was infiltrated by a government-affiliated spy, surveilled by police, and threatened by a member of the KKK. Desperate and “caught up in a current of repression and paranoia,” Dunbar-Ortiz and her comrades began to arm themselves, training with guns and eventually amassing a small arsenal. “We had fallen under the spell of guns,” she writes. “Our relationship to them had become a kind of passion that was inappropriate to our political objectives, and it ended up distorting and determining them.”

    Dunbar-Ortiz eventually moved on from her phase of “gun love,” but the country has, of course, done just the opposite. Since the early ‘70s, the number of privately owned guns in American hands has nearly tripled, to well over 300 million. Meanwhile, American military forces are now deployed in some 180 countries, and our arms industry has achieved export levels and profit margins unprecedented since the end of World War II. Towards the end of Loaded, Dunbar-Ortiz presents American “gun love” as a quasi-religious phenomenon, bound up in a primal national myth of chosen-ness, victimization, and righteous violence.

    It would be folly to hope that any single intellectual intervention, no matter how trenchant, could undo this template, or could reverse or slow this trajectory. And yet if we are to even imagine this possibility, we must have some sort of vocabulary to do so. As a portrait of the deepest structures of American violence, Loaded is an indispensable book.

    Correction: An earlier version of this piece misstated when Daniel Boone was alive. He lived in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.


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    Paper Tiger
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    Here is a very short history of Donald Trump’s long-standing war on the press: He has called reporters “dishonest,” “crooked,” “lying,” “scum,” “disgusting,” “crazy,” and “bad.” He has blacklisted news organizations and thrown reporters out of political rallies. “Good job,” he told Corey Lewandowski, his campaign manager, after Lewandowski forcibly ejected reporter Michelle Fields from an event, leaving her bruised. Trump has vowed to revise libel laws to make it easier to sue media companies—“Believe me, if I become president, oh, do they have problems,” Trump told his supporters—and he has suggested jailing journalists who print classified information. In July, he tweeted a video of himself body-slamming a man with a CNN logo superimposed on his face. The media, Trump has said, “is the enemy of the American people.

    These attacks are vile, and they have begun to undermine one of this country’s key democratic institutions. Recent polling suggests that nearly half of all Americans believe the media invents stories about Trump. Even more disturbingly, Trump’s anti-media crusade is making the job of reporting an increasingly dangerous one. Journalists are facing years in prison for covering the protests during Trump’s inauguration. At his rallies, reporters have been attacked with anti-Semitic slurs, alongside chants of “CNN sucks!” And in May, Greg Gianforte, then a Republican congressional candidate in Montana, attacked Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, who was simply asking him a question about health care. Such developments led the U.N. high commissioner for human rights to warn in August that freedom of the press is “under attack from the president.” Trump’s statements, he said, could be interpreted as an incitement to violence against journalists.

    How Trump’s attacks undermine the press:

    83%

    Percentage of Americans who say the relationship between Trump and the media is “unhealthy”

    73%

    Percentage of Americans who say the tensions are “getting in the way” of their access to important political news

    Source: Pew Research Center

    Particularly troubling is the fact that Trump’s threats against leakers have already led the Justice Department to open three times as many leak investigations as were underway during Barack Obama’s final three years in office. Yet it was actually the Obama administration that began the aggressive war on whistleblowers. It used the Espionage Act to prosecute government employees who spoke to the media, it monitored reporters’ phone records, and it attempted to force journalists to reveal confidential sources. “The administration’s war on leaks and other efforts to control information are the most aggressive I’ve seen since the Nixon administration,” wrote Leonard Downie Jr., one of the editors involved in The Washington Post’s Watergate investigation, in a 2013 report on Obama’s media crackdown. Trump is simply continuing down a path Obama laid out for him.

    In other respects, however, Trump’s war on the press differs from Obama’s in much the same way their presidencies differ: in their comparative abilities to get things done. In October, for example, Trump suggested that the government revoke NBC’s license to broadcast news, in retaliation for what he considered “fake news.” But Trump’s call to revoke NBC’s license is an empty threat. The Federal Communications Commission doesn’t base its licensing decisions on the content that is broadcast; it simply examines whether stations have complied with its rules. Networks such as NBC, moreover, do not even receive licenses from the FCC; individual affiliates do. In order for Trump to boot NBC off the air, he’d have to take on dozens of affiliates around the country—a purge that even Trump’s own FCC chair, Ajit Pai, has insisted he would not go along with.

    Similarly, Trump’s promises to make it easier to sue news organizations by loosening U.S. libel laws is a complete nonstarter. The president has no power to change libel laws; that is a matter for the courts and state legislatures, and the issue is governed by more than 50 years of Supreme Court precedent. And while Trump has complained loudly and repeatedly about how the press has treated him unfairly, since he has become a politician, he has never followed through with a libel suit.

    Such threats, in the end, are best understood as material to rile up Trump’s base and take the focus away from more pressing issues. It’s a technique Trump has deployed time and again throughout his presidency, to great success. Whenever the press has begun to focus on serious issues, Trump has been able to change the subject by lobbing attacks on the media—which rushes to defend itself from every slight. Trump threatened NBC, for example, on a day when he was facing intense criticism over his lackluster response to the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, and just ahead of his announcement that he would decertify the nuclear deal with Iran and cut off the cost-sharing payments that undergird the Affordable Care Act. “One of Trump’s typical moves is to toss a bomb out of nowhere to deflect what is really bothering him, in the hopes that the press will be distracted,” says Doug Sosnik, who served as Bill Clinton’s political director. Trump has failed to enact any significant piece of his legislative agenda, but his strategy of attacking the press has been remarkably effective.

    Trump is a master of manipulating the media. During his campaign, he generated an estimated $5 billion worth of free media coverage, simply by saying outrageous things. His presidency, too, has been a boon to the 24/7 news cycle; there are leaks and scoops by the hour, a seemingly endless torrent of breaking news. But in rushing to report on every new outburst and scandal, the press should be careful to avoid playing into Trump’s hand. His attacks on the press are serious. But the media can’t allow itself to be distracted by meaningless threats.


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    Jenny Diski’s Magic Mirror
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    The Vanishing Princess is Jenny Diski’s only collection of short stories, recently published for the first time in the U.S. (it came out in the U.K. in 1995). In her introduction to the book, Heidi Julavits calls it “an artist’s sketchbook” for Diski, who, before her death in 2016, was better known for her ten novels, eight works of nonfiction, and reams of criticism for The London Review of BooksShe seemed to always have been there, a ubiquitous voice that, as this collection shows, turns out to have been irreplaceable. 

    The Vanishing Princess finds Diski in reflective mode. The first story is about the eponymous princess, but its subtitle—“Or, The Origin of Cubism”—suggests something more than a modern fairytale. Once upon a time, a princess lived in a tower all alone. A soldier arrived and brought her food, which he liked to watch her eat. Then a second soldier came, and gave her other things she hungered for: a mirror and a calendar. Her appearance distressed her at first. The second soldier stood next to her, and “she watched his reflection standing next to hers and telling her, ‘That is you.’”

    THE VANISHING PRINCESS by Jenny Diski. $15.99. 188pp., Ecco

    The first soldier came back. Seeing that another man had brought a mirror, he “took off a diamond ring he wore and … etched the outline of the princess’s reflection on to the glass.” When the second soldier returned, he made the princess stand before the mirror so that her reflection precisely filled out the first soldier’s outline. Then he, too, took off a diamond ring, and with its edge “drew around the reflection of her eyes,” then “filled in the lids, the pupils and the irises.” Now, within the outline, “a pair of eyes stared out.” They were “fixed in an expression of longing and alarm so poignant that the princess gasped. She could no longer see her own eyes when she looked in the mirror.”

    The first soldier became more interested in looking at the eyes in the glass than watching the princess eat. “Now, on each visit, the soldiers added to the portrait in the mirror.” The princess’s original reflection “became no more than a frame, as each man added a feature according to his mood. An elbow was matched with the bridge of a nose; a wrist with a knee; a buttock curved beside an anklebone; one ear rested on a fingernail.” Finally, she couldn’t see herself at all. She disappeared. 

    In presenting a fairytale about three-dimensional representation, Diski focuses not on the person doing the looking, but the person being looked at. It is a story about being, not about seeing. Like almost every story in The Vanishing Princess—which, as Julavits puts it, are all bound together by “their feministly interrogative nature”—the tale takes up one aspect of feminine experience and inflates it into a beautiful and monstrous parable. 

    Let’s take Cubism as a cipher for the creative projects of men. Those projects’ origins, Diski says, belong less with real women than with their reflections, which are then elaborated into representational practices through games of careless tennis between communities of men. The original subjects of those works end up obscured even from themselves. As representation of the world takes on multiple dimensions in men’s hands, the level at which women can see themselves truthfully reflected is lost.

    In retelling folk stories with new female perspectives, The Vanishing Princess’s closest ally is Angela Carter. Like Carter, Diski presents women who are living inside roles. She gives us the internal monologue of the gazed-upon woman. Some retellings are simply funny and sexy, like “Shit and Gold,” which reimagines Rumpelstiltskin. Rather than having to discover the imp’s name, the miller’s daughter becomes the queen by making him forget it. And she enjoys doing it.

    In “Bath Time,” a woman gives up everything in her life for the single perfect experience: a bath. She invests every penny she has in a pristine white tiled room containing practically nothing but a white towel, a black bottle of bath oil, a sink. We never get to experience the bath itself, but at the story’s end we share with her the delicious bedtime of a woman who knows that the next day will be the greatest of her life. The principal idea here is of fulfilling desire, to the detriment of everything else in the universe, because it is all that matters. 

    Desire is found in other stories. “Housewife” is a deliciously lascivious story about the sexual connection between a housewife and her lover. Their correspondence is ridiculously florid, and Diski does a beautiful juggling act of celebrating a woman coming into new sexual consciousness while showing how silly and sweet human beings are when they’re doing that kind of thing. Her focus remains on the experience of the reflected self: “Filled with desire at her image and lusting dreamily for herself,” Diski writes of her heroine, “she watched her reflection slide her fingertips lightly down her body, from shoulder to breast, pausing to cup it softly and squeezing the nipple between thumb and finger.” Her “saturated labia” are “as silky and smooth as the satin covering her breasts, as slippery and wet as the liver she had donated to the cats.”

    If many stories in The Vanishing Princess are about tapping into the hidden desire at the heart of the self, others are about its destruction by an outrageous world. The very minimal concept story “Short Circuit” describes a woman driven mad by her conviction that her partner is not telling her the truth about not telling her the truth. “Wide Blue Yonder” gives us a dissatisfied woman who makes the sudden and exciting leap into the “perfect pleasure” of drifting out to sea, away from her bad husband, towards her certain death.

    For all the affirmation of female interiority in these stories, therefore, Diski also gives us a low hum of dread and perturbation. There’s a distant wryness to the narrative voice of The Vanishing Princess, one which uses fairytale cutouts to make everyday life seem both ridiculous and frightening. Madness and evil are as omnipresent as they are in fairytales, and they hide just out of our sight—only one thwarted desire, one misunderstanding away—in our own heads.  


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    The Year in Class War
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    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::get_element() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14949

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::entities_decode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9190

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

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    Everything’s coming up Dollar General. “The economy is continuing to create more of our core customer,” its CEO, Todd Vasos, recently informed The Wall Street Journal. “We are putting stores today [in areas] that perhaps five years ago were just on the cusp of probably not being our demographic and it has now turned to being our demographic.” Joyful news for Vasos, who earned $8.5 million in 2016, and for his company, which is enjoying rising profits. His cashiers, who make minimum wage, have less to celebrate. Dollar General says it’s courting customers who make under $40,000 a year. Its pay scale means it’s producing those customers, too.

    This is not to make Vasos a scapegoat. In fact, he is more honest than most about what is happening in America’s free market economy. He is certainly more honest than the Republicans in power, who insist, with barely feigned conviction, that wealth will eventually trickle down. He understands that the moment we live in is advantageous to him, and that what is good for Dollar General is not necessarily good for workers. And he knows that the government wants to keep it that way.

    The term “class war” is out of vogue. The Democratic Party doesn’t use it, wary of its Marxist heritage. Mainstream outlets avoid it, at least as a serious way to describe how elites are perpetuating their command of this country’s resources. When it is used, it is mostly to denigrate class agitation in the opposite direction: those on the bottom end who dare to criticize the wealthy. But the Donald Trump era has been clarifying in so many respects, not least in showing that the Republican Party, in league with the upper classes, is engaged in an all-out class war against the working and middle classes. In every area of policy—tax, environment, health, energy, even the management of the nation’s national parks—we have seen a sustained disdain for common people and an allegiance to the rich. It is class war, and they’re winning.

    The paeans to trickle-down economics and limited government are belied by the hard facts. Severe poverty increased in 2016; the Pew Research Center reports that three in ten families in poverty made at least $15,000 below the poverty threshold. Rich families, however, are getting richer. “In 1963, families near the top had six times the wealth (or, $6 for every $1) of families in the middle. By 2016, they had 12 times the wealth of families in the middle,” the Urban Institute revealed this year. Social mobility, meanwhile, is decreasing. Data compiled by The Financial Times shows that in 2016, 30- and 40-year-olds earned significantly less than their parents did at the same ages.

    The Republican tax bill, the latest and most successful expression of a long campaign, would exacerbate these trends. Even objective outlets like The Washington Post find that the Senate version of the bill—which slashes corporate taxes, allows significant exemptions to the estate tax, repeals the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, and weakens public employee unions—“is weighted to wealthier Americans.” As one conservative economist told Bloomberg, “It’s death to Democrats.” But it’s much more than that; it’s also an attack on the GOP’s own working-class voters, who Republicans hope will stick with the party despite higher taxes and stagnant wages and more expensive insurance because of the country’s other great battle, the culture war.

    In terms of actual policy, however, Republicans are working for their obscenely wealthy donor class. They have drafted a bill that shifts wealth from one class to another and concentrates it, where it becomes a lasting testimony to the superiority of the few in contrast to the inferiority of the many. It becomes a value judgement, a determination of worth. And that value judgment can be seen in all areas of this Republican-controlled government.


    The country’s social safety net is the party’s next target in 2018. “We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” Speaker Paul Ryan recently told a local radio show. “Frankly, it’s the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt, so we spend more time on the health care entitlements—because that’s really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.” Entitlement reform means cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, which will help pay for the $1 trillion hole in the deficit caused by the tax bill.

    Before the tax bill, there was Obamacare repeal. Long a staple of conservative campaign rhetoric, Republicans proved unable to marshal themselves well enough to carry out their years of threats. But their attempts are instructive—and not just because the policies they proposed are likely to pop up, gremlin-like, in bill after bill until Republicans are swept from office. There can’t really be any doubt that Republican leadership is indifferent to the welfare of its poorest backers, after a close and critical examination of their proposals to break down our already-mediocre health care system.

    Consider the Graham-Cassidy bill, the party’s last sad grasp at victory: It would’ve cost 21 million people their health insurance, according to one study by the Brookings Institution, a figure well in line with other repeal attempts. The American Health Care Act would have uninsured 23 million; the Better Health Care Act, 22 million. Republicans wanted to starve Medicaid and kill the individual mandate, and when these policies proved to be dramatically unpopular they resorted to lying. It’s the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that’s wrong, Republicans say. As people with disabilities protested in the halls of Congress and were dragged out of their wheelchairs by Capitol police, wealthy donors were salivating over the tax breaks in the bills.

    Health care law is a useful magnifying glass. Viewed through the lens of Graham–Cassidy, we can see how conservative policies entrench the existence of a vulnerable class. The Republican vision for health care reform implies sharp distinctions between lives with value and those without, and those distinctions map directly onto socioeconomic divides. In a debate over the future of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch insisted he wanted to save the program, which insures nearly 10 million children whose parents do not qualify for Medicaid. But he issued a telling caveat too: “I believe in helping those who cannot help themselves but would if they could. I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger and expect the federal government to do everything.” This is classic GOP rhetoric, splitting those who “deserve” help from those who allegedly do not. The less the poor take, the more we have to spare for our John Galts.

    It’s more difficult to frame the Trump administration’s deregulation campaign in such stark terms. Deregulation, however, serves the same goal that conservative health policy and tax policy do: It empowers corporations and disempowers workers. Nearly as soon as Trump took office he signed an executive order requiring agencies to kill two regulations for every one regulation they implement. Trump is convinced that regulations are inherently bad, and that his order will result in some magically perfected regulatory regime. In practice, however, his deregulatory policy has come at the expense of average people. By May, Trump had used the Congressional Review Act 14 times to end regulations protecting clean water, funding for Planned Parenthood, and broadband access. More recently, his Department of Labor threatened to end a ban on tip-pooling in the restaurant industry.

    Trump pushes deregulation for the same reasons he stocked his cabinet with some of the wealthiest people in the country. It’s hardly an accident that most of the individuals appointed to steer this deregulation push have deep ties to the industries they’re meant to oversee. A New York Times/ProPublica investigation uncovered 71 administration appointees with corporate ties, and 28 had potential conflicts of interest. They have every incentive to work on behalf of their former employers or themselves, and little reason to defend the interests of the public.

    Trump’s menagerie seems determined to prove claims that he has turned the U.S. government into a kleptocracy. Consider Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who took government helicopters to private events and steered a $300 million contract to help rebuild Puerto Rico to a small firm in his hometown of Whitefish, Montana; or former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who resigned in September after reports that he billed the government for private flights. And let us not forget Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who took a government flight to Fort Knox so that he and his wife could watch the solar eclipse atop a dragon-hoard of gold. “It’s very hard not to give tax cuts to the wealthy,” he said in October. In every instance, we see an extraordinary degree of entitlement, alongside a nonchalance for how taxpayer dollars are used.

    The administration is in the midst of undermining both the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the sole government agency tasked with protecting consumers from predatory financial practices, and the Environmental Protection Agency, which has struggled to protect Americans from the effects of climate change and industrial pollution thanks to the administration’s deep ties to the oil and gas sector. The CFPB’s new director, Mick Mulvaney, has called the agency a “sad, sick” joke, and has taken contributions from payday lenders. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is basically a glorified agent of the fossil fuel industry.

    The administration’s deference to oil and gas companies, at the expense of the health and wellbeing of voters, can even be seen in its drive to suck up public lands. The idea of the commons means nothing to it. If there is land that can be drilled to make rich people richer, then the protections for the Alaska Wildlife Refuge will have to go. So long, Bears Ears.


    “The modern American capitalist system is far from perfect. But for all its flaws, our system—and the digital communication channels it enabled—has delivered social justice more swiftly and effectively than supposedly more enlightened public bodies tend to,” Reason editor Elizabeth Nolan Brown argued recently in The New York Times. Brown’s premise—that free markets helped activists get celebrity sexual harassers fired—doesn’t stand up in an era marked by grotesque inequality. If anything, capitalism is exactly why these sexual harassers operated with impunity for so long.

    The ongoing vulnerability of women and people of color is the deadliest proof that class war exists. Harvey Weinstein survived by placing financial pressure on his victims and offering incentives to everyone else to keep quiet; the markets that made him a millionaire enabled him to hire literal spies and sic them on Rose McGowan. Domestic workers, who are mostly women of color, recently told Splinter News that almost non-existent labor protections make it difficult, even impossible, for them to report sexual harassment or abuse. Other inequalities also demand an accounting: The Economic Policy Institute reported in 2017 that the median wealth of white families is 12 times higher than the median wealth of black families; when we talk about the wage gap, we’re talking about a phenomenon that predominantly holds back Latinas and black women.

    Even the consequences of deregulation disproportionately affect people of color. The Trump administration’s hostility to climate science, and its friendliness to industry, will make it even more difficult for marginalized communities to survive. “We often forget that the choices we make on regulations affecting clean air, clean water, and enforcement are interconnected with the lives of our vulnerable communities and tribal populations,” wrote Mustafa Ali when he resigned from the Environmental Protection Agency in March.

    Trump’s war on women and people of color stems from an irrefutable record of racism and misogyny. But it is facilitated by a specific economic platform. Trumpism cannot be destroyed without reckoning with its economic dimension. The risk it poses is best understood through the same terms that propelled the American labor movement to its early victories: The problem is class war, and the solution is a clear, vibrant left-wing platform. Instead, some Democrats ally with payday lenders and wrings hands over the deficit; others still denigrate single-payer health care as a futile dream. Would-be social reformers look to Silicon Valley and corporate donors for solutions, as if the people who are perpetuating our inequalities have it in their best interest to solve them. But egalitarianism is the great counter to Trump’s false populism.

    “Don’t kill us, kill the bill,” chanted activists with disabilities in November. They protested not Obamacare repeal but the tax bill, because the consequences of both policies will be the same. There will be other bills, other policies; there will be more deaths, just to satisfy the wealthy. All wars have body counts, and class war is the same. We can at least admit we’re fighting one.


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    Sucking Up to the Boss Baby
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    The key to survival in Donald Trump’s orbit is knowing that you’re really only ever performing for an audience of one. Lose his approval and trust and you’re out. When Kellyanne Conway says that “a lot of people in the mainstream media interfered with our election by trying to help Hillary Clinton win” or Stephen Miller shouts that Trump’s national security actions “will not be questioned,” they’re fulfilling their one true duty, which is as much speaking to the boss as for the boss.

    LET TRUMP BE TRUMP by Corey R. Lewandowski and David N. BossieCenter Street, 296 pp., $27.00

    These performances are usually done on television, but television has the advantage of being built for short-attention spans. Let Trump Be Trump, Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie’s new campaign memoir, gives the audience-of-one schtick a book-length treatment. This repetitive, sycophantic, and self-serving book, which is oddly written in the third person, is meant to ingratiate themselves to Trump—or “the boss,” as he’s referred to again and again—a man whose intellect, leadership, and stamina they praise for a tiresome 264 pages. The unintentional effect is a portrait of a temperamental, thin-skinned, and profoundly needy man at the helm.

    Let Trump Be Trump is the first book to have been published by Trump campaign insiders, and early coverage has fixated on its gossipy tidbits, of which there are many. These stories have mostly fixated on Trump’s stomach-churning diet—Filet-O-Fish, Big Macs, Vienna Fingers, Oreos, gallons of Diet Coke—and Hope Hicks steaming Trump’s suit pants while Trump was wearing those pants.

    There are a few items that could, I suppose, be described as newsworthy. Lewandowski describes the Muslim ban as being a cynical political calculation: “For us, the decision was simple,” he writes. “We wanted none of the other candidates to move to the right of us on immigration.” Lewandowski and Bossie both despise former campaign chair Paul Manafort and relish in the details of his firing, despite the fact that neither were technically part of the campaign in August of 2016. (Lewandowski was fired in June, although he remained on the payroll and in contact with the campaign; Bossie joined as deputy campaign manager in September.) 

    In their telling, Trump was horrified by Manafort’s shady dealings and ties to Russian oligarchs. When Trump became aware in August of a $12.7 million payment from a Ukrainian political party, he was aghast: “I’ve got a crook running my campaign,” he reputedly said, before ordering Steve Bannon to fire Manafort. Lewandowski and Bossie also allege that Manafort asked for a “$5 million check to be cut for a media buy that sounded vague at best.” (The campaign’s COO refused.)

    Manafort alone gets two chapters in the book (including one titled “Thurston Howell III”), and it becomes evident that Lewandowski blames Manafort for his own firing. This personal animosity makes the Manafort sections in Let Trump Be Trump unique: They have a ring of truth. Manafort is portrayed as an amoral, manipulative, elitist jerk whose very existence runs in opposition to the grassroots, populist campaign that Lewandowski helped build. 

    But this is ultimately a happy coincidence. A reader would come away from this book with the impression that the campaign’s shady dealings were limited to Manafort. Michael Flynn is barely mentioned; Jared Kushner only has a bit part, as does Donald Trump Jr. Let Trump Be Trump largely sweeps Russian interference in the 2016 election under the rug. (However, the Manafort sections confirm the veracity of one aspect of the Steele dossier, which reported that Lewandowski, “who hated MANAFORT personally and remained close to TRUMP,” was foremost among the senior Trump officials pushing the campaign chair out.) 

    The majority of Let Trump Be Trump is devoted to two contradictory arguments. The first is that Lewandowski is the real architect of the Trump campaign and its success. The second is that Trump is a genius and the greatest politician in history. Let Trump Be Trump is the attempt to suture these ideas together, which culminates in the epiphany that the best way to win is to let Trump do whatever he feels like.  

    The problem is that pure, uncut Trump is intolerable, even by Lewandowski and Bossie’s lights. In one of the few honest moments in the book, they write, “Sooner or later, everybody who works for Donald Trump will see a side of him that makes you wonder why you took a job with him in the first place. His wrath is never intended as any personal offense, but sometimes it can be hard not to take it that way. The mode that he switches into when things aren’t going his way can feel like an all-out assault; it’d break most hardened men and women into little pieces.”

    Trump’s temper tantrums are meant to exemplify his leadership qualities—that he demands greatness from others and goes ballistic when his high expectations aren’t met. In Let Trump Be Trump, Manafort’s underhandedness results in one such outburst, but so does Sam Nunberg making a convoluted order at Wendy’s. Lewandowski blames his own firing, in part, on sending Ivanka and Jared Kushner to an Iowa caucus site that lacked Trump volunteers or literature.

    The sheer effusiveness of praise for Trump in Let Trump Be Trump is embarrassing. It also suggests a person who is desperate for constant, Stalin-esque praise from advisers who should be confronting him with difficult truths. Open up Let Trump Be Trump at random and you’ll find sentences like this: “Donald Trump’s mind works differently than most. His thoughts sometimes come out like pieces of a puzzle. It’s only later when you put the pieces together that you realize how much they’re worth. Sometimes the puzzle pieces form a masterpiece.”

    Watching Trump vociferously defend his claim that John McCain was “not a war hero” because he was captured by the Vietnamese, Lewandowski realizes: “He had never seen a candidate have such courage in his convictions. No matter how hard the press pushed him, Trump wasn’t backing down from his words.”

    Lewandowski and Bossie even suggest that Trump is a student of Jungian psychology:

    Although the mainstream media and other haters give him little credit for his intellect, Donald Trump has more than a fundamental grasp on a surprising number of fields, including Jungian psychology. One of his favorite books is Memory, Dreams, Reflections, Jung’s autobiography. Steve Bannon insists that Trump came up with the idea of the names Lyin’ Ted, Little Marco, Low-Energy Jeb, and, later, Crooked Hillary, from his knowledge of Jungian archetypes.

    If Lewandowski and Bossie had ever attended a creative writing class, they’d know the value of showing, not telling. Let Trump Be Trump, however, is all telling. Trump is a genius, we read again and again. He’s a “blue-collar billionaire” motivated by a desire to help cab drivers. He’s generous and big-hearted, which is why duplicity and back-stabbing upset him so much. Unfortunately, there’s very little in Let Trump Be Trump that backs up any of these claims—they’re just repeated until they become a kind of dull, obsequious wallpaper.

    But providing genuine insight into the 2016 campaign isn’t what Let Trump Be Trump is about. Rather, it’s an attempt to curry favor with their former boss at a moment when both are on the outside. Let Trump Be Trump is a reminder that they’re still loyal—and still ready to serve—a 264-page “I want you back” letter. There’s nothing really in here of interest to Trump’s detractors or his supporters—there’s nothing here for readers, in general. It’s a book for an audience of one. Unfortunately for Lewandowski and Bossie, their intended audience isn’t much of a reader.


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    The Problem of Coastal Media Bias in Covering Middle America
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    An unusual thing happened to me this week. A story that I wrote for The New Republic about the heated dispute over a proposed Costco poultry plant in Fremont, Nebraska, was published on the same day as another story on the same subject, written by Henry Grabar for Slate. It happens. Journalists know that certain microcosms reveal larger narratives; often we pick up the same frequencies. When I started to read the story, though, my concerns had less to do with duplication than a growing unease: Grabar had misjudged the essential story.

    Grabar is obviously a serious reporter. He went to Fremont, but more than that: He visited local business owners (white and Hispanic), went to a city council meeting and a meeting of the local Tea Party group, talked to the local Democratic Party chair and the head of the United Food and Commercial Workers, interviewed the head of the subcontractor whose company would run the plant and a sociologist who researches meatpacking towns, visited the farm of a local environmentalist, and called a biologist who studies pollution in the Elkhorn River. He even visited the local Catholic Church. In short, Grabar wore down some serious shoe leather in Fremont. And what he got is interesting and factual and sensitive—and mostly misses the point.

    Fremont, Grabar explains, like so many small towns in America, is haunted by the memory of a more prosperous past and is trying to find a way forward. Costco’s investment “could save the town,” he writes, if it welcomes “a plant that is all but certain to bring hundreds more immigrant and refugee families to town.” And yet resistance to Costco persists. Grabar allows Mayor Scott Getzschman to distill the problem: “There’s some people that, regardless of what you do, it’s change, and they don’t want change, period.”

    So the situation in Fremont, as Grabar sees it, is that Costco represents progress, in the form of cultural diversity and economic growth, while the townspeople resist out of a mix of racism and dislike of change. That’s certainly how the city government, local economic development board, and the corporate executives at Costco would like you to see it. Grabar largely accepts this view, possibly because it promises a Fremont that looks a little more like the world he knows and understands. “Henry currently lives in his native New York City,” his website bio reads. Not that New Yorkers can’t write about Nebraska, but here, that particular worldview colors the story.

    At one point, he theorizes that “rural assimilation can be easier” for immigrants from Latin America, because towns like Fremont “are more similar” to the homes that they have left behind “than frenetic urban neighborhoods like Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, and Elmhurst, Queens.” In lumping Latino immigrants into one group and assuming they have one background, Grabar winds up essentializing and reducing the very diversity that he means to celebrate. It’s true that the first waves of immigrants to Fremont came largely from Chichihualco, a tiny mountain village in Guerrero, Mexico, and the central highlands of Guatemala where the Maya speak K’iche’. But neither especially resembles Fremont, Nebraska. More than that, the groups who would likely work at the Costco plant come from even more disparate immigrant groups: Karen people from Burma, many of whom come from camps along the Thai border, and Somalis from war-torn Mogadishu by way of the Dadaab Refugee Complex in southern Kenya. Will their assimilation also be easier in Fremont, a town that rejected its population of undocumented migrants, than it would be in Queens?

    People in Fremont live within an hour’s drive of Nebraska’s two largest cities and virtually all of its major cultural institutions. Plenty of people head to Lincoln for Husker football games or to Omaha for the College World Series. They go to concerts at Century Link Center and Pinnacle Arena. They shop at the Westroads Mall in Omaha’s western suburbs and the Nebraska Crossing Outlets in Gretna. And all the while, they are watching Fox News at home, listening to Fox News radio affiliates in the car, and scrolling through Facebook on their phones.

    In short, they’re much like people everywhere else in this country—except that many of them have chosen to live in Fremont not only for its proximity to modern comforts but also its remove from modern diversity. Which is to say: Fremont should not be treated like some uncontacted tribe in the Amazon but rather like an apocalyptic cult whose members are threatening suicide rather than live in a world they now denounce. Expecting to see the positive effects of more diversity in a town that has already spent a decade affirming and reaffirming their rejection of immigrants by legal means, even if it comes with stiff financial costs, is to completely misjudge how deeply ingrained this kind of racism is and, worse still, to misunderstand where it comes from.

    Grabar says that immigrants have “changed the town’s identity.” I would argue that the latest wave of immigrants has merely revealed, yet again, Fremont’s complex response to outsiders of all stripes. The city shut down German-language newspapers and banned speaking German in public during World War I. Midland College, founded by German Lutherans in Kansas, was also welcomed to Fremont in 1919. Fremont was one of the centers of KKK activity in the 1920s; the town’s state senator also introduced anti-Klan legislation. The Hormel union provided economic stability for Fremont’s workers; one of its founders also explained that the union was formed when Hormel “hired 40 niggers,” so “we got clubs ... and we run them out.” And, of course, Fremont has seen its ethnic diversity boom in the last 25 years, and the town’s people responded by passing an anti-immigrant ordinance.

    Accepting Fremont’s whiteness as a state of nature rather than a constructed and enforced reality is to accept the racist myth of rural white homogeneity. In fact, the demographic makeup of Fremont, as the next stop up the Platte River from Omaha, is and has always been much more in flux than most rural places. That’s why there are conflicts. To make some generic call for “change” plays into the false narrative that they haven’t always been changing and stokes the Middle American paranoia that the coasts are judging and trying to “correct” them—when, in fact, the most recent throes of racist fervor in Fremont is anything but homegrown.

    Grabar, in discussing Fremont’s ordinance, never mentions that Bob Warner, the city councilman who first proposed the city’s anti-immigration ordinance, got the idea after seeing a story about an immigration raid in Postville, Iowa, on Fox News. Grabar never mentions that the ordinance was authored by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who became a key anti-immigration advisor to Donald Trump’s campaign and is now the head of Trump’s commission bent on national voter suppression. Grabar doesn’t mention that Fremonters who oppose the plant over worries about bringing in Somali workers almost universally talk about what they have seen on Fox News or Breitbart or Facebook.

    Proposing that that kind of fomented rage can be overcome by simply bringing in thousands of Somali neighbors is not only naïve but irresponsible. When Tyson brought hundreds of Somali workers into Emporia, Kansas, in 2006, the town was seized by anti-Muslim bigotry. The wild rumors and threats of violence grew so fevered that Tyson finally closed the plant and relocated workers to Garden City, Kansas, in 2007. Last year, as I noted in an earlier story for The New Republic, the FBI alleged that a group of white supremacists from nearby Liberal, Kansas, fueled by growing anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric, plotted to blow up the apartment complex where many of those same Somali workers live with a massive Timothy McVeigh-style truck bomb.

    The problem, in other words, isn’t that Fremont is disconnected from the world and is just in need of some diversity; the problem is that it is all too connected—but to false narratives. To champion meatpacking companies as agents of cultural diversification is both to give them undue credit and to put the workforce that they already exploit at further risk.


    One last thing. On Wednesday, on Twitter, I signaled my intention to raise these kinds of issues and to encourage Henry Grabar to enter into conversation with me about how all journalists can do better. That goes for me, too. I welcome Grabar’s, and anyone’s critiques of my work. (This includes Slate’s own Jordan Weissman, who tweeted at me, “calling bullshit,” on my criticism of Grabar’s article. “Darting in, pulling rank as a local . . . is crap,” he wrote, adding that I was “pompous” and “deeply lame.”) As much as I believe that Grabar is blinkered by a remote worldview, my own understanding of Fremont is perhaps colored by too much familiarity.

    After covering Fremont’s continuing immigration disputes for more than seven years now, I often feel a kind of despair at telling the same story again and again. Fremont-native Blake Harper, who I interviewed for my book The Chain (about one-third of which is set in Fremont) tweeted to me: “I love your work, @TedGenoways. But I’m burnt out. I don’t think I can handle yet another story about rampant stupidity in Fremont.” I know how he feels and that, too, is a kind of bias.

    But when Grabar writes that “deregulation and factory farming” are “bringing good news” to towns like Storm Lake, Iowa, and Garden City, Kansas, it makes people like me wonder. Does he not know that the editor of the Storm Lake Times won a Pulitzer Prize this year for his coverage of issues surrounding the devastating effects of nitrate pollution from cropland on the town’s drinking water?* Does he not know that Garden City was nearly the site of a horrifying anti-Muslim terrorist attack? When he writes that this “good news” is especially visible in Schuyler, Nebraska, does he not know that the high school’s nearly all-Hispanic basketball team spent its entire season last year facing opposing crowds who waved Trump campaign signs and shouted racist slurs and chanted “Build that wall!,” all through their games?

    When Donald Trump was elected president, the national news media committed to more coverage of the “heartland” areas that put him in office. I’m pleased to see Slate undertaking long-form narrative pieces about a place like Fremont. But if you really want to understand what’s happening in the so-called Real America, you have to be able to put aside coastal biases and take a long, hard look.

    Correction: *This article originally stated that the Storm Lake Times won a Pulitzer prize for its coverage of water pollution caused by hog barns.


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    The Company She Kept
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    Once upon a time, a certain kind of fairy tale goes, the most interesting and articulate minds in the world converged in dank Manhattan apartments to debate the merits of literary fiction and Trotskyist politics over cocktails. This is the story of the New York Intellectuals, of the minds and temperaments behind Partisan Review and eventually The New York Review of Books. There isn’t any real magic in this bit of cultural history, but there is fairy dust to be found in it all the same. For a certain kind of person in America, the New York Intellectuals had so much: vigorous debate, devotion to literature and ideas, and suitably shabby homes in the tasteful precincts of Manhattan and coastal Maine.

    Elizabeth Hardwick lived in one such apartment, on West 67th Street, as few reminiscences of her fail to mention. She lived the exemplary midcentury literary life, publishing a few well-regarded novels and a substantial pile of extravagantly praised essays, later becoming a founder and editor of The New York Review of Books. Her essays, now reissued by NYRB Classics, are specimens of impeccable taste. Her prose is ornamented but not ornamental. Adjectives come to her in artful trios. Sentences hum with an energy of their own, even trill a little, but only within the bounds she prescribed. And even though she often addressed unruly subjects—Zelda Fitzgerald’s “sad, wasted life” or the “violent self-definition” of Sylvia Plath—somehow her approach in prose was always proper, always carefully calibrated, even genteel.

    It was that sense of decorum, I think, that John Leonard had in mind when he praised the “brilliant domesticity” of her style, a phrase one could characterize as sexist. (It is hard to imagine even the softest-spoken of male writers being complimented for their “domesticity.”) Her admirers often remarked the elegance of her put-downs, what Hilton Als once called her “frankly intimate tone.” On the page, the person you meet is someone whose erudition is intimidating and presents itself both as effortless and admonishing. Every major American work of literature is right there at her fingertips: all of Melville, all of Wharton, all of James. And she seems to know everything not just about great writers’ work but about their lives, too. Did you know, for instance, that Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller were the best of friends? No? Hardwick makes you feel you should.

    And yet it must have been very hard to actually be Elizabeth Hardwick. Her marriage to Robert Lowell in 1949 brought her both transcendent passion and abject disaster. She spent many years playing his nursemaid, as he was repeatedly committed to mental institutions, and bearing his infidelities as a function of his madness. Perhaps worse, she was in her professional life that double-edged thing, a writer’s writer. She lived in a welter of literary gossip, surrounded by people who managed, by most measures the world cared about, to do more than she did: to write more books, win more awards, attract more readers. Mary McCarthy, Joan Didion, and Susan Sontag all counted as her friends, though she did not become as famous as they did. She managed, somehow, to present her secondary status as evidence of more seriousness. There is always something slightly vulgar, to intellectuals, about worldly success, and Hardwick benefited from the idea that the best fiction, the best criticism truly thrive at a slight remove from the masses. 


    Hardwick’s life and work are full of dualities like these. For example, the joke the literary profiles liked to tell about Hardwick is that she came from Kentucky, a southern belle through and through, and yet arrived in New York with the stated intention of becoming a Jewish intellectual. This was in fact a joke Hardwick made many times herself, including in her 1977 novel, Sleepless Nights. She tried to qualify her intent in an interview with the Paris Review in 1985. “What I meant was the enlightenment, a certain deracination which I value, an angular vision, love of learning, cosmopolitanism, a word that practically means Jewish in Soviet lexicography,” she explained to the novelist Darryl Pinckney.

    THE COLLECTED ESSAYS OF ELIZABETH HARDWICK selected by Darryl PinckneyNYRB Classics, 640 pp., $19.95

    One might take issue with this: The deracination of midcentury Jewish intellectuals may not have been strictly chosen in the way Hardwick’s self-exile from the South surely was. But maybe, on another level, they had something in common: “Many are flung down carelessly at birth and they experience the diminishment and sometimes the pleasant truculence of their random misplacement,” she wrote in Sleepless Nights. Even though her whole family was from there she always felt, in Kentucky, like one of the “imports, those jarring and jarred pieces that sit in the closet among the matching china sets.”

    Hardwick’s relationship to her own beginnings, however, fueled some of the best writing in this new volume of her essays. When in 1965 she went to Selma to cover the voting rights marches for The New York Review of Books, she wrote with personal stakes in the future of the South, more so than one usually found in her other work. Would its sense of isolation and exceptionalism deepen as white Southerners dug in to racist policies, or could the civil rights movement bring about a new era? She meets “a poor young man, a native of Alabama, in a hot, cheap black suit,” and he tells her he is made “right sick” by the “white folks mixed in with the colored.” Another sort of writer would merely have recorded this, perhaps added some editorializing about how awful it was. Not Hardwick. She intervened in the case: 

    And what could one answer: Go to see your social worker, find an agency that can help you, some family counsellor, or perhaps an outpatient clinic? I did say, softly, “Pull yourself together.” And he too shuffled off, like the convicts, his head bent down in some deep perturbation of spirit. 

    That “pull yourself together” was no doubt all the more devastating because it was quietly delivered, a judgment made not quite in kindness but with cutting finality. This is, too, a time-honored technique in the South, the “bless your heart” form of shutting people down. Hardwick was plainly a lot more Southern than she thought.


    Once in New York, Hardwick claims to have meandered a bit, living with a quarrelsome gay roommate and going out to jazz clubs to see performances by, among others, Billie Holiday. But she quickly found a place among the fabled set of Partisan Review, a small-circulation magazine that somehow made itself into a legend. It was run and written by a number of men and Mary McCarthy, the novelist and critic, who always said, with more good humor than apology, that she was originally invited to join the journal only because she was dating one of the editors, the caustic Philip Rahv. By the time Hardwick met her in 1945, McCarthy was a celebrated figure in the group. In 1942, she had published The Company She Keeps, a book that pioneered the now oh-so-familiar story of a Young Literary Woman making her way in New York. The book was widely praised and also widely understood to be autobiographical. Hardwick always found McCarthy’s fidelity to the facts of her life in fiction curious. “If one would sometimes take the liberty of suggesting caution to her, advising prudence or mere practicality,” Hardwick wrote in her introduction to McCarthy’s Intellectual Memoirs: New York, 1936–1938, published in 1992, “she would look puzzled and answer: But it’s the truth.”

    This was actually the third bit of writing Hardwick would publish about McCarthy, and the first she would publish after McCarthy’s death in 1989. Though Hardwick is often presented as one of McCarthy’s best friends, in reality the bond was prickly. One of its most public stings came when, just as McCarthy’s biggest popular success, The Group, topped charts in 1963, Hardwick published a parody of it. She wrote it under the pen name Xavier Prynne and published it in The New York Review of Books, which virtually guaranteed that McCarthy, a close friend of the editors, would find out who it was:

    His clothes were thrown over the chair. Shamefully, she peeked. The label said, simply, MACY’S. She stroked his back, gently, and lay quietly wondering until suddenly, appalled, she felt violently hungry. In her slip she went to the kitchen and opened a can of Heinz Tomato Soup. Carefully she flavored it with a dash of stale curry powder. What she really wanted was a glass of pure, fresh milk, but the soup restored her tremendous Middlewestern energies and she decided to walk home, even though it was after midnight.

    This piece, which appeared under the title “The Gang,” does not appear in Hardwick’s Collected Essays, but the small fracas over it reveals something of Hardwick’s character. When she first read the novel, she had actually written to McCarthy in vague praise of it. “It is very full, very rich,” was the sort of compliment Hardwick offered. Most experienced writers would, I think, recognize that sort of comment as a friend offering positive thoughts on a book they hadn’t responded to. Still, to follow vague praise with the publication of a brutal parody was on another level.

    Anger? Jealousy? Contempt? It is hard to say exactly what Hardwick was feeling when she decided to publicly mock her friend’s work. She later wrote McCarthy an apology. “It is hard to go back to the time it was done, but it was meant as simply a little trick, nothing more. I did Not mean to hurt you and I hope you will forgive it.” McCarthy did, in time, perhaps out of a sense that the bigger fish should be generous to her less successful counterpart. Or even out of eventual sympathy with Hardwick’s misstep: McCarthy had, herself, a few run-ins with people she had savaged, by design or accident, in her own books. But it strains credulity not to suspect that Hardwick knew that this would upset her friend, and did it anyway.


    No model of sisterhood or solidarity, of course, ever appealed to Hardwick. Toward feminism, and particularly its second wave, she was only intermittently sympathetic. She found Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex almost ridiculous—in scope, in argument, in execution. The “almost,” of course, is key. She praised Beauvoir for being neither “a masochist, a Lesbian, a termagant, or a man-hater” and for having a “nervous, fluid, rare aliveness on every page.” But ultimately she thought there were natural differences between men and women: “A woman’s physical inferiority to a man is a limiting reality every moment of her life,” she argues.

    It is only the whimsical, cantankerous, the eccentric critic, or those who refuse the occasion for such distinctions, who would say that any literary work by a woman, marvelous as these may be, is on a level with the very greatest accomplishments of men.

    Hardwick gave herself some breathing room, herself arguing about the available published evidence of literary greatness, and not necessarily women’s abstract capacity to achieve it, though her dismissiveness of Austen, the Brontës, and George Eliot is unequivocal. It is also worth noting that this essay was published in 1953, and that Hardwick would go on writing—and writing specifically about women and literature—for another 40 years. Still, if this conviction is where the pistol fired on her own efforts as a writer, one has questions. After all, for all this protestation, we are still reading Hardwick in a way that we are not, really, reading Irving Howe. Or Paul Goodman. Or any of the innumerable very-good-but-not-quite-eternally memorable critics. And that has happened, in part, because there is a renewed interest in this question of women’s contributions to what might be called the American literary tradition.

    It’s also true that most of Hardwick’s transcendent literary efforts after the Second Sex review emerged from her analyses of women. One of the shames of this volume is that it does not include all of them, perhaps because many have been published in another volume reprinted by NYRB Classics, called Seduction and Betrayal. So you will not find her rather unsentimental appraisal of the Fitzgeralds, in “Caesar’s Things”; nor her work on Sylvia Plath, in which, with 20 years more in the writing trenches, she concluded that, “Every artist is either a man or a woman and the struggle is pretty much the same for both.” In those pieces she had the knack for illustrating what might have been called feminist themes by way of specific details of specific lives. In Plath, for example, whose life quickly became for so many critics a parable about mental health and marital trauma, Hardwick saw no “general principles, sure origins, applications, or lessons”—a quality that might very well be found in Hardwick’s own writing. Hardwick had been saved from such brutalities, too, by not ever being elevated to the position of “feminist icon,” as Plath was. She continued to be read for her work rather than for details of her tumultuous personal life.

    It is the variety of terrain they covered that makes Hardwick and the other midcentury women writers so engaging. These women wrote novels, they wrote memoirs, they wrote criticism, and they wrote about politics and current events. The eclecticism of their careers fueled the romance of the New York Intellectuals; they left not just a body of work but a way of life. Such a breadth of subject matter is less fashionable today, when, with some exceptions, writers tend to specialize. We have novelists and intellectuals, but few novelist-intellectuals or intellectual-novelists. Memoirists tend to stay in a lane, too, and nonfiction is virtually severed from fiction. Everyone has specialized. It’s often claimed that the rise of this or that genre—specifically the personal essay—has helped women writers rise like cream, but ironically it has narrowed the aspect ratio, too. Somehow the implication in all those think pieces is that women feel and think differently from men, which does nothing but keep us from exploring other realms of possibility. Yet Hardwick managed to do all this as a woman writer in what we imagine to be a harder time for them.

    Hardwick has the reputation of someone who would not like such claims made about her. “Woman writer? A bit of a crunch trying to get those two words together,” she told Pinckney when he interviewed her. But then she also backtracked. “I do feel there is an inclination to punish women for what you might call presumption of one kind or another,” she said. The presumption that they might lay claim to the same freedom as men, to write as grandly as men do, must have been what she meant. And though all her life she seems to have lived with a sense of modesty about her talents, insisting that Lowell was the actual genius in the family, there was, perhaps, in there a final duality. Sometimes, she recognized, it’s best not to be the biggest luminary in the room.


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    Why Conservatives Are Defending Al Franken
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    Minnesota Senator Al Franken on Thursday heeded the demands of his Democratic colleagues in announcing he would resign “in the coming weeks,” but he did so with some defiance. “Some of the allegations against me are simply not true,” he said. “Others I remember very differently.” Many of his admirers now portray him as a fallen idol who let down the liberal cause. “It hurts not just because his supporters thought he was better than this, but because so many people were depending upon him,” wrote ThinkProgress’ Ian Millhiser. “He was supposed to be a progressive champion.”

    But even as his own side buries him, Franken has found supporters in the most unlikely corner: Some conservatives and libertarians are defending him as a victim of a puritanical witch hunt.

    On Fox News, Laura Ingraham described the campaign against Franken and other men accused of sexual harassment as a “lynch mob.” Her guest, former House Majority Leader Newt Gingrich—a man with some expertise in political sex scandalsagreed. “These are people who grew up in a party which used to preach free love, which used to think that all of the hippiedom was wonderful, who used to think they were somehow representing the future,” Gingrich complained. “And now they have suddenly curled into this weird puritanism which feels a compulsion to go out and lynch people without a trial.”

    While it’s easy to dismiss Ingraham and Gingrich as cable-news windbags, similar sentiments were expressed by two more thoughtful, independent-minded analysts on the right: conservative Washington Examiner columnist Byron York and the libertarian pundit Cathy Young. “The #MeToo moment has turned into sexual McCarthyism,” Young lamented in The New York Daily News, arguing that unlike other men caught up in sexual predation scandals Franken was guilty of relatively minor and disputable sins. On Wednesday, York tweeted:

    Seems clear Franken is toast; impossible to see him surviving. Of course, Dems are acting quickly to clear decks so they can make Roy Moore, in the words of @brithume, the 'hood ornament' of the Republican party. 1/3

    — Byron York (@ByronYork) December 6, 2017

    Now, with Franken, instead of three years, it's three weeks, with latest allegations coming just hours ago. Now maybe three years was too long. But maybe three weeks is too short. There's reason to be concerned about what comes next. 3/3

    — Byron York (@ByronYork) December 6, 2017

    Al Franken’s right-wing defenders are not monolithic. Ingraham and Gingrich clearly have cynical motives: They need to discredit the campaign against sexual harassment in order to defend Republican transgressors like Senate candidate Roy Moore and President Donald Trump. “So I’ll tell you this tonight, be weary of the lynch mob you join today,” Ingraham argued. “Because tomorrow, it could be coming for your husband, your brother, your son, and yes, even your president.” The logic here is clear: We have to defend Franken today so we can defend Moore tomorrow.

    Neither York nor Young are so nakedly partisan. Rather, they’re working from principles that compel them to put anti-feminism above fealty to the GOP. Young has long been a critic, on occasion an incisive one, of what she sees as the authoritarian tendencies of feminist opposition to rape culture. Yet Young’s defense of Franken shows the weakness of her approach to the subject, which is to micro-litigate the details of each accusation. In her column, she writes:

    For instance: while Franken’s suggestion of accidental slippage while putting his hand on a woman’s waist has been widely derided, Canadian TV personality and entertainer Liana Kerzner, whom I recently interviewed about the #MeToo moment-and who has done numerous photo opportunities-believes it’s quite possible. Given the number of photos for which Franken has posed, one would expect the accusations to be in the double digits if he was a serial groper.

    She’s arguing that it’s possible for an alleged groping to be an accident, which is true enough. But from that hypothetical, Young arbitrarily demands accusations “in the double digits” before we believe that Franken is guilty. So the fact that there are only eight accusations against Franken (so far) is taken as indicating innocence. Similarly, York’s nostalgia for the due process of yore is hardly reassuring when we remember that other notorious predators who served alongside Packwood, like senators Ted Kennedy and Strom Thurmond, got away with numerous offenses (which, in Thurmond’s case, included groping a fellow senator).

    Partisanship is often regarded as a cancer in American politics. But there is little reason to celebrate a bipartisanship that violates party loyalty simply to minimize sexual harassment.


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    The New Republic January/February Issue: Can The System Survive?

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    New York, NY (December 7, 2017) — Trump’s first year in office has been riddled not only with scandal, but with constant attacks on American democracy. Criticized for undermining democratic norms, Trump is far from the first major U.S. political figure to do so.

    In “How A Democracy Dies,” Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt explore the long history of attacks on American political institutions. One way to break a democracy is “not at the hands of generals, but of elected leaders who subvert the very process that brought them to power.” Despite having constitutions in place and institutions that allow people to vote, leaders in countries such as Venezuela, Georgia, Peru, and the Philippines have been able to subvert the word of law, allowing extremist demagogues to gain power. “The tragic paradox of the electoral route to authoritarianism,” write Levistky and Ziblatt, “is that democracy’s enemies use the very institutions of democracy—gradually, subtly, and even legally—to kill it.” With Trump’s constant attacks remaining unchecked, can the system survive?

    [FEATURES]

    When a small town in Nebraska is given an opportunity to build Costco’s new chicken processing plant, environmentalists in the area were faced with a fundamental dilemma: try to convert people to their way of thinking or co-opt a xenophobic cause they don’t believe in to shut down the project? Ted Genoways provides an indepth look into this dilemma, following retired construction manager turned environmentalist Randy Ruppert. With an eminent lack of support, Ruppert works alongside two unlikely individuals, well-known xenophobe and opponent of undocumented labor John Wiegert and Tea Party leader Doug Wittman.

    In August 2016, a small insurgent group known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army led an attack on Myanmar’s police that resulted in the killing of 12 officers. The aftermath of this attack—led by the Myanmar’s military alongside Rakhine Buddhist vigilantes—saw the burning of over 300 villages in a months-long program of killing. “Myanmar’s Imagined Jihadis” provides insight into the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in Myanmar by the government. Interspersed with heartbreaking accounts by Rohingya who have successfully fled, Jason Motlagh describes how Myanmar’s history of anti-Rohingya policy turned an attack on police into a major humanitarian crisis. Using the rhetoric of the global war on terror and Islamophobia in the United States, Myanmar’s government has been able to justify their killings under the guise of combating terrorism.

    Simone Tramonte’s photo essay, “Small Acts of Subversion,” provides a look at Iranian women 40 years after the fall of Shah. Following the Iranian Revolution, the ruling cleric in Iran rolled back the Shah’s 1967 and 1975 family protection laws, raising the minimum wage women could legally marry and allowing them to petition for custody of their children but many of the regime’s stifling rules still remained. What Tramonte shows through her photos is how Iranian women navigate in the world around them—a woman in black chadors watching children play in a fountain while in another, women learning to drive, and a group of women gathered for a party on a roof. As Dina Nayeri points out in her introduction, given Iran’s theocracy “women have learned to carve out a life for themselves inside the hijab.”  

    [UP FRONT & COLUMNS]

    In Up Front, Rachel M. Cohen details how the current battle over the Fair Housing Act could transform U.S. politics. The landmark anti-discrimination law turns 50 years old in 2018, but efforts to desegregate inner cities continue at a frustratingly slow pace, and the Trump administration is looking to undercut the gains made during the Obama years. The outcome of this fight, Cohen writes, could help decide the country’s political future. Today’s true electoral battlegrounds are the suburbs, which have grown increasingly diverse in recent years—a shift that fair housing policies will only accelerate.

    Isaac Stone Fish lays out a potential solution to the current crisis with North Korea: a presidential summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un. The idea might seem preposterous—but, then again, so too was the idea of Nixon going to China before he did so in 1971. Nixon’s trip, Stone Fish writes, offers a helpful precedent for Trump, “a president who needs both a solution to the crisis with North Korea, and a foreign policy win to distract from his own mounting scandals at home.”

    Staff writers Sarah Jones and Alex Shephard are also featured in Up Front this issue. In “Turning Pro-Life Blue,” Jones examines the current debate within the Democratic Party over whether it should have a litmus test for its candidates on the issue of abortion. Such purity tests, Jones argues, do the party no favors. To truly make inroads in red states and conservative communities, Democrats need to figure out how to connect with voters who don’t necessarily share their views. Fortunately, she finds, abortion might not be the wedge issue of legend.

    In “Paper Tiger,” Shephard calls on the media to stop getting distracted by Trump’s attacks on them. Certainly, Trump’s war on the press has is troubling, but many of his threats are empty ones. And by rushing to defend itself against every slight, the media plays allows Trump to shift the focus away from important issues.

    Jon Wolfsthal and Kimberly Marten contribute Columns for the January/February issue. Wolfsthal—who was senior director for arms control and nonproliferation in the Obama administration—writes that Trump’s undisciplined rhetoric and changes to U.S. nuclear policy are increasing the risk of nuclear war. Marten, the director of the Program on U.S.-Russia Relations at Columbia University, writes about how she was scheduled to advise the U.S. State Department—before Rex Tillerson refused to sign off on her appointment. The current U.S. strategy with regards to Russia, particularly its focus on sanctions, Marten writes, won’t prevent Russia from interfering in future U.S. elections. Instead, the U.S. should take its cues from the Cold War and seek to limit confrontation with Russia—including by forging a limited cyber accord.

    [REVIEW]

    Although Martin Luther has long been cited as being the sole figure who launched what became the Protestant Reformation, many dispute this. The Luther Legend, as Marilynne Robinson writes, completely goes against how history works. Robinson’s “The Luther Legend” calls out the predecessors and prominent figures of the time who laid the foundation for Luther’s dissent. “...the idea that one man and one set of events shattered a great order and brought down chaos, minimizes a terrible continuity in the airs of the continent before and after the Reformation.”

    In “Settling for Scores,Diane Ravitch delves into the faults of standardized testing analyzed by Daniel Kortez in his new book, The Testing Charade: Pretending to Make Schools Better. Kortez breaks down the negative consequences of the education reforms of the 2000s and the lasting impact Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act has had. As Ravitch writes, NAPL “vastly expanded the federal government’s role in education, venturing where no other administration of either party had dared to go, it set a goal that was literally impossible for schools, districts and states to meet.”

    With the release of The Collected Essays of Elizabeth Hardwick, Michelle Dean’s “The Company She Kept” explores how Hardwick’s relationships with New York intellectuals led to some of her best writing. Rachel Syme reviews Errol Morris’s new crime docudrama Wormwood. While popular docuseries like The Jinx and Making a Murderer are heavily focused on the mystery surrounding murder, Wormwood follows the mourning of a grieving son consumed with finding out the truth behind his father’s death. Christian Lorentzen reviews Austrian director Michael Haneke’s new film Happy End. Known for his bleak and violent films, Haneke’s latest work examines the effect of parents’ failings on their children through his signature lens. Brenda Wineapple on how Richard White’s The Republic For Which It Stands is really a history of Republicanism in its chronicling of American Reconstruction and the Gilded Age.

    Rebecca Hazelton’s “In the City of Desire” is the featured Poem this month. For Backstory, photographer Thomas Dworzak highlights one of the ways Russian children learn about the glory days of the Soviet Union.

    The January/February issue of the The New Republic is available on newsstands today.

    For additional information, please contact newrepublic@high10media.com.

    ###


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    Atlanta’s Mayoral Race Should Be a Warning to Democrats.
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    Twenty years ago, it would have been unthinkable that a white woman might have a shot at becoming the next mayor of Atlanta. In 2001, the city elected Shirley Franklin, a black woman, to city hall by such a wide margin that the race never even advanced to a runoff (she won more than 50 percent of the vote even with the vote split between several other candidates). Since then, African American politicians have continued to win the city’s mayoral races, as they have for decades.

    This year, however, Atlanta came startlingly close to getting its first white mayor in 44 years. On Tuesday, voters headed to the polls for a runoff between Keisha Lance Bottoms, a city councilor with deep ties to the black political establishment, and Mary Norwood, her white, more conservative opponent. Bottoms had emerged from the first round of voting in November as the frontrunner. Her particular brand of centrist liberalism meshes well with the politics of the city as a whole. And the current mayor, Kasim Reed, who is stepping down after two terms in office, had publicly endorsed her. But rather than sailing to victory on Tuesday night, Bottoms won by just 759 votes, and now, the ballots are being recounted.

    That Norwood came within striking distance of Bottoms is remarkable, not just because of her race, but also because of her party affiliation. Norwood calls herself an independent, but her opponents often paint her as a Republican. Her campaign staff had ties to the Trump campaign—her campaign treasurer endorsed Trump—and she refused to endorse Jon Ossoff in his bid last year for Tom Price’s vacated House seat. She has said she voted for Hillary Clinton last year, but since then she has stopped short of criticizing the president, who has made a point of attacking prominent African Americans. Her near-victory in a city that has voted for Democrats since 1879 has underscored how deeply divided this liberal Southern city is politically. Demographic changes and a roiling corruption scandal have eaten away at the machine’s power to corral votes in the city. And without a new strategy, Democrats may continue to face uncomfortably tight results in races like this one, which ought to have been a easy win for Kasim Reed’s handpicked successor.


    In November, before the first round of voting, Bottoms and Norwood faced a crowded field of candidates. As the only conservative in the race, Norwood was widely expected to sweep the conservative vote, clinching one of the top two slots and advancing to a runoff. The nine Democrats in the race were competing for a second seat in the runoff, with Bottoms facing several strong challenges from the left. Progressive candidates like former city councilor Cathy Woolard and state Senator Vincent Fort argued that the policies that Reed had enacted in a push to attract corporations and business development to the city had in fact harmed its low income population, pushing them out into the suburbs. Fort, who boasted endorsements from Bernie Sanders and the Atlanta branch of the Democratic Socialists of America, sparred with the Democratic establishment and was critical of Bottoms, even dramatically accusing her during a debate of failing to pay her federal income taxes.

    After Bottoms and Norwood advanced to the runoff, the national Democratic Party quickly fell in line. Bottoms was able to rack up an impressive slew of endorsements from prominent national politicians, including former Atlanta mayor and civil rights icon Andrew Young, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and California Senator Kamala Harris. And the Democratic Party of Georgia spent more than $165,000 on an attack campaign against Norwood, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

    But on a local level, there was a deep split over whether to back Bottoms. Fort, for example, pointedly refused to endorse her bid for mayor (his office did not return requests for comment this week). And many of his supporters shared his concerns. Tim Franzen, a Fort campaign aide and longtime progressive organizer, voted for Norwood, charging the Democratic establishment with becoming “out of touch on a national and local level.” A housing justice activist who works on municipal issues, he sees Bottoms as corrupt and too friendly with big developers. “I vote for candidates that I think present the least amount of threat,” he said.

    Some politicians felt the same way. Shirley Franklin and the president of Atlanta’s city council Caesar Mitchell, along with three candidates who were defeated in the first round of the race, all endorsed Norwood over Bottoms. When asked to explain her endorsement, Woolard, a leftist candidate who finished third in the first round, said: “I feel like we need a clean break with this administration and a new start here with a fresh set of players.”

    Bottoms has been tarnished in a roiling bribery scandal that has encompassed Atlanta’s City Hall in recent months. In September, the FBI raided the offices of an engineering firm that had been granted more than $100 million in city contracts since 2009, and Bottoms had to promise to return more than $25,000 in campaign donations she had received from the firm while she was a city councilor. Her involvement in the scandal may explain—at least in part—why some Democrats would rather have had a more conservative candidate like Norwood in office than a member of Atlanta’s blinkered, and now seemingly compromised, Democratic establishment.

    Still, their refusals to support Bottoms speak to broader shift in Atlanta politics. The black establishment has lost some of its grasp on power in the city. Since the election of Atlanta’s first black mayor Maynard Jackson in 1973, Atlanta has been run like a machine, with the political elites doling out insider favors and cultivating a web of lucrative connections. The results of Tuesday’s runoff shows just how weak his machine is today. “The Maynard Machine is defunct,” Emory University political science professor Andra Gillespie told The New Republic on Wednesday.

    That may be because Atlanta now has more white voters than it once did. People are flocking to Atlanta to take advantage of the job opportunities there. The influx has pushed housing prices inside the city up—and poorer African Americans out into the suburbs. Indeed, according to U.S. Census data, the black population in Atlanta declined by nearly 12 percent between 2000 and 2010 while the white population rose by more than 16 percent during that time period. And while the white population moving into Atlanta does tend to lean liberal, they are still more likely, according to Gillespie, to vote for Norwood than Bottoms, as a result of the city’s racially polarized voting patterns.

    Ultimately, the Democrats need to be able to develop a new strategy to overcome these demographic shifts in cities like Atlanta, finding new ways to energize activists now that power of the Democratic machine has begun to wane. This should start with embracing leftist politicians like Fort or Woolard, who can articulate a progressive platform that has appealed to voters who have been left behind as gentrification and corporatization changes cities like Atlanta across the South. Fort and Woolard were able to harness some real energy on the ground this past summer. Put together, their shares of the vote in the first round would have been enough for a progressive candidate to advance to the runoff as the frontrunner, a clear sign that progressive candidates could make a dent in a race like this one.

    But as long as the Democratic Party continues to push candidates tarnished by scandal, and those who favor big businesses over social justice advocacy, it will only continue to alienate a key, growing, progressive constituency further, opening the door a little wider for candidates with more conservative politics to step in.


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    The Crown’s Troubled Power Couple

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    Claire Foy knows how to breathe. She expresses more with each exhalation than most actors do with their whole bodies. In a scene from the second season of the Netflix drama The Crown, which premieres tomorrow, we see Foy, as a 30-year-old Queen Elizabeth II, attending the ballet alone. It is 1956, and her husband, Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, is somewhere at sea. What began as a short yacht trip to open the Summer Olympics in Melbourne stretched into an extended five-month circumnavigation; the Queen remained in England with the children while the Duke sailed around the globe with no clear date of return.

    When we see the Queen in her box at the ballet, she has just learned from her mischievous younger sister, Princess Margaret (the slinky, droll Vanessa Kirby) that Philip’s best friend and private secretary, Mike Parker, has earned a reputation for arranging dalliances between aristocrats and beautiful women, namely ballerinas. As the principal dancer twirls across the stage in a tutu, she keeps glancing up at the Queen in her box with a glare that transmits both fear and smugness. Did the prima ballerina have an affair with Philip, or are her knowing glances a figment of the Queen’s imagination? What we do know is that the Queen can never breathe a word of discomfort to anyone. And so, she simply breathes.     

    We see Foy’s chest rising and falling, faster and faster underneath the weight of her diamond choker. She is experiencing as much of a royal panic attack as is allowed in full view of thousands of theatergoers (which is to say, it’s subtle). Her clavicles thrum with anxiety and her eyes dart back and forth across the stage. Confronted with a potential adulteress, she must keep her composure. This is where Foy truly shines as the monarch. She understands that embodying the Queen is an exercise in communicating volumes while saying almost nothing. In The Crown—as well as in, I would imagine, the day to day lives of the Windors—subtext is everything.


    The first season of The Crown, created by the playwright Peter Morgan, was mostly prologue. If the current Elizabethan monarchy was written as a comic book, season one would be the hero’s origin story, in which she must realize and accept the gravity of her powers. Morgan has spent much of his professional life fascinated by Elizabeth’s reign. He wrote the Helen Mirren biopic The Queen, and also The Audience, a hot ticket play starring Mirren that explored much of the same terrain. The first season showed his tender interest in her youth, when she frolicked in fields with hunting dogs and bred horses.

    Morgan’s script is kind, in the first season, to the 25-year-old Princess, who grew up knowing her fate but was not fully ready to embrace it. When her father, Bertie, dies suddenly and she becomes the sovereign, it takes her several months—and several episodes—to get her proper bearings. When she does find her sea legs, her transformation into a stoic leader is swift. Season one ends on a bitter note, after Elizabeth forbids her sister from marrying the man she loves, the once-divorced Peter Townshend. Both the Parliament and the Church reject Margaret’s plea to marry, citing Townshend’s past as a liability against the Commonwealth, and the Queen is forced to accept their verdict and leave her sister heartbroken. This is a cold move from a sister, but a bold move as a monarch. It is not that Elizabeth puts country over family, it is that she recognizes that for her, the two entities are never truly separate. This sets up a tension that runs throughout the second season of the show: how much of her personal life Elizabeth must sacrifice to reign supreme, and how so little of her heart remains her own.

    Which brings us back to her breathing. Foy is, in the second season, a genius of restraint. So much so, that the secondary characters in the show threaten to eclipse her spotlight. Vanessa Kirby, as Margaret, is radiant as a woman in love. In the fifth episode, she falls for the swinging society photographer Anthony Armstrong Jones (Matthew Goode, cutting a sharp profile as a caustic roue in ivory cashmere) and she manages to veer wildly between immature infatuation and petulant entitlement, icy sarcasm and besotted romantic. Matt Smith, as Philip, is also given prime rib scenes this season, as we see him grow grizzled and cocky on the royal yacht in the absence of his wife and then callow and mean when the rumors bring her to the ship for a tense confrontation about how to save the marriage.

    This tete-a-tete on the boat, which opens the season, becomes the driving narrative force of the first three episodes. Morgan shows us the fight once, and then two episodes later—after lingering on the conflict over the Suez Canal and the Prime Minister’s clandestine plan to foment it—he shows it to us again. This time, we dive deep into the drama that has led to the face-off, from Philip’s gallivanting to Elizabeth’s increasing insecurities about her age and desirability. It hits hard when Elizabeth tells him that they are “like no other couple in the country” because they have no escape hatch; they are at the point of dysfunction where any other pair would separate. Instead, she offers to make Philip a Prince, to mollify his complaints that even his young son outranks him. In the end, it is a band-aid on their troubles, but then, Philip seems like a cat with the cream once he wears the red velvet crown.


    The Crown is one of Netflix’s most expensive and expansive investments to date. Morgan reportedly got a $100 million budget to make the first season. The result is a period piece that is so sumptuous and baroque that it feels deeply transporting, the show feels literally fit for a queen. Often this excess is intoxicating. The costuming on the show is impeccable, as are the crisp interiors, the brisk foxhunts at dawn, the crown jewels that gleam like lighthouses from Foy’s appendages.

    And yet, spending so much time among the inherited riches can make one feel dizzy. As Morgan himself has said of the monarchy, “It is clearly a deranged institution and a completely insane system, but perhaps it’s the insanity that makes it work.” He is so fascinated by the royal family because deep down, he questions their purpose, even when faithfully recreating the Queen’s drawing room down to the last gilded ottoman. In Vanity Fair, Morgan said that he sees his work on The Crown as being closer to The Godfather than to Downton Abbey

    It is essentially about a family in power and survival. I wish I could get to write sequences like the revolving door and shooting people and horses’ heads, but I can’t. Because this is not a violent family.”

    The Corleones are the authors of their own downfall, and while the Windsors continue to flourish in England, it is clear that Morgan hopes with the second season of The Crown to destabilize the monarchy myth that he set up so seamlessly in the first. Where the first season depicted Elizabeth as a bit of a naif, new to the job and wobbly as a result, the second season sees her fully shouldering the work, while clearly suffering privately from a deep unhappiness. This interior drama may be where Morgan and his collaborators are inventing: We still do not know if Philip really strayed, or if it made the Queen despondent. But it is clear that The Crown, which was gave us a gentle portrait of the sovereign’s early years in its first season, may now raise some eyebrows at Buckingham Palace.

    If Megan Markle streams The Crown for insight into her new life, she will see her future grandmother-in-law making impossible choices, choices that would not have at one time allowed her into the narrative. But, as Foy so brilliantly conveys in the new season, there was so little leeway in the young queen’s life. She sacrifices her own contentment, her own comfort, in order to maintain an even keel. Inside, she is seething. But she is remembering to breathe. 


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    How a Democracy Dies
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    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::get_element() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14949

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::entities_decode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9190

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14958

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14959

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::get_element() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14949

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::entities_decode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9190

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

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    We tend to think of democracies dying at the hands of men with guns. During the Cold War, coups d’etat accounted for nearly three out of every four democratic breakdowns. Military coups toppled Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in 2013 and Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in 2014. In cases like these, democracy dissolves in spectacular fashion. Tanks roll in the streets. The president is imprisoned or shipped off into exile. The constitution is suspended or scrapped.

    By and large, however, overt dictatorships have disappeared across much of the world. Violent seizures of power are rare. But there’s another way to break a democracy: not at the hands of generals, but of elected leaders who subvert the very process that brought them to power. In Venezuela, Hugo Chávez was freely elected president, but he used his soaring popularity (and the country’s vast oil wealth) to tilt the playing field against opponents, packing the courts, blacklisting critics, bullying independent media, and eventually eliminating presidential term limits so that he could remain in power indefinitely. In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán used his party’s parliamentary majority to pack the judiciary with loyalists and rewrite the constitutional and electoral rules to weaken opponents. Elected leaders have similarly subverted democratic institutions in Ecuador, Georgia, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Ukraine, and elsewhere. In these cases, there are no tanks in the streets. Constitutions and other nominally democratic institutions remain in place. People still vote. Elected autocrats maintain a veneer of democracy while eviscerating its substance. This is how most democracies die today: slowly, in barely visible steps.

    How vulnerable is American democracy to such a fate? Extremist demagogues emerge from time to time in all societies, even in healthy democracies. An essential test of this kind of vulnerability isn’t whether such figures emerge but whether political leaders, and especially political parties, work to prevent them from gaining power. When established parties opportunistically invite extremists into their ranks, they imperil democracy.

    Once a would-be authoritarian makes it to power, democracies face a second critical test: Will the autocratic leader subvert democratic institutions or be constrained by them? Institutions alone are not enough to rein in elected autocrats. Constitutions must be defended—by political parties and organized citizens, but also by democratic norms, or unwritten rules of toleration and restraint. Without robust norms, constitutional checks and balances do not serve as the bulwarks of democracy we imagine them to be. Instead, institutions become political weapons, wielded forcefully by those who control them against those who do not. This is how elected autocrats subvert democracy—packing and “weaponizing” the courts and other neutral agencies, buying off the media and the private sector (or bullying them into silence), and rewriting the rules of politics to permanently disadvantage their rivals. The tragic paradox of the electoral route to authoritarianism is that democracy’s enemies use the very institutions of democracy—gradually, subtly, and even legally—to kill it.

    The United States failed the first test in November 2016, when it elected a president with no real allegiance to democratic norms. Donald Trump’s surprise victory was made possible not only by public disaffection but also by the Republican Party’s failure to keep an extremist demagogue from gaining the nomination.

    How serious a threat does this now represent? Many observers take comfort in the U.S. Constitution, which was designed precisely to thwart and contain demagogues like Trump. The Madisonian system of checks and balances has endured for more than two centuries. It survived the Civil War, the Great Depression, the Cold War, and Watergate. Surely, then, it will be able to survive the current president?

    We are less certain. Democracies work best—and survive longer—when constitutions are reinforced by norms of mutual toleration and restraint in the exercise of power. For most of the twentieth century, these norms functioned as the guardrails of American democracy, helping to avoid the kind of partisan fights-to-the-death that have destroyed democracies elsewhere in the world, including in Europe in the 1930s and South America in the 1960s and 1970s. But those norms are now weakening. By the time Barack Obama became president, many Republicans, in particular, questioned the legitimacy of their Democratic rivals and had abandoned restraint for a strategy of winning by any means necessary. Donald Trump has accelerated this process, but he didn’t cause it. The challenges we face run deeper than one president, however troubling this one might be.


    The reason no extremist demagogue won the presidency before 2016 is not the absence of contenders for such a role. To the contrary, extremist figures have long dotted the landscape of American politics, from Henry Ford and Huey Long to Joseph McCarthy and George Wallace. An important protection against would-be authoritarians has not just been the country’s firm commitment to democracy but, rather, our political parties, democracy’s gatekeepers.

    Because parties nominate presidential candidates, they have the ability—and the responsibility—to keep antidemocratic figures out of the White House. They must, accordingly, strike a balance between two roles: one in which they choose the candidates that best represent the party’s voters; and another, what the political scientist James Ceaser calls a “filtration” role, in which they screen out those who pose a threat to democracy or are otherwise unfit to hold office.

    These dual imperatives—choosing a popular candidate and keeping out demagogues—may, at times, conflict with each other. What if the people choose a demagogue? This is the recurring tension at the heart of the U.S. presidential nomination process, from the founders’ era through today. An overreliance on gatekeeping can create a world of party bosses who ignore the rank and file and fail to represent the people. But an overreliance on the “will of the people” can also be dangerous, for it can lead to the election of a demagogue who threatens democracy itself. There is no escape from this tension. There are always trade-offs.

    For most of American history, political parties prioritized gatekeeping over openness. There was always some form of the proverbial smoke-filled room for this. In the early nineteenth century, presidential candidates were chosen by groups of congressmen in Washington, in a system known as “Congressional Caucuses.” Then, beginning in the 1830s, candidates were nominated in national party conventions made up of delegates from each state. Any candidate who lacked support among each party’s network of state and local politicians had no chance of success. Primary elections were introduced during the Progressive era in an effort to dismantle excessive party control. But these brought little change—in part because many states didn’t use them, but mostly because the elected delegates weren’t required to support the candidate who won the primary. So real power still remained in the hands of party officials and officeholders.

    These “organization men” were hardly representative of American society. Indeed, they were the virtual definition of an old-boys network. Most rank-and-file party members, especially the poor and politically unconnected, women, and minorities, weren’t represented in parties’ smoke-filled rooms and so were largely excluded from the presidential nomination process. The convention system, on the other hand, was an effective gatekeeping institution. It systematically filtered out would-be authoritarian candidates. Dangerous outsiders simply couldn’t win the party nomination. And as a result, most didn’t even try.

    This changed after 1968. The riotous Democratic National Convention in Chicago triggered far-reaching reform. Following presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey’s defeat that fall, the Democratic Party created the McGovern-Fraser Commission and tasked it with rethinking the nomination system. The commission’s final report, published in 1971, cited an old adage: “The cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy.” With the legitimacy of the presidential selection process at stake, party leaders felt intense pressure to transform it. As George McGovern put it, “Unless changes are made, the next convention will make the last look like a Sunday-school picnic.” If the people were not given a real say, the McGovern-Fraser report warned, they would turn to “the anti-politics of the street.”

    The commission issued a set of recommendations that the two parties adopted before the 1972 election. What emerged was a system of binding presidential primaries. This meant, in principle, that for the first time, the people who chose the parties’ presidential candidates would neither be controlled by party leaders nor free to make backroom deals at the convention; rather, they would faithfully reflect the will of their states’ primary voters. Democratic National Committee Chair Larry O’Brien called the reforms “the greatest goddamn changes since the party system.” McGovern, who unexpectedly won the 1972 Democratic nomination, called the new primary system “the most open political process in our national history.” For the first time, the party gatekeepers could be circumvented—and beaten.

    Some political scientists worried about the new system. Nelson Polsby and Aaron Wildavsky warned, for example, that primaries could “lead to the appearance of extremist candidates and demagogues” who, unrestrained by party allegiances, “have little to lose by stirring up mass hatreds or making absurd promises.” Initially, these fears seemed overblown. Outsiders did emerge: Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson ran for the Democratic Party nomination in 1984 and 1988, while Southern Baptist leader Pat Robertson (1988), television commentator Pat Buchanan (1992, 1996, 2000), and Forbes magazine publisher Steve Forbes (1996) ran for the Republican nomination. But they all lost.

    Circumventing the party establishment was, it turned out, easier in theory than in practice. Capturing a majority of delegates required winning primaries all over the country, which, in turn, required money, favorable media coverage, and, crucially, people working on the ground in all states. Any candidate seeking to complete the grueling obstacle course of U.S. primaries needed allies among donors, newspaper editors, interest groups, activist groups, and state-level politicians such as governors, mayors, senators, and congressmen. In 1976, Arthur Hadley described this arduous process as the “invisible primary.” He claimed that this phase, which occurred before the primary season even began, was “where the winning candidate is actually selected.” Without the support of the party establishment, Hadley argued, it was nearly impossible to win the nomination. For a quarter of a century, he was right.


    In June 2015, when Donald Trump descended an escalator to the lobby of Trump Tower to announce that he was running for president, there was little reason to think he could succeed where previous outsiders had failed. His opponents were career politicians and lifelong Republicans. Not only did Trump lack any political experience, but he had switched his party registration several times and even contributed to Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the Senate. His weakness among party insiders, most observers believed, would spell his demise.

    By the time Trump won the March 1 Super Tuesday primaries, however, he had laid waste to Hadley’s “invisible primary,” rendering it irrelevant. Undoubtedly, Trump’s celebrity status played a role. But equally important was the changed media landscape. Trump had the sympathy or support of right-wing media personalities such as Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Mark Levin, and Michael Savage, as well as the increasingly influential Breitbart News. He also found new ways to use old media as a substitute for party endorsements and traditional campaign spending. By one estimate, the Twitter accounts of MSNBC, CNN, CBS, and NBC—four outlets that no one could accuse of pro-Trump leanings—mentioned Trump twice as often as Hillary Clinton. According to another study, Trump enjoyed up to $2 billion in free media coverage during the primary season. Trump didn’t need traditional Republican power brokers. The gatekeepers of the invisible primary weren’t merely invisible; by 2016, they were gone entirely.

    The fact that Trump was able to capture the Republican nomination for president should have set off alarm bells. No other major presidential candidate in modern U.S. history, including Richard Nixon, had demonstrated such a weak public commitment to constitutional rights and democratic norms. When gatekeeping institutions fail, mainstream politicians have to do everything possible to keep dangerous figures away from the centers of power. For Republicans that meant doing the unthinkable: backing Hillary Clinton.

    There is a recent global precedent for such a move. In France’s 2017 presidential election, the conservative Republican Party candidate, François Fillon, who was defeated in the race’s first round, called on his partisans to vote for center-left candidate Emmanuel Macron in the runoff to keep far-right candidate Marine Le Pen out of power. And in 2016, many Austrian conservatives backed Green Party candidate Alexander Van der Bellen to prevent the election of far-right radical Norbert Hofer. In cases like these, politicians endorsed ideological rivals—running the risk of angering their party base but redirecting many of their voters to keep extremists out of power.

    If Republican leaders had broken decisively with Trump, telling Americans loudly and clearly that he posed a threat to the country’s cherished democratic institutions, he might never have ascended to the presidency. The hotly contested, red-versus-blue dynamics of the previous four elections would have been disrupted, and the Republican electorate would have split. What happened, unfortunately, was very different. Despite their hesitation and reservations, most Republican leaders closed ranks behind Trump, creating the image of a unified party. The election was normalized. The race narrowed. Trump won.


    America’s constitutional system of checks and balances was designed to prevent leaders from concentrating and abusing power, and for most of our history, it has succeeded. Abraham Lincoln’s concentration of power during the Civil War was reversed by the Supreme Court after the war ended. Richard Nixon’s illegal wiretapping, exposed after the 1972 Watergate break-in, triggered a high-profile congressional investigation and bipartisan pressure for a special prosecutor, which eventually forced his resignation in the face of certain impeachment. In these and other instances, our political institutions served as crucial bulwarks against authoritarian tendencies.

    But constitutional safeguards, by themselves, aren’t enough to secure a democracy once an authoritarian is elected to power. Even well-designed constitutions can fail. Germany’s 1919 Weimar constitution was designed by some of the country’s greatest legal minds. Its long-standing and highly regarded Rechtsstaat (“rule of law”) was considered by many as sufficient to prevent government abuse. But both the constitution and the Rechtsstaat dissolved rapidly in the face of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1933.

    Or consider the experience of postcolonial Latin America. Many of the region’s newly independent republics modeled themselves directly on the United States, adopting U.S.-style presidentialism, bicameral legislatures, supreme courts, and in some cases, electoral colleges and federal systems. Some wrote constitutions that were near-replicas of the U.S. Constitution. Yet nearly all the region’s embryonic republics plunged into civil war and dictatorship. For example, Argentina’s 1853 constitution closely resembled ours: Two-thirds of its text was taken directly from the U.S. Constitution. Yet these constitutional arrangements did little to prevent fraudulent elections in the late nineteenth century, military coups in 1930 and 1943, and Perón’s populist autocracy.

    Likewise, the Philippines’ 1935 constitution has been described by legal scholar Raul Pangalangan as a “faithful copy of the U.S. Constitution.” Drafted under U.S. colonial tutelage and approved by the U.S. Congress, the charter “provided a textbook example of liberal democracy,” with a separation of powers, a bill of rights, and a two-term limit in the presidency. But President Ferdinand Marcos, who was loath to step down when his second term ended, dispensed with it rather easily after declaring martial law in 1972.

    If constitutional rules alone do not secure democracy, then what does? Much of the answer lies in the development of strong democratic norms. Two norms stand out: mutual toleration, or accepting one’s partisan rivals as legitimate (not treating them as dangerous enemies or traitors); and forbearance, or deploying one’s institutional prerogatives with restraint—in other words, not using the letter of the Constitution to undermine its spirit (what legal scholar Mark Tushnet calls “constitutional hardball”).

    Donald Trump is widely and correctly criticized for assaulting democratic norms. But Trump didn’t cause the problem. The erosion of democratic norms began decades ago.

    In 1979, newly elected Congressman Newt Gingrich came to Washington with a blunter, more cutthroat vision of politics than Republicans were accustomed to. Backed by a small but growing group of loyalists, Gingrich launched an insurgency aimed at instilling a more “combative” approach in the party. Taking advantage of a new media technology, C-SPAN, Gingrich used hateful language, deliberately employing over-the-top rhetoric. He described Democrats in Congress as corrupt and sick. He questioned his Democratic rivals’ patriotism. He even compared them to Mussolini and accused them of trying to destroy the country.

    Through a new political advocacy group, GOPAC, Gingrich and his allies worked to diffuse these tactics across the party. GOPAC produced more than 2,000 training audiotapes, distributed each month to get the recruits of Gingrich’s “Republican Revolution” on the same rhetorical page. Gingrich’s former press secretary Tony Blankley compared this tactic of audiotape distribution to one used by Ayatollah Khomeini on his route to power in Iran.

    Though few realized it at the time, Gingrich and his allies were on the cusp of a new wave of polarization rooted in growing public discontent, particularly among the Republican base. Gingrich didn’t create this polarization, but he was one of the first Republicans to sense—and exploit—the shift in popular sentiment. And his leadership helped to establish “politics as warfare” as the GOP’s dominant strategy.

    After the Republicans’ landslide 1994 election, the GOP began to seek victory by “any means necessary.” House Republicans refused to compromise, for example, in budget negotiations, leading to a five-day government shutdown in November 1995 and a 21-day shutdown a month later. This was a dangerous turn. As norms of forbearance weakened, checks and balances began to devolve into deadlock and dysfunction.

    The apogee of ’90s constitutional hardball was the December 1998 House vote to impeach President Bill Clinton. Only the second presidential impeachment in U.S. history, the move ran afoul of long-established norms. The investigation, beginning with the dead-end Whitewater inquiry and ultimately centering on Clinton’s testimony about an extramarital affair, never revealed anything approaching conventional standards for what constitutes “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The Republican House members also moved ahead with impeachment without bipartisan support, which meant that Clinton would almost certainly not be convicted by the Senate (he was acquitted there in February 1999). In an act without precedent in U.S. history, House Republicans had politicized the impeachment process, downgrading it, in the words of congressional experts Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, to “just another weapon in the partisan wars.”


    Despite George W. Bush’s promise to be a “uniter, not a divider,” partisan warfare only intensified during his eight years in office. Bush governed hard to the right, abandoning all pretense of bipartisanship on the counsel of Karl Rove, who had concluded that the electorate was so polarized by this time that Republicans could win by mobilizing their own base rather than appealing to independent voters. And with the exception of the aftermath of the September 11 attacks and subsequent military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, congressional Democrats eschewed bipartisan cooperation in favor of obstruction. Harry Reid and other Senate leaders used Senate rules to slow down or block Republican legislation and broke with precedent by routinely filibustering Bush proposals they opposed.

    Senate Democrats also began obstructing an unprecedented number of Bush’s judicial nominees, either by rejecting them outright or by allowing them to languish by not holding hearings. The norm of deference to the president on judicial appointments was dissolving. Indeed, The New York Times quoted one Democratic strategist as saying that the Senate needed to “change the ground rules ... there [is] no obligation to confirm someone just because they are scholarly or erudite.” After the Republicans won back the Senate in 2002, the Democrats turned to filibusters to block the confirmation of several appeals court nominations. Republicans reacted with outrage. Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote that “one of the great traditions, customs, and unwritten rules of the Senate is that you do not filibuster judicial nominees.” During the 110th Congress, the last of Bush’s presidency, the number of filibusters reached an all-time high of 139—nearly double that of even the Clinton years.

    If Democrats abandoned procedural forbearance in order to obstruct the president, Republicans did so in order to protect him. As Mann and Ornstein put it, “Long-standing norms of conduct in the House ... were shredded for the larger goal of implementing the president’s program.” The GOP effectively abandoned oversight of a Republican president, weakening Congress’s ability to check the executive. Whereas the House had conducted 140 hours of sworn testimony investigating whether Clinton had abused the White House Christmas card list in an effort to drum up new donors, it never subpoenaed the White House during the first five years of Bush’s presidency. Congress resisted oversight of the Iraq War, launching only superficial investigations into serious abuse cases including the torture at Abu Ghraib. The congressional watchdog became a lapdog, abdicating its institutional responsibilities.


    The assault on the basic norms governing American democracy escalated during Barack Obama’s presidency. Challenges to Obama’s legitimacy, which had begun with fringe conservative authors, talk-radio personalities, TV talking heads, and bloggers, was soon embodied in a mass political movement: the Tea Party, which started to organize just weeks after Obama’s inauguration.

    Two threads that broke with established norms consistently ran through Tea Party discourse. One was that Obama posed an existential threat to our democracy. Just days after Obama’s election, Georgia Congressman Paul Broun warned of a coming dictatorship comparable to Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. Iowa Tea Partier Joni Ernst, who would soon be elected to the U.S. Senate, claimed that Obama “has become a dictator.”

    The second thread was that Obama was not a “real American”—a claim that was undoubtedly fueled by racism. According to Tea Party activist and radio host Laurie Roth: “We are seeing a worldview clash in our White House. A man who is a closet secular-type Muslim, but he’s still a Muslim. He’s no Christian. We’re seeing a man who’s a Socialist Communist in the White House, pretending to be an American.” The “birther movement” went even further, questioning whether Obama was born in the United States—and thus challenging his constitutional right to hold the presidency.

    Attacks of this kind have a long pedigree in American history. Henry Ford, Father Coughlin, and the John Birch Society all adopted similar language. But the challenges to Obama’s legitimacy were different in two important ways. First, they were not confined to the fringes, but rather came to be accepted widely by Republican voters. According to a 2011 Fox News poll, 37 percent of Republicans believed that Obama was not born in the United States, and 63 percent said they had some doubts about his origins. Forty-three percent of Republicans reported believing he was a Muslim in a CNN/ORC poll, and a Newsweek poll found that a majority of Republicans believed Obama favored the interests of Muslims over those of other religions.

    Second, unlike past episodes of extremism, this wave reached into the upper ranks of the Republican Party. With the exception of the McCarthy period, the two major parties had typically kept such intolerance of each other at the margins for more than a century. Neither Father Coughlin nor the John Birch Society had the ear of top party leaders. Now, open attacks on Obama’s legitimacy (and later, Hillary Clinton’s) came from the mouths of leading national politicians.

    In recent years, the Tea Party’s extreme views have become fully integrated into the Republican mainstream. In 2010, more than 130 Tea Party–backed candidates ran for Congress, and more than 40 were elected. By 2011, the House Tea Party Caucus had 60 members, and in 2012, Tea Party–friendly candidates emerged as contenders for the Republican presidential nomination. In 2016, the Republican nomination went to a birther, at a national party convention in which Republican leaders called their Democratic rival a criminal and led chants of “Lock her up.” For the first time in many decades, top Republican figures—including one who would soon be president—had overtly abandoned norms of mutual toleration, goaded by a fringe that was no longer fringe.

    HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE by Steven Levitsky and Daniel ZiblattCrown, 320 pp., $26.00

    If, 25 years ago, someone had described to you a country where candidates threatened to lock up their rivals, political opponents accused the government of election fraud, and parties used their legislative majorities to impeach presidents and steal Supreme Court seats, you might have thought of Ecuador or Romania. It wouldn’t have been the United States of America.

    But Democrats and Republicans have become much more than just two competing parties, sorted into liberal and conservative camps. Their voters are now deeply divided by race, religious belief, culture, and geography. Republican politicians from Newt Gingrich to Donald Trump learned that in a polarized society, treating rivals as enemies can be useful—and that the pursuit of politics as warfare can mobilize people who fear they have much to lose. War has its price, though. For now, the American political order and its institutions remain intact. But the mounting assault on the norms that sustain them should strike fear in anyone who hopes to see the United States secure a democratic future.

    This article was adapted from How Democracies Dieby Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, to be published by Crown, a division of Penguin Random House LLC on January 16, 2018.


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    The Moral Gap in American Politics
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    The Weinstein effect has hit Washington hard—and probably just beginning—but has had a disparate effect on the two parties. Until recently, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans had the high moral ground on sexual harassment. Both parties had prominent sexual harassers who were defended by partisans and shielded by a power structure that discouraged victims from voicing their complaints, let alone seeking justice. The Democrats had Ted Kennedy and Bill Clinton; the Republicans had Strom Thurmond and Bob Packwood. It was easy enough for the centrist press to say “both sides do it,” and for party hacks to respond with whataboutism.

    But now, thanks largely to an internal revolt by Democratic women, the equivalence between the two parties is giving way to a stark contrast. The Republicans, albeit with some foot-dragging on the part of the establishment, are well on their way to becoming the party of President Donald Trump and Roy Moore, the Senate candidate accused of molesting underage girls. Conversely, the veteran Democratic Congressman John Conyers announced his retirement on Monday, in the wake of revelations that he had settled a case with a former staffer who accused him of trying to coerce her into sex, among other instance of sexual misconduct. Conyers ostensibly resigned for health reasons, but the true reason was that party leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on him to step down.

    On Wednesday, a new story broke about Minnesota Senator Al Franken groping a woman, bringing the number of accusations against him to eight. In response, six female Democratic senators called for his resignation. By the evening, a majority of Democrats in the Senate—32 of them—had done so.

    I’m shocked and appalled by Senator Franken’s behavior. It’s clear to me that this has been a deeply harmful, persistent problem and a clear pattern over a long period of time.

    It’s time for him to step aside.

    — Senator Patty Murray (@PattyMurray) December 6, 2017

    As elected officials, we should be held to the highest standards—not the lowest. The allegations against Sen. Franken describe behavior that cannot be tolerated. While he’s entitled to an Ethics Committee hearing, I believe he should step aside to let someone else serve.

    — Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) December 6, 2017

    Franken is scheduled to make an announcement on Thursday. If he resigns, as he’s widely expected to do, then it’ll be impossible to deny that the two parties have increasingly distinct identities on sexual harassment issues. On Tuesday, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee had asked Fox News, “But you know it’s down to the fact that as long as Al Franken is in the Senate, and Conyers is staying in office, why not have Roy Moore?” With Conyers gone and Franken on the precipice, the question becomes: If Democrats are willing to stand up to their accused sexual harassers, why do the Republicans tolerate Moore?

    Republicans might reject that they’re the party of Moore. But Trump, the standard bearer of the GOP, has endorsed Moore; the Republican National Committee has decided, after initial trepidation, to fund his campaign; and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made it clear he’ll work with Moore if he wins. Talk of expelling Moore from Senate has died down, as there does not appear to be enough Republicans who support the idea.

    Arizona Senator Jeff Flake is one of the exceptions, one of the few leading Republicans who is openly opposed to a Senator Moore—so much so that he donated $100 to Moore’s Democratic opponent, Doug Jones:

    Country over Party pic.twitter.com/JZMTaEYdxQ

    — Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) December 5, 2017

    This break with party loyalty was too much for Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, who positioned himself as opposing both Moore and Jones:

    This donation is a bad idea.
    It's possible to be against BOTH partial birth abortion AND child molestation. Happily, most Americans are. https://t.co/BjVH2gL69F

    — Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) December 6, 2017

    The Democratic Party’s turn against Conyers and Franken was fundamentally about values. As Dara Lind wrote at Vox, for years “the Democratic Party has positioned itself as the defender of gender equality and women’s rights against Republican attacks.” The Democrats, seriously tested by offenders within their ranks, are now trying to live up to those standards.

    The Republican Party is also making an affirmation of values by sticking with Moore and Trump: the defender of toxic masculinity. The gender gap in presidential politics, whereby women are markedly more likely to vote for Democrats than men, is a relatively new phenomenon in American politics. It dates back to the 1980 election, with Ronald Reagan’s embrace of the religious right. Moore is emblematic of all the dangers of that fusion of the GOP with pious fanaticism. The allegations against Moore aside, his views on gender are deeply retrograde. He co-authored a textbook arguing that women shouldn’t run for public office. In both Trump and Moore, the GOP has taken the mantle of the worst form of patriarchy: an assertion of male dominance without even the protective charade of chivalry.

    Some Republican pundits are treating the Democrats newfound hardline position against sexual harassment as a political ploy:

    Democrats are going to dump Franken now in order to seize the moral high ground on Moore.

    — Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) December 6, 2017

    I think I've been about as vocally disgusted as I can be about Moore, but let's be grown-ups and not pretend that Franken would be getting the boot if the governor of MN were a Republican. It's the right thing to do, yes, but this isn't the acid test of integrity. https://t.co/RrcB2AgtQz

    — Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) December 6, 2017

    It’s true that sacrificing Franken is easier because his replacement will be named by a Democratic governor. Still, the reason the two parties are diverging on sexual harassment has more to do with their different beliefs on gender rights than simple political expediency. After all, both Conyers and Franken are much loved among the party’s base. To punish them carries a real cost of demoralizing faithful Democrats.

    It’s also true that Democrats have to be more attentive to women voters than Republicans do. Hillary Clinton won 54 percent of the female vote and only 41 percent of the male vote. A third of Democrats in Congress are women, versus only 9 percent of Republicans. Democrats in both ideology and make-up are increasingly the party of female equality and the Republicans the party of gender reactionaries.

    It’s by no means clear that becoming the party of gender equality will always help Democrats, although at least one erstwhile conservative pundit sees an advantage:

    Franken resignation would dramatically up pressure on GOP re: Roy Moore. Sets stage for re-visiting allegations against Trump.

    — Charlie Sykes (@SykesCharlie) December 6, 2017

    As I’ve said, holding our own side accountable is the right thing to do, but no one should pretend that it will have any effect on most elected Republicans and their propaganda outlets, who operate in bottomless cynicism and bad faith. https://t.co/5D0vi0ysuV

    — Jon Favreau (@jonfavs) December 6, 2017

    Some conservatives are even trying to capitalize on the Democrats treatment of Franken.

    Al Franken defenders on Fox News!Gingrich and Ingraham just now: This is “political calculation.” And “weird puritanism.” He’s accused of “minor stuff.” Dems are a “lynch mob.” There’s “no due process.”

    — Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) December 7, 2017

    A hardline stance against sexual harassment might help in 2018, but produce a backlash in subsequent years. It’s impossible to know for sure. But political parties shouldn’t project certain values, and hold themselves accountable to them, simply because of electoral popularity. They should stand up for what’s right on moral grounds alone, and when it comes to sexual harassment, only one party is succeeding.


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    So You Married Your Flirty Boss
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    “My career, at the time, was in his hands,” Allison Benedikt wrote at Slate this week, about the beginning of her relationship with John Cook, her husband of 14 years. They were colleagues at a magazine when they first kissed, and he was her senior. That kiss took place “on the steps of the West 4th subway station,” Benedikt writes, and Cook did it “without first getting [her] consent.” The piece is an intervention into the conversation on office sexual harassment, with Benedikt fearing “the consequences of overcorrection” on this issue. She does not think that “the initial touch, the scooting closer in the booth, the drunken sloppy first kiss, the occasional bad call or failed pass” are necessarily harassment, and has the happy marriage to prove it. Her piece was titled “The Upside of Office Flirtation? I’m Living It.”

    Benedikt’s essay was widely shared on social media, praised for its “nuanced” approach to the messy nature of human relationships. Only a day later, however, we were reminded that there is a stark line between office flirtation and abuse. On Wednesday Lorin Stein, who himself is married to a former employee, announced that he is resigning from the editorship of The Paris Review amid an investigation into his behavior towards women in his orbit. Stein’s predation has long been a whisper-network item in literary New York. In a letter of resignation to the board of The Paris Review, Stein apologized for the way he has “blurred the personal and the professional in ways that were ... disrespectful of my colleagues and our contributors.” He said that he has come to realize that his behavior was “hurtful, degrading, and infuriating.”

    Benedikt has my sympathy. She is in the tricky position of figuring out how the long-past actions of a man she loves fit into the new political landscape. If she is absolutely sure that she is a feminist, and if she is absolutely sure that she is against the harming of vulnerable people, then she is left with difficult questions: If she was merrily compliant with behaviors that are not acceptable in the workplace today, does that make her complicit with the culture of harassment? How can she defend her husband—and by extension herself—while maintaining that they were right then as well as now?

    Ultimately Benedikt suggests that a man should not be condemned for the things that her husband did. But Cook did do something wrong. You shouldn’t kiss a junior colleague without asking. You probably shouldn’t kiss anybody without asking, as a rule of thumb to remember when you’re drunk. Consent is such an easy premise, and Benedikt’s reluctance to acknowledge it seems generational. Fourteen years ago affirmative consent was not such a widespread idea, and perhaps the simple words “Can I kiss you?” didn’t come so easily to a man’s lips. But the world has changed, and affirmative consent is now the standard. All college kids know this. Just ask!

    It is not unreasonable to demand that men in workplaces act as if the year were 2017 and not 2003. At the same time, nobody is retrospectively prosecuting a man for acting as if it were 2003 in 2003. Nobody is hauling John Cook into the sex-crimes dock or putting Benedikt on trial for crimes against feminism. Nobody is suggesting that she thinks Stein’s behavior is okay, or that that the beginning of a loving marriage is the same thing as sexual harassment. But in writing her essay, in attempting to draw some universal principles from her specific experiences, Benedikt makes bad arguments with real-world consequences—of the kind that have kept the long-swirling rumors from Stein’s door until now.


    I went to university late. I was 20 years old, and jaded from a bad relationship and a bad year at art school. Soon after starting my undergraduate degree at Oxford, I also started a relationship with a man in his thirties whose job it was to teach me. He did not coerce me; we pursued each other. I was very sad at the time and I could tell that he was too. He had moved there from another country and was isolated in the old boys’ club of Oxford. We were lonely and troubled people, and we made each other very happy. Our relationship continued for three years, until I moved to New York to work on my Ph.D. We went to weddings together. I ran up wooden staircases in buildings constructed hundreds of years ago to reach him. I slunk through shadows and took elusive cobbled paths through town to find him.

    There was a lot of opportunity for coercion, but that didn’t happen: Once we started sleeping together, I made sure that my boyfriend never graded another paper by me again. I wanted to have my cake and eat it too, to sleep with a professor and keep my intellectual principles intact. I kept the relationship secret from almost all my friends. The whole thing was extremely fun, we traveled together, I loved him a lot. We didn’t get married or have kids, but I don’t regret it at all.

    And I still think he did something wrong.

    Professors should not have sex with their undergraduate students, even those who are older and more hardheaded and determined than the others. Academics abuse those junior to them all the time, and rely on a combination of tenure and shame to keep them out of trouble. This has also happened to me. I know that those two experiences—of a relationship and of an assault—are totally different. But they were both facilitated by the same permissive culture at universities. The first experience was good, the second was mindbendingly awful. I would have forgone the first to avoid the second.

    The flaw in Benedikt’s argument is that it is so narrowly focused. It’s as if she thinks that the #MeToo campaign wants to take her marriage away. If Cook hadn’t kissed her on the steps of West 4th Street station in the light of the Duane Reade, she implies, she wouldn’t be married with those beautiful children. And then what would her life have been like? This is who I am, she seems to say.

    When I say that professors shouldn’t sleep with their students, but that I don’t regret the time that my professor and I slept together, I am not contradicting myself. None of us can go back in time to change the past, nor do I have sufficient insight to know what life would have been like if I had never had that relationship. But I do know what I believe is right, right now. Justifying my own past is less important than protecting the vulnerable.

    In muddling her experiences with her beliefs, Benedikt makes several missteps. The first is her undermining of consent as a crucial principle, and the endorsement of nonverbal seduction cues over verbal ones. “It is completely within the norm of human exploratory romantic behavior for people to take steps—sometimes physical steps—to see if the other person reciprocates their feelings,” she writes. It may have been the norm at one point, but no longer, at least when one person has professional or hierarchical power over the other. Use words. In California it is the law that state-funded colleges use the affirmative consent standard in investigating harassment cases. The law!

    The second is subtler: the strong implication that the happy ending of heterosexual marriage and procreation excuses transgression. We see this idea all the time. If a horrible and destructive affair destroys a first marriage, but the second marriage produces children and a longstanding relationship, the transgressors are forgiven because it was fairytale fated. This is a toxic concept that abets dishonesty and asserts the happiness of people who marry and reproduce over other people’s.

    The third is rhetorical. Benedikt extracts universal principles from her story, but there are so many contingent factors influencing her story to which the reader is not privy. There are nonverbal and verbal cues that are not in her piece that undoubtedly clarified the pair’s attraction to one another. There is the element of atmosphere, the intangible flavor that defined whether she, the inferior in this power dynamic, was or was not afraid. There is the personality of John Cook himself, who was interested in her as a partner and not as a victim. There was the enthusiasm of her nonverbal consent, which changes everything. In fact, “enthusiastic consent” is used as a standard in some colleges.

    These contingent factors made Benedikt’s individual experiences okay. But because those factors are so various and so unpredictable, they cannot possibly be legislated for in harassment rules. When women say “do not kiss a junior colleague without consent,” they do so to protect the people who could be harmed by that action and are not otherwise empowered to protest. After all, we do not tell drivers that it is alright to drive drunk when there is nobody else on the road. We tell drivers never to drive drunk.

    Benedikt is concerned that men may be unfairly targeted in the new anti-harassment culture. But in arguing for her husband’s innocence—which nobody was really concerned with, since this is a political discussion and not a personal accusation—Benedikt undermines the general position of harassment victims. She effectively backs up the platonic version of the man who says, “I didn’t know that what I was doing was wrong,” in order to defend the person that she loves—a position that was echoed in Stein’s statement. That is not how we put together responsible political arguments.


    Every moment is only a single version of a multiverse of possibilities. If I hadn’t missed my train yesterday morning, I wouldn’t have had time to buy coffee. What would I have been thinking then, if I hadn’t gotten riled up on caffeine on the L train and formulated the outlines of this piece? It’s a rhetorical question, because we cannot know. I cannot know what other loves or joys I would have experienced if I hadn’t dated that professor. Benedikt cannot know whether she would or wouldn’t have married John Cook if he’d done things differently. Maybe she would have married someone else. Maybe she wouldn’t have married. Maybe she’d have been hit by a bus. The lives we live—the children we have, the people we marry—are not predetermined or specially right because they happen to have happened.

    A few weeks ago I wrote here that the #MeToo campaign is not a positive assertion of feminist solidarity, but rather a shared experience of what has been done to us by others. When we come together to recall those times when we were harassed, we are raising our consciousnesses but we are not actually advocating for anything. The really important stuff happens after we’ve shared our experiences, and start deciding what to do next. I understand what Allison Benedikt is feeling, but that does not justify her solipsistic ambivalence about the anti-harassment campaign. Lorin Stein’s fall is the latest evidence that a new world is available, suddenly. We all experience the world as atomized beings, defined by our own pasts. But this moment is about our future.


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    We Are All California
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    On Wednesday morning, R.L. Miller woke up and went to Starbucks, where she and her neighbors stared at a bright orange sky and wondered whether it was safe to breathe. Usually, the Southern California native spends her days advocating for climate action as the president of Climate Hawks Vote, a grassroots super PAC. But on Wednesday, as catastrophic wildfires roared about 20 miles away from her home in Ventura County, she was a potential victim of climate change, too. “I’m scared,” she said, adding that one of the blazes north of her was moving south. “This is real.”

    There have been many victims of the ongoing wildfires in Southern California, the largest of which is the Thomas Fire, a 101-square-mile monster blaze north of Los Angeles. The L.A. Times reports that the fire jumped the 101 freeway and was stopped only by the Pacific Ocean, along the way burning 50,500 acres, destroying 150 structures, and forcing 27,000 people to evacuate. Californians are used to wildfires, but Miller says these ones are unseasonable. “We usually get crazy wildfires in October, and then the first rains come in November, and ground stays wet and more rains come, and there’s no wildfire threat,” she said. “It’s early December .... This is happening because there is no more winter rain. There’s not enough winter rain, ever.”

    Today was scariest morning commute of my life: #gettycenter #skirballfire pic.twitter.com/aECWhnJ26I

    — Rick Patrick (@70sspacepunk) December 6, 2017

    Climate science backs up Miller’s observation. The state’s wildfire seasons are lasting longer and burning stronger due to human-caused climate change, as rising temperatures make vegetation drier and causes states like California to whip between very dry and very wet seasons. These current fires are so bad because of a mixture of dry foliage and low humidity, but also because of hot, dry winds blowing up to 70 miles per hour. This seasonal high wind, known as the Santa Ana winds, is not unusual for this time of year, climate scientist Daniel Swain told the Verge. But some scientists believe climate change “may be making these strong winds drier,” according to the New York Times.

    These observations are nothing new to most Californians, who have known for a while that many of global climate change’s worst impacts affect their state. The news keeps getting worse: Just this week, a new study in the journal Nature Communications found that a persistent atmospheric high-pressure ridge in the Pacific Ocean could occur more often with climate change, causing more frequent and more dangerous droughts in the state. Jennifer Francis, a research professor at Rutgers University’s Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, told me this has implications for the Santa Ana winds as well. “The [high-pressure ridge] not only causes hot, dry weather in CA, but also tends to create offshore winds—known as Santa Ana winds—that often fan wildfires,” she said.

    These fearsome trends are precisely why California is the most aggressive state on climate policy in the country. State Governor Jerry Brown led the coalition of U.S. states who went to France this year to tell the world that they would meet the terms of the Paris agreement to fight climate change, despite President Donald Trump’s pledge to pull the country out. The state has the toughest fuel-economy standards in the nation, and some of the toughest emissions regulations on the fossil fuel industry. The state government even has a Climate Action Team that works to coordinate various emissions reductions programs across the state.

    California is uniquely aggressive in fighting climate change, but it’s not uniquely a victim. Eventually everywhere in the United States, not just the coastal regions, will suffer from severe climate impacts. Climate scientists have documented how global warming stands will hit the rest of America, whether it be through more extreme precipitation in the northeast or crop failure in the heartland. But reality has shown it to us, too. Hurricane Harvey brought Houston, Texas, its worst rainfall and flooding in recorded history. The risks of sea-level rise in Florida was made more apparent by Hurricane Irma, which flooded city streets and destroyed sea-walls. In Oklahoma, the temperature reached 100 degrees in the dead of winter.

    This year’s mind-boggling extreme weather has shown us that climate change will leave few Americans untouched. And yet, so many states refuse to do much about it. That angers climate scientist Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. “The other states—Florida, Texas, Oklahoma—are under the control of climate change-denying politicians who continue to bury their head in the sand about climate change as they do the bidding of the fossil fuel interests who fund them, with the people they are supposed to be representing paying the cost in the form of devastating climate change-aggravated damage,” he said.

    But for some, even California’s actions haven’t been enough. Miller, of Climate Hawks Vote, is one of climate crusader Jerry Brown’s strongest critics, urging him to stop the controversial practice of fracking in the state and to end his friendly relationship with the state’s oil industry. Now, the wildfire threat to her friends and family has upped the ante. “I am more determined than ever to fight and to speak out,” she said. “Never giving up, never backing down.”

Green


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    Exxon Mobil Corp. said on Monday that it is moving forward with a plan to reveal to its stakeholders how it expects climate change will impact its business plans going forward. The post Exxon’s Climate Strategy Will Become Increasingly More Transparent appeared first on Environmental Leader.


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    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::get_element() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14949

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::entities_decode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9190

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14958

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14959

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14958

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14959

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14958

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14959

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14958

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14959

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::get_element() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14949

    The deadline to submit products and projects to the Environmental Leader Awards and Energy Manager Today Awards is Friday, Dec. 15. (Note: these great quotes could be about YOU) The post Still Time to Enter: End of the Week Marks the Product & Project Awards Deadline appeared first on Environmental Leader.


  • Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14929

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::is_isegment_nz_nc() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 3730

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::get_element() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14949

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::entities_decode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9190

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::get_element() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14949

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::entities_decode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9190

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14958

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14959

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14958

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14959

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14958

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14959

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14958

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14959

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::get_element() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14949

      Researchers at the City College of New York (CCNY) claim the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) is releasing misleading information claiming waste-to-energy is a false path to zero waste, and it could lead to “more waste going into landfills than ever before.” The report says the GAIA has ... Read more » The post Report Says Waste-to-Energy a False Path to Zero Waste appeared first on Environmental Leader.


Deprecated: Non-static method GantryModulesRenderer::display() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/gantry.class.php on line 678

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Deprecated: Non-static method GantrySessionParamOverride::store() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/gantry.class.php on line 454

Deprecated: Non-static method GantryCookieParamOverride::store() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/gantry.class.php on line 455

Deprecated: Non-static method GantryCookieParamOverride::_flushOldCookies() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/params/overrides/gantrycookieparamoverride.class.php on line 40

Deprecated: Non-static method GantryGZipper::processCSSFiles() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/gantry.class.php on line 462

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