Start Making Sense

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

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.
7/24/19

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.
7/17/19

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.
7/10/19