Start Making Sense

How the Dems Can Win in 2020: Lessons of the Virginia Victories–Joan Walsh, plus Jeet Heer on Trump and War Crimes and Bryce Covert on Strikes

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Democrats need to learn the lessons of their historic victory last month, when Virginia became the first Southern state in the post–civil-rights-movement era to entirely flip back to Democratic control.  Virgina Democrats now hold the governorship AND both houses of the state legislature.  How did they do it?  Joan Walsh says one key was that Republican attacks on abortion didn’t send Democrats running scared.
Also: Trump’s pardons for war criminals: Jeet Heer says the military is right to stand up for the laws of war, but the basic issue is a political one, and the military can’t make this a political fight.  But the voters can.
And Bryce Covert has been examining strikes in America over the last couple of years.  More workers went on strike last year than at any time since 1986 – more than 20 years ago.  They include public sector workers, like teachers and nurses, and corporate employees, like auto and hotel workers – and even low-paid, part-time and temporary people who don’t have unions—like fast food workers and Uber drivers. 12-4-19

‘It Can’t All Be Bernie’: The Candidate with John Nichols, plus Adam Hochschild on deportation and John Powers on “The Irishman”

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Bernie Sanders says it will take a movement to change America: “It can’t all be Bernie.”  John Nichols comments on his interview with the candidate, who is now back in second place in the polls.  And we play clips from the interview, originally broadcast on the Next Left podcast.
Also: deporting the immigrants called “undesirable”–now, under Trump, and a hundred years ago.  Historian Adam Hochschild notes that  it’s the 100th anniversary of the Palmer Raids, where J Edgar Hoover got his start rounding up and trying to deport immigrant radicals—and when one heroic Labor Department official blocked thousands of deportations.
Plus: Martin Scorcese’s new film “The Irishman” opens on Netflix this week; it claims to tell the true story of the murder of Jimmy Hoffa, the head of the Teamsters Union, who disappeared in 1974.  But nobody who’s studied that history thinks the movie is right about what happened to Hoffa.  Does that fact change our judgement about the film?  John Powers comments; he’s critic at large for Fresh Air with Terry Gross. 11-27-19

Gail Collins: Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Older Women; plus Rick Perlstein on Impeachment and Eric Foner on The 1619 Project

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The adventures of older women in America: Ruth Bader Ginsburg for example is 86,and Nancy Pelosi just turned 80. But where are the prominent Republican women in politics today who are older?  Gail Collins has been thinking about that; of course she’s the New York Times op-ed columnist.  Her new book is No Stopping Us Now.
Also: Rick Perlstein says the Nixon impeachment limited the charges against the president in order to win a Republican majority in the Senate; since that’s not going to happen with Trump, the Democrats might as well include all his high crimes in their articles of impeachment.
And historian Eric Foner talks about the New York Times’s “1619 Project,” which argues that the legacy of slavery is central to all of the American past and present.  11/21/19

Sherrod Brown: How to Beat Trump; plus D.D. Guttenplan on Joe Biden and Thom Hartmann on the Supreme Court

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Sherrod Brown, the senior senator from Ohio, was re-elected in 2018. He won by 7 points—in a state Hillary Clinton had lost—by 8 points—just 2 years earlier. What are the lessons for 2020? “You need to talk to workers,” he says, “and you need to fight for workers—all workers.” Now he has a new book out: Desk 88 – Eight progressive senators who changed America.
Also: why Joe Biden is the wrong candidate to take on Donald Trump: D.D. Guttenplan, The Nation’s editor, explains why the magazine has published an “anti-endorsement.”
Plus: this week the Supreme Court heard arguments about the fate of DACA residents—whether those young people brought here as small children should be deported. But why should that be decided by the nine justices on the Supreme Court? In a democracy, shouldn’t that be decided democratically? That’s Thom Hartmann’s argument—not just about DACA, but about all of judicial review. His new book is The Hidden History of the Supreme Court.  11-17-19

Joe Biden’s Zombie Campaign: Jeet Heer, plus Elie Mystal on Senate Republicans and Amy Wilentz on Haiti

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Joe Biden may be the frontrunner, but he’s slipping, and it seems doubtful that he will get better at this.  Big donors are pulling away from him.  But do the “moderates” in the party–-the Wall Street Democrats–have a Plan B? A backup candidate?  A viable alternative?  Jeet Heer evaluates the possibilities—there are a lot of them, but none are very promising.
Also: Republicans in the Senate–we will need 20 of them to vote to convict Trump if he’s going to be removed from office.  Is that possible?  Elie Mystal runs the numbers–and concludes, “maybe—if we the people work really hard.”
Plus: Haiti is at the brink of collapse—Amy Wilentz reports on one of Trump’s “shithole countries.”  10/31/19

How TV Made Trump: Tom Carson, plus David Perry on Ilhan Omar and Pico Iyer on Japan

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We all know Trump got famous on TV with The Apprentice – but how many of us ever watched The Apprentice?  Reality TV was a key force in making Trump president.  Tom Carson talks about “Audience of One” by James Poniewozik.  Tom, a longtime writer on pop culture and politics, won two National Magazine Awards during his time as Esquire‘s “Screen” columnist; now he writes for BookForum.
Also: Ilhan Omar has endorsed Bernie for president – how does she deal with Trump’s vicious attacks?  David Perry has spent the last few months with her in her Minneapolis district—he says he’s never seen a politician talk as little about themselves as she does in her town halls.
Plus: Pico Iyer has lived in Japan part-time for the last 30 years – he says it’s hard to imagine how different that country is from our own.  His new book is “A Beginner’s Guide to Japan.”  10-24-19

The Deepening Desperation of Donald Trump: Sasha Abramsky, plus Corey Robin on Clarence Thomas and Katha Pollitt on Abortion

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Trump’s increasingly reckless efforts at intimidation reveal the increasingly desperate situation he has created for himself, where even Fox News has become an inconsistent and unreliable defender of his actions.  Sasha Abramsky separates Trump’s efforts at distraction from the political reality he now faces.
Also: With the Supreme Court back in session, we turn our attention to the most right-wing and longest-serving Justice, Clarence Thomas.  Is he a self-hating sell-out?  Corey Robin says he’s something else: a conservative black nationalist.  His new book is The Enigma of Clarence Thomas.
Plus: The political promise of the abortion pill: Despite the fact that more than 75% of Americans favor Roe v. Wade, abortion rights face increasing jeopardy at the Supreme Court, and the right finally succeed at defunding Planned Parenthood.  But there’s one immensely promising factor at work: abortion drugs, especially misoprostol, which is easily obtained on the Internet, despite the FDA’s attempts to prevent online pharmacies from selling them.  Katha Pollitt explains.  10/17/19

The new Supreme Court term will be worse than the last one—a lot worse: Elie Mystal, plus Amy Wilentz on Ivanka and Jeet Heer on impeachment

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The Supreme Court term began its fall term this week–and even though Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed at the start of last year’s court term, this year the Supremes’ decisions will be worse – a lot worse. Elie Mystal explains why—he’s the executive editor of Above the Law and a contributing writer for The Nation.
Also: a new episode of ‘The Children’s Hour’–stories about Ivanka, Jared, Don Junior, and little Eric. This week: who’s helping Dad fight impeachment? Amy Wilentz has our story.
Plus: Republicans and impeachment: lessons from the Nixon years. Jeet Heer comments. 10/10/19

Impeachment at Last: Jeet Heer on Trump, plus Eric Foner on voting rights and Jane McElevey on the UAW strike

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Trump finally went too far, even for Nancy Pelosi: he used money appropriated by Congress for foreign aid to pressure the president of Ukraine to come up with dirt on Joe Biden—dirt that Trump could use in the upcoming election.  Jeet Heer comments – he’s National Affairs Correspondent for The Nation.
Also: historian Eric Foner talks about about voter suppression, about who gets to be a citizen, what rights undocumented immigrants have, and about the roots of mass incarceration–they all relate to the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, part of the country’s attempt to redefine citizenship after the end of slavery.  His new book is The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution.
Plus: In the UAW strike against General Motors, workers are seeking not only higher pay but also ending plant closures and making temporary workers permanent–many of them have been on the job for several years, and yet they are paid less and denied union benefits. Jane McAlevey comments—she’s The Nation’s new Strikes Correspondent. 9/25/19

2020 will Bring a Historic Defeat for the Republicans: Stan Greenberg on the Election, plus D.D. Guttenplan on Edward Snowden and Sasha Abramsky on Trump

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The 2020 election will liberate us from Donald Trump and Republican hegemony.  A sweeping Democratic victory will make it possible at last for us to address our most serious problems. That’s what Stan Greenberg says – he’s a longtime pollster and adviser to Democratic presidents from Clinton to Obama.  He’s also a bestselling author, with a new book out – it has the wonderful title R.I.P. G.O.P.: How the New America is Dooming the Republicans.
Also: Edward Snowden published a memoir this week, called Permament Record, and The Nation magazine features an excerpt–it’s about his youthful enthusiasm for home computers connected to the internet, which had just become available, and the contrast he draws between the internet in those days and what it soon brought: the “identitarian consistency” required by “surveillance capitalism.”   Editor D.D. Guttenplan explains.
Also: What’s Really Going on While Trump Creates Chaos: Sasha Abramsky separates what Trump is actually doing from what he’s tweeting.  His new column at is “Signal/Noise.”  9/18/19