American Politics

BLM in the Billionaire Wilderness

BLM in the Billionaire Wilderness

A channel for movement at the grindingly slow pace of government

Our new group joined around a hundred people who stood on the grass and the sidewalk in front of the courthouse. A counter-protest formed on the sidewalk across the street—they numbered around ten, all men, all white, some with assault rifles strapped across their chests. Together they held one sign, a large piece of cardboard with Sharpie letters that read ALL LIVES MATTER FCK SOROS AND ANTEFA [sic]. It was mostly silent—a modern-day Western standoff, with two opposing factions staring each other down and a man in a MAGA hat on horseback circling both groups.

The Most Exciting Time in the History of the World to Be Alive

The Most Exciting Time in the History of the World to Be Alive

If Americans clamor for a return to boring and courteous politics, the 1996 Gore–Kemp debate offers a blueprint

They were living in an era that prized blithe superficiality. For the second straight month, the Billboard Hot 100 was dominated by a song about a woman named Macarena who cheats on her boyfriend after he’s conscripted; delegates at that summer’s DNC had famously danced to it. The reigning box-office champ was The First Wives Club, in which three well-heeled divorcées vie for the fortunes of their adulterous ex-husbands. “It’s the ’90s,” says Goldie Hawn’s character, “plastic surgery is like good grooming!” (Characters in the ’90s loved to talk about how they were living in the ’90s, the ultimate decade.)

Argument Without Argument

Argument Without Argument

Robert M. Gates and America’s forever foreign policy

The more time one spends in Gates’s head, the more one is struck by the increasingly nihilistic quality of the American exceptionalist creed. Gates and his ilk remain committed to the idea that when there are problems in the world, the United States must “do something.” What is that something? It usually doesn’t matter much.

Dispatch from the California Stripper Strike

Dispatch from the California Stripper Strike

The rumblings of revolutions begin small

In all radical labor movements, history is made when ordinary workers disrupt the system that seeks to exploit and silence them. Because of social stigma, wage theft, and sexual assault, the strip club has always been a difficult and dangerous work environment. Today, the stakes have reached a desperate tipping point, even though, technically, thanks to a recent court ruling, we have more legal rights than ever: we have the right to discuss the job while on the job, the right to organize and gather, and the right to unionize, which will give us a voice in the workplace—instead of only a body to be gazed at.

From the Lockdown Protests to the Capitol

From the Lockdown Protests to the Capitol

January 6 and the enduring lessons of Black Lives Matter

We cannot police our way out of authoritarianism. An increasingly authoritarian police state in the hands of the “right” bourgeois elites will not suppress the far right; it will instead train a new generation of far-right foot soldiers and target, disorganize, and destroy fascism’s most dogged opponents among the far left.

Car Guys

Car Guys

Is there a straight line from the libertarian exuberance of the Cannonball Run to the political philosophy of the anti-masker?

The traffic stop is by far the most common site of police-initiated contact with the public. At their wide discretion, police may ticket, detain, and even jail drivers for many violations. Data shows clearly that African Americans are stopped, searched, and threatened with the use of violence at significantly higher rates than are white drivers. Although we never think of it this way, that means the inverse is also true: white drivers are let by, let off, and less harassed by police than Black drivers.

The Hour of the Barbarian

The Hour of the Barbarian

Which America is the true one?

What happened on January 6 was profoundly American, emerging as it did from our long and very specific history. No one did this to us. But despite the geographic confusion, George W. Bush, Jake Tapper, and Meghan McCain correctly identified that nothing like this has happened here for a long time.

Lost Lost Causes

Lost Lost Causes

The day went how it went

“This is not America.” That strange, contradictory phrase seems to descend like fog every time a legible and precedented event occurs in the United States. If it wasn’t America, it wouldn’t need to be said.

Land Noises

Land Noises

I’d stumbled upon the set of the Ronald Reagan biopic

The sky looked precisely like Oklahoma’s license plate, light blue with swirls of what I thought was a white cloud but is actually the outline of a scissor-tailed flycatcher. A lot of the ranch gates had cowboys on them—emblems of a lost frontier. (There’s a cowboy museum in Oklahoma City.) The interstate was built mostly in the 1960s and made backroads like 77 and the towns along it obsolete, and it’s in these towns where I saw the most Trump flags. One county was called Love. A welcome sign said THACKERVILLE AMERICA: WE BELIEVE IN OKLAHOMA. THACKERVILLE OKLAHOMA: WE BELIEVE IN AMERICA would have made more sense, but little did.

We Live in a Society

We Live in a Society

Organization is the entire question

Political speech does not find individuals as points on an economic grid, directing them toward the party or politician whose platform matches their abstract preferences. It finds them, instead, embedded in particular lifeworlds. And if class processes form the basis of political action, they still must become manifest through the organization of social life, which in turn becomes meaningful as culture. This goes some way toward explaining how so many people could vote for Trump and his party, even as large majorities endorse progressive policy goals in surveys and ballot initiatives.