Start Making Sense

Bernie or Bust? Harold Meyerson on DSA, plus Katha Pollitt on Jeffrey Epstein and John Nichols on White Nationalism

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If Bernie does NOT get the nomination, the Democratic Socialists of America will not endorse the Democrat who does.  “Bernie or Bust” was what they decided at their recent convention – but is that a good idea? Harold Meyerson comments–he’s editor-at-large of The American Prospect and a regular contributor to the LA Times op-ed page.
Also: Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted pedophile and accused sex trafficker – who surrounded himself with an elite network of political leaders, wannabe billionaire types, and even scientists – and who committed suicide over the weekend. Katha Pollitt considers the people who have been named in court documents as having accepted invitations from Jeffrey Epstein and also had sex with the underage girls he provided.
Plus: Last week—after the El Paso killings by a white nationalist–Tucker Carlson said on Fox news that white supremacy was “not a real problem in America.”  He called it “a hoax, just like the Russia hoax.” John Nichols examines the history of white nationalism in recent American politics, going back to the election of Barack Obama.  8/14/19

America After El Paso: Joan Walsh and Katha Pollitt, and D.D. Guttenplan on the Green New Deal

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After Trump’s tweets about the El Paso killings, Beto’s response was the one of the best: “He’s not tolerating violence, he’s inciting racism and violence in this country.”  Joan Walsh, National Affairs Correspondent for The Nation, examines the mainstream media’s failures in covering Trump.
Also: Trump gets worse every week.  Two years ago we had massive nationwide protest demonstrations–so why don’t more people take it to the streets these days?  Nation columnist Katha Pollitt has been thinking about that.
Plus: last month was the 50th anniversary of Americans walking on the moon.  What would it take to get a similar mobilization today of money & effort—and vision–-to combat climate change?  D.D. Guttenplan comments – he’s editor of The Nation. 8-7-19

Trump’s Escalating Racism: A Sign of Political Desperation? Harold Meyerson, plus Jeet Heer on Al Franken and Paul Krassner remembered

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Are Trump’s recent racist tweets part of a political strategy, or an uncontrollable personal impulse?  Harold Meyerson comments – and also proposes ways to end the potentially devastating divide among Democrats over a Green New Deal.  Harold is editor-at-large of The American Prospect.
Also: Was Al Franken railroaded, when he was forced to resign from the Senate in the face of #MeToo complaints about unwanted sexual touching and kissing?  Jane Mayer wrote a long report on the case for The New Yorker and concluded “Yes, he was railroaded,” but our national political correspondent Jeet Heer disagrees: “The social change it represents is so necessary,” he argues..
And we’re still thinking about Paul Krassner, the sixties anarchist activist and editor of “The Realist” – he died July 21st – we re-play an interview where he talks about how he got Norman Mailer to come out against masturbation.  7/31/19

Is Trump Crazy? Would Pence be Worse? Amy Wilentz & Jane Mayer, plus EJ Dionne: America After Trump

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Amy Wilentz comments on the mental and emotional status of the president, as analyzed by 27 psychiatrists in ‘The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,’ a book edited by Bandy X. Lee. The book was number four on the New York Times bestseller list.
Also: Would Pence be worse? Jane Mayer of The New Yorker reports—she interviewed more than 60 people in search of answers, including Pence’s mother. Several say he’s wanted to be president at least since high school.
Plus: America After Trump: E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post argues that Trump has mobilized progressive political forces that can transform America—and he reminds us that Trump never had a majority of voters, and is the most unpopular presidents in our history. E.J. is co-author of ‘One Nation After Trump: A Guide to the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet-Deported’–it’s out now in paperback.

Democracy Is Not Doing Well: Astra Taylor, plus Katha Pollitt on Travel to Mars

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Democracy is not doing well these days – we have Trump, and Brexit, and a host of other examples.  Astra Taylor has been thinking about that: she talks about the paradoxes of rule by the people, the many ways it’s being frustrated, and why it remains at the center of our hopes for the future.  Her new book is “Democracy may not exist, but we’ll miss it when it’s gone.”
Also: travel to Mars–now there’s a way to get away from Donald Trump!  Elon Musk, the billionaire who is co-founder of PayPal and Tesla, wants to build a colony on Mars.  Katha Pollitt thinks that’s not a good idea.  Actually she thinks it’s a terrible idea, but one that tells us something about the world we live in.

Joy-Ann Reid: How Trump Happened; plus Amy Wilentz on Jared’s Mid-East Peace Plan

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Racial anxiety was more important than economic anxiety in motivating Trump’s voters, Joy Reid of MSNBC argues.  A key factor in Trump’s victory was nostalgia for a white, Christian America where men were still in charge.  And of course Hillary fell short not only with male voters but with voters of color overall.  Joy’s new book is The Man Who Sold America: Trump and the Unraveling of the American Story.
Also: Jared Kushner’s Mideast Peace Plan, announced in Bahrain to an audience of billionaires and Gulf potentates, promised $50 billion in economic development funds to Palestinians—if they would abandon their aspirations for an independent state.  Neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis participated in the conference.  Amy Wilentz, a longtime contributing editor at The Nation, comments – she was Jerusalem correspondent for The New Yorker.

Joe Biden has No Place to Go Except Down: Robert Borosage; plus Martin Duberman on the lost world of gay liberation

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It’s an extraordinary victory: the first round of Democratic debates shows that all the major candidates are working within a progressive framework.  Robert Borosage says Bernie gets the credit—and that, although Biden currently is far ahead in the polls of Democratic voters, he has nowhere to go except down, once he is challenged on his record: Iraq, mass incarceration, NAFTA, and Clarence Thomas.
Also: 50 years after Stonewall, historian Martin Duberman argues that, despite the obvious and necessary victories, the radical heart of gay liberation has been abandoned.  The Gay Liberation Front of the late sixties critiqued monogamy, rather than campaigning for marriage equality, and opposed militarism and imperialism, rather than fighting to get gays into the military.  Duberman is a longtime activist and writer on gay politics.   7/4/19

Elizabeth Warren’s American Story: Joan Walsh, plus Jeet Heer on Joe Biden and Andrew Bacevich on Mideast Wars

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Campaigning in Iowa, Elizabeth Warren has made her story an American story, Joan Walsh says, and thereby found a good way to connect her policy proposals to her own life, and thereby to other people’s lives–and also to refute critics who say she’s an out-of-touch policy wonk.
Also: Joe Biden and his friends: he says some of them were segregationist senators – and he thinks that was a good thing, something that made it possible for him to pass important legislation.  Jeet Heer says that’s a fantasy—Republicans are not going to work with Biden if he gets the nomination and defeats Trump.  Jeet is a new National Affairs Correspondent for The Nation.
Plus: Recently Andrew Basevitch visited the Middle East Conflicts Memorial – it’s like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, but for all the Americans who fought and died in all of America’s wars in the Mideast. But unlike the Vietnam Memorial and the World War II Memorial, it’s not on the National Mall in Washington DC; instead, it’s in Marseilles, Illinois.  That says a lot about the place of our unending mideast wars in our current political debates. 6-26-19

Elizabeth Warren Is Winning the Ideas Primary: Katrina vanden Heuvel; plus John Nichols on Bernie & Socialism, & Sasha Abramsky on Florida voting rights

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Elizabeth Warren may be running third in the Democratic polls, after Biden and Bernie, but she seems to be the clear leader in what we call “the ideas primary.”  Katrina vanden Heuvel comments—and suggests that foreign policy, where Warren has said little, should be a focus for the upcoming Democratic candidate debates.
Also: Trump declared in his State of the Union speech “America will never become a socialist country.” Of course that only makes it seem like maybe it will.  Bernie Sanders gave an important speech on socialism last week, and our John Nichols spoke with him about it — beforehand.
Also: One of the great progressive victories last November, along with the mid-term Congressional races, was the vote in Florida to restore voting rights to people who had been convicted of felonies and served their sentences–1.4 million people.  But the voting rights news from Florida since then has NOT been so good–Sasha Abramsky will explain.  6/19/19

Trump or Brexit: Which is Worse? DD Guttenplan; plus John Nichols w/Rashida Tlaib & Katha Pollitt on abortion and men

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For most Americans, the question “Which is worse: Trump or Brexit?” has an easy answer: of course it’s Trump! But D. D. Guttenplan, The Nation’s new Editor, says it’s more complicated than that: for starters, Americans can get rid of Trump in next November’s elections, but it’s almost impossible now for the Brits to get rid of Brexit.
Also: Rashida Tlaib is one of the two the Muslim woman elected to the House. John Nichols spoke with her for the “Next Left” podcast, our sister podcast at The Nation. Tlaib, who represents Detroit, was born there; her parents are Palestinian immigrants, and she a long and deep engagement with progressive politics in that city. In this segment John introduces clips from his interview.
Plus: At a time when several states have passed draconian new abortion restrictions, you don’t have to be a woman to stand up for reproductive rights: Katha Pollitt talks about abortion and men. 6/12/19