Start Making Sense

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

Why Doesn’t the GOP Resist Trump the Way Tories Resist Boris Johnson? D.D. Guttenplan on Britian and America, plus Katha Pollitt on Trump and John Nichols on Republican Resignations

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Last week Tory rebels in parliament staged a dramatic insurrection against their own Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, blocking his plans for a “no-deal Brexit.”  But virtually no Republicans in Congress have resisted Trump.  Why is that?  D.D. Guttenplan compares and contrasts the two parties and political systems – he’s editor of The Nation, and he’s lived in Britain for the last 25 years.
Also: It’s hard to keep track of Trump’s outrages—there are new ones virtually every day.  But Nation columnist Katha Pollitt remembers; she discusses almost every bad thing Trump did this summer.  And she takes up the question, is Trump getting worse?  More unhinged, more desperate, perhaps because he sees that his chances of winning reelection are not good?
Plus: Thirteen House Republicans have announced their retirements in the past several weeks—they don’t want to run for reelection in 2020.  They are a diverse group, and include moderates as well as conservatives, some newcomers and some with decades of seniority, two of the party’s 13 women, and its only African-American Congressman.  How much can the Democrats hope to gain from this development?  John Nichols comments–he’s National Affairs Correspondent for The Nation and host of the “Next Left” podcast.  9/12/19

Why the Koch Brothers Don’t Support Trump: Christopher Leonard on “Kochland,” plus Joan Walsh on Indivisible

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How the Koch brothers transformed an obscure oil company based in Wichita into a $110 billion colossus, and reshaped the Republican Party—but failed to prevent Trump from becoming president: Christopher Leonard on Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America.
Also: Indivisible, the big network of local Democratic Party activists that sprang up after Trump’s victory, faces a big challenge: whether to endorse a candidate in the Democratic Primaries.  Joan Walsh reports on the conflict between the Washington headquarters of the organization and the hundreds of grassroots groups.  9/5/19

The White Power Movement after El Paso: Kathleen Belew on domestic terrorism, plus Davis Maraniss on HUAC

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We’re still thinking about the terrorist attack in El Paso, where 22 people were killed at a Walmart and two dozen more were injured.  Like almost all of these attacks, the El Paso killings have been treated as an isolated event carried out by a loner.  But the attacks in Charleston, Charlottesville, Christchurch, El Paso and elsewhere are connected; they are all part of the White Power movement, with roots going back to the 1970s.  That’s what Kathleen Belew says — she writes for the New York Times op-ed page, she teaches history at the University of Chicago, and she’s the author of the book “Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America,” it’s out now in paperback.
Also: HUAC is history; the heyday of the House Un=American Activities Committee was the 1950s.  But we’re still concerned about government attacks on people, and groups– called “Un-American.”  David Maraniss has been thinking about that history – his father was called before HUAC in 1952 and then blacklisted from his job as a newspaper editor. His new book is “A Good American Family: The Red Scare and My Father.”  8/29/19

Trump’s Terrible Poll Numbers: Jeet Heer on the campaign, plus J. Hoberman on Reagan and the movies

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The latest polls—including the highly respected Fox poll—show Trump in terrible shape at this point: Among registered voters he trails Biden 50-38, Bernie 48-39, Elizabeth Warren 46-39, and even Kamala Harris 45-39. He’s losing crucial segments of his 2016 base. And in many of the states he carried last time, he’s deep into negative territory on the approval polls. Jeet Heer comments—and takes up the question, how does he think he can win?
Also: The synergy between politics and popular culture has never been clearer or stronger than in the Age of Reagan—and now there’s a wonderful new book on “movie culture in the Age of Reagan”—it’s called Make My Day, by J. Hoberman; for thirty years he was a film critic for the Village Voice.  He talks about Dirty Harry, Star Wars, Rambo, and Ghostbusters—and how Trump compares with Reagan, pointing to Howard Beale in Network and to Rocky’s racist happy ending. 8/21/19