Start Making Sense

After New Hampshire: John Nichols, plus Jane Kleeb on rural America and Amy Wilentz on Don Junior

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New Hampshire’s primary has reshaped the Democratic race: Progressives are coalescing around Bernie, and moderates are abandoning Biden in favor of Mayor Pete and Amy Klobuchar.  John Nichols reports.
Plus: How the Democrats can win in rural America: Jane Kleeb talks about strategies for winning in red states.  She’s a grassroots organizer based in Hastings, Nebraska, and she put together the coalition of ranchers, farmers, Native Americans, and environmentalists that stopped the Keystone XL Pipeline. She’s chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party, and her new book is Harvest the Vote.
Also: another episode of The Children’s Hour: stories about Ivanka, Jared, Don Junior, and little Eric.  Today: Don Junior writes a best-seller!  Just like his father, his mother, and his sister: a  family of literati.  Amy Wilentz reports.  2/12/20

Meltdown in Iowa: John Nichols, plus Rick Hasen on Election Disasters and John Powers on the Oscars and Women

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The problem in reporting the results in Iowa isn’t just a delay; it’s a disaster—that’s what John Nichols says—for the Democrats, and especially for Bernie, who so far appears to have won at least the popular vote. And if Biden did as badly as reports suggest, that’s a huge boost not just for Pete Buttigieg but also for Michael Bloomberg. But there is one excellent result: This may very well be the last of the Iowa caucuses.
Also: there are many other ways elections can go wrong—for example, we could have a cyberattack on the power grid on election day that could cause blackouts in big cities the Democrats need to win. Rick Hasen explains that and other potential threats—his new book is Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust, and the Threat to American Democracy.
Plus: Sunday is the Oscars—Hollywood’s own elections. And the nominees for best director are all men. Is that because there are no good women directors? John Powers thinks there are some other explanations. He’s critic at large on Fresh Air with Terry Gross.  2/4/20

Defending Trump Now—and Losing the Senate in November: Joan Walsh on Impeachment Politics, plus Robert Lipsyte on the Superbowl and Morley Musick on the Border Patrol

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Republican Senators in swing states are falling in their approval ratings back home as the Senate impeachment trial unfolds.  In Maine, Arizona, Colorado, and North Carolina, 63 percent of voters want the Senate to allow witnesses and subpoenas in the impeachment trial.  Joan Walsh comments on the politics of impeachment, and on the losing arguments Trump’s attorneys have offered in his defense.
Plus: This Sunday is the Superbowl, the biggest sports event in America- a hundred million people watch the Superbowl these days. The Superbowl—and all of football—is sort of like Donald Trump: both of them provide mass entertainment that promotes tribalism and toxic masculinity while keeping violence in vogue.  The legendary sports writer Robert Lipsyte explains. “Also: the Border Patrol, it turns out, has a youth group – ‘Border Patrol Explorers,’ an extension of the Boy Scouts.  Morley Musick went to the Arizona border to find out who signs up and what they do once they’re in the organization. 1/29/20

Impeachment Has Already Succeeded: John Nichols, plus Andrew Bacevich on the End of the Cold War and Michael Klare on Climate

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51 per cent of Americans now think Trump should be removed from office, according to the new CNN poll (and 45 per cent think he shouldn’t).  That, John Nichols argues. shows impeachment has succeeded—and if Republicans in the Senate block Trump’s removal from office, voters can do it in November.
Also historian Andrew Bacevitch argues that America has squandered its Cold War victory – and considers where Trump fits into the history of the US since the collapse of the USSR.  His new book is The Age of Illusions.
And we talk about climate change –as seen from the perspective of the Pentagon.  Trump may deny that the world is getting warmer, fast, but the Pentagon has been preparing for that for several years now—and is making disaster relief part of its mission.  Michael Klare reports—his new book is All Hell Breaking Loose.  1/22/20

Hunger and Hope in Haiti: Amy Wilentz, plus Mia Birdsong on poverty and Kate Aronoff and Michael Kazin on socialism

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It’s been ten years since Haiti was devastated by the earthquake that killed more than a hundred thousand people.  Amy Wilentz, who has been reporting on Haiti for three decades, returned to the island and found the country oddly calm, despite deepening poverty, violence, and corruption.  She also found “little sprouts of possibility everywhere.”
Also: We have a lot of experts on what to do about poverty — academics and policy makers.  Mia Birdsong has been working with a different sent of experts: poor people themselves.  She’s a Senior Fellow of the Economic Security Project, and her TED talk “The Story We Tell About Poverty Isn’t True” has been viewed almost two million times.  Now she has a new 4-part podcast at The Nation – it’s called “More Than Enough.”
Plus: Democratic socialism, American style: Kate Aronoff and Michael Kazin talk about socialism in America today—they are co-editors with Peter Dreier of “We Own the Future,” which includes chapters on sports, banks, work, health care, campaign finance, immigration, and families.  1/16/19

The Failure of Trump’s Iran Strike: Andrew Bacevich, plus Henry Louis Gates on American Slavery and Jelani Cobb on Joe McCarthy

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Trump’s Iran strike continues a long, failed history of American actions based on the idea that the U.S. military can shape the mideast in accord with our wishes.  That’s what Andrew Bacevich argues—his new book is The Age of Illusions: How America Squandered its Cold War Victory.
Plus: Henry Louis Gates discovers slave-owners – and also slaves—in the family histories of some surprising people–on the PBS series “Finding Your Roots.”  On this season’s premiere, Anjelica Houston learned that one of her ancestors, who died in Maryland in 1811, was a slaveowner, and that in his will he acknowledged fathering four slave children.  Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University, also talks about his collaboration with historian Eric Foner on the award-winning PBS documentary on Reconstruction.
Also: Joe McCarthy as a predecessor of Donald Trump: the connections and similarities (“McCarthy was willing to assert things that he knew weren’t true, and did it with aplomb”) are traced by Jelani Cobb of The New Yorker and the Columbia University faculty.  He’s a contributor to the new McCarthy episode of the PBS series “American Experience.”  1/9/20

Trump Will Lose in 2020: Stan Greenberg, plus Naomi Klein on the Green New Deal and J. Hoberman on Reagan and the Movies

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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 — because 2020 will bring the death of the Republican party as we’ve known it. That’s what Stan Greenberg says – he’s a longtime pollster and adviser to 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.
Plus: Naomi Klein on the Green New Deal— she says we need to follow the example of the New Deal era of the 1930s,  when nothing would have happened without “massive pressure from social movements”  that “changed the calculus of what was possible.”   Naomi is the author of several number one bestsellers,  including “This Changes Everything.”
Also: movies and politics.   No political figure has blurred the line between them more than Ronald Reagan –  and no president understood the power of collective fantasy better than Reagan did.  That’s what the great movie critic J. Hoberman says –  his new book about movie culture in the Age of Reagan is called “Make My Day.”  12/31/19

Socialism is On the Agenda for 2020: Katrina vanden Heuvel; plus Kathleen Belew on White Nationalism & Rick Perlstein on Impeachment

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Capitalism is broken – that’s why socialism is on the agenda for 2020.  Katrina vanden Heuvel explains – she’s publisher and editorial director of The Nation.
We also look back at some of the big events of 2019, and some of our favorite interviews, starting with the terrorist attacks by white nationalists, in El Paso and elsewhere.  Historian Kathleen Belew says they are NOT isolated events  carried out by loners; in fact they are connected, the work of a movement, with tens of thousands of active members.
Also 2019 of course has been the year of impeachment — historian Rick Perlstein has comment and analysis.  12/24/19


Does Boris Johnson’s victory in the UK mean Trump will win in the US?
D.D. Guttenplan, plus John Nichols with the Progressive Honor Roll
and Arundati Roy on India

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The British Labour Party suffered a historic defeat last week—working class people who voted Labour their entire lives have now switched sides.  Centrists in the Democratic Party say this means that the socialist program doesn’t work as an alternative to racism and xenophobia–in other words, it’s bad news for Bernie.  And for us at The Nation.  They say Boris Johnson is a lot like Donald Trump, and that Boris’s victory suggests Trump will win in 2020—the way Brexit foretold the 2016 vote in the US.  D.D. Guttenplan disagrees, and explains why.
Plus: the end of the year brings The Nation’s progressive honor roll for 2019 – honoring those who’ve done the steady work of advancing economic, social and racial justice.  John Nichols names the elected officials and also activists, organizations, and ideas that are shaping our future.
Also: this week India is on fire–with massive protests, and massive repression, of Muslim students saying “no” to the government’s move toward making India a Hindu nation – the great Indian novelist and activist Arundhati Roy explains.  12/19/19

Progressives and White Working-Class Voters: Joshua Holland, plus Katha Pollitt on Fetal Personhood and Ruth Marcus on Brett Kavanaugh

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Some analysts criticize progressives who urge Democrats to focus on turning out their core base—people of color, unmarried women, and younger voters—they say it’s a big mistake to give up on working class whites. And many progressives reply that it would be a disaster for the Democrats to try to “win back” working class white Trump voters by not talking about discriminatory policing, reproductive health care, and LGBTQ rights. Joshua Holland examines the actual evidence—and concludes that Democrats have already won back enough white working-class voters to defeat Trump in 2020.
Also: What happens to pregnant women when anti-abortion state legislatures grant legal personhood to fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses? What happens when pregnant women’s behavior is criminalized? Katha Pollitt reports.
Also: Brett Kavanaugh was not on the list of candidates for the Supreme Court that Trump released during the campaign—how did Kavanaugh end up ahead of everybody else? Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post has that story—her new book is Supreme Ambition: Brett Kavanaugh and the Conservative Takeover.  12/11/19