American Politics

Where the Boys Are

Where the Boys Are

When we look at Bernie Sanders, what do we see?

I Still Love Hillary Clinton. I Still Don’t Want to Vote for Her. My own profile in political emotion, all but impossible in the eyes of the Clinton campaign, is not a march toward reason but a deepening of continued convolution. It’s not just that, having enthusiastically cast my first ballot for Bill Clinton in my second-grade class mock election in 1992, I have a lifelong affinity bordering on Camelot-style adoration for both Clintons. It’s also that, having hit puberty at exactly the right time to learn everything I know about sex from news coverage of the Starr report, their collective role in my constitution as a sexual subject is second perhaps only to that other pair of baby boomers who gave birth to me. Hillary’s incredible pathos, her depths of ambition, the abuse she has borne, her inability to keep her feelings off her face—all the supposedly unlikeable personal qualities that Hillary-lovers love about Hillary, I love too. I challenge you to watch her Oscar lifetime achievement award-ish montage from the 2008 Democratic National Convention—the one where she talks about writing to NASA to find out how a girl can become a lady astronaut—and not cry. I could look at her all day, would love to crack open a campaign-trail Bud together (she is supposedly very funny in person), if I were in therapy right now I’m sure it would not take long to concur that I still want her to fuck me. Yet for all the reasons of policy and ideology that leftists who don’t want to vote for Hillary don’t want to vote for Hillary, I don’t want to vote for her either. I will grant that in its details, this profile may be idiosyncratic. But in its general contours, I don’t think what I am saying is unrepresentative so much as, within our current discourse, simply unrepresentable.

Outlaw Country

Outlaw Country

Merle Haggard, 1937–2016

The complexities of Merle Haggard were bound up with the complexities of a baffling political moment, when old rules had been destroyed without new ones being written, a time when everything seemed frustrating but anything seemed possible. But there is nothing inherently redemptive about flux or paradox. It’s nice to know that some George Wallace voters had a kind word for the Communists, just as it’s nice that Haggard followed “Okie from Muskogee” with “Irma Jackson,” a sympathetic portrayal of an interracial romance. But in the end Wallace-style fusion of redistributive populism with open racism crippled progressive politics in this country. There is no reason to forgive Haggard for singing “I ain’t never been on welfare / that’s one place I won’t be,” or “I wasn’t born and raised in no ghetto / just a white boy looking for a place to do my thing.”

Trump and the Republicans

Trump and the Republicans

Trumpism will not end with Trump. Nor will movement conservatism or organized wealth simply give way. The convulsions on the right have only just begun.

No matter what enthusiasm he generates, Trump is massively unpopular. According to a recent Gallup survey, 30 percent of US adults view him favorably and 63 percent view him unfavorably. Under those circumstances Democrats hold advantages beyond what would be expected given a solid but not spectacular economy, and a party already in office for eight years. Barack Obama is not on the ballot, but Democrats will count on an unreconstructed birther and xenophobe to turn out African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans. Then add the Republican defectors, the group most uncertain in size and demographics. Ed Rendell, former governor of Pennsylvania, a must-win state for Trump, telegraphs the strategy, however disappointing to old leftists: “For every one of those blue-collar Democrats he picks up, he will lose to Hillary two socially moderate Republicans and independents in suburban Cleveland, suburban Columbus, suburban Cincinnati, suburban Philadelphia, suburban Pittsburgh, places like that.” Those same suburbanites may well stay home or even blank the presidential vote, giving the “missing white voters” a very different cast than in 2012.

We Can Keep the American People Safe

We Can Keep the American People Safe

David Foster Wallace was not especially interested in politics over the course of his life, and what interest he did exhibit was not driven by much of a political intelligence. He supported both Ronald Reagan and Ross Perot, although the absence of politics from his correspondence suggests that neither position was strongly held or carefully thought out. In a Rolling Stone cover story on the 2000 John McCain campaign that has since become a fixture of his anthologies, he describes American politics as a sentimental battle between cynicism and real feeling, political gamesmanship and public-spiritedness, the last of which Wallace yokes McCain into symbolizing. (He also says that McCain could be the country’s first “real leader” since JFK.) Wallace had a lifelong suspicion of cable news, but the textures of his political thought could sometimes appear to be drawn from that medium.

Year in Review: 2015

Year in Review: 2015

When the Federal Reserve raised interest rates in December for the first time since the onset of the financial crisis, the feeling around the decision was one of somber, even funereal, inevitability. It was hard not to think of the mayor of Amity, assured of the water’s safety, reluctantly leading his citizens back down to the beach. Incidentally, Jaws was released in 1975, the last year that real wages rose. We all know the water isn’t safe, but an economy organized like Amity’s has no choice but to act like it is.