American Politics

Lobby Day in Albany

Lobby Day in Albany

Single payer’s moment has arrived in New York.

There are many good reasons for citizens to understand the finer points of policymaking. But in this room, we were at our most powerful and effective when we put aside the urges to be experts (we are not) and to show off our sophisticated political analysis (we didn’t have one). The organization that had put together the lobbying meetings needed us to be warm bodies who live in the right districts, people willing to simply show up and say what we want.

What We Do Best

What We Do Best

War has become a given in American political life. In the process it has become depoliticized.

It might seem ludicrous that only hours after many of us called Trump a Russian spy, a new Hitler, a feckless idiot, a psychopath, a sun-downing, pill-popping monster, we fell in line and rallied behind him and our troops because, after all, he is our President and Presidents lead and the troops must be supported.

The Syria Catastrophe

The Syria Catastrophe

The response required at this late, desperate stage is neither anti-Assad nor anti-ISIS nor even anti-imperialist — it is antiwar.

Again and again, countries across and outside the Middle East have decided that escalating the war by military means is justified by whatever little sliver of national interest they feel is at stake. The US, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, China, France, and Britain have all pumped military resources into the conflict, increasing not only the war’s capacity for destructive violence but also its duration.

Democracy Without the People

Democracy Without the People

Left populism vs. insipid pluralism

Among the confounded political analysts, what followed Trump’s victory was an epidemic of self-castigation. “We” had failed to “listen” to “white working-class” voters. Since the inauguration, however, elitism in the guise of centrism is once again on the move. Democracy, they say, is under threat from populism, and only a defense of norms and institutions can exorcise the specter of a reckless citizenry. But what if the truth is the opposite, and populism is not the problem but the solution? 

The Syria Catastrophe

The Syria Catastrophe

The response required at this late, desperate stage is neither anti-Assad nor anti-ISIS nor even anti-imperialist — it is antiwar.

Again and again, countries across and outside the Middle East have decided that escalating the war by military means is justified by whatever little sliver of national interest they feel is at stake. The US, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, China, France, and Britain have all pumped military resources into the conflict, increasing not only the war’s capacity for destructive violence but also its duration.

Party Foul

Party Foul

What do we do about the Democrats?

Is now, more than ever, our moment to yank the Democrats back from decades of rightward drift? It’s an old, even farcical question for the left. Keith Ellison’s lead for DNC chair gave us momentary hope: when Elizabeth Warren, Chuck Schumer, and much of organized labor endorsed him, it seemed as though the Democrats were finally coming around. But then Obama deputized labor secretary Tom Perez to stop the Ellison wave — a signal to cool our hopes.

The Gentrification of Standing Rock

The Gentrification of Standing Rock

As allies flooded in, indigenous leadership was increasingly drowned out in a sea of noise.

As yurts were built left and right and kale arrived by the truckload, I began to see that Standing Rock was gentrifying. White people had arrived in a space that was not our own and tried to improve it according to our standards. We ate foods cooked by our poorer, browner neighbors and learned a few words in their language. We improved the housing stock and brought newer, greener technologies. But as we tried to help, we simply got in the way.

Descent into Liberalism

Descent into Liberalism

You’re rooting for Cold War II. The FBI is your BFF.

So far right did politics float that Richard Nixon is now a moderate and Pat Leahy looks like Che Guevara. The furthest-left there is to be is what conservatives call “radical liberal.” This should be an oxymoron, but given the span of the possible, it is not. With political possibility, language too is squeezed.

While the Iron Is Hot

While the Iron Is Hot

The case for the Women’s Strike.

This is what is meant by the phrase “the feminization of labor”: not simply that men are handed more jobs that seem effeminate in nature (menial, slogging work like data-entry or cleaning), but that men are treated poorly as workers—that is, like women. The more people find themselves indirectly employed, for instance by tech companies and temp agencies, the more they can learn from the women’s labor movements of the past, in sectors once believed to be “unorganizable” such as domestic work. In degrading women’s labor, we degrade all labor.

Etched into Eternity

Etched into Eternity

Donald Trump’s disdain for heroism has been replaced by a passionate commitment to its exact opposite.

Trump’s florid hero worship represents a new liturgical moment in the political theology of American power—and a major shift in Trump’s rhetorical posture, which has previously made very little room for accomplishments other than his own. Yet it is far from unfamiliar in the world history of demagoguery.

Turf-guarding

Turf-guarding

The Democrats give the left the middle finger.

As is well known, Perez only became a candidate at the behest of Barack Obama, picked explicitly to scuttle Ellison’s otherwise smooth path to the chairmanship. This turned the contest into a referendum on how the party feels about the Sanders activists. Evidently it feels quite hostile.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation Bias

Did big data sink the Clinton campaign?

Why did Ada fail in Michigan? The primary and the general election were different contests, but both suggest that the failure lay in Ada’s model of the electorate—or more precisely, her inability to update her model of the electorate. In the general election, Ada told Clinton that Wisconsin was a lock, that Michigan was not a problem. But it wasn’t so much that Ada’s cake arbitrarily failed to rise; the failure was in the recipe. In an election where a great realignment took place—where thousands of voters in Rust Belt states who had voted for Obama twice now turned to Trump—Ada had not been programmed to detect the possibility of that realignment. The oracle had been hamstrung from the start.

Magic Dirt Nation

Magic Dirt Nation

Making airports great again at the Trump rally in Melbourne, Florida.

There’s a distant sucking sound in the sky, which excites the crowd. Several phones point skyward. Air Force One is powder blue and descends, ponderously and slowly, above the waiting crowd’s heads. They must have planned it this way, because though the sonic ripples are deafening, the plane’s approach rouses a cheer so raucous that the two sounds fight, which only whips up the rally-goers more.

Trump’s Tlön

Trump’s Tlön

To focus on fact-checking alone is to miss the point: what is at stake here is not truth, but power.

This list is an absurdity and an obscenity. It is absurd because it bears all the hallmarks of a social studies paper hastily compiled by some desperate, clueless high school freshman. It is obscene for nearly too many reasons to count.

Protest at Mar-a-Lago

Protest at Mar-a-Lago

Storming the Winter White House

When a pickup truck came down from the other side of the bridge with a Confederate flag on its bumper and its windows down, the occupants engaged protestors, who shouted into the window. The driver, a grey-haired white man, leaned out and screamed back, but drove away when West Palm cops approached, flanking out in front of the street to keep it clear for cars trying to get to or from the Red Cross gala at Mar-a-Lago. It was the second time I thought about concealed carry.

Do Your Job

Do Your Job

The game’s sheer improbability made the whole thing impossible to take seriously until it was over.

It is a mistake to count on men like Belichick and Brady to understand the basic tenets of our shared world together. They know how to throw touchdowns and win football games, but not how to build or maintain a world in which it is possible to make millions doing so. For that, they rely on the rest of us, especially those long since priced out of their stadiums.

Black Church Burning

Black Church Burning

Arson and the long war on black progress

Thirty-six black churches in Mississippi burned during the Freedom Summer of 1964, a campaign to register black voters in Mississippi. That’s twelve churches every month, three every week, and one every three days. Any black person visiting a church for worship, voter registration, or other services knew they might die in a blaze.

One Week Under Trump

One Week Under Trump

Donald gets to work.

Most of the time, Donald speaks with a false intimacy, anchoring his claim to truth in the implicit, casual acknowledgement that all his past statements were maneuvering, necessary lies, prologue, so that now, finally, he can tell it to you straight. The words “win” and “war,” however, are Donald’s special words, spoken with some awareness of their meaning.

Lobby Day in Albany

Lobby Day in Albany

Single payer’s moment has arrived in New York.

There are many good reasons for citizens to understand the finer points of policymaking. But in this room, we were at our most powerful and effective when we put aside the urges to be experts (we are not) and to show off our sophisticated political analysis (we didn’t have one). The organization that had put together the lobbying meetings needed us to be warm bodies who live in the right districts, people willing to simply show up and say what we want.

What We Do Best

What We Do Best

War has become a given in American political life. In the process it has become depoliticized.

It might seem ludicrous that only hours after many of us called Trump a Russian spy, a new Hitler, a feckless idiot, a psychopath, a sun-downing, pill-popping monster, we fell in line and rallied behind him and our troops because, after all, he is our President and Presidents lead and the troops must be supported.

The Syria Catastrophe

The Syria Catastrophe

The response required at this late, desperate stage is neither anti-Assad nor anti-ISIS nor even anti-imperialist — it is antiwar.

Again and again, countries across and outside the Middle East have decided that escalating the war by military means is justified by whatever little sliver of national interest they feel is at stake. The US, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, China, France, and Britain have all pumped military resources into the conflict, increasing not only the war’s capacity for destructive violence but also its duration.

Democracy Without the People

Democracy Without the People

Left populism vs. insipid pluralism

Among the confounded political analysts, what followed Trump’s victory was an epidemic of self-castigation. “We” had failed to “listen” to “white working-class” voters. Since the inauguration, however, elitism in the guise of centrism is once again on the move. Democracy, they say, is under threat from populism, and only a defense of norms and institutions can exorcise the specter of a reckless citizenry. But what if the truth is the opposite, and populism is not the problem but the solution? 

The Syria Catastrophe

The Syria Catastrophe

The response required at this late, desperate stage is neither anti-Assad nor anti-ISIS nor even anti-imperialist — it is antiwar.

Again and again, countries across and outside the Middle East have decided that escalating the war by military means is justified by whatever little sliver of national interest they feel is at stake. The US, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, China, France, and Britain have all pumped military resources into the conflict, increasing not only the war’s capacity for destructive violence but also its duration.

Party Foul

Party Foul

What do we do about the Democrats?

Is now, more than ever, our moment to yank the Democrats back from decades of rightward drift? It’s an old, even farcical question for the left. Keith Ellison’s lead for DNC chair gave us momentary hope: when Elizabeth Warren, Chuck Schumer, and much of organized labor endorsed him, it seemed as though the Democrats were finally coming around. But then Obama deputized labor secretary Tom Perez to stop the Ellison wave — a signal to cool our hopes.

The Gentrification of Standing Rock

The Gentrification of Standing Rock

As allies flooded in, indigenous leadership was increasingly drowned out in a sea of noise.

As yurts were built left and right and kale arrived by the truckload, I began to see that Standing Rock was gentrifying. White people had arrived in a space that was not our own and tried to improve it according to our standards. We ate foods cooked by our poorer, browner neighbors and learned a few words in their language. We improved the housing stock and brought newer, greener technologies. But as we tried to help, we simply got in the way.

Descent into Liberalism

Descent into Liberalism

You’re rooting for Cold War II. The FBI is your BFF.

So far right did politics float that Richard Nixon is now a moderate and Pat Leahy looks like Che Guevara. The furthest-left there is to be is what conservatives call “radical liberal.” This should be an oxymoron, but given the span of the possible, it is not. With political possibility, language too is squeezed.